Sloane glances at the closed double doors of her home office as The One loads on her phone. She’s still wearing her scrubs, having been too tired to change when she got home from the hospital. At forty-two, she’s never used a dating app before. It feels weird, and not just because she’s married.
She feels a tingle of apprehension as she taps the JOIN NOW button beneath The One’s bold logo. Beneath it, in red, is their slogan: Real connections. Lasting love. Evelyn assured her after they finished stabilizing a gunshot victim earlier that night that The One wasn’t like other dating apps. Her profile wouldn’t be public and would only be seen by someone the data-driven app found as a potential.
“You just put in your age, gender, interests, and what you’re looking for in a partner,” Evelyn said, as Sloane washed her hands outside one of the ER’s treatment rooms. “Then you take a short compatibility test. The app does everything else.”
Sloane had heard of the app before, which was well-known for its success in using artificial intelligence to seemingly form real connections and long-lasting relationships. But she never thought she’d be using it. Then again, she also never thought Ethan would betray her.
“So, there’s no photos?” Sloane stepped aside to make room for a trauma patient being transported to the OR.
Evelyn shook her head. “Not until The One finds your potentials. Then, after seeing their basic info, you can choose to message them and send a photo if you want. Or request one.”
Sloane tossed a paper towel into the trash. “Sounds exhausting.”
“Just think about it. It could be worth it, you know. It’s how I met Ming.”
"I took a few classes with Brody Carr in college. He was a premed major before he dropped out.”
Evelyn’s eyes widened. "You did?"
"We were chemistry lab partners for half a semester. He was really quiet and kind of a nerd. Not whom I would’ve expected to go on to create a billion-dollar dating app."
Evelyn raised her eyebrows. "Well, he doesn't seem nerdy now.”
Outside, rain drums against the window behind where Sloane now sits in her favorite overstuffed chair. She pauses before answering the last question on the app’s compatibility test. How do you feel when you realize the person you are with is not the one for you?
I feel shattered, she thinks as she stares at the multiple-choice options. But it’s not one of the answers. For lack of a better option, she selects I feel disappointed and clicks SUBMIT. Hearts dance across the screen as the app searches for potentials.
Sloane jumps. Ethan stands in the doorway. She hates the feeling that she still gets when she sees him. That she still loves him, even after what he did.
“Sorry,” he says, “I thought you heard me come in.”
She presses her phone screen against her thigh, chiding herself for feeling guilty after what Ethan did. “I guess I didn’t.”
They hold each other’s gaze in silence for a moment before Ethan speaks.
“What time is our appointment tomorrow?"
“Okay. I’ll be in the guest room if you need me.” He pauses, as if waiting for her to respond. “Good night,” he finally says.
She waits until the door closes behind him before lifting her phone. You have 5 potentials in your vicinity. Below the message, a button flashes: VIEW POTENTIALS.
She taps her fingers against the armrest. What am I doing? Before she has time to change her mind, she closes out of the app and deletes it off her phone. A dating app isn’t going to solve her marital problems. Hopefully, their couples counseling would.
After setting down her phone, she stares at the closed office doors. She bites her lip and grabs her phone from the armrest. She casts another glance at the closed doors before typing Brody Carr into the Internet search bar on her home screen.
“It was a stupid mistake. I wish—”
Ethan’s voice breaks, and Sloane turns her head to avoid his gaze, facing their marriage counselor, instead.
“I wish more than anything,” he chokes, “that I could take it back.”
Sloane tugs at the hem of her leather pencil skirt and shifts in the uncomfortable velvet chair.
Am I supposed to pity him? Feel empathy for the guilt he feels after sleeping with his homicide partner?
A burst of anger wells in her chest. They were supposed to be at the mountain lodge in the Cascades that she had booked for them, trying to get pregnant. Not here, listening to him recount how he slept with his partner during a weak moment following his father’s death. How could he have done this to me? To us? Their therapist lifts her hand to her chin, watching Sloane.
Sloane looks out the window on the opposite side of the oversized office at the view of Elliot Bay, wondering if she should have gone into psychiatry instead of emergency medicine.
“I’m so sorry, Sloane. I know I don’t deserve it, but please—I’m begging you to give me another chance.”
She practiced telling him it was over in the bathroom mirror earlier this morning. She knows she was partly to blame for the issues in their marriage—before Ethan cheated. She prioritized the demands of her job, although the same could be said for Ethan.
She thinks of the five potentials generated by The One last night. She never even looked at them. The odds were good that at least one of them—if not all—could remain faithful, even when grieving the loss of a parent.
“Sloane, I love you. Please, let me prove it to you.”
Out the corner of her eye, she sees Ethan swipe a tear off his cheek.
Their therapist sets her notepad on her lap. “It’s up to you now, Sloane. Are you willing to forgive him?”
Sloane peers at Ethan’s red pleading eyes, and the two-day stubble that covers his quivering chin. She would never have thought she could forgive infidelity. But he was so…broken.
And while he was the one who always wanted children, Sloane had come around to the idea.
“How am I ever supposed to trust him again?”
The therapist crosses her leg. “Rebuilding trust takes time. It’s a choice. But it can be rebuilt.”
Sloane exhales. She turns to Ethan, holding his gaze. How could she love and hate someone so much at the same time? She’s never seen him look so scared. But If I mattered so much to him, then why did he do this? She tears her eyes away.
“What will you choose?” Their therapist folds her hands on top of her notepad while waiting for her answer.
Sloane knows what her mother would have done. She watched her mother stay despondently dependent on a string of unreliable men until she died. Whenever a relationship got too hard, her mother left in search of the next best thing—only to find another flawed man with different problems.
Sloane never planned to get married—until she met Ethan. She prided herself on believing what they had was different. But after Ethan cheated, Sloane understood better how her mother could so easily give up on a relationship. But Sloane refuses to allow her life to be thrown off course by a man’s mistakes.
It would be easy for Ethan to have a child with someone else. But not for her. By the time they got divorced, and she found someone else she wanted to have a child with, it could be years. By that time, she might not be able to get pregnant, even with modern fertility treatments. Plus, she doesn’t want to wait that long to become a mother. Even if she’s able to get pregnant in her mid-forties, does she really want to be dropping her child off for kindergarten when she’s fifty?
“Yes.” She turns to Ethan. “At least, I’m willing to try.”
What other choice does she have?
COMING JUNE 27