“That was about as enjoyable as being slapped with a dead fish,” sighed Enid Kibbler. She was the recently-hired news anchor with CNN, and she was clearly irritated with the interviewee that had just stepped away from the camera’s viewpoint. She shuffled her papers on her desk for a moment before looking back to the camera, adding, “Anywho, in other news—I’ve always wanted to use that line—the terribly tragic automobile accident of Robert Brown still haunts the town today, folks. It was twenty years ago that…”
But what happened twenty years ago never reached Bailey’s ears. She already knew what had happened, and it was bollocks, so she not only switched the television to mute, but hit the power button for good measure. It was five o’clock, a Friday evening, and she was home alone. She was always home alone, but that didn’t bother her. Tonight though, she was bored to tears.
Bailey slumped deeper into her couch with a vague huff. She glanced down at her feet, propped up on the only pouf she ever owned and would ever own. Her white socks were growing holey. She could just barely see the pink of her toes through the cotton. The pouf was starting to fray around the edges. She’d have to get that tailored. She couldn’t let the pouf get too bad; Grandmother would never have allowed that, and she was probably flipping over in her grave with the state of it now. Bailey’s eyes drifted past the tatters and rested on the throw rug underneath the pouf. It still had that spaghetti stain, but at least it had faded a little. She never did have any care for cleaning. The stain was just a new addition to the already colorfully old rug. She didn’t mind it much.
Sitting up straighter, Bailey rubbed her temples, leaning her elbows on her thighs. She’d have to check on that patient with the burns on Monday. He seemed to be doing better, but he was still in the coma Doctor Mathews put him in. That was definitely best for him right now. Bailey stood and walked past the island and into her kitchen. The poor guy would be screaming if he could feel how injured he really was. Shuddering, Bailey opened her refrigerator. After a quick scan of the basically-empty shelves, she heaved a sigh and closed it, leaning against the door. She’d have to go to the store tonight. Another cup of that insta-noodles thing and her arteries would clog up for good.
Bailey’s life was straightforwardly one of the most boring she’s ever seen. It was always come home, eat dinner on the couch, take a shower, head to bed. The routine would start all over again in the morning with work just added into the mix. She rarely did any housework, and there weren’t any roommates to worry about. She was free to live in her moderately-priced, upscale dump in peace. Bailey lived in the pricier part of the neighborhood, the one that attracted all the tourists. There were ritzy neighborhoods dotted all around her own. When she began looking for a place of her own, she decided that the only thing she could afford was an apartment. It didn’t bother her, the fact that sports cars flashed by her window all the time. She liked her apartment.
Bailey ran a hand through the skimpy bangs that had fallen out of her tight bun. She should probably get out of her work clothes. She looked down at her light turquoise scrubs; they had a few stains on them, and not a lot of that was food. Shaking her head, Bailey reached up and shook her blond hair out of the elastic, making sure to put it on her wrist. She began tugging off her shirt as she walked past the island again and into the living room. She tossed the shirt on the floor behind the couch and hopped on one foot, slipping her pants off one leg at a time. Bailey bent down and grabbed her shirt, slung her pants over her arm, and disappeared into her bedroom.
It was deeper into the night than she realized when Bailey awoke. She’d had a good, long, hot, relaxing shower that wasted much more water than was necessary, but she honestly couldn’t care less. The water had relaxed her muscles in just the right way and she didn’t bother to dry her hair before climbing into bed. Well, she climbed onto her bed. The day at work had been so arduous that she couldn’t believe she hadn’t eaten right away after coming home. She must have been in a funk. She didn’t normally turn the tube on until there was food in front of her.
Bailey rolled over and stretched, scratched her semi-wet head and sat up. Her ankles cracked when they took her weight as she stood, but it didn’t bother her. That had been happening since she was eight. She’d left her dirty clothes on the floor at the entrance to her bathroom and she walked by them just in the same manner as she had dropped them.
Once again, Bailey realized that her fridge was empty. She heaved a sigh. She should probably get dressed if she was going to go out. She chuckled as she looked down at her naked body. Bailey always slept naked. She didn’t have anyone to worry about seeing her. So she traipsed back to her bedroom and dug around in her dresser for a few minutes until she found an outfit that was suitable for a nighttime supply run. A lightly colored jogging suit. It was comfortable and easy. Nodding in satisfaction, Bailey tugged on her sneakers, grabbed her keys and wallet from the bowl on her dresser, and turned all the lights out in the apartment except the bathroom. She’d need that light when she came back.
