Chapter 1: Plasters.
I watch the colourful images on the tiny television screen through half closed eyes, my long eyelashes tickling the flushed skin. Fresh from a warm bubble bath my skin was rosy and my hair was still damp. The ends always ended up drying quicker than the rest and flicking in all directions and tonight was no exception. I was sitting as close to the screen as I possibly could be without going cross eyed, short legs folded up to my chest. The cheap carpet that once presumably was cream, but was now brown with dirt was rough and scratchy underneath me, not that I really noticed. On the single bed behind me, hidden under a plush mountain of teddies and pillows my younger brother slept peacefully.
A sweet love song played from the outdated television, sang by a beautiful cartoon princess with flowing corn coloured hair and a red silk gown. She danced gracefully around the lush forest, singing all about the wonders of True Love to her cute little animals friends. She didn`t half go on a bit, I think to myself, rubbing my tired eyes. The bunnies and the squirrels didn`t seem too taken with her song either. Her handsome, blue eyed prince eventually joined in, appearing magically from behind some tree. He began to twirl the delicate young girl around.
Is that really what love is like? It that really going to happen to me one day? I wonder, half intrigued, half repulsed as I tear my sleepy eyes away from the movie. I wasn`t too sure I even wanted to fall in love with someone one day, no matter if it was true or not. Love was icky, girls were icky and fairy tales were too cheesy to be really real. Mum and Dad never danced around in the woods singing sappy duets together like that, and as far as I knew they never even held hands.
I glance down at my left hand and frown. They were always there. Wrapped tightly around my slender finger was not one, but three brown non-allergenic plasters. Mummy and Daddy always made sure I had them on at all times, even when I was sleeping. Up until now, I was never really concerned about why they did it, not caring what name was written there. I had way more important things to be thinking about, like playing with my toy cars and looking out for Sammy at the play park.
Now though, I was curious. Maybe it was because of the movie I had just watched, or maybe I was just tired of having something so important hidden from me, but I do it. My other hand moves slowly towards the plasters. I take a deep breath then reach out and grab hold of the end which had become loose in the bath water earlier. I pull it back quickly, wincing at the sting. I then do the same until the other two are off and thrown across the cramped bedroom and in the bin as well.
I take another deep breath, before looking down at my hand again, unable to hold back a small giggle at what I was about to do.
Five neat italic letters curl their way down my ring finger, the inky black lettering telling me the name of my supposed soulmate. The one I was destined to live my own happily ever after with one day. The name they had tried to hide from me for my entire life.
“J-Jam…Jam…e…s,” the word tastes strange in my mouth, but I feel a warmth rush over me as I struggle to say the last letter. I grin a big gap toothed grin, incredibly pleased with myself for sounding the word out all on my own.
My future soulmate was someone named James.
I didn’t know who he was, where he came from or what he looked like. I didn`t even know his last name. He was my soulmate and like it or not, nothing could ever change that.
This would explain why Mum and Dad had never read me the name of my soulmate the one time I had asked them to before. It explained why they treated me different to Sammy, who had the name “Jessica,” marked on his finger. Explains why I have to have it covered over every day.
“Mummy, read this!” I eagerly stretch out my left arm for her like I do every morning so she can apply a new plaster.
“Read what, Dean?” she asks warily, ripping opening a new box of waterproof plasters.
“The writing on my finger!” I explain happily, waving it about under her nose.
Her eyes harden into thin slits. Roughly, she grabs my hand and ignoring my wails of protest, covers the fancy writing with a dull brown plaster. She then adds another two on top of it to stop if from coming off during the day.
“You are never to ask me about that again Dean, are we clear?” she slaps the hand away as though it disgusted her.
“And if we find you looking at it you will be in big trouble.” Dad booms from his seat at the breakfast table, tucking in to a third helping of bacon.
Mum walks away leaving me there in the kitchen, cradling my sore hand to my chest before she gets an answer.
I was five, but I wasn`t stupid.
My soulmate was a boy and they didn`t like that.
Chapter 2: Names.
“Y-your finger. You don`t have one!”
He frowns. “I don`t have a finger? Dean, I have five.”
I was too freaked out to notice that he called me by my name.
“Yes, but on your left finger you don`t have a name.”
