Wow. It’s definitely not the light.
“Olive,” she answers back.
“I look like a giant can of 7UP.”
“Yes, girl!” Jules sings. “Maybe someone will finally crack that thing open.”
Mom clears her throat.
I glower at my sister. I was wary of being a bridesmaid in a Winter Wonderland–themed wedding in January, so my only request as the maid of honor was that my dress wouldn’t have a scrap of red velvet or white fur. I see now that I should have been more specific.
“Did you actually choose this dress?” I point to my abundance of cleavage. “This was intentional?”
Ami tilts her head, studying me. “I mean, intentional in the sense that I won the raffle at Valley Baptist! All the bridesmaids dresses in one go—just think of the money I saved you.”
“We’re Catholic, not Baptist, Ami.” I tug on the fabric. “I look like a hostess at O’Gara’s on St. Paddy’s Day.”
I realize my primary error—not seeing this dress until today—but my sister has always had impeccable taste. On the day of the fittings, I was in my boss’s office, pleading, unsuccessfully, to not be one of the four hundred scientists the company was letting go. I know I was distracted when she sent me a photo of the dress but I don’t remember it looking this satiny or this green.
I turn to see it from another angle and—dear God, it looks even worse from the back. It doesn’t help that a few weeks of stress-baking have made me, let’s say . . . a little fuller in the chest and hips. “Put me in the back of every picture, and I could be your green screen.”
Jules comes up behind me, tiny and toned in her own shiny green ensemble. “You look hot in it. Trust me.”
“Mami,” Ami calls, “doesn’t that neckline show off Ollie’s collarbones?”
“And her chichis.” Mom’s glass has been refilled once more, and she takes another long, slow drink.
The rest of the bridesmaids tumble into the suite, and there is a loud, collective, emotional uproar over how beautiful Ami looks in her dress. This reaction is standard in the Torres family. I realize this may sound like the observation of a bitter sibling, but I promise, it’s not. Ami has always loved attention, and—as evidenced by my screaming on the six o’clock news—I do not. My sister practically glows under the spotlight; I am more than happy to help direct the spotlight her way.
We have twelve female first cousins; all of us in each other’s business 24/7, but with only seven (free) dresses included in Ami’s prize, hard decisions had to be made. A few cousins are still living on Mount Passive-Aggressive over it and went in on their own room together to get ready, but it’s probably for the best; this room is way too small for that many women to safely maneuver themselves into Spanx at the same time, anyway.
A cloud of hair spray hangs in the air around us, and there are enough curling and flat irons and various bottles littering the counter to keep a decent-sized salon going. Every surface grows either tacky with some sort of styling product or hidden beneath the contents of someone’s overturned makeup bag.
There’s a knock at the suite door, and Jules opens it to find our cousin Diego standing on the other side. Twenty-eight, gay, and better groomed than I could ever manage, Diego cried sexism when Ami told him he couldn’t be part of the bridal party and would have to hang with the groomsmen. If his expression as he takes in my dress is any indication, he now considers himself blessed.
“I know,” I say, giving up and stepping away from the mirror. “It’s a little—”
“Tight?” he guesses.
I glare at him. “No.”
“I was going to say green.”
He tilts his head as he steps around me, absorbing it from every angle. “I was going to offer to do your makeup, but it’d be a waste of my time.” He waves a hand. “No one will be looking at your face today.”
“No slut-shaming, Diego,” my mother says, and I notice she didn’t disagree with his assessment, she just told him not to shame me for it.
I give up on worrying about the dress—and how much boob I’m going to have on display for the entire wedding and reception—and turn back to the chaos of the room. While cousins Static Guard each other and ask opinions on shoes, a dozen conversations are happening at once. Natalia dyed her brown hair to blond and is convinced she has ruined her face. Diego agrees. The underwire popped out of Stephanie’s strapless bra, and Tía María is explaining how to just tape up her boobs instead. Cami and Ximena are arguing over whose Spanx are whose, and Mom is polishing off her glass of champagne. But amid all the noise and chemicals, Ami’s attention is back on her list. “Olive, have you checked in with Dad? Is he here yet?”
“He was in the reception hall when I got here.”
“Good.” Another check.
It might seem strange that the job of checking in with our dad fell to me, and not his wife—our mother—who is sitting right here, but that’s how it works in our family. The parentals don’t interact directly, not since Dad cheated and Mom kicked him out but then refused to divorce him. Of course we were on her side, but it’s been ten years and the drama is still just as fresh for both of them today as it was the day she caught him. I can’t think of a single conversation they’ve had that hasn’t been filtered through me, Ami, or one of their combined seven siblings since Dad left. We realized early on that it’s easier for everyone this way, but the lingering sense I have from all of it is that love is exhausting.