Laden with bags of chips, frozen vegetables, eggs, sandwich meat and cheese, and a gallon of milk, Bailey staggered through her front door and over to the island. She carefully placed the bags on the ground. The eggs were the first to go into the fridge, as well as the milk. And then the cheese and meat; the veggies were tossed into the freezer. The chips she kept out, munching on them as she crumpled up the plastic bags and tossed them, one by one, into the trash can from over the top of the couch. She missed all but one, and she left them where they fell on the ground, knowing she’d throw them away eventually.
Bailey sat on her couch in the dim light from the bathroom, crunching mildly on the chips. They weren’t half bad, she noted, crunching on another one. What were they? She turned the bag over. She really hadn’t noticed what she’d picked up; she just knew she wanted something snacky when she got home. They were Lay’s, but they were the biscuits and gravy kind. Bailey grunted in a kind of noncommittal way.
Today had been crazy. Not the crazy that needed a sedative, crazy, but crazy as in holy-hell-why-isn’t-today-over-I-need-a-drink, crazy. Bailey dug out another chip and popped it into her mouth. The burn guy had come in early, so the day hadn’t been too bad to begin with. There were gashes that needed stitches and blood vials that needed to be drawn, the usual stuff.
Patients passed out and stayed in their rooms well after they were discharged because they couldn’t stop puking. That meant there was a shortage of examination rooms. It left a confusion among the staff. The amount of puking patients wasn’t normal, however, so the staff almost ran out of the medication that stopped the sickness. Bailey’s day was frustrating, to say the least.She did get to peek at a few of the files that were passed from resident to attending to nurse, before handing them over to the lab technicians, though. Which technically wasn’t allowed. She had been doing errands for the lazy residents, after all. But she wasn’t going to hold her breath. The residents didn’t take any issues with the nurses, and they even shouldered the blame for some of the nurses’ mistakes. She basically owed the residents just for watching her and her fellows.
Bailey chomped on another chip, decided she was done with the bag, and rolled the top down after she squeezed out the air. Then she grabbed the tube remote and clicked the TV on.
The muted CNN channel was still broadcasting, since she hadn’t unmuted it or changed the channel before turning the television off. Not really wanting to watch anything but interested in the background noise, Bailey turned the volume up and walked back to the island in her kitchen with the potato chip bag. She dumped it on the counter next to the refrigerator.
“…is very popular this time of year,” rattled the new anchor. “The warm weather always brings visitors from many different regions, all searching for the beauty of Stowe.”
Bailey leaned on the counter, looking at the screen but not really paying attention to what the news lady was saying. She absentmindedly twirled a strand of blond hair around her finger.
“The warm weather also brings a sadness to the town,” Bailey’s finger twitched but didn’t stop twirling the piece of hair, “as the date nears that of the anniversary,” Bailey’s finger stopped twirling, “of Robert Brown’s accident on Upper Pinnacle Road, in the heart of town.”
Her hand dropped to the countertop. They were still talking about it. She stepped away from the island almost mechanically. Walked over to the couch again. She thought that would’ve been over by now. She looked away from the television, pointing the remote in its direction. She heard the news anchor get cut off with audible silence.
Bailey sat on the couch, her eyes unfocused. That was something she hadn’t needed reminder of tonight. She had been mildly enjoying her time at home. She had been relaxed, at ease, even, after a hectic day at the hospital. She’d taken care of herself—showered and napped—and even ate some food. It was more than she could say of a few years ago. She was getting there. She had her friends at work. They were always reminding her that she could lean on them if she needed them, that she’d be right as rain soon enough, and Bailey hadn’t needed them in quite some time.
She snorted, standing. That sounded harsh. She had lunch with Charlie and Sam every other day in the cafeteria, and went for a walk on break with James on the others. Bailey made her way to her bedroom, flipping the light switch down in the bathroom on her way. Her friends didn’t even ask how she was anymore. She stripped her clothes off and they fell to the floor. Her friends just assumed she was better. Bailey pulled back her sheets and slid into them, covering herself up to her chin.
But she wasn’t better. Not really. She’d never be better. Things just…didn’t hurt as much. They stung numbly every once in a while, sure, and she still had this pit in her chest that she fell into occasionally, but Bailey knew how to keep going. She rolled over onto her side.
Bailey had been plugging away dutifully since she was eight. She closed her eyes. Things weren’t as bad as they were back then, but—a quiet tear rolled down the side of her face unnoticed—she was still sad about it sometimes.