She takes the test on her eighteenth birthday. She’s been itching to do it since the service first emerged a couple years ago, even as she watched the divorce rate spike, even as she watched her parents vehemently refuse to get Matched. She knows that her chances of getting Matched immediately are slim unless her Match is a couple years older and already took the test. She knows it’s more likely she’ll be one of the people who wait months and possibly years to be Matched. She knows it’s possible that her Match will never take the test, that she’ll be left wondering until she dies, that she might have to shack up with someone with a Match who is unknown or dead or unwilling to leave their current partner.
But still. She’s too curious not to do it. So as soon as she’s officially eighteen, she discreetly mails in her DNA sample and begins her wait. A few days later, she gets an email confirming that her sample has been received, gently reminding her that she might have a bit of a wait before her Match is found due to her young age, due to the probability that her Match is still under eighteen on top of the probability that her Match hasn’t taken the test, may never take the test – if she’s unlucky.
She goes to school the day she gets the confirmation email and joins Ian at their usual spot on the lawn. He smiles like always and asks, “So did you actually do it?”
“Take the test.”
Leah rolls her eyes. “Yeah.”
“What’d your parents say?”
Leah scoffs. “They don’t know, and they’re never going to. You know they’re, like, super against all this stuff.”
Ian hums. “Maybe they have a point, though. Did you hear Mr. Prescott left his pregnant wife to be with his Match?”
Leah huffs. “So some people get, like, super unlucky, but if his wife gets Matched –”
“Oh, come on,” Ian cuts in. “It’s not like that fixes everything. You’re way too idealistic about this sort of stuff.”
“Maybe you’re way too cynical,” Leah retorts.
Ian shrugs, scratches at the back of his neck, and asks, “So what are you hoping for?”
“What do you mean?”
“Like, what kind of guy are you hoping to get Matched with?”
“Oh,” Leah says. Her eyebrows pull together. “I don’t know. I don’t actually get to choose, you know.”
“Well, duh, but you can have hopes, right?”
“I don’t know, like, maybe tall?” Leah says, and Ian busts out laughing. Grudgingly, Leah smiles. “Tall, and like, not balding prematurely. Maybe a guy with a beard would be nice. Pretty eyes? A nice smile? What do you want me to say?”
“I know you’re dying for a writer,” Ian says. “Don’t even deny it. I saw how you drooled over Galanis at that stupid presentation last week.”
“Shut up! I did not drool over him,” Leah snaps, but her face burns bright red. “You’re terrible,” Leah says as Ian laughs.
“Hey, I’m just telling it like it is,” Ian replies. “And you were ready to jump Galanis.” As Leah shoots Ian a death glare and struggles to think of a comeback, a flashy yellow car swerves into the parking lot, and Fatin Jadmani pops out. She fixes her hair before she closes the car door, makes a phone call before she even starts walking toward the school, and both Ian and Leah watch her. “I wonder who her Match could be,” Ian mutters after she walks by, carrying a loud conversation.
“Probably, like, some up and coming actor or something,” Leah says. “He’s probably 6’5” with a good credit score.”
“Imagine if she was Matched to, like, a janitor. She’s probably so shallow, she’d demand a new test,” Ian snorts.
“Is she even old enough to get Matched yet?” Leah asks.
“I don’t know,” Ian answers, and the first bell ringing ends their conversation. By the time Leah’s in her English class, she doesn’t even remember the conversation.
She checks her email obsessively the first few days, then slowly but surely gives it up. Her Match is probably still seventeen, still legally unable to be Matched. Or her Match is twenty, and he’s the type who doesn’t want to know who his Match is, and she’ll be left wondering forever. Even if she stops obsessively checking her email, the idea still consumes her thoughts every night while she’s trying to sleep. Who her Match might be. Where he might live. If she’s ever going to be Matched in the first place. She’s getting ahead of herself by imagining a future with her hypothetical Match. And she’ll still have to deal with her disapproving parents. But the idea of living her life with the person she’s biologically made for, the idea of unending happiness in a relationship – how could she pass up the opportunity at that?
Maybe she is too idealistic. Maybe her notions of meeting her Match are too unrealistically romantic. Maybe she’ll find out who her Match is and be horrifically disappointed. Though, when she grills herself on what would disappoint her, she has a hard time coming up with solid answers. It’s not like it’ll be the end of the world if he’s 5’8” and she’s doomed to never wear heels. One night, she does have the admittedly terrifying idea that someone she knows could be her Match, though the idea is easier to discount when she remembers that she’s supposed to be, like, irresistibly drawn to her Match. She’s read all about what it supposedly feels like to be with your Match, and she knows for a fact she has never experienced anything like that with anyone.
