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and you thought you were alone

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Everyone looks forward to aging. Finding the one person that’s made for you, that fits you, and then the two of you growing old and dying together – that’s the dream of everyone.

Or so you think.

The last thing you’re expecting when you enter my house are the bookshelves. They aren’t organized, you think. You’re wrong. Neatly bound books are placed on every shelf, each of them labelled in my handwriting – not that you stop to read them.

I invite you in, put on the kettle for tea, and usher you to a chair. Something about me is off-putting to you; I can tell. You accept my offers, but there’s another question that you haven’t yet dared to say.

I sit down across from you. “What is it?” I ask after a moment of silence.

“Pardon?” you ask after a beat because you were raised to be nothing if not polite. “Nothing.”

I scoff. “I can tell. You don’t want to be here. What’s wrong?”

You look away. I can see the first sprinkling of grey hairs, the first sign that you found the one. You fold your hands over each other. “Well, ah, it’s just – “

You’ve taken too long. The kettle starts to shriek.

I stand up, navigating my skirts around the furniture like I’ve practiced for centuries. I laugh at the joke as you stare in confusion, accepting the cup of tea I hand you.

“So,” I say, settling back into my chair. “What were you going to say?”

“My grandmother told me stories about you,” you begin. “The woman who never aged. Living alone, never finding the other half of her soul.”

I don’t laugh this time. I’ve had suspicions about the whispers surrounding me, but you are the first in a while to confirm them. “Why are you here?” I ask.

You shrug, staring over my shoulder instead of looking me in the eye. It’s true, there’s much to look at in this house, but we’re holding a conversation. I put my cup down with a clink, refocusing your attention.

“Why do you live so far away from anyone?”

I blink. This isn’t how the conversation was supposed to go. You aren’t supposed to ask the questions here. “I suppose,” I finally answer, “because it’s quieter.”

You do look me in the eye this time, and I can see you’ve lost some of your nervousness. “Did I ever tell you how old my grandmother is?”

The constant changing of the conversation is starting to get on my nerves, and I’m reminded why I don’t interact with people. It’s not just because I don’t have a soulmate. “No.”

“She’s ninety-nine.” You meet my eyes, taking a sip of tea.

I look you over again, taking note of everything I didn’t the first time around. There’s a ring on your finger with a design I’ve never seen, and I can’t see any markings on your skin in the most obvious places.

You continue talking. “You’ve been around for longer than my grandmother can remember, and you haven’t aged a day.”

Why do you take so long to put the pieces together? I wonder. “Yes,” I agree. “I am the woman from the rumours, the one who has never found the other half of her soul, the one who does not age.

You nod, putting your cup and saucer down. You stare at the carpet for a long moment, and I wonder if I just drove you off. It doesn’t feel as satisfying as it usually would.

“Can you – “ You don’t finish your sentence and I hum a little in encouragement.

I want to know why you came, why you’ve decided to find the woman from your family’s stories. You’re the first person I’ve entertained in a while and it makes everything feel a little brighter in here. Maybe this is what I’ve been missing.

“What is it?” I ask after a moment. I want to know what you have to say, and that realization thrills me.

You look up at me with a look of fierce hope. “My hair is naturally graying. I don’t have a mark either.”