Fluffy white snow fell softly in large flakes. I it from my small bedroom window, ears pricked up in case someone discovered that I was out of bed so long my stupid seven o clock bedtime. It had begun just after midnight, painting the grungy old play park with the squeaky swings and the wonky slide in a soft, pale blanket. The littered tarmac of the road was hidden under a good few centimetres of beautiful, shimmering snow and for the first time, I really believed that the dingy neighbourhood we lived in was beautiful. Of course, I just knew it was going to snow tonight. It had to. What was a Christmas morning without a fresh blanket of pure white snow? Palms pressed right up against the window pane I fall asleep smiling to myself. I dream of soft pale clouds and delicate white flakes of snow.
Something was poking me. Hard.
“Dean! Wake up!” another sharp prod to my ride shoulder startles me and I shift positions in my still half asleep state.
“Go away, Sammy.” I mumble groggily, tired green eyes staying firmly and decisively closed. “It`s too early. Go back to bed and leave me alone.”
The younger boy`s thin lower lip trembled, fat tears threatening to fall. Sam was stood there with his arms crossed, hugging a brown and white teddy bear to his chest. The too long Batman pyjama bottoms must have been stolen form my draws because they hung loosely on his bony hips, the frayed ends dragging behind him on the rough floor. One foot was bare, the other was still partially covered by one fuzzy warm bed sock that had somehow managed to cling on. He may be tall and skinny, but he sure had big hands and feet. The kid was like a mini hurricane most of the time and it was my job to make sure he didn`t get himself into trouble. A huge responsibility for such a small child, but I didn`t mind.
“B-but it`s Christmas…” He pleads, pouting and opening his eyes impossibly wide, doing what I had lovingly christened the “Bambi look.”
“Santa will have been with toys and I might have gotten that book I asked for and then we could spend the day curled up on the sofa and you could read it to me.”
I sigh, but agree sleepily and drag myself away from the cold glass. It was a special day, Christmas Day and whatever adorable little Sammy wanted, he got. It didn`t matter that I was exhausted and was so tired I could quite happily curl back up against the frosty glass.
“Alright, but no hissy fits if you didn`t get everything you wanted, okay?”
There was no need for the stern warning, but Sam nods along quite happily anyway. Tired and aching from sleeping crushed up against the window, I stretch, groaning at the delicious feeling as my limbs and muscles reawaken. Wrapped almost painfully tightly around my ring finger was the usual waterproof plaster. Sammy often asked about it, but he was never supplied with any answers to his probing (nosy) questions.
“You go down and check to see if the big fat man has come. He might not have you know, you were pretty naughty this year. You might have been given coal instead of presents.” I tease my pink, pointed tongue poking out briefly to taunt my younger brother that little bit more. No way the fat guy in the red suit hadn`t come. Sam was the best four year old I knew. Kind and funny and playful and he always, always did whatever he was told. The only one around here who might be getting coal in his stocking was me.
Sam stamps his bare foot. “He has too been.” Sam huffs stomping his feet again, the remaining sock flying off onto the floor. “I was really good this year!”
Dean reaches out a chubby arm and ruffles his soft dark hair affectionately. “I know you have been, buddy. I was only joking.”
He accepts this with his usual grin and hugs me tightly. Even though I was older than him by a year, he was still the same height as me and quickly overtaking.
“I`m going to wake up mum and dad!” Sam said cheerily before half running and half skipping away out of the untidy room and down the hallway.
“Yeah, you just do that, Sammy.” I sigh miserably, absentmindedly rubbing at the too tight plaster.
I really didn`t see what the big problem was. Why my parents had tried to hide the name of my destined soul mate from me was a baffling mystery. Why mum got up extra early in the mornings before dropping us off at school and nursery just to apply a silly little bandage to one finger was something I couldn’t make sense of. Not just one plaster, but three. Clearly what was written on my skin was something she really didn`t want anyone else finding out about, but why? James was a perfectly nice name, in my opinion. Much nicer than dad`s name. John was a horribly boring old man`s name. the reason had to be because it was a boy`s name and not a girl`s.
I still don`t understand why that was such a big problem to them.
Why did I have to keep my mark hidden? Why do I feel like I can’t tell Sam about it? Because of our parent`s reaction towards it? Or were they right? Maybe I should keep it hidden. Maybe the other kids would pick me if they knew the truth.
When I get downstairs I can see that Santa Clause well and truly had visited in the night. Footprints had been made in the flour that Sam had point down to try and prove that he had been here and all that was left of the cookies we had left out was a few crumbs. The glass with the snowmen that I had picked out to put the milk in had been drank from and the bright orange carrots for the reindeer nowhere in sight.
