If Only
by Isobella Cantwell
Senior Category – Runner Up 

If only I had of swiped left, how could I ever expect to find my soulmate via tinder? What are the odds that someone would ever have the same first words that are as strange as mine? I can’t even begin to imagine the embarrassment I’m going to feel when this guy finally gets around to asking me what my first words were. Why did it have to be first words, huh? Why couldn’t you just find your soulmate by a tattoo or having the same birthmark? It just had to be the same first words.
I shifted in my seat, I opted for a booth in a cosy corner of this small café. My palms sweated so much and my hands shook so hard that I had to refrain from taking a drink from the coffee cup in front of me, despite my thirst, due to the fear that I might spill it or drop it.
I checked my watch anxiously; this guy was already 10 minutes late. Thoughts of bailing have crossed my mind many times since I took my seat but none have had such forceful effect as they are having now. Maybe he stood me up, maybe he realised suddenly that I wasn’t worth his time. Maybe he even has the same thought process as me and thought, ‘why bother trying to find your soulmate on tinder when there are much more effective ways of completing the task?’
I gave one last apprehensive look around the room and at the open doorway that invited people into the small room. I searched every face in the room to see if they would match the profile of the man I was supposed to meet and possibly spend my life with but the task provided no avail. He was not here, and I severely doubt that he will be coming to meet me anytime soon so I may as well spare myself the sympathetic looks that I’m sure to start receiving in a few moments.
I turn to my right and begin to gather my things. I wrap my soft white scarf back around my neck and fold my grey coat over my arm, ready to wear again once I leave the booth. Just as I’m about to make my escape from this sorrowful excuse of a date a huge hand slams down on the table in front of me.
“You Ashely?” The strange man, who is now sat in my booth, rasps.
For a moment I was too stunned by his overall presence to even answer. Just the sight of him was enough to weaken my knees, boy, what a man. His arms were larger in width than my legs, his shoulder muscles bulged so much they were prominent even whilst hidden under his plain black T-shirt. Said T-shirt gave a nice contrasting view of two full sleeves of intricate tattoos, which then led my eyes all the way down to his worn boots and back up to his messy mop of dark curls.
“Oi, quit gawking and answer my question” He spoke in a mildly annoyed tone, which in turn annoyed me.
I crossed my arms over my chest and went to answer but found that I couldn’t force the sound waves from my mouth. So, instead of embarrassing myself further, I answered with a simple nod of my head.
He gave me a strange look in response, which involved one raised eyebrow. He was probably under the impression that the look was hot and intimidating. Personally I think he looked a tad like a fool. He then proceeded to lean back against the wall of the booth and fold his arms, mirroring my current position.
I suddenly felt rather warm, regardless of the cool temperature the room was set at. His piercing green eyes seem to have a penetrating effect on whatever they laid upon. I felt like his eyes were poking and prodding at me so I subconsciously pulled my arms around myself tighter than before.
He finally seemed to be done with his wordless interrogation when he leaned forward, placing his elbows on the table and intertwining his hands with each other. He scoffed and shook his head slightly before he spoke.
“Look I’m going to do us both a favour and save a fantastic amount of time, my first words were “protons always belong in a jar of pickled onions due to the coolness of Antarctica”
My eyes widened and I’m close to certain an involuntary gasp escaped my lips once the words left his. Why him? What an odd thought, that this sorry, yet handsome, excuse of a man is to be my soulmate. How disappointing.
He cocked his head to the side and spoke in a tone that seemed to carry amusement; “You seem overly shocked.” He leaned in closer so I could see the faintest colony of freckles that dotted his nose.
“Could it be that you have never heard another person besides yourself say those words before?” To my surprise, he laughed at his own statement.
“Well, you’re a tad useless but at least you’ll make a pretty wife” He jested, not even bothering to mask his enjoyment of this odd situation.
“Wife?” I repeated without actually deciding to use the word, genuinely confused about the use of it in his sentence.
I saw the joy drain from his face when the sound of my voice first hit his ears. He sat up much straighter and looked me dead in the eyes as if he had seen a ghost. Those piercing green orbs no longer seemed to back their original intensity.
Now it was my turn to smirk, straighten my back and lean my elbows on the table. For it seems as though yet another man has mistaken me to be a beautiful girl, when in fact I’m just a boy who likes to feel pretty.
I kept my position and forced my shaking limbs to steady so I could force some words out and put my newfound soulmate in his place.
“Angus, right?” I smiled my most polite looking smile and batted my eyelids to try and instil some more confidence in myself, regardless of the fact that I was quaking in my boots.
“From where I sit, it seems that the big strong man doesn’t like the fact that he is fated to be with another man. Am I correct?” I had to place a hand over my mouth to stifle the laughter that was rising within me.
“I ain’t no damn homo” He snarled through gritted teeth.
It was at that moment that I couldn’t contain my laughter anymore. I burst, let the laughter roll off my tongue, resonating through my rib cage and out loud enough for all the café to hear. I laughed and cried because I could see the same thought written all over both of our faces, the thought that had been in my mind since this date was set.
‘If only I had of swiped left.’