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Summer's Crucible- Chapter Nine: Laughter Comes When it is Most Needed

Once the dust had settled after Mimsy's trial, Summer found it very sobering to admit that she had run her course regarding her relationship with the woman who had raised her. It was now too blaring to ignore that Mimsy would never see her as a daughter or even as a person she had any supportive interest in. Summer envied that Heather had a loving family, but also felt like a hanger-on during the times that she had been invited to events with them previously. Rusty and Cecilia were friendly when they interacted with Heather, despite being divorced, something Mimsy was wholly incapable of understanding. This thought haunted Summer, who was regretful of the meaningful connections she seemed to lack within her life.

Strangely the outcome of the trial between herself and Mimsy showed cracks forming in Heather's well-being. It was as if she were inflicted with some unknown blight. Heather was tired, secretive, and overall snippy. She had become the opposite of the playful person she was known as. She had been doing so well for herself for some time, however, that seemed to have plateaued. Heather was in a sort of decline that should have worried Summer more had she not been so preoccupied with the happenings in court. However, with Mimsy in an eight-by-ten cell for the foreseeable future, there was such a sense of relief for Summer to no longer have her every conversation be focused on Mimsy, the outcomes in court, to have to answer questions or ask questions about the now exhausted topic, that Heather's issues once again fell into the background noise of daily life.

This contributed to why when Summer was later approached by a law office, Druttle, and Telksen, she was reluctant to follow up. Despite her reservations, curiosity eventually got the best of her and she returned their calls. A secretary set up an appointment with an attorney by the name of Mr. Neiman McLads and his paralegal Mr. Ethan Koval. They were both eager to take on the case as a civil suit against Mimsy. Summer, on the other hand, had her concerns as to whether she wanted to follow through because it would require the last of her savings to keep them on retainer. Throughout their meeting, Summer explained that she was almost certain that Mimsy was bankrupt from the many plastic surgeries, which was why she had to rely on a public defender in court. Ethan persuaded Summer by saying "It's a gamble, we could go to court and lose, or we could go and you could come out on the other side of this with some compensation for your losses." It was a lot to ask the nearly middle-aged and beaten-down Summer who had stretched her every penny to still be underwater with her mounting debts. One misstep and Summer would have to file for bankruptcy, thus dashing her hopes of defeating her difficult circumstances. Knowing she had to weigh the risks, Summer told them she would think about it, and went on her way, but not before Mr. McLads warned her that she was under a time crunch due to the statute of limitations.

At home that evening, Summer had all but shelved the idea of going to court again. It was something she found to be too much. She thought it was too much time, too many days off of work, too many fees, and overall too much stress. Summer's head hurt just thinking about it. In truth, she often escaped her worries by seeking refuge in her work managing Perfecto Burger and Catering to maintain her sense of stability away from the many lurking unknown outcomes of which she had her fill over the recent years.

Everything would have remained as it was except for two events lining up just so. The first was that Brooke, the line cook at Summer's restaurant who was pregnant with her fourth baby, had to go on maternity leave early due to complications from high blood pressure that morning. Summer had a few applicants lined up already, but in the meantime, she had to cover that shift herself until she had officially hired someone new to put on the schedule. This caused the second event, being that Summer was too preoccupied to remember to hide from Bailey who had a habit of dropping in to ask about Summer from time to time. She had always successfully avoided him up until that point, though.

That night at the restaurant was a busy one, as it was the first of the month. Summer was disheveled from manning the kitchen. Most of the staff had taken off or called out early because it was the night of the playoffs. This left her with only two recent hires to close with, Jerry and Averie. She almost didn't recognize Bailey when he came in, because he had his ballcap tipped down and a hoodie on that obscured his baldness from the side. Jerry called Summer as she was trying to sneak into her office to take a much-needed break. The grease-covered Summer was too exhausted to feel embarrassed upon seeing Bailey who seemed to hide a grin at her expense in her current scenery. Pretending this impromptu meeting was unplanned he said, "I didn't know you worked here. It's good to see you, Summer." Summer wanted to wrap up this interaction because she had been holding in three large cups of coffee since lunch. She was one sneeze away from a mess. "Hi, Bailey. Isn't this so unexpected?" Summer said sarcastically before she interrupted Bailey who was about to respond. "You know I was just on my way to clock out for my break. Can you wait here?" Summer said, knowing she was a salaried employee as she took her time to herself.

After lingering in the back for a bit she could see Bailey hadn't budged from his seat at the booth closest to the register. Summer approached him as she silently hoped he wasn't going to ask her out or make a scene. There wasn't a woman on the planet who could tolerate Bailey's banter, let alone put up with him for extended periods. "How's the rental business these days?" Summer asked Bailey who was looking very self-congratulatory at the table. "I'm great! I'm officially a millionaire." He gloated with a browning and chipped front tooth that crept out from his top lip which did not conceal it. Summer could see Bailey was a little drunk, he smelled like cheap alcohol too. She got the sense that he was there to feel good about himself by trying to make her feel bad, something he would do when they were together all that time ago.

