I waited for that day, for that one thing to complete me. To feel someone’s heartbeat inside my chest and know that it was reciprocated. To find the one who belonged to me and could be the one to make me whole. I still waited. I was a sophomore in high school. Graduating and heading off to U of T in a just two years so I could be an architect, just like Grandpa. We just got back from the last reunification. Mom had taken fire for her new rule about the Visionary being able to work and have a day job rather than just…being the Visionary. They wanted her to be ‘accessible’ at all times and she warred on that she could be accessible and still work with Daddy at the centers as well. That’s what cell phones were for. So I watched as Dad was being extra nice and attentive by cooking dinner that night since, even though she was the Visionary, it sucked when people were against you and questioned your dedication. Wanna know what else sucked? Being the Visionary’s daughter. And the clan leader’s daughter deducted even more points. I loved my parents, don’t get me wrong. They were great.
Rodney and I both were pretty grounded. We went to the private school here and he played football while I played volleyball. I’d been working at the learning centers for Daddy for a year now. I loved it, but planned to go work for Grandpa as soon as I graduated from college. Dad was fine with it. He of all people knew what it was like to want to be something, to have the fire for something. I was fascinated by the thought that I could create something like that. We used to travel around with Daddy’s job, staying in a place for a couple months before moving on to the next place. It might not sound so appealing, but it really was amazing to live in all those states. We lived in New York, Washington, Illinois, Texas, and about fifteen other states.
But, when I was almost in high school, they wanted us to settle down, so we moved back to Tennessee and Daddy bought Mom a big, beautiful red house with a wraparound white porch. Rodney’s old fort made from wood slats was still in the backyard, though he hadn’t been back there in years. It was our home and I loved it, but also couldn’t wait to leave it. My teenage heart was so fickle. But the one thing it wasn’t fickle about was wanting my significant. So, back to the part where I was waiting. Even though I wasn’t of age yet, every reunification brought anxiousness for me. I was fifteen. Mom was only seventeen when she imprinted and since all the rules were being broken, I couldn’t help but hope that I would imprint soon. It was more than just wanting to have somebody, it was like this thing in my body was pulled just a little too tight.
Just enough to annoy and bother me, but not enough to be painful. My significant was the only one who could make me feel normal. I knew it. Dad tossed the noodles with the white sauce—Mom’s favorite—and divided it onto four plates as our new puppy Mavis rubbed against my leg. Dad glanced up at me with a smile. “Put ice in some glasses for me, sweetheart?” “Sure.” “Rodney. Rodney!” he called louder. Rodney took his earphones out and looked at him. “Yeah?” “Silverware.
” “Why are you cooking again?” he asked. “Mom’s a way better cook than you.” “Hey!” Dad laughed and slung a noodle at him. It landed on Rodney’s face and hair. He jumped back like that would save him, but it was too late. “Dude!” he shrieked, his voice cracking with puberty as he swatted at his shagged hair. “Dude, my hair!” Dad and I were laughing so hard, we could barely stand up as Rodney went on. Rodney jumped across the counter and stuck his finger in the sauce before holding it out to Dad. “You’re gonna get it, old man.” I ducked out of the way, fearful for my own hair, and giggled by the fridge as they fought and wrestled.
I felt Mom’s hands on my arms and heard her laugh behind me. “Oh, my. Ava, what’s going on?” “Dad pulled the unforgiveable. He got noodles in Rod’s hair.” She giggled and came around me with her blue silk robe on and bare feet. “Is all this for me?” she crooned sweetly, looking around at the mess on the counter. “Mom, totally his fault.” Rodney pointed at Dad shamelessly as he laughed. “Oh, I believe you.” She wrapped her arms around Dad’s neck and wiped a smudge of sauce from his cheek with her thumb.
“You believe him over me?” Daddy asked, his voice changing like it always did where Mom was concerned. She laughed, reaching up on her tiptoes and kissed him. “Thank you for cooking dinner. You didn’t have to.” “I wanted to,” he replied. His voice and eyes held a reverence that I’d always seen and heard about my whole life, but never experienced. “You earned it. You’re such a good woman, and I know the reunifications take it out of you.” I had watched my parents for what seemed like centuries. The way they existed so effortlessly in each other’s world and space.
