Because I want to be a good mom, she thought. I want to be present for Juno, even if some days I feel like I’m failing.
“Really,” Jess assured her. “It’s nearly finished.” Thank God. “I should have something for you soon.”
“Well. That’s great then! I’ll let the board know so they stop fussing at me!”
“Great,” Jess repeated as Dawn popped into the passenger side of her car. “Great.”
“I’M HIDING IN the bathroom, crying on the toilet,” she said when Fizzy answered an hour later.
Jess’s friend barked out a laugh and an “Aww, I love it when you ignore boundaries. Usually that’s my wheelhouse.”
“I had a terrible day.” Jess swiped a hand across her nose. “I’m lonely. And I feel like such an asshole complaining, but you’re always going to be a bigger asshole than I am, so I can complain to you.”
“I swear, Jessica, you know just what to say to make my heart melt.” The funny thing was, Fizzy meant it. “Let me have it.”
Jess closed her eyes, leaning back against the water tank. “It all seems like such little stuff. After we got off the phone this morning, my entire day fell apart. Pigeon escaped, my blender blew up all over my shirt, we were running late. I had a meeting at Jennings Grocery, but Americano stole my parking spot—”
“You saw Americano in the wild?”
“I did,” she said. “He continues to be terrible. Then my big meeting went horribly, and I had to jet to the school for this science-art thing, and I sat in the back and just stared at all of these happily married couples who were seeing each other at the end of the day, and I swear to God, Fizz, I’ve never felt so lonely in my entire life. And then PTA Dawn reminded me to finish the fundraiser website, and I just did but it’s probably a holy mess and I cannot find a bone in me that cares.”
Before Fizzy could speak, Jess added, “And don’t say anything, because I know how this sounds—like ‘poor me, and I’m all alone.’ I know I’m lucky. I have the best kid, and I have Nana and Pops here to help me whenever I need them. I have you—”
“Cutting in now,” Fizzy said. “Yes, you have Nana and Pops, you have a great kid, you have me. I am here for you every day, for forever, but please, Jess. It isn’t the same. You’re talking about wanting to have someone to come home to, to talk to, and yeah—to get naked with. It isn’t selfish to want that. You aren’t somehow putting Juno second by occasionally putting your needs first. Juno needs a happy mom.”
“It isn’t only that,” Jess said quietly. “Do I worry about introducing Juno to a man someday? Yes, completely. But the idea of putting myself out there is honestly more exhausting than anything. I had to change my shirt twice this morning for the meeting, first for the smoothie explosion, and second when I drooled a glob of toothpaste on my chest.”
“Reason number one why I always brush my teeth naked,” Fizzy joked, and Jess laughed. “And PS? You probably looked straight-up gorgeous, regardless of what you think.”
“I’m serious,” Fizzy pressed. “Listen to me. You’re so beautiful, it’s stupid. Your eyes? Like, I try to describe that blue in books, and it just sounds cliché. You have the cutest little bod, and literally the best lips. And for free! People usually have to pay for mouths like that.”
Jess laughed through a sob.
“If I didn’t know you were such a head case, I’d ask you out myself.”
“You see me through that lens because you love me,” Jess said, chin wobbling. “Dating in our thirties is different. It requires us to get our shit together, and most days just being a mom and hustling my ass off to keep my head above water takes everything I’ve got. Where am I going to find the time and energy to hunt for a good guy when most of the dudes on Tinder think a quick drink earns them sex?”
Jess could practically hear Fizzy’s gape on the other end of the line. “We just went to a presentation at a company that asks you to spit in a vial and they’ll hand over a list of potential soulmates.” She enunciated the last word so it stretched for three long syllables. “No one is asking you to hunt.”
“Even the DNADuo still requires dating!” Jess told her, laughing. “It’s not like I get a name and we elope! There’s still trial and error.”
“You could specify only high-level matches,” Fizzy argued. “You don’t have to do what I’m doing and take whatever comes your way. Hell, tell them you only want matches of seventy or higher. What do you have to lose?” She paused, and then added more gently, “Put yourself first tonight, Jessie. Just for ten minutes. Consider it an early B-day present for the big Three-Oh.”
“Don’t remind me.”
Fizzy laughed. “You don’t have to answer any of the matches if you change your mind, but for tonight, just imagine a world where you find someone who’s perfect for you, and is there for you, and is the head you can lean yours against at the end of the day.”
When they hung up, Jess’s eyes landed on the DNADuo box Fizzy had pushed into her hands as they’d left GeneticAlly.
Before she could talk herself out of it, she reached for the box, tore it open, spit into the vial, sealed the whole thing in the enclosed envelope, and walked it out to the mailbox.
JESS ADJUSTED THE elastic strap beneath her chin. Was this what thirty felt like? Spending her birthday in a coffee shop with a madwoman who would get the entire room to belt “Happy Birthday” if Jess tried to take off this sparkly birthday hat?
Fizzy looked up abruptly. “You goblin. Leave the hat alone.”
“It’s itchy! Tell me about your date with Aiden B.”
Fizzy waved this off, already over it. “He lives with his sister.”
“Is that an automatic disqualification?”
“I mean, they live together as in they share a bedroom.” She shook her head, clearly not wanting Jess to ask more. “It’s uncharted territory for me. I’m unwilling to explore what it means.”
Jess laughed. “Fair enough. If I remember, he was only a score of, what? Thirteen? What about … ?” She was blanking on the other guy’s name.
“Antonio?” Fizzy prompted. “He was hot.”
“He was the twenty-one?”
“Yeah. We had dinner, we had sex.” Fizzy shrugged, summarizing. “We won’t be seeing each other again, though.” As if she remembered something, she picked up her notebook and jotted down a couple of words.
“What did you just write down?”
Fizzy’s lip curled. “Dick tattoo.”
Jess’s curled, too. “What? No.”
“Also,” Fizzy said, “he wanted me to talk dirty, so I did, but apparently I went too dirty.”
Jess burst out laughing again. “You went too dirty for a guy with a dick tattoo? Felicity Chen, my God.” She lifted her coffee to her lips. “But to be fair, you’re setting yourself up for this. Why are you casting the net so wide? Just filter the results. I don’t get it.”