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Week #9: Creative Writing Challenge – Soul Song

March 9, 2021

When people are born, they are assigned a soulmate. They have a song in their head that only them and their soulmate know. How do you find your soulmate?

The day Terra first came to us at Habin House is one I will always remember. I had been standing at the small kitchen window overlooking the garden. The first collards and carrots had started to poke out of the ground, and the bluebirds were swirling around the birdfeeder situated at one end of the garden. The birds reacted to Terra before I ever knew she existed. They all took off to the skies in agreement that they had no interest in dealing with this new addition to their world. Shortly thereafter I figured out why. I heard her before I saw her, screaming bloody murder like the hounds of hell were right on her heels. Thompson and Griggs tried to keep her upright and on the stone path through the garden, even as she flailed and kicked at them. If it weren’t for the constrictor shirt (we didn’t call them “straight jackets” anymore, but the idea’s the same), I’m sure Terra would have torn the two burly helpers to shreds and smiled at their remains.

I stood mesmerized at the kitchen window. I had never seen such a… How do I put it? Spirited visitor to Habin House. Her strawberry blond hair hung loose and wild down around her shoulders, and her eyes reminded me of the bright green moss coating downed tree trunks in the wet winter.

Even from the kitchen window these things struck me as curiously alive, while most of the rest of Habin House was actively trying to not be alive. It’s not that people came there to die, but they came when they didn’t have any hope left. Or for some, when their relatives didn’t have any hope left. Habin House was a place for people that the world had forgotten about, or wanted to forget about. Most of the residents were older or younger, but Terra seemed to be in her late twenties. People that age generally had family or friends willing to take on their care, although hearing Terra hollering up the walk, I wondered if she had pushed them all so far away that they refused to help her.

Thompson and Griggs brought her into the entryway and straight toward the back of the large drafty house where the “private” rooms were located. That was always a little joke at Habin House. When patients couldn’t handle being around others, for whatever reason, they were offered a stay in a “private” room for a couple of days. Lots of patients relished the opportunity for a minimalist room with padded floors and walls and silence. Some people have personalities that take up a lot of space and are hard to navigate. A “private” room was a chance to escape and take a break from navigating. I didn’t blame them. That padded room looked pretty inviting to me at times. At Habin House a “private” room was never a punishment, but at other similar facilities they were used for any number of unruly issues with patients. I cringed at the idea of Terra destroying one of our “private” rooms. As the hollering and choice curse words echoed down the hallway and into the kitchen, I imagined her tearing all the padding from the walls until her fingers were raw and bloody.

I had worked at Habin house for three years when Terra came to stay with us. I was just a tech assistant. There wasn’t much tech, other than to take notes on a computer while the psychologist or psychiatrist who was scheduled, met with the patients. I was always there, listening. The patients all knew me and I secretly hoped they liked me. In my free time I tended the garden and helped the cook make the occasional pastry. I snuck my raspberry tarts to old Mrs. Cooper on the third floor in the summer and she would tell me of long nights under the stars talking about Soulsongs. I knew she wasn’t supposed to be talking about Soulsongs, but I never told anyone. I played hide and seek with little Maisy Brooket until she hid in the kitchen pantry and scared the cook half to death. A 10 lb bag of flour had ended up all over the kitchen floor. We cleaned and then were banished from the kitchen for two weeks. Habin House was a calm little bubble hidden away from the real world, and I was truly happy working there.

I formally met Terra the day after she arrived. The cook asked me to take her lunch, but warned me that she might still be riled up from the previous days’ excitement. I carefully carried the tray to the back of the house and her room, preparing myself for the destruction and bloody fingers I had imagined the day before. I placed the tray on a chair next to the door and knocked lightly. I heard a soft noise that I assumed granted me entry, so I quietly unlocked the door. Generally the “private” room doors were not locked, but in this case Dr. Tavelo, the head of the medical team at Habin House, thought she may be a danger to herself or others if she could roam free. The door opened inward to reveal Terra sitting at one end of the bed with her knees curled toward her chest. She was wearing a light blue, sleeveless shirt and a pair of jeans. The sun from the skylight framed her. Her feet were bare and she was watching me calmly, no evidence of her potentially “riled up” state.

