When she found out where the National Community Health Awareness winter conference would be this year—Maui—we knew it was fate: We owed Ami a trip to the island.
The landing gear lowers; the plane crosses the coastline and then sweeps over the lush landscape of the island. I glance down my row to where Ami has reached across the aisle to hold Lucas’s hand. It’s fitting that her first time in Maui should be with someone who adores her with as much devotion as he does.
And it’s fitting that this time Olive and I are headed to Maui, I’ve got a real ring in my pocket.
• • •
DAY TWO AND IT TOOK some convincing to get Ami to agree to go zip-lining. For one, it wasn’t free. And also, zip-lining essentially requires jumping from a platform, trusting the harness, and flying through the air while hoping there really is a platform on the other side. For a woman like Ami, who relishes keeping a stranglehold on all of the variables possible at any given moment, zip-lining isn’t ideal.
But it’s one of the few things Olive and I didn’t get to do on our first trip, and my girlfriend would hear no dissent. She did the research for the best location, bought the tickets, and now ushers us up to the platform for our first jump with a no-nonsense wave of her hand.
“Step right up,” she says.
Ami peers over the edge of the platform and then immediately takes a step back. “Wow. It’s high.”
“That’s a good thing,” Olive reassures her. “It would be way less fun to do this from the ground.”
Ami stares flatly at her.
“Look at Lucas,” Olive says. “Lucas isn’t scared.”
He finds himself the object of all of our attention right as he’s adjusting himself in the harness.
Lucas gives her a little salute but I tilt my head. “Lucas probably isn’t scared because Lucas regularly goes skydiving.”
“You’re supposed to be on my team,” Olive growls. “Team Listen-to-Olive-Because-This-Will-Be-Fun-Damn-It.”
“I’m always on that team.” I pause and give her a winning smile. “But is it a good time to suggest a better team name? Or no.”
She stares me down, and I fight a smile because if I told her right now that with her blue shorts and white tank top, and the blue harness and yellow helmet they’ve given her, she looks like Bob the Builder, she would murder me with her bare hands and feed me to the creatures on the forest floor.
“Look, Ami,” she says, and her mouth curls into a delighted grin, “I’ll go first.”
The first drop is 50 feet above a ravine with a platform 150 feet away. Two years ago, Olive would have waited until everyone was safely on the other side before taking her turn, certain her bad luck would snap the cord or break the platform and end with us all crumpled on the forest floor. But now I watch as she stands behind the gate, following instructions to wait until her lead is strapped to the pulleys, and then steps out onto the platform. She hesitates for only a moment before taking off in a running leap and sailing (screaming) through the tops of the trees.
Ami watches her go. “She’s so brave.”
She doesn’t say it like it’s an epiphany; she just says it like it’s a fact, something we’ve all always known about Olive, a core quality. And it’s true, of course, but these little truths, finally being spoken aloud, are tiny, perfect revelations, dropped like jewels in Olive’s palm.
So even though Olive didn’t hear this, it’s still awesome to see Ami looking after her twin in wonder like this, like she’s still figuring things out about this person she knows as well as she knows her own heart.
• • •
THE LAST LINE OF THE day is one of the biggest in Hawaii—nearly 2800 feet from platform to platform. The best part is there are two parallel lines; we can ride it in tandem. As we make our way to the top, I remind her where to keep her hands and to angle her wrists the opposite direction that she wants to turn.
“And remember, even though we’re starting side by side, I’ll probably make it there faster because I weigh more.”
She stops, looking up at me. “Okay, Sir Isaac Newton, I don’t need a lesson.”
“A what? I wasn’t giving one.”
“You were mansplaining how gravity works.”
I go to argue but her brows go up as in Think before you speak, and it makes me laugh. She’s not wrong.
Leaning in, I press a kiss to the top of her yellow helmet. “I’m sorry.”
She scrunches her nose and my eyes follow the movement. Her freckles were the first thing I noticed about her. Ami has a few, but Olive has twelve, scattered just across the bridge of her nose and over her cheeks. I had an idea of what she looked like before we met—obviously I knew she was Dane’s girlfriend’s twin—but I wasn’t prepared for the freckles and how they moved with her smile, or the way adrenaline dumped into my veins when she pointed that smile at me and introduced herself.
She didn’t smile like that at me again for years.
Her hair is curly from the humidity and coming loose from her ponytail and even dressed like Bob the Builder, she’s still the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.
