Though I try my damnedest to keep people from knowing, if they do manage to find out that I got my words so late, they always ask the same two questions. The first is "Was it hard?" And the short answer is, yes, it was hell. The long answer is, that it threw my entire life out of whack.
With the usual age range being 13 to 16 lots of kids already have their words by the time they start their first year of high school. If they don't almost all of them get them before second year. Very few get them during second year. No one I know has ever heard of anyone who didn't have them by third year. I wasn't that worried about it until about halfway through my second year. All high schoolers ever want to do is talk about meeting their soulmate. Especially the girls. One girl in particular was very interested in my words.
"What are your words Rory? I've never seen them." I was doing my best to stay out of their conversation, but that only seemed to egg her on.
"I don't let people see them, and I don't like to take part in those silly fantasies either. You're just going to get your hopes up, which sets you up to be let down. I would much rather not think about it too much so that I can't be let down. How would you feel if your soulmate's first impression of you was disappointment." I did kind of feel that way, but it was also part of hiding. I decided to start lying about having words. I was always covered anyway so no one had to know I was a lonely freak.
"Well that's no fun. I'll love them no matter what, but it's still fun to imagine who they are." She had a snobby look as if to emphasize that she was offended by what I said.
"Whatever, I'm still not gonna show you." I stood up and threw my bag over my shoulder, "The teacher already took role so I'm going to Eric's class until first period starts." If she said anything else after that I wasn't listening. I headed to Eric's classroom as I did every morning. Eric was and is my closest friend and at that time was the only one who knew that I still didn't have words. The lucky bastard got his when he was 13.
We ended up in the same class our third year and he helped me through a lot. In my first and second year I had PE in my first semester, it's pretty chilly here most of the time so it was easy to wear long sleeves when we went out for class. In my third year, however, we had it in the second semester. It felt like the universe was out to get me since it also started to get warmer a little earlier than usual. One day I very nearly passed out from heat stroke and the teacher was furious.
"Eric! Take Rory to the infirmary, and you." He turned to me with a very unpleasant look, "I expect you to wear something more appropriate tomorrow. I let it slide until now, but if you don't change tomorrow, I'm failing you."
There was nothing I could do but hope everything would be fine, but Eric told me that that girl, who was unfortunately in our class, had a terribly satisfied look on her face when the teacher told me I would have to change. The next day came too quickly and I made sure to be the last one out of the locker room and attempt to hide at the back of the class. That annoying girl wasn't having it. To make things worse I was alone. The teacher had picked Eric to help him go fetch the equipment we would need for the day.
"So? Where are they? What do they say?" She came up to me immediately and grabbed both my wrists. Her eager smile quickly faded into a look of confusion as she twisted my arms around almost painfully. I kept my eyes on the ground. "What? Rory what the hell? Where are your words?" She sounded almost angry as she even took to pulling up my short sleeves to check my shoulders. "Wait, do you not-?" She let go and backed away.
"Rory doesn't have any words!"
"Ha, fate must hate you. You lonely freak."
"Makes sense, I heard his parents weren't even soulmates."
"What? Guess he doesn't have a soulmate because he shouldn't even be alive."
Several of the people in our class all chimed in to take swings at me. I crouched down and put my hands on my temples as I tried to settle down. My head was throbbing and it was getting hard to breathe. Eric and the teacher showed up to all of them laughing and joking at my expense. He dropped the bag of basketballs and hurried over to shove some guy away from me.
"Rory needs to see the nurse, excuse us Mr. Green." He didn't even give the teacher time to say anything before he pulled me up and dragged me out of there as fast as he could. "Jesus, Rory." He stopped us in an empty hallway. I was getting dizzy, probably from a lack of proper oxygen to my brain. "Breathe man. Shhh. It's okay. Breathe. Just slow down a little, you're fine now." His words were very calming and he led by example, taking controlled breaths to help me follow along. He was even rubbing my back. I don't know what I did to deserve him.