“Uh, Hi.” I said awkwardly as I placed her lunch on the table opposite the bed. When she didn’t respond I felt the need to fill the silence. “I’m Cameron. I’m a tech assistant and do odd jobs around this place. Is there anything I can do for you?”

She started laughing as she stretched out her long legs. “Can you do anything for me? Can you do anything for me?” She kept laughing. I turned to go. “No wait. I’m sorry. I’m not laughing at you. I swear. It’s just…” The arm that had stretched out entreating me to stay just dropped on the bed beside her.

“Let’s start over. I’m Terra. I live… Sorry, let me try again. They said the sooner I can get used to my new circumstances the faster they can get me out of here. I used to live in Raleigh. I used to have a good job as a creative director at an art gallery. I owned my own car and my own house. I’m 29. I had a dog.” The look on her face was one of sad realization. She looked down at her hands and took a deep breath. “What you see right now is all you get.” I remember thinking that that was alright with me, and then a second later shoving it down to be ignored for eternity. This was not the crazed and alive Terra I had seen the previous day. This was a defeated Terra, and part of me ached for that loss.

I looked at her from where I was frozen by the table and the tray of food. “Nice to meet you Terra. I brought you some lunch. I’ll just leave it here, but I’ll be back later to grab it.”

As I walked toward the door Terra called after me, “So how does this place work? Am I stuck here in this padded room forever, or just until they think I’m not gonna make a break for it?”

I turned when I reached the doorway. “Generally Dr. Tavelo will create a schedule for you with activities and appointments with the health specialists that you need. Any confinement is for your own safety, but you’ll meet the other residents soon. You won’t be stuck here forever, just long enough to get the help you need.” I smiled at her.

She cocked her head to the side and gave me a mischievous grin, a grin that said she was most definitely still alive. “Don’t you want to know why I’m here? I know I’m not the usual clientele here at Habin House,” she challenged. I responded as I’d been trained. “If you’d like to tell me I’m happy to listen, but just know that I’m required to report anything to Dr. Tavelo and your team.”

She gave me another grin, as if this were the start of a game, and she was going to beat me easily and taunt my corpse. Frankly, that look terrified me, but I also felt a little thrill run from my head to my toes. She pushed herself off the bed and walked slowly towards where I still stood in the doorway. “Soulsong.” She whispered to me as she gently shut the door in my face.

I was too stunned to do much of anything for a few minutes. When my brain finally merged with my body again, I returned to my small kitchen window to think. It wasn’t unusual for someone to end up at Habin House because of an obsession with their Soulsong or dangerous behavior associated with finding a Soulsong match, but it was much more common in the elderly who were lonely and had forgotten to take their suppressants, or in the young who didn’t know any better.

The thing is, we were all born with a Soulsong. It’s a specific song or melody that’s unique to each person and shared with only one other, your soulmate, that one person who’s your compliment, your support, your other half. No one can remember a time or a story where Soulsongs didn’t exist, but as the world changed and became more technologically advanced, people went a bit overboard trying to find their soulmates. People would travel the world singing or humming, spend all day on the internet trying to connect with as many people as possible, ignore their responsibilities, and do dangerous things all in the name of finding their soulmate. Stories say that society started to crumble about 500 years ago. The world economy crashed and people ignored the damage they were doing to the environment. People went crazy trying to find their soulmates. That’s when the scientists intervened. They created a drug that suppressed memories, and tailored it specifically to memories of a person’s Soulsong. The suppressants became so popular and solved so many problems, that they were eventually written into legislation requiring people to take them from when Soulsongs manifested around 5 years of age, until death. Punishment for noncompliance was anywhere from remediation programs to jail time to permanent seclusion.

The elderly patients at Habin House suffering from Soulsong problems were usually there because permanent seclusion seemed inhumane at such an advanced age, but they needed constant supervision and medical oversight. The remoteness of Habin House helped elderly patients disconnect from the rest of the world and find new meaning and purpose in taking care of the House and grounds. It was always part of any rehabilitation program to help out.

