“What do you mean, you lost the lottery ticket?”
It was a week later. Nothing incredible had happened at work since the encounter with Ace’s wife. It had been a relatively slow, productive, routine week at the hospital. Routine was good with the patients. It meant they were healing. It also meant that Bailey hadn’t had any interactions with Gemma or Mathews, good or bad.
Gemma hadn’t come in to see Ace. Bailey had been on the schedule to care for Ace’s medication rounds as usual, but Mathews seemed to lose hope that Bailey was going to return his affections. If that’s what they were. The last time Mathews had seen Bailey, she’d gotten the impression that his intentions were a little more than curious about a prospective date.
Ace was recovering very well. His first degree burns were now barely visible under the gauze and ointment. His second degree burns were on track as well and were in the scarring stage, but he’d gotten care quick enough that he’d have very minimal scar tissue; those were going to take a longer time just because of their severity. Ace still had a multitude of nasty third degree burns on his chest. These were the burns that concerned the surgeons the most. Though they were healing well, he would still need a few more hours of surgery to remove the dead skin and graft over a new, healthy layer. And there was the possibility of infection to worry about.
Whatever the mundane in the hospital, the incredible had happened outside of it. Bailey hadn’t received a call but a drop-in visit from someone she had least expected to stop by on a busy Friday afternoon. Her mother had parked beside Bailey’s beat up car just as she was walking out her door. Bailey had rushed home during her lunch hour to grab her cell phone—Charlie was on vacation this week and Bailey was dog sitting after her hours at work—because she’d forgotten it that morning. Charlie had said he didn’t expect to give her a call at all that week but he’d advised her to have her phone on her in case his dog Shaggy needed to go to the vet; Bailey was to call Charlie right away because Shaggy had epilepsy.
She usually kept her phone in her locker at the hospital, but when she forgot it at home Bailey nearly slapped herself silly.
Her mother was now standing in Bailey’s living room in disbelief. She had Bailey’s hospital schedule in her hand as they’d walked towards each other, up the stairs and down, and she told her daughter that she’d be back after her shift ended. Bailey had watched her mother drive down the street without saying a word. She was just as shocked as her mother probably was that she was visiting with Bailey.
Her mother’s eyebrows were dangerously high and her hands were held limply in front of her; it looked like she was on the verge of pleading. Which is exactly what she was doing.
“Yeah,” Bailey replied, “I did.” She hadn’t really, but she couldn’t tell her that.
“Why?” her mother demanded. “That could have paid for your father’s medical bills—his funeral! Do you have any idea how long I’ve been trying to pay that off?”
Bailey nodded, looking back at her mother steadily. Her mother hadn’t known about the winning lottery ticket until Bailey had told her she lost it. The ticket wasn’t the reason her mother had come to visit, but now the original reason, whatever it was, seemed lost in the wind. “It’s been twenty years, Mum,” she said. “You should have been able—”
“Don’t you dare tell me what I should or shouldn’t be able to do!”
It was like Bailey was a teenager again. Her mother was acting as though her daughter had just sassed the crap out of her. All Bailey was trying to do was get her mother to admit her problem. There was no way to reason with her, but Bailey had to try. She told her mother that she’d lost the winning lottery ticket because she wanted to see how her mother would react. It was a crude experiment, but Bailey was ready for anything.
“It’s been twenty years, Mum!” Bailey repeated. “Twenty years. And where has your arse been all this time?”
“Excuse me?” her mother hissed. Bailey wasn’t one to swear at anyone. But her mother had this coming for some time. Bailey had even taken a mild approach; her mother was just being sensitive. “My arse has been taking care of you!”
“You’ve barely been able to take care of yourself!”
Her mother’s pleading look turned a shade of red. She opened and closed her mouth a few times, but nothing came out.
Bailey took this as a sign to forge on through the rocky waters. “I paid for Dad’s funeral. I paid all his bills,” she confessed. A blank look crossed her mother’s face. Ah, Bailey thought, there it is.
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
“It wasn’t a big deal for me,” Bailey said, shrugging. “You haven’t worried about those bills in years. Would you have used the money to pay them off?”
Again, nothing came out of her mother’s open mouth.
“I’ve been taking care of you since Dad died,” Bailey said gently. “I figured that if I paid the bills off—if you noticed they were gone—I’d get you back.”