Reluctantly, Astrid sat back down.
“Fine,” Marcus murmured, sitting down as well.
When the door closed behind her, Astrid released a long, audible breath. “Does this mean we can be bought?” she asked.
“No. It means we deserve to be compensated for this insanity.”
“Insanity is correct. This is, by far, the most absurd thing I’ve ever…” Her voice trailed off.
“Me, too,” Marcus replied. He glanced at her.
Momentarily, neither spoke.
“But we really do have identical playlists,” Marcus remarked, audibly surprised. “That’s pretty—I’ve never met anyone who…” His voice trailed off, too.
This is when Astrid felt a butterfly or two flutter inside her abdomen. That was…something.
“What made you choose “As” for your top spot?” he asked.
“It’s the best song ever written of all time, of course.”
He smiled. “Well said. I agree.”
He looked at her again, this time long enough for Astrid to meet his stare. The butterflies subsequently grew in number. Briefly, she wondered if he felt them too, but based on everything so far, it would stand to reason that those very butterflies resided inside of him, too. If anything, they probably had the same amount of the things flapping around inside of them, in equal order.
“You have a favorite lyric in the song, don’t you?” asked Marcus.
“On three. Your favorite lyric,” he said. “1…2…3.”
Did you know that true love asks for nothing? Her acceptance is the way we pay.
They had uttered the song lyric in unison.
“Oh, boy,” he said, placing his chin in the palm of his hand, gazing at her.
“Oh, boy, indeed.” Surreal wasn’t even the word, she decided.
“Cards on the table. I’m just—I’m going to say this. I’m divorced. I started that Match profile because everyone thought I’d disintegrate after the end of my marriage and I vainly wanted to prove them all wrong. I think I went on about two disastrous dates before completely forgetting it was there. That was about three years ago.”
Astrid decided to follow suit with the laying down of her own cards. At this point, so many cards had been revealed already. “I’m divorced, as well.”
Eyes wide, Marcus nodded slowly. “By now I shouldn’t be surprised at our commonalities, should I?”
“Probably not. And I started my Match profile because it’s what you do, isn’t it? Especially when you want people to think you weren’t completely devastated by the breakdown of a marriage and the abandonment of an entire family. You get my drift.”
She would continue to share. “I have a three-year old son. So, he didn’t just leave me. He left us.”
“God, I’m so sorry, Astrid.”
“Thank you, and I’m sorry about your situation, too. I also forgot about my profile, but there were no dates for me. There were more important things to do.” She pulled out her phone and accessed her photos, eventually showing him a curly-haired boy grinning for the camera underneath a clear, powder blue sky while in his grandmother’s arms. “He’s the reason I missed the Snoh Aalegra concert, by the way. But no complaints. There were merry-go-rounds and evening ice cream cones to attend to.”
Marcus smiled as he studied at the photo. “May I ask his name?”
“A slow tempo,” Marcus said softly, looking up at her.
“Deliberate, easy, and beautiful. Some of the best parts of classical pieces. It’s how he came into the world and how he teaches me to look at the world.”
They locked eyes once again.
The door to the conference room opened. Grace Carlisle walked back in, not with a binder this time, but with two envelopes. She pretended not to notice the intent stare between Astrid and Marcus before they respectively focused on her. “For your respective trouble,” she declared, handing each of them an envelope. “We truly thought we were doing something good here, kids. Don’t sue us. I mean, we’re ready for it, but don’t put yourselves through the trouble. My supervisors have decided not to pursue the Love List, so there’s that. It really was a pleasure meeting you both, despite the circumstances. Invite me to the wedding, huh?” With that, she exited the conference room.
Astrid couldn’t help but laugh at the entire exchange. “My goodness. She was something else.”
“I still plan on checking those privacy laws,” Marcus said. He stood up along with her. “Do you have some free time now? I’d like to take you to brunch.”
For the first time in a long time, Astrid was open to what lay ahead. “Sounds lovely. Promise not to use the blood money we just received, though.”
Marcus smiled warmly at her. “Done.”
As they walked out of the conference room, Stevie Wonder’s “Overjoyed” began to play overhead. Astrid glanced back at Marcus.
“Number two,” they said in unison.