Chapter Twenty Eight
It was warm and cozy and Bailey snuggled deeper into the blankets. She was fighting her brain. It wanted to wake up. It could sense the sunlight rising out the window. But all Bailey wanted to do was sleep longer.
“Go away,” she moaned, pulling the covers over her head. She could feel sleep dragging her down again and she sank back into her pillows gratefully.
That’s when she heard it. There were sounds coming from around the bed.
Bailey squinted her eyes against the covers, listening hard. What was that? The sweet drifting sensations of sleep began to float away. She pulled the covers back just a fraction to free her ear. It sounded like chirping. But she didn’t have anything in her apartment that chirped. Her phone was set to “House of the Rising Sun.” That wasn’t a chirp. Her television wasn’t on at the moment. Her alarm clock was set to the morning radio frequency.
“What is that?” Bailey muttered. She sat up in bed quickly and almost screamed.
There were hundreds of thousands of gigantic, chirping crickets in her bedroom. Some were green, some were a pale cream-gray. The crickets were chirping every so often. The sight sent chills that had nothing to do with the sound down her arms.
Bailey swished the covers back and a bunch of the insects flew into the air from it; they landed with dull thuds on the carpet. She reached over and shook Ace’s shoulder.
“Ace, get up,” she demanded. He didn’t stir. “Ace, seriously!”
A soft mumble came from under the covers. “What?”
Bailey knew he was still dead asleep. He liked to talk to her even if he was deep in his REM cycle. “There’s crickets everywhere!” She was having trouble keeping her voice even. Her rapid breathing wanted to turn into a whine of agitation. “Please, get up!”
She smacked his arm this time. He woke with a start. “What? What’s wrong, Bailey?” he asked blearily.
“Crickets!” Bailey stood and gasped. She had almost stepped on one. Her bare feet up on her tiptoes, she crept through the room and turned the overhead light on. She let out a shriek.
Her apartment wasn’t the thing that had scared her. Though it did admittedly look different. Her bedroom wasn’t the small rectangle with the bathroom attached to it like it usually was. The room she was in was long and semi-round, and the roof had so many angles it made her think of a turret on a castle.And she wasn’t even in her bedroom. Bailey had her back to the bedroom doorway, a cathedral-styled opening that led to a medium-sized circular room with the same type of roofing. She and Ace had apparently fallen asleep on an open futon in what was supposed to be their living room. The thing that had scared her was that she was stark naked and all the crickets seemed to be staring at her.
“Bailey, it’s okay!” Ace reasoned. “They’re just bugs. Come here.” He brushed more of the huge insects off his side of the blanket, holding out his open arms for her.
Bailey carefully made her way through the creepy-crawly maze and sat on the bed next to Ace. The crickets’ beady eyes followed her as she walked around them and found her way to the bed. She leaned into his side and he wrapped his arms around her. Why did her apartment look so different? Were they in Ace’s apartment? But shouldn’t he live in a mansion? And why was he out of the rehab center already? Bailey glanced under his arm to his chest. It was perfectly smooth.
Bailey sat up in bed. She blinked groggily at her alarm clock. It read four in the morning. That had been a dream. Not a very fun dream, but only a dream. It was Saturday morning and Bailey let herself drop back into her covers. She would have to go to work in a few hours. After Mathews let Bailey have two weekends off consecutively, Arrington knew he needed Bailey back. It was a good coincidence, as well. Bailey hadn’t wanted any more weekends off for a while.
She didn’t really think it was because of Mathews, but maybe that had a little something to do with it. She figured that if she had a weekend off, she’d spend the entirety of it reliving his attack. That was something that hadn’t happened yet, thankfully. Mostly Bailey was relieved that she had more hours at work. More hours meant more money coming in. It also meant more time to spend with Sam, Charlie and James.
Her friends were much more understanding now. Not only did they visit her father’s grave and leave a bouquet of flowers one day when they were out to lunch, they even dropped one off at her apartment for her. Sam and Charlie started joining her and James on their walks. They tried to make it an every other day thing like she and James did, but when one couldn’t make it because of a surgery or emergency page, the other put in the extra hour to take their place.
Bailey was grateful for them. She knew she could have ended up with a trio of far worse people to work with on a daily basis. She could have been paired with an actual bitch in high school. Sam was a bitch, but she was a classy one and she had good intentions. Charlie could have been less attentive and less accepting of her. James could have been obtusely pessimistic, rather than his usual logical, moral self.
