Domino Effect

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Chapter Twenty Five

It was another week that saw Bailey back at work. Somehow she had come down with the flu. It was the middle of summer and she was only in contact with one person. Her mother wasn’t sick but maybe she brought the virus home from the grocer’s.

That week gave Bailey a long time of uninterrupted self-reflection. She first thought about her visit with her father. Bailey told her mother about how she felt that someone had been with her. Her mother wasn’t surprised. Bailey’s father had always been a gentle soul; she had a suspicion that he stuck around to take care of them ever since she saw what was undoubtedly his shadow in a mirror the day after he died.

This led Bailey to thinking back on the day of the crash. Now that her relationship with her mother had been repaired, the weight of the accident seemed to lift from her shoulders. All the nightmares, the fear of tight corners, the anxiety felt in closed spaces melted away. The shadow of these fears still lingered—Bailey could feel them if she closed her eyes for too long when she was driving—but she could breathe easier now.

The accident happened when Bailey was eight. She was tucked in the backseat of Robert’s small Jeep. A tiny DVD player was strapped to the back of her father’s headrest, and Bailey was enjoying a medical documentary. It had just started. She was munching happily on a bag of chips.

Bailey had always been bright. She wanted nothing more as a child to learn everything she could about the human body. Bailey’s mother wasn’t too keen about letting her daughter watch the explicit, gory documentaries, but Robert was able to persuade his wife to join Bailey’s side eventually. He knew how much those documentaries meant to Bailey. She felt close to the grandfather she never knew whenever she watched one. It was also a great early-learning opportunity for Bailey, he reasoned.

But Upper Pinnacle Road wasn’t as enjoyable that day. The steep, curvy, canopy-shadowed road usually held the excited anticipation that always meant a hike. That’s what the father and daughter duo had done that day: they were on their way back from a shortened hiking trip. They had taken the day to bond; Mother had spent the day with friends and was at home, preparing dinner. It was raining, and because the descent was very twisty, Robert was driving slower than usual.

He had always driven slowly. His wife teased him about it constantly. But he wanted to be safe and late, rather than dead and early. Unfortunately, that motto didn’t hold true that day. There were powers controlling the vehicle that were beyond Robert’s intuition.

Bailey remembered the whooshing feeling of the car as it swerved. She could feel the twist of her body against the seatbelt as the G-forces hit her. But she didn’t recognize it for what it was at the time. She was eight. She was immersed in how to perform a C-section. What woke her from her trance was when the car slammed into the tree. The glass of her window shattered around her and her head whipped around painfully as if she was a bobble head. Her bulky headphones were yanked off her head; the documentary continued to play mutely on the screen in front of her.

What she didn’t know at the time was that Robert’s car had spun in the tiny lane a total of six times. The Jeep then hit the side of the ditch and rolled down the hill. It barrel-rolled end over end another three times. Then the frame of the car wrapped around the tree.

Bailey was glad now that she didn’t remember that much of the accident. Her mother told her the details once the shock of her father’s death had worn off. The police were quick to arrive. There weren’t many houses on Upper Pinnacle, even back then, but the wreckage had made such a racket that almost the entire town below it had heard it.

Robert died a few minutes after the crash. Though his chest had been speared through by a branch of the tree they were wrapped around, he was able to calm a screaming Bailey until the police and ambulances arrived. Blood dripped onto Bailey’s shoe. She knew what it was, of course, but being eight, she tried to convince herself that it wasn't her father’s blood. She wanted to believe that the tree was bleeding. Her father had crashed into the tree and now the tree was hurt.

That lie didn’t last too long. Robert talked to Bailey through his pain. His voice got softer and softer until finally, as the firefighters and medical team tried to pry the doors of the Jeep open with the Jaws of Life, his voice faded away. Bailey screamed. She screamed until her own voice stopped working.

With the moment of her father’s passing, all the adrenaline pumping through Bailey to keep her pain-free disappeared. A low, deadening numbness spread throughout her small body. The rescue crew continued to work hours after the crash, and Bailey began to realize that the strange loneliness didn’t keep her from feeling an extreme pain in her ankle. She didn’t look at it. It was a good thing, too. Her tiny, fragile ankle was almost snapped in two.

Bailey passed out when her door was wrenched away and she was cut from her seatbelt. She knew she couldn’t stay with her father. It wasn’t that she had lost a sizeable—life threatening—amount of blood that caused her to faint. Bailey couldn’t bear to leave her father in his broken state. He was hurt. She had to protect him. They were best friends.

“Do you think he crashed the car on purpose, Mum?” Bailey asked quietly, her eyes on the tips of her shoes. It was Sunday, and she was wearing some light blue jeans that rose up to her belly button and a cute yellow crop top today in a kind of celebratory greeting of the mild weather.

“What, sorry?” her mother asked.