After about 10 minutes I was fine and we were sitting on the floor with our backs against some lockers. "I'm sorry Rory." Eric seemed to struggle to figure out what to say. I didn't blame him, it's hard to comfort someone for something that seems to have never happened before.
"It's okay. I'm fine now. You should go ahead back to class. I think I'm just gonna head home. I can pick up Markus and Luke early. They can always make me feel better." I gave a weak smile to try and keep him from worrying.
He laughed lightly, "Yeah, sometimes I get pretty jealous of your siblings. You never look that happy when you're with me."
"What can I do? They're basically perfect." We stood up and started to head back toward the locker rooms. "I'll just go grab my stuff, let the teacher know I had to head home. And... Thanks Eric."
"No problem, text me if you need anything okay?"
"Definitely. See you tomorrow."
"See ya'." He headed outside while I went and changed and gathered my stuff.
The next day I came in to snickering and more talk about me and my family. They even wrote a bunch of awful stuff on my desk and on the board. I stood in front of my desk and just looked at it for a bit. I thought about it for a while and I knew I wouldn't be able to handle it. Even if I only had two months left until graduation. I ignored everyone, kept my eyes low and walked back toward the door. I bumped into Eric just as he was trying to come in.
"Whoa, are you okay?"
"Come with me to the office please." I said quickly and grabbed his shoulders to spin him around and push him along.
"Okay, okay, slow down! Damn!"
I rushed us to the office and asked the secretary if the counselor was available.
"Yes, she actually wanted to see you."
"Awesome, thanks." I pulled Eric into her office with me.
"Oh, hello Rory, I didn't expect to see you so early. I wanted to speak with you ab-"
I cut her off, "I need to finish the year from home. I can manage the material fine on my own, and I can come after school to make up tests and PE, but I can't continue to attend school during the day. Is any of that possible?"
"Whoa whoa whoa. Rory what? Don't you think that's a little much?" Eric was obviously surprised, but I had thought about this a lot last night. It would be easier for everyone if I just stopped coming.
"Did something else happen? I heard that you don't have any words and that there was a bit of an issue during classes yesterday, but I agree that your idea seems a bit extreme." Dr. Meese removed her reading glasses and gave me a serious look.
"There was writing all over my desk and on the board. I wouldn't mind that much, but I would like this to die as fast as possible since they are talking about my family as well. My sister Kathrine will be attending this school next year. Our father wasn't our mom's soulmate. They were already talking about that saying that that means I shouldn't even be alive. If that were to become an issue for her as well, I wouldn't be able to live with myself. She doesn't deserve that."
"Jesus man, did they really say that?" I nodded to him
"I see. I'll need to discuss this with the other staff members, but I completely understand where you are coming from. You have my permission to go back home for the day. We should have an answer for you by the end of the day and we will call your house to inform you of our decision."
"Thank you very much." The bell rang indicating that Eric needed to hurry back to class so we left in a bit of a rush. "Thanks again, and don't worry too much about what you hear okay? It really doesn't bother me. I'm just worried about Kathy."
"Yeah, just let me know if you ever need anything. I'll bring you assignments or anything okay?"
"Alright, hurry so they don't mark you late. I'll text you."
"Okay." He laughed and hurried off.
I got permission to carry out my last two months of school like that. Kathy wasn't too pleased because she had to watch the other kids everyday after school, when I went in for make ups. I don't think she really cared as much as she wanted us to think she did though. I didn't even walk at graduation, but I managed to line up a job at the daycare that my brothers attended. I had built up a pretty good reputation with them over the last year and Miss Emma had heard about my trouble at school.
So yes, life without my words was pretty rough, but it kind of landed me my dream job. I absolutely adore kids. I've got 6 younger siblings after all. But I said that there were 2 questions that I always get asked. After I tell them how hellish not having words was, they assume it got better. They then tend to think that the next question doesn't actually need answered. They ask, "It got better once you got them though, right?"
