Betting on Bailey

By: Tara Crescent

* * *

“What happened?”

I’m holding a cup of hot chocolate and sitting on Piper’s couch. Her cat is curled up in my lap. Though I haven’t lived in this apartment for five months, it still feels like home in a way that my place with Trevor never did. “Jasper’s missed having you around,” she adds.

“I missed him too,” I admit, stroking the ginger cat’s head. “However, I think that as far as Jasper is concerned, human laps are interchangeable.”

“There is that.” She hesitates before broaching the topic that’s on both of our minds. “I don’t have to know what happened with you and Trevor, if you don’t want to talk about it.”

“No, it’s okay.” I fill her in on my evening.

“You have to be kidding,” she interrupts loudly, when I get to the part where he was being a dick at the pool table. “He said what?”

“I’m hopeless.” I repeat those hurtful words. “Still, he’s right, isn’t he? I am hopeless. I’ve never had any hand-eye coordination, and I wilt under pressure.”

“You,” she glares at me, “are the furthest thing from hopeless.” She holds up her hand. “One,” she counts, “you spent six months in Indonesia, studying remote tribes, and you spent how long in Siberia?”

“A year.”

“Exactly. Wilting under pressure, my ass. Trevor’s dick wilts under pressure.”

There’s enough truth in that statement that I bite my tongue to keep from laughing aloud. I’d never mentioned Trevor’s problems to my girls, because he was my boyfriend and that would have seemed disloyal. After the breakup, I feel perfectly justified giggling a little.

“Second, you were the youngest hire ever in your department in NYU, weren’t you?”

I nod. I should miniaturize Piper and carry her around in my pocket everywhere to be my own personal cheerleader. She’s fantastic for my ego.

“Third,” she says. “I’ve seen Trevor trying to teach you how to play. He’s mean and he yells at you. He’s a horrible teacher.”

“He is that,” I agree. “I had a teacher like that in high school for