“Tell me about that lucky penny of yours,” I say, motioning to the coin still clutched in his fist. “Why do you think it’s lucky?”
He seems to internally weigh the risk of interacting with me against the potential relief of distraction.
“I don’t really want to encourage conversation,” he says, “but what do you see?” He opens his palm.
“It’s from 1955,” I note.
I look closer. “Oh . . . you mean how the lettering is doubled?”
He leans in, pointing. “You can really see it right here, above Lincoln’s head.” Sure enough, the letters that read IN GOD WE TRUST have been stamped twice.
“I’ve never seen anything like that before,” I admit.
“There’s only a few of them out there.” He rubs his thumb over the surface and slips it back into his pocket.
“Is it valuable?” I ask.
“Worth about a thousand dollars.”
“Holy shit!” I gasp.
We hit some mild turbulence, and Ethan’s eyes move wildly around the plane as if the oxygen masks might deploy at any moment.
Hoping to distract him again, I ask, “Where did you get it?”
“I bought a banana just before a job interview, and it was part of my change.”
“And not only did I get the job, but when I went to have some coins rolled the machine spit the penny out because it thought it was a fake. I’ve carried it around ever since.”
“Don’t you worry you’re going to drop it?”
“That’s the whole point of luck, isn’t it?” he says through gritted teeth. “You have to trust that it’s not fleeting.”
“Are you trusting that right now?”
He tries to relax, shaking out his hands. If I’m reading his expression correctly, he’s regretting telling me anything. But the turbulence intensifies, and all six-plus feet of him stiffen again.
“You know,” I say, “you don’t strike me as someone who’d be afraid of flying.”
He takes a series of deep breaths. “I’m not.”
This doesn’t really require any sort of rebuttal. The way I have to pry his fingers from my side of the armrest communicates it plainly.
Ethan relents. “It’s not my favorite.”
I think of the weekends I spent with Ami because Dane was off on some wild adventure with his brother, all the arguments those trips caused. “Aren’t you supposed to be like, Bear Grylls or something?”
He looks at me, frowning. “Who?”
“The trip to New Zealand. The river rafting, death-defying bro trip? Surfing in Nicaragua? You fly for fun all the time.”
He rests his head back against the seat and closes his eyes again, ignoring me.
As the squeaky wheels of the beverage cart make their way down the aisle, Ethan crowds into my space again, flagging down the flight attendant. “Can I get a scotch and soda?” He glances at me and amends his order. “Two, actually.”
I wave him off. “I don’t like scotch.”
He blinks. “I know.”
“Actually, we don’t have scotch,” she says.
“A gin and tonic?”
His shoulders slump. “A beer?”
“That, I have.” She reaches into a drawer and hands him two cans of generic-looking beer. “That’s twenty-two dollars.”
“Twenty-two American dollars?”
“We also have Coke products. They’re free.” He moves to hand back the cans. “But if you’d like ice that’s two dollars.”
“Wait,” I say, and reach into my bag.
“You’re not buying my beer, Olive.”
“You’re right, I’m not.” I pull out two coupons and hand them over. “Ami is.”
“Of course she is.”
The flight attendant continues on down the aisle.
“Some respect, please,” I say. “My sister’s obsessive need to get things for free is why we’re here.”
“And why two hundred of our friends and family were in the emergency room.”
I feel a protective itch for my sister. “The police already said she wasn’t responsible.”
He cracks his beer open with a satisfying pop. “And the six o’clock news.”
I mean to glare, but am momentarily distracted by the way his Adam’s apple moves as he drinks.
“I don’t know why I’m surprised,” he says. “It was doomed anyway.”
The itch flares to a full-on blaze. “Hello, Ethan, that’s your brother and sister-in—”
“Calm down, Olive. I don’t mean them.” He takes another gulp and I stare. “I meant weddings in general.” He shudders and a note of revulsion coats the next word: “Romance.”
Oh, he’s one of those.
I admit my parental model of romance has been lacking, but Tío Omar and Tía Sylvia have been married for forty-five years, Tío Hugo and Tía Maria have been married for nearly thirty. I have examples of lasting relationships all around me, so I know they exist—even if I suspect they might not exist for me. I want to believe that Ami hasn’t started something doomed, that she can be truly happy with Dane.