At that point, I had no idea why Terra was sent to Habin House for a Soulsong problem. She should have been in a county remediation program or if it was really bad, jail and seclusion. Why would anyone have sent her to Habin House instead? I’ll admit I was curious, and a little disturbed about a patient around my age with a Soulsong problem, but I quickly forgot my worries as I worked through the garden preparing beds for the other spring vegetables and pruning the blueberry bushes running along the side of the house under my small kitchen window.

Three days later I was called in to be a tech assistant for Dr. Grosberry. She was a regular at Habin House who specialized in Soulsong problems and usually worked with our regular patients. As I gathered my computer and a yellow legal pad from my room on the fourth floor, Dr. Grosberry showed up at my open door to collect me. As a rule, I wasn’t supposed to know anything about patients prior to appointments, and during appointments I was just supposed to silently record what was said and any notes about behavior that I noticed or the doctor told me to record. I followed Dr. Grosberry down the worn and creaking stairs and then toward the back of the house. I knew we were headed to see Terra, but I didn’t say anything. I didn’t think Dr. Grosberry would care that I’d brought her lunch or had a conversation with her, but I hadn’t filed the report I told Terra I was supposed to make, and truthfully, curiosity had taken over my brain.

Dr. Grosberry and I sat in the two chairs next to Terra’s table, while she sat on her bed. “Good morning Terra. I’m Dr. Grosberry and I will be the lead psychologist on your team while you’re here at Habin House. Today will just be an exploration and ‘get to know you’ session. At the end of today I will make recommendations to Dr. Tavelo about which groups and activities will benefit you the most. Do you have any questions before we start?” Dr. Grosberry described to Terra.

Terra raised her eyes to meet mine and smiled conspiratorially. “No ma’am,” she responded.

“Okay, in that case we will go ahead and begin.” Dr. Grosberry shuffled through the papers she brought with her. From experience, I knew she was searching for the list of questions she had devised after going through Terra’s history. Settling on a small white notepad Dr. Grosberry asked, “Terra, can you please describe the events leading up to your arrival at Habin House?”

Terra chuckled. “Well that’s a loaded question.” She paused, considering. “Okay, I’ll work backwards then.” She shifted into a more comfortable cross-legged position leaning up against the wall and continued. “I arrived at Habin House four days ago. My arrival was probably nothing short of spectacular, and I was ready to burn the place down given the right tools.” At a horrified look from me, she shrugged her shoulders and added quickly, “I was upset and I was brought here against my will. My uncle, who is some hot-shit attorney in the city, decided that he finally cared enough and broke me out of jail. It was all on the up and up, but I was scheduled for seclusion at a facility upstate starting next week. I’d come to terms with it and, I know it sounds crazy, but I was kinda looking forward to only having to deal with my own version of crazy. I certainly didn’t want to be indebted to my uncle for the rest of eternity, but I’m here and I guess we’ll see how that works out for him.”

“Can you explain how you came to be incarcerated?” Dr. Grosberry interjected.

“Well, this wasn’t the first time, as you probably know from looking through all that paperwork.” Terra gestured to the pile of papers in Dr. Grosberry’s lap. “This most recent time was technically for breaking and entering. It’s just that I broke a shit-ton of computer equipment and entered the state’s Soulsong research hub. The goal was to find their database on Soulsong recordings, copy them to a thumbdrive, and then see if I could find my Soulsong match. I did a bunch of research on their computer programs and got the access codes to the room securing the database from the black market. You’d be amazed at the crap you can find on the internet.” She said all this so matter-of-factly that I was certain I wasn’t breathing, and I had certainly stopped my typing. This was by far the craziest thing I had ever heard someone do to find a Soulsong match, and part of me couldn’t wait to hear what else she had done. “You should really make sure to get that last part about the internet.” She gestured to me, shaking me out of my stupor.

“Can you tell us a little bit about some of the other things you’ve done searching for your Soulsong match? Just briefly so that we can get an idea of your dedication to the hunt,” Dr. Grosberry queried with just a hint of distaste on the word dedication. I quickly caught up on my typing as Terra organized her thoughts, presumably deciding which details might illicit the best reaction. Terra was blunt and honest with her words, but they were carefully chosen and her eyes clearly registered their impact on her audience. It was almost as if this were a game to her and she was deciding how she wanted to win, because there was never any doubt in her mind that she would win in the end.

