Kongpob had managed to avoid Arthit for around 3 weeks before the universe made their paths cross again. He wasn’t even doing anything out of the ordinary. He was simply walking around the engineering campus and accidentally glanced over at Arthit and his friends. As soon as Arthit had spotted him, staring at him from away, he had bolted. Kongpob wasn’t surprised as much as he was disappointed. But in this Kongpob saw an opportunity to talk to Arthit’s friends.
Kongpob couldn’t explain it. One minute he would be dead set on giving up on Arthit, knowing that the older boy would never want to be with him the way that Kongpob wanted. He knew this rationally, but everytime he saw Arthit, he was consumed with something. It was close to jealousy, but how could Kongpob be afraid to lose something he never had in the first place?
No, this was possessiveness. This was ownership. Just knowing that Arthit was his was enough to reinspire him anytime he thought he had finally moved on. He knew that, for himself at least, he would always feel like this for Arthit because as long as he had a mark on his wrist with Arthit’s name on it, there really was no one else for him.
So when he asked Knot, “Do you know where P’Arthit went?” Kongpob didn’t care if Arthit’s friends started to suspect anything of them. It was none of their business.
To his surprise, Knot only looked back at him softly and said, “Oh, no I don't’. Why? What’s the matter?”
Kongpob tried to keep a look of indifference on his face, but he was pretty sure Knot had already seen through it, “Nothing.. Um, by the way.. Do you have anymore classes today?”
Knot just furrowed his brow, “We have a lab class. It ends around 4 or 5.”
Kongpob smiled politely back, “Thank you, P’.” He bowed to the seniors as he left. Kongpob knew he was screwed but damn him if he wasn’t going to fight for the one thing he had been waiting all his life for. Even if he had to try over and over and over again.
Arthit was grateful that Namtan was still in his life, honestly. He likes to think she’s influenced the person he is today. Even though most of the juniors see him as a temperamental senior, he knows he has a gentler side that really only ever surfaces when he’s with his family or Namtan. As much as he loves his university friends. He knows that he had been closer with his high school friends, at least until everything went south.
So when Namtan called to tell him she had ‘something important to tell him’, something that she couldn’t say over the phone, Arthit was terrified. There was a hundred different things Namtan could be planning to tell him but Arthit’s mind only focused on one.
‘Ah, they must be getting married.’
Arthit knew he would hear the news sooner or later. It was only so long before two soulmates got married. It was part of the reason Arthit convinced himself not to take off the wristband. Who would want to be married at such a young age, soulmate or no? It made sense. Namtan and Jay had been together around 3 years at this point, getting together just after they all graduated high school. Just after they had turned eighteen.
He dreaded seeing the two of them get married. Not so much because he still resented their relationship as much as he knew that it would be such a big moment for them, and what kind of friend would he be if the whole time he was thinking about the turning of his stomach when he saw them together? But he knew he’d be a worse friend if he didn’t turn up at all, bordering on irredeemable. So Arthit held his tongue, went along with whatever Namtan wanted. He wouldn’t make a fuss about this.
They met at a cafe one day. Namtan ordered a tea. Arthit didn’t bother with anything.
“Oon, how have you been?” Namtan asked, the ever positive smile across her face.
Arthit appreciated that she didn’t get straight into her news. It gave him time to process. “Fine. There’s a lot of work at university but, it’s engineering so I like it.”
Namtan smiled, “That’s good. I’m glad you’re doing good.”
“You, uh, said you had something important to tell me?”
Her smile wilted a little, not enough to notice if you were anyone else but Arthit could tell this was practically Namtan’s version of a frown.
“Mm. I have something to tell you. I don’t know how you’re going to react when you hear it, but I just couldn’t not tell you…”
Here we go. This was it.
“Jay and I broke up.”
Arthit eyes widened and his head shot up to look at her, “Huh? What, why?”
Namtan laughed sadly, “It’s… hard to explain. Really I felt like this was always coming. We… were young when we got together, because that’s what you do when you’re soulmates. We didn’t even think twice about it, didn’t stop to think about if we actually wanted it. And Jay… he’s great and I love him a lot but.. I’m just not what he needs. We’re both not what we need…”
“But you’re soulmates?” Arthit asked.
“Yeah, we are,” Namtan smiled, “Jay will always be important to me and we’re going to be together until we die, just not together romantically.”
“Can… you even do that?” Arthit asked, his brow furrowing in disbelief.