Ami reaches for my list, and I scramble to get to it before she does; my lack of check marks would send her reeling into panic. Scanning down, I am thrilled to see the next to-do requires me to leave this foggy den of hair spray.
“I’ll go check with the kitchen to make sure they’re making a separate meal for me.” The free wedding buffet came with a shellfish spread that would send me to the morgue.
“Hopefully Dane also ordered chicken for Ethan.” Ami frowns. “God, I hope. Can you ask?”
All chatter in the room comes to a deafening halt, and eleven pairs of eyes swing my way. A dark cloud shifts across my mood at the mention of Dane’s older brother.
Although Dane is firmly adequate, if not a bit bro-y for my tastes—think yelling at the television during sports, vanity about muscles, and a real effort to match all of his workout gear—he makes Ami happy. That’s good enough for me.
Ethan, on the other hand, is a prickish, judgmental asshole.
Aware that I am the center of attention, I fold my arms, already annoyed. “Why? Is he allergic, too?” For some reason, the idea of having something in common with Ethan Thomas, the surliest man alive, makes me feel irrationally violent.
“No,” Ami says. “He’s just fussy about buffets.”
This jerks a laugh from me. “About buffets. Okay.” From what I’ve seen, Ethan is fussy about literally everything.
For example, at Dane and Ami’s Fourth of July barbecue, he wouldn’t touch any of the food I spent half the day making. At Thanksgiving, he switched chairs with his dad, Doug, just so he wouldn’t have to sit next to me. And last night at the rehearsal dinner, every time I had a bite of cake, or Jules and Diego made me laugh, Ethan rubbed his temples in the most dramatic show of suffering I’d ever seen. Finally I left my cake behind and got up to sing karaoke with Dad and Tío Omar. Maybe I’m still furious that I gave up three bites of really good cake because of Ethan Thomas.
Ami frowns. She’s not the biggest fan of Ethan either, but she’s got to be tired of having this conversation. “Olive. You barely know him.”
“I know him well enough.” I look at her and say two simple words: “Cheese curds.”
My sister sighs, shaking her head. “I swear to God you will never let that go.”
“Because if I eat, laugh, or breathe I’m offending his delicate sensibilities. You know I’ve been around him at least fifty times, and he still makes this face like he’s trying to place who I am?” I motion between us. “We’re twins.”
Natalia speaks up from where she’s teasing the back of her bleached hair. How is it fair that her big boobs manage to fit inside her dress? “Now’s your chance to make friends with him, Olive. Mmm, he’s so pretty.”
I give her the Displeased Torres Brow Arch in reply.
“You’ll have to go find him anyway,” Ami says, and my attention whips back to her.
At my baffled expression, she points to my list. “Number sev—”
Panic sets in immediately at the suggestion that I need to talk to Ethan, and I hold up my hand for her to stop speaking. Sure enough, when I look at my list, at spot seventy-three—because Ami knew I wouldn’t bother reading the entire list ahead of time—is the worst assignment ever: Get Ethan to show you his best man’s speech. Don’t let him say something terrible.
If I can’t blame this burden on luck, I can absolutely blame it on my sister.
As soon as I’m out in the hallway, the noise, chaos, and fumes of the bridal suite seem to be vacuum-sealed away; it is beautifully silent out here. It’s so peaceful, in fact, that I don’t want to leave the moment to go find the door down the hall with the cute little groom caricature hanging above the peephole. The tranquil figurine hides what is no doubt a weed-and-beer-fueled pre-wedding rager happening inside. Even party-loving Diego was willing to risk his hearing and respiratory health to hang with the bridal party instead.
I give myself ten deep breaths to delay the inevitable.
It’s my twin’s wedding, and I really am so happy for her I could burst. But it’s still hard to buoy myself fully, especially in these solo, quiet moments. Chronic bad luck aside, the last two months have genuinely sucked: my roommate moved out, so I had to find a new, tiny apartment. Even then, I overextended what I thought I could afford on my own and—as my patented bad luck would have it—got laid off from the pharmaceutical company where I’d worked for six years. In the past few weeks, I’ve interviewed at no fewer than seven companies and haven’t heard back from a single one of them. And now here I am, about to come face-to-face with my nemesis, Ethan Thomas, while wearing the shiny, flayed pelt of Kermit the Frog.