Clandestine Hearts

“Why won’t she wake up?!”. My spirit was awoken by my aunt’s endless shouting. “Ma, she’s a heavy sleeper, you know that.”, another voice added. My room was filled with muffled shouts of my cousin and my aunt fighting over me. “It’s her uncle’s birthday. For once, she should be living life and not lie on her bed the whole day like a vegetable!”, Aunt Celine complained. I finally decided to open my eyes and looked at my gray ceiling for peace. Before I could even imagine it, Aunt Celine exited my door with pure disappointment. “As always” I whispered. My head was buzzing as I tried to crack a muscle on my neck. Did I really sleep that long?, I thought to myself.

As I decided to get up, my eyes caught the attention of the red string attached to Clement’s finger. What kind of birthday game were they playing? Funny thought of mine. It’s not one ordinary string, it’s a very long string and its other end is nowhere to be found as it leads towards the outside of my door. “What’s with the strings?”, I asked Clement. She looked at me with pure confusion, a reaction that I didn’t expect. The string was pure red, the most beautiful kind of red I’ve ever seen. It’s impossible she didn’t notice a string attached to her finger all this time? “What string?”, she grimaced. “The long one on your pinky finger. It’s literally right there.”, I argued. Is she playing dumb with me? What’s this? Their so-called pranks because I slept all throughout her dad’s birthday party? “There’s literally nothing, Raya.” Then raised her right hand with the beautiful red string. “You really are going crazy. It must have been from all the medication you’re taking.”, she insinuated. She left the room and before she did, she inspected me with a look from head to toe. But I’m not crazy. That was the most beautiful red string I have ever seen in my 17 years of existence. How could she not see that? Or maybe she purposely chose to ignore it. After all, ties between the both of us were tangled after a huge fight between Dad and Uncle Liam.

I lost a cousin, a best friend. Over the years, I have tried to rebuild it with her. I tried to exclude ourselves from the quarrel between our fathers but she already built this wall. A wall before her so that I couldn’t enter anymore. Before my thoughts ever consume me, I decided to head out of my room. I went into the backyard where the party is being held since I could hear their voices from the living room. I stepped out our sliding door, lifted my head, and my heart dropped in an instant. I almost fainted as my eyes were filled with red strings, again.

What has everyone been up to? Are they all tricking me? Red strings are attached to everyone’s finger. I saw one on Mom’s, Dad’s, Joshua’s, Grandma’s, literally everyone has one, except mine. Most are tangled, bent, and stepped on, but not one string is cut or torn apart. Why is everybody ignoring all these?! Why do they seem unbothered with all these strings attached to their fingers?! Aren’t they uncomfortable? What are these for?! I tried to lash out my thoughts, but I kept in mind that I shouldn’t make a scene.

The first thing that came into my mind is this legend from Japan entitled, “The Red String of Fate’’. It’s a story about a man who lives on the moon and comes out only every night to search for spirits on Earth to be reunited. Every time he finds them, a red thread is attached to each pair so they could find each other’s path. This means that our strings end in someone else. And that someone else is destined to be our soulmate.

Never in my wildest dreams thought of seeing it come into existence. I even doubt if it is actually real. I couldn’t still comprehend the situation I am currently in and the view lay before my very brown eyes. And out of curiosity, I tried stepping on one string that had been hanging near my foot. The beautiful red string was built strong like it’s impossible to be torn and cut. It’s not like every ordinary string you could buy in an arts and crafts store, it is built differently. Like it is meant to connect people, to reunite them.

I wasn’t about to believe all the things I’m seeing but I remembered the thing about soulmates and saw Grandma’s strings were attached to Grandpa’s, who’s sitting in his wheelchair. I couldn’t help but smile, the two have been my constant reminder of how love prevails above everything. I observed more and saw Eugene’s string, my brother, was attached to his girlfriend, Zel. My cousin Joshua’s string was attached to his other finger and not to someone else. I guess that it meant being destined with your own self. I like that one. It’s more on self-love rather than looking for a person to complete you. But one string I planted my focus on. Mom’s string was attached to Uncle Liam’s. My heart dropped at once.

What does this mean? No, this couldn’t happen! Is this some kind of joke? All legends aren’t true, right? It’s not possible! She is in love with dad, the two of them are soulmates! I know that for sure! They’re married! Are all these correct? It can’t be! I can’t seem to get a grip of my own thoughts. My mind is too clouded with so many questions. Like I always do, I escaped.

