I open the door to our suite as quietly as I can. Ethan wasn’t awake yet when I finally gave up on waiting for him and went to get something to eat, but he is now. He’s sitting on the couch in nothing but boxers. There’s so much tan skin to take in—it sends my pulse skyrocketing. We’ll have to talk about what happened last night—the kissing, and the fact that we slept together all night, curled in a matching set of parentheses—but it would probably be much easier if we could just skip the awkward talk and go straight to the making out again.
“Hey,” I say quietly.
“Hey.” His hair is a mess, his eyes are closed, and he’s leaning back as if he’s just focusing on breathing or planning to start a petition to ban all sales of $1.99 mai tais.
“How’s the head?” I ask.
He answers with a gravelly groan.
“I brought you some fruit and an egg sandwich.” I hold out a to-go carton of some mango and berries and a wrapped package with the sandwich, and he looks at both of them like they’re filled with buffet seafood.
“You went downstairs to eat?” he asks. The follow-up Without me? is clearly implied.
His tone is dickish, but I forgive him. No one likes a pounding head.
Setting the food down on the table, I head into the kitchen to get him some coffee. “Yeah, I waited for you until about nine thirty, but my stomach was digesting itself.”
“Did Sophie see you there alone?”
This feels like being jerked to a standstill. I turn to look at him over my shoulder. “Um, what?”
“I just don’t want her to think that there’s trouble in our marriage.”
We spent all afternoon talking about how he’s better off without Sophie, he kissed me last night, and this morning he’s worried about what she thinks. Awesome. “You mean our fake marriage?” I say.
He rubs a hand across his forehead. “Yeah. Exactly.” Dropping his hand, he looks up at me. “So?”
My jaw tightens, and I feel the storm build in my chest. This is good. Anger is good. I can do angry at Ethan. It’s so much easier than feeling the tickling edges of smitten. “No, Ethan, your ex-girlfriend was not at breakfast. Neither was her fiancé, or any of the new friends you made in the lobby last night.”
“The what?” he asks.
“Never mind.” Obviously he doesn’t remember. Excellent. We can pretend the rest didn’t happen, either.
“Are you in a bad mood?” he asks, and a dry, sardonic laugh bursts out of me.
“Am I in a bad mood? Is that a serious question?”
“You seem upset or something.”
“I seem—?” I take a deep breath, pulling myself to my full height. Do I seem upset? He kissed me last night, said sweet things implying that maybe he’d wanted to do that for a while, and then passed out. Now he’s grilling me about who might have seen me getting food alone in the hotel. I don’t think my reaction is overblown.
He mumbles something and then reaches for the fruit, opening the lid and peering in. “Was this from the—”
“No, Ethan, it’s not from the buffet. I ordered a freshly made fruit plate. I brought it up to spare us the twelve-dollar room service delivery charge.” My palm is itchy to smack him for the first time in two days, and it feels glorious.
He grunts out a “Thanks,” and then picks up a piece of mango with his fingers. He stares at it, and then bursts out laughing.
“What’s so funny?” I ask.
“Just remembering that girlfriend of Dane’s who had a mango tattoo on her ass.”
He chews, and swallows before speaking. “Trinity. The one he was dating like two years ago?”
I frown; discomfort worms through me. “Couldn’t have been two years ago. He was with Ami three and a half years ago.”
He waves this away. “Yeah, but I mean before he and Ami were exclusive.”
At these words, I drop the sugar spoon I’m holding and it clatters dissonantly on the counter. Ami met Dane at a bar, and by her account, they went home that night, had sex, and never looked back. As far as I know, there was never a time they weren’t exclusive.
“How long was it again that they were seeing other people?” I ask, with as much control as possible.
Ethan pops a blackberry into his mouth. He’s not looking at my face now, which is probably good, because I’m sure I look like I’m ready to do a murder. “Like the first couple years they were together, right?”
Bending, I pinch the bridge of my nose, trying to channel Professional Olive, who can keep her cool even when being challenged by condescending physicians. “Right. Right.” I can either freak out, or milk this moment for information. “They met at that bar but it wasn’t until . . . when did they decide to be exclusive again?”
Ethan looks up at me, catching something in my tone. “Um . . .”