She played into Bailey's ego by giving him an empty compliment, hoping he'd be on his way, "That's really something. You always had a business head." Bailey ate up this praise, returning the compliment to Summer by backhandedly quipping, "Thanks, Summer. Maybe one day you'll finally get something going for yourself too. You should be a little more ambitious than just being a grill jockey. That's why I'm where I am today and you are where you've been for years." Summer felt a bitter pinch from that. Bailey was the same jerk he had been when she had known him. He had kicked her when she was down, always with a slightly turned-up sneer on his face. Their past was one in which he held onto blaming her for her degenerative disc disease, ignoring her pleas to help her find a place to stay when they were dating, and belittling her with comments that he would sneak in whenever she was hurting. Now there he was looking for a hook-up because he had burned every bridge in the dating pool and was alone again. Things had changed though, in the time that they were apart, Summer was a stronger, braver person than she had ever been before. She saw Bailey as he was, a pathetic drunkard with no heart at all.

As she had this epiphany, Bailey was still charged and pushing his humble-bragging onto Summer, "Yup. I just bought another house to rent out. It'll only cost me half a mil. See." He said as he held up his phone displaying a real estate site that listed the value of the property at $390,000. Summer wanted to shut him up so she could start her closing duties but couldn't resist the chance to get in some very fulfilling jeers over Bailey either, "Wow Bailey, it'll only cost you 'half a mil' to buy it and I'm sure you didn't forget to account for the renovation budget this time like you did all those times before." She pretended to be astonished, knowing Bailey had significantly paid above market value for the property before accounting for escrow costs, renovation costs, future taxes, etc., all of those expenses that he would also have to pay that he seemed to forget existed when he should have known better. Bailey was offended due to his trouble keeping up with anyone who had a drop of business sense. He was too proud to admit he needed help managing his business dealings by himself and should have hired someone to do it for him years ago. It was why his wealth stagnated and he likely found himself bogged down in a paper rabbit hole with each attempt to climb higher.

It was at that moment that Summer, who now was the one with a smug grin on her face could see the reality seep into Bailey's mind of how he was viewed by others. For too long anyone who interacted with Bailey had been overly polite for fear of his wrathful attitude if he were confronted with his many miscalculations or poor logic. Summer was all too aware that this was why Bailey had constantly questioned her when they were dating about any connections he could use to get into the exclusive members-only clubs that she was welcome in and he was not. Bailey never understood why he could not use his money to buy his way onto the other side of the preverbal velvet rope, which the financially lesser Summer had no problem crossing into. It was obvious that he harbored a deep animosity toward her for this reason. Ironically, there was a time when Summer would have put forth the effort to try to smooth out the roughness that held Bailey back from his goals in that regard. However, Bailey was not one to take help, even when it was offered lovingly. After all, he was so set on his "self-made man" image that he became an island of intolerance to those that he deemed inferior, like the "poor near-cripple" he saw Summer as. Bailey's lifetime of relying on his physical strength made him quite the obnoxious brute. He was selfish and hadn't an ounce of social grace in his body, resulting in him being unable to maintain a romantic relationship or keep employees for much time. Everywhere he went he was a spectacle to observe for secondhand embarrassment.

Suddenly with this smack of realization, Bailey's face turned red in horror. Summer let the unease of it wash over him. Bailey knew he was the joke Summer was smiling at and could not handle the feeling. He got up to flee, nearly tripping over the base of the booth where he sat. As he did he huffed "You ain't shit!" with droplets of spit sprinkling onto his chin from the force of his words. He stomped away toward his dirty truck in the parking lot. Behind him Summer, waved saying nonchalantly "Go to hell, Bailey." Summer felt vindicated for once.

Jerry having witnessed the scene asked Summer who was stretching her back in a yoga-like pose still seated at the booth, "What was that all about?" She answered, "Oh, that's the creep that has been coming by asking for me for years now. Do me a favor that guy is drunk. Can you have Averie call the police to report his truck as a suspected DUI? I wrote down the license plate number, it's on a Post-it by the register." Jerry complied with Summer's request. She then went back to her office to finish up the in-processing documents for the new line cook so that she wouldn't have to cover Brooke's shift again before locking up for the night behind Jerry and Averie.

At home, Summer plopped herself on her recliner opting to sleep there in her work clothes as she was too tired to shower or get into bed. Her back ached terribly and her limbs felt like jelly from the long day. In the morning she had a mountain of orders to follow up on, and loads of emails too. Her smile though was unremovable from her expression. The ridiculous Bailey was just the twisted motivation to move forward with the civil suit against Mimsy that Summer needed. Summer had finally outgrown being taken advantage of or being made to feel lesser by ignorant people.

In the morning she called the law office and left a message explaining that she was ready to begin the proceedings for the civil suit. It wasn't long before money was exchanged and Summer was back to her routine. Times might have been tough for Summer these days, but the one thing she was glad of was that she wasn't the person she used to be. She also could now appreciate the little things in life, like her favorite walking punchline.


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