The Unhoneymooners

Page 7

Holding up my phone, I stand with a “Let me know if we board,” and get nothing but a noncommittal grunt in return.

The phone rings again but it’s not my sister on the screen, it’s an unfamiliar number with a St. Paul area code. “Hello?”

“I’m calling for Olive Torres?”

“This is Olive.”

“This is Kasey Hugh, human resources at Hamilton Biosciences. How are you?”

My heart bursts into a gallop as I mentally flip through the dozens of interviews I’ve had in the past two months. They were all for medical-science liaison positions (a fancy term for the scientists who meet with physicians to speak more technically than sales folk can about various drugs on the market), but the one at Hamilton was at the top of my list because of the company’s flu vaccine focus. My background is virology, and not having to learn an entirely new biological system in a matter of weeks is always a bonus.

But to be frank, at this point I was ready to apply to Hooters if that’s what it would take to cover rent.

With the phone pressed to my ear, I cross to a quieter side of the terminal and try not to sound as desperate as I’m feeling. After the bridesmaid dress fiasco, I am far more realistic about my ability to pull off the orange Hooters shorts and shimmery panty hose.

“I’m doing well,” I say. “Thanks for asking.”

“I’m calling because after considering all the applicants for the position, Mr. Hamilton would like to offer you the medical scientist liaison position. Are you still interested?”

I turn on my heel, looking back toward Ethan as if the sheer awesomeness of these words is enough to set off a flare gun of joy over my head. He’s still frowning down at his knitting magazine.

“Oh my God,” I say, free hand flapping in front of my face. “Yes! Absolutely!”

A paycheck! Steady income! Being able to sleep at night without fear of impending homelessness!

“Do you know when you can start?” she asks. “I have a memo here from Mr. Hamilton that reads, ‘The sooner, the better.’ ”

“Start?” I wince, looking around me at all the cheapo travelers wearing plastic leis and Hawaiian print shirts. “Soon! Now. Except not now now. Not for a week. Ten days, actually. I can start in ten days. I have . . .” An announcement plays overhead, and I look to see Ethan stand. With a frown, he gestures to where people are starting to line up. My brain goes into excitement-chaos overdrive. “We just had a family thing and—also, I need to see a sick relative, and—”

“That’s fine, Olive,” she says calmly, mercifully cutting me off. I squeeze my forehead, wincing at my stupid lying babble. “It’s just after the holidays and everyone is still crazy. I’ll put you down for a tentative start date of Monday, January twenty-first? Does that work for you?”

I exhale for what feels like the first time since I answered the phone. “That would be perfect.”

“Great,” Kasey says. “Expect an email soon with an offer letter, along with some paperwork we’ll need you to sign ASAP if you choose to officially accept. A digital or scanned signature is fine. Welcome to Hamilton Biosciences. Congratulations, Olive.”

I walk back to Ethan in a daze.

“Finally,” he says, with his carry-on slung over one shoulder and mine over the other. “We’re the last group to board. I thought I was going to—” He stops, eyes narrowing as they make a circuit of my face. “Are you okay? You look . . . smiling.”

My phone call is still playing on a loop in my ears. I want to check my call history and hit redial just to make sure Kasey had the right Olive Torres. I was saved from terrible food poisoning, managed to snag a free vacation, and was offered a job in a single twenty-four-hour span? This sort of string of luck doesn’t happen to me. What is going on?

Ethan snaps his fingers and I startle to find him leaning in, looking like he wishes he had a stick to poke me with. “Everything okay there? Change of plans, or—?”

“I got a job.”

It seems to take a moment for my words to sink in. “Just now?”

“I interviewed a couple weeks ago. I start after Hawaii.”

I expect him to look visibly disappointed that I’m not backing out of this trip. Instead he lifts his brows and offers a quiet “That’s great, Olive. Congratulations,” before herding me toward the line of people boarding.

I’m surprised he didn’t ask me whether I would be joining their janitorial team, or at least say he hopes my new job selling heroin to at-risk children treats me well. I did not expect sincere. I’m never on the receiving end of his charm, even if the charm just now was diluted; I know how to handle Sincere Ethan about as well as I would know how to handle a hungry bear.

“Uh, thanks.”

I quickly text Diego, Ami, and my parents—separately, of course—to let them know the good news, and then we’re standing at the threshold to the Jetway, handing over our boarding passes. Reality sinks in and blends with joy: With the job stress alleviated, I can really leave the Twin Cities for ten days. I can treat this trip like an actual vacation on a tropical island.