“Well, there’s so much to tell, but I guess I’ll stick with the highlights.” She paused for full effect. “When I was 16 I ran away from home after stealing $300 from my mom’s wallet. I took the train to the city and bribed my way into a radio studio. I knew they couldn’t play my Soulsong without legal ramifications, so I had them broadcast a secret message over the most popular song. People on the internet are always looking for secret Soulsong messages, so I figured someone might pick it up and give me some information. I got caught eventually when someone at the radio station squealed on me and the police put that together with the police report my mom filed. I got a warning, but things were bad at home, ya know, from the stealing. So when I turned 18, I moved out and got a cushy job as an assistant at an art studio.” She sighed. “Believe it or not, I clean up real nice and can look like a pretty legit and put together person when I want to be. I was good at the job and kept regular hours. No one would believe that I felt lost knowing that my soulmate was out there without me. I continued to do small things like I had at the radio station. I would go to baseball games and put messages on the big screen. One time I was just desperate enough that I got myself invited to speak at a local art convention under a false name. I managed to sing a few lines of my Soulsong before I had to make a dash for it to avoid the security guards. By the time I was 25 I was miserable but had managed to seem like a normal person to anyone looking in. I had a car and a house and a stable job. So I asked my boss if I could take a sabbatical with the excuse of scoping out the art scene in Europe, and make connections for the studio. I was sent with my boss’s blessing. Well, I blew all my savings traveling to as many places as I could, trying and reach as many people as I could. I hummed my Soulsong while I wandered through Italian markets. I scoured black market info on Soulsongs in Germany. I made tracks of my Soulsong and had them playing softly in the background when I spoke to people over the phone or the internet. Occasionally I would get caught and my behavior remediated, but I moved around so much they couldn’t keep track of me. I did everything I could think of and when I ran out of money, I came home.” Terra paused and cocked her head slightly, as if she were replaying what she had just said as I typed it out on the keyboard.

“Shortly after I got home I met someone on the internet who said they could legit get me into the states Soulsong database. I figured that it would work or it wouldn’t, and that either way I was at the end of my options. Go big or go home, I like to say.” Terra looked down at her crossed legs and then across the bed where the sun from the skylight had traveled while she talked. “I guess this is home now.” She finished with resignation.

Dr. Grosberry looked to me for confirmation that everything had been recorded properly. I nodded silently. “Terra, thank you for your honesty and your openness with me today. I am confident that we can help you here at Habin House. I would like to get you out of this private room and into something that you can call your own, but I need you to understand and agree to a few house rules first.” Dr. Grosberry waited until Terra gave a slight nod to continue. “You will be provided with suppressants and take them on a regular schedule. If you cannot do this, a medical team will have to intervene. You will not mention or speak to anyone in the house about Soulsongs. Many of our patients have painful relationships with their Soulsongs or things that have happened to them because of their Soulsongs and we do not wish to bring pain to others. You will not enter into any relationships with other patients or staff under any circumstances. And you will participate without complaint in any assignments with regard to house maintenance and upkeep.” Dr. Grosberry paused there to make sure Terra understood the severity of these rules. When Terra nodded again in acquiescence Dr. Grosberry turned to me and said, “Please take Terra to room 12 on the third floor. She will also be joining the gardening group, so make sure to introduce her at tomorrow’s gardening event.”

With that, Dr. Grosberry gathered the papers from her lap and left. Terra looked at me with a challenge in her eyes. “You’re really not gonna say anything?” She asked, her nostrils flaring slightly. “It’s not my place.” I responded quickly. Before she could say anything else I ushered her out into the hall and up to the third floor. I left her surveying her new surroundings, and told her I would be back to grab her for dinner. I thought for sure that Terra would challenge or push back on some of the rules Dr. Grosberry outlined. There was an energy surrounding Terra that just sang of a rebel at heart, but the evening passed without incident. I can’t remember if I was disappointed or not.

