I remember asking my mother about the names on my arms for years. I've always had them. Everyone has them.
I noticed them on my mother first, only because she was who I was always with. On her temple, in fine, beautiful print we're two names, Aria and Caiden.
"Mommy, why are there names on your face?" I remember asking the first time-I was probably five, so curious as to why my father's name was etched into her smooth skin.
I remember her laughing, pulling my hands away from my face, "I'll tell you when you're older."
When I was six I noticed my own two names. They were on either side of my pinkie finger. On the side facing my ring finger, in smooth, clean font, was something that baffled me, and on the other side- the more important name- there was the name Taylor.
I asked my father that time, "Daddy, why do I have names that aren't mine on my finger?"
He smiled and took me onto his lap, he used his free hand to pull up his pant leg. On his ankle there were two names, Adele and Pricilla. I didn't understand. He smiled and tugged my ears, a bad habit that never went away, "You'll understand when you're a big girl, Joy."
I rubbed my ear violently on my shoulder, "I am a big girl though!"
My mom heard the ruckus and came in, picking me up with a grunt, "Oh Joy, you're just not ready yet, baby. One day you will be. C'mon darling," She set me down and took my hand, "Let us paint."
I decided that if my parents thought I wasn't ready to know, that I didn't need to find out.
The problem resurfaced again in 6th grade. I was invited to a sleepover at a friends house. The night started innocently, she had invited three other girls to stay as well. By the time it was around 9 o'clock a girl pulled her sleeve up, "Let's compare names!"
My friend, Loretta, pushed her shirt up to reveal her stomach, and the other two girls lifted their clothing to show their names. All of them had two names, just as I did.
"Joy, where's you're names?"
"My names..?" I asked baffled.
Loretta rolled her eyes at me, "You know. The name of your soulmate and the name of your killer."
My face heated, "The name of my what and who?"
"Oh. Your parents haven't told you yet..." Loretta said awkwardly.
I went home that night and demanded answers. My mom first told me she didn't want to see the names, she told me they were private until you met one or the other. When I didn't understand, my mother started explaining, "Well Joy," She said, her voice small and fair- like it always was, "One of these names is the name of your soulmate. Your match made in heaven. For me, that was your father. That's why the name Caiden is on my temple. But, one of the names is the name of the person who will kill me. Aria apparently."
"Have you ever met an Aria?" I asked impatiently. My mom shook her head,
"No, but your father has, he's kept me away from her." My mom smiled, "I keep him away from every Adele. I've only ever met two."
"How do I know?" I asked, "How do I know who is who?"
"You don't. It's a game of chance. Maybe your soulmate doesn't have your name, maybe it's one sided, maybe they're dead. You know nothing. Your father and I were lucky." She smiled sadly.
I met Taylor when my mom gave birth to her second baby. It was a boy, and his name, was Taylor. I was 15 at the time. I remember freaking out.
My dad took me into the hall, "Joy, you need to know something."
"Is this some sick joke?" I asked, tears flowing down my face, "Did you know?"
"We didn't know, honey. But that doesn't mean he'll kill you." My dad responded.
"You're saying my baby brother is supposed to be my soulmate?"
"It can be platonic."
"You can bet your ass it will be." I spit back.
Looking back on that moment I was embarrassed. People would think I was in love with my brother, but I wasn't. I loved him, with all my heart, in my mother's arms he looked so beautiful. Pink and new. But I'd never see him as a partner. He was my soulmate.
When Taylor was 13 he learned what the names meant. He was disgusted with me. How could his name be on my finger? He distanced himself for a while before we got close again. And when we did he told me about the names on his collarbone, "Your name isn't here, Joy. I'm sorry."
My heart broke. I wasn't his soulmate. I hugged him tightly, "That's okay, bud. Do you want to tell me the names you do have?"
He nodded, "Daria and Holden."
I was 28 at the time and knew none of those names. I patted his back and told him that, and also that I loved him. I wasn't living at home at the time, so I left for my apartment. I fell into a dark depression, my brother didn't love me as deeply as I loved him.
I got into drugs and alcohol, quickly loosing my job and my home. I was on the streets, robbing places and people for money. I got so angry I would jump people in alleyways. Turns out one time I got carried away.
I pulled a younger woman, she must have been at least 22 and held a knife to her throat, "Give me your money." I spat in her ear.
"W-What?" She asked, trembling like an idiot.
"I said, 'Give me your fucking money!'" I screamed, pulling her deeper into the alleyway.
She yelled and pushed her purse off of herself. I held the knife to her throat as I lowered her to it, "Get out the money."
Her hands were shaking so badly, and I wondered if this was a bad idea, before I could let her go she attacked me. She hit me as hard as she could and that made me angry. I slashed the knife across her throat and stabbed her until I thought she was dead.
I stabbed her 34 times in the throat.
I developed anger issues. Everyone looked like Taylor, and I blamed them for not loving me. I'd kill people, asking where their names were.
"My dick." One guy said, drunk.
"Don't mess around with me. Where are your names?"
He laughed, touching the knife poised at his heart, "You think I'm joking, but really, it is on my dick."
I cut his pants down his leg, drawing slight blood. I drew his pants back, and there, on his penis, like he said, were two names. Mine stood out, it always did, Joy.
I stabbed everyone where my name was, and this man ran away, bleeding from his penis, eventually dying.
I was caught quickly. My name was on each victim's body, so it wasn't difficult to have a main suspect. I was given a death sentence and I sat on death row for 20 years. Taylor came to see me only once. He was 23, and I was 10 years into my death row. He had a husband, Holden. They adopted two children together.
"Why?" Taylor asked, holding his husband's hand for comfort.
"You didn't love me, I loved you with all of myself!" I screamed.
He never came back.
I write this on the wrapper of a Big Mac; my last meal. And I found out the name of my killer.