Granted, she’s been on very few dates with very few boys. And she’s also lacking in the friends department, so maybe her Match is actually at her school, and maybe she’s had a class with him but would’ve never known they’re made for each other because she’s chronically quiet and unadventurous. Some people, somehow, find their Match on their own and confirm it by taking the test, but Leah knows that would never happen to her. She doesn’t get out enough.
But what if she was Matched with someone famous? Wouldn’t that be something? She shouldn’t think like that. She’s just setting herself up for disappointment –
It’s two in the morning, but her phone lights up on her nightstand. In confusion, Leah grabs it, expecting a text from Ian or, like, a notification from Twitter or something. Instead, she finds an email, a whole three weeks after she mailed in her DNA sample.
You’ve got a Match!
Leah bolts upright in bed at the subject of the email, leans over to switch the lamp on, and clamps her hand over her mouth, just in case some sort of sound tries to escape. She forces herself to breathe and calm down a little bit before she opens the email. This email literally will irreversibly change her life. It’s a big moment. She takes a second to bask in the anticipation, her heart hammering in her chest, then she opens the email. She struggles to read every word, to not skim over it to get to the details of her Match. When she’d signed up, she’d paid the small fee upfront in order to access the full name, description, and potential contact details of her Match. And she’d checked the box that would allow her information to be sent out to her Match if they’d paid for them, too.
There’s got to be a mistake. Someone, somewhere, working for a corporation with a perfect track record even after hundreds of millions of Matches have been found, has definitely made a massive fucking mistake. They’ve sent Leah the wrong Match, because there’s no fucking way – there’s no way. In fact, Leah’s so convinced that there’s been a mistake that she writes up an email to the company right away, sends it at 2:07 in the morning, and lies awake the rest of the night as she stews over that You’ve got a Match! email. The words are burned into her brain. How could they not be? It’s either a fucking joke or an unforgiveable mistake.
It takes a while before she realizes that, since she’s been alerted of her alleged Match, then her alleged Match has also been alerted of her. That thought alone is enough to get Leah to double check that email, to make sure she read all of it correctly. To make sure she didn’t make the mistake.
But of course she didn’t. The email’s the same as it was an hour ago.
You’ve got a Match!
Dear Miss Rilke,
You paid in advance to receive your Match’s contact information, and your Match has selected to provide their contact details in the event of a Match, so please see below for your full description of your Match.
Your Match is:
Fatin Jadmani, 18, from Berkeley, California. Dark hair, brown eyes, 5’8” and student at East Bay Academy of Art. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Phone number: 510-632-7319.
Our sincerest congratulations on finding your Match! We wish you a lifetime of happiness.
It’s a joke. Leah even checks the email address that the message came from, in case Ian’s trying to, like, dupe her. The email address is legit, though. Everything is legit.
At 4:00 a.m. exactly, she receives a reply.
Dear Miss Rilke,
We are sorry to hear of your initial disappointment with the identity of your Match, but we assure you, there has been no mistake. We currently have 103,579,635 Matches and counting, and there has not been one reported and confirmed case of a mismatch. To be safe, we have rerun your results, and the same results were produced. Your Match is Fatin Jadmani. We encourage you to reach out to the many services we provide for additional support, if required. We have attached some flyers for your convenience.
Again, we sincerely congratulate you on finding your Match. We wish you a lifetime of happiness.
Well, fuck them, then. They’re wrong. They have to be. First, it never crossed Leah’s mind that she could be Matched with a woman. She knows it happens to people, but to her? She’s, like, 87% sure she’s straight. Okay, if she’s honest, maybe it’s not completely out of left field, but it’s still an unexpected result. Second – and even worse – her Match cannot be Fatin Jadmani. Maybe it could be some random woman at another school. Sure, why not? Leah could work with that, probably. But self-professed cello virtuoso, Juilliard-bound musician, hardcore party girl, Fatin Jadmani is not Leah’s Match. There’s no way. They have absolutely nothing in common.
Well, they’re both women. Leah supposes there’s that, but that’s practically nothing in common.
(And they go to the same school, but fuck that.)
Leah chews on her lower lip as she rereads that reply over and over.
(There has been no mistake.)