The next morning I rose early to make scones in the kitchen and think through the gardening event I was in charge of that day. It was going to be a beautiful day and I was excited about creating and preparing two new garden plots to grow pumpkins and butternut squash and some raised beds to grow sweet potatoes. The garden was my happy place. Things grew slowly and calmly and with purpose, and that made me happy.

I met the group, including Terra, at the side of the house near the bird feeders with my basket of scones. As the baked goods were being passed around I introduced Terra to the group and explained the goals for the day. I divided the group into pairs and gave them specific instructions. Terra was the only one without a pair, the others having paired up years ago. I approached her and she smiled with teeth full of blueberry scone. I laughed and gestured her to come with me. She would be helping me construct the raised bed for the sweet potatoes.

We worked silently and companionably. I remember specifically how well she followed instructions and how she never misunderstood what I wanted her to do, despite not quite explaining it correctly. It was soothing to not have to correct someone else’s work or to explain multiple times. I was lost in thought when I noticed that she was humming. I froze, and she froze. “I’m sorry. It’s not what you think. I just like noise. I started taking the suppressants. It’s not my you-know, it’s just noise. I’m so sorry.” She quickly stammered and I instantly calmed down. I didn’t trust her, but her instant realization and response let me know that she did understand the rules. But then she gave me a small grin and I felt the world start to slide out from under me. “You’ve worked here for how long? And you’ve seen all kinds of patients? Have you ever wondered what your you-know sounds like? What they might be like?” She asked me quietly and conspiratorially. I gaped at her. This was walking a very thin line between right and wrong; between calm and swirling storm. She shrugged as if she hadn’t asked me to compromise everything I trusted in, and then said she was going to get another scone.

I watched her walk away in her kaki pants and maroon hoodie. It clashed horribly with her pulled up strawberry hair. Before I could stop myself I considered my soulmate. Would they be someone like me in temperament who I could find familiarity and comfort in, or would they be someone who challenged me to expand and celebrated the unknown? Was my Soulsong a lilting melody to sway with or a punk rock beat I could bang my head to? What would it be like to find a soulmate? I didn’t feel like I was missing anything at the time. I was happy and content. My life wasn’t exciting, but it was satisfying enough.

Almost as quickly as all these thoughts flashed through my mind, I was horrified at myself and also horrified that Terra could get me thinking about Soulsongs and soulmates so easily. I threw myself back into making the raised bed and didn’t notice that Terra hadn’t come back. About an hour later when I started searching, I found Terra sitting on the walkway playing jacks and laughing with Maisy Brooket.

Two days later Dr. Grosberry called on me again to be a tech assistant for an appointment with Terra. This time we were seated on the outdoor patio on the opposite side of the house from the garden. I remember being nervous around Dr. Grosberry and being afraid she would somehow find out about Terra’s questions in the garden. Again, I hadn’t filed the report I was supposed to. I had the paperwork on my desk in my room, but I couldn’t bring myself to fill it out and submit it. It was just this feeling I got every time I sat down with my pen. It felt wrong.

“Good afternoon Terra. I see you’ve been fitting in nicely here so far.” Dr. Grosberry started off.

“It’s nice. I particularly like the garden. It’s still growing and deciding what yummy things to make. I can’t wait to see how it turns out.” Terra looked straight at me and winked as she said this. Thankfully, Dr. Grosberry was absorbed in shuffling through her papers and missed it.

“Excellent. I’m glad you’ve found something you like.” Dr. Grosberry said absentmindedly. When she found the list of questions for this appointment, she jumped right in. “So Terra, last time we talked about bit about your history. Today we are going to explore the feelings that led you to this point. To start off, can you describe the feelings and thoughts you have surrounding the concept of a soulmate?”

Terra stared out at the foothills for a few seconds before starting. “Well, first of all, I think having a soulmate is a right and not a privilege. A soulmate is someone who is a person’s compliment in every way. They know you like the back of their hand but is also someone who challenges you to grow and expand your mind. They don’t expect you to stay stationary, but are willing and excited to grow and change with you. They’re someone who supports you through the highs and lows and makes you a better person.” Terra’s eyes glazed as she spoke, as if her soulmate was somewhere far far away.