They could go minutes without looking away from each other. They kissed constantly. They hugged all the time, stole touches and wrapped their fingers around the other’s wrist. I knew it was to feel their calm, to be wrapped in the little bit of bliss that their touch provided. I felt like I was watching a real-life romance novel play out before my eyes. “I’m okay,” she told him and whispered her next words. “Thank you for this. And for earlier. I really needed it.” “Eew.
Gross. Stop,” Rodney said, hands up. He threw some forks haphazardly on the table. “Don’t you see the way my ears are singed?” Mom laughed. “I was talking about the bubble bath your father made me, you goober.” She reached up again, kissing Daddy on the lips, but he reached around her and drew her in even more. I turned to fill the glasses. It was disgusting; they were my parents after all, but I was also envious. Things were still a little up in the air with the imprints and everything. It seemed that everything had gone back to normal for the most part, except there were no more age limits.
You met them when you met them and that was that. So instead of knowing I’d meet the person I wanted most in a few years while in college, I was forced to spend my days waiting. The only thing a girl in high school—who’s never dated anyone before—wants is to find someone to love her. I was breaking out and going my own way, and while I was reinventing myself to become the me I would always be, I was dying to throw my epic love story in the mix. “I love you, Maggie,” I heard behind me. “I love you more.” “Go sit. I’ll bring you a plate.” And I waited for it… The sound of Daddy’s palm lightly smacking Mom’s butt was my cue that it was okay to turn around. Mom shook her head at Dad as she took a seat.
Dad, smug as all get out, brought her plate, kissing her forehead as he sat it in front of her, before setting the rest of the table and playfully yelling at Rodney to sit down and behave like a Jacobson. They were so predictable. And adorable. And so in love with each other it hurt to look at them. Two Six Years Later I yawned and got the stink eye from Professor Gracco. I loved and hated my classes, but it was the last week of them before winter break. Every class was a yawn-fest. The teachers knew it, but I think it just made them that much more ornery. The minutes crawled by and my watch kept winking at me, taunting, begging me to keep looking at it so the time would move even slower. Only two more years of this and I’d graduate and could go work at the firm with Grandpa.
Well, not for very long because he was retiring in a few years. But the chance to work with him at all would be worth it. He was happy that I’d decided to come work with them. A few other family members had taken a cue from Dad and went their own way, running a business that they wanted instead. But they always seemed to be good businesses. Our kind had a knack for smart ventures and risks that paid off. Businesses that were good for more than just us. Like Daddy with his learning centers and my second cousin, who has a horse farm and had started an equestrian riding school. When the professor took the little golden bell from his desk and jiggled it in the air at us like it was a catholic school and not a college, we knew the class was over. I packed up my things hurriedly and rushed across campus to the coffee shop.
Every Friday I brought the whole staff at the center whatever poison was their favorite beverage. I was running late. Professor Hubris back there thought that he held our literal futures in his sweaty little hands and it was his duty to teach more than what was outlined in the syllabus. Like, maybe, how to make someone late for work? It didn’t matter that my dad owned the company. That actually made me want to be on time even more—so no one could say that I was just there because my father let me be. I wanted to be a good worker, have ethics and values that people could see on me like a Girl Scout badge. I wanted to earn what I had, not have things handed to me. No nepotism for me, no sir. So when I ran into the shop and saw Paul at the counter with a carton of coffee cups, I mouthed a ‘Thank you’ to him. I got the same exact thing every Friday.
One white hot chocolate, one black, one vanilla cappuccino with cream and sugar, and for me, a hazelnut iced coffee. There was a long line today, so I waited in it, pulling out my cell to check messages quickly. A napkin floated to the floor beside me and I reached absentmindedly to pick it up when someone was next to me doing the same thing. Our fingers almost touched on the napkin and my eyes lifted to see intense blue ones meeting mine. I felt my lips part, not just at his closeness, but at the sheer force of that gaze. His hair was black and spiked up in the middle in a small fauxhawk. He was tan with a red tshirt that hugged his neck. “Thanks,” he muttered, his voice as low as gravel. I had to admit that it made me smile for no other reason than the fact that he hadn’t taken his eyes off mine yet. He finally, slowly stood.
