I go to try again and the voice of Satan rings out from behind me. “You have to—” An impatient huff. “No, let me show you.”
There is nothing in the world I wanted less in this moment than for Ethan to show up, ready to mansplain how to swipe a hotel key.
He takes the card from me and holds it against the black circle on the door. I stare at him in disbelief, hear the lock disengage, and begin to sarcastically thank him, but he’s already preoccupied with the view of my tan Spanx.
“Your dress ripped,” he says helpfully.
“You have spinach in your teeth.”
He doesn’t, but at least it distracts him enough that I can escape back into the room and close the door in his face.
Unfortunately, he knocks.
“Just a second, I need to get some clothes on.”
His reply is a lazy drawl through the door: “Why start now?”
Aware that no one else in the suite is remotely interested in watching me change, I toss my dress and Spanx onto the couch and reach for my underwear and a pair of jeans in my bag, hopping into them. Tugging on a T-shirt, I move to the door and open it only a crack so he can’t see Ami inside, curled into a ball in her lacy wedding underwear.
“What do you want?”
He frowns. “I need to talk to Ami real quick.”
“Well, I’m going to have to do, because my sister is barely conscious.”
“Then why are you leaving her?”
“For your information, I was headed downstairs to look for Gatorade,” I say. “Why aren’t you with Dane?”
“Because he hasn’t left the toilet in two hours.”
Gross. “What do you want?”
“I need the info for the honeymoon. Dane told me to call and see if they can get it moved.”
“They can’t,” I tell him. “I already called.”
“Okay.” He exhales long and slow, clawing a hand through hair that is thick and luscious for no good reason. “In that case, I told him I’d go.”
I actually bark out a laugh. “Wow, that is so generous of you.”
“What? He offered it to me.”
I straighten to my full height. “Unfortunately, you’re not her designated guest.”
“She only had to give his last name. Incidentally, it’s the same as mine.”
Damn it. “Well . . . Ami offered it to me, too.” I’m not planning on taking the trip, but I’ll be damned if Ethan is getting it.
He blinks to the side and then back to me. I’ve seen Ethan Thomas blink those lashes and use that dangerously uneven smile to sweet-talk Tía María into bringing him freshly made tamales. I know he can charm when he wants. Clearly he doesn’t want right now, because his tone comes out flat: “Olive, I have vacation time I need to take.”
And now the fire is rising in me. Why does he think he deserves this? Did he have a seventy-four-item wedding to-do list on fancy stationery? No, he did not. And come to think of it, that speech of his was lukewarm. Bet he wrote it in the groom suite while he was chugging back a plastic pitcher of warm Budweiser.
“Well,” I say, “I’m unemployed against my will, so I think I probably need the vacation more than you do.”
The frown deepens. “That makes no sense.” He pauses. “Wait. You were laid off from Bukkake?”
I scowl at him. “It’s Butake, dumb-ass, and yes. I was laid off two months ago. I’m sure that gives you immeasurable thrill.”
“You are Voldemort.”
Ethan shrugs and then reaches up, scratching his jaw. “I suppose we could both go.”
I narrow my eyes and hope I don’t look like I am mentally diagramming his sentence, even though I am. It sounded like he suggested we go . . .
“On their honeymoon?” I ask incredulously.
He nods again.
“Are you high?”
“Ethan, we can barely stand to sit next to each other at an hourlong meal.”
“From what I gather,” he says, “they won a suite. It’ll be huge. We won’t even really have to see each other. This vacation is packed: zip-lining, snorkeling, hikes, surfing. Come on. We can orbit around each other for ten days without committing a violent felony.”
From inside the bridal suite, Ami groans out a low, gravelly “Gooooo, Olive.”
I turn to her. “But—it’s Ethan.”
“Shit,” Diego mumbles, “if I can take this garbage can with me, I’ll go.”
In my peripheral vision, Ami lifts a sallow arm, waving it. “Ethan’s not that bad.”
Isn’t he, though? I look back at him, sizing him up. Too tall, too fit, too classically pretty. Never friendly, never trustworthy, never any fun. He puts on an innocent smile—innocent on the surface: a flash of teeth, a dimple, but in his eyes, it’s all black-souled.
But then I think of Maui: crashing surf, pineapple, cocktails, and sunshine. Oh, sunshine. A glance out the window shows only blackness, but I know the cold that lies out there. I know the car-grime-yellowed snow lining the streets. I know the days that are so cold my wet hair would freeze if I didn’t completely dry it before leaving the apartment. I know that by the time April comes and it still isn’t consistently warm, I will be hunched over and resigned, Skeksis-like.