“Was it right before they got engaged?” I don’t know what I’ll do with myself if he agrees with this shot in the dark, but it suddenly makes sense that Dane would refuse to commit until he was impulsively ready to enter holy matrimony.
My brain is nothing but fantasies of fire and brimstone.
Ethan nods slowly, and his eyes scan my face like he’s trying to read my mood, and can’t. “Remember? He ended it with the other women right around the time Ami had her appendix out, and then he proposed?”
I slam my hand down on the counter. “Are you fucking kidding me?”
Ethan bolts to stand, pointing a finger at me. “You played me! Don’t even pretend like Ami didn’t know all this!”
“Ami never thought they were seeing other people, Ethan!”
“Then she lied to you, because Dane tells her everything!”
I am already shaking my head, and I really want to hurt Dane but Ethan is closer and it’ll be a fantastic rehearsal. “You’re telling me that Dane was sleeping around for the first two years they were together, and he let you think Ami was okay with it? She started cutting out wedding dresses she liked in magazines after a few months of dating him. She treated her wedding like a game show challenge to win as much as she could—and it consumed her. She has an apron specifically for baking cupcakes, for crying out loud, and has already picked out names for their future children. Does Ami seem like the kind of chill gal who would be fine with an open relationship?”
“I . . .” He seems less certain now. “Maybe I’m wrong . . .”
“I need to call her.” I turn to head to the bedroom to find my phone.
“Don’t!” he shouts. “Look, if that’s what he told me, then I’m telling you this in confidence.”
“You have got to be joking. There is no way I’m not talking to my sister about this.”
“Jesus Christ, Dane was right.”
I go very still. “What is that supposed to mean?”
He laughs, but it’s not a happy sound.
“Seriously, Ethan? What does that mean?”
He looks up at me, and with a pang I miss the sweet adoration in his expression last night, because the anger here is painful.
“Tell me,” I say, more quietly now.
“He told me not to bother with you. That you’re angry all the time.”
I feel this like a punch to my sternum.
“Can you believe I wanted to ask you out?” he says, and laughs humorlessly.
“What are you even talking about?” I ask. “When?”
“When we first met.” He bends, resting his elbows on his thighs. His long form curls up into an exhausted C, and he rakes a fantastic hand through his mess of hair. “That first time at the fair. I told him how pretty I thought you were. He thought that was weird—that it was weird for me to be attracted to you. Like, it meant I was into his girlfriend or something because you were twins. He told me not to bother anyway, that you were sort of bitter and cynical.”
“Dane told you I was bitter? Bitter about what?” I am flabbergasted.
“I mean, I didn’t know at the time, but it seemed to mesh with how you acted. You clearly didn’t like me from the get-go.”
“I only didn’t like you because you were such an asshole when we met. You looked at me eating cheese curds like I was the most repulsive woman you’d ever seen.”
He looks up at me, eyes narrowed in confusion. “What are you talking about?”
“Everything seemed fine,” I say. “While everyone was deciding what we wanted to go see first, I went to get some cheese curds. I came back and you looked at them, looked at me in complete revulsion, and then walked away to go look at the beer competition. From that point on, you’ve always acted so disgusted around me, and food.”
Ethan shakes his head, eyes closed like he has to clear away this alternate reality. “I remember meeting you, being told I couldn’t ask you out, and then going to do our own thing for the afternoon. I have no recollection of the rest.”
“Well, I sure do.”
“That certainly explains what you said yesterday,” he says, “about not making fun of your body during the massage. Certainly explains why you were always so dismissive to me afterward.”
“Excuse me? I was the dismissive one? Are you for real right now?”
“You acted like you wanted nothing to do with me after that day!” he seethes. “I was probably just trying to get my head on straight about being attracted to you, and of course you interpret it as something about your body and cheese curds? Jesus, Olive, that is so like you, to focus on the negative in every interaction.”
Blood pulses in my ears. I don’t even know how to process what I’m hearing, or the undeniable ache it shoves through me that I think he might be right. Defensiveness pushes aside introspection: “Well, who needs to see the upside of things when you’ve got your brother telling you that I’m a shrew and to stay away from me anyway?”