John Laurens doesn’t believe in soulmates.
Of course, he knows they’re real because he has watched most of his friends’ arms slowly getting covered in conversations written in different colored pens every day, and just when he thinks their arms don’t have any more space, they come to class with their arms covered in words or drawings again; the shopping list used to randomly appear on his dad’s forearm when his mom was alive, and his younger sister always comes back from high school with even bits of her fingers inked with small writing.
Everyone is supposed to have a soulmate. With a population of 7.5 billion people, though, obviously not everyone gets to meet their soulmate. Most people go their entire life without meeting theirs, but spend their days writing onto their arms like crazy while the few lucky ones that do get to meet them stay with them their entire life. Sometimes.
Some even have more than one.
When the Earth was created, something happened that suddenly decided that everyone’s soul would be connected to someone else’s soul and just like that, soulmates were created. Whatever one’s soulmate has on their skin, the exact copy of it appears on one’s skin. Not scratches or bruises or burns, no. Not anything that could hurt you, but words. Words that people write on their arms to cheat on a test, or a reminder to do homework, sometimes when a baby accidentally draws on their arm, the large squiggly line appears on their soulmate’s arm, in the exact same place.
It usually happens when you’re young; you’ll maybe be in first grade, trying to listen to your math teacher drone on about additions and subtractions when a happy face will slowly appear on the back of your hand. First, the two lines that are supposed to be the eyes, maybe even a small nose, and then the curve of the smile. And maybe you’ll stare at it for a second, trying to process what’s happening even though your parents and all your teachers have taught you about this, and then you’ll gasp out loud and run your finger over it to make sure it’s real. Obviously, you will interrupt the class and the teacher will ask what’s wrong, so you’ll just raise your hand to show her, hoping she’ll understand. She will, and then she’ll let you go to the principal’s office so you can call your parents and tell them.
At least, that’s what John’s mom used to tell him as a bedtime story when he was younger. He may have been five or six years old and he still had the innocence of a young boy, still believed in soulmates.
“That’s how I knew your father existed, Jack,” she had said, running a hand through his short tangle of curls. “It was my second week of school, I think. First grade. My math teacher was talking about something that had to do with additions.”
“I know how to do those!” John exclaimed happily, eyes wrinkling at the sides. Just like hers.
She laughed quietly and nodded her head. “I know, sweetheart.”
“What happened next?” He asked, small feet moving around excitedly under the covers.
“Well, I looked down at my hand to start drawing on it, and a happy face was appearing on it! It was really strange though,” she said, a small smile spreading over her face. “Like the person was drawing it at the same time it was appearing. Like this.”
She had taken his hand in her warm, soft one and began tracing two small lines next to each other. Then something John assumed was a small nose, and afterwards a curved line for the smile.
“Was Daddy bored too, Mommy?” He asked and tilted his head curiously. He must’ve been, if he was drawing happy faces on his hand.
“I don’t know, pumpkin. He never told me. It was a very long time ago.”
“Did you keep talking to each other?”
“Of course we did!” She leaned over to tickle his stomach, causing loud squeals to leave her son’s mouth. “Shh, your sister’s sleeping.”
His mouth formed a wide ‘o’ shape and he quickly covered it with his hands. “I’m sorry, Mommy,” he whispered - well, tried to - loudly, giggles still falling past his lips. “And then?”
“Then I just sat there, staring at it. I didn’t know what was happening even though everyone had told me about it, and then I just… remembered. And gasped really loudly. I think my math teacher wanted to yell at me for interrupting her class; I think she would’ve if I hadn’t shown her my hand. And she just smiled, told me to go call my parents.”
“Did you ‘nd Daddy meet right after that?”
“No,” she said, shaking her head. “It was many years until I met your father. Second week of my first day of college, too.”
He wrinkled his nose, confused. “Why’d you guys take so long to meet each other?”
“He lived here—in the South— and I lived up in New York.” She tapped his nose. “But we met, and now you’re here, and your sister is here!”
