The Unhoneymooners

Page 35

He doesn’t leave things here (except a toothbrush), but he does learn that I have to hit my alarm four times before getting out of bed to go to the gym, that I don’t use my favorite spoon for anything as menial as stirring coffee, that my family can and will show up at the most inopportune moment, and that I require him to turn on the television or play some music every time I use the restroom.

Because I am a lady, obviously.

But with this familiarity comes the awareness of how fast everything is moving. By the time we’re closing in on two weeks together—which in the grand scheme of life is nothing—it feels to me like Ethan has been my boyfriend since the moment I met him at the State Fair years ago.

Things are easy, and fun, and effortless. This isn’t how new relationships are supposed to be: they are supposed to be stressful, and exhausting, and uncertain.

The morning before I go to work at Hamilton Biosciences for the first time is not the time to be having an existential crisis about moving too fast with my new boyfriend, but my brain didn’t get the memo.

In a new suit, cute-but-comfortable heels, and with my hair blow-dried to a silky sheet down my back, I look over at Ethan at my small dining room table. “You haven’t said anything about how I look this morning.”

“I said it with my eyes when you stepped out of the bedroom, you just weren’t looking.” He takes a bite of toast and speaks around it. “You look beautiful, and professional, and intelligent.” Pausing, to swallow, he adds, “But I also like the island-scrappy version of you.”

I scrape some butter across my toast, then set the knife down with a clatter. “Do you think we’re moving too fast?”

Ethan sips his coffee, blue eyes now focused on the scrolling news on his phone. He’s not even fazed by this question. “Probably.”

“Does that worry you?”


“Not even a little?”

He looks back up at me. “Do you want me to stay at my place tonight?”

“God no,” I say, in a complete knee-jerk response. He smiles, smug, and looks back down. “But maybe?” I say. “Should you?”

“I don’t think there are rules to this.”

I gulp my scalding coffee and then roar in pain. “Ow!” I stare at him, placid as ever, back to being nose-deep in the Washington Post mobile app. “Why are you not freaking out a little?”

“Because I’m not starting a new job today and looking for reasons to explain my stress about it.” He puts his phone down and folds his arms on the table. “You’re going to be great, you know.”

I grunt, unconvinced. Ethan is more intuitive than I ever gave him credit for.

“Maybe we should get together with Ami and Dane for drinks later,” he suggests. “You know, to process your first day, to make sure everyone is okay with this current situation. I feel like I’ve been hogging you.”

“Stop that.”

“Stop what?”

“Being so emotionally balanced!”

He pauses and a slow grin takes over his face. “Okay?”

I grab my coat and purse and make for the door, fighting a grin because I know he’s laughing at me behind my back. And I’m totally okay with it.

• • •

I AM REMINDED HOW SMALL Hamilton Biosciences actually is when I step into the lobby, where a woman named Pam has been working the desk for thirty-three years. Kasey, the HR representative I interviewed with a couple of months ago, greets me and beckons me to follow. If we turned left, we’d end up in the office suite of the legal team of three. But we take a right down the hall that leads us to the mirror-image suite that houses the HR department of two.

“Research is just across the courtyard,” Kasey says, “but all of the medical affairs folks—if you remember!—are upstairs in this building.”

“That’s right!” I adopt her upbeat tone, following her into her office.

“We’ll just have a few forms to get you rolling, and then you can head upstairs to meet with the rest of your team.”

My heart takes off at a gallop as the reality of this sets in. I’ve been in a blissed-out la-la land for the past couple of weeks, but real life is back, front and center. For now, I’ll only have one direct report working under me, but from what Kasey and Mr. Hamilton told me when I was here last, there should be lots of opportunities for growth.

“You’ll have some manager training,” Kasey is saying, rounding her desk, “which I believe is this Thursday. Gives you a little time to get in, get settled.”


I smooth my hands down my skirt and try to swallow down my nerves while she opens up some files on her computer, while she bends and retrieves a folder from a cabinet near her knee, while she opens it and pulls out some forms. I see my name at the top of all of them. Anxiety slowly gives way to thrill.

I have a job! A job that is solid, and secure, and—let’s be honest—will probably be boring sometimes but will pay the bills. It’s what I went to school for. It’s perfect.

Elation fills my chest, making me feel buoyant.

