Bailey woke to her mother gently shaking her. Her eyes were sore and swollen and glued shut by the salt from the tears she cried herself to sleep with and the last thing she wanted was to wake up.
“Bailey, honey,” her mother said softly, “you need to get up. There’s a delivery for you.”
Bailey sat up and rubbed her eyes. Her head felt foggy and her body felt sluggish.
“Okay mum,” she said and yawned. “I’ll be out in a minute.”
Her parents lived in a small single storey house in Nambour, a once bustling cane town that had seen a financial down turn in recent years because of the closure of the town’s sugar mill. Both her parents had steady jobs and lived a comfortable life, but Bailey had always yearned for more. Now she wondered if maybe the heartache wasn’t worth it.
She pulled on a robe and stumbled out of the room and down the hall to the combined kitchen dining area. Sitting on the kitchen table was an enormous box sealed with Ashby Chocolates branded tape. Bailey ignored it for the moment, walking over to fill the kettle and switch it on. She pulled down a mug from the overhead cupboard and scooped two teaspoons of instant coffee into it while she waited for the kettle to boil. She checked the time on the kitchen wall clock that had hung in the same place for as long as she could remember. It was nearly lunch time.
The kettle whistled and flicked off and she poured the steaming water into her cup and added a splash of milk. She carried the mug over to the kitchen table and slid into a seat. She took a tentative sip while she eyed the box. Her parents sat across from her shooting her furtive glances.
“Aren’t you going to open it?” her mother asked.
Bailey’s mother might be straight laced and self-controlled and conservative in every way, but the woman had a chocolate addiction to rival even Bailey’s. She knew what the tape on the outside of the box meant and Bailey knew if she didn’t open it soon, she might just witness her mother’s first and only ever break down.
With a sigh, she dragged the box closer and picked at the tape. Her mother got up and came back with a sharp knife and slit through the tape across the top of the box without a second thought. Bailey smiled at her mother before opening the flaps. On top sat a thick creamy envelope with her name handwritten on it. It wasn’t Hunter’s writing. She picked it up and slipped her finger under the flap to unseal it. There was a piece of Ashby Chocolates stationery inside and she took it out and read the note.
Hunter asked me to send you something that I thought you would like and seeing as though you seemed quite taken with these last time, I thought you might like a whole box of them.
P.S. Please let me know if you need me to punch Hunter in the face and I’ll gladly do it.
Bailey smiled and put down the letter. She lifted the tissue paper off the top of the box with trepidation. Bailey had admired the tequila truffles that Jonathan had made the day they were there, but she’d also exclaimed over the chocolate, cream filled penises. A whole box of chocolate cocks probably wouldn’t go down well with her parents. With a deep breath she pulled the tissue paper away to reveal…a box full of heart shaped chocolates wrapped in pink foil. She groaned and then chuckled, wondering how hard it had been for Jonathon not to send her the chocolate cocks. A gag like that seemed right up his alley.
“Are they all Ashby Chocolates?” her mother asked with a reverence that Ashby Chocolates deserved.
“Yeah,” Bailey sighed. “I actually met Jonathon Ashby last week.”
“What?” her mother looked at her in amazement before turning back to the box and running her hand over the shiny booty contained in the box.
“He’s a friend of Hunter’s,” Bailey said and the sound of his name on her lips caused a stab of pain to lance through her tender heart.
“Hunter?” her father asked.
“Hunter Green,” she replied sadly.
“Hunter Green from Green Aviation?” her father asked again, a fanboy glint in his eye.
Bailey sighed again. “Yeah.”
“How do you know Hunter Green?” he asked.
“He was my date to Nick’s wedding,” she replied really not wanting to get into the details with her parents.
“And he took you to meet Jonathon Ashby?” her mother asked breathily.
“Yep,” she said, popping the ‘p’.
“Wow,” her dad said and she looked at him strangely. “Hunter Green. One of the youngest billionaires in the country. What he has done for aviation in Australia is incredible.”
Oh yeah. She’d forgotten that her dad had a thing for planes and flying and all things aviation.
“Do you think I could meet him?” he asked.
“I think I hear my phone,” Bailey said, pushing back from the table and grabbing the note from Jonathon before making a hasty exit out of the kitchen and back to her room. There was no way she could sit there and witness her father gushing over the man who broke her heart.
She read Jonathon’s note again and noticed his phone number. She turned on her phone and sat through the multiple message notifications and missed call notifications, rolling her eyes. Without looking at any of the messages, she typed out a quick text to Jonathon.
B: Thanks for the chocolates…I think my mother just fell in love with you a little bit
J: Ha! I’d rather you fall in love with me
B: I think I’ve had my fill of handsome, famous billionaires for a lifetime
J: Please tell me I can hit him
B: Thanks, but no, you might hurt your hand on his hard head.
