inside a street car, or on a mountain trail,
you breathe in when i exhale.
no matter where we are, or which way the wind blows,
or how heavy the snow,
nothing can change where we will go.
You never know when it will happen, or who it will happen with. Most people don’t even know it’s happened until it has. But what you do know, at least, is that experiencing it once in your lifetime will be enough.
It always comes without warning — you’re saying your first “hello” to someone you’ve never met before, and suddenly, their eye colour is changing. And the next thing you know, your eye colour is changing, too.
In most transformations, you’re probably staring at each other with the same expression of shock. Unless you’re not paying attention at all, that is, in which case you’d better hope the other person has caught on. They are your soulmate, after all; at least one of you should be paying attention. It’s a crucial thing to witness.
The recognition is often followed by a shout or gasp, one of excitement and relief of having finally found the one. That gasp says yes, you’ve finally met your soulmate; that the heterochromatic eye colour you’ve been carrying around since birth has been recognized. It means you’ve finally matched with another person on this earth, someone designated to be yours since birth. Someone who had been carrying your eye colour in one eye their whole life, while you’ve been carrying theirs. Until now, that is. Because now, every time you look into a mirror, you’ll finally find your true eye colour instead of two. And every time you look at your soulmate, you’ll see their true eye colour, right where it should be. No longer mismatched with yours, but whole.
If people are around during a transformation, there can be quite a commotion. Strangers may flock to you, congratulating you as if they’ve known you your whole life. For those who are already matched, it’s a welcome to the club! kind of congratulations. From those who haven’t, those who still long for their soulmate, reactions might come with a hint of jealousy and yearning. Or, worse-case scenario, you might face a reaction of spite, from those who have found their soulmate, but let them get away.
Because even if you meet your soulmate, there’s always a chance that you’ll miss them. Sometimes, you might never even see them again.
Louis doesn’t want to go outside. He’s perfectly happy where he is, watching reruns of Gossip Girl and munching on Oreos like a piece of trash. He’s okay with being a piece of trash, as long as nobody finds out he watches Gossip Girl. He’s got a reputation to keep, and all that.
Zayn, however, is not helping Louis with his mission to become A Piece of Trash. Zayn is hovering over his bed with a scrunched up face that Louis now recognizes as sheer determination.
“We’re going,” Zayn is saying. Or at least that’s what Louis thinks he’s saying. That’s what he is sure he’s saying, even though he’s got a pillow covering his ears. Because that’s what Zayn has been saying for the past five minutes, so there’s a pretty good probability.
“I don’t want to go,” Louis yells back at him, words muffled into his bedsheets. “Let me fester in my room and watch rubbish TV.”
With easy force, the pillow is snatched away from his hands, bedsheets too, until Louis is left defenseless and vulnerable. Louis hates that Zayn, even with his wiry muscles, is able to do that so easily. Maybe this is an indicator that Louis should start going to the gym.
He tries to throw a leg out in self-defense, because this is unfair. He’s trying to fight for his own autonomy, okay.
“As your best friend,” Zayn says, and no, Zayn is not his best friend, because a best friend would not make someone go to a dumb party that they don’t want to go to, “I am taking you out. We’ve got no school, and you are coming with me. For a night of fun.”
Louis lifts his head to glower at him, hoping his gaze conveys the daggers shooting out of his eyes. “This is not a night of fun, and you know it. A frat party is the opposite of fun.”
Zayn shrugs, because even that’s undeniable. “Okay, fine. Yes, a frat party may not be the most fun thing. But we are going.”
Annoyed at Zayn’s ill logic, Louis lets out an exasperated sigh. “Tell me why you’re so hellbent on us going to this fucking frat party?” he asks. Zayn, like him, doesn’t even like frat parties. And that’s the reason they fit so well together, Louis and Zayn — ever since the first week of college, when all the British freshmen congregated together for solidarity, and out of every single Brit, Louis had decided he liked Zayn the best. Zayn, who hadn’t seemed interested in the unnecessary freshmen drama, but liked to keep to himself and his cool art.
It’s a great thing that Zayn, in return, had mutually felt the same about Louis. As a result, a beautiful friendship was formed, with Louis moving in with him at the end of freshman year. Since then, most afternoons, evenings and nights are spent in their campus apartment smoking weed and watching movies. Frat parties are usually avoided. Until now, apparently.
