She read the request, printed the general information, and pinned it into a folder. This would be her third case in a day, which was a record. Finding a person’s soulmate, after all, was not easy business. Rosa made a sport of it though, and she was the best in the office at it.
Granted, she didn’t completely like the idea that people were born predetermined to be with anyone, but she accepted it as fact. She’d worked at Soul Seeker for long enough to see it be absolute. However, looking at the name on her wrist, the name that was meant to be her soulmate, she didn’t like it all. Celeste was not a boy’s name. So when she was born, her family freaked out. Over the years they had lied to themselves that Celeste was just a foreigner’s name for a boy. There were plenty of men with “Maria” in their name, so why not?
Rosa couldn’t hide it from herself, and she didn’t. Still, she hated the stupid idea that she had to be with one specific person. She had even tried side dating outside of her soulmate, and she had failed miserably every single time. Side dating just did not work. Everyone knew that.
So deep inside of her, she hoped that maybe she’d run into a Celeste looking for her through her own company, and that’s why she worked so hard. If she did her job, the company would grow, and more people would come looking for their soulmates through Soul Seeker, and she’d find Celeste, her own soulmate.
Ale held the pamphlet on her hand. Her mother had pushed it on her for weeks, and she had finally caved in. It was a pamphlet for a company named Soul Seeker, who swore they could find another person’s soulmate. The idea was simple. If the other person had entered their system, a profile would be created, and they would be paired instantly. So if Salvador, the person’s whose name was on her wrist had registered, she’d find him instantly. If he hadn’t though, a special case investigator would be given the case, and the investigator would search everywhere for the person.
Bitting her lower lip, Ale pushed herself the final inch and walked through the doors. The employees were very friendly and very kind, so it went by very quickly. They asked her her basic information, which narrowed it down quickly. But at the end of the day, her Salvador had not registered.
“One week,” the lady at the counter said. “At the latest, it will take one week.”
Ale smiled and walked out. She couldn’t hold herself. She even did a little dance of joy. In one week, she’d finally meet her Salvador. She could not contain her anticipation, so she called her mother instantly.
“Yes, may I speak to Salvador del Mar?” Rosa said.
“Who is asking?” a girl answered.
“My name is Rosa. I am calling from Soul Seeker, and I am trying to find-”
The girl hung up. Rosa blinked at her computer in silence for a few seconds, then took some notes. This had happened before. Sometimes when people side dated, they grew defensive of their partners when anyone came looking for them.
She sighed. Side daters always spelled trouble, but she had a paying customer. On the bright side, if this particular Salvador was side dating, it meant there was a trail to follow.
Like a hunter who’d just spotted her pray, Rosa grinned. Maybe she’d have a fourth case in a single day. No one would be able to break her record in the investigator branch.
“Who was it?” Salvador asked. Leaning against the wall outside of the house near the kitchen’s door, he smoked and reading something on his tablet.
“Wrong number!” Celeste replied from inside of the house, her voice cracking a little.
“Oh, okay,” he responded and went back to whatever he focused on.
She sighed in relief that he hadn’t asked anything else, and she rubbed her wrist, specifically the place where it said “Rosa.” She left the kitchen, walked into her office, and sat there in silence for a while. What were the odds that someone from Soul Seeker named Rosa would call? She tapped a key on her typewriter, hearing the familiar sound. It calmed her down. She was looking for Salvador anyway, not her. So maybe this was not the Rosa on her wrist. It couldn’t be anyway. Could it? No, she was not going to worry about that. No, she had to worry about the other thing. They were looking for Salvador. That was a problem too. She’d have to talk to him about it. Yes, that was probably the best thing to do.
The typewriter’s bell rung, and it automatically went to the next line. She stopped and looked at it. It was an antique restored to near perfection. It couldn’t have looked this good even when it was originally purchased.
It had been a gift from Salvador for their tenth anniversary. She’d always wanted one, and she was sure she had never brought it up, but somehow he knew. That was the type of man Salvador was.
She couldn’t keep it from him. Making her mind, she stood up, kept her hand over the name Rosa, and walked out of the room.
Feeling light headed, Rosa pushed herself away from the computer and stood up.
Her coworker noticed her and asked, “You okay?”
“I need a five minute break,” she said and walked out.
Celeste. His girlfriend’s name was Celeste.