No. No it didn't. Eric found his soulmate the next year at his University. They were both in the bio department. Her name is Julia and she decided to start researching whether or not soulmates actually get their words on the same day or not for her thesis. Eric and several other students were going to be helping out. They put out ads for parents to bring their children who hadn't gotten their words yet and register them. Then they were to report in when they get their words so that the exact day can be recorded. Then they report again when they find their soulmate. Lots of people meet them in high school but many don't until much later so the research was going to take quite a while. Eric of course wanted me to participate. I did everything he asked, but I refused to work with anyone but Eric and Julia. I wanted to help, but I still wanted to be as secretive as possible.
So one day, not long after I had turned 20, on April 10th I noticed that there was something on my hand as I went to get ready for the morning. I averted my eyes immediately. I asked Kathy to handle the kids for the morning, I called the daycare and told them that I would need the day off. This research was becoming a national event since it was something people really wanted to know. I then called Eric and told him that I would meet him at his school as soon as possible. I was too nervous to look at my words the entire time.
"You have to look at them first. I can't do it."
"But Rory they're YOUR words. You should read them first."
"I can't, here." I pulled up my sleeve and shoved my left hand in front of him. He didn't say anything. He looked confused and almost pale. "What? They can't be-" I read them.
What did you just say to me old man?
"What? No. That can't." I had too much going through my head to properly form something cohesive to say, but then Julia came in.
"So things are going well. Results are still consistently proving that the dates match up. It also seems that they are usually evenly spaced, with 14 and 15 being the central ages. Which when you consider that kids get them between 13 and 16 makes perfect sense." She was painfully unaware of the mood. "Oh, Rory what are you doing here?"
"No. No, no no. If that's right then. Oh God, Eric what the fuck? My soulmate might only be 8? Holy shit and these words. I'm gonna lose my job. People are going to think that I... I'm not. I don't." I was panicking. I mean I always loved taking care of kids, I dreamed of having kids one day, but this made me question everything. What if I was just misinterpreting myself?
"Rory! No. You aren't like that. There is no way. Don't even think like that. I'm sure there is a reasonable explanation for your words. And that research isn't conclusive yet. We don't have any idea how old your soulmate is. There is no way anyone that young would already have words." Eric did everything in his power to calm me down.
"But my job... They won't see it that way."
"You've spent so long hiding that you didn't have any words, I'm sure you can hide them now just fine."
"They're on my hand. I can't wear gloves forever!"
"Julia can teach you how to use makeup. Right?" He turned to her.
"Uh, yeah absolutely, whatever you need. Okay?"
It was insanely difficult, but I managed it for 2 years. Then one day the kids at work got into some honey, and after some intense cleaning Emma saw my words under some washed off makeup. She dragged me to the head mistress in an instant.
"What the hell Rory? Are you serious? How long have you had those? It's disgusting. Ma'am he can't work around these kids anymore."
"No, wait it's not like that, I'M not like that." I was shaking. This was it.
"Yeah right, you're sick. God and how many kids do you have at home. Jesus you did always have a weird thing for Marku-"
"I WOULD NEVER HURT THOSE KIDS!"
"Rory!" The head mistress snapped at me to get me to compose myself.
"I'm sorry, please don't do this."
"As much as I want to believe you, I can't have any parents finding out about this. It would destroy us. I don't want to have to fire you, so I will give you the option to resign, but you will be leaving here today."
"Don't make this difficult."
I don't usually tell people all that. I just blow off the question or let them think it's all okay. My words ruined my life. I work at the same company as Eric and Julia now. I'm a normal office worker in advertising and I don't often leave my apartment. I don't even see my siblings as much as I would like because I'm afraid of what they would think if they found out. I've almost become resentful toward children. Hope takes care of the youngest ones for now, but she makes sure to send me pictures and call me from time to time. Apparently Markus gets pretty upset if he doesn't get to talk to me for awhile. I miss them all so much.