Zayn huffs, clearly considering whether he should deliver an integral piece of information. Which, Louis doesn’t know why he’s hesitating, because Zayn’s going to tell him anyway.
“Liam is going to be there,” Zayn grumbles, and is that a bit of embarrassment that Louis detects in his voice? Louis is pretty sure Zayn’s face is flushing.
“Liam,” Louis says slowly, his eyebrows raising as he ponders the name. Zayn’s eyes widen as he realizes what Louis is considering.
Zayn points a threatening finger at him. “You are not embarrassing me in front of Liam tonight.”
Delighted at having an advantage, Louis puts both his hands up. “I haven’t even agreed to tonight yet. But you, on the other hand, are the one who has chosen me for your company, so this is at your risk.” He sits up, cracking his neck. He feels stiff. He probably shouldn’t have spent the whole night watching cat videos with his head propped up on his pillow.
Zayn rubs his hands over his face. “Oh my God. I’m regretting everything.”
Another crack, Louis’ back this time, as he rises from the bed. Maybe he should start doing yoga. “Relax,” Louis says, and Zayn whips his head to glare at him. “I’m not going to do anything too bad. You can’t drag me to a frat party I don’t want to go to and not expect me to have some fun.”
“Fun,” Zayn says, throwing his hands in the air, “does not mean embarrassing me in front of the boy that I like and have been trying to hang out with for ages.”
This is true. Louis has watched Zayn pine over this Liam guy for the entire semester. Ever since Zayn came home from the first day of class, eyes blown — “oh my God, Louis, I met the most attractive man on this fucking planet in my class and he sits next to me and he smiled at me so we’re gonna get married” — Zayn has not ceased talking about him. Frankly, though Louis is happy that his best mate’s got a crush, it’s a bit annoying. Not because Zayn is annoying. But because Louis is still here, healing the wounds from his last relationship, and love can go suck a dick and die, okay.
Admittedly, it’s not like Louis had expected his relationship with Will to last forever. There was always a chance that it wouldn’t, a risk that any unmatched couple has to take upon entering any relationship. But it was a good relationship, a happy one, until Will had entered his room one day with a nervous expression. At that time, Louis hadn’t understood why Will had seemed so antsy, until he looked at Will’s eyes. How the brown and blue irises he was so used to seeing were now both an identical earthy brown.
That was how it was, sometimes. Will had found his soulmate, someone whose eyes were now the sky blue Will used to have, someone who was out there holding Louis’ now ex-boyfriend’s hand with a smile on his face. And that was great, for Will. But not for Louis, who was now alone, not knowing where the hell his soulmate is in the world of seven billion people. So, in this case, fuck Will for winning and leaving Louis in the dust.
Zayn, on the other hand, even the hopeless romantic that he is, doesn’t seem that concerned about soulmates. “I gave up long ago, Louis,” he had once said, like a seventy-year old man with a lifetime of wisdom, on an afternoon where they had gotten way too high and spent the day lounging on the floor. “Some people find them, some people don’t. Not everyone even falls in love with their soulmate. I’d rather love who I want to love, without having to wait around for something that might never happen.”
It’s a good approach, Louis has to admit. One that is anxiety-free and probably freeing, too. It’s why Zayn’s been so jubilant lately, excited when Liam’s invited him to this lame party, instead of sulking in a room like Louis has been for the past few months since his breakup.
Louis allows Zayn to badger him into wearing some clean clothes. At least he’s getting out of the house for once.
The frat house is loud when they arrive, packed with people who are on their way to getting wasted. Holidays, and all that. Or vacation, as Americans would say. He’s getting used to American slang. His sisters would be disappointed at what he’s become — a Brit, thousands of miles away from home, wasting thousands of dollars to go to a lame frat party in America.
There’s a beer pong table that Louis spots, one that surprises him with a feeling of intrigue as they pass by. It’s been a while, but Louis remembers that he used to own at this in his freshman year. He considers stopping by later to play a game. Maybe it’s his hermit finally getting out of his shell.