Beautiful, but also very suspicious. “That apology was easier to extract than I expected.”
I run my thumb over a strand of her rebellious hair and push it back from her face. She has no idea how good my mood is right now. I’m struggling to find the right moment to propose, but I’m enjoying every second more than the one that came before it; it makes it hard to choose how and when to do this. “Sorry to disappoint,” I say. “You and your arguing kink.”
With a blushing eye roll, she turns back toward the group. “Shut up.”
I bite back my smile.
“Stop making that face.”
I laugh. “How do you know I’m making a face? You’re not even looking at me.”
“I don’t have to look at you to know you’re doing that derpy heart-eyes thing.”
I bend to whisper in her ear. “Maybe I’m making a face because I love you, and I like when you’re argumentative. I can show you just how much I like it when we get back to the hotel.”
“Get a room.” Ami shares a commiserating look with Lucas as he’s strapped into the pulley.
But then she turns and meets Olive’s gaze across the platform. I don’t need to understand secret twin telepathy to know that Ami isn’t just happy for her sister, she’s elated. Ami isn’t the only one who believes Olive deserves every bit of bliss this world has to offer. Seeing that tiny, salty woman crack up or melt or light up like a constellation gives me life.
Now I just have to get her to agree to marry me.
• • •
I THINK I’VE FOUND MY moment when four nights in, we’re given a sunset that’s so surreal it feels computer generated. The sky is this layered parfait of pastels; the sun seems reluctant to disappear entirely, and it’s one of those perfect progressions where we can watch it slowly diminish in size until it’s nothing but a tiny dot of light and then—poof. It’s gone.
It’s right then that I hold my phone up, snapping a selfie of Olive and me on the beach. The sky is a calming purple-blue. Her hair is blowing across her face, we’re both a little tipsy. Our feet are bare, toes digging in the warm sand, and the happiness in our expressions is palpable. It’s a great fucking photo.
I stare down at it, spinning a little inside. I’m so used to seeing our faces together, so used to how she fits against my shoulder. I love her eyes and her skin and her smile. I love our wild moments and our quiet ones. Love fighting and fucking and laughing with her. I love how easy we look side by side. I’ve spent the last few days agonizing over when to propose, but it occurs to me that this is when I do it: in this quiet space, where we’re just us, having a perfect night. Ami and Lucas are down the beach a ways, walking in the lapping waves, and so it feels like we have this little stretch of sand entirely to ourselves.
I turn to her; my heart is a thunder inside me. “Hey, you.”
She grins at the phone, taking it from me. “This is cute.”
“It is.” I take a deep breath, steadying myself.
“Caption this photo,” she says, oblivious to my internal mayhem, my mental preparation for one of the biggest moments of my life.
“Um . . .” I say, a little thrown but thinking as I try to play along.
And then she bursts out laughing. “Here’s one: ‘She said yes!’ ” She leans into me, cracking up. “Oh, my god, this is a good picture of us but this is exactly the kind of vacation photos people in Minnesota put on their mantel in shell-encrusted frames to remind themselves of the sunshine when we are in the deepest pit of winter.” She hands the phone back to me. “How many Minnesotans do you think get engaged on the beach? Eighty percent? Ninety?” Shaking her head, she grins at me. “What total—”
And then she stops, her gaze moving over my face. It feels like a tube of cotton has lodged itself in my throat. Olive claps a hand over her mouth as realization draws her eyes comically wide. “Oh. Shit. Oh, Ethan. Oh, shit.”
“No, it’s okay.”
“You weren’t, were you? Am I that big an asshole?”
“I—but no. I don’t—it isn’t. Don’t worry.”
She gapes at me, eyes wide with panic as it becomes clear her sarcasm wasn’t that far off the mark. “I am such a dick that I’ve broken your brain.”
I don’t know whether to be amused by this destroyed attempt at proposing or bummed. It did seem like the perfect moment; I felt like we were on the same page and then—nope. Not even a little.
“Ethan, I’m so—”
“Ollie, it’s okay. You don’t know what I was going to say. You think you do, but you don’t.” Based off her unsure look, I add, “Trust me. It’s all good.”
I lean in, kissing her, trying to get her to let go with a gentle bite to her lower lip, a growl that has her softening beside me, opening her mouth to let me feel her. It escalates until we’re both a little out of breath, wanting to take it to the next place where clothes come off and bodies come together, but although it’s getting dark, it isn’t that dark or that empty out here on the beach.