Mr. Vandergard approached me and looked me up and down. That dumb kid just had to blurt it out, here in front of everyone, that he's my damn soulmate.
“How old are you?” He eventually asked.
“Uh, 28, why?”
“Fuck, Jay. What were you thinking? We told you we wouldn't let you do this.” Leon grabbed Jay by one of his shoulders.
“You don't have the right to decide that.” He was still very heated about all this, but it gave me the impression that they've had this fight before.
“Yes we do. And I'm telling you that there is no way I'm allowing you to see someone who's 10 years older than you.” His dad sounded very stern and Jay looked like he was going to argue, but I chimed in first.
“I don't want to see your son. I have no interest in someone so young. His words have caused me enough problems so I just need his permission to go threw with the trials. Once I get that I'll be more than happy to stay out of all of your lives.”
“The trials for the surgery?” Mr. Vandergard looked at me and I didn't know how to interpret what he said. He sounded confused, but he looked nearly furious.
“Yes, that's why we're here. Rory is very dedicated to this project and has wanted his words removed for as long as we've been discussing it as a possibility. He is very willing to help with our trial study once we get to that step.” Eric explained to him but his expression didn't seem to change.
“No way. Absolutely not. I won't let you involve him in this study. I've done what I can to keep him from any of our studies.” Great, so his dad doesn't want to let him sign off.
“What study? Why do you need my permission?” Jay looked between me and Eric.
“Jackson, no. It doesn't matter I won't let you sign off on that.”
“I'm a legal adult so I don't need your permission to sign anything. I want to know what they’re talking about.” His dad sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose pushing his glasses up as he did and Eric began to explain.
“The Vandergard Co. has been doing studies on cosmetic surgery to remove an individual's words.” The kid's face sours, but Eric doesn't seem to notice and continues. “It's getting a lot more common for people to want to choose who they spend their life with themselves, rather than having fate choose for them. Those couples, along with widows, have shown us through surveys that there is a significant demand for such a surgery. However, other researchers have deemed it unethical to run the surgeries without the soulmate's consent. There has been an undeniable correlation between people with injuries to their arms on or near their words and phantom pains in their soulmates. Along with the significant potential for mental trauma.” He seems pleased with himself since he's a total nerd for this shit.
Jay looks at me and it catches me off guard just how pained he looks. “You really want to remove your words?”
“Yes. I've already told you how much they've destroyed my life.”
“Jackson you can't sign that. It's way too dangerous. It's a trial we have no idea how it could affect the soulmate.” His father is still avidly against it.
“Why the hell is your company doing something like this? I thought you made medicine, why are you okay with something like this?” It's no surprise to me that this kid is very pro-fate.
“Yes, the company does all kinds of medical research. This is surgery.”
“But removing your words? They are so precious who would want anything like that? What made you want to look into something so, so awful.” It actually kind of hurt me to see him struggle to put this pain into words, and if I wasn't mistaken, it looked like he was on the verge of tears.
“Me.” His aunt spoke and he whipped around to look at her. “I asked him to look into it like 2 and half years ago.”
“Why? Wouldn't that have been right after-”
“Yes. And you know how much it hurts me to see them. I can't stand it. I just want to be able to move on.” Her words are cold. She cut Jay off and she's being very vague so it's difficult to figure out what exactly they're talking about.”
“So you just want to get rid of them and forget her entirely?”
“What other choice do I have Jay!?”
“Is her family okay with that? You just want to throw away the only thing you have from her?”
I can gather that Leon's soulmate must have died, but the situation seems to have been complicated.
“You saw what I was like, Jay. I feel like that every single fucking time I look at these damned words. I see her name and I picture her face and think of all the shit we never got to do. I think of what she would have been like, who we could've been, how we could've been perfect for each other and all of that just hurts so fucking much I wish I was dead too. But I need to be here, for you, and Ben, and Anna. Do you think I don't wish desperately that there was some other way to get rid of those feelings without getting rid of the only thing I have of her? There isn't another way.” She's crying and she excuses herself and rushes back the hallway. Mr. Vandergard apologizes to us and quickly follows after her. Then it's just me, Jay, and Eric. The silent tension is almost tangible. Jay's fists are clenched tightly and his head is lowered like he's staring at the floor.
“Maybe this isn't the best time for us to be talking about this.” Eric stands and motions for me to do the same. “We'll just go and we can try and figure this all out another time.” We start to head for the door when the kid speaks up.
“When are these trials? When do you need my signature by?”
This throws Eric and I for a loop, but he responds quickly, “The announcement is at a charity banquet on May 17th. Then we need to give people time to sign up and get permission, plus we still have a few things to work out. But for right now we plan to start the first trial surgeries about 4 months later on September 16th. We'll be taking submissions all the way up until the 1st.”
“I'll sign it.” He was so quiet I was nearly sure I'd misheard him.
“On one condition.”
“Fuck, what do you want from me?”
“Let me live with you until then. If you really don't want them anymore or anything to do with me after that, then I'll sign it and stay out of your life.” It probably wouldn't be too bad, and almost anything was worth getting rid of those words.
“Fine, but what about your family?”
“I'm an adult and they'll just have to get over it. If not I'm sure I'll think of something.”
“I don't have a spare bedroom.”
“I'm still young. I'll be fine on the couch. At least until I get you to let me back into the bed.” He gave a cheeky wink and it would've pissed me off if it wasn't for the fact that I was kind of relieved to see his mood improve.
“Fuck off. I'd gladly let you break your back on the couch before I let that shit happen.” We laughed and the atmosphere improved significantly.
“Let me have your number and I'll text you when I get everything sorted out with those two.” He gestured in the direction that his father and aunt had left in.
We quickly exchanged information and we left before the others returned. This would be simple. I could manage this for a couple months. Then him and these damn words would be out of my life forever. Everything could go back to normal. I snapped out of my thoughts when I noticed Eric staring at me with the shittiest grin.
“What the fuck is that face for?”
“Oh nothing,” He kept that stupid look on as he moved his attention to the sky and moved his arms behind himself, knitting his hands together. “You just looked happy for once.”
“I am. Once this surgery is over with I can quit this shitty job and go back to what I love. I can visit the kids again without worry. It'll be fantastic.”
“Yeah, but I think this will be good for you.”
“What do you mean?”
“You've been alone forever. Me and your family don't count anymore. Having someone like him is going to really mix things up.”
“What? No. I'm just gonna tolerate some glorified babysitting for a teenager and then move on with my life. Nothing is going to change.”
“Eeehh,” Eric made an annoying high pitched noise to communicate his doubt before he then also assured me. “I doubt that.”
“Nothing is going to change.” I reiterate.
“Okay, okay, lo que digas, pana.” He puts up his hands and shakes his head like he's just given up arguing with me, but I've got no idea what he said.