Not that Zayn would ever admit it, but Louis can tell that he’s nervous. Zayn had spent a whole hour fixing his hair, and then another hour deciding on which leather jacket to wear to the party. “We’re gonna be inside, Zayn. You’re going to sweat to death,” Louis had told him, which had only earned him a death glare in response.
Finally, Zayn had settled on a leather jacket with pockets, which did not differ that much from his other leather jacket with pockets. And now here he is, breezing past hordes of people looking at them, all silently admiring Zayn’s beauty. Zayn, on the other hand, doesn’t look back, acts like he doesn’t know they’re all looking at him. It’s an effortless charade that Louis now knows the inner workings of, especially after three years of friendship.
“I don’t know where Liam is,” Zayn hisses through his teeth. They hear a group of freshman girls behind them, giggles directed towards their general direction. Or towards Zayn, rather.
Louis whips around to look at them, and they immediately stop, eyes wide and intimidated. Good. Louis turns back to Zayn. “Did you text him?”
“No,” Zayn says.
Louis rolls his eyes, because Zayn is daft, and a dumbass. Those two words probably mean the same thing, right? “Text him, you dummy. There’s no way he’s gonna find you if you don’t text him.”
Huffing dramatically, Zayn takes out his phone and taps a few things. It’s only a minute later when they’re interrupted by a tall figure in a white tank top, smiling way too brightly for someone who is at a trashy frat party.
“Zayn!” the person says, and Louis notices that Zayn has gone all stiff, frozen expression on his face. Louis realizes, with a pinch of delight, that this white tank top man must be Liam.
Liam pulls Zayn in for a hug — who, unfortunately, seems to have forgotten what to do with his arms. Hug him back, Louis mouths, and Zayn jerkily brings his arms up to Liam’s back. It’s a good thing that Zayn brought Louis to this party. Like a fish on land, Zayn would never function on his own.
“Didn’t think you would come,” Liam says when they pull apart. Louis gives him a quick once-over, noticing his ripped arms and delightful presence. Not his type, but he gets the appeal for Zayn.
Zayn, who seems to have regained his composure, and has settled back into his cool boy demeanor, acting like he doesn’t give a shit with a hand in his pocket. Zayn, who gives a shrug, a movement that Louis knows is practiced, because Zayn had once confessed to doing so on a night of too much booze and Britney Spears.
“Yeah, well, nothing else to do today, so I thought I’d stop by,” Zayn says. Louis fights a laugh, the whole yeah I’ve got nothing to do so this was something I just thought to do. He loves how ridiculous Zayn is.
Liam doesn’t seem to notice, his grin never dimming. “Cool! Do you guys want a drink?” And with that, Zayn and Louis are ushered into the kitchen.
As they enter, they’re met with slaps and high fives from guys that Louis hardly knows. The kitchen, Louis notes, is lit up with changing lights, red to orange to yellow to green to blue. It’s cool, Louis thinks. It makes him feel like they’re in a spaceship. Then they’re being handed beers, and then shots, and the next thing Louis knows, he’s past the tipsy stage and just teetering on the edge of drunk.
But he’s having fun. Yes, he is. Should he admit that to Zayn? He looks at Zayn, a blur of hair and leather. Zayn’s got his eyes fixed on someone else, with a dopey smile, he probably won’t pay attention to him. Another drink sounds good, though. Yes. He will get another drink. Back to the counter he goes.
By his fourth drink, Louis finds himself up on a chair, belting out Gloria Gaynor even though Calvin Harris is playing. It’s a cacophony of sorts. He feels a tug on his sleeve and realizes it’s Zayn, who, Louis realizes, he hasn’t seen for the past half hour. “Louis,” he slurs. “I need you to come play beer pong with us.”
Those are words that Louis never thought he would hear coming out of Zayn’s mouth. Louis laughs. “What?”
“We’re playing beer pong!” Zayn shouts, even though Louis is within earshot. “I told Liam I would win and I can’t let him crush me.”
“I thought you wanted him to crush you, if you know what I mean.” Louis’ drunk brain is hilarious.
Zayn giggles. “Fuck off.” So even Zayn’s drunk self is too inebriated to give a proper comeback. Then Louis feels himself being dragged away from the kitchen and into the commons area.
