“This one too!” Valentina calls from the other side of the curtain, and then a dress is promptly shoved through for Juliana to take. They’re in some fancy store that Juliana would have never set foot in given the projected price range of the clothes, and Valentina is having a blast picking things out for her to wear to Guille’s party. “Try it next!”
“Val, all of these are great,” she laughs, their fingers brushing as she accepts it and watches the curtain swish closed again as her arm disappears, “Really, they are, you don’t need to keep looking.”
“Maybe they are great, but we’re going to find you the perfect one,” Valentina tells her confidently.
Juliana’s laugh is soft as she shakes her head. “Val – ”
“Yup! The perfect outfit for the most perfect girl! Oh, I’m going over there to check one more,” Valentina says, steps already moving away, “So don’t change until I see you in that dress, got it?”
Alone in the changing room, Juliana smiles, ducking her head even though there’s no one here to see. She’s lost count of how many dresses she’s tried on, each one more fabulous than the last, and it’s a completely new experience for her, having access to this many high–end articles. It’s amazing, and her mind is whirling as she distractedly thinks up all the ways she could alter some of these pieces.
Holding up the dress Valentina has just passed her, she tilts her head and considers it for a moment before slipping it on. It’s black, sleeveless with some kind of side train, and her first opinion is that she really loves it. Smoothing her hands over the material of the dress, she looks up through her lashes to take in her reflection in the full–length mirror and wonders what Valentina will think.
She’s found herself wondering that a lot.
There’s a flurry of motion outside the changing room, and Juliana giggles at Valentina’s breathless, “I’m back! Did I miss any?”
“Don’t worry, I waited. You were gone like two minutes!”
Valentina huffs, and Juliana can clearly hear the smile in the words. “I know, but I don’t like being away from you that long.”
It’s not anything close to what she expects to hear, and it startles Juliana into grinning widely. That’s a sentiment she knows well.
Suddenly, a strange feeling washes over Juliana, something comforting and deep and somehow everything she’s been missing in her life, all at the same time. It would be unsettling if it weren’t for the inexplicable familiarity that shrouds it, and she shifts, unsure if it’s her imagination the way the inside of her left wrist is pulsing. It doesn’t pass, instead getting more and more pressing, and Juliana consciously keeps her breathing even as she furrows her brow in confusion, hyperaware and instinctively taking in as much information as she can.
The feeling intensifies, and she hurriedly pushes her bracelets away, movements infused with a sudden urgency she doesn’t understand. Fumbling with the strings, she shoves them aside to reveal the skin of her wrist… and then she stops short.
There on her arm where her soulmate mark has always been, where the inconspicuous closed flower has always been, is now an intricate mass of petals and leaves, twisting and twining and dancing on her skin.
The new additions are half opened and partially coloured in, splotches of color decorating her wrist like the galaxy’s newest constellation has decided to take up residence on her arm, and Juliana is gaping.
For lack of a better word, the flowers are beginning to bloom.
Juliana sucks in a breath and stares dumbly, unable to believe what her eyes are seeing. Her soulmark is shifting, and it’s… because of Valentina?
“Are you almost ready?” Valentina’s voice interrupts her thoughts, sending her mind careening back into the changing room where she’s been standing frozen, and Juliana jerks around to face the curtain, heart beating wildly as she covers her soulmark with her right hand.
“…Yeah!” she calls back, uncoordinated fingers tugging her bracelets back into place over the soulmark, and she’s relieved to hear her voice is steady. “Yeah, I’m – I’m coming!”
Her soulmark is shifting, and it’s because of Valentina.
Juliana inhales sharply and bites her lip to slow the massive grin from taking over her face. It seems like a losing battle, and she wriggles happily, clutching her left wrist to her chest.
Heart speeding up, she can’t push down the elated feeling growing in her, and she isn’t entirely sure she wants to try. It’s like she’s been infused with years worth of every positive emotion under the sun, and she can’t stop the smile from spreading across her face any more than she can control her soulmark.
“Just – just a second!”
Taking one last glance down at herself, Juliana darts her gaze to her wrist, unable to help the way her grin widens once more as she uses shaking fingers to adjust her bracelets one last time. Covering them does nothing to stifle her glee, and Juliana feels like she could fly.
