“All the trips they took? Dane let you think they were Ethan’s idea, that Ethan had planned them—”
“They were Ethan’s idea. Like, objectively,” she says. “Dane wouldn’t plan that kind of thing without talking to me first. Ethan planned stuff to get over Sophie, and because he’s single—or was”—she lets out a weird, surprised snort—“he just assumed that Dane was free for all the holidays, too.”
“Most of these trips were before Sophie, or during.” I watch her look for more reasons to explain all this away, and say, “Look, I understand why that’s what Dane wanted you to think.” I wait until she meets my eyes, hoping she sees that I’m being sincere. “It looks better for him if Ethan is the one who is constantly dragging Dane around the world on these crazy adventures. But Ami, Ethan hates to fly. You should have seen him on the plane to Maui—he could barely keep it together. He gets seasick, too. And seriously, he’s such a homebody—like me. I honestly can’t imagine Ethan planning a surfing trip to Nicaragua now—like, the idea makes me laugh. Dane was using Ethan as an excuse to go do stuff and to see other women. There’s at least one other woman that Ethan mentioned.”
“Where the fuck is your tinfoil hat, you psycho?” Ami growls. “I’m supposed to believe that my husband is that manipulative? That he’s been cheating on me for what—three years? Do you really hate him that much?”
“I don’t hate him, Ami—at least I didn’t.”
“Do you have any idea how ridiculous this all sounds? Do you have anyone’s word besides Ethan’s to go by?”
“I do . . . because Dane hit on me last night. At the bar.”
She blinks several times. “I’m sorry, what?”
I explain what happened, about Ethan going to the bathroom and Dane suggesting we could all swing if the mood happened to strike. I watch as my sister’s face, so like my own, goes from confusion, to hurt, to something bordering on rage.
“Holy shit, Olive.” She gapes at me. “Why are you like this? Why are you so cynical about everything?” She picks up her glass and walks to the sink. Her face is so tight and bleak she looks sick again, and my stomach lurches in guilt. “Why do you always want to see the worst in people?”
I don’t even know what to say. I am struck completely mute. In the silence, Ami turns on the water with an aggressive jerk and starts washing out her glass. “Like, are you serious right now? Dane wouldn’t hit on you. You don’t have to like him, but you don’t get to always assume his intentions are terrible, either.”
I follow her into the kitchen, looking on as she rinses her glass before filling it with soap and washing it all over again. “Sweetie, I promise you, I don’t want to think the worst of him—”
She slams the faucet off and whirls to face me. “Did you tell any of this to Ethan?”
I nod slowly. “Right before I left. He followed me outside.”
“And . . .”
Her expression clears. “Is that why you haven’t talked?”
“He wants to believe his brother is a good guy.”
“Yeah. I know the feeling.” The seconds tick by, and I don’t know what more I can say to convince her.
“I’m sorry, Ami. I don’t know what else to say to make you believe me. I never wanted—”
“Never wanted what? To ruin things between Dane and me? Between you and Ethan? That lasted what?” She laughs sharply. “Two whole weeks? You’re always so happy to believe everything just happens to you. ‘My life has turned out the way it has because I’m so unlucky,’ ” she says, mimicking me in a dramatically saccharine voice. “ ‘Bad things happen to poor Olive, and good things happen to Ami because she’s lucky, not because she’s earned them.’ ”
Her words carry the vague echo of Ethan’s, and I’m suddenly angry. “Wow.” I take a step back. “You think I wanted this to happen?”
“I think it’s easier for you to believe that when things don’t go your way, it’s not because of something you did, it’s because you’re a pawn in some cosmic game of chance. But, news flash, Olive: you end up unemployed and alone because of the choices you make. You’ve always been this way.” She stares at me, clearly exasperated. “Why try when the universe has already decided that you’ll fail? Why put any effort into relationships when you already know you’re unlucky in love, and they’ll end in disaster? Over and over like a broken record. You never actually try.”
My face is hot, and I stand there blinking, mouth open and ready to respond but absolutely nothing comes out. Ami and I argue sometimes—that’s just what siblings do—but is this what she really thinks of me? She thinks I don’t try? She thinks I’m going to end up unemployed and alone, and that view of me is only coming out now?
