The Soulmate Equation

Page 59

The moment they were alone, River pulled Jess into an alcove, bending to look her directly in the eye.

“I feel like I’m missing something,” he said quietly. “Are you mad at me?”

This one she could actually field. Are you okay? had been too big to answer under her breath with Aneesha and her photographer ten feet away.

“I’m not mad at you. But can we get together later?”

He laughed, confused. “Of course. I assumed we’d—”

“Just us.”

The smile evaporated, and a frown lined his forehead. River took a step closer, sliding a hand down her arm and linking his warm fingers with her cold ones. “Have I done something wrong?”

Jess hated to say “I don’t know,” but it was true.

“Something happened,” she admitted, “and I need to ask you about it, but now isn’t the time.” She swallowed. “I know it sucks, and I’m sure you’re going to be worrying about this until we can talk about it.”

“Uh, yeah.”

“I will, too. You just have to trust me that we can’t do it here, and we need more than the ten minutes we have before you and Aneesha have to go.”

River gazed down at her and seemed to decide this was the best he was going to get right then. “Okay. I trust you.” He pulled her into his chest. There was honestly nothing Jess wanted more than to be able to confidently put her arms around his waist and lose herself in the clean citrus smell of him. But her joints were locked, posture stiff. “We’ll talk later?” he asked, pulling back to look at her, cupping her elbows.

“Yeah.” Her phone buzzed in her back pocket and she retrieved it, expecting notification of some work email, or a text from Pops about dinner plans.

But it was from Fizzy, and worry immediately pushed all of the tightness in Jess’s chest up into her throat.

I need you ASAP.

Best friend bat signal.


“Sorry,” Jess whispered. “It’s Fizzy. She …”

Jess quickly replied:

Are you ok?


I am safe and not injured.

But no. I’m not ok.


Heart pounding, Jess looked up at River. She didn’t like leaving things like this, but she was going to have to. “I really need to go.”

His voice was a low blend of exasperated and worried, and he reached for her arm. “Jess—”

“She needs me. Fizzy never needs me. Call me when you’re all done?”

He nodded and took a step back, letting her go.

Turning away, Jess typed as she walked:

Where are you?


My place. Are you coming?


Yes. Be there in 20.


FIZZY’S FRONT DOOR was open; the interior of the house was shaded behind the screen door. Jess didn’t hear sobbing or screaming—which was reassuring—but Bon Iver played quietly from the living room speakers. For someone like Fizzy, whose general mood leaned more upbeat bop than quiet ballad, Bon Iver gave Jess a legitimate reason to worry.

And like that, River was put aside for later. Jess had a great deal of experience compartmentalizing. Jamie had shown up at Jess’s high school graduation toward the end of a four-day-long meth bender and stalked the aisles looking for her among the sea of classmates. About thirty seconds after she loudly climbed over Jerome Damiano and Alexa Davidson to get to her daughter, Jamie was escorted out by the campus security guard. Even so, Jess stood and made her way to the front of the auditorium when her name was called.

And, Jess remembered, she and Alec broke up about an hour before she presented her thesis to the entire mathematics department, when she was six months pregnant with Juno. She’d shoved all of her anger and disappointment aside, gone into the presentation with an enormous smile and beautifully designed slides, and gotten an A.

One look at Fizzy curled up in a ball on her couch, eyes red-rimmed, hair in an uncharacteristically messy bun, and a familiar wall slid into place.

She sat down, pulling one of Fizzy’s bare feet into her lap. “Tell me.”

Reaching up to wipe her nose, Fizzy said simply, “He’s married.”

“Who’s married?”

Fizzy turned her watery dark eyes up to Jess’s face. “Rob.”

“Banker Rob?”


“Married? To a person?”


Jess stared at her, disbelieving. “Wasn’t he Daniel’s brother’s friend? How did no one say anything to you?”

“Apparently he’s, like, a friend of a friend of a friend, and Rob got married sometime in the past two years, when they hadn’t been hanging out as much.”

“What a—a garbage human.” Jess’s jaw hung open. “How did you find out?”

“He found me at Twiggs and told me.”

“He told you in public?”

Fizzy nodded, grim. “He sat in your chair.”

She gasped. “How dare he!”

“I know.”

“So what did you do?”

Fizzy took a deep, fortifying breath. “I got up, asked Daniel for a pitcher of ice water, and dumped it in Rob’s lap.”

“Applause,” Jess whispered, impressed.

“I think he started to freak out that he was going to get caught. One night in Little Italy we ran into someone he knew, and he introduced me to the guy as his ‘friend Felicity,’ which at the time, I was like—‘That’s fair, we’re pretty new still,’ but now I know why.” Fizzy’s face crumpled. “I really liked him, Jess, and you know me,” she said, hiccupping, “I never like anyone. I cooked for him, and talked about books with him, and we had inside jokes—and he’s fucking married. And I swear he wanted credit for coming clean with me. Like, he was genuinely shocked that I was so pissed.” She wiped her nose again.

“Come here.” Jess shifted Fizz’s foot away and pulled the whole Fizzy into her arms, squeezing tight while her friend cried.

“You know the crazy thing?” Fizzy asked, her voice muffled by Jess’s shirt.


“We just sent in his spit samples.”

“To GeneticAlly?” Jess asked, and Fizzy nodded. “I thought you weren’t going to do that.”

Fizzy wailed. “We weren’t!”

“God,” Jess said, “what a dumbass. What was he expecting to happen?”

“Right?” Her best friend laughed through a sob. “And now, what if I find out that we’re, like, perfect for each other, and it doesn’t matter because he’s married? I don’t want to know if we’re supposed to be together!”

The feelings from the other room peeked around Jess’s neat little compartmentalized corner, asking if it was time to come out yet. Jess shook her head. It was not.

“Well, logistically, you can request that his account never be linked to yours so you never have to know, but I’m fairly sure that he doesn’t belong anywhere near your perfect, kind, sassy ass, anyway. Anyone who would do something like that is rotten from the inside. I bet his DNA looks like black bathroom mold.”

“Like long strings of mucus,” Fizzy agreed.

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