I Was Born for This
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Books by Alice Oseman
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‘i was in my thirteenth year when i heard a voice from god’
– Joan of Arc
‘I’m literally dying,’ I say, putting my hand on my heart. ‘You’re real.’
Juliet, having just escaped my hug, is smiling so hard it looks like she might tear her face in half.
‘So are you!’ she says, and gestures to my body. ‘This is so weird. But cool.’
Theoretically, this shouldn’t be awkward. I have been talking to Juliet Schwartz for two years. On the internet only, yeah, but internet friendships aren’t that different to real ones nowadays, and Juliet knows more about me than my closest school friends.
‘You’re a physical being,’ I say. ‘Not just some pixels on a screen.’
I know almost everything about Juliet. I know that she never falls asleep before 2 a.m. and her favourite fanfic trope is enemies-to-lovers and she’s secretly a fan of Ariana Grande. I know she’s probably going to grow up to be the sort of wine-sipping middle-aged woman who calls everyone ‘darling’ and always looks slightly like she’s giving you evils. But I still wasn’t prepared for her voice (posher and deeper than it sounds on Skype) and her hair (she genuinely is ginger, as she’s always said, even though it looks brown on camera) and her size (she’s a full head smaller than me. I’m seventy feet tall so I should have been prepared for that one, really.)
Juliet flattens her fringe and I adjust my hijab and we start walking out of St Pancras station. We’re silent for a moment, and I feel a sudden wave of nerves, which is a bit irrational, since me and Juliet are practically soulmates – two beings who found each other in the depths of the internet against all odds and, just like that, we were a duo.
She’s the sharp-witted romantic. I’m the whimsical conspiracy theorist. And we both live for The Ark, the best band in the history of the world.
‘You’re gonna have to tell me where we’re going,’ I say, smiling. ‘I have no sense of direction at all. I get lost on my walk to school sometimes.’
Juliet laughs. Another new sound. It’s clearer, sharper than on Skype. ‘Well, you are visiting me, so I think I’m supposed to be in charge of directions anyway.’
‘Okay, true.’ I let out an exaggerated sigh. ‘I genuinely think this is gonna be the best week of my entire life.’
‘Oh my gosh, I know, right? I’ve been counting down.’ Juliet pulls out her phone, clicks the screen on, and shows me a countdown timer. It says ‘3 Days Left’.
I start babbling. ‘I’ve been, like, freaking out. I don’t even know what I’m gonna wear. I don’t even know what I’m gonna say.’
Juliet flattens her fringe again. It makes me feel like she knows exactly what she’s doing. ‘Don’t worry, we have today, tomorrow and Wednesday to formulate a plan. I’m going to make a list.’
‘Oh man, you will, won’t you?’
Neither of us have any friends in real life who like The Ark, but that doesn’t matter, because we have each other. I used to try to get people to talk about The Ark with me – my school friends, my parents, my older brother – but no one really cared. They usually just found me annoying, because once I start talking about The Ark, or anything really, I find it kind of hard to stop.
But not Juliet. We’ve spent hours upon hours talking about The Ark and neither of us get tired or annoyed or bored with each other.
And this is the first time we’ve ever met.
We exit the station and step out into the air. It’s pouring with rain. Tons of people. I’ve never been to London before.
‘This rain is so horrible,’ says Juliet, wrinkling her nose. She unhooks her arm from mine so she can put up an umbrella – one of those fancy plastic ones.
‘True,’ I say, but that’s a lie, because I don’t really mind the rain. Even weird August downpours like this one.
Juliet continues to walk without me. I’m just standing there, one hand on my rucksack, one hand in my pocket. There are people smoking outside the station and I breathe it in. I love the smell of cigarette smoke. Is that bad?
This week is going to be the best week of my life.
Because I’m going to meet The Ark.
And they will know who I am.
And then I will be worth something.
‘Angel?’ Juliet calls from a few metres away. ‘You okay?’
I turn to her, confused, but then realise that she’s using my internet name, instead of my real name, which is Fereshteh. I’ve been going by Angel online since I was thirteen. I thought it sounded cool at the time and, no, I didn’t name myself after a Buffy the Vampire Slayer character. Fereshteh means ‘angel’ in Farsi.
I love my real name, but Angel feels like a part of me now. I’m just not used to hearing it in real life.
I hold out my arms and grin and say, ‘Mate, I am living.’
Despite our first-meeting nerves, it turns out that real life really isn’t that different to the internet. Juliet’s still the cool, calm and collected one and I’m still the loudest and most annoying person in the world and we spend the whole walk to the tube station talking about how excited we are to meet The Ark.
‘My mum freaked out,’ I tell her as we’re sitting in a tube carriage. ‘She knows that I love The Ark, but she just said no when I told her I was coming.’