“So,” she says, staring directly at Ethan. It looks like she’s sending him messages with the power of her mind.
They are not penetrating.
Finally, he glances up with a forced blank expression. “Hm?”
“Maybe we can get drinks later. Talk?” She’s clearly asking him, singular, not us, plural. And I assume Billy is also not included in the invitation.
I want to ask her, Now you want to talk? You didn’t when he was yours!
But I refrain. An awkward weight descends, and I look up at Billy to see whether he feels it, too, but he’s pulled his phone out of his pocket and is scrolling through Instagram.
“I’m not . . .” Ethan looks over at me, brows drawn. “I mean, maybe?”
I give him an Are you fucking serious? face, but he misses it.
“Text me?” she asks softly.
He lets out a garbled sound of agreement, and I want to snap a picture of her expression and his to show him later and make him explain what the hell is happening. Does Sophie regret breaking up with Ethan? Or is it only bothering her because he’s “married” and not pining over her anymore?
This dynamic is fascinating . . . and just so, so weird. There’s no other way to explain it.
I let myself imagine this bubbly person in front of me leaving a note that says simply, I don’t think we should get married. Sorry.
And, in fact, I can totally see it. She’s candy-sweet at the surface and probably terrible at communicating negative emotions. Meanwhile, I’m like a sour patch kid on the surface, but will happily detail all the ways I think the world is going to hell.
After lingering for a few more stilted beats, Sophie tugs at Billy’s arm, and they make their way toward the exit. Ethan lets out a long breath aimed at his plate.
“Seriously, why do they insist on socializing with us?” I ask.
He takes his grumpy feelings out on a piece of chicken, harshly stabbing it. “No idea.”
“I think drinks tonight would be a bad idea.”
He nods but doesn’t say anything.
I turn to watch Sophie’s high and firm retreating backside, then look back to Ethan. “You okay?”
I mean, we had sex like an hour ago. Even with his ubiquitous ex wandering around the hotel, the correct answer here is Yes, right?
Ethan nods and gives me what I’ve come to know is a fake smile. “I’m fine.”
“Good, because I was about to flip the table over the way she was staring at you with sad dog eyes.”
He lifts his head. “She what?”
I don’t like how immediately this perked him up. I want to be honest with him, but my words come out forced. “Just—she seemed to want to make eye contact with you.”
“I mean, we made eye contact. She asked to meet us for drinks . . .”
“Yeah, no. She wanted to meet you for drinks.”
Ethan very deliberately tries to look cool about this and does a very bad job at it. He’s fighting a gloating smile.
And I get it. Who hasn’t wanted to wave their shiny new relationship in the face of the person who dumped them? Even the best among us aren’t above that kind of pettiness. And yet, heat rushes to my face. I’m not just wary in this moment, I’m humiliated. A very obvious vacation screw. At the very least, dude, put away your boner for your ex for a good six hours after having sex with someone else.
I stop myself.
This is exactly what I do. I assume the worst. Needing a break, I stand and drop my napkin on the table. “I’m going to head up and shower. Think I want to do some shopping around the hotel shops for souvenirs.”
He stands, too, more out of surprise than courtesy, I think. “Okay. I could—”
“No, it’s okay. I’ll catch up with you later.”
He doesn’t say anything else, and when I look back near the exit, his expression is hidden from me: he’s back in his seat, staring down at his meal.
• • •
RETAIL THERAPY IS REAL AND glorious. I’m able to noodle around the hotel shops and find a few thank-you gifts for Ami, some souvenirs for my parents, and I even buy a T-shirt for Dane. He may be a jerkface, but he did miss his honeymoon.
Although I can lose myself in the mental blankness of perusing overpriced island tchotchkes, in the background, the low hum of irritation with Ethan remains, and is accompanied by the throbbing baseline of stress over whether we made a terrible mistake by sleeping together. It’s possible we did, and if so, we’ve just made the remaining five days here exponentially more awkward than they would be if we still hated each other.
This day has been emotionally draining: waking up with the memory of a kiss, a fight with Ethan, the realization about Dane, reconciliation and sex, and then the predictable daily Sophie run-in that wedged a whole boatload of uncertainty between us. This day has lasted four years.
