Frankie has to take a second to silently congratulate herself on her good fortune whenever Grace shows up to the breakfast table still wearing her pajamas and glasses. The combination makes her look like a genius who happens to be extremely chill. Of course, Grace is extremely not chill. And while she’s very, very smart, she isn’t a genius. Frankie thinks that’s probably a good thing. Who’d want that kind of burden, the responsibility of ownership over that kind of brain?
“That’s just regular jam on your toast, right?” Frankie says with a smirk as she approaches the table.
Grace narrows her eyes, refusing to dignify the question with a response.
The lube joke (and Frankie still wonders how Grace managed not to notice spending who knows how many days spreading yam lube onto her sprouted grain toast—how disconnected she must have been from the act of eating as anything but a rote requirement for sustenance) makes Frankie think of last night. And a lot of other nights recently. Best nights of her life, if a little startling to relive in the sharp light of morning.
Frankie clears her throat and looks around for something else to talk about. She lands on Grace’s iPad. “Whatcha reading?”
“An article in, um—” Grace scrolls. “Scientific American.”
“Google suggested it to me—you know, it has all these suggestions like it knows you better than you know yourself, then you click one and the algorithm wins again. It’s a good article, though. It’s about Mars—among other things—and the life it might have sustained at one time.”
Frankie gasps. The whole world—her vision of the world, anyway, and maybe her vision of the entire universe—ripples for a moment. When it firms up again, she can speak. This is the question. This is the moment. There’s no way to casually follow up on a fundamental difference in perspective after thirty-nine years, but she has to try. “And you believe what you’re reading?”
Grace looks puzzled. “That there’s been water and micro-organisms or whatever on planets other than ours? Of course I do.”
Frankie can’t stop the enormous, delighted sigh of relief. “You really are the right person for me.”
Now Grace looks offended. “You’re figuring this out now?”
Frankie cringes. “That didn’t come out quite right. I just—you told me a long time ago you didn’t believe in alien life. And you’re, um, you’re obviously perfect for me, and you’re definitely 100% my soulmate, but I’ve never understood how the universe could give me a soulmate who doesn’t believe there’s life out there beyond our silly little planet.”
“When did I give you that impression?” Grace sounds a little harsh. It reminds Frankie of when they used to fight for real, when their disagreements used to end in hours or days or even years of quiet. Back when she’d never heard Grace giggle, or held her while she cried, or felt her having an orgasm—back when her life was the worse for it and she didn’t have any idea what she was missing out on.
“It was the firm’s holiday party in 1981. You were pregnant with Mallory.”
Frankie watches Grace’s expression, sees the moment the memory solidifies. “Frankie! You marched up and asked me if I was sure the baby was human.”
“Oh, well, that’s not great.”
“Then you quizzed me about my thoughts on little green men. I stayed in the conversation against my better judgment. If you’d told me the sky was blue I’d have found a way to take the counterpoint. And anyway, what a dumb thing to base compatibility on.” Now it’s Grace’s turn to cringe. “Or...you know...a really important thing.”
“A really important thing.”
“Your toast’s in the toaster,” Grace says. Grace, Frankie’s pajama-wearing, toast-loving soulmate who totally believes in aliens. “I just opened some strawberry jam.”