“I don’t know, but we’re going to try it. It’s pretty sad for me… but also exciting. I’ve never really dated before.”
“I don’t understand, Namtan. You’re supposed to be together.”
“And we are. Just not like that,” Namtan explained gently, “Do you want to know what made me think that maybe we weren’t working romantically anymore?”
“Jay forgot our anniversary.”
“Oh my god. How could he do that?”
Namtan shook her head, “He was busy. He didn’t have time for me. Which is, like, an extraordinarily shitty reason to not remember an anniversary but… he never really paid attention to that stuff. But I did, and I wanted him to because he was my boyfriend. Not because he was my soulmate. If we’re going to be together presumably forever, it’s better to just accept that he’s not the boyfriend I need and I’m not the girlfriend he needs.”
“I… I don’t really know what to say,” Arthit said honestly.
“That’s okay,” Namtan said, wiping her eyes a little, “I didn’t call you hear to feel sorry for me, and that’s only part of the important thing I needed to tell you,” she looked down to his wrist, “Oon, I wanted to ask why you’re still wearing that wristband.”
This was ten times worse than the ‘We’re getting married’ talk.
Arthit wasn’t expecting this. Truthfully, he had thought that Namtan already knew, that she had figured him out. Now he knew that really, this was a secret that he had kept all to himself.
But now Namtan wanted to know.
What was he supposed to tell her? That he was still upholding the promise that Namtan, Jay and he made all those years ago to hide their soulmarks so they could look at them all together? Could he tell her that when he found out that both of them had caved in and looked at their marks, when they had discovered they were each other's soulmates that he had been absolutely destroyed? Could he tell that there was something so unfair about seeing his only two friends brought together by the universe while he just sat there and watched?
Arthit looked at her blankly, not even knowing where to start.
Namtan sighed and took his hand in her’s, “Oon, I know that it hurt you when you found out about me and Jay, and that we’ve never talked about it. I’m sorry if you felt like we abandoned you but… we never meant to. I’ve always wanted you to be happy. Me and Jay have been caught up in our own shit for so long that we didn’t realise we’d been such crappy friends to you. I want us all to be friends again, just like before. Now that me and Jay are just friends again.”
Arthit nodded slowly, “I… would like that too.”
“Arthit,” Namtan said with welled up eyes, “Why are you still wearing that wristband I gave you?”
“I… I don’t want to see it,” Arthit answered. He wanted to be honest with her, but he was also really bad at articulating his feelings.
“Why?” Namtan asked.
“Because everything changes if I know,” Arthit explained, “When we were in high school, when we decided to… wear the wristbands together, I honestly thought you were going to end up as my soulmate.”
Namtan inhaled, in shock and in relief.
“It made sense to me. You were the only girl I was ever close to, we were already friends. I couldn’t imagine anyone else, didn’t realise there was a whole world of people out there I hadn’t met yet. So when you and Jay… found out, it just felt like a slap in the face. A big slap from the universe. At first, I kept it on because I didn’t want anyone else to be my soulmate, didn’t want to know. SInce then, I’ve always wanted to know, but I’m scared it’s…”
“What?” Namtan encouraged me gently.
Arthit felt the emotion well up in his throat, about to say something he hadn’t dared saying to anyone ever.
“I’m scared that it’s going to be a man’s name there.”
Namtan laughed, “Why would you think that…” Namtan realised what he meant, “Oh, Oon.”
Namtan quickly stood to envelop him in a hug before Arthit had even realised the tears welling up in his eyes.
“I’m sorry you had to keep this a secret for so long, Oon. I wish I’d have let you know you could talk to me,” Namtan said.
“It’s not your fault Namtan. That I’m like this.”
Namtan drew back from the hug, “This is not something to be upset about Arthit, this is a beautiful thing. If your soulmate really is a man, it is because you would be happier with them than apart. Oon, even if you can’t bring yourself to be romantically involved with a man, that’s fine. You can just be friends like me and Jay. But Oon, if you never look, if you never try to find them then you, both of you, will always be miserable. The universe won’t let you be happy if you are kept apart.”
Arthit sniffled, “I know, you’re right Namtan. I just didn’t want to believe it.”
“Are you going to look at it?” she asked carefully.
Arthit took a breath in, “I will.”
“Now?” Namtan replied, hesitantly excited.
“No,” Arthit huffed, “There’s someone else I need to talk to about this.”