My first go-to whenever I’m upset has always been my sister. I pull out my phone and focus on the swaying palm trees overhead in its reflection. I want to ask if she’s okay. I want to ask if Dane is around, to see what he’s been doing, and with who. I really want her advice about Ethan, but know that I can’t get into any of that without explaining all the details that led up to it first.
I can’t do that over the phone. I certainly can’t do it over text with her. So, needing some anchor to home, I text Diego instead.
What’s the latest in the frozen tundra?
I had a date last night.
Oooh, was it good?
He reached forward to retrieve a piece of food from my teeth without warning.
So . . . no, then?
I’m guessing you and Ethan haven’t murdered each other yet?
Close, but no.
Now is definitely not the time to break the news that Ethan and I did The Deed, and Diego is definitely not the one to tell—I’ll lose all aspects of message control.
Well I’m sure you’re managing to somehow suffer through a dream vacation.
No, it’s amazing. Even I can’t complain. How is Ami?
Emaciated, bored, married to a bro.
Rumor has it your dad brought her flowers and she pulled off every petal and used them to spell PUTA in the snow.
Wow. That’s. Wow.
So, all is the same here.
I sigh. That’s exactly what I worried about.
OK. I’ll see you in a few days.
Miss you, mami.
Miss you, too.
I return to the room with my bags, expecting—maybe hoping—that Ethan is out so that I can use the calm of my post-shopping brain to figure out how I’m going to handle him.
But of course he’s there, showered, dressed, and sitting on the balcony with a book. He hears me come in, and stands, stepping inside.
Just a glance at him and I’m remembering what happened only a few hours ago, and how he looked down at me, eyes heavy, mouth slack with pleasure. I drop the bags onto a chair in the living room and busy myself by digging through them to pretend to look for something. “Hey,” I say, faux-distracted.
“Did you want to grab dinner?” he asks.
My stomach rumbles but I lie: “Um . . . not super hungry.”
“Oh. I was just waiting to see—” He cuts the words short, rubbing his chin with mild aggravation.
My response to this is completely unrelated, but it’s what my brain decides to throw out into the room: “I thought you might be having drinks with Sophie.”
He has the nerve to look confused. “I . . . no?”
“You could have gone to dinner without me, you know.” I don’t have anything to do with my hands, so I aggressively roll my plastic shopping bag closed and shove it deeper on the chair. “We don’t have to eat every meal together.”
“What if I wanted to go with you?” he asks, studying me, clearly vexed. “Would that break your new, confusing rules?”
I bark out a laugh. “Rules? What are rules?”
“What are you talking about?”
“You sleep with me and then have an emotional brain fart with me in front of your ex. I would say that’s breaking a pretty big rule.”
He frowns immediately. “Wait. This is about Sophie? Is this another cheese curd misreading of the situation?”
“No, Ethan, it isn’t. I don’t give a crap about Sophie. This is about me. You were more focused on her reaction to you than you were on what I was feeling in the moment. I don’t often put myself in situations where I’m a rebound or a distraction, and so you can probably understand that it was awkward for me to see her, too. But you had zero awareness of it. And obviously that’s to be expected if you don’t have feelings for me, but . . .” I trail off lamely. “Anyway. It’s not about Sophie.”
Ethan pauses, mouth open like he wants to speak but isn’t sure what to say. Finally, he manages, “What makes you think I don’t have feelings for you?”
It’s my turn to hesitate. “You didn’t say you did.”
“I didn’t say I didn’t, either.”
I am tempted to continue this ridiculousness just to be a brat, but someone has to be an adult here. “Please don’t pretend you don’t understand why I’m pissed.”
“Olive, we’ve barely had a conversation since we had sex. What do you have to be pissed about?”
“You were totally freaking out at lunch!”
“You’re freaking out now!”
I realize that he’s not denying anything I’ve said. “Of course I’m going to be annoyed watching you quietly soak up Sophie’s jealousy after you just had sex with me.”
“ ‘Quietly soak up—’?” He stops, shaking his head. Ethan holds up his hands in a request for a temporary cease-fire. “Can we just get dinner? I am starving and have no idea what’s going on here.”
• • •
PERHAPS UNSURPRISINGLY, DINNER IS TENSE and silent. Ethan orders a salad, I order a salad—clearly we do not want to have to wait long for our food to arrive. We both avoid alcohol, too, but I could honestly use a few margaritas.