“And the feelings you have?” Dr. Grosberry prodded.

Terra sniffed and wiped her eyes. It was clear she was feeling a lot and I jotted down her behaviors in my notes like I’d been trained. She heard the keyboard and was suddenly staring at me with wet green eyes. She continued to look at me as she spoke. “Have you ever heard of war survivors who’ve lost limbs? They feel sensations and pain from the limbs they’ve lost. It’s a real thing called phantom limb syndrome. I researched it once. Well, I feel like that most of the time. Like I’ve lost something so important that I’m not whole anymore, if I ever was to begin with. I feel like a part of me is out there somewhere, lost, just like this part of me right here. I’m sad and frustrated and angry that society thinks soulmates cause more trouble than they’re worth. But what if people had their other half? That feeling of completeness might mean they do their job a thousand times better. They might be a million times more creative. Just imagine what a world of complete people could accomplish. Just imagine how alive people would feel.” Terra almost whispered the last part as a big fat tear rolled down her left cheek.

“When did these feelings start?” Dr. Grosberry asked gently. She could be gentle, even if she was mostly business. “Take your time.” The conversation went on, but I can’t remember the particulars at this point. I do recall vividly what Dr. Grosberry told me after Terra had returned to her room.

“Be careful with that one Cameron. I see how she looks at you, like you’re a fine meal to be savored. But at the same time, Terra is completely capable of tearing you limb from limb to get what she wants. Experience has shown me that people like her view the rest of us as pieces on a gameboard, and you can be sure, Cameron, that she’s playing the game.” Dr. Grosberry looked at me earnestly to make sure I was understanding everything she said. “I won’t be asking you to tech assist for Terra’s appointments anymore. You aren’t in trouble, but it will likely be the best for you and for her.” With that, Dr. Grosberry returned to the house and left me pondering on the porch. I guess Dr. Grosberry noticed where Terra’s attention had frequently landed.

I knew that Terra was playing a game, but I wasn’t sure that I didn’t want to play. Curiosity had still taken over my rational brain, but now there was also compassion and hope. Terra’s emotions had been so honest and full when she spoke about her soulmate. I wished I had half that conviction and passion about anything.

A week passed and I didn’t see Terra except occasionally at meals, but I knew I would see her at the next garden group event. I knew she would show up, mainly because she had to. But I also had this feeling that she wanted to talk to me again.

I woke up early to make scones, even though the event wasn’t scheduled until the afternoon. An afternoon snack of cheddar scones could brighten up any day and make digging in the dirt taste much better for those that didn’t relish the process as much as I did. I arrived early at the birdfeeders and chatted with patients as they arrived. It was just small-talk, but these little snippets of conversation helped me take the temperature of Habin House and made me feel connected to the world.

Terra was the last to arrive this time. She was wearing a flowered spring dress with pockets and had a blue cardigan thrown over her shoulders. To top off the look she had found a straw sunhat somewhere and her strawberry blonde hair spilled out from under it, catching the sun. She looked like she belonged in a painting of a garden in full bloom. I gave her a nod in acknowledgement, and tried not to think about the tiny flutter in my stomach.

Once again Terra was partnerless and joined me planting tomato, pepper, and okra seedlings in one of the beds furthest from the house that got the most sun.

“How have you been Cameron?” She asked when I had finished giving her instructions about planting and settled into our area.

“I’ve been keeping busy. Lots to do around Habin House in the spring.” I replied quickly. “How are your sessions going? Any progress?” I asked out of curiosity, even though I knew I wasn’t supposed to ask patients anything about their treatments.

Terra chuckled softly and looked up at me from under her sunhat. “Well, Dr. Grosberry has had me walk through every wrong turn of my childhood and adolescence to figure out where I went wrong. I don’t think she’s found any glaring things to explain me. No big fireworks or fluorescent arrows that say ‘here’s where Terra got fucked up in the head’. But other than disappointing the doc, it’s kinda nice to chat with someone. Even if that chat is pretty one-sided.” She paused and scrunched up her face. “Well, I guess that means it’s just kinda nice to talk, pretty much like I’m doing right now. K, going to stop now.” Terra lowered her head so I couldn’t see her face behind the brim of her hat.

