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Summer's Crucible- Chapter Seven: New Enemies and Old Friends

The evening of the country music festival with Bailey was the last thing on Summer's mind after she had spent the day looking for new apartments to rent. Bailey texted her asking where they should meet, to which Summer decided the flower shop up the street from her hotel would be fine. She wasn't in the mood to explain why she was staying in a hotel at the moment. Summer found it odd that Bailey hadn't texted her once during the week leading up to their date. It was why she almost forgot about the man entirely. At the flower shop, Best Bulbs, Summer could hear Bailey's Ford F-250 pull up by the roar of the engine from up the street. She smiled when she saw him again because he seemed very sweet. Summer approached him saying, "Let's go to the festival together in your truck. I think you're too tall to fit in my car." Summer spoke pointing to her tiny red Fiat. Bailey agreed and they made the trip to the city park.

The rideover had the curious Summer excitedly asking questions. She wanted to learn about Bailey, his business, and his personal life. He was the son of two insurance sales representatives. He had a much older sister who was married to a Candian and had since moved out of the country to stay with him. Additionally, he was a construction worker who had made his way up from renovating apartment complexes to owning his own rental renovation and management company. Lastly, Bailey told Summer of his small income property that he was planning to expand. Summer found his answers to be curt, yet informative. Still, she couldn't shake the feeling that the conversation felt more like her interviewing him, than something with a natural back-and-forth flow of chemistry between them.

At the festival, they walked around for a little, but Summer started to tire and wanted to go back to her hotel after an hour. Not wanting the night to end early, Bailey offered to drive by a house he had put in a bid for on the way back. Summer agreed thinking it was a nice touch by Bailey to make an effort to include Summer in his interests. The house Bailey pulled up to was very run down and visibly not up to code. Bailey told Summer that he was going to do all the renovations himself, and casually mentioned that he offered $725,000 for the property. Summer found this to be strange because the house was near a too-heavily trafficked road for a single-family residential property, and Bailey hadn't commented anything about getting it re-zoned for commercial use. The price was more akin to the value it would be after renovations were completed, not before, and that was in the best-case scenario. Summer held back inquiring too much about it because she felt there must be something she was missing. A person who made a career out of income properties should surely know better, right?

When Summer was back at her car in front of the flower shop, Bailey leaned in clumsily for a kiss so hard that his large six-foot-five frame knocked her backward causing her to hit her head and shoulder blades against the window, resulting in a bruise. It was an awkward end to a less and less desirable evening. Summer chalked it up to Bailey being an oafish country boy, even though in truth he was a forty-something man from the suburbs.

Bailey called Summer the following evening, wanting to take her to dinner. It was better than sitting alone in her hotel room worrying about Mimsy or waiting to hear back from the many jobs and rentals she had put in for. Summer agreed hoping that Bailey would prove to be a better date than he had been previously. Bailey took her to a theme restaurant that served traditional German cuisine. Bailey ate a sausage plater by himself, while Summer gave a little of her backstory. Bailey seemed to be most intrigued that Summer had wealthy friends. She didn't go into the reality that she was under-employed and had her share of financial fallout due to the drama with Mimsy as of late or her deteriorating health. Once the check was paid, Bailey again, tried to extend the date by inviting Summer to his home to watch a movie. Summer decided it was not such a bad idea since she was depressed about the state of things in her life. She hadn't realized how lonely she was until the thought of spending more time with Bailey crossed her mind as a positive. Summer agreed to give Bailey the benefit of the doubt.

At Bailey's, they decided to watch a movie on his old VHS, which Summer picked out from his selection. While setting up in Bailey's unkept living room, Summer noticed his house was smeared with long-dried filth where Bailey's dogs had rubbed against the walls. He had three rottweilers that had chewed up the furniture after being neglected and left inside for too long every day while he was at work. Summer and Bailey chatted about their daily lives during the opening credits of the film. Never missing a beat, Bailey focused entirely on money. He wanted to know most about Summer's financial life and her investments. To keep the conversation light Summer quipped about Bitcoins and OnlyFans, neither of which she had any hand in. Summer's playful avoidance of the inappropriate topic did not land well with Bailey who lectured her for buying "pump-and-dump" cryptocurrency.

