That night at home, Bailey was busy. She had started cooking herself some dinner and was standing at her stove, her mind wandering. She was idly trying to brown some hamburg in a skillet. She stood with one hand on her hip, one knee bent and one toe of her shoe raising her heal into the air.
Vaguely, Bailey began thinking back to something Sam had said during their lunch hour. She kept insisting Bailey should seriously think about talking to Mathews. Bailey had so far been able to avoid the subject of his crush on her, but though it had only been two days since she and Sam had met for lunch, it was like two weeks had gone by for Sam.
Bailey then began thinking back to her previous relationships, not that she had many to think about.
There was Matt, the tall blond in high school. He was sweet in the beginning. Once he had a few drinks in him, though, every sweet thing that came out of his mouth turned sour. Bailey frowned slightly at the thought of it. She pushed the hamburg around some more, turning the pink side onto the heated skillet. Bailey knew that she and Matt had been considered underage drinkers. But she’d grown up in England for her first seven years. Her mother and father hadn’t minded starting Bailey off on cups of alcohol at the supper table. It was actually allowed in England for sixteen and seventeen year olds to have a beer during a meal if they were in the presence of an older person. What Bailey and Matt did was definitely illegal in the US, but her parents’ tradition always stuck with her, and she never pushed it on her friends. They always drank voluntarily.
Matt was never physically abusive, but his words were another story. Bailey didn’t have nightmares of their fighting matches anymore, yet she still glared at any man who spoke down to his girlfriend if she passed them on the street.
Next came Jason. He was a football player in their senior year. That didn’t last too long; it was more of a fling than anything. Bailey hadn’t minded at the time because she hadn’t been looking for anything too serious. Jason had been fun.
A small smile passed across Bailey’s lips. She looked down into the skillet and noticed that the hamburg was almost done. Spooning it around a little more, she made sure all of the meat was browned and cooked. Then she reached across the stove and turned the knob until the heat clicked off.
Mark had been a good time, too, although Mark had been less interested in a relationship than Bailey had; that stung a little. Just a little. Mark was a tough skateboarder she’d dated in their sophomore year of undergrad college. He’d had the California-sufer-dude complex and most of the time he was just too chill to chill with Bailey.
Throughout her dating experiences, there was one thing—out of everything—that Bailey hadn’t been able to escape. She was a bit of a control freak when it came to guys. Though she was a tiny bit lazy when it came to her own chores, when she’d lived with Mark for a few weeks it had been hell. Anxiety stemming from dirty dishes and laundry in piles everywhere made Bailey want to tear her hair out. Mark would never—almost never, she corrected herself—do his own laundry. Bailey could always be seen going up and down the stairs in his dorm building with piles of alternating dirty and clean laundry.
Bailey dumped the meat onto a paper-towel-lined plate and patted the excess fat and juice away. She really didn’t know why it bothered her so much. Maybe it was her mother coming out of her. When she lived with her mother during high school, Bailey wanted to be lazy like she always had been and always will be (she reminded her mother often about that but her mother liked to pretend she wasn’t listening). When her mother wanted the dishes done or the laundry folded, she wanted it done yesterday. Even if she wanted to do the dishes herself, her mother always pushed Bailey to clean up after the two of them.
Bailey opened her dishwasher and placed the skillet inside; she closed the door. She thought that maybe her mother just wanted to instill in her the ways of being a good housewife. Her mum was from an old prominent family back in England. Traditions were strictly upheld, like the allowance of alcohol, but Bailey wanted little to do with traditions—besides that one—after her father died.
Her father had fallen in love with her mother and her traditions. Not that he had really believed in any, but he had a very high respect for what she believed in and went through with all of them. So when he died…Bailey knew there was no real reason to follow what her mother believed anymore. Bailey didn’t believe in them herself, and the one person who was holding her to them had left her forever.
Bailey shook her head to clear it. This conversation with herself had taken a very different turn than she had originally planned. She sighed heavily. The hamburg was dryer than before, at least, so she added it to the sauce she’d had simmering in a pot on another burner. The spaghetti in yet another pot was just about done and she fished out a strand and ran it gently under cool water. Then she tasted it. Nodding, Bailey decided that about another five minutes would be enough.