“Sorry. I didn’t mean to make you feel uncomfortable. I shouldn’t have asked.” I paused, searching for the right words. She must have sensed my unease because she raised her gaze to mine and gave me a smile. I took a breath and said what I had been working out in my head for the past week. “I just… The last time I saw you, you had tears running down your face. You spoke so honestly about your soulmate. I’d never heard anyone speak so openly about it before. I guess I was a little worried that Dr. Grosberry was making you talk about things that made you react that way all the time.” I lowered my voice as I spoke and I know that my face turned bright red in embarrassment. I didn’t want to get caught talking about soulmates. It could have gotten me fired.

Terra’s smile seemed to reach both ears as she listened to me spill pieces of my soul all over the garden. Once I started, I found that I couldn’t stop. She was right; it was really nice to just talk.

We got all our seedlings planted but our easy conversation carried on into the evening hours. As it got dark I snuck into the kitchen to grab some food and met her back by the tomatoes with two plates and a blanket. We talked deep into the night that first night, but after that we were a bit more conscientious about our behavior towards each other. Our occasional, and then increasingly frequent, meetings around Habin House were relegated to our rooms, dark corners, or outside where no one could see us.

I thought I might have been in love, but everything came crashing down around me one thunderous summer day. It was literally the middle of a thunderstorm, and Terra and I were lounging in her room while the rain pelted her window. I remember the dripping noise, even now, worming its way into my brain. Terra’s window sealing was leaking and water was starting to pool on the floor. Terra pointed lazily to her closet where a stack of towels was sitting on a shelf. She knew the dripping would annoy me until I did something about it, so I got up and grabbed a towel. In my haste I accidently pulled the whole stack off the shelf, but instead of just hearing the soft padding of towels hit the floor, I also heard a scattering sound like beans being spilled on tile. Except these weren’t beans.

Small white pills were scattered among the pile of towels and across Terra’s bedroom floor. Terra sat bolt upright on the bed and stared at me with wide eyes. “It’s not what you think.” She said quickly, pleading in her voice. “I just can’t lose myself because they think I should. I don’t want to forget.” She finished quietly.

I didn’t say anything or move for a good long while, so Terra continued softly. “Don’t you ever wonder what it sounds like? Don’t you ever wonder if the magic of your Soulsong might sweep you off your feet, and right into your soulmates arms?” I still didn’t respond. I don’t know whether I was in shock or trying to figure out how she hid the suppressants from the medical team for so long. I had trusted her. I thought she was getting better. I thought I was in love, but she had just been lying to me.

I didn’t say anything but turned to leave. Terra’s voice stopped me at the door, and with my back to the room I heard her whisper, “Don’t you ever wonder if we’re soulmates, Cameron?” And then I heard her hum a lilting melody. It rose and fell in volume. There were faster parts and slower parts, but all the parts reminded me of the garden on a sunny day. They reminded me of her and ended with a slow “da-da-dum-dee”, like it was a goodbye. I opened the door and left.

The next day I put in my resignation. Two days later I was headed back home to stay with my parents for a while and find a new job that would help me pick up the pieces that Terra had broken from my soul. I found that new job, but no matter what I did, I kept finding more pieces of myself that were broken by Terra.

I found myself thinking about Terra frequently in those months after I left Habin House. I was lovesick. I was angry. I hated Terra with all those broken pieces of my soul. I hated her even more because she was right. I did wonder if we were soulmates. I did wonder if maybe we were soulmates who found each other without a stupid Soulsong. I would find myself standing in the bathroom with my morning suppressant in hand, contemplating just washing it down the sink. But every time I thought about doing it, I also thought about how utterly awful it would feel if I did wash it down the sink and my Soulsong wasn’t that haunting melody that reminded me of a garden on a sunny day. Terra was right about so many things. I knew it would feel like a half of me was missing, and I just couldn’t do it. I always popped that pill in my mouth and swallowed.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Yael Kisel permalink
    March 9, 2021 6:52 am

    Woah … intense!!! What an ending!

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