Ethan drains at least half of the first beer in a long chug, and I try to piece together the extent of my Ethan knowledge. He’s thirty-four, two years older than us and Dane. He does some sort of . . . math thing for a living, which explains why he’s such a laugh a minute. He carries at least one form of personal disinfectant on his person at all times, and he won’t eat at buffets. I think he was single when we met, but not long after he entered into a relationship that seemed at least semiserious. I don’t think his brother liked her because I distinctly recall Dane ranting one night about how much it would suck if Ethan proposed to her.
Oh my God, am I going to Maui with someone’s fiancé?
“You’re not dating anyone now, right?” I ask. “What was her name . . . Sierra or Simba or something?”
“Simba?” He almost cracks a smile. Almost.
“No doubt it shocks you when someone doesn’t keep close track of your love life.”
His forehead scrunches up in a frown. “I wouldn’t go on a fake honeymoon with you if I had a girlfriend.” Sinking back in his seat, he closes his eyes again. “No more talking. You’re right, it shakes the plane.”
• • •
WITH LEIS AROUND OUR NECKS and the heavy ocean air adhering our clothing to our skin, we catch a cab just outside the airport. I spend most of the ride with my face pressed to the window, taking in the bright blue sky and the glimpses of ocean visible through the trees. I can already feel my hair frizzing in the humidity, but it’s worth it. Maui is stunning. Ethan is quiet beside me, watching the view and occasionally tapping something into his phone. Not wanting to disturb the peace, I snap a few blurry photos as we drive down the two-lane highway and send them to Ami. She replies with a simple emoji.
I know. I’m sorry.
Don’t be sorry.
I mean, I have Mom with me for the foreseeable future. Who’s the real winner here?
Enjoy yourself or I’ll kick your ass.
My poor sister. It’s true that I’d rather be here with Ami or . . . anyone else, for that matter, but we’re here and I’m determined to make the most of it. I have ten beautiful, sun-drenched days ahead of me.
When the taxi slows and makes a final right turn, the hotel grounds seem to unfurl in front of us. The building is massive: a towering tiered structure of glass, balconies, and greenery spilling everywhere. The ocean crashes right there, so close that someone standing on one of the higher floors could probably throw a rock and make it into the surf.
We drive down a wide lane lined on both sides with full-grown banyan trees. Hundreds of lanterns sway in the breeze, suspended from branches overhead. If it’s this gorgeous during the day, I can’t imagine the sight once the sun goes down.
Music filters through speakers hidden in the thick foliage, and next to me even Ethan is sitting forward, eyes trained on the grounds as we pass.
We come to a stop, and two valet attendants appear out of nowhere. We climb out, stumbling a bit as we look around, eyes meeting over the roof of the car. It smells like plumeria, and the sound of the waves crashing nearly drowns out the sound of engines idling at the valet. I’m pretty sure Ethan and I have reached our first, enthusiastic consensus: Holy shit. This place is amazing.
I’ve been so distracted that I startle when the first valet pulls out a handful of luggage tags and asks for my name.
The valet smiles. “For the luggage.”
“The luggage. Right. My name. My name, is—well, it’s a funny story—”
Ethan rounds the car and immediately takes my hand. “Torres,” he says. “Ami Torres-soon-to-be-Thomas, and husband.” He leans in, pressing a stiff kiss to the side of my head for realism. “She’s a bit wiped from the trip.”
Stunned, I watch as he turns back to the valet and looks like he’s resisting the urge to wipe his lips with his hand.
“Perfect,” the attendant says, scribbling the name on a few of the tags and attaching them to the handles of our luggage. “Check-in is through those doors there.” He smiles and points to an open-air lobby. “Your bags will be brought up to your room.”
“Thank you.” Ethan presses a few folded bills into the valet’s palm and steers me toward the hotel. “Smooth,” he says as soon as we’re out of earshot.
“Ethan, I’m a terrible liar.”
“Really? You hid it so well.”
“It’s never been my strength, okay? Those of us who aren’t summoned by the Dark Mark consider honesty to be a virtue.”
He curls his fingers toward his palm, beckoning. “Give me both IDs—yours and Ami’s—so you don’t accidentally hand them the wrong one at the front desk. I’ll put my credit card down for incidentals, and we’ll square it up later.”