Tipsy now, she leans into me. “Aw, that was a good picture. Where did you take that?”
It’s honestly a little painful to recall that day, when Ethan and I rented the hideous lime-green Mustang and drove along the Maui coastline, becoming friends for the first time. He kissed me that night. “That was at the Nakalele blowhole,” I tell her.
“Was it pretty?”
“It was,” I say quietly. “Unbelievable, really. The entire trip was. Thank you, by the way.”
Ami squeezes her eyes closed. “I am so glad Dane and I didn’t go.”
Staring at her, I ask, “Seriously?”
“Why would I regret missing it now? We would have had even more good memories ruined. I should have known it was a bad omen when literally everyone but you and Ethan got sick at the wedding.” She turns her glassy eyes up to me. “It was a sign from the universe—”
“Dios,” Mom interjects.
Diego holds up a finger. “Beyoncé.”
“—that you and Ethan are the ones who should be together,” Ami slurs. “Not me and Dane.”
“I agree,” Mom says.
“So do I,” Tío Omar calls from the kitchen.
I hold up my hands to stop them all. “I don’t think Ethan and I are going to happen, guys.”
My phone rings again, and Ami stares right at me, eyes suddenly clear. “He’s always been the good brother, hasn’t he?”
“He’s been the good brother,” I agree, “but not the best boyfriend or the best brother-in-law.” I lean forward, kissing her nose. “You, on the other hand, are the best wife, sister, and daughter. And you are very loved.”
“I agree,” Mom says again.
“So do I,” Diego says, lying across our laps.
“So do I,” a chorus calls from the kitchen.
• • •
THE GOOD BROTHER CONTINUES TO call me a few times a day for the next several days, and then transitions to texts that say simply,
Olive, please call.
I feel like such an enormous jerk.
When I don’t respond to any of them, he seems to take the hint and stops trying to get in touch with me, but I’m not sure if that’s better or worse. At least when he was calling and texting I knew he was thinking about me. Now he might be focused on moving on, and I’m so conflicted over how that makes me feel.
On the one hand, screw him for not having my back, for enabling his brother to be a terrible boyfriend/husband, for being obstinately obtuse about a serial cheater. But on the other hand, what would I do in the same situation to protect Ami? Would it be hard to see her as sketchy the same way it was hard for Ethan to see Dane?
On top of that, Ethan was so perfect in all other respects: witty, playful, infatuated, and stellar in bed—it honestly feels so crappy to lose my boyfriend because we disagreed with a fight that didn’t even involve us, really, rather than because we weren’t a good fit.
We were a great fit. Our ending—by contrast—still seems so jagged and unfinished.
About a week after Dane leaves, I move out of my apartment and into Ami’s house. Ami doesn’t particularly want to be alone, and it works for me, too: I like the idea of saving to buy a place of my own or having some extra in the bank for an adventure once I figure out what kind of adventure I want to have. I see all these choices unrolling in front of me—career, travel, friends, geography—and despite things being insane and hard and messy, I don’t think I’ve ever liked myself more than I do now. It’s the strangest feeling to be proud simply because I’m taking care of me and mine. Is this what it’s like to grow up?
Ami is so oddly, constitutionally solid that once Dane picks up his stuff from the garage and officially moves out, she seems mostly fine. It’s almost as if the knowledge that he is trash is enough for her to get over him. The divorce doesn’t seem like a wild good time, but she plugs ahead through her Divorce Checklist with the same calm determination with which she sent in the thousand sweepstakes entries to win the honeymoon.
“I’m going to have dinner with Ethan tomorrow,” she says out of the blue while I make us pancakes for dinner.
I flip one badly, and it folds in half, batter oozing onto the lip of the pan. “Why would you do that?”
“Because he asked me,” she says, like it’s obvious, “and I can tell he feels bad. I don’t want to punish him for Dane’s sins.”
I frown at her. “That’s big of you, but you know you could still punish Ethan for Ethan’s sins.”
“He didn’t hurt me.” Ami stands to refill her glass of water. “He hurt you, and I’m sure he wants to own that, too, but that’s between the two of you, and you have to answer his calls first.”
“I don’t have to do anything where Ethan Thomas is concerned.”
Ami’s silence leaves my words to echo back to me, and I realize how they sound. So unforgiving but . . . familiar. I haven’t felt like that version of myself in so long, and I don’t like it.