As the film continued to play, Summer had originally thought it would be nice to see the period piece based on a book she had once read and found to be insightful. Bailey though would make little "duh" or "hmm" sounds whenever a character made a poor financial decision, all while giving scrutinizing glances. Bailey coupled this with head shaking and disapproving gestures, which Summer found to be rude as it was belittling as if Bailey were insinuating she was bad with money or the like despite him knowing so little about her. Summer left Bailey's house at the end of the movie tired and feeling very judged by him, but as for why he would act as he did, she didn't quite have the words to know what he exactly found to be a fault of hers. She could merely convey a feeling of outright contention that Bailey seemed to harbor toward her. Summer hoped that it was something that would pass, as a fleeting getting-to-know-each-other awkward point in their beginning interactions. In the back of Summer's mind, though, she was starting to feel that Bailey wasn't relationship material, no matter how much patience she practiced with him.

When Heather was finally back from her trip she insisted on visiting Summer at her hotel to hear all the details of Mimsy's breakdown. Summer relayed the story of what transpired in the car between herself and Mimsy. After her retelling, Heather exclaimed, "Mimsy is a total nut job! I'm surprised that she didn't light her own house on fire. Seriously, Summer, you should have pressed charges." As Heather spoke she pointed to the fingernail cuts on the back of Summer's hand from where Mimsy scratched her in the car. "The police officer said she'd probably have to go to court-ordered anger management classes," Summer divulged. Heather lifted her eyebrows as if to say that it was the least of the negative outcome Mimsy should expect.

Heather instead answered the unasked question filling the room, "I'd let you stay with me, but I'm moving into Morgana's place this week and it's not my call if you can couch surf there." Summer trying to ease Heather's feelings of obligation said, "It's okay, I'd have another place right now already if I had a bigger weekly take-home pay. Working part-time for Pat is the only thing these landlords don't like on my applications. It's not like I don't have a savings account or anything. I'll ask the guy I just started seeing to check if he knows anyone who is looking for a tenant. He's some sort of landlord." Heather caught off guard by that statement questioned, "Wait, he's a landlord and hasn't offered to help you find a place? Wow Summer, what is it with you dating douchebags?" Summer downplayed the situation by saying, "I haven't told him all the Mimsy craziness yet, and he's not like that. He's the complete opposite of Landon." Summer finished holding up a picture on her phone of Bailey that she had taken of him on their date at the country music festival. Heather examined it before she replied, "He looks like Shrek. I think you just found the redneck version of Landon." Summer took her phone back.

They chatted a bit more after, but it wasn't long before she made an excuse to get Heather out so that she could go back to resting alone. Her lower back was hurting with all the stress and it often made her cranky. Heather realizing she was getting the bum's rush, said on her way out, "If you like him, let's all go out together, it'll be nice to spend time with people your age, Summer, not Mimsy who is ancient." Summer agreed as she sent Heather on her way.

The double date didn't come to fruition until a couple of weeks later when everyone's schedule lined up. In the meanwhile Bailey and Summer had a few one-off dates. However, Bailey's habit of only engaging in conversations about money put Summer off. Bailey wanted to know who she knew and how much they were worth compared to himself. Summer found it to be bizarre because those were not typical questions that anyone would ask in those circles. Bailey also had a way of making backhanded comments about her degenerative disc disease, usually somehow implying her condition was by a fault of her own that he would not have made. He typically would accuse her of not eating right, or not working out enough for the cause of her malaise.

For their double date, the group decided to go to dinner and a movie. Morgana chose the newest Disney character public domain horror film titled Goofy, a Knifey Night, while Bailey talked them into eating at a make-your-own-pizza joint, The Pie-Zza. There the waiter listed the specials and offered in-house lager on tap. Morgana ordered two pitchers. After being served, Heather and Morgana regaled Summer and Bailey all about their trip to Jamaica. "Oh, we'll definitely be going back next year," Heather said as she squeezed Morgana's hand. The trip had most certainly brought them closer together as a couple.