I ran from everything. From everything that’s been keeping me from running away. I can’t fathom all the things I have been seeing. Strange things in my entire 17 years of existence. I don’t know where my foot is leading me to. I just ran, as far away as I could. As far from all these red strings. I found myself stepping foot in our garden well. And finally, I felt at ease at once. I couldn’t help but reminisce and get lost in my head again.

This is the place me and Clement used to play with when we were young. Back then, we’re the best of friends. We shared everything. Books, clothes, toys, even our underwear! Every time we go to this well, we have our so-called ritual. We both ask for coins from our moms and race to the well and make wishes. In each coin, there’s only one wish. Some of them came true, but some didn’t. I guess that just shows how uncertain the world is.

How uncertain it is for a desire to turn into reality. How uncertain for two people to become soulmates of each other. How uncertain that we are really meant for something else, rather than to just exist. My thoughts were cut off by certain footsteps. They’re near and I can feel a presence coming. Who could it be? No one in my family ever dared to spend an alone time with me. I turned to my back but I cannot fully see and identify the figure. They’re hiding behind the veins, purposely, so I won’t be able to recognize them. A tall person, slender rather. I can say that their hair is curly, suited for their body type. Their ears are firm, which makes it look like he or she is an attractive person. Their broad shoulders make them look so masculine.

“ So, you knew?”, a deep voice startled my concussion of thoughts. I can finally conclude that it’s a boy. But his voice is quite unfamiliar. With just one line, I could say that his voice sounds so heavenly, so mild and soft with a hint of assertiveness. “Who are you?”, I asked, curiously. He is still hiding behind the veins so I cannot picture out who he is. “Show yourself!”, I exclaimed, bravely. “Do you know why you’re the only one who could see these strings?” he asked, bursting my bubble, making me become more curious about who this man is. “How do you know about that?” my head is about to explode as my emotions ramble from all these. All these are in front of me that I just can’t grasp the thought of. “Let’s just say, I know everything.”, he says proudly.

He finally stepped out of the veins revealing who he is. His broad shoulders were firm, just like how I them in his shadows. His ears were quite pointed. He has curly hair, with a hint of light orange. His eyebrows are neat which are linked to his tall and pointy nose. But his eyes, his eyes screamed nothing but art. His eyes are as vast as the ocean, the most beautiful blue I have ever seen. The thing that really outshined everything. It’s like telling a story, a pair so pulchritudinous, a pair that’s out of this cruel world. I almost got lost in thought.

“W-what do you m-mean everything?”. Why am I stuttering? Okay, I admit, his beauty is so heavenly. I can’t just ignore that mere fact. “Well, I can’t say that. But I’m here because I was sent to give you an important message.”, he replied with his god-like voice. “You, out of 7 billion people in the world, are the only ones meant to see these red strings. You have a gift for it.” I cannot process all the words he spitted. A gift? This kind of gift is so strange. It’s something I couldn’t imagine that I have. and out of everyone in the world, I only have it? But why me? There are billions of people out there! “You are destined for this, so the heavens chose you. But this is not as easy as it looks like, Raya.”, he expressed in a concerned tone. I stepped out of the blue as he mentioned my name. How did this guy know me? And who is he for me to believe him?! Is this some kind of prank my family did?! “How sure are you that all these are real?” I asked him, angrily. “Because I was once like you.”, I turned my head and my ears opened after hearing such with my anger fading.

“I was a mere mortal who wanted to live normally. Not until one day, I can see red strings too. Like you, a person also told me that I have a mission to fulfill and if I don’t, I will cease to exist.”, I could hear the pain in those words. “Cease to exist? But you’re here now.”, I said. “But I’m not as ordinary as I seem to be, Raya. I’m more than this.”, he assured me. “What was the mission? Is it the same mission I am vowed to do?”, I finally asked, with courage. “Yes. In a span of 2 weeks, you must fill this jar with 3 pairs of hearts. The people that you see with red strings are soulmates, so, you are vowed to make these soulmates be together.”, he informed me with a jar in his hands, covered with a lid of wood to secure it. “And if I don’t succeed in this mission?”, I asked fearfully. “You are bound to cease to exist.”, he firmly looked into my eyes.