No mistake? How could this not be a gigantic mistake? They just don’t want to admit they’re wrong. Huge corporations – but especially this one – never want to admit it. This is totally wrong.
She tells the only person she knows she can trust.
4:17 a.m. I’ve been Matched but it has to be a mistake
She has to wait until Ian wakes up for school to receive an answer.
Ian, 6:02 a.m. wym?
6:04 a.m. I MEAN meet me in the parking lot at 7 and I’ll show you
He’s there right at seven, sitting on the hood of his old station wagon, and Leah runs over and basically throws her phone into his chest. Ian startles but manages to catch her phone, turns his attention to the screen. She left the email up for him to read, and he reads through it. Four times.
“This is definitely a mistake,” he scoffs.
“That’s what I thought,” Leah agrees. She sounds breathless, and she hoists herself up onto the hood of the wagon beside him. “So I emailed them, right?” she says. She motions for him to find the response, and he does.
“I mean…they’re right,” Ian says slowly. “There haven’t been any verified reports of actual mismatches. Why would you be the first?”
Leah’s eyes widen, and she punches him in the arm, ignores his ow. “Because this can’t be right, Ian!”
“Yeah, you’re not even gay.”
“I’m not even gay!” Leah says, way louder than she needs to. She draws the attention of a group of freshmen who have just arrived, and she winces when they look at her. She rips her phone out of Ian’s hand. “And the worst part is, Fatin almost definitely knows we’ve been Matched, too. I mean, as long as she checks her email.”
“Maybe she hasn’t?” Ian says weakly.
“She’s, like, glued to her phone at all times,” Leah dismisses. “She’s definitely seen it, and I can guarantee you she’s as upset as I am about this.”
“If she even knows who you are,” Ian points out.
“Hey. It’s possible –”
“It’ll tell her we go to school together,” Leah groans, hiding her face in her hands. “Even if she doesn’t know who I am, she can easily look me up. She’s probably already found my Instagram and Facebook.”
“But your accounts are all private,” Ian says. “She can’t see anything.”
“Maybe she looked me up in the school directory and found my horrible ID photo,” Leah whines.
Ian shrugs. “Maybe it won’t be as bad as you think?”
“You think I’m going to reach out to her?” Leah questions. “Fuck no.”
“Why not?” Ian asks, and to Leah’s disgust, he seems genuinely curious. “If you’re, like, genetically made for each other or whatever, shouldn’t you find out?”
“No,” Leah says flatly. “If it was anyone but her, yes.”
“Well…shouldn’t you at least test if this actually is a mistake?” Ian questions. “Since you’re so convinced your result is wrong?”
Leah’s jaw hangs open for a few moments, because damn it, he’s right. “I’m not reaching out to her first,” Leah stutters.
“You know Fatin has no problem with confrontation,” Ian laughs. “Last year she bitched Caleb Cross out in front of the entire cafeteria, remember?”
Leah grimaces, because yes, she does remember. Vividly. And Caleb totally deserved it, but it was still terrifying to witness.
“She’s probably not even into women, either,” Leah says.
“I wouldn’t put it past her,” Ian replies, and Leah wishes he’d keep his unhelpful thoughts to himself.
“Shit,” Leah hisses as that familiar yellow car speeds into the parking lot. She slides off the hood of Ian’s car, dragging him with her. “Let’s go.”
“Wait, but this is the perfect opportunity –”
She dreads the end of every class, dreads being set free into the hallways where anything could happen. “Anything” meaning spotting Fatin Jadmani in the crowd and, like, accidentally making eye contact and –
(And experiencing love at first sight or some shit, even though Leah is positive that that will not be happening, now or ever.)
Leah rushes to her next class with her head down and realizes she’ll have to deal with lunch right after, and lunch is a wild card. She could choose to eat in the cafeteria or in the lounge or on the lawn, and Fatin could show up anywhere. There’s no guaranteed safe spot unless she leaves campus, and if she does that, she’s giving up her parking spot, and she might have to park, like, a block away.
(Jesus, how did this happen to her? If she would’ve believed this was possible, she would’ve never taken that stupid test.)
By some miracle, she makes it through lunch without spotting Fatin, and she makes it through the rest of her classes, too. She breathes a sigh of relief as she’s crossing the lawn to reach the parking lot, as her car comes into sight, and she’s got her keys in her hands when someone yells her name. Well, not her first name. Leah flinches hard and refuses to turn around, walks faster, confident she can make it to her car before she gets dragged into an unpleasant conversation.
“Rilke! I know you can hear me!”
