“Caipirinhas,” he answers. “You?”
“I’m a margarita girl. But if you like caipirinhas, there’s a place a couple miles from my apartment that makes the best ones I’ve ever had.”
“We should go there,” he says, and it’s clear he’s done it without thinking because we both immediately let out the ha-ha-ha of the Oop, that’s not going to happen! laugh.
“Is it weird that you’re not as unpleasant as I initially thought?” he asks.
I use his monosyllabic tactic against him. “Yes.”
He rolls his eyes.
Over Ethan’s shoulder, the Molokini Crater comes fully into view. It is vibrant green, crescent-shaped, and stunning. Even from here I can see that the clear blue bay is dotted with boats just like ours.
“Look.” I nod to the horizon. “We aren’t lost at sea.”
He lets out a quiet “Wow.” And there, for a single breath, we give in to a really lovely moment of enjoying something together. Until Ethan decides to ruin it: “I hope you don’t drown out there.”
I smile down at him. “If I do, the husband is always a suspect.”
“I take back my ‘unpleasant’ comment.”
Another body joins our awkward foursome on the roof: the Snuba instructor, Nick, a sun-streaked blond guy with overtanned skin and bright white teeth, who calls himself an ‘island boy’ but I am fairly sure was born in Idaho or Missouri.
“Who plans to Snuba, and who plans to snorkel?” he asks us.
I toss a hopeful look across the deck to Sophie and Billy—who have mercifully detached their faces from each other—but they both enthusiastically shout, “Snuba!” so I guess we’re still stuck with them underwater.
We confirm that we’re planning to Snuba, too, and Ethan hauls me up with apparently zero effort, using arms that are remarkably strong. He sets me down an arm’s length away in front of him, standing behind me. It’s a beat before he seems to remember we should stay in newlywed levels of constant contact, so he folds his arms across my chest, jerking my back against his front. I feel the way we’re both already clammy in the heat, and how we immediately suction together.
“Gross,” I groan. “You’re so sweaty.”
His forearm smashes against my boobs.
I step backward, onto his foot. “Oops,” I lie, “sorry.”
He slides his chest against my back, back and forth, intentionally contaminating me with his man sweat.
He is the worst . . . so why am I fighting the urge to laugh?
Sophie sidles up next to him. “Got your lucky penny?” she asks, and I wish I could explain the tiny jealous monster that rears up inside my chest. She is engaged to someone else. Those little inside jokes and coupley secrets don’t belong to her anymore.
Before I can say anything, Ethan slides his arm down, over my chest and across my front so he’s pressing a flattened hand to my stomach, holding me tight. “Don’t need it anymore. I’ve got her.”
Sophie lets out a highly fake “Aww!” and then looks at me. And wow, it is a loaded, silent exchange. In our heads we are having a dance-off. She is sizing me up, maybe trying to connect the dots from how Ethan went from dating her to marrying me.
I assume that she ended things; otherwise he probably wouldn’t care so much about making a show of having a new wife. And I wonder whether the distaste I read on her face is about Ethan moving on so easily or about him moving on with someone who is nothing like her at all.
I lean back against him in an impulsive show of solidarity, and I wonder if he registers that his hips arch subtly against my back in response: an unconscious thrust. Inside my torso, there is an explosion of traitorous butterflies.
A few seconds have passed since he suggested I’m his good luck charm, and it feels too late to say that it’s really the opposite—that with my luck, I’ll get a sliver on the side of the boat, bleed into the ocean, and attract a school of hungry sharks.
“You all ready to have some fun?” Nick asks, breaking into my frozen silence.
Sophie lets out a sorority girl “Hell yeah!” and high-fives Billy. I expect a forced fist bump from Ethan in response, so am surprised when I feel his lips come in for a soft landing on my cheek.
“Hell yeah!” he whispers into my ear, laughing quietly.
• • •
NICK GETS US SUITED UP and fitted with flippers and face masks. The masks only cover our eyes and noses; because we’ll be going deeper than with regular snorkeling, we’re also given mouthpieces we can breathe through that are attached via a long tube to an oxygen tank on a small raft that we’ll pull along the surface above us as we swim. Each tank-raft combination can support two divers, so of course Ethan and I are paired up—which also means we are essentially tethered together.
When we slide into the water and reach for our oxygen nozzles, I can see Ethan investigating the mouthpiece, trying to estimate how many people have slobbered on it and how reliably it’s been cleaned between clients. After glancing at me and registering my complete lack of sympathy for his hygiene crisis, he takes a deep breath and shoves it in, giving Nick an ambivalent thumbs-up.