It’s a good thing that all of Louis’ practice in his first year of uni has prepared him well. They beat Liam and his friend at the first game, bolstered by the cheers and whoops of onlookers in the room. Then they play another game, and win again; then another, winning every one.
At the end of the fifth game Louis finds himself on the couch, passing a joint with Zayn and some guy named Nick. All in all, Louis doesn’t know how he keeps finding himself in new places.
As the night drags on, the number of people dissipates, taking the noise with them. Louis stays on the couch. It’s a safe spot that he’s quite satisfied with. After a while, Liam joins them, plopping down next to Zayn. Conversation flows easily, going from video games to Marvel movies to which campus restaurant is the best. Apparently Zayn’s too drunk now to be nervous, because he’s pressing up to Liam’s side, and wait, is that a bashful smile on Liam’s face?
At around 2 AM a frat boy stands up on a table, his hands cupped around his mouth. “We’re playing a game of Sardines!” he yells, despite the fact that everyone is quite capable of hearing him.
“What’s Sardines?” shouts a girl from the kitchen, voicing Louis’ thoughts.
Sardines, as it turns out, is a reverse version of hide and seek. Or something. Even after the instructions are explained, Louis doesn’t really remember them. Something about one person hiding and everybody trying to find said person. It might be because the weed is hitting him pretty hard. Either way, Louis doesn’t know how a bunch of university kids thought this was a good idea.
Nevertheless, Louis finds himself in a gaggle of people frantically moving about the house, trying to find where somebody has hidden. He’s just moving, opening door after door, because that’s what he’s supposed to do, he thinks. He accidentally opens a door where two people are going at it and shuts it just as quickly. God.
Hunting down a person in a frat house is tiring. Louis needs a place to sit down.
The bathroom looks like a safe refuge, so Louis knocks and waits. When there’s no response, he sneaks his way inside, purposeful. He can’t see too much. The only source of light is the dim moonlight streaming in from the window, illuminating a bathtub.
It seems like a good resting place. He climbs in and lies down.
He’s only alone for a few minutes before another figure bursts inside. Louis can’t see much, only that the stranger’s got messy dark hair and is quite tall. With these two pieces of information, Louis’ hazy brain registers, cute.
“Oops,” the stranger says, a little breathless. “I didn’t know there was someone in here.” His voice is slow, syrupy, just like the last drink that Louis had. Louis thinks he might be British. Or, at the very least, an American trying to imitate a British accent. It’s amazing how many Americans Louis has encountered mimicking his accent upon first meeting him.
Louis laughs, because he imagines that he must look a little ridiculous, sprawled out openly in a bathtub. “Hi there. Welcome to my lair.”
The stranger hovers in the doorway as if he’s not sure what to make of this situation. “Are you ‘it’?” he asks, like they’re five and playing tag. Which is, actually, a similar situation to this. Louis wonders how he found himself in uni, surrounded by people his age who still enjoy playground games.
Louis shakes his head. “Nope.”
The stranger tilts his head, confused. “So you’re just sitting in the bathtub then?”
“Yes,” says Louis, a little indignant and a little drunk. Maybe very drunk. “There is nothing wrong with sitting in a bathtub.”
This elicits a laugh from the stranger, a cheery sound that fills the room. Louis thinks that he likes it. “Can I join you?” he asks.
Louis waves at the edge of the bathtub. “Feel free. There’s more than enough room for two of us.” He peers at the remaining space near his feet. There’s probably two inches of free room. Oops. He adjusts himself, twisting his body sideways as his new acquaintance joins him, and sighs inwardly at the leg room he’s just sacrificed.
They probably look a bit stupid now, two guys sitting in a bathtub, facing the door in huddled positions. They’d be quite a sight if anyone else decided to step inside the bathroom.
“So do you do this often? Climb into bathtubs?” the guys says, angling his body to face Louis.
Louis turns his head to reply, and finds himself zeroed in on the stranger’s gaze. There’s a moment, where he’s looking at him and the stranger is looking back, that lasts long enough for Louis to realise that he really shouldn’t be staring like this. Doesn’t even know why he’s staring so long, especially when he can’t see much in the dark. Maybe it’s the alcohol. That would explain the flush of warmth starting to spread to his toes.