At the employee lounge, she poured herself a coffee with a shaky hand, spilling some over, and leaving a black ring on the counter as she took it and drank.
She’d always loved how social media made her job easy. Too many people shared everything or simply kept their profiles public. But she never thought she’d run into her this way.
At first, she didn’t think too much of it. Celeste was not an impossibly rare name. She’d met a few over the years. But the more she looked into it, the more that this Celeste matched her. She was the right age. She had the right birthday. She had the right everything. But the thing that broke her, the thing that stole her breath away was a single picture where she stood next to Salvador at the beach. On Celeste’s wrist, the name was blurry, but it was good enough to see.
She had panicked, closed her laptop, and lost her balance.
She wasn’t sure what to do next, so she would just follow her job’s guidelines. After finishing the coffee, she rinsed the mug, wiped it with a cloth, and put it back into one of the cupboards.
She’d find Salvador. He was most definitely Alejandra’s match. Even though his wrist was not entirely visible on the pictures on his profile, Rosa could distinguish the “Ale” on it, so she was 99% certain this was the guy. He matched in everything else.
So she would submit the file, the proof, and pass it on the documentation. After that, she would never see the folder or files she put together ever again. Well, with the exception of the one sheet of paper with the contact information she would photocopy and take home.
He smoked his third cigarette, and Celeste gave him a horrified look, the same one she gave him when she was about to tell him not to smoke inside of the house, or not to smoke at all. But she didn’t say anything. Instead she brushed her hair back and took a deep breath.
“I’m sure it’s nothing,” he tried to reassure him, even though he was startled himself. “You know that these companies aren’t that good. I’m sure she didn’t do this,” he pointed at his wrist.
“How would you know? How can you be so sure about what she would do?” Celeste said.
“I mean, she’s my soulmate,” he said and gave a hint of a smile. He had his doubts of course. Before he met Celeste, he’d thought about going to that exact same company, but a single night out with his friends changed everything.
Celeste caught his eyes. She was perfect. Back then she had blue shoulder hair, and she was out with some friends of her. When their groups combined by sheer luck, their eyes locked and they knew instantly that there was something there.
Turned out she was a writer. He’d always loved creative people, usually with a hint of envy because he thought himself to lack all creativeness. That’s why he worked with computers. Those always worked according to code. There was no need to interpret. X always equaled what you wanted it to equal.
“What if she comes? What will you do?” Celeste said with legitimate worry.
“Well, I’d leave your ass instantly and go to her. I mean, if she’s my soulmate then she’ll be more than happy to try all those kinky things I’ve tried to convince you to do, and she’d do ‘em without complaints,” Salvador laughed.
She rolled her eyes, but did give a hint of a smile.
“Of course I wouldn’t leave you. Are you insane? I don’t care who the hell she is. Look, I don’t know this Alejandra. I’ve never even met an Alejandra in my life. Well, there was my grandmother, but you know what I mean.” Salvador pressed the cigarette into the ashtray. “I wouldn’t trade what we have. I wouldn’t trade ten years of my life for some unknown. You know me, I like constants. And well, you’re the person that I see myself at the age of 90 crying for because she died first.” Salvador shot her another grin.
She didn’t respond to that last one though. Instead, she looked down at her wrist. “I don’t know. It’s just that. I don’t know what I would do. Isn’t a soulmate supposed to be perfect?”
Salvador scratched his nose. “Is this supposed to be telling me to stop smoking?”
“I mean. Can you imagine if she walks through that door and she is everything you’ve always dreamed of. She has the sense of style you’d love to see your partner in. She shares the exact same hobbies, and maybe she understands you even better than anyone else?”
Maybe it was a harder thing for her. She was usually more receptive about things than he was. For him, she was an absolute blessing. But for her, maybe he wasn’t the same. He had tried quitting the smoking thing multiple times, but stress from work always broke him. She also asked him to read more, but he’d read a single book all year, and it hadn’t been one she recommended.
“I understand,” Salvador said. “What if your partner said that they’d try to be better? Maybe they’d try to reciprocate more?”
“What?” Celeste said. “Oh god, no. Please don’t take this that way,” she said waving her hands. “You’re absolutely perfect.”
Yes, she was so much better at this than he was. She was so quick to make him feel better.
“I promise I’ll try to stop smoking again,” Salvador said.
“I’m not even going to try and dissuade you from that one. I want that. And if it makes you feel better, I wouldn’t care about it if I’d leave you for some other person.”
