The Last Thing He Told Me

1.11 Bailey’s No Good Very Bad Day

chapter
Chapter

When Bailey gets back from school, she looks miserable.
I’m sitting on the bench, drinking a glass of red wine, a blanket covering my
legs. I try to go back over the day—a day that began and will end without Owen,
as impossible as that feels. As angry and sad and stressed and alone as that makes
me feel.
She weaves down the docks, keeping her head down, until she gets to the
house. Then she stops in front of me, right in front of the bench, and stands
there. Eyes blazing.
“I’m not going back there tomorrow,” she says. “I’m not going back to
school.”
I take in her eyes, her fear. There we are—mirror images of each other—the
last way I wanted us to get here.
“They pretend they’re not talking about it,” she says. “About my dad. About
me. It’s worse than if they just said it to my face. Like I can’t hear them whisper
about it all day anyway.”
“What were they saying?”
“Which part do you want to hear?” she says. “How Brian Padura asked
Bobby after chemistry if my father was a criminal? Or when Bobby punched
him in the mouth for it?”
“Bobby did that?”
“Yep…”
I nod, a little impressed with Bobby.
“It gets worse from there,” she says.
I move down the bench slightly, making room for her. She sits down, but on
the edge, as if she may change her mind and get up at any moment.
“Why don’t you skip tomorrow?”
She looks at me, surprised. “Really?” she says. “You’re not even going to 􀏯ght
me on that?”
“Would it help?”
“No.”
“As far as I’m concerned, you’re o􀏦 the hook for school tomorrow. If your
day was anything like mine, you deserve to be.”
She nods, starts biting on her nails. “Thank you,” she says.
I want to reach out and take her hand away from her mouth, hold it. I want
to tell her it is going to be okay, that it will all get easier—one way or another.
But even if it would comfort her to hear it, it wouldn’t comfort her to hear it
from me.
“I have no energy to cook anything, so your only form of nutrition tonight is
coming from two extra-cheese pizzas with mushrooms and onions that are on
their way to us in thirty minutes or less.”
She almost smiles, which cracks it open in me, the question I know I need to
ask her, the question that I hope will help me 􀏯gure out what has been looming
so large in my mind since getting o􀏦 the phone with Jake.
“Bailey,” I say, “I keep thinking about what you asked me earlier, about what
your father meant in his note to you. What he meant by you know what
matters…”
She sighs, apparently too exhausted for the eye roll that would usually
accompany it.
“I know, my father loves me. You made your point,” she says.
“Maybe I was wrong about that,” I say. “About him meaning that. Maybe he
meant something else.”
She looks at me, confused. “What are you talking about?”
“Maybe he wrote that because you know something,” I say. “You know
something about him that he wants you to remember.”
“What could I possibly know?” she says.
“I’m not sure.”
“Well, I’m glad we cleared that up,” she says. Then she pauses. “Everyone at
school seems to agree with you though.”
“What do you mean?”
“They all think I know why my father is doing whatever he’s doing,” she says.
“Like he told me over breakfast that he was planning to steal half a billion dollars
and disappear.”
“We don’t know that your father had anything to do with that,” I say.
“No, we just know he isn’t here.”
She’s correct about that. Owen isn’t here. For all we know, he could be
anywhere. It brings me back to what Grady Bradford said o􀏦handedly to me
that morning—the information he inadvertently gave me when he was trying to
convince me I should talk to him, that he was on our side. He o􀏦ered his phone
number. He o􀏦ered the phone number to his branch o􀏩ce. It had an area code I
didn’t recognize. 512. I reach into my back pocket, and pull out the napkin from
Fred’s. Two numbers on it—both of which start with 512. No address.
I reach for my cell phone on the tea table and call the o􀏩ce number, my heart
racing as it starts to ring, as the automatic operator answers, telling me I have
reached the U.S Marshals’ o􀏩ce.
The Western Texas branch of the U.S. Marshals’ o􀏩ce. Located in Austin,
Texas.
Grady Bradford works out of the Austin o􀏩ce. Why is a U.S. marshal from
Texas the one who shows up at my door? Especially a marshal who, if I believe
O’Mackey and Naomi, has no authorization over the investigation? And if he
does have authorization, why? What has Owen done that Bradford would be
somehow involved in this? What does Texas have to do with any of this?
“Bailey,” I say, “did you and your father ever spend any time in Austin?”
“Austin, as in Texas? No.”
“Think about it for a second. Did you ever pass through Austin on the way
to somewhere else? Maybe before you guys moved to Sausalito. When you were
still living in Seattle…”
“So when I was like… four years old?”
“I realize it’s a long shot.”
She looks up, searching her brain for a day or a moment she’s long forgotten
that all of a sudden she is being told is a little too important to forget. She looks
upset that she can’t 􀏯nd it. And upsetting her is the last thing I want.
“Why are you asking me anyway?” she says.
“There was a U.S. marshal here earlier from Austin,” I say. “I was just
thinking that maybe he was here because of some tie your father has to the city.”
“To Austin?”
“Yes,” I say.
She pauses, considers, reaching for something.
“Maybe,” she says. “A long time ago… It’s possible I was there for a wedding.
When I was really little. I mean, I’m pretty sure I was a 􀏲ower girl because they
made me pose for all these photos. And I think someone told me we were in
Austin.”
“How sure are you?”
“Not sure,” she says. “As not sure as you can get.”
“Well what do you remember about the wedding?” I ask, trying to narrow
down the window.
“I don’t know… all I remember is we were all there.”
“So your mother too?” I say.
“I think so, yeah. But the part I remember best I don’t think she was with us
for. My dad and I left the church and went on a walk, and he brought me to the
football stadium. There was a game going on. I’d never seen anything like it. This
enormous stadium. All lit up. Everything was orange.”
“Orange?” I say.
“Orange lights, orange uniforms. I loved orange, I was obsessed with
Gar􀏯eld, so you know… that’s what I remember. My father pointing to the
colors and saying, it’s like Gar􀏯eld.”
“And you think you were at a church?”
“Yeah, a church. Either in Texas or nowhere near Texas,” she says.
“But you never asked your father after that where the wedding was? You
never asked him for any details?”
“No. Why would I?”
“Good point.”
“Besides, it makes him upset if I bring up the past,” she says.
That surprises me. “Why do you think?”
“ ’Cause of how little I remember about my mother.”
I stay quiet. But Owen did mention something similar to me. He’d taken
Bailey to a therapist when she was little, her mom seemingly blocked from her
mind. The therapist told Owen this was common. It was a defense mechanism
to ease the abandonment of losing a parent as young as Bailey was when she’d
lost Olivia. But Owen thought it was bigger than that, and, for some reason, he
seemed to blame himself for it.
Bailey closes her eyes, as if thinking of her mother is too much, as if thinking
about her father is now too much too. She wipes at her eyes, but not before I see
a tear escape. Not before she knows I see it. She’s not even trying to hide how
alone she feels. And I know something then, brushing up against Bailey in that
kind of pain. I will do anything I can to make it go away. To help her. I’ll do
anything to make her feel okay again.
“Can we talk about something else?” she says. Then she puts her hand up.
“You know what? I take that back. Can we talk about nothing? What I want is
to talk about nothing at all.”
“Bailey…” I say.
“No,” she says. “Can you just leave me alone?”
Then she leans back, waiting for her pizza and for me to go away, in
whichever order she can make those things happen.


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