J: True, and I do need my hands *wink wink*
Bailey laid down on the bed and scrolled through all the missed calls from Hunter. He’d left twenty-seven messages and she was getting a notification that her mailbox was full. Damn he was persistent, but she really couldn’t face hearing his voice right now. She knew if she did then she would cave and she promised herself that she wouldn’t let another guy treat her like crap.
Except that Hunter hadn’t really…oh forget it. She closed her eyes and willed herself to sleep.
It was like déjà vu. Her mother was again waking her up by shaking her.
“Bailey, there’s a phone call for you,” her mother said.
“I don’t want to talk to him,” Bailey mumbled rolling over and burying her head in the pillows.
“Um, I don’t know who you mean, but I think you need to speak with Ellen,” her mother said nervously.
Bailey rolled over. “Ellen? My boss Ellen?”
Her mother nodded and Bailey dragged herself out of bed again and walked into the kitchen to pick up the phone. The box – carton – of chocolates still sat on the table, surprisingly undisturbed.
“Bailey,” she replied, “I’ve been trying to get a hold of you for hours. Green Aviation has an issue with CASA and I need you to take care of it.”
Bailey huffed out a breath. Could she never get away from him? He had weaved through her life and there was seemingly no escape. How did he do that in such a short space of time?
“I…can’t,” she replied with a sigh. “I have a family emergency and I need to stay on the coast.” She hated lying, especially to her boss, but she just couldn’t face Hunter. Not yet, not when her heart was still so raw.
“How long do you need?” Ellen asked. That’s what she loved about her boss, personal life always came first.
“Okay,” Ellen said. “Who can take over the Green Aviation file?”
“Get Bec to do it,” Bailey said. “She was shadowing me on it anyway and knows all the ins and outs. Get her to email Madeline to let her know that she will be taking over. Madeline will handle most of the details on Green’s side.”
“Great, thanks,” Ellen said and Bailey could tell she was making notes. “And hey, I hope everything is all right.”
That made Bailey feel even worse for lying to her boss. “Thanks Ellen.”
She hung up the phone and slumped into a kitchen chair, dipping her hand into the box and pulling out a chocolate. She unwrapped it and popped it in her mouth, closing her eyes as the chocolate melted on her tongue. She opened her eyes when she sensed her mother sliding into a chair next to her.
“What’s going on Bailey?” she asked.
Bailey and her mother had never had the kind of relationship that other mothers and daughters had. They weren’t close. Bailey had never come running to her mother for comfort or to share secrets, not since she had been very young anyway. Her mother didn’t condone big displays of emotions and had always told Bailey that if she wanted to avoid the rollercoaster ride of ‘feelings’ then just don’t get involved. Bailey should have listened to her mother.
“It’s nothing,” she said, grabbing another chocolate and handing one to her mother.
“It must be something if you’re lying to your boss.”
Bailey closed her eyes. Her mother had heard her.
“What happened this weekend?” her mother probed. “You turned up here in the middle of the night looking like you’d lost your best friend. I don’t like to pry, but I’ve never seen you this upset and I’ve never known you to lie.”
Bailey sighed and took another chocolate out of the box, taking her time to unwrap it before putting it in her mouth and letting it melt away to nothing on her tongue.
“I met a guy and I thought he was the one,” she said sadly. “Turns out he wasn’t.”
“So why are you hiding out here?” her mother asked.
“I just need some time, you know? I haven’t had a holiday in ages and I just don’t feel emotionally stable enough to go back to work yet.”
Her mother sighed as she fiddled with the shiny pink foil wrapper that her chocolate had been wrapped in.
“Would it help if I tell you that you will get over him, that this pain will lessen and that you have a whole, full life ahead of you to look forward to?”
Bailey gaped at her mother. This was not what she had expected to hear from her. She’d expected to be scolded for caring too much, getting too close, letting her heart rule her head. Her mother almost sounded like she was talking from experience.
“Not really, no,” she said in answer to her mother’s question.
Her mother patted her hand. “I know you don’t think much of your father’s and my approach to life,” she said, “but we both do feel very deeply, even though we might not be the best at showing it.”
“I know you love each other, mum,” Bailey said.
“The fact is,” her mother went on, “that we were not each other’s first choice. Don’t get me wrong, I love your father very much and I know that he loves me, but we were both very much in love with other people.”
“Oh my God,” Bailey whispered turning to her mother and handing her a bunch of chocolates. “What happened?”
“They fell in love with each other and eloped, leaving your father and I behind and heartbroken.”
They sat in silence and ate a chocolate each as they each ruminated on Bailey’s mother’s confession.
“Your father and I turned to each other for support. We were already friends and that friendship turned to something more, something deeper and we eventually fell in love.”