Salvador smiled, but the worry didn’t go. It had been a hurdle to overcome during that first year they were together. They both knew that side dating was already frowned upon. But she had a girl’s name on her wrist. That had complicated many things.
Communication had saved them though. Eventually they grew comfortable enough and said fuck it. Since then they never covered their wrists in public.
She looked at his picture. Holy crap, he was good looking. She could even tell the girl at Soul Seeker was extremely happy to see her reaction as she got Salvador’s contact information.
“But, I do have some bad news,” the girl from Soul Seeker said before letting Ale go. “There’s a chance he is side dating.”
Ale nearly passed out when she heard that. She had always tried to be open minded about side daters. Some of her friends were side daters. But to hear that her Salvador was a side dater? She couldn’t even imagine it. There was no way that her Salvador was a side dater.”
Slowly placing the paperwork she’d received back on the counter, Ale said, “How can you be so sure that he is the one then? He’s my soulmate, I know him.”
The girl on the counter took the paper, her smile gone momentarily. “I assure you, miss Fuentes. These papers look very good, and the investigator in charge of this file is our top worker.”
“There is no way in hell he’s a side dater! I want my money back!”
The girl smiled painfully and tried handing the paperwork to Ale, who stood, fuming. “Here at Soul Seeker, we guarantee that we will find your soulmate. However, we cannot guarantee that it will be love at first sight. This whole soulmate is a little complicated. In my experience, if I may, a lot of people here side date before finding their real soulmate, and it’s always for different reasons. Sometimes it’s frustration of any sort, either because they want romance in their life or a different type of satisfaction. But in all cases, once soulmates cross eyes, the side dating phase ends.”
“So you’re saying it’s just a phase?” Ale, still disturbed, said with some hope.
“ I cannot guarantee it, but in my experience yes.” The girl smiled, holding out the paperwork again.
Ale took it reluctantly and nodded. Maybe Salvador was just tired of looking for her as well. And men had needs, right? Re-energized, Ale walked out of Soul Seeker, and made up her mind. She would go find Salvador and confront him. She would give him a piece of her mind. No soulmate of hers was about to side date. He would have to get his act straight.
“This is a joke right?” he said, nervously.
“No, it’s really me, Alejandra.”
“How the hell did you find me?”
“Soul Seeker. I’m sure you’ve heard of it. Anyway. Who cares about how I found you. Aren’t you glad to hear that I found you? We’re soulmates!”
“No, I’m not. I think it’s an absolute invasion of privacy.”
“Oh come on, it’s not like if I were the one side dating.”
Salvador was usually the calm type, but something about this woman irked him. How dared she suddenly thrust herself into his life after all this time, and then call him out like some kind of bigot? “I will let you know that my girlfriend and I are very happy together, and we don’t care what you or anyone else might say. So don’t call again!”
Salvador had received the first call from Alejandra two days after Celeste had gotten the call, and he’d hidden it from her. He didn’t like to hide things from her, but this seemed like the type of detail that was better left out. He had no interest in Alejandra, and he had already called Soul Seeker, complaining about them sharing his information. Afterward, he’d removed all of his information from social media, and made everything else private.
But there were more calls.
Three on the first day. Five on the second. Two on the third. On the fourth day, she disappeared, and Salvador thought it was finally over and that things would return to normal.
Celeste stretched while seated. She’d managed to push out about ten pages today, and her typewriter looked just as tired as she was, so they’d both earned a little break.
“You know, some coffee sounds good,” she said and stood up. It had been a strange few days since the call. Things had gotten much better between her and Salvador, but she had Rosa’s name popping up in her head every so often, almost as if this ghost of a person was stubborn in distracting her from work.
Salvador’s words reassured her a little. Maybe she should think similarly. Rosa was someone that she didn’t know and had never met. Why would she trade what she had with Salvador? They’d build an entire life together, and they worked like the perfect partnership. Sure, she’d love it if he stopped smoking. And she’d love it if he’d read some of the stuff that she recommended, but he was otherwise great.
This Rosa couldn’t be better than that. There was no way of someone being better than Salvador. That was just impossible. So there was no point in thinking about it.
But she kept thinking about it.
Celeste slowly swirled the spoon in her coffee, mixing the black and white into a frothy foamy brown, when the doorbell rang.
