by Holly Bourne

“Soulmates” wasn’t something I had ever believed in. It was a Hollywood word – a notion created to sell romantic literature and movie rights.

Love, as I saw it, was a worldwide obsession born out of desperate fantasy. People could call it love, romance, finding their soulmate, and all that other nonsense. But in my mind? It was just hormones, biology, chemistry – dressed up in some happily-ever-after, self-created delusion born out of a fear of being alone.

Of course, you’re always a cynic before you fall in love yourself…

The problem is, Hollywood, Stephenie Meyer, Mills and Boon – they got it right. Soulmates do exist.

But what they fail to understand is that finding them isn’t always a good thing.

It started just like any other day, with the sun rising.

I suppose whenever anything extraordinary happens to anyone, they’ve always started that day with the humdrum of waking up in bed. Whether it’s a near-death experience or meeting the person you want to spend the rest of your life with – it all starts with the sun rising, alarm clocks ringing and getting out from under the covers. So dull. So ordinary.

The day my life changed was no different.

I lay in my single bed, under my duvet, looking at the beam of light sneaking between my curtains and casting itself upon my legs. And as I did, I practised my breathing exercises. I kept my hands on the base of my stomach, focusing on how it expanded and contracted with each breath. I repeated this for ten minutes.

It was Saturday and I had nothing to get up for. I drew the curtains back, letting the rest of the light invade every corner of my room. I then pulled myself onto the window sill, curled my legs under me and looked outside.

My name is Poppy Lawson, and I don’t like where I live. Though it’s overtly clichéd to be seventeen and hate where you live, it’s the truth. In fact, there is nothing about my life that isn’t typical. I live in a small town, a perfect commuting distance from London. Every morning at 6.30 a.m. the men leave, trickling in a line towards the train station, all wearing suits. The wives remain at home, getting their children ready for private school and shovelling down bowls of organic muesli, before climbing into their four-by-fours for the school run. It’s a town where everyone has a front garden, a place where everyone knows you and you know everyone, and extra-curricular activities are thrust down teenagers’ throats as if the success of the family depends solely on how good the children are at lacrosse. It’s all a giant cliché and I hate it. But I figure that’s pretty damn predictable too.

My contemplations were interrupted by my mobile phone ringing. I looked at the screen and smiled. It was Lizzie.

“It’s early, you cow. I could still be asleep you know,” I said.

“Shut up. It’s past ten thirty, and I have news.”

“Well, spill then.” I uncurled my legs and stretched them out on the window sill.

“It’s about tonight. It’s going to be amazing.”

Lizzie had a way of making everything a drama. Her ambition was to be a journalist and she spent most of her time practising. She traded titbits of gossip between friendship groups, “sexed-up” even the dreariest house party the morning after and, of course, she had an encyclopaedic knowledge of everyone’s business. I had learned she was physically incapable of keeping a secret, but loved her anyway. She made this place – our lives – seem dramatic. She brought colour to the monochrome.

I sighed. “Lizzie, it’s another Band Night, what can possibly happen?” I replied. “Oh no, don’t tell me. One of our friends’ going-nowhere bands has actually signed a record deal?” I squealed to ring home my sarcasm. “I don’t believe it. It’s a miracle!”

She laughed. “No, of course not.” Then she paused, pre-empting my reaction. “But there is a new band playing tonight and they’re supposed to be incredible. They’re called Growing Pains. I’ve heard the lead guitarist is gorgeous, and apparently a record label is interested in them.”

I sighed again.


“Lizzie, we’ve been going to Band Night for how long? Two years? We know how many boys in bands who apparently have record labels interested in them? And pray tell me, how many of them have actually ever made it? I bet you ten million pounds that they all grow up, go to uni and do Business Studies, spend a gap year pretending they’re not going to get a job in Daddy’s company and then take one on a starting salary of £32,000.” I re-curled my feet under myself and took a quick breath. “AND then when they’re middle-aged they’ll entertain their posh friends at dinner parties with stories of their ‘troubled’ youth being a ‘rock star’.”

It was Lizzie’s turn to sigh. “Christ, you’re miserable.”

I shrugged over the phone. “Just speaking the truth.”

“Okay. Well forget the band-bashing, Miss I’m-So-Much-Better-Than-Everyone, and let me at least tell you about the fit guitarist.”

I laughed. “That I will allow.”

We spoke for a few more minutes and when I hung up I felt happier. Okay, it wasn’t going to be the social highlight of my life, but at least Band Night was something to do on a Saturday night that didn’t involve ordering pizza, watching a trashy film, and wallowing in my own uncoolness. With a sudden burst of energy I flung my legs off the window sill and went down for breakfast.

Mum was making tea as I entered the kitchen. She stood in her dressing gown, frowning at the cupboard doors. She’d been trying to talk Dad into refitting the kitchen for about two years, but he refused to “waste money on something as boring as cupboard doors”.

“Morning,” she said, tearing her eyes away. “Fancy a cuppa?”

I opened a cupboard and pulled out a box of cereal. “Please.”

As I poured out muesli, she brought a mug over and ruffled my hair.


“Sorry, love.”

She sat next to me, warming her hands on her tea while I started eating.

“So what’s the big plan for today then?”

I swallowed. “Just going to Band Night. Some new band is playing, supposed to be good. Apparently they have a fit guitarist.”

Mum perked up. “Ooo, really? That’s exciting. Wow, a fit man in Middletown. It must be a miracle.”