Louis forcibly tears his gaze away from the guy. He hopes the stranger doesn’t notice how flustered he‘s become, how long he’s stared at him for. That’s weird.
Strangely, he’s still looking at Louis. Maybe the stranger is the weird one.
“Um, no,” Louis replies, and he sees the stranger jolt his head, a delayed reaction.
“Oh,” the stranger says hastily, as if he’s just realized that Louis has spoken. “Sorry. What?”
“No, I don’t do this often,” Louis clarifies. “Climbing into people’s bathtubs, that is.”
“Really? Because I do it all the time,” the guy says, and begins stretching out his legs over the edge. He’s got long legs, this guy. They’re nice. Louis wonders if it’s weird to be checking someone’s legs out in a bathtub.
Louis props his head on the side, giving the guy a look that he certainly won’t see. “I can’t tell if you’re joking or not, mate.”
“I’m dead serious,” he says, even though the tone in his voice indicates he’s anything but. “I spend my life in here.”
“You’ve got a really boring life,” Louis says. Somehow, this elicits out a large laugh from this guy, even though it’s not that funny. In spite of himself, Louis feels himself grinning.
“I might be boring,” the guy says, voice amused. He tilts his head, and in the dim lighting from the window, Louis can faintly make out the shape of his nose and his cheekbones. “My friends tell me I’m boring anyway, because I like to do yoga and stuff.”
This guy likes to do yoga. For some reason, Louis files this away in his drunk brain. “I don’t know any guy in uni who likes to do yoga,” Louis muses. “I think that’s more weird than boring.”
Louis can’t tell, but he thinks this guy is probably pouting. “Yoga’s not weird,” he says. “It’s very good for your body, and stuff.”
Louis can’t help but chuckle, a little amused by this stranger in the dark who likes yoga. “Any other weird quirks you may have? At this rate, we can see if you’re the weirdest person in this house.”
A moment passes by before the guy says, “I have a big butterfly tattoo.”
This, Louis can’t help but laugh at. “What?”
The guy is laughing too. “I’m serious,” he insists. “Judge me all you want, but I rather like it.”
“Well,” Louis says, tapping him on his knee, and the guy’s head angles down, attention brought to the point of contact. “Then that’s the most important thing, innit? That you like it.”
“Yeah,” he says, still staring at where Louis’ finger was, until he brings his head up to look at Louis. “Yeah,” he repeats, softly, before looking down again with a smile. “That’s true.”
Louis thinks he might be endeared with this stranger, someone who he hasn’t even fucking known for more than five minutes. Obviously, this is the indicator that Louis has had too much to drink. He’s letting his guard down.
Suddenly, a shout from downstairs interrupts their conversation, followed by a chorus of whooping.
“Huh,” the guy says. “Guess they’re done.”
As if on cue, a new person bursts through the door, a mop of blond hair adorning his head. He squints into the dark, and points a finger towards Louis’ new acquaintance. “There ya are,” he bellows, charging toward the tub. “We’ve got to go! Our flight is in three hours!”
Bathtub Stranger then turns to Louis, extending his hand. “It was nice to meet you,” he says. His voice sounds sincere.
Louis takes his hand and shakes it. “Likewise,” he says, before the stranger climbs out to leave the room. To his own surprise, Louis means it.
Somehow, Louis finds himself in his own bed when the morning comes. Given how fucked he was last night, he’s not really sure how it happened. But he’s here in his apartment, instead of some random rubbish bin. Even though his head is pounding, he’s grateful for at least that.
Padding into Zayn’s room, he realizes that his roommate is, in fact, not there. With a panic, Louis pulls out his phone before he realizes that he’s got unread messages.
[2:40 AM] where are you m8 haha
[2:45 AM] omg me n liam r in a closet in the darkkkkkk crazy :o im nervous louuuuu
[3:14 AM] i sucked his dick not comin home tonite aha ;)))) x
Okay. It seems like Zayn’s in good hands, then. A victory for both of them.
Louis pockets his phone, heads to the bathroom for a quick wee, and crashes back into bed for the next few hours.
When Louis comes to consciousness again, it’s to a person shaking him awake frantically. This is not the best wake up call.
“Louis, wake the fuck up.”
