Julia Wicker was a a good math student at Eastside Middle School who loved playing Mozart’s Concerto in C Major on the oboe. She didn’t need a soulmate.
She did like her soulmark: it was weird and unique, just like her. It was on her side. It was a strange shape: curved on one side, with sharp triangles jutting from the other side. It was gold in color and sometimes shimmered. It made her feel special.
Her mom and dad had found each other at college at the first party their freshman year. It sounded nice when she was a child, but now that she had decided she was probably going to be a doctor, she didn’t want some soulmate coming in and messing up her plans.
Kady Orloff-Diaz was a good art student at Central Middle School who loved playing Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20 on the piano. She didn’t need a soulmate.
She liked her soulmark: it was a golden tree. Golden soulmark were rare. Maybe her soulmate was a botanist. Maybe they'd live in the forest together, that sounded nice. She liked that it was on her side, hidden underneath her clothes, so people didn't know.
Her dads - Daddy and Juan - had each other’s names in pretty purple cursive on their wrists. She spent every other week with them and they inevitably told her about their first kiss every other week. She pretended to be bored, but she secretly loved hearing about it. Mom didn’t have a soulmark. She told Kady it was better to not get tied down so she could live her life however she wanted. “A soulmate would take you away from me,” she said, and Kady hated when her mom was sad. No, it was best if Kady never found her soulmate.
Julia was on track to be the Valedictorian of her class. She didn’t have time for a soulmate.
She showed her soulmark to her best friends, James and Quentin. James’ soulmark was a name, Annie, it wasn’t hers and she wasn’t sad about it. There were a few Annies in their class and later that year James found out Annie Aronowitz the year below them had “James” on her arm, too. They went on a date - a real date, he bought her flowers and everything - before they kissed. The kiss was so amazing that James didn't shut up about it for weeks.
Quentin’s soulmark was a crown. The three of them spent an afternoon at the library - when they were supposed to be researching a history paper - looking at various royal lineages in Europe to see which princesses were about their age.
“What if it’s Jane Chatwin?” he asked.
James and Julia laughed. Fillory was a book.
Julia pulled up her shirt to show them the shape on her side.
“Jules, it’s a broken heart,” James said.
“No, it’s not,” Julia said.
“From this angle, I don’t know, it could be half of a broken heart,” Quentin said.
“Shut up,” Julia said.
Later that night she looked at it again, and how could she not have seen: it was half of a broken heart. Whatever, Julia didn’t care. She had made it this far without a soulmate and she was going to go to Yale or Harvard or Stanford. Getting into a good college was her only focus. Maybe people that went to state schools had time for a soulmate, she sure didn’t. And what sort of a soulmate had a broken heart for a soulmark? Not one that she needed, that was for sure.
Kady was skipping school again. Her dads had told her that if she skipped again, they were going to ground her. But her mom had called last night and said she needed Kady’s help with a big spell. She didn’t have time for school, let alone a soulmate.
Kady had researched tree soulmarks a bit, although her tree didn’t look like the drawings for the Tree of Life or the Tree of Knowledge. It looked like a normal tree, a big tall one.
The young man who worked at the apothecary shop name tag read “Ash.” She had a moment, a terrified moment, where she wondered if her soulmate was him. He told her he didn’t have a soulmark and she was relieved. She didn't have room in her life for a soulmate.
Julia knew that magic was real. She was a hedge witch and spent all of her time learning spells and figuring out ways to get to more spells. She loved magic, everything about it. Who needed a soulmate when magic was real?
Kady hated magic. She hated the way Brakebills taught magic, all formal and theory focused. She hated Marina for making her steal shit from Brakebills. She hated her mom for getting her into this mess. She hated her soulmate for making her go through all this shit alone.
Penny had seen her soulmark their first night together. “Not me,” he said looking up at her. Some people waited for their soulmates, but Kady wasn’t one of them. She had her life to live. “Not you,” she said and went back to kissing him. Who needed a soulmate when you had someone to spend your nights with anyway?
Julia didn’t care about anything any more. She was a fuck up and everyone who got close to her got hurt or died. No soulmate could want her. The broken heart was her own.
Kady only cared about where the next hit of heroin was coming from. Who needed soulmate when there was heroin?
Life was still really fucked up, but it helped to have a friend. Julia felt a little better when she was around Kady. Kady knew what had happened, so even when Julia couldn’t talk about it, Kady understood.
Kady was back from the bodega and Julia could see she was amused by something. “This will work for the spell,” she said and showed Julia two cheap necklaces, a heart necklace with “best bitches’ written across it, broken into two pieces, made to be worn by friends. By bffs. By … soulmates.
“Holy shit,” Julia said.
“Sorry?” Kady said in her defensive way. “Limited selection. This is all they had.”
“No, I mean - shit - let me show you something.” Julia pulled up her shirt on her left side to show her soulmark, her stupid, wonderful golden broken heart. Kady reached her hand out as if to touch it but pulled back.
“Holy shit,” Kady said, tears in her eyes as she looked from Julia’s soulmark up to her face. Kady was shaking her head no and drew up her shirt and turned to show Julia - there on her right side - her golden tree.
“Is that a tree?” Julia asked, confused.
“It’s you, I know it’s you,” Kady said. “I don’t know why, but I know it’s you.”
Julia’s heart was beating fast. “Should we, should we kiss?” she asked in a whisper.
“Fuck, yes,” Kady said and Kady took a step forward and still with the necklaces in her hand, pulled Julia to her and as their lips met, they both realized all of the soulmate stories were true. Kissing your soulmate was like nothing else. It was peace and love and security all rolled into one.
“Better than heroin,” Kady breathed out.
“Better than pizza,” Julia said. They smiled at each other before leaning back in for another kiss.
Having a soulmate didn’t make all of Julia’s problems disappear. Quite the opposite, in fact, things managed to get more fucked. But when Julia was going through the worst part of her life, she had Kady there, which meant everything. She wasn’t alone because she had her soulmate by her side.
And later, when she was visited by a goddess, an actual goddess - what the fuck! - and given her title "Our Lady of the Tree," all she could think about it is the soulmark on her soulmate's side.
"Do goddesses even have soulmates?" Quentin asked one night over dinner, waving his chopsticks around.
Julia laughed because she wasn't going anywhere without Kady.
"We're not soulmates," Kady said, leaning into Julia's side. "We're best bitches."