Breakfast was typically fend for yourself, and Christmas Day was no exception. I make cups of coffee, one with sugar and one without for mum and dad while Sam pours us both some colourful, sugar filled cereal. The kind we were only allowed on weekends or Birthdays. I make my way upstairs slowly, narrowly avoiding tripping on a discarded pair of shoes on the top step, spilling a few scolding drops of coffee.
“I brought you both a drink.” I tell them, forcing a convincing smile onto my lips.
“Thank you sweetie, now go and bring me the first aid kit so I can put your new plaster on while I let this cool.” The pretty young lady smiles down at me but I feel cold. This wasn`t how it was supposed to be. Mothers and fathers were supposed to hold you when you were scared and read to you and kiss you and tell you they loved you unconditionally.
“Okay mum.” I agree, but the word leaves a bitter, metallic taste in my mouth.
Sam was delighted with his Christmas presents which was the main thing. Colourful mountains of crumpled and torn wrapping paper, cello tape and git tags littered the living room floor and piles and piles of open boxes stuffed with toys surrounded us. One or two of the smaller ones had my name on and so did a bike, but the rest belonged to Sam.
After the rubbish had been binned and dad has done his annual moaning about being woken up so early, we are told to scarper so they can enjoy a glass or two of wine and control of the television before dishing up the feast of turkey, vegetables and Yorkshire pudding.
“Go to the park and play on your new bike. Don`t forget to let Sam have a go.”
“Yes Sir.” As if I wouldn`t let Sammy have a ride on my new bike. He was likely to have the first ever shot if he pulled out the old Bambi eyes.
The park wasn`t far, just across the road. I had the perfect view of it from my bedroom window. A lot of the time when I was bored or couldn`t sleep I would climb out of bed and just sit there staring out at it for hours like I had done last night. It was usually overflowing was small children, pushchairs and the defeated looking parents, but it was still really early and anyone who was awake was still likely to be opening their new toys Santa had brought them. I push my bike along beside me and lay it down carefully by the swings.
“Wear this helmet, ok?”
“Okay.” Sam nods and takes hold of the cherry red safety helmet I had been offering him. His chubby four year old fingers struggle to fasten the buckle so I do it for him and help him clamber up onto the seat. I place one hand on the handlebar over his smaller one. The other was placed firmly on his back so there was no way he could fall off.
“I will push you but you still have to pedal, alright?”
He nods excitedly, clearly anxious to get going. When he has gotten the hang of it I sit down on one of the swings. The rusty metal chains creak under the weight as I begin to sway back and forth, keeping a watchful eye on Sammy at all times.
The clicking of the metal gate alerts me to the fact that someone else has just entered. It was another boy, maybe a year or two older than me with dark, windswept hair that partially covered his blue and a long winter coat at least two sizes too big for him. The outfit was completed with knee high snow boots, a rainbow bobble had and matching gloves. Checking on Sam once more I wander over to the slightly older boy, leaving the creaky old swing behind me. He was playing in the sandpit, despite the snow and the fact that everybody knew local cats came and peed in it. He was rolling up three separate balls of snow and sand not caring that the two different materials were all mixed together.
“Weird kind of snowman.” I comment, cautiously sitting down on the ground next to him. I didn`t want to sit on cat wee. Or possibly even worse.
The corners of his chapped lips threaten to curve upwards into a smile. “Yes, it is rather.”
He continues silently building his half snow half sandman and I carry on watching him, mesmerized. Halfway through he takes of his multi-coloured gloves and tucks them away in his pocket.
“Why do you have girl`s gloves?” I question. This kid was weird, but at the same time he was really very interesting.
“They are my sister`s. Her name is Anna. She doesn`t like the cold or the wet very much so she let me borrow them.”
He puts the second biggest mound of snow on top of the slightly larger one, patting down some of the sand and snow to secure it down. Something draws my attention to his left hand. I can`t put my finger on what it is that seem wrong about it at first but when I do my heart stops.
He sees me looking and tilts his head as though he were confused. “”What is it?”
“Y-your finger. You don`t have one!”
He frowns. “I don`t have a finger? Dean, I have five.”
I was too freaked out to notice that he called me by my name.
“Yes, but on your left finger you don`t have a name.”
To check I grab hold of his hand and stare at the finger in-between the long slender middle one and the dinky little pinkie. Nothing. Nada. I couldn`t explain it, but my throat suddenly felt dry and my head was spinning. My heart did a weird leap and I dropped his hand as though it had stung me.