Leah hears heels on pavement, and she knows she’s caught – but she’s also curious about how Fatin can run fast enough to catch up to her all without snapping an ankle. Leah braces herself as countless stories of people just laying eyes on their Match and instantly falling in love race through her mind. She knows she looks like she’s in pain when she turns back, but she’s seen Fatin Jadmani plenty of times before, albeit at a distance. And she’s never fallen in love on the spot.
This time is no different.
(Stories of it taking multiple meetings before any feelings were sparked between Matches pass through Leah’s mind, too, but she shoves those away.)
In fact, she thinks she hates Fatin Jadmani’s smug face more than ever.
“It’s got to be a mistake,” Leah blurts before Fatin can get a word out.
“Well hello to you, too,” Fatin replies. Her phone’s not in her hand. It’s not even visible, so maybe it’s tucked away in that tiny pink backpack on her shoulder. “That’s quite the way to greet your Match,” Fatin adds.
“Fuck you,” Leah says. “You know that’s not –”
She trails off as Fatin raises her eyebrows, as Fatin starts nodding. “Hmm, yeah, we’re the first to ever be mismatched, right?” Fatin taunts.
“Maybe we are.”
Fatin laughs. “Look, baby, I’m not exactly thrilled about this, either, but at least I trust that the results are right.”
“It doesn’t mean anything,” Leah snaps.
“Yeah, it just means we’re genetically made for each other,” Fatin says. A smirk flickers on her face. “But it doesn’t mean that we’re about to, like, date and fuck and fall in love and have two kids and live in the suburbs until we die. No offense, but I like dick way too much to settle for that.”
“And I didn’t need to know that, thanks,” Leah retorts. “Clearly we’re on almost the same page.”
“Clearly you’re disappointed that your Match is me,” Fatin says, and her bluntness is enough to make Leah flinch. “But you can’t honestly deny that we’re Matched.”
“Okay, whatever,” Leah mumbles.
Fatin nods. “It just doesn’t have to mean anything more than that. And it’s not going to. I don’t want anything to do with you. And I’d apologize if you were, like, not so obviously bummed out that you’re my Match.”
Leah’s lips part, and she stares into Fatin’s – admittedly unflawed – face for a few moments before she says, “It wasn’t expected.”
Fatin hums, perhaps in agreement, then flips her hair over her shoulder. Leah catches sight of her manicured, bright green nails, and – oh God, why did this have to happen to her? It’s not fucking fair. Out of all the people she could’ve been Matched with, she had to get stuck with Fatin?
“You’re telling me,” Fatin says. “Look, I only took the test because I was curious. I never wanted to reach out to whoever the fuck I was Matched with. I definitely didn’t think it’d be someone at this school, let alone you.”
“Me?” Leah prompts. “Me as in me, or me as in a girl?”
Fatin shrugs. “Both. I mean, come on. We have nothing in common. I barely knew you existed before we were Matched.”
(Leah doesn’t say how everyone here knows who Fatin is, doesn’t say she knew of her existence before they were Matched. She figures Fatin probably assumed that Leah was aware of her.)
“But you were able to spot me while I was walking to my car,” Leah points out.
Fatin waves her hand dismissively, says, “I looked you up, obviously. You gave out your contact details.”
“So did you,” Leah says. Her back straightens out. She’s two inches taller than Fatin, but not while Fatin’s in heels. Feeling small beside Fatin makes Leah uncomfortable. “So if you didn’t want to contact your Match, why’d you provide your phone number and email to be shared?” Leah asks.
Fatin shrugs again. “Because, like, what if my Match was super famous or super hot?”
“Thanks,” Leah sneers.
Fatin blinks. “I mean, I never said you’re not hot. And technically, I did reach out to you.”
“Save it. We aren’t doing this.”
“Doing what?” Fatin asks. “We’re just having a conversation about how nothing’s ever going to happen between us, so we can ignore the results of our test and find someone else.”
Not for the first time in the last twelve hours or so, Leah swallows down her disappointment. This was supposed to be a life changing moment, and instead, Leah’s going to have to struggle to find someone the old fashioned way. Someone who doesn’t have a Match, unless she wants to risk her partner deciding to take the test and leaving her for their Match.
“Look, it’s probably for the best,” Fatin says, as if she can sense the unyielding disappointment rolling off of Leah. “This Matching bullshit is, like, so fucked up anyway. You know how many relationships it’s wrecked?”
“But for every relationship it ends, they say two new, unending ones are formed,” Leah mutters.