“No,” Louis mumbles. He’s in the middle of a dream about all-you-can-eat pancakes. He’s having a great time. Nobody is bringing him out of this.
“Wake the fuck up, Louis. There’s an earthquake.”
“What?” Louis opens one eye. What he sees is Zayn standing over him, hair a little dishevelled, who looks very unconcerned for there being an earthquake.
“Oh, good, you’re awake,” he says, as if Louis had just woken up on his own accord and not to some dumb lunatic shaking him out of his pancake dream. Zayn sits on the bed, looking at Louis expectantly. He reminds Louis of an eager five-year old about to give a speech. Louis stares back groggily.
“Liam and I had sex,” Zayn declares importantly.
“Are you fucking kidding me,” Louis groans, pulling out his pillow from underneath his head to throw it at Zayn with the hardest force he can muster. As of this moment, his motor skills are not very good, apparently. It seems as if he’s still somewhat drunk.
Zayn blocks the shot with one arm, not looking annoyed in the slightest. Huh. It must have been really good sex.
“I can’t believe you fucking woke me up for this,” Louis grunts. “Why couldn’t you have waited for like, I don’t know, another hour?”
“Because this shit is important, Louis,” Zayn says, leaning forward. “He asked me out on a fucking date, and —” In the middle of his frenzied words, Zayn suddenly stops.
Louis narrows his eyes, prompting Zayn to continue. “And? Did you already forget what else he told you? After months and months of pining?”
“Louis,” Zayn says.
It’s the sudden halt in conversation that makes Louis stop in his tracks, the serious tone in his voice that wasn’t there before. Zayn’s expression is stone-faced. He’s staring right at Louis, eyebrows drawn together.
“Zayn, what?” He can’t think of anything that may have stopped Zayn from talking about the single most exciting thing in his life. Has Zayn suddenly contracted some terrible disease? Maybe he’s going bankrupt? Can university students even go bankrupt? “Tell me. What’s going on?” He can hear the panic creeping in his own voice.
Zayn blinks incredulously. “Do you… do you not know?” he says, still gawking at Louis. Something in Louis’ face must give away his confusion, because Zayn’s eyes widen.
“Louis,” he repeats hastily, bringing a hand up to motion at Louis’ face. “Your eyes.”
And all of a sudden, Louis knows.
“I,” he gasps. He feels himself rising from the bed, moving jerkily to his mirror. Lifting his head, he faces his reflection.
For the past twenty-one years of his life, Louis had grown used to his different eyes, one green, one blue. He had never known which colour belonged to him, and which belonged to his soulmate.
Now, looking into the mirror, he knows.
“What,” Louis says, stunned. The blue that meets him is piercing, an amplified effect now that there’s two of them. He blinks in disbelief, watching the person in the glass do the same.
“When did this happen?” Zayn asks, appearing at Louis’ side, revealing a similar expression of shock as they both stare at Louis’ reflection.
“Uh,” Louis starts, his mouth dry. In the midst of the sirens blaring in his mind, he tries to make his brain work. “Last night. I suppose.”
“Well, of course it was last night,” Zayn says, mouth pursed in consideration. “Do you remember when you had last looked into a mirror?”
Louis’ memory races back to last night, frantically flipping through dozens of moments like a mental slideshow. Trying to pinpoint each time he passed by a mirror, every time he went to take a piss.
“The entire house was dim as fuck,” Louis recalls, shaking his head. “I don’t even know how I could fucking tell even when I looked into the mirror.”
“Fuck,” Zayn says. They turn to face each other, and Zayn looks about as shell-shocked as Louis feels. “We’re screwed.”
Being screwed is not an understatement. Louis spends the next hour watching Zayn speed text everyone he knows from the party — has anyone u know happened to change eye colour last nite — while Louis himself sits on the couch, sunk into a shocked stupor.
He notices that he doesn’t feel drunk anymore. Nope, he feels quite fucking sober.
God. How could he have not even noticed?
“Liam,” Zayn says urgently, face pressed to his phone. “Have you found anyone yet?” The fact that Zayn has progressed from shy child to bold best friend in twelve hours probably says something about how valuable of a friend he is.
There’s a garble that Louis hears from the other line, followed by an exasperated sigh from Zayn. “None of your frat brothers have had any success, either?”