“No problem,” I replied and cleared my throat a little because my voice sounded entirely too affected. I didn’t know what else to say and he just stared, his eyes wandering around my face, before he finally smiled with just one side of his mouth and chuckled a little. “Sorry…you’re just really…” He shook his head and stepped back. “Never mind. You go to school here?” “Yeah. You?” “Nah,” he said, noncommittally. “Just getting some coffee. It was pretty good timing, I guess.” “What was?” I asked, shouldering my bag, refusing to let him go until it was no longer polite to keep him talking. “Coming here at the same time as you.
” His smile spoke volumes of things he was thinking that I wasn’t privy to. It reminded me of a romance novel…of my parents. I felt a stutter in my chest at what that could mean. “I’m usually here a lot later, but I was early today.” “You’re early and I’m late,” I said, chagrined that I had forgotten my purpose so easily. I looked over to the counter to see Paul staring an irritated yet intrigued look at my back. I knew he had a little crush on me, but there was no point in pursuing that. I turned back to blue eyes. He whispered like it was a curse, “Am I keeping you? Do you need to go?” I stepped off the plank, one hopeful foot in front of the other. “Do you feel that?” He frowned with his brows, but smiled.
“Feel what exactly?” My spirits fell as fast as they had risen. This was just some college boy checking out girls in the coffee shop. He wasn’t Virtuoso, he wasn’t a human so intrigued by what was happening to him to press further, and he wasn’t someone…that I could go any further with. I smiled as much as I could, but stepped back. “I really do have to go. I’m really late.” His smile fell and he took a step closer. “Uh…can you stay for one cup of coffee? I’m buying.” He tried for a smile again, but I just couldn’t let this go any farther. “I’m late for work already.
” I turned to give Paul a twenty and told him to keep the change. When I turned back, I expected blue eyes to be gone, done with me, but he wasn’t. I smiled and started to move around him toward the side back door. He called for me to wait a second as he ran back to get his brown bag of whatever he had bought inside from the table, but I kept going. Before I reached the door, his hand gently caught my long sleeve in his fingers. I looked down at his hand first and then at his face. “I’m sorry,” he said sincerely. “I’m not trying to be creepy, I just…” He licked his lips. His red shirt had a fireman symbol on the front with the number 22 in the middle of it. His jeans were dark, worn, and ripped a little at the knee.
He wore black boots and had a brown leather band around his wrist that had the word VIVERE on it. Wow, this boy was going to be a problem if I didn’t get away. “I know. I wish I had time to talk, I really do, but I really have to go.” “I do feel it,” he said in a harsh voice. “I said I didn’t feel it before, but I do.” Every movement but breathing stopped. “Feel what?” “Like…” He moved his hand to my face and I froze in hopeful awe. He swept my hair back behind my ear. “Like we were meant to be here at the same time.
” It was when his finger touched the rim of my ear that I felt my life changing before my eyes. He sucked in a huge breath right along with me and immediately I felt his hands on both sides of my face, pulling me in to press his forehead to mine as we watched the scenes play out. I worried about him. He must be a human because I’d never seen him before and was probably freaking out, but all I could do in that second was cling to his shirt with my empty hand, fisting the fabric and hanging on as I watched our future life together. In one vision, we were lying in the tall grass somewhere. He ran his fingers up and down my arm. I talked and he listened like his life depended on it. The next one was us on terrace rooftop of the palace. Birds were all around us before Seth took off his jacket and laid it down for us to lay on. And then the third came, us in front of a big house.
It was a place that looked familiar, but we stood there, older in our years, proud…like we belonged there on the big lawn and grand landscapes that seemed overgrown, but once beautiful. He was kissing my lips so softly. We eased out of our reverie and his smile wasn’t one of a human, it was one of someone who knew exactly what was going on. He moved us gently, pressing my back to the wall by the back door, but kept my face blissfully captive in his warm hands that I just knew were big and hard-worked calloused. “Oh, my g… It can’t be,” he said, but his smile refuted those words. “It’s…really you.” “And I don’t even know your name,” I whispered in return. He chuckled a little, deep and heady. “Seth.” “I’m Ava,” I answered before he could ask.
“Ava,” he repeated and I felt shivers run over me. He smiled, moving a little closer before letting his forehead touch mine once more. “I can’t believe this is happening.” “I don’t have to wait anymore,” I realized happily, my chest humming with new life. Even with school and work and everything going on, I was constantly waiting for this. It consumed a little piece in the back of my brain and I was subconsciously always looking for the one whose touch would bind me to him and also set me free. His smile faltered a little as he leaned his head back. “So…you’re Virtuoso.” I nodded. “How come I’ve never seen you before?” “We don’t…go to the reunifications,” he muttered softly.