“Well,” I amend, “tell me how dinner goes, and I’ll decide if he deserves a phone call.”
• • •
FROM WHAT I CAN TELL, Ami and Ethan had a great time at dinner. He showed her photos from our Maui trip, ate a sufficient amount of the blame for Dane’s past behavior, and generally charmed her senseless.
“Yeah, he’s really good at being charming over dinner,” I tell her, aggressively unloading the dishwasher. “Remember the Hamiltons in Maui?”
“He told me about that,” Ami says, and laughs. “Something about being invited to a club where they look at labia in mirrors.” She drinks from her wineglass. “I didn’t ask for clarification. He misses you.”
I try to pretend like this doesn’t absolutely thrill me, but I’m sure my sister sees straight through that nonsense.
“Do you miss him?” she asks.
“Yes.” There’s no purpose in lying. “A lot. But I opened my heart to him, and he pinched it.” I close the dishwasher and lean against the counter to face her. “I’m not sure if I’m the kind of person who can open back up again.”
“I think you are.”
“But if I’m not,” I say, “then I think that means I’m smart, right?”
Ami smiles at me, but it’s her new, restrained smile and it wrecks me a little. Dane killed something in her, some optimistic, innocent light, and it makes me want to scream. And then the irony hits me: I don’t want to let Ethan make me cynical again. I like my new optimistic and innocent light.
“I want you to know I’m proud of you,” she says. “I see all the changes you’re making.”
My life feels like mine again, but I didn’t know I needed her to acknowledge it. I take her hand, giving it a little squeeze. “Thank you.”
“We’re both growing up. Holding some people accountable for their choices, letting other people make amends for theirs . . .” She lets the sentence trail off and gives me a little grin. Very subtle, Ami.
“Wouldn’t it be weird for you if Ethan and I got back together?” I ask.
She shakes her head and quickly swallows another sip of wine before saying, “No, actually, it would make me feel like everything that happened in the past three years happened for a reason.” Ami blinks away, almost like she doesn’t want to admit this next part but can’t help herself. “I’m always going to want there to be a reason for it.”
I know now that it’s a waste of my time looking for reasons, or fate, or luck. But I’ve definitely come to embrace choices in the past month or so, and I’m going to have to figure out which one I’ll make where Ethan is concerned—do I forgive him, or do I walk away?
• • •
THE NIGHT THAT A CHOICE is put directly in front of me, the unexpected and terrible happens: I am happily working a dinner shift when Charlie and Molly Hamilton are seated in my section.
I can’t blame the hostess, Shellie, because how would she know that this is perhaps the most awkward dining party she could give me? But the moment I approach the table and they look up, we all fall into a corpse-level silence.
“Oh,” I say. “Hi.”
Mr. Hamilton does a double take over the top of his menu. “Olive?”
I enjoy waitressing so much more than I ever expected, but I admit I don’t enjoy the tiny wince that snags his shoulder when he registers that I’m not just coming up to his table to say hello, but I am in fact here to serve his dinner. This is going to be awkward for all of us.
“Mr. Hamilton, Mrs. Hamilton, good to see you.” I smile, nodding to each of them. Inside, I am screaming like a woman being chased with a chainsaw in a horror movie. “I’m supposed to be serving you this evening, but I expect that we would all feel more comfortable if you were put in someone else’s section?”
Mr. Hamilton gives me an easy, generous grin. “I’m okay with this if you are, Olive.”
Ah, but there’s the kicker: I am not.
Molly looks at him, brows pulled low. “I think she’s trying to say she would be more comfortable not having to serve the man who fired her on her first day of work.”
My eyes go wide. Is Molly Hamilton on Team Olive here?
I smile again at her, then him, struggling to keep a bit of professional distance. “It will just take a moment to get you set up. We’ve got a beautiful table right by the window for you.”
With pinpricks all down my neck—and Molly’s hissed “Are you pleased with yourself now, Charles? You are still trying to fill that position!” echoing in my ear—I hustle over to Shellie, tell her the situation, and she quickly shuffles a few reservations around.
They’re moved, given a free appetizer, and I exhale an enormous breath. Dodged that bullet!
But then I return to my section to find that Ethan Thomas is seated at the table in their place.