“Whether you’re coming or not,” he says, cutting into my rapid spiral down the mental drainpipe, “I’m going to Maui.” He leans in. “And I’m going to have the best fucking time of my life.”
I look back over my shoulder at Ami, who nods encouragingly—albeit slowly—and a fire ignites in my chest at the thought of being here, surrounded by snow, and the smell of vomit, and the bleak landscape of unemployment while Ethan is lying poolside with a cocktail in his hand.
“Fine,” I tell him, and then lean forward to press a finger into his chest. “I’m taking Ami’s spot. But you keep to your space, and I’ll keep to mine.”
He salutes me. “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Turns out I’m willing to take my sick-sister’s dream honeymoon, but I have to draw a line at airline fraud. Because I am essentially broke, finding a last-minute flight from the freezing tundra to Maui in January—at least one that I can afford—requires some creativity. Ethan is no help at all, probably because he’s one of those highly evolved thirtysomething guys who has an actual savings account and never has to dig in his car’s ashtray for change at the drive-through. Must be nice.
But we do agree that we need to travel together. As much as I’d like to ditch him as soon as possible, the travel company did make it abundantly clear that if there is any fraud afoot, we will be charged the full balance of the vacation package. It’s either the proximity of probable vomit or the proximity of me that sends him halfway down the hall toward his own room with a muttered “Just let me know what I owe you,” before I can warn him exactly how little that might be.
Fortunately, my sister taught me well, and in the end I have two (so cheap they’re practically free) tickets to Hawaii. I’m not sure why they’re so cheap, but I try not to think too much about it. A plane is a plane, and getting to Maui is all that really matters, right?
It’ll be fine.
• • •
SO MAYBE THRIFTY JET ISN’T the flashiest airline, but it’s not that bad and certainly doesn’t warrant the constant fidgeting and barrage of heavy sighs from the man sitting next to me.
“You know I can hear you, right?”
Ethan is quiet for a moment before he turns another page in his magazine. He slides his eyes to me in a silent I can’t believe I put you in charge of this.
I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anyone aggressively flip through a copy of Knitting World before now. It’s a nice touch to keep magazines in the terminal like we’re at the gynecologist’s office, but it’s a little disconcerting that this one is from 2007.
I tamp down the ever-present urge to reach over and flick his ear. We’re supposed to pass as newlyweds on this trip; might as well start trying to fake it now. “So, just to close the loop on this stupid squabble,” I say, “if you were going to have such a strong opinion about our flights, you shouldn’t have told me to take care of it.”
“If I knew you were going to book us on a Greyhound with wings, I wouldn’t have.” He looks up, and glances around in horrified wonder. “I didn’t even know this part of the airport existed.”
I roll my eyes and then meet the gaze of the woman sitting across from us, who is clearly eavesdropping. Lowering my voice, I lean in with a saccharine smile. “If I knew you were going to be such a nitpicker, I would have happily told you to shove it and get your own damn ticket.”
“Nitpick?” Ethan points to where the plane is parked outside what I think is a plexiglass window. “Have you seen our aircraft? I’ll be amazed if they don’t ask us to pitch in for fuel.”
I take the magazine from his hand and scan an article on Summer Sherbet Tops and Cool Cotton Cable Pullovers! “Nobody is forcing you to take a free dream trip to Maui,” I say. “And for the record, not all of us can buy expensive same-day airplane tickets. I told you I was on a budget.”
He snorts. “If I’d known what kind of budget you meant, I would have loaned you the cost.”
“And take money from your sexual companion fund?” I press a horrified hand to my chest. “I wouldn’t dare.”
Ethan takes the magazine back. “Look, Olivia. I’m just sitting here reading. If you want to bicker, go up there and ask the gate agents to move us to first class.”
I move in to ask how it’s possible that he’s headed to Maui and yet somehow even more unpleasant than usual when my phone vibrates in my pocket. It’s most likely one of the following: A) Ami with a vomit update, B) Ami calling to remind me about something I’ve forgotten and don’t have time to get now anyway, C) one of my cousins with gossip, or D) Mom wanting me to ask Dad something, or tell Dad something, or call Dad something. As unpleasant as all of these possibilities sound, I’d still rather listen to any of them than have a conversation with Ethan Thomas.