The room was buzzing with nervous chatter, the bar crowded with patrons waiting their turn. It was by far the largest speed-matching event Nancy had attended. She checked her phone again, still no update from Julie who had texted to say she was running late. Of course. As always.
Julie was the only reason Nancy was even here. She wasn’t into the heated rush that others always seemed to be in to find their missing piece. Nancy liked reading the old romance novels, the stories where two starry-eyed people would be in the same room and share a moment. Just one glance that would tell them they were true loves and they’d be shy and coy and build up to conversation, a gentle caress of the hand that would make her whole body tingle.
On the other hand, Julie was on a mission to find her match. Her birthmark had appeared earlier than others, she was only sixteen at the time and Nancy could still recall getting that late-night image texted to her of the puzzle piece that had come into existence on Julie’s arm. She had of course immediately run to the mirror in her bathroom, pulling her shirt off as she went, to look at her own, bare arms.
“Nancy!” Julie’s greeting reached her ears over the din of the chatter and Nancy waved.
A bell chimed.
“Okay, attention. If I could have everyone’s attention?” Feedback blared through the speakers making Nancy wince and cover her ears. Julie slid into the seat next to her, giving her a quick peck on the cheek as she fixed her hair and started to sweep the room with her eyes. The patrons at the bar shuffled back to their seats, drink in hand.
“I’m going to explain the rules and when the bell chimes, we’ll get started!” The speaker was an overweight lady that could have been Nancy’s grandmother. Right down to the bifocal glasses hanging from the beaded chain around the grey-haired lady’s neck.
“Isn’t this amazing?” Julie hissed to Nancy while the speaker spelled out the rules. “Over 500 people have RSVP’d to this match! I just know I’m going to find my piece tonight. Or at least I’m going to find some good hunks to bed later on.” Pulling out a purple lipstick from her purse, Julie applied a thick layer to her lower lip only, the mark of a woman who was willing to take a number from someone who wasn’t her match. Nancy shook her head when Julie offered her the makeup.
“Come on Nanc, if you don’t find true love, you can at least have an orgasm tonight.” She sighed, putting away the lipstick.
Nancy looked at Julie’s bare arm. She always wore the one-armed shirts or, in colder weather, the kind with the acrylic window that showed off her birthmark. She was never subtle either, looking for another person’s mark to see if they were a match while they waited for coffee, or stood in line at the movie theater.
“Let’s get started!” The speaker clapped her hands and a bell chimed.
“Good luck, girl!” Julie gave Nancy a smile and two thumbs up as their chairs started to turn away from each other.
Nancy closed her eyes to keep from getting dizzy as her chair spun around. When it stopped, she opened her eyes to find a well-dressed man, about her age, with mild acne hidden amidst his sideburns, grinning at her.
“Jacob. Nice to meet you….?” Jacob held out his hand, which Nancy shook and offered her name. “So, do you come here often?” He laughed nervously at his attempt at a joke.
Rolling her eyes, Nancy pulled at the neckline of her shirt so it fell over her shoulder, revealing the puzzle piece shaped birthmark on her arm. “Are we a match or not?” She dared him.
Putting his drink down, Jacob twisted his right arm so she could see his own birthmark on the inside of his wrist. They could instantly see their pieces wouldn’t fit together. Letting her shirt slide back over her shoulder, Nancy turned away from Jacob and waited for the bell to chime and her chair to spin to the next contestant.
She could see Julie a few chairs over with her hand on the chest of the guy across from her. Her eyes batting as she plugged a number into her phone, clearly her night had started off right.
The bell chimed. Nancy closed her eyes again and concentrated on breathing through the nausea spinning chairs always caused her. She hated her birthmark. It hadn’t appeared until she was twenty-two, and by then several of her friends had already found their missing piece, their true love.
Nancy kept her eyes shut long after the chair stopped. She didn’t want to be here.
Someone cleared their throat in front of her. “Are you okay?” Nancy opened her eyes to the silken voice, her heart skipped a beat. The depths of the blue eyes in front of her sucked her in immediately. Realizing she was holding her breath, she gasped, putting a hand to her face. “Seriously, are you okay? Do you need water?” The beautiful creature reached forward and lightly touched Nancy on her bare knee, goosebumps chilled her entire body.
Then she saw it. There on the wrist that was now caressing her knee. The birthmark that was a perfect match for the piece on her arm.
“We’re a match.” She whispered, not moving her eyes from that wrist, that exquisitely delicate wrist, while she pulled her shirt away from her shoulder.
A smile like none other Nancy had ever seen greeted her when she looked up at her future lover’s face.
“Melissa.” Melissa moved a strand of her long black hair behind her ear. The birthmark on her wrist displayed again, there was no denying they were meant to be together.
“I’ve been looking in the wrong places.”