Her mother was definitely grateful. After her mother read Bailey’s letter that she left in her mailbox, her mother decided that her daughter was right. It took a full week for her to gather up enough courage—and shatter enough bottles of wine in an attempt to stem off the desire to drink herself to death—to visit her husband’s grave. It so happened that she was walking down the small hill just when Bailey’s friends were placing their flowers in front of his grave.
“Hi,” she called out. She walked down the stairs on wobbly legs. “That’s a nice thing you’ve done.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Brown,” Sam said. She stood from her crouch.
Though Sam had known Bailey’s mother since high school, she never felt any reason to use her first name. Was it respect? Probably. Sam didn’t pretend to respect people who didn’t deserve it.
Bailey’s mother hadn’t been the best to Bailey as a kid. Even as a teenager, Bailey never complained to her friends even though her mother’s behavior hadn’t changed. In fact, it grew worse. Bailey and her mother fought, for sure. Sam could tell that her friend’s mother just needed to vent. She needed to mourn, and because Bailey was in her own world of mourning as well, she couldn’t see that her mother was trying her best.
“We didn’t know which ones he liked, so we picked a bunch,” Charlie added proudly.
James gestured to the bouquet behind them. “We hoped that you’d see them before they wilted,” he told her. “We’re going to drop some off at Bailey’s too.”
“She’d like that,” Bailey’s mother said. Her voice quavered and she cleared her throat.
“We’ll just…” Sam could tell that Bailey’s mother was uncomfortable. “Should we stay?” she asked kindly.
“I think…I’m not sure,” Bailey’s mother told them. Her eyes started to water. “What would you like to do?”
“It’s just, we haven’t seen you in a long time,” Charlie said.
“We miss you,” Sam added. She smiled at her friend’s mother.
Bailey didn’t know about the conversation in the cemetery. Her friends figured it was good to have had some time with Mrs. Brown alone and they wanted to keep it that way. The next three days passed in a blur. Bailey went to work, came home, slept, and repeated the process. There weren’t any accidents and nothing of real interest happened at the hospital. Bailey’s mother called that Thursday for some advice on what to make herself for dinner, and Ace called that Friday night to tell Bailey that Gemma’s court date had been set.
“Really?” Bailey asked. She was sitting on her couch, her legs pulled up underneath her. There was a bowl of soup perched on her grandmother’s pouf.
“Yes,” Ace’s voice said from the other line. He sounded tired today. “I think I’ll be able to go, too.”
“You do? You don’t think you’ll still be in PT?”
“No. Melissa told me today that I should be out in another month.”
A month, Bailey thought. The reality of it sparked the nuzzling, golden sensation in her chest. She couldn’t hide her grin as she sipped on a spoonful of soup.
“So?” Ace’s question hung in the air. There was a triumphant ring to it. “What do you say? Are you going to come with me?”
“Have they asked you to testify?” Bailey asked. She had gotten a call from Gemma’s lawyer earlier that night, and she said she’d testify. Bailey wondered if Ace would do the same thing against his now ex-wife.
Ace hesitated for a moment. “Yes, they have,” he replied. “Have they asked you?”
“You sound tired today,” Bailey commented. She heard Ace grunt on his end and she said, “Yes, they have, and I said I’d do it. What choice do I have, anyway? Gemma targeted you, and Mathews targeted me. It would make sense, wouldn’t it?”
“It would, yes.”
Bailey waited for him to say more, but he didn’t. She counted to ten in her head before she said, “Ace, are you a’right?”
“Of course, Bailey,” he replied softly. “Melissa just put me through the wringer with my exercises today, that’s all.”
“Don’t worry about me.”
“It’s hard not to,” Bailey told him truthfully. She couldn’t lie to him but she didn’t want to scare him away, either. Ace was a great guy. She just didn’t know if her level of devotion this early in their relationship would push him away.
Thankfully, Ace laughed. “I know what you mean,” he told her warmly. “I have trouble keeping myself from dialing your number every hour even though I know you’re at work.”
Bailey smiled. “So…” She cleared her throat around the awkwardness that wasn’t really awkwardness; she thought of Sam’s waggling eyebrows and almost snorted. “When is Gemma’s court date? I don’t believe we actually got around to the date.”
“It’s scheduled for August seventeenth.”
“A'right. I’ll pick you up and we can have lunch beforehand.”
Ace laughed louder this time. “That’s a bold statement, Nurse Brown,” he said. “Are you sure you’re ready to see where I live?”
Bailey deliberated for a moment. It wasn’t really for her benefit; she just wanted Ace to hang on to what she said next. “I sure am, Mr. Owens.”