“You’ll stay here forever, right, Mommy?”
“Of course I will, sweet boy.”
John’s mom died five months later in a bank shooting. The last thing she had written on her arm was “please go buy milk for the kids xoxo” in messy handwriting, and it was permanently inked on his father’s forearm; a daily reminder that she was gone.
So to rephrase, John doesn’t believe he has a soulmate.
Never in his life has he gotten something as small as an ink dot on his arm, a small doodle on the back of his hand or the answers to a test on his wrist. Nothing .
Maybe his soulmate died when they were born, that happens sometimes; people spend all their lives without a soulmate, watching everyone around them fall in love. Or maybe he was just never meant to have one.
The clock on John’s desk reads 3:39AM in bright, red letters. John looks up from his computer screen slowly to look at the time, his neck cracking loudly as he does. A quiet groan leaves his lips when he realises he’s been sitting at his desk for about seven hours to finish his History of Art paper, which is due the next morning.
“Shit,” he mutters to himself, dragging his hand down his face tiredly. “Just a couple of hours left, John. We can do this.”
As John turns to look back at the glaring screen where the words he’s written are blurring together and creating words he has never even heard of, he has the sudden urge to shut his laptop. So he does. A little bit of the tension in his shoulders leaves and he leans back against his swivel purple chair, reaching up to tug at the hairband that’s holding his hair together in a messy bun on the back of his head.
“Goddamn it, I was not made for this,” he sighs, leaning forward to grab a sharpie from the messily scattered pile of markers on a blank piece of paper.
He tugs the dark red cap off the marker, revealing a silver tip instead of matching red one and brings it closer to his ridiculously freckled forearm, writing in big, messy letters ‘CHECK & FIX MARKER CAPS !!’ and hoping it won’t be that smudged tomorrow morning so he can actually remember. Just when he’s about to put the cap back on, he watches as a thin black line is drawn across the words he just wrote, as if someone were trying to get them off.
“What the fuck?” John widens his eyes, scrambling up quickly and it results in almost falling off the chair and on his face, but he quickly stops that from happening and moves his feet to drag the chair closer to the desk. He stares at his arm as the lines keep coming, black thin scratches over the silver words.
He slowly brings the marker closer to his skin and hesitantly starts to write right next to where the lines start hi?. He nibbles on his bottom lip nervously, intently staring at his forearm for a few minutes, but nothing comes. He slumps back against his chair and lets the uncapped sharpie fall on the desk loudly, his hands rubbing his face in exhaustion for probably the millionth time in the past 10 hours. I’m probably imagining things, he reassures himself but as his eyes nervously trail back to the lines, he knows it’s as real as the unfinished and unsaved essay in his computer.
To continue my essay or to sleep and forget all about it, he muses and puts his hands on the edge of the desk to push himself up, when the tiniest movement on his forearm catches his eye. John moves his arm close to his eyes just to make sure he isn’t imagining things, but no, there it is. Black ink delicately moving under the messily written hi?.
What the fuck is happening? is what appears over one of his veins and John sucks in a surprised breath. His eyes move back and forth over the carefully written words, noticing how the little line of the g is some kind of spiral instead of just some line and how it is written in fancy cursive. John is ashamed of his ugly handwriting for the first time in his life.
He picks the sharpie up again and rests his arm on the edge of the desk so he can write on it while trying to stop his hand from shaking; whether it’s from nervousness or excitement, he doesn’t know. hi, i’m john. i’m your soulmate. The words sound ridiculous in his head, and judging from the other person’s reaction, John assumes they’ve never been told about soulmates. Which is strange because everyone —everyone— knows about soulmates.
I’m sorry, my what now? Their handwriting is messier now, but it’s still really fancy and some of the letters still have the little spiral under them. your soulmate. hasn’t anyone told you about them? John replies, eyebrows scrunching up together in confusion.
“Who even is this person?” John wonders out loud, carefully leaning back against the chair once more as letters keep appearing on his skin.