She grabs her things and moves toward the door. “I have to go to work,” she says, fumbling to slip the strap over her shoulder. “Some of us actually have things to do.”
Ouch. I step forward, reaching out to stop her. “Ami, seriously. Don’t just leave in the middle of this.”
“I can’t be here. I have to think and I can’t do that with you around. I can’t even look at you right now.”
She pushes past me. The door opens and then slams shut again, and for the first time since all this started, I cry.
The worst thing about crises is they can’t be ignored. I can’t just walk back to bed and crawl under the covers and sleep for the next month, because at eight in the morning, only an hour after Ami leaves, Tía Maria texts me to let me know I have to go down to Camelia and talk to David about a waitressing job.
David is ten years older than I am but has a boyish face and a playful smile that helps distract me from the throbbing background impulse to pull all my hair out and fall kicking and screaming to the floor. I’ve been in Camelia about a hundred times, but seeing it from the perspective of an employee is surreal. He shows me my uniform, where the schedule is taped to the wall in the kitchen, how the flow of traffic moves through the kitchen, and where the staff meets for dinner before the restaurant opens each night.
I have years of waitressing under my belt—all of us do, many of them at one of my cousin David’s restaurants—but never at a place this classy. I’ll need to wear black pants and a starched white shirt, with the simple white apron around my waist. I’ll need to memorize the ever-changing menu. I’ll also need to have a training with the sommelier and pastry chef.
I admit to looking forward to these last two things very much.
David introduces me to the rest of the waitstaff—making sure to leave out the part where I’m his baby cousin—as well as the chefs and sous chefs and the bartender, who happens to be there doing inventory. My brain is swimming with all the names and information, so I’m grateful when David turns and tells me to be here tomorrow night for the staff meeting and training, starting at four. I’ll be shadowing a waiter named Peter, and when David winks like Peter is cute, my stomach twists because I want to be with my cute man, the one who won me over with his wit and laugh and—yes, his biceps and collarbones. But I’m pissed at him, and maybe he’s pissed at me, and for the life of me I have no idea how this is going to shake down.
David must see some reaction in my face because he kisses the top of my head and says, “I’ve got you, honey,” and I nearly break down in his arms because whether it’s luck or generations of effort and attention ensuring it, I have a truly amazing family.
It’s only noon by the time I’m back home, and it’s depressing to register that I should be halfway into my second workday at Hamilton, meeting new colleagues, setting up accounts. But I admit there is a tiny glimmer in the back of my thoughts—it isn’t relief, not exactly, but it’s not altogether different from relief, either. It’s that I’ve accepted that it happened—I messed up, I was fired because of it—and that I’m actually okay with it. That, thanks to my family, I have a job that can carry me as long as I need it to, and for the first time in my life I can take the time to figure out what I want to do.
As soon as I finished grad school, I did a short postdoc and then immediately entered the pharmaceutical industry, working as the liaison between the research scientists and medical doctors. I loved being able to translate the science to more clinical language, but I’ve never had a job that felt like joy, either. Talking to Ethan about what he did made me feel like Dilbert in comparison, and why should I spend my entire life doing something that doesn’t light me on fire like that?
This fresh reminder of Ethan makes me groan, and although I know he’s at work, I pull out my phone and send him a quick text.
I’ll be home tonight if you want to come over.
He replies within a few minutes.
I’ll be there around seven.
I know he isn’t the most emotionally effusive guy, but the tone of his last three texts sends me into a weird panic spiral, like it’s going to take more than a conversation to fix whatever is going on with us, even though I didn’t do anything wrong. I have no idea what his perspective is on any of this. Of course I hope that he believes me, and that he apologizes for last night, but a tight lead ball in my stomach warns me that it might not go that way.
Looking at my watch, I see that I have seven hours until Ethan gets here. I clean, I grocery shop, I nap, I memorize the Camelia menu, I stress-bake . . . and it only eats up five hours.
Time is inching along. This day is going to last a decade.
I can’t call Ami and ramble about any of this, because I’m sure she’s still not speaking to me. How long is she going to keep this up? Is it possible that she’ll believe Dane indefinitely, and I’ll have to eat my words even though—again—I haven’t done anything wrong here?