Bailey, however, did not seem to share their joyful sentiment. In a perplexed tone, he grilled, "I mean how? How can you afford all that? What are your jobs again?" He pointed across the table to Morgana and Heather. They uncomfortably laughed. Bailey was not hiding his assumption that he considered them to be of too little of means to afford such an expense. Morgana pretending not to be offended spoke up, "I am a yoga instructor who owns my studio and my partner here is a freelance model." Bailey did not seem to accept Morgana's explanation as he went back to splicing thick sausage links to put onto his pizza that he was not going to share with anyone else before he drank an entire pitcher of lager by himself in a manner as if it was from a tiny teacup. Summer cringed when Bailey continued to pry, "You're a 'freelance model'? What does that even mean? You don't look like a model to me. How do you make money doing that? Where have you worked?" He said in between stuffing his mouth with food and chugging the last of the beer. Summer was mortified by Bailey's bash interrogation of her guests. He made no effort to hide his disdain for the lifestyle he envied that Heather and Morgana seemed to trigger within him.

Heather made the mistake of thinking that spelling out her business to Bailey would clear the air by clarifying, "I work on OnlyFans. I don't look like what you would consider a 'model' to look like because my OnlyFans is a media production piece that is edited and fine-tuned to look like what you would expect to see. In my OnlyFans work, I wear full glam hair and makeup, usually a wig, and if the client prefers it prosthetic pieces. It's just like magazine models, who get photoshopped to look a certain way." Then she held up her phone to show Bailey what a finished short video of her looked like that Yang had edited to perfection. Summer too held up her phone with Heather's profile picture loaded to show Bailey to get him to stop being so unbelievably rude. Bailey though doubled down upon seeing this and to the regret of everyone at the table continued, "So people are paying you to look and be a certain way and you are lying and taking their hard-earned money? I don't think that's right. I mean you don't even like men and here you are in this picture licking a hotdog as if you are turned on by phallic items. It's just a big lie." Morgana now having had enough of Bailey chimed in, "She can do whatever she wants. People are paying for a fantasy that they request and she fulfills because it's not real life and that's why it is so valuable. Are you one of those stupid people who think movies are real and that strippers actually like you? Because I can promise you they aren't and they don't." This finally silenced the red-faced Bailey who finished his drink before excusing himself to go outside to smoke a cigarette.

Summer profusely apologized to Heather and Morgana who paid their share of the bill and went ahead to the movie theater while Summer waited for Bailey to come back in. Only he never came back. Summer waited for a solid hour for Bailey before she went looking for him outside. In the parking lot, Bailey's truck was gone. He had skipped out on the movies and hadn't paid the bill, leaving Summer to fend for herself in finding a ride home. Feeling too embarrassed, Summer opted to text Heather that she wasn't feeling well and took a cab home to the overpriced long-term Airbnb she had settled into after not finding a place of her own to spare herself any explanations for Bailey's behavior. Bailey continued to ghost Summer for a few days after that before she gave up on contacting him altogether. Summer was starting to realize Heather was right, Bailey was a rougher version of Landon. Honestly, Summer liked Landon far better than Bailey. At least Landon could smoothly carry on a conversation when he needed to. Bailey was socially about as likable as a rug burn.

Over the following months into the next year, Summer had to tighten her belt. Bailey was nowhere to be found and Pat's company was still giving Summer extremely limited hours to live off of. Many days over Summer's back felt like it was a crumbled-up piece of paper that could not lay flat. Increasingly Summer could not lift her right foot properly, which caused her to suffer numerous injuries from hitting her it on ledges, and steps or closing doors on it when she failed to move it when she had intended. Summer had to face this unavoidable issue when she almost jumped a curve while driving alone at night. Thankfully no one was hurt because she was able to use her other foot to stomp the brake but the shock of thinking of pushing the brake with a leg that didn't move was serious enough for Summer to have to go in for a neurological consultation. There Summer found out that she had a compressed nerve. She'd need immediate surgery to correct it and she would have to turn in her driver's license until she could get a vehicle fitted for her specific needs. Summer accepted this and had her car fitted with the necessary hand controls for safety's sake.