As Zayn’s official new love interest, Liam has joined them on this wild soulmate hunt. So far, it seems like this Liam guy is a good egg. After all, it’s not every day that your new lover’s best friend finds and loses his soulmate, all within twelve hours.
His soulmate. Louis shakes his head to clear the thought.
Liam says something again. A minute later, Zayn comes over to where Louis is on the couch. It’s where he’s been for the past hour, allowing his brain to thaw in the midst of this whole situation. Because Louis’ found his fucking soulmate, and he doesn’t even know where he is. Who he is.
“We’ll find him, Lou,” Zayn soothes, wrapping his entire body around Louis like a koala. Louis shuts his eyes and tries to ground himself into the contact. Just breathes.
“There’s no way that guy won’t come back,” Zayn continues, a reassurance in the midst of Louis’ panicked silence. Zayn’s right. If Louis is out here panicking, there must be someone else panicking as well. It’s two-way. It’ll be fine.
“You’re right,” Louis whispers finally, after what seems like an eternity. Zayn tightens his arms around him. And they wait.
Somehow, waiting for the next few hours turns into waiting for the next few days. In all of Zayn’s and Liam’s attempts, the texts, the calls, the messages — they all bounce back with no positive response. As it turns out, it seems as if no one at that party had changed their eye colour. With each growing day, the mystery shifts from a frustrating situation to a puzzling one.
“I don’t get it,” Zayn says. “I feel like we’ve gone through everyone.” It’s the morning of day eight, and they’re seated at the kitchen counter. Every morning, they check to see if anyone’s replied, and every morning, the result has been the same. “Can we just look at every matched guy on campus, and see if you recognize your green in their eyes?”
Louis shoots a look at Zayn. “You make it sound so easy. As if I look and memorize every speckle of my green eye every single day.” He tries to hide the bitter tone from his voice, but it comes out anyway. The bitterness reflects how useless he feels in this whole situation.
Shoulders slumped, Zayn takes a defeated bite of toast. “It’s the only thing we’ve got.”
Running his hands along his face, Louis lets out a tired groan. Day eight, and still no response. How could this be so fucking hard? He places his head in his hands, trying to justify why this whole thing is happening. Maybe he doesn’t need a soulmate. Does he even need a soulmate?
“Maybe I don’t need a soulmate.” Louis directs the words to the table. “Maybe it’s just not meant to be, or some shit.”
Louis feels his hands being peeled away from his face, revealing a pressed Zayn. “Louis,” he says, enunciating each syllable. “There’s a fucking reason why your soulmate is called your soulmate. Do you know how fucking lucky you are to find your soulmate, and on this damn campus, of all places?”
Of course he fucking knows. “Of course I fucking know,” Louis says, standing up in exasperation. It’s not like he needs a fucking reminder. He doesn’t know how being reminded of this very fact will make this situation marginally better. For all he knows, his soulmate is on the other side of the damn world.
Louis freezes, turning around. “Zayn,” he whispers. He can hear the sharpness in his own voice.
Zayn blinks. “What?”
“We didn’t go through everyone,” Louis says, shaking his head. “Not everyone.”
Zayn’s eyes are wide. “What do you mean?”
“There’s one person who was at that party who I talked to,” Louis recalls, his memory refreshing as he says the words. “Bathroom Guy.”
His mind is suddenly clear now, a vivid recollection of the one interaction in the bathtub. He remembers the pleasant interaction, the easy silence with this person who he barely even knew. This person who he didn’t even see. Fuck.
“Okay?” Zayn exclaims, clearly excited. “What did he look like?”
Once again, Louis curses the dark. “Um,” he says. “The lights were off. I didn’t see.”
Louis can see Zayn nodding slowly, clearly trying to reel in his panic. “Okay,” Zayn says slowly. “Okay. Did you get his name?”
Honestly, Zayn might as well start panicking. “No,” Louis says, and watches as Zayn slumps in his chair, rolling his eyes up to the ceiling in defeat.
“Fuck. How are supposed to get to this guy, Louis?”
Louis contemplates telling him. He shouldn’t tell him.