It was a testament to how much better Bailey was feeling that she was actually out of her sweatpants and sweatshirt. Compared to Wednesday, she was up and walking and her voice was almost back to normal. This was a huge improvement. But Bailey was struck suddenly with the overwhelming urge to ask her mother this question.

Though she had a few other pressing matters to think on—Sam and Dane insisted on coming over that Tuesday to bring Bailey some homemade soup (“You’ll never guess who’s sleeping with who!” Sam whispered to Bailey as soon she stepped through the door), Ace was still asking about Bailey (he had needed one more surgery than the staff had originally thought, and since the burns on his chest were more extensive, he would need to stay in the hospital another week or two), and Arrington had called to check up on Bailey (“I think he wants to make sure I’m actually sick and not faking so he doesn’t have to chuck me out,” Bailey muttered stuffily to her mother on Thursday after she’d hung up the phone)—the one thing that kept Bailey’s head spinning like a top was the fact that her mother had finally come ‘round. With her mother’s presence always by her side, Bailey was forced to fall into the trap of thinking back on her accident, which meant thinking about her father. Fondly, yes, but still sadly.

“What do you mean, Sweetie?”

Bailey could tell she had hit a nerve. Her mother had her face plastered as if she’d just had Botox injected into her cheeks and mouth. Her smile was stiff and her eyes seemed like they were plastic balls; shiny and vacant.

“I dunno,” Bailey muttered. “Sorry for asking.”

Bailey’s mother came back to life. “I don’t think he did, Bailey,” she said calmly. When she saw how her daughter’s eyes shone with tears, she continued with two reassuring statements: “He wasn’t in the mob, Hun, and no one would ever have enough money in the world for your father to want to kill himself or you in order to get it.”

Her daughter sniffled. At least now the sniffle was associated with her crying and not the total ass-backwards way she had been feeling with the flu. Bailey glanced to her mother under her wet eyelashes. “Yeah, it was stupid of me for thinking that,” she agreed. “He was never bonkers like Gemma or Mathews.”

"That's right."

It made her feel a whole lot better, her mother’s declaration. Her head was fuzzy now, rather than filled with guilt or betrayal. Bailey felt like she had just taken a bit too much medication. The outlines of everything she looked at were wavering; she smiled vacantly at her mother, who smiled back. Her father hadn’t been in the mob. He hadn’t died and put Bailey in danger because of a butt load of money. She was relieved. No, she was ecstatic.

Robert Brown wasn’t like Gemma Owens or Doctor Mathews. Bailey’s smile faltered. She didn’t know Doctor Mathews’ first name. Why didn’t she know his first name? Bailey’s eyes narrowed at her mother’s back as she walked towards the bathroom and closed the door behind her. Had she ever known it?

It was a common side effect of a bad concussion to have memory loss. It was also common to have headaches the first few weeks or months afterwards. Bailey didn’t have headaches, thank God, but she did slip up with remembering details every once in a while. She stood from the couch and walked over to her fridge. What had she had trouble remembering this week? Bailey stuck her head in the fridge and poked around for a few seconds. She grabbed the milk cartoon and closed the door again.

She couldn’t remember where she’d put her car keys. That wasn’t a big deal, at least not this week, since she hadn’t been well enough to drive anywhere. And that was fairly common with Bailey. If she didn’t consciously put her wallet and keys in the bowl on her dresser in her bedroom, then she would drive herself nuts trying to find them. Bailey unscrewed the cap to the milk and took a swig right out of the gallon.

But not knowing Mathews’ first name… That was strange. Maybe it had something to do with PTSD. Bailey opened the refrigerator door and replaced the milk. She leaned back against the door. Maybe, since she associated Doctor Mathews with a traumatic experience, her mind automatically blanked his name out for her. Maybe it was her way of healing.

His first name would come back to her eventually.

Sighing, Bailey walked backed over to the couch and sat. Her mother flushed the toilet and reappeared from Bailey’s bedroom; she sat next to her. She played with a strand of Bailey’s hair absently.

“Big day tomorrow,” her mother said casually.

“Whatcha mean? I’m just going back to work,” Bailey replied.

“Exactly.” Her mother turned so that she faced Bailey head on. “Are you sure you’re ready? You don’t want to get the entire hospital sick.”

Bailey knew that wasn’t what her mother meant, but she decided that course of action was best at the moment. “I feel much better,” she said. “Besides, the patients are being pumped to the brim with antibiotics. There’s no way they would catch this cold, it’s over a week old.”

“That’s not what I meant.”

“I know.”

“Are we going to talk about it?”

“If you want.” Bailey stood and grabbed the TV remote from her grandmother’s pouf. She clicked the television on.

Her mother sighed and faced the TV. She seemed resigned to the fact that Bailey didn’t want to talk about Ace. That was what she wanted to hear about. Her mother wanted to know how Bailey was going to deal with that snag in her schedule. The truth was…Bailey didn’t know how she was going to deal with it either.

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