And there was still more. Jess flipped more pages, expecting notes and correspondence, but she found another first page. A duplicate? No. It was a different first page—someone else’s—from an assay run in 2014.
Compatibility quotient: 93
This must be David’s Diamond Match pile, Jess assumed. But her brain tripped over a coincidence in the upper right corner. She flipped between this one and her and River’s top sheet, comparing.
The assay dates were different in all three cases, but the assay end time was exactly the same.
Jess blinked, tilting gently toward uneasy, flipping back to their first pages to confirm. Yes: for all three assays, the run time ended at 15:45:23.
Her stomach tightened. Statistically, that was … deeply unlikely. Out of 86,400 seconds in each twenty-four hours, there was only a 0.0012 percent chance of two events landing on the same second. Even if Jess assumed the assays were usually started and finished at roughly the same time—say within the same four-hour window—that was still only a likelihood of 0.007 percent, or a 7 out of 100,000 chance, that Jess and River’s assay and another assay completed on a different day would have finished at the exact same time. But all three? It was nearly impossible. The chances—Jess closed her eyes to do the math—of three assays randomly ending at the same exact second on different days were roughly 1 in 2.5 million.
Jess tried to think logically. She pushed back the roaring in her ears. Maybe the machines were programmed to begin and end at the same time to reduce certain variables? It wouldn’t be unheard of.
Except on January 29, River had started the assay almost immediately after taking her blood. In fact, he’d double-gloved and rolled up to the fume hood before she’d even left the room. The following morning, he’d texted her, asking for a date, and said the test had been confirmed. But although the date on the printout was right, how was it possible River had the data in the morning if the assay wasn’t complete until 3:45 that afternoon? Did he lie to her that he’d gotten the confirmation? That didn’t sound like River.
“What the fuck?” Jess exhaled the words, confused. I have … I have to be missing something.
Her lungs hurt. Her stomach rolled. Her eyes burned from the strain of her intense focus. She couldn’t blink. And then—her heart seemed to fill with needles—Jess noticed that all three assays were run on the DNADuo 2. She remembered seeing the two machines the night he ran the blood samples and asking about them.
“Are those the DNADuos?”
“Creatively named DNADuo One and DNADuo Two. DNADuo Two is down right now. Getting serviced next week. It’ll be up and running by May, I hope.”
A thought crashed into her head. She was frantic now. Flipping through the respective pages on the two data sets, she scanned down the columns on the two pieces of paper. She tried to find differences in the data sets between her and River’s ninety-eight, and this other couple’s ninety-three.
She couldn’t; they were identical. Every value—as far as she could tell—was exactly the same. It all went blurry the harder she stared. It was too many rows. Too many tiny numbers. It would be like looking for a needle in a haystack while her hair and the haystack were both on fire. And, she thought desperately, for scores this high, maybe most of the raw scores would be identical? What was she missing?
With dread sinking in her chest, Jess registered that the circled numbers on their first data sheet were circled for a reason. Her gaze slid to a penciled oval on the original spreadsheet from January 19.
Jess brought a shaking hand to her mouth. On her and River’s sheet, she saw:
OT-R GeneID 5021 3.5
But on the other couple’s:
OT-R GeneID 5021 1.2
Inside another circle on their original sheet—for the gene PDE4D—Jess and River had a 2.8. Her heart vaulted into her throat. The other couple had a 1.1.
Jess only had the stomach to confirm two more circled values—an AVP of 3.1 on hers and River’s, a 2.1 on the other couple’s; for DRD4, a 2.9 on theirs, a 1.3 on the other couple’s.
As far as Jess could see, the only values that were different—maybe only thirty in the entire data set of nearly 3,500—were the ones that had been circled in their first DNADuo. To draw attention to them. If it weren’t for the identical time stamp and the DNADuo 2 mystery, Jess could have told herself a lie, that those values were circled because they differentiated her and River from the other assay. But she knew they weren’t circled because they were special. They were circled to keep track of which ones had been altered. Someone had, on purpose, changed a compatibility score of ninety-three into a ninety-eight.
Johan and Dotty were our very first Diamond Match, River had said at the cocktail party. Their granddaughter brought them to us back in 2014, and she was right: they came through with a score of ninety-three.
She might throw up. With shaking hands, Jess took a picture of every page of the assay she was almost certain belonged to Johan and Dotty Fuchs. She nearly knocked over the pile twice. She was numb as she bent and stowed her laptop. She put her phone away. And then she sat quietly. Waiting for Aneesha to come for her, Jess had no idea how she was going to get through the interview, knowing what she knew now.
River and Jess had never been a Diamond Match.
IN THE PAST twenty minutes, River had asked her four times whether she was okay.
Of course he had; any creature with a pulse could sense that there was something Not Right about her at the moment. But she couldn’t talk about it yet, and couldn’t talk about it here at the office, and even if she could—she wasn’t sure she was prepared to hear his answer to the simplest question: Did you know this whole time?
So she put on a flimsy blissful mask and answered Aneesha’s questions. But River’s quiet concern repeatedly reminded Jess that her stress was as clear on her face as a fever. The shock felt like the flu.
They took some photos together outside; they took some in the lab, laughing and gazing adoringly into each other’s eyes. But behind her smile, the question rammed into Jess’s thoughts like the piercing siren of a police car. Until she knew the answer, she couldn’t even let the next question slot into place, though it pressed against the glass anyway: Is what I feel even real?
Statistically speaking, she and River were many thousand times more likely to find their soulmate in a Base Match than they were to ever get an authentic Diamond Match, so even if their true score was a twenty-five, it wasn’t like they couldn’t be right together. But it was so much easier to trust those early, deep reactions when the numbers supported her.
But she was getting ahead of herself, and without information—without data—it was the last thing she could let herself do. Jess mentally crumpled the thoughts into a wadded-up ball of paper and set it on fire. One moment at a time, and now was not the moment for a meltdown.
Aneesha finished up on-site and gave Jess and River time to say goodbye before he had to leave with the People team to meet up with David and Brandon. Even thinking of David right then made Jess’s stomach sour. And if River knew … she didn’t know what she would do; her emotions would be too hot and giant and impossible to manage.