After a moment of consideration, Louis opens his mouth. Their situation is already pretty screwed. They might as well go all the way now. “Actually, Zayn,” Louis says. “I don’t even know if he’s in town. I heard him say he was supposed to catch a flight, or something.” He braces himself for the inevitable outburst that’s about to happen.
“Oh my God,” Zayn yells, bringing his head down onto the table. Louis is pretty sure that’s going to give him a bruise. If anyone could be the epitome of the word ‘done’, Zayn’s face would probably be right there next to it in the dictionary.
“It’s okay,” Louis says, looking down. It’s funny how he’s comforting Zayn, when he should probably be comforting himself. It’s his soulmate they’re talking about, after all.
After over a week of trying, Louis can’t help but wonder if maybe it’s not meant to be. Maybe things aren’t meant to work for him.
It’s not like everyone finds their soulmate, anyway. Statistically, less than half the people in the world don’t. Louis would just be like the majority of the population, like he already had been before he had met his soulmate. Before he had met Bathroom Guy. Whoever he was.
Bathroom Guy. Louis shakes his head incredulously. He’s going to end up calling his soulmate Bathroom Guy for the rest of his whole fucking life.
“Maybe I’m not meant to find my soulmate,” he tells Zayn, who looks at him like Louis’ only got one brain cell speaking on behalf of all the other brain cells. Louis doesn’t blame him.
If anyone asked him, Louis didn’t think he would become one of those people to meet their soulmate, only to lose them and never see them again. It’s not unheard of — people who make fleeting eye contact on an escalator, or people who lose each other in a crowd. There’s a bit of comfort in that fact.
There are instances where people do meet their soulmate again, but that’s a twenty-five percent chance, or something like that, probably less. Louis didn’t really pay attention in science class when he was younger. An estimated twenty-five percent isn’t too bad, especially if they’re in the same city, but for those always on the go — the possibility is slim.
There’s one day where Louis thinks he sees messy, curly brown hair climbing onto the train as he’s getting off. He almost gets whiplash as the door closes. As the train speeds away, Louis has to reassure himself that it’s probably some random guy. After all, he can’t very well jump at every guy with curly brown hair. That’s probably at least half the population in Manhattan.
But for the most part, life goes on, because it has to. Life goes on, and it takes Louis a few months before he can think about his soulmate in a way that doesn’t jump to coping mechanisms or what ifs. Instead, he learns how to treat it more like a story. Like one time I actually met my soulmate, haha, but he probably lives somewhere else in the world now and I never saw him again. If Louis could convert the amount of sympathy looks he’s received into currency, he could probably buy a fucking yacht.
It doesn’t stop him from glancing at the frat house every time he passes by, though. In those instances, he allows the night’s memories to visit him for just one brief moment, before walking away. It also doesn’t stop him from lying awake sometimes, questioning if his soulmate is wondering about him. If his soulmate even knows what he looks like. Usually, he forces himself to go to sleep before he can think about it too much. Don’t cry over spilled milk, and all that.
But sometimes, on nights where Louis can’t sleep and his defenses have fallen, the nameless stranger revisits his thoughts. For some reason, he can still remember the warmth in his chest from the stranger’s laugh. He can still remember the pleasant buzz through his toes, the pulsing of his heart.
Eventually, Louis accepts that even if he can’t see his soulmate again, he can at least be grateful for their first meeting. It’s acceptance. But acceptance comes with a hint of hope. Hope that maybe his soulmate is out there looking for him. That maybe someday he’ll stumble upon a curly brown-haired boy with a butterfly tattoo somewhere.
Admittedly, it puts a strain on some of his relationships. No matter how much Louis tries, there’s not one person he meets who can amount to the feeling he had when meeting his soulmate for the first time. It’s a lot to compete with. On the other hand, it makes casual dating easier. So that’s what Louis does, for a while.
So life continues. He graduates uni two years later with a double major in communications and design, and moves out to the city. He starts working for a well-known marketing firm, a job that he surprisingly likes, and he climbs his way to a respected position. He dates an unmatched guy named Raymond, who isn’t very tall and does not have messy brown hair. It’s easy with him, and if Louis had to describe the relationship, it wouldn’t be bad. Raymond lasts for a year, until he relocates to Australia for a job. In the midst of it all, Louis finds himself doing okay.
So, Louis’ fine. He does his best to move on.