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"What about you?" Ledi asked, changing the topic.

"Eh, I leave for Maine the week after exams."

Ledi's phone vibrated and she saw a text from her friend Portia pop up on the screen.

We're having an opening at the gallery where I'm interning tomorrow night. Free wine and cheese! You love free wine and cheese! J

Ledi loved free food and drink of all kinds, but if she went to this opening she'd have to squeeze into the trendy art gallery with a hundred other like-minded people to obtain it. She'd also likely have to deal with drunk Portia. Drunk Portia was not on Ledi's miles-long to-do list.

That sounds fun, but I have to work at the Institute until nine tomorrow. L

Aw, boo. Maybe we can meet for drinks after?

Maybe!

Maybe not. Portia was her best friend, but Ledi was too exhausted to deal with alcohol-fueled hijinks. She wanted a glass of wine after a long day so she could unwind, not as a prelude to a night of debauchery.

She didn't have anything against debauchery, but she had no time for it—or for the spike of anxiety each time Portia flagged down a waitress or headed back to the bar.

Portia was the perfect example of why Ledi's social cell membrane existed. Once someone slipped through, Ledi couldn't help but worry over them, and worrying had no concrete results in the real world except draining her much-needed energy.

Oh, did you check your MyGeneScreen results? I'm 83% African and 17% European. I have to break it to my mom that we are not, in fact, descended from a Cherokee princess.

Yikes. Hold off on that conversation though. You know I don't believe in the accuracy of these tests.

 
Portia had received a couple of the DNA test packs from some promotional event for social media movers and shakers, and had given one to Ledi. Ledi had been momentarily seduced by the possibility of knowing more about her background, but when the email announcing her results had arrived, she'd deleted it.

What did it matter? She was 100 percent New Yorker and that was all she needed to know. Sure, the genetic database linked you with possible relatives but...

But what? She had survived a not so great childhood, she was on her way to being a pretty damn great epidemiologist, and she didn't need any scientifically shoddy data to introduce more confounding factors into her life.

She was fine.

"Everything going okay with the grant stuff?" Brian called across the lab. "You understand everything?"

He gave her a thumbs-up that was somehow a question. She wanted to reply with her own one-finger salute, but instead she gave him a wide, fake smile.

"Everything's under control!" she said brightly, and wished it was true.
 

CHAPTER 2

Sender: LikotsiAdelele@KingdomOfThesolo.the
Subject: URGENT! MARRIAGE CONTRACT
 
To the esteemed Ms. Smith,

I email again, hoping against hope for a response. Despite the past infractions of your parents, you maintain the benevolent blessings of KING LERUMO and QUEEN RAMATLA of the Kingdom of Thesolo, and your contract with their son still stands. It is imperative that you contact me immediately regarding your betrothal to HRH PRINCE THABISO—

Ledi cursed the spam filter gods, again, as she stepped into her cramped Inwood studio apartment later the next evening. She also cursed herself for forgetting to throw out the trash before sleep- walking to the university library that morning—her place smelled like the cheap Chinese takeout that she'd eaten two nights before.

She dropped her backpack on the floor and pulled the tied-off plastic bag emblazoned with an enthusiastic THANK YOU! from her doorknob. The sounds of her neighbors' lives echoed in the hallway along with her footsteps as she headed for the trash compactor: Mrs. Garcia across the hall, the widowed retiree who DVRed her telenovelas and watched them at top volume every night when she got home from her volunteer work; Jayden and Ben, the children in 7 C, who always seemed to be laughing maniacally about something; Boca, the parrot that cursed in Lithuanian every time someone passed the door of 7 H.
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