The beeping of the old alarm clock woke Aisha. For a minute she was lost and shot out of bed colliding with her easel as she checked her room for strange Chinese men.
Laughing at the absurdity of her behavior, she sat back down and glanced at her floor where a single gold thread lay. She bent to pick it up and follow its trail in curiosity. She didn’t remember any golden string in her room before now. Immediately a memory played in her mind’s eye.
Aisha was waiting for Shayla at a seven-eleven when a Rav 4 in Burgandy red pulled over.
“Aisha! Sorry, I’m late. Work ran a little longer than normal. You’re going to have to sit in the back, I’m giving a coworker a ride.”
“No problem, sis,” Aisha said as she opened the side door to the Rav 4 and climbed inside. Shayla was talking to a male. He had dirty blond hair that looked mussed and when he turned around his eyes glinted like silver. She nearly gasped.
“Hi, I’m Michael.”
Aisha blinked and let go of the thread slowly. Why did I just remember that? That was a long time ago. Two years ago. Before Michael was Shayla’s boyfriend.
Her hands trailed the string to her ankle and held it.
Aisha was sitting on her sister’s couch. Beside her was Michael.
“I can’t believe someone likes the X Files as much as me,” she said smiling.
“Yeah me either,” replied Michael chewing on some popcorn.
“Want to watch it together then?” Aisha asked, stealing a few kernels and brushing her hand by his.
Aisha let go of the thread and instead tried to snip it off with her scissors. She only cut the air. She screamed in frustration and took a look at her clock. I spent fifteen minutes trying to rid myself of this string. It won’t budge! How did it become tied to me? What! Did the strange Chinese man slip through my window and slip a magic string over my ankle or something?
She glanced at the clock again remembering where she had to be in forty minutes. Looks like I’m showering with the damn thing. Maybe the water and soap will slip it off?
It didn’t. As she was drying, she touched the string again.
“Michael is my boyfriend! He said yes!”
“You’re lucky Shay,” Aisha muttered, not sure why she felt like she did. Her sister finally had a good man. She should be happy she brought the two together.
Aisha sighed and got dressed deciding on sandals that left her ankles open despite the chill. She carefully trailed down the hall and to her small kitchen dining area. There she had breakfast and got ready for her first class in the university near her apartment. She took in her apartment.
As much as she wanted to lounge around in her loveseat and conceptualize more drawings for her private collection, she had animation class to get to. It was the first day of her senior year. She headed to her room and made her bed. She grabbed her tote bag from the floor and made sure she had her USB and house keys before exiting her apartment, walking down the stairs, and walking past the gate and onto the street.
“Good morning Aisha,” her neighbor said as she hurried to work.
“Good morning, Mrs. Godfrey.” Aisha by chance looked down and there on Mrs. Godfrey’s right ankle was a thread similar to her own. It was also gold. She watched as the rotund woman fled to her car without a care for her string. It got caught in her car door and kept going into a cacophony that had Aisha almost on her knees. Jeremiah, who had been waiting for her by their usual corner, raced over.
“Hands on your knees, head in between the knees. Big breaths, Aisha,” he coached patting her back.
“They’re everywhere!” she whined taking in deep breaths as he suggested.
Jeremiah gave her a strange look. “What is?”
“Strings! Red, Gold, White, and Black. Everywhere!” she yelled and Jeremiah’s eyebrows rose.
“Just those? You don’t see anything else?” he asked. “No other color strings?
Aisha scoffed. “I don’t think you’re supposed to see strings period!”
“You’re not supposed to. Here, take my hand,” he said outstretching his hand. Aisha deliberated whether her friend had lost his cookies, but in a show of good faith grasped it and suddenly she was surrounded by different colored strings of all kinds.
They were constantly snapping apart or growing in length. Some changed colors before her eyes. Most of all, they covered everything and everyone in one big tapestry She let go of his hand and the world went back to what she could see.
“What in the heck was that ?” she screamed, taking in deep breaths. Was her imagination running on high today? She couldn’t have seen what she saw! It was impossible, it was…
“You were in the company of the great string of fate. Interesting. You can only see the soul bonds.”
“Soulwhat?” She asked, taking another look at her surroundings with a wary gaze. It was still full of the gold, black, red, and white strings but at least it wasn’t the tapestry of colorful threads it had been before. What a mess!
“Soulbonds. The string that ties us to our soulmates,” he said swinging his backpack over his shoulder.
She looked down. “You don’t have one.”
“I was born cursed to walk the world without a match and to see the strings of fate to know I am not worthy of a soulmate. I am a guardian of the strings.”
“I don’t believe you or this, whatever this is! We’ve been friends since forever and now I know this about you?” yelled Aisha starting to pick up speed.
Jeremiah sighed knowing she must be furious and confused but it wasn’t like his strangeness was new. “How many times have I told you so and so would end up together and lo and behold they do?”
Aisha turned around groaning. Tons! There was the time…” She straightened her posture and glared. “No. No way!”
“How else would I know then?” asked Jeremiah sauntering up to her and flicking her forehead.
She flinched and rubbed her forehead. “This is unbelievable!” She stomped her foot.
“Yet you see them don’t you?” he said gesturing to the string on her ankle.
“Why can I see them then?” She sighed, running her hand through her hair.
“You must have gained the favor of the deity Yue Lao. He is the one in charge of the strings.” Jeremiah shrugged grinning.
“Who...that strange Chinese man! I knew there was something funny about that man,” she cried, scaring a couple off the street.
“Come on! We’ve got fifteen minutes to get to class,” Jeremiah said rushing off down the street, his ponytail swinging like a whip. He ran right through the strings.
“Wait, Jere! I’m not done with you,” she screamed following him as they ran to the university. They entered the gates with five minutes to spare and Aisha bent down, hands on her knees again. Jeremiah grinned not even winded. He wiped unkempt strands of long blond hair from his green eyes.
Aisha glared. “How can you be in such great shape after that run,” she muttered standing up and walking over to their first class, figure drawing. Today was about the ankles and Aisha could not stop staring at the many ankle strings. Some were red, others black, while others were white, and only two were gold. Ironically it was a quiet girl and a loudmouth that were a pairing. She asked about it at lunch.
Jeremiah sat against a tree chewing his sandwich. “White is for those whose soulmates haven’t been born yet. Black is for those whose soulmates have died. Red is for those who haven’t found their soulmates and Gold is for those who have met their soulmates already.”
Aisha looked at her string. It was gold. “So I’ve met my soulmate before?” She didn’t know how to feel about that. It scared her to think that any stranger could be her soulmate now.
Jeremiah swallowed. “Yep.”
“Who is it? Do you know?” She asked nibbling on her own sandwich.
“Sorry, I can’t tell you who it is.”
“Hmm. What happens when your soulmate isn’t born yet or is dead?
“Usually those people don’t get together with their soulmates. It’s rare. As for the dead ones? They’re out of luck and will live life never knowing their soulmate. You don’t get refunds in this game.”
“What if you want out of your soulmate bond?”
Jeremiah swallowed the last of his sandwich almost choking.” There is...hmm...there is no real way to escape the bond. Once it’s made it’s forever..”
“So it’s final even if you don’t like your soulmate?”
“Yup,” he said wiping his hands on his pants and patting off the crumbs.”Do you have to do something today?”
“My sister is bringing Michael over for dinner again.”
Jeremiah turned to her with a sad smile. “Have a nice dinner then. Text me if you need a friend.”
He walked away and Aisha was left with more questions than answers.