He looked so nervous and I felt the need to comfort him wash over me. I still held the carton of coffee in one hand so I un-fisted his shirt and reached for his face. I was utterly shocked at how easily it came to me to be with him already. “Hey. What’s the matter?” “I just…” He shook his head and gulped, covering my hand with his on his cheek, like he wanted to keep it there forever. “I don’t want to hurt you. I don’t want… Gah, I’m so sorry, Ava.” “For what?” I said, but I saw in his mind for the first time. He was thinking about that house from my last vision. I realized that I remembered it from our histories.
Our family taught about that… house… The coffee cups fell from my hand. It was then the world came back to me and I saw several of the people in the coffee shop staring at us. Even Paul had stopped making coffee and was looking at us, like maybe he wanted to intervene. I pushed Seth’s chest a tiny bit, my hands aching and scolding me for doing so. He went without a fight. “Ava,” he reasoned, pleaded. “I’ve got to go.” I turned to go, my heart banging in my chest. He grabbed my hand gently, and his calm, the very thing I’d always wanted, shot through me and I couldn’t stop the sigh, yet I still yanked my hand away. “Ava, please.
Let’s just talk for a minute.” I burst through the door and ran to my Volvo parked in front. Seth followed me, but didn’t try to stop me. I got in and shut the door, pressing the push-start button, roaring the car to life. He stood outside my window, gripping his hair in his hands as he watched me back out. I heard him in my head as I peeled from the lot. I’ll wait for you however long you need. It’s okay. I understand. I’d hate me, too.
I loved his voice. It ran over me like a silk nightgown…and I hated and loved that. I went straight to the center, blowing through the doors, tears running down my face. Everyone stopped what they were doing and stared, but I looked for Daddy. When I didn’t see him with any of the kids, I went right to his office. He was on the phone, but hung up on whoever was on the phone as soon as he saw me. “Ava—” “Daddy,” I sobbed. He stood quickly. “What happened?” “I…imprinted…” “You did?” He grinned and hugged me to him. “That’s amazing, Ava.
Where? Who? Why are you crying? Was it—” “No, Daddy, no.” I leaned back. “What’s the matter, baby girl?” he soothed and smoothed my hair like he had done for my entire life. Always comforting, always willing to bust heads if need be to make me happy. But Dad couldn’t fix this. “Daddy, I imprinted…with a Watson.” He squeezed me tighter and then leaned back. I saw his eyes cut to the left. They did that when he was speaking to Mom in his mind. “Dad, I imprinted with this Seth guy and just ran away.
I—” He watched, his eyes filling with sympathy and something else I couldn’t put my finger on. When he didn’t blow up and start throwing things in rage like I expected, I frowned. “Where’s Momma?” He took my arms in his hands gently. “She’s not here yet. She’s on the way. We have a lot to talk about.” “Why are you being so calm? It’s almost as if you…know something I don’t.” I tried to pull my arms back, but he held tighter. “Sit, Ava,” he commanded, as my father and my Champion. I sat in his desk chair.
He leaned on his desk and crossed his legs and arms. His sigh was enough to push me into a state of annoyance. “Daddy, oh, my gosh. What is going on?” I hissed. “Do you remember Ashlyn? From when you were a little girl?” “Ashlyn?” I whispered. I hadn’t heard that name in so long. She was the ghost of a Visionary that used to come to me as a child. But I hadn’t seen her in years and no one had brought her up since. “Barely.” “Do you remember her telling you about a boy,” he said carefully.
I looked up at my father, still so young looking, but a faint crown of greys had started to show making him look a lot like the photos of Grandpa Peter when he was Champion. “I don’t…” “Maybe we should wait for your mother.” “Dad,” I protested. “I’m here,” Mom called from the doorway and rushed to me. She pulled me up and wrapped her arms around me. “Oh, my Ava,” she whispered and all at once I was a little girl again. With her rocking me, I could hear them whispering, feel Daddy’s hand on my arm and know that my life was about to change. I had waited for this day my entire life, all Virtuoso do, and now my perfect day was being ruined, taken from me. Why?