We take hold of the raft that carries our shared oxygen tank. With a final glance at each other over the top, we duck down, disoriented for a beat of breathing through the respirator and seeing through the mask—and, true to habit, we try to swim in opposite directions. Ethan’s head pops up above the water’s surface again and he jerks his head behind him impatiently, indicating which way he wants to go.
I give in, letting him lead. Under water, I am immediately consumed with everything around us. The black, yellow, and white kihikihi dart by. Cornet fish slice through our field of vision, sleek and silver. The closer we get to the reef, the more unreal it becomes. With eyes wide behind his mask, Ethan points to a brilliant school of reddish soldierfish as it passes another large mass of exuberant yellow tang. Bubbles erupt from his respirator like confetti.
I don’t know how it happens, but one minute I’m struggling to swim faster and the next Ethan’s hand is around mine, helping me move toward a small cluster of gray-dotted o’ili. It’s so quiet down here; I’ve honestly never felt this sort of weightless, silent calm, and certainly never in his presence. Soon, Ethan and I are swimming completely in sync, our feet kicking lazily behind us. He points to things he sees; I do the same. There are no words, no verbal jabs. There is no desire to smack him or poke his eyes out—there is only the confusing truth that holding his hand down here isn’t just tolerable, it’s nice.
• • •
BACK NEAR THE BOAT, WE emerge soggy and breathless. Adrenaline dances through me—I want to tell Ethan we should do this every single day of the vacation. But as soon as our masks are pulled up and we are helped from the water, reality returns. Our eyes meet and whatever he was planning to say dies a similar death in his throat.
“That was fun,” I say, simply.
“Yeah.” He peels off the wetsuit vest, handing it to Nick, and then steps forward when he sees I’m struggling with my zipper. I’m shaking because it’s chilly, so I let him unzip me, and work very hard to not notice how big his hands are and how capably he works the stuck zipper free.
“Thanks.” I bend, rummaging in my bag for my dry clothes. I am not charmed by him. I am not. “Where should I change?”
Nick winces. “We only have one bathroom, and it tends to get pretty crowded when we start to turn back and everyone’s cocktails are hitting their bladder. I’d suggest heading down there soon—but you two are welcome to go in together.”
“To . . . gether?” I ask. I look down toward the narrow steps to the bathroom and notice that people are already starting to gather their things to go use it themselves.
“Nothing you haven’t seen before!” Ethan says with a wicked grin.
I send a militia of harmful thoughts at him.
He soon regrets being so cavalier. The bathroom is the size of a broom closet. A very small broom closet with a very slippery floor. We crowd into the soggy space, clutching our clothes to our chest. Down here, it feels like the boat is in the middle of a storm; we are victims of every tiny lurch and lean.
“You first,” he says.
“Why me first? You go first.”
“We can both change and get this over with,” he says. “You face the door, I’ll face the wall.”
I hear the wet splat of his board shorts just as I’m working my bikini bottom down my shivering legs, and am highly aware that Ethan’s butt is probably only inches away from mine. I experience a moment of pure terror when I imagine how mortifying it would be for our cold, wet butt cheeks to touch.
A little panicky, I scramble for my towel and slip, my right foot coming out from under me in a shallow pool of water near the sink. My foot hooks on something, Ethan shouts in surprise, and I realize that something was Ethan’s shin. After his hand slaps loudly against the wall, he loses his balance, too.
My back hits the floor, and with a splat, Ethan lands on top of me. If there’s pain, I am too distracted by the chaos to register it, and there is a horrified beat of silence where we both realize what’s happened: we are completely naked, wet, and clammy, and a tangle of naked arms and legs and parts in the most mortifying game of Twister anyone has ever experienced.
“Oh my God, get off me!” I shriek.
“What the fuck, Olive? You knocked me over!”
He attempts to stand, but the floor is slippery and in motion, which means he keeps falling back down on me as he scrambles to find footing. Once we’re up, it’s clear we both want to die of mortification. We give up on the facing the door or facing the wall in favor of speed; there is no way for us to do this without flashes of butt and boobs and all manner of dangly things, but at this point, we don’t care.
Ethan scrambles to pull up a clean pair of shorts, but it takes me about four times as long to stutter-pull my clothing up over my wet body. Thankfully, he’s dressed relatively quickly and turns away, pressing his forehead against the wall, eyes closed as I wrestle with my bra and shirt.