Uh, no. How does this work? An amused laugh leaves his lips as he considers actually writing it all out, but the sudden realisation that that might mean he might just run out of space to keep talking to his soulmate ( soulmate !!!!!!!!!!!!!) hits him and he shakes his head quickly, vaguely aware that no one can see him anyway.
it’d take too much space, sorry pal. by the way, what’s your name?
Alexander Hamilton. Pleased to meet you. The ink stops for a second, but it comes back shortly after. Pal. John grins brightly, nostrils flaring instead of actually laughing.
nice to meet you too, fancy guy. John brings the marker closer to his skin again, but hesitates for a second and pulls away without noticing the silver dot he accidentally created. He opens his laptop once more, closing the Google Docs tab after making sure his essay had saved and opens a new one, fingers rapidly typing the words ‘alexander hamilton’ . (He’s not the type of guy to stalk other people on Google, though. Nope.) As the results load, he watches as words start appearing on the back of his hand and bites down a smile, willing himself to keep his eyes on the screen.
A million results pop up at once and he scrolls down, eyes scanning the titles and noticing most of them have the word hurricane in them. He scrolls back up quickly and clicks on the first article from 2013, titled ‘Boy from Nevis gets Full Paid Scholarship to Columbia After Writing About Hurricane’.
He glances back down at the back of his hand, snorting in the ugliest humanly way possible as he reads the two new sentences. Fancy guy? How original., and Hold on, did you die or are you doing something? John picks up the sharpie, scribbles a messy i’m looking you up shut up and turns back to the screen, scanning over it. “Five months ago, a hurricane completely destroyed the town of St. Croix… Alexander Hamilton, 17…" John narrows his eyes at the screen and focuses completely, reading as much as he can as he can.
“Alexander Hamilton, 17, was one of the few who managed to survive the hurricane without a scratch. He had been working in his office under his late cousin’s house when the hurricane went over the town and completely destroyed it… He wrote a 70-page essay that managed to get seen by some of the best universities in the United States… Full paid scholarship to Columbia Law School in New York City…”
Holy shit. This guy’s a genius, John thinks to himself, shaking his head in disbelief as he shuts his laptop again and raises his hand to check if there’s anything new on it. There is.
Jesus Christ. Do you usually stalk people when you find out they’re your soulmate, John Laurens? The sentence begins to go downwards and stops at his thumb knuckle, the question mark a little curve on his bone that moves whenever John cracks his knuckle.
He starts his sentence right next to the question mark and starts moving towards his palm, hoping Alexander will catch on quickly. it seems i only have one soulmate, hamilton. sorry to disappoint. is his reply and the corners of his mouth tilt upwards.
Pity. I was hoping to have more people.
John lets out a loud laugh but quickly covers his mouth, immediately remembering it’s almost four in the morning and he should be asleep. Whatever. He puts the cap back on the sharpie and grabs another one, hoping the lemon green cap will match the tip, but of course, it doesn’t. Instead, John finds himself replying with words written in bright orange, tongue sticking out slightly in concentration.
too bad for you, then.
Too bad for me, indeed.
The words have started appearing on his fingers now and John turns his hand to be able to read as they’re being written. Also Laurens, why are you awake at 4 in the morning?
i could ask you the same thing, hamilton, John replies, hesitating for just a moment before beginning to write again. but i was writing an essay. due tomorrow. kill me.
I would rather not, Alexander writes. I only just found out soulmates exist. It would be a pity to kill mine before getting the chance to meet him. ;)
John feels his cheeks heat up and he frowns inwardly, trying to make the pink tint he’s sure that is on his cheeks go away. Did this nerd seriously just write a winky face?
i got stuck with a nerd who actually writes winky faces, i would honestly prefer you kill me.
Ouch, Laurens. Ouch.
John’s awkward ass doesn’t know what to say anymore. He nibbles on his bottom lip nervously for a moment before standing up quickly, taking all his clothes off and turning the desk light off before climbing onto his bed tiredly, sharpie still in his hand. He turns his nightstand light on before flopping onto his side to make sure his hand is close to his face but still comfortable enough to write on.