“I got it,” Salvador said, tossing his cigarette. He had been in his usual spot in the backyard, smoking again.
“I thought you promised.”
“I know, I know. I’m sorry. Last one. I swear. It’s just. I got a phone call today from one of the companies and they want to change some of the project. They just ain’t ever happy.” He walked past her, and went to the front door.
Maybe she should’ve pressed harder a few days ago. Then maybe his guilt would’ve pushed him to quit for real.
“Who is it?” Celeste asked, and turned to look at Salvador, who leaned on the front door’s frame, a smile on his face. He chatted away.
That was another thing he admired about him. He was such a good person at talking with others. He always looked so relaxed and in control. That probably explained his success as an independent consultant. He just talked his way up.
“Hey Celeste,” Salvador called. “Do we have any more coffee?” He walked in, and a girl with short red hair walked in behind him. “Take a seat. I’ll go ahead and call her,” he said and she sat down.
“Who is she?” Celeste asked as Salvador came into the kitchen and started pouring some coffee into a mug. “What you don’t recognize her?”
Celeste shook her head. “Should I?”
Salvador frowned. “She said that she was your friend from college.”
“Anyone could say that,” Celeste said and stood up, peeking across the hall into the living room. The girl looked down at her phone.
“Of course I know that,” Salvador said. “But she seems to know a lot about you. If she’s a stalker, she’s a very good one at that.”
“What’s her name?”
She did know an Emilia, once upon a time, back at the beginning of college. But she couldn’t remember her face very well. She’d been a roommate for only two quarters.
“Hi,” Celeste said, as she walked into the living room.
The girl looked up, and Celeste finally got a good look at her. Instantly petrified, she knew exactly who this was. It was as they said. When you met your soulmate, you knew. It was similar to when she’d met Salvador, but more intense. Time seemed to slow down, and sound seemed to disappear. Her heart throttled up, and her entire body trembled.
“Rosa,” Celeste said under her breath, barely able to push it out.
The girl, wearing a similar expression, nodded. “I’m sorry I lied to him,” she said.
Salvador still made coffee diligently in the kitchen.
Celeste swallowed, and the breathed in deeply, trying to calm herself. “Were you the one on the phone?”
“Why am I here, or why was I on the phone?” Rosa said.
“I guess I had to know. I had to be sure. I mean,” she raised her sleeve and showed her. “It couldn’t have been easy for you either. My family mostly abandoned me.”
Celeste’s heart sunk. It hadn’t really been hard for her. Her parents hadn’t cared. At least, that’s what they’d always said. They loved her no matter what. If anything, it was dating Salvador what threw them off. And it wasn’t because she side dated either. Salvador was the only man she’d been with. Still, they quickly accepted him, and they blessed their partnership, even if it were a side date relationship.
She couldn’t imagine Rosa’s life though. She knew plenty of people that thought the names on the wrists were curses. They were born with them after all, and it wasn’t a choice.
“I’m so sorry,” Celeste said. “Are you upset?”
Rosa smiled weakly. “I’d be lying if I said I was fine. I went through a lot. I had actually looked for you for so long. Sure, some times I just tried to avoid it. That’s why I still wear sleeves. And to see that you’re with another person, it hurts.”
“You know, I actually thought all of this was bullshit. I even convinced myself that I worked at Soul Seeker because I was just good at it. But I guess deep inside, I knew that I hoped I’d run into you.”
“And here’s the coffee I promised!” Salvador said as he walked in, placing the cup on the coffee table. He paused, looked around, then said, “everything okay?”
Celeste nodded quickly. “But can you give us like, a few minutes?”
Salvador looked confused, but agreed and walked back into the kitchen.
“What do you want?” Celeste said.
“To be honest, I don’t know,” Rosa said and stood up. “You know what. I should go. I’m so sorry I came. I can see that what you have here is very good. I can’t destroy that.”
Celeste said no with her hands. “Look, I understand. I’d do the same. I’ve been wondering since you called. I had always wanted to know about my soulmate. I’d always wanted to meet you. I guess, don’t we all?”
A loud crash came from the kitchen, and Salvador screamed. “What the hell are you doing here?”
Celeste jumped up. “Salvador?”
The tension in the living room had been crazy. He could see Celeste was not okay, but she had asked him to give them a few minutes. Still, he couldn’t go back into the office just like that, so he decided to wait in the living room, just in case anything happened.