Kasey organizes a stack of paperwork for me, and I begin signing. It’s the usual: I won’t sell company secrets, won’t commit various forms of harassment, won’t use alcohol or drugs on the premises, won’t lie, cheat, or steal.

I’m deep into the stack when Mr. Hamilton himself peeks his head into her office. “I see our Olive is back on the continent!”

“Hey, Mr. Hamilton.”

He winks, and asks, “How’s Ethan doing?”

I glance quickly to Kasey and back. “Um, he’s great.”

“Olive just got married!” he says. “We ran into each other on her honeymoon in Maui.”

Kasey gasps. “Oh, my God! I thought you were with a sick relative! I am so glad I misunderstood!” My stomach seems to melt away; I had completely forgotten about telling Kasey this stupid lie in the airport. She doesn’t seem to notice anything off and barrels on: “We should have a party!”

“Oh, no,” I say, “please don’t.” Insert awkward laugh. “We are all partied out.”

“But for sure he should join the spouses club!” she says, already nodding vigorously at Mr. Hamilton.

I know Mrs. Hamilton founded the club, but my God, Kasey, take it down a notch or two.

Mr. Hamilton winks at me. “I know Molly put on the hard sell, but it is a fun group.”

This is going too far already. I’m so bad at lying that I’ve forgotten lies I’ve already told. Ethan and I aren’t going to be able to keep this up for very long at such a close-knit company. I have a sinking feeling inside, but feel a tiny twinge of relief knowing that I’m going to put this lie to rest at last.

“I’m sure the spouses club is amazing.” I pause, and I know I could leave it at that, but I’ve just signed all these forms and really want to make a fresh start here. “Ethan and I aren’t actually married. It’s sort of a funny story, Mr. Hamilton, and I hope it’s okay if I come by later and tell you about it.”

I’d wanted to keep it simple, but I can tell I should have built up my version a little bit. This just sounds . . . bad.

He processes this for a beat before glancing at Kasey, then back to me and saying quietly, “Well, regardless . . . welcome to Hamilton,” before ducking out.

I want to drop my head to the desk and then bang it a few (dozen) times. I want to let out a long string of curse words. I want to get up and follow him down the hall. Surely he’ll understand the situation once I lay it out for him?

I look back at Kasey, who is regarding me with a mixture of sympathy and confusion. I think she’s starting to realize that she didn’t really misunderstand what I’d said about a sick relative.

Not exactly the best way to start day one at a new job.

• • •

TWO HOURS LATER, AFTER I sign all the forms, after I meet the group that will be my medical affairs team (and genuinely liking all of them), Mr. Hamilton’s assistant, Joyce, calls me down to his office.

“Just a welcome, I assume!” my new manager, Tom, says cheerfully.

But I think I know better.

Mr. Hamilton lets out a low “Come on in” after I knock, and his expectant smile flattens marginally when he sees me. “Olive.”

“Hi,” I say, and my voice shakes.

He doesn’t say anything right away, confirming my assumption that this meeting is a chance for me to explain myself. “Look, Mr. Hamilton”—I don’t dare call him Charlie here—“about Maui.”

Put on your big girl pants and own it, Olive.

Mr. Hamilton puts his pen down, takes off his glasses, and leans back in his chair. Right now, he looks so different from the man I sat across from at dinner, who howled with laughter every time Ethan teased me. I’m sure he’s thinking about that meal, too, and how much Molly loved Ethan, how she invited him into her spouses group, how they were so genuinely happy for us, while we sat there and lied to their faces.

I gesture to the chair, silently asking if I may sit, and he waves me forward, sliding the arm of his glasses between his teeth.

“My twin sister, Ami, was married two weeks ago,” I tell him. “She married Ethan’s brother, Dane. They hosted a seafood buffet, and the entire wedding party—except for me and Ethan—fell ill with food poisoning. Ciguatera toxin,” I add, because he’s a scientist and maybe he knows these things.

He seems to, because his bushy eyebrows lift, and he lets out a quiet “Ah.”

“My sister, Ami . . . she wins everything. Raffles, sweepstakes,” I say, smiling wryly, “even coloring contests.”

At this, Mr. Hamilton’s mustache twitches under a grin.

“She won the honeymoon, too, but the rules were really strict. It was nontransferable, nonrefundable. The dates were set hard and fast.”

“I see.”

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