Yes, it’s with my nemesis, but still, I’ll take it.

• • •

THE JETWAY IS LITTLE MORE than a rickety bridge that leads from our dinky terminal to the even dinkier plane. The line moves slowly as the people ahead of us try to shove their oversize bags into the miniature overhead compartments. With Ami, I would turn and ask why people don’t simply check their bags so we can get in and out on time, but Ethan has managed to go a full five minutes without finding something to complain about. I’m not going to give him any bait.

We climb into our seats; the plane is so narrow that, in each row, there are only two seats on each side of the aisle. They’re so close together, though, they’re essentially one bench with a flimsy armrest between them. Ethan is plastered against my side. I have to ask him to lean up onto one butt cheek so I can locate the other half of my seat belt. After the disconcertingly gravelly click of metal into metal, he straightens and we register in unison that we’re touching from shoulder to thigh, separated only by a hard, immobile armrest midway down.

He looks over the heads of the people in front of us. “I don’t trust this plane.” He looks back down the aisle. “Or the crew. Was the pilot wearing a parachute?”

Ethan is always—annoyingly—the epitome of cool, calm, and collected, but now that I’m paying attention I see that his shoulders are tense, and his face has gone pale. I think he’s sweating. He’s scared, I realize, and suddenly his mood at the airport makes a lot more sense.

As I watch, he pulls a penny from his pocket and smooths a thumb over it.

“What’s that?”

“A penny.”

My goodness, this is delightful. “You mean like a good luck penny?”

With a scowl, he slips it back into his pocket.

“I never thought I had good luck,” I tell him, feeling magnanimous, “but look. My allergy kept me from eating the buffet, I’m going to Maui, and I got a job. Wouldn’t it be hilarious”—I laugh and roll my head in his direction—“to have a streak of good luck for the first time in my life, only to go down in a fiery plane crash?”

Judging by his expression, Ethan does not see the humor at all. When a member of the flight crew walks by, he shoots an arm out in front of me, stopping her.

“Excuse me, can you tell me how many miles are on this plane?”

The flight attendant smiles. “Aircraft don’t have miles. They have flight hours.”

I can see Ethan swallowing down his impatience. “Okay, then how many flight hours are on this plane?”

She tilts her head, understandably puzzled by his question. “I’d have to ask the captain, sir.”

Ethan leans across me to get closer and I push back into my seat, scrunching my nose against the obnoxiously pleasant smell of his soap.

“And what do we think of the captain? Competent? Trustworthy?” Ethan winks, and I realize he’s no less anxious than he was a minute ago, but he’s coping via flirtation. “Well-rested?”

“Captain Blake is a great pilot,” she says, tilting her head and smiling.

I look back and forth between the two of them and dramatically fidget with the gold wedding band I borrowed from Tia Sylvia. No one notices.

Ethan gives her a smile—and wow, he could probably ask her for her social security number, a major credit card, and to bear his children, and she’d say yes. “Of course,” he says. “I mean it’s not like he’s ever crashed a plane or anything. Right?”

“Just the once,” she says, before straightening with a wink of her own and continuing on down the aisle.

• • •

FOR THE NEXT HOUR, ETHAN barely moves, doesn’t speak, and holds himself as if breathing too hard or somehow jostling the plane will make it fall out of the sky. I reach for my iPad before realizing that of course we don’t have Wi-Fi. I open a book, hoping to get lost in some delicious paranormal fun, but can’t seem to focus.

“An eight-hour flight, and there’s no movie,” I say to myself, glaring at the screenless seat back in front of me.

“Maybe they’re hoping your life flashing in front of your eyes will be distraction enough.”

“It lives.” I turn and look at him. “Won’t speaking upset the barometric pressure in the cabin or something?”

Reaching into his pocket, he pulls out the penny again. “I haven’t ruled it out.”

We haven’t spent much time together, but from stories I’ve heard from both Dane and Ami, I feel like I’ve built a pretty accurate picture of Ethan in my head. Daredevil, adventure hound, ambitious, cutthroat . . .

The man clinging to the armrest as if his very life depends on it is . . . not that guy.

With a deep breath, he rolls his shoulders, grimacing. I’m five foot four and mildly uncomfortable. Ethan’s legs have to be at least ten feet long; I can’t imagine what it’s like for him. After he speaks, it’s like the stillness spell has broken: his knee bounces with nervous energy, his fingers tap against the drink tray until even the sweet old lady wearing a Day-Glo muumuu in front of us is giving him a dirty look. He smiles in apology.

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