Once the newly expanded soulmark is properly hidden, Juliana takes three deep breaths and steps out, keeping her head angled downwards to give her a few extra seconds to get her face under control before looking at Valentina. She knows that whatever look she gives her right now will be hopelessly lovestruck, and as much as she might want to start yelling it, she needs time to process this revelation before throwing it at Valentina too.
Pressing her lips together, she’s completely unsuccessful in suppressing her smile, and she only lasts a fraction of a second before she’s out of time and has to lift her head. With anything else, with anyone else, Juliana would be running fast and running far, but it’s Valentina, and she wouldn’t do that to her. More importantly, she doesn’t want to.
She doesn’t know what this could possibly mean, or what might come of it, if anything at all, but as she looks up to meet Valentina’s eyes, she hopes that maybe, just maybe, she’ll get the chance to find out.
Later at the party, everything starts out great, but slowly it goes awry. They keep getting separated, the boys are somehow even more irritating than usual, and then Juliana finds Valentina high in the hallway. She assures Eva that she’ll take care of her, worriedly pulling Valentina away, and does her best to keep her out of trouble for the remainder of the night.
After it all draws to a close, when they’re finally back in Valentina’s room, Juliana feels her shoulders loosening, glad to be away from the crowds of people. Valentina turns on the stereo, playing the song they’d danced to in the park as she pulls her high ponytail over her shoulder, and Juliana catches a glimpse of color before she gasps excitedly and spins back around, her hair swishing back into place. It appears she isn’t done yet, trying to get Juliana to dance with her, and then she has another idea and guides Juliana to sit on the bed, declaring that they should play a game.
Valentina is holding her wrists, trying to urge her into holding up her hands, but Juliana instinctively curls her fingers, only barely able to stop herself from making them into fists. She’s always trusted Valentina intrinsically, instinctively and wholeheartedly, but her reflexes from a lifetime’s worth of experience are hard to overcome.
She takes a deep breath and lets Valentina uncurl her hands, but evidently she isn’t cooperating the way Valentina wants because she sits down next to her and tries again with a renewed focus.
She’s hesitant in a way she doesn’t usually feel with Valentina, reluctant to engage her when her state of mind isn’t completely her own, and when Valentina tells her to close her eyes, it takes her a moment to comply.
Valentina’s fingers trail over her skin, the touch light, and Juliana tries to keep her face impassive as her heart jumps. Though her eyes are closed, she can feel Valentina right in front of her, leaning closer.
When Guille comes in, Juliana jerks backwards and hastily gets off the bed, away from Valentina and away from the temptation to let the best thing that’s ever happened to her be destroyed.
Valentina doesn’t seem to be similarly affected, immediately jumping to pull her brother into the game as well. Guille gently refuses to humour her, and when he leaves Valentina lets out a little sigh before spinning back around.
“Help me out of this?” she asks, gesturing for the zipper behind her and promptly giving up, turning to give Juliana access to the back of her neck. Heart jumping in her chest, Juliana inclines her head in agreement and moves closer, steeling herself before reaching out.
She slowly trails her fingers over her skin, moving her hair out of the way with admittedly much more contact than is necessary, and she doesn’t know how to make sense of the thoughts and emotions whirling around her head. It’s overwhelmingly confusing, and she needs more time.
She can see Valentina’s soulmark, the little water droplet resting along the curve of skin behind her ear, and it’s dripping down in a… colourful…
Juliana stops and catches her breath.
And then all she can do is stare as she registers exactly what she’s looking at.
Valentina’s single water droplet, the solitary mark from before, has morphed into the beginnings of what Juliana thinks must be a waterfall.
How has she missed this all evening?
There are trails of water appearing from her hairline and following the curve of her skin, reaching down for her shoulder blade. It’s spread out, color bleeding through it like watercolours, and Juliana’s efforts to force her brain into catching up are in vain. The mark isn’t big, but now it’s the only thing she can see.
“Juls?” comes Valentina’s soft voice, but Juliana barely reacts. The evidence of Valentina’s soulmark shifting is literally right in front of her face, and she stands frozen, unable to process this.
What is she supposed to do now?