Bailey was indeed a crying mess for the rest of the day. She spent most of the afternoon on her couch, sobbing into the cushions. She hadn’t meant to be so rude to that sweet man with the camera. She hadn’t meant to put off thinking about talking to Doctor Mathews, either. And she really hadn’t meant to skip visiting her father for what seemed like the hundredth time this year alone. She sniffled again, wiping her nose on the back of her hand.
Bailey felt ashamed of her behavior today. She sat up and turned the tube on, walked ‘round to her kitchen sink. There, she splashed water on her face; the cool wetness felt good on her swollen and tired eyes. Then she washed her hands, past her wrists.
Maybe there was something up with her medication. Bailey made her way to her bedroom and opened the top drawer of her nightstand. She reached in and retrieved her birth control packet. On inspection, Bailey didn’t see anything wrong with it. There weren’t any broken bubbles that housed the pills, so she wasn’t missing any. She hadn’t missed taking any, either. She wasn’t due for her period any time soon, so she wasn’t PMSing. The day had started out alright, she recalled. So what had made it go so sideways?
She hadn’t had sex with anyone in the past few months—a sigh escaped Bailey’s lips—so she couldn’t be pregnant. A test would confirm that for sure, though. And ten minutes later, Bailey emerged from her bathroom with a negative pregnancy test, which she dumped into the trash in her kitchen. At least that was something she wouldn’t have to worry about. It helped to know that there was a one-hundred-percent certainty that she wasn’t pregnant.
Bailey was leaning one hip on one of the three stools that lined the couch-side of the island when her phone rang. She’d been absentmindedly staring off into space, so she jumped a little when her ringtone started playing. The music sounded like it was coming from across the room somewhere; she hurried over to the closet and opened it. Her phone was buzzing against the wall on the detergent shelf. The remnants of “House of the Rising Sun” faded as she picked it up and hit the call button.
“Hi, Mum,” Bailey answered.
“Hi, Sweetie,” her mother replied. “How are you?”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, Mum,” Bailey said, a little exasperated. “Why do you want to know? Did Sam call you like you called her?”
“No, she didn’t,” she said without missing a beat, “but how did that go? Did you girls have a good time?”
“We did,” Bailey said, “thanks.” She waited for a few seconds, and when her mother didn’t say anything else, like she was expecting her to elaborate, Bailey asked, “Was there something you wanted? I’m kind of busy right now.” Yeah, like, feeling like a pile of fodder, Bailey thought. Her mother made a noise at the back of her throat that Bailey probably wasn’t meant to hear.
“Well…” her mother hedged. “I know this time of year is pretty hard on you. It’s hard on me too, Sweetie. I just want you to know that you have people who care about you—”
Her mother just wanted to make sure she was okay. Well, that was swell. If she really wanted to know, she could have just drove a few minutes down the street to visit her. Bailey simmered silently as she continued listening to her mother.
“—and all you have to do is call if you need anything,” her mother finished.
“I know, Mum,” Bailey sighed, resigned. She knew she shouldn’t find any of this a big deal. It happened every year around her father’s anniversary. But her mother barely visited her any more. When she’d become old enough to go off on her own, Bailey moved out of her mother’s house in Jeffersonville. Her mother had visited her whenever they were each free. Incidentally, that turned out to be less and less thanks to Bailey’s increasingly demanding schedule at the hospital.
She’d had the same schedule for two years now, and her mother came to visit Bailey maybe once a month, if she was lucky.
“You sure, Honey?” There was a note of anxiousness in her mother’s question.
It made Bailey frown. Was her mother thinking that now out of any other time, Bailey couldn’t look after herself? Was her mother so lonely that she couldn’t even leave her house to go see her? Granted, Bailey never visited her mother, either. She couldn’t bear to go back to the house she had once shared with her father. Her mother knew that. After he died and once Bailey was old enough to really understand it, she and her mother discussed that it was best if Bailey didn’t go back there; at least, her mother had sided with Bailey after many fights and late-night benders. Those benders had ended in her mother holding Bailey’s hair back as they both cried and she got sick into the toilet.
Bailey didn’t want to find herself in that situation again, so she stayed away.
“Mum,” Bailey began, taking time to really think through what she was saying, “if you really want to know how I’m doing, I think you should come see me.”
“I think it would do you some good,” she continued. “I haven’t seen you in a few months, right? Maybe we can go out to grab a bite, catch up.”
“That sounds lovely, Sweetie.”
Bailey resisted the urge to roll her eyes. She knew her mother was just trying to comfort her, trying to protect her. Bailey had been the one taking care of her mother for the longest time, even from this distance. “And Mum,” Bailey waited so that she knew she had her mother’s complete attention, “you should visit Dad.”