The surgery was executed as quickly as it was unpleasantly just before Halloween. Summer had to stay in the hospital for at least twenty-four hours, to monitor for complications. Heather was there on the first day when she dropped her off but then had to go to pick up Morgana at the yoga studio and catch up on her OnlyFans requests. This left Summer alone and bored from watching repeating episodes of Trading Spaces on the cable television in her hospital room. Heather said she would pick her up the following morning after Morgana went to the studio for work and she could use Morgana's car to get Summer. However the next day, Summer's surgeon told her it would be best if she stayed an extra night because the swelling was not going down as anticipated at her surgical site. This again put Summer ill at ease, but having little other recourse followed the surgeon's advice to remain in the hospital.

The next morning, it was Landon who dropped in on the surprised Summer. Summer tried to sit up in her bed, but found it to be difficult. Landon told her not to trouble herself as he pulled up a chair. "Has it been years already?" Landon started awkwardly seeming to regret not getting a formal invitation to see his ex before coming in. His hair was shorter now, and he had a bit of a belly on him that wasn't there before. "It's nice to see you. How's Paisley?" Summer asked, trying to be polite. Landon responded in a dejected tone, "She's pregnant. The baby is due after Christmas." Summer was taken aback a little, but kept her composure saying, "Congratulations." Landon went on, "We're getting married. My mom is pushing for this prenup to be done before the wedding, which is next month... so that you know... we'll be married before the baby is born." Summer had to repress the urge to try to comfort Landon who seemed to be holding back tears.

Trying to be upbeat Summer, said, "You'll be a great dad Landon and you always have Henri to lean on." Landon put his head in his hand, "I guess you didn't hear? Henri is on probation. He crashed his car. Charlene got hurt. It was ugly. At least the kids were at my parent's house." Summer felt sorry for Landon. He was so depressed from the once proud person she had known. "I wish I could help you out, Landon." Summer said through her loss for words of comfort. "You could if you wanted. Can you sign over the investment stocks we bought together five years ago? I'll pay you the difference but I can't complete this prenup until all of my holdings are square." Summer now seeing why Landon came to visit her answered, "Sure Landon. I wish the best for you."

A weight seemed to leave Landon when Summer agreed. It was beneficial for Summer too who could use the money to bridge the income gap her surgery had created. Landon not wanting to ask a favor and then leave started a fumbled conversation, "So you seeing anyone?" Summer knowing he was trying not to be rude replied, "I'm seeing a guy named Bailey Sutton. He's a property investor too. You ever hear of him?" Landon searched his thoughts for a minute before he replied, "I can't say that I have. I hope he's a nice guy. Is he going to come by today?" Summer lied, "Sure probably after work. He's renovating a property to flip." Landon and her both knew that if Bailey was worth anything Landon and his father would have heard of him. "Well, I'll let you get some rest. I hope you feel better. My lawyer will contact you with a time to sign over those stocks because it's something you have to do in person. It was good to see you, Summer." Landon said as he left the room. Summer smiled feeling like seeing Landon mended an old hurt from missing someone who was such a big part of her life at one point. There was a pain there too knowing that her future with her disability involved dealing with the likes of the Baileys of the world. Even though Landon and Summer had moved on from one another, it was true that the world was a little less lonely knowing the other was out there.

The thought encouraged Summer to give Bailey who she knew was not doing anything productive a call. He picked up, "What's up?" was his unenthusiastic greeting. Summer not sure what to say exactly blurted out, "Can you give me a ride home?" Bailey paused for a minute then asked, "Sure, from where?" Summer nonchalantly answered, "The hospital." Bailey cleared his throat to say, "Yeah, I'll be there," and then he hung up without much of a goodbye. This was probably the only nice thing Bailey would ever do for her or anyone for that matter. Their relationship was a non-starter, Summer's efforts with him were completely wasted. He wasn't going to get her from the hospital to be kind, he was going to get her to clear his conscience. For Summer it was good enough and good riddance. Bailey was too bitter from his lifetime at the bottom rung of society to be anything more than a judgemental ass. Even though Bailey was finally making real money for himself, Summer knew no one would ever do business with him because he was so venomous toward others, that even good advice would be met with animosity from the man instead of praise. Bailey had no finesse, no class, nothing to endear himself to anyone in the world. Their time together had been finite, as Bailey had made it that way.


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