“Shouldn`t you be keeping an eye on your brother?” he swiftly changes the subject.
My eyes widen in horror. How could I possibly have forgotten about Sam?!
“He`s fine, look he is over there riding round and round the climbing frame.” He points with a long skinny arm and goes back to his creation.
“Wait, you little jerk! Answer my question!” I demand, grabbing him my both shoulders and shaking just roughly enough to frighten him but not to hurt him. I got into fights a lot on the playground, but I didn`t want to with this weird boy for some reason. Not this boy with the bright blue eyes and the funny hat and the oversized coat.
“How can I answer your question when you haven’t ask me one, Dean?”
This time I do notice that he calls me by my name.
“How do you know my name and why don`t you have a soul mate mark on your finger?” I ask, ripping off my plaster in one smooth motion to show him mine. Only it wasn`t there anymore.
Chapter 3: Jimmy
"Nice to meet you."
I begin to panic. Not in a crazy, uncontrollable, headless chicken kind of way. More like in a shocked, speechless freaked out and confused kind of way. My mouth drops open and refuses to close, ready for catching bugs. I stare at the strange kid with wide eyes, then down at my finger before turning my eyes back on him He looks up at me from where he sat in the snow filled sandpit, tilting his head to the side slightly, his dark hair ruffled and bright eyes equally wide. The chilly wind was blowing forcefully against us, but I hardly notice it anymore.
“My finger, it`s gone! The name is gone!” Words finally find me, my voice shaking more than I would have liked.
The other child still looks confused and while it was adorable, I was still terrified. Where was the writing? The name of my Soulmate was gone. The marks from the plasters were still there, as was the slight pain from yanking them off so roughly, but the elegant writing was nowhere to be seen. My finger practically burned from the absence of the plain brown bandages and I felt as though I was falling, despite my trainers still resting firmly on the soft, slightly overgrown, moist grass. The snow was already beginning to melt and turn to slush, the half sand and half snowman lopsidedly tilting to the left.
“I know, Dean. So is mine.”
Was this kid for real?
“Well, yeah.” I half yell, not wanting Sammy to come over. It would only open up a can of worms. That is exactly what my Dad had said the first time Sam had asked why he couldn`t know what name I had been given. “That is what I was trying to tell you a minute ago.”
He blinks once. “Oh. I see. When you said I was missing my finger what you really meant was I was missing the name of my Soulmate.”
“But you did have one?” I ask curiously, reaching out a pale arm and grasping hold of the metal fencing for support. The entire play park was spinning madly. Or maybe it was just me. If it continued for much longer I was seriously going to vomit all over the slushy ground.
“Do you feel dizzy? Or does your finger hurt?” I grip the metal tighter, sun faded and rusted flakes of red cracking off on my hands. Disgusted, I hastily wipe them on my jeans. “Or burn maybe?”
He turns away and nods briefly, the movement so small that if I had blinked I would have missed it. He looks sad for some reason and frightened. Tense too. His bony shoulders were hunched right up to just below his ears and his jaw was set stiffly. Small hands were bunched up into loose fists, the pale skin stretched taught over the knuckles.
“So, the writing on my finger has disappeared and so has yours.” He nods to confirm this, even though it was clearly visible that there wasn`t even a single letter etched into his skin. “And this happened today?” I say it as a question, even though something deep inside was telling me that I already knew. It had happened shortly after he had strolled into the almost empty park. How I knew this, I didn`t know, not for sure anyway. The childish, far too colourful and sappy, but admittedly beautifully drawn movie I had sneakily watched recently comes to mind and I feel a lump in my throat and chest.
I was breathing heavily, the same way I had after sports day on the second last day of school last year, but this time it was different. I was afraid, not triumphant at my win. Yet, at the same time I was excited? Confused and scared, definitely, but almost a little bit curious. The spinning had lessened now so that I no longer felt sick, just a little lightheaded. It wasn`t entirely unpleasant. The only feeling I can remember that was even somewhat similar to this was from the last time the fairground had come to town.
Waltzers, a Ferris wheel, a carrousel and dodgems. What little kid wouldn`t love that? I remember begging and pleading to be allowed to go on this really high ride that took you up and then dropped you and lifted you over and over again. I can`t remember what it was called but it was covered in the brightest lights I had ever seen. Grudgingly, mum and dad had agreed and took over holding onto Sammy`s hand so he didn`t run off to the cotton candy stall again. I was trembling as the bar came down and knowing that there was no getting off until it stopped, but I was shaking equal amounts from the sheer excitement. The few seconds before the drop were the worst, longest seconds of the entire evening. I took a deep breath and then I was falling and there was no sign of stopping but I didn`t even care because it was an indescribable feeling of freedom and adrenaline.
