"Echo! Echo wait up! " I turned my head, my eyes automatically scanning the bustling hallway filled with students frantically searching their lockers. Most of them stood with their friends laughing about what girl or guy they hooked up with at the weekend, even though their soulmates initials were staring up at them. What idiots... it causes them so much pain and they still do it anyway?

"Echo!" I stop in mid stride and sigh, turning my whole body just in time to see Ashton push his way through the random couple who were making out in the middle of the hallway. A small laugh escapes my lips when the girl let out a small screech and glares at him; her drawn on eyebrows furrowed in disgust.

"Make a new friend Ash?" I laugh, as he makes his way up to me.

"Always Echo! I'm just irresistible, everyone wants to be my friend, they just can't help it." He grinned. His signature dimples popping out as Sarcasm laced his voice.

I whack his stomach as he swings his arms to rest over my shoulders. A sharp pain runs through my hand when it makes contact, causing him to burst out laughing.

"Really that's all you got?" He chuckles, his body shaking with suppressed laughter. I pout as we start walking along the crowded hall again.

"Well we're not all built like a two story house are we Irwin." I state with a raise of my eyebrow. He shrugs, brushing his loose curls out of his face and back into his bright red bandana. "Besides, I've always had no upper body strength, you know that."

He frowns and looks down at my arms which are folded over my folder for History. I've always had a passion for History. Most people get bored of the times and dates of certain events, but I soak them in like a sponge. Ash thinks it's weird, but whenever there's a history test right around the corner he always begs me to study with him, calling me at 3am sometimes with questions, which gets a response that most sailors would cringe at.

"How is your arm?" He asks, concern swimming in his hazel eyes.

"Shouldn't I be asking you that? You're already 18; your brand must be killing you." He shrugs and I feel his arm twitch on my shoulder, a nervous habit that formed when he became uncomfortable with talking about his brand. Ash turned 18 3 months ago, I was sat with him the moment the clock hit midnight and the countdown begun to finding his soulmate. Every month that goes by the pain in your brand gets worse, it starts off as dull ache and progress to feeling your whole arm has been doused in red hot lava every day. Well that's what we've been told.

"That's not important right now. You're 18 tomorrow Echo and the fact that you have a unique brand... we don't know what's going to happen when the clock strikes midnight." He sighs. I lift my wrist and turn it over, the cursive M.G.C inked over my skin screaming out to me that I was slightly different to everyone else. The first time I met Ash when we were 6; we showed each other our brand for the first time and he stared at it, running his fingers over the three letters after a few seconds. It was then he told me that you were only supposed to have two. The first and the last name initials and that's it. It's the way it always has been and the way it is always going to be. I guess I'm an exception to that rule.

"You're still coming tonight aren't you?" I ask. My head snapping up and my eyes going wide at the prospect of not having my best friend with me in what's supposed to be the biggest event of my life. He looks down into my eyes and smiles, his eyes swimming with happiness.

"Of course! I wouldn't miss it for the world! Little Echo is turning 18, how could I miss that?" He laughs while rustling my hair.

"Good." I grin. "Do you want to come over a little earlier? We could try searching for her again." He sighs and stops at the main doors of the rusted green assembly hall.

"We've searched everywhere Ech, it's like she's invisible." He drops his arm off my shoulder, as more students push past.

"Hey, we've only searched the major cities. Maybe she lives in a town? You've got to be optimistic Ash." I lift up his right arm and turn over his hand; tracing my finger over the same initials that have plagued us for months. Y.J.

"She could be... We have only tried the cities. When did you get so smart?" He questions, his trademark smiles lighting up his face. I shrug, a small smirk coming to mine.

"I don't know, maybe it's a symptom of the countdown beginning in less than 24 hours." He shakes his head and knocks my shoulder gently.

"Must be it... Now, we've got to get in there before Keller comes out and busts us. It the annual assembly and if we miss it we may as well just end it now rather than letting our brands do it first." He laughs while pulling open the door. I roll my eyes as he pulls us in and leads us to our designated seats.

"He's just going to say the same thing he always does to the 17-18 year old." I lower my voice while putting on a masculine tone. "You must find your soulmate students! We need to remember the rules of our lives! Don't let the clock run low!".

"Don't forget the reciting!" His Australian accent quickly takes on an American tone. "You soulmate is your partner, mind, body and soul. You must never harm your soulmate. You must find your soulmate before you turn 18 or you die."

I cover my mouth with my hand to hide the grin breaking out on my face, as Keller's white hair and famous black glasses come into view, as he quiets everyone in the hall.

"Welcome students! As you already know, your time is among you. Most of you have already turned 18 and your time is already counting down. These 12 months are the most important of your life and you must succeed if you want to live your life and reach your full potential. We must remember the three main rules we live by, because without those our society will crumble. You must stay strong in the next coming month's students, because without that strength you will not succeed. Remember, your soulmate is your partner in mind, body and soul, you must never harm your soulmate and you must find you soulmate before you turn 18 or you die. Have a good day students I wish luck to you all." He waves his hand as a signal and everyone files out the door to their lessons. Ash grips my hand, pulling me along so I don't get lost in the crowd.

"I'll come over straight after school ok?" He states as we stop outside my History class. I nod, as a grin lights up his face. "I've got to go. I'll see you later." He yells as he starts walking down the hall again.

"You'll find her ash. I promise." I yell back, my voice straining as I try and make it reach him. He turns his head and winks, before I step into the room and close the door behind me.

Hi guys, I'm sorry I forgot to add this, so I've had to come back and edit it on my phone 😂 twitter locked my account twice and I still can't get on as I have to wait and try again later, so I'm a bit stressed. Anyway, thanks to the 9 people who have read this story so far, you guys rule! It made me so happy! The initials on ash's wrist are going to make someone else happy I hope 😂 vote and comment if you want to and I'll see you in the next chapter 😊 Bye Guys!
Lauren.

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