He’d been worried when Celeste mentioned that anyone could’ve been a friend, and he realized his mistake at letting some strange girl into the house. But, it seemed that they were mostly okay. Maybe they were just catching up. Celeste had kept many of her escapades from college to herself, so maybe this girl was one of those secrets.
So he sat down in the kitchen and pulled up his tablet. He could use a break from work, and he’d be nearby should Celeste need him.
“There you are!” a girl said as she walked in from the door to the backyard.
Salvador, confused and shocked, paused, and then jumped out of his chair, making it fall onto the floor. Then he saw her eyes. The world paused, and his heart went crazy as if he’d overclocked it. His legs grew weaker, and he took a few paces back before he could talk.
“Who the hell are you?” Salvador realized his words were ridiculous as they came out of his mouth. He knew it had to be her. Everyone knew the thing about soulmates. But, this was a stranger, and apparenlty a crazy one or a burglar, and he asks their identity? He shook his head, and changed his words. “Get out or I’ll call the police.”
“Don’t you dare, you side dater!”
The words and the voice confirmed it. “Alejandra,” Salvador said with a hiss.
The way he said it must have infuriated her more, as she immediately took a plate near her and threw it at him, the thing flying across the room and smashing against a cupboard behind him.
“What the hell is wrong with you! What the hell are you doing here?” Salvador screamed.
“I’m your god damed soulmate, you douchebag! How dare you cheat on me?”
“Cheat on you? What the hell are you talking about? I don’t even know you.”
“Salvador? What’s going on?” Celeste said as she walked into the kitchen.
Another plate flew across the room, this time hitting the wall behind Celeste, just inches from her face. Celeste screamed, and something inside Salvador snapped.
“Don’t you dare attack her, you crazy bitch!” Salvador ran at her like football player and took her down.
Alejandra screamed and began wailing.
“Call the police.” Salvador barked.
After answering some questions for the police, she had remained on the front porch, watching everything in silence. Seemed that neither Celeste nor Salvador really wanted to put Alejandra behind bars, but they kept talking about a restriction order, which made Rosa wonder if that had ever been a thing. She’d never heard of soulmates setting restriction orders on each other. But it seemed that Celeste and Salvador were a different type of couple.
It took about an hour for the cops to leave, and all of that time Alejandra wailed, muttering things about side daters.
Rosa didn’t want to admit it, but she understood her. To see Celeste and Salvador together made her feel like someone took something important from her. She wasn’t sure how to explain it. But when she saw Celeste and Salvador’s life, she couldn’t help think, “that should be mine.” She should’ve been Celeste’s Salvador.
Alejandra must have felt the same. She should’ve been Salvador’s Celeste. Reality hurt, and there seemed like there was nothing to be done. She couldn’t go like Alejandra even if she felt like it. But at the same time, she didn’t feel like she could go back to work and forget Celeste.
“Hey Emilia,” Celeste said. Salvador and Celeste had watched the cops go, and now they were going back inside.
“I think I’m going to leave now,” Rosa said.
“Oh no, I’m so sorry all of this happened when you’d just gotten here,” Salvador said. “I swear, I am going to look into suing Soul Seeker. This is ridiculous. I’ll have whoever gave that crazy woman my information fired. Are you sure you don’t want to stay a little? We can order some food.”
Rosa shook her head.
“He Salvador,” Celeste said. “Give me a moment to catch up really quickly with her, and then I’ll go inside and join you. Order something though.”
Salvador nodded and disappeared into the house.
“Don’t worry,” Celeste said. “I will talk him out of getting you fired.”
Rosa thanked her profusely.
“But what are we going to do now?” Celeste asked.
“I don’t know,” Rosa said then smiled. “But I guess I can say as Frost said about life. ‘It goes on.’”
Celeste’s eyes widened. “You know Robert Frost.”
“Of course, he was my favorite poet in literature classes. I mean, I didn’t major in literature, but I always enjoyed them.”
Celeste’s eyes looked like that of a kitten, and it made this whole thing even more painful. Rosa was sure that friendship was not good for her. It would be toxic, and she didn’t want to be an Alejandra.
“Anyway, I should go,” Rosa said and made her way to her car. Celeste followed. As she turned on her car, her radio came up, a little louder than she would’ve liked, “Misery Business” blasting out.
“I love that band,” Celeste said, smiling at Rosa.
Rosa blushed, smiled back, and drove away.