That was how I felt right now.
I was falling and I was petrified, but it was exhilarating. I was breathless.
I threw up after the ride though, which did spoil things a little.
“Dean! Dean!” I half felt like I was going to vomit again when the other boy`s shouts pull me out of my thoughts.
This time, instead of asking how he knew my name I simply answer him with his own.
“James.” How had I not known it before? This boy with his matted dark hair that was so brown it was almost black, his oversized raincoat and impossibly blue eyes was James. My James. My future. My…Soulmate. The word sends warm, gushy feelings through my entire body and I shudder.
“How do you-“he cuts of his own sentence. Could he feel it too? Please tell me he could. He continues to look confused for another minute. One incredibly loooong, frustrating minute before he break out into infectious laughter.
“Of course!” he giggles joyously, actually clutching his sides the way I had only seem people do in movies until now. “You`re him. You`re, Dean.”
I nod like an over excited puppy dog and he rewards me with this big, toothy smile that makes my tummy do weird acrobatic flips I had only ever felt before while on a fairground ride.
“And you`re James.”
James pulls a face and shakes his head and my heart does an awkward thud.
“I hate that name.” he states in a bored tone.
“Well then, how about I give you a nickname?” I offer, tugging off my fleece lined winter coat. I was far too warm with it on, if I kept it on another second I would burn up. I lay it down like a picnic blanket next to the sandpit and sit down on it, gesturing with both hands for him to sit with me. He does and our knees brush. My leg is still tingling by the time I go home.
“A nickname?” James repeats uncertainly.
“Yeah!” I nod enthusiastically, placing one hand on his shoulder. It felt alien to not have a plaster on my finger, especially in front of someone. But James was my someone.
“A nickname that only I call you. Wouldn`t that be sweet?”
His pale cheeks flush and he ducks his head, shying away under his soft fringe. “That`d be nice.” He admits in a soft, barely there whisper.
My face scrunches up in concentration. Sam was the one who came up with the best nicknames, but this was something that I had to do. But what if he didn`t like any of the names I came up with? After all, I was the one who had christened Sam with his preferred nickname. “Sammy,” wasn`t exactly clever, witty or original.
“What about Jamie?”
“That`s a girl`s name!” he complains and my chest feels tight and achy. I had so badly wanted to impress him. He was right though, if I recall mum had a friend called Jamie who was a girl.
“My teacher was telling us about his daddy once. It was father`s day and we were making cards. We were allowed to use paint and glitter and everything.” I tell him and he turns his head to look at me, clearly interested. “Anyway, he said his daddy was called James just like you. Only that nobody ever called him James.”
I can almost see James` ears prick up. “What did they call him?”
“Jimmy.” When he smiles I can tell I was on to a winner. I wasn`t sure how someone could go from “James,” to “Jimmy,” but I thought it was nice. I only hope my new found friend did as well.
“Jimmy.” He tries it out and beams at me. “I like it!”
“I`m glad.” I say and before I can stop myself, I wrap my arms around his skinny frame. After a second of hesitation he begins to hug me back. I felt warm and safe and wanted. Everything I felt when I hugged Sam, only one hundred million times more intense. James, no, Jimmy grins wider and briefly, innocently kisses my cheek. He leans over quickly, and all of a sudden I felt the softest, warmest brush of chapped, bitten lips against my wind burnt cheek.
“Hey there, Jimmy. Nice to meet you.” I try and hide my embarrassment by covering it over with a new conversation.
“Dean, we have already met.”
I chuckle and roll my eyes. “I know, but we never properly introduced ourselves. Hi Jimmy. I`m Dean Winchester.”
“Oh! Hiya Dean Winchester.” Jimmy says happily. “I am Jimmy Novak.” Hearing him use the nickname I had given him makes me happier that it probably should.
“Do you want to go and play on the climbing frame?” I ask, quickly glancing over at Sam. I panic momentarily when I see the brand new bike leaning against the metal frame of the swing set but calm right back down again when Jimmy points at a tall four year old who was happily climbing the old green and red slide.
“I`m scared of heights.” He admits and I chuckle.
I smirk as I get to my feet, dragging Jimmy with me. “Don`t worry about that, I`ll catch you!”