I had second thoughts about this mission, if all these are real, if this was something that a normal girl like me is meant to do. But I remember my Mom and Uncle Liam, the forbidden soulmates. I couldn’t help but shed a tear over the fact that If I choose to ignore this mission, people will end up with the wrong ones. People will not likely be with someone that they are destined to. And it’s all because of me, me, and my selfishness. For wanting everything to myself, for thinking only of who I am. I faced this angel-like figure who’s been waiting for my answer and I assertively said, “Okay, how do we do this?”. And with that, I saw him smile. “By the way, my name’s Cupid.”, he added.

We traveled quite a quick span of time. Time is something unpredictable, it’s something that also never ceases to exist, it never ceases to disappear. And suddenly, I’m in a classroom. I looked at my surroundings and saw posters of the anatomy of the human body and a realistic model of the human brain placed on the side of the blackboard. I heard the bell ring and I immediately stood in front. A number of students my age entered the room and my eyes focused on the one red string that is attached to the guy named Jasper and to another girl who just entered the room which is Mei. Thank God they have name tags, It would be hard for me to identify them.

Cupid stood near the door. Something that I can’t just seem to fathom. The god of love is right here in front of me telling me all about a mission that I’m supposed to fulfill and if I don’t, I will die. I can hear his voice in my head speaking to me. However, I cannot see not one move from his lips. This means he can silently communicate with me. “No one can see me, only you. But you can still communicate with me through your mind. I’ll just be here guiding you. These two are your first pair. Good luck”, he assured me.

I started the class with my greeting and immediately declared a seating arrangement to be done. As I observe the both of them, Mei has been stealing glances at Jasper. He seems to notice it but I can see that he chooses to ignore it. I can now really sense what’s going on. These two are just in denial! They’re both aware of each other yet choose to slide with that fact. This made me start with the baby steps.

“Mei and Jasper, you two may sit on the third row.”, I declared. And saw Cupid smiling at the corner. “Well done, my Raya.” My Raya. My Raya. My Raya. What did he just call me? Did he just say that I’m his? I can hear my heart skipping countless beats. My mind only focused on the way his voice sounded when he called me his. How he sounds so heavenly, so gentle with a hint of assertiveness.

I almost lost my composure. Focus, Raya. This is not something that should ever cross your mind. Ever. I stole a look at Mei and Jasper and saw the two of them quite getting along. I can sense that Jasper introduced himself to her since he offered his hand. Mei immediately shook hands with him and this is quite a progress for me. I can’t help but smile. I stole another glance at Cupid who is now sitting on one of the vacant chairs. He acts like he’s also a student of mine as he reads the textbook on his chair.

“Okay, now that you are all settled, please open your textbooks to page 12.”, I affirmed to the students. Before actually declaring anything to the class I saw this annotation on page 12 in the textbook where the lesson is about the parts of the heart. The little sticky note says, “you’re right here :)” and my eyes immediately landed on Cupid who is now staring at me intently, watching my every move. I can’t help but feel hesitant to assume that he’s the one who wrote this. It can’t be, right? We were together all this time and I never saw him hold a book nor write something on it. However, moments before the students entered the classroom I saw him holding a blue pen. I rushed to look back at the textbook and saw the note written in blue and with fine handwriting. The universe really loves to play tricks on my mind, huh? This isn’t possible. And why would I even think what I’m thinking, that he likes me? Cupid is just clearly playing tricks with me. He’s the god of love, after all. He’s the master of emotions and I shouldn’t be trapped in them. It’s better if I just get a grip of myself.

And again, interrupted by the bell. The students swarm out of the classroom and I take a look at Mei and Jasper who are now the only ones left. I can’t help but eavesdrop on them. Jasper offered to carry Mei’s handbag and I can see how Mei’s cheeks turned red immediately. I can’t help but be happy for both of them. They said their thank-yous and bid goodbye to me before heading out of the room. Cupid stood up from his chair and I can immediately sense how tall this god is. Is he a 6’0? A 5’11? This man is gigantic! He walked up to me with shoulders up and I can’t help but admire his manliness. He walks up to me like a titleholder. He screams so much authority and I praised that thought of mine. I should stop with these delusions of mine, I thought to myself. This shouldn’t be happening in the first place. This isn’t even allowed.

“Job well done, My Raya.” My Raya. My Raya. My Raya. There it is again. There goes my heart again. He immediately showed me his empty glass jar. It was once empty but now, a holographic floating heart appeared on it.

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