The Soulmate Equation

Page 60

“I could keep this metaphor going, but it’s only going to get grosser.” Jess squeezed her again. “I’m sorry, cutie. I want to know where he lives so I can go shove his head up his ass so far he can lick his own ear.”

“His wife would be there,” Fizzy said quietly. “I guess that’s why we never went to his place.”

“Garbage human,” Jess whispered angrily.

Fizzy wiped her nose on Jess’s shirt before pulling back and inspecting it. Suspicion straightened her frown as her attention moved up Jess’s neck to her face and hair. She sniffled. “Why are you all dressed up?”

“We did People today at the offices.”

The watery, puffy version of her best friend groaned, falling dramatically back on the throw pillows. “I sent the bat signal when you were with People magazine, oh my God.” After a thoughtful beat, she sat up and threw her arms around Jess again. “And you came!”

“It would be in my best interest to take these golden friend points and not tell you that we’d already finished when I got your text,” Jess said. “But the lying would negate the golden friend points. And I swear I would have come anyway.”

“But you could be off having celebratory sex with your soulmate, and I could have just used wine and cheese for emotional support.”


Jess shot a warning look at the feelings now plotting their escape. “I would always rather you lean on me than on wine and cheese.” She paused before adding, “And River isn’t done with the interview.”

“I’m honored to be your second choice.”

“Third,” Jess reminded her.

Fizzy leaned back and laughed. “You suck.”

“Maybe, but I love you.”

“I love you, too.” She glanced at the clock on the wall. “Speaking of, do you need to pick up your first choice from school?”

“It’s Monday,” Jess said. “Pops’ll get her, and they’ll do the library thing. I have three hours to do whatever I can to make you feel better.”

FIZZY AND JESS lounged on the couch with Sense and Sensibility playing quietly alongside their cheese-and-cracker feast. Eventually, Jess gave her one last squeeze, headed home, and got Juno fed, bathed, snuggled, and tucked in—and then got a full glass of wine in herself—before she opened the proverbial floodgates.

But then they were open, and thoughts of River drowned out everything else. The upside to pushing it all behind a wall was that she’d been able to function pretty normally all day; the downside was that she wasn’t at all mentally prepared for the conversation awaiting her.

There was no use putting it off. Jess pulled out her phone, texting him.

Can you come over?


He answered immediately, almost like he’d been waiting with his phone in his hand:

Yes. Now?


Now is good.


She hit Send and then immediately replied again.



She typed as fast as she could because she knew the Wait had probably sent him panic-spiraling.

This may sound strange, but did you ever see our raw data?


Of course.


Jess chewed her thumbnail as she considered how to phrase what she wanted to say next without giving him time to prepare an excuse if he had been in on the data fabrication all along. She wanted to be able to read the truth on his face. On the other hand, if he had a copy of the data at home, she wanted him to bring it.

Luckily, River saved her the trouble of phrasing the question.

I have the plot here.

Want me to bring it over?


Jess exhaled a slow, hot stream of tension.

That would be great.


I should have offered that ages ago. I’m sorry. Is that what this is about?


She chose not to answer this.

Are you leaving now?




HE LIVED ONLY ten minutes away, but River was at her door in eight. Before, if he’d shown up at her apartment after Juno was asleep, Jess would have been in his arms immediately. But tonight, they both seemed to know that affection was on hold.

Wordlessly, he stepped inside, breathless from what Jess could only guess was a jog from his car. “Hey.”

She swallowed back a sob that seemed to rise out of nowhere. “Hey. How was the rest of the interview?”

He nodded, wiping a hand over his forehead, still catching his breath. “Good. Yeah, I think it was good. Is Fizzy okay?”

Shaking her head, Jess walked over to the dining table and sat down, shoulders slumped. “Rob is married.”

River slowly removed his messenger bag from his shoulder, setting it down on the table. “You’re kidding.”

“No. And I guess they just sent in his DNADuo kit.”

River winced. “Shit.”

And then they fell quiet. The proverbial elephant was standing directly on top of them. With a mumbled “Well …” River pulled out a sheet of paper from his bag and handed it to her. It was well-loved, wrinkled and worn, like it’d been picked up and put down again and again, studied a thousand times.

“Our data.” He reached up, wiping his forehead again. “Are you going to tell me what’s going on?”

The colorful scatter plot was printed in a landscape view and took up the entire page. A masterful display of computational skill, and a statistician’s best friend: principal component analysis. After only a handful of seconds, Jess could tell it captured every data point she saw on the tables in David’s office.

The plot had two axes: The vertical Y-axis was labeled zero to four—the composite scores Jess was already familiar with. The horizontal X-axis had twelve different labels. She assumed they represented the categories of the gene families included in the DNADuo: Neuroendocrine, Immunoglobulin, Metabolic, Signal Transduction, MHC Class I/II, Olfactory, Regulatory Proteins, Transporters, Heat-Shock, SNARE, Ion Channel, and FGF/FGFR. And on the graph itself, there were thousands of tiny dots, seemingly one for each of their scores on each individual gene, color-coded and clustered by category.

It was a much easier way to look at the raw scores—Jess could immediately see trends here that she couldn’t in the table—but because there was so much data, it was clear to her that if this was all River had seen, it would have been almost impossible to decipher that it was nearly identical to a plot he’d seen years ago.

And, most importantly, the information that tipped her off—the run end time, the date, the DNADuo machine—wasn’t included in this plot. This graph only had client numbers, the compatibility score, and, in the lower right corner in tiny print, the date this plot was generated.

Maybe River didn’t know. Hope was a weak light shining on the darkness of her mood. As casually as possible, Jess asked, “Is this the way you always look at the data?”

He laughed quietly. “I’m sure for a mathematician, it’s maddening to not look at actual numbers, but we’ve come to rely on these scatter plots. It’s easier to see outliers this way and to know if we need to rerun the assay for any reason.” He leaned in, pointing to a large cluster of dots in their plot. “See, you can tell that we are particularly well aligned in metabolic genes and immunoglobulin. And our lowest scores seem to be for regulatory proteins, but that’s not a very meaningful conclusion because even those scores are all pretty high. Once you get a score above eighty, most of the plots look similar.”

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