Did you actually look me up?
yeah, i did. can’t believe my soulmate studies in fucking columbia.
What can I say? I’m smart as hell. Where do you study? That sentence takes up his middle and ring finger and his reply will definitely not fit on his pinky. Damn.
He switches onto his other side and sticks his left arm out, starting on the crook of his elbow so they can have more space. mhm, sure you are golden boy. nyu. It’s not very special.
YOU LIVE IN NEW YORK? Alex’s capitals are quite big and they take up a lot of space, and that makes John cringe a little. Whatever, there’s other body parts.
uuuh, yeah. i’m assuming you do too?
No, John. I live in New Jersey.
no need to be sassy, damn.
Sorry, dear Laurens. Did I hurt you?
Dear Laurens. John’s stomach is suddenly flooded with butterflies flying in it and he widens his eyes, cheeks burning up again.
yes. my heart is broken.
Sorry, I’ll try to fix it somehow.
sure you will, hamilton. sure you will. They’ve moved onto their elbow now, and some of John’s freckles don’t let him read properly, but it’s fine. He’ll manage.
It hurts me so much that you doubt me. I thought we were supposed to be soulmates?
“You thought wrong,” he mutters to himself, biting back a cheesy grin as he scribbles it down onto his skin.
Wouldn’t it be easier to just text? Because we’re running out of space here. That sentence takes most of the bottom part of his forearm and John realises he’s right; the only blank space left is his left palm, and it’s not even that big.
it would, but it takes away all the fun, ham.
I feel like an actual ham now.
you’re such a nerd i hate you.
Biting his lip as he struggles to makes his words as tiny as possible so they don’t have to resort using their fingers, but after he writes that sentence, the only space left is the heel of his hand.
Have you realised there’s no space left?
no, alexander. i thought my hands were much bigger.
Sassy Johnny boy. Hot. ;)
“Good job, Hamilton. We have no space left.” He lets out a defeated sigh and moves onto his back, looking up at the ceiling with his eyebrows scrunched up.
Wait. He sits up quickly, kicking his sheets off messily as he glances down at his tummy, noticing there are small words on it. Frowning, he notices the small rolls being created every time he slouches and lets out out a loud huff before scooting backwards until his back is completely pressed up against the cold wall and the rolls are mostly gone.
Apparently this works on other body parts. John chuckles to himself, leaning down to reply but being careful of not slouching too much so the rolls don’t come back.
yeah, no shit sherlock.
No need to be rude, dear Laurens. You’re hurting me. Alexander’s ‘you’re’ uses their belly buttons as their apostrophe. What a nerd.
John knows it’s late, and he wants to look up at the clock on his desk but he’s afraid that he’s going to see that it’s six or five because that means that he’s going to have to go to sleep because college exists and he has to wake up at eight thirty.
well, dear alexander. we have all the time in the world to ‘fix’ it. The butterflies come back when he finishes writing that sentence and he wiggles his butt happily, his heart swelling spontaneously as Alexander begins writing.
We do. But unfortunately, it is currently 5:13 in the morning and I have class in a couple of hours. And while I refuse to go to sleep, I’m assuming you do need your sleep. Dammit, Alexander. Way to ruin the moment.
He slowly glances up, eyes tiredly squinting at the clock, which in fact states that it is 5:14am. A small groan leaves his lips and it is only then that his brain decides to tell him that he’s exhausted. He can feel his eyes blinking slower, his vision is becoming fuzzy and it’s becoming harder to pick up the sharpie.
i hate you.
No, you don’t. Goodnight, John. Or good morning. Whatever.
goodnight, alex. sweet dreams.
He reaches over to his nightstand and lets the uncapped sharpie fall on it before moving his hand to the small chord that turns the light off, but his eyes actually notice how many words his arms have and all he can think about is how much of a pain this is going to be to wash off later.