“Yeah, that’s what they say,” Fatin says. “But is it true? We’ll probably never know for sure, but sometimes people do choose to stay with someone other than their Match.”
Leah doesn’t have anything to say to that, so silence falls between them. Quickly turns awkward. Leah clears her throat, shifts her weight, and Fatin’s eyes seek out her car, parked out in the far end of the lot. Fatin heaves a sigh, turns her full attention back to Leah, and their eyes lock. For a terrifying moment, Leah thinks she’ll feel what all those other Matched people describe. That spark or whatever. The feeling that she’s destined to spend her life with this person.
(It doesn’t come, thankfully. As much as it’s a relief, though, Leah can’t help but to feel a little broken.)
“I guess we should be grateful, though, right?” Fatin says softly. “Some people never get the opportunity to meet their Match. They’re, like, already dead or in a coma or they live on the other side of the world with no internet connection and no way to take the test or whatever. At least we know. At least we get to make a choice for ourselves, right?”
Fatin smiles. “For what it’s worth, your eyes are really pretty.”
Leah’s expression sours. “Shut the fuck up,” she says, and Fatin busts out laughing.
(Leah doesn’t think she’s ever heard Fatin laugh before. Or if she has, she’s never registered it, like, consciously. She has a nice laugh. But that’s just a useless observation. Leah’s kind of prone to noticing useless things.)
“You don’t seem that bad, Rilke,” Fatin praises. Or, at least, it sounds like praise to Leah. “And you’re tall. Women like that.”
“I’m not – I don’t even like women,” Leah splutters.
“According to your genes, yes, you do,” Fatin replies. “And you’re especially into me, but I can’t hold that against you. You know, since it’s in your genes. It’s not, like, a big deal though.”
“By that logic, you’re also especially into me,” Leah says.
Fatin snaps her fingers, nods approvingly. “You’re smart. Women like that, too. I’m sure there’s someone perfect for you out there. Someone with, like, a dead Match –”
“Thank you, Fatin,” Leah interrupts loudly. “Can this conversation be over now?”
“Sure,” Fatin says. She thrusts her hand out toward Leah. “And since you’re as equally uninterested in being my Match as I am in being yours, it was nice to meet you, Rilke.”
Leah hesitates but shakes Fatin’s hand, carefully. Like she’s holding something fragile. Maybe it’s Fatin’s manicured nails, but she doesn’t expect Fatin’s grasp to be as firm as it is. “You can call me Leah, you know,” Leah says as she pulls her hand back and shoves it into the pocket of her jacket.
“Yeah, I’d rather not,” Fatin says. She flashes Leah a smile, all perfectly straight, white teeth. “But maybe I’ll see you around. You know, because we both go to school here?”
(Fatin’s just saying that as a courtesy. Leah can tell. Fatin has no intentions of ever interacting with her again, if she can help it.)
“Yeah, right,” Leah says.
“Good luck,” Fatin offers.
“Yeah, you too.”
Leah turns around, starts walking toward her car again. Just as she gets the door open, Fatin calls, “Hey, Rilke!”
Leah looks back, eyebrows raised. “What?” she questions.
Fatin pauses, closes some of the distance between them before she asks, “You know how, like, when people describe what it’s like to meet their Match, they always say some bullshit about like…I don’t know, getting this feeling? Like some say it’s sparks, and some say they just know deep down that they’re meant for each other or whatever? You know what I’m talking about?”
“Yeah,” Leah says flatly. “Why?”
Fatin hesitates, fidgets with one of the large hoops in her ears. “You didn’t, like, feel any of that shit just now, did you?”
Leah laughs, hard, before she manages to say, “Fuck no, Fatin. Fuck no. You’re seriously that vain?”
Fatin’s muscles relax, and she breathes a sigh of relief. “Hey, I had to check,” she insists. “This shit is, like, legit for a lot of people, you know?”
“No sparks,” Leah says. “Same for you, I assume?”
Fatin scoffs. “No fucking sparks, Rilke. Don’t flatter yourself.”
“If I recall, you were the one flattering me,” Leah says. “Telling me my eyes are pretty.”
Fatin shrugs. “They are. But as long as you aren’t, like, irresistibly in love with me, then it’s whatever.”
Leah laughs again, harsher this time. “Fuck you,” she says.
“Bad idea,” Fatin replies. She grins. “You might actually fall in love with me if you do.”
In response, Leah gets in her car and slams the door shut.