“That’s…so romantic,” Bailey breathed, stunned by her mother’s revelation. “What happened to your friends?”
Her mother shrugged. “Their marriage didn’t last. I don’t know where they are now.” She sighed. “The point is, I know it hurts right now, but you will get over it and you will find someone else.”
Bailey laid her head on her mother’s shoulder. “Thanks mum,” she said. “I just need some time.”
“I know, honey,” she said. “Take all the time you need, but you do need to get back up on that horse. Don’t walk away from every other good thing in your life just because you got hurt by one of them.”
The next two weeks passed like a movie montage for Bailey. She and her mother gradually ate their way through the chocolate hearts, but it wasn’t the only gift Hunter sent her. There were flowers and more chocolates from Jonathon and even some tickets for her to fly anywhere in the world with a friend on any Green Aviation plane. Bailey gave the tickets to her parents and encouraged them to take a trip. They’d never done anything spontaneous or as outlandish as an overseas trip in her whole life and she thought it was about time they did.
Bailey and her mother had spent more time talking and Bailey kind of came to understand her a bit more. Bailey was a loud and colourful personality and needed the stimulation of her fast-paced job, but her mother was different. There was a quiet confidence about her that Bailey had never noticed or appreciated before. It was nice to actually get to know her mother better and despite her heart being torn to shreds, by the time the two weeks was nearly up, Bailey actually began to believe that there was hope for her.
On the Friday before Bailey was set to fly back to Melbourne, she was out at a cafe drinking coffee and reading a book. It was one of the things that she’d discovered that she loved to do, especially in the warm sunshine of the Sunshine Coast weather. Being winter, the mornings were crisp, but the days were sunny and perfect.
“Oh my God! Bailey!”
Bailey looked up to see Two and Three standing at her table.
“Oh, hey,” she said really wishing she could remember their names.
“What are you doing here?” Two asked.
“Yes, we thought you’d be back in Melbourne with that delicious billionaire of yours,” Three said.
They both sat down and looked at her expectantly.
Bailey swallowed and put her iPad down. With a smile, she said, “Oh I just decided to spend a couple of weeks with my parents. It’s been so long since I’ve seen them.”
“That’s nice,” Two said.
“Are you going to be here for much longer?” Three asked. “Nick and Ainsley should be back from their honeymoon in a few days, I’m sure they’d like to catch up.”
“I’m leaving tomorrow,” Bailey said quickly. “I have to be back at work Monday.”
They both pouted their disappointment.
“That’s a shame,” Two said. “It would’ve been fun to get the gang back together.”
“Especially after the gift the boys got for Nick,” Three said conspiratorially.
“What gift?” Bailey asked.
The two women shared a look.
“Well,” Two said, “we heard that they’d paid one of the strippers, from that club we went to, four hundred dollars to come to the wedding as a surprise for Nick.”
“You know the red head we saw giving him a lap dance?” Three added.
“Really?” Bailey said, sitting up in her chair.
“Yes, Dana saw them coming out of a janitor’s closet together,” Two said, “and she said they looked very guilty.”
“Dana?” Oh right, Number One. “Oh my goodness. What were they doing in the closet?”
Three leaned forward. “According to the best man, she was there to give him a…” she looked around and lowered her voice to a whisper, “a blow job.”
“What?” Bailey reared back, shocked. “Nick let a stripper give him a blow job in a janitor’s closet on the night of his wedding?”
The two women looked at her solemnly and nodded.
“Does Ainsley know?” she whispered to them.
They shook their heads. “Dana threatened us all to keep it quiet. She said it would just ruin Ainsley’s day.”
“Wow,” she said. “And you two didn’t think there was anything wrong with that?”
They shared a look.
“We sent her a text so she could find it before she went too far with Nick.”
“Do you know if she found it in time?”
They shook their heads. “No one has heard from them since they left,” Two said.
“I hope she didn’t kill him and dispose of the body while they were out of the country,” Bailey said and then paused. “Oh, wait a minute, yes I do.”
Two and Three giggled.
“You were so right about him,” Three said seriously. “We should’ve listened.”
“What are you going to do when she gets back?” Bailey asked.
“We’ve talked it over with Dana,” Three said, “and we all agreed to sit down with her and have an intervention.”
“She needs to see the real Nick,” Two said.
“She probably has by now,” Bailey replied.
Two looked at her watch. “Oops, we have to go,” she said as they stood, “but it was so great catching up with you.”
Bailey waved them off, her mind swirling. Hunter’s words now made more sense to her. If he had walked in on the red head giving Nick a blow job he may have been so traumatised by the sight that he thought it was her. And if he thought it was her then his whole reaction had been justified. Had he found out later from the groomsmen that it wasn’t her? Is that why he had been calling her non-stop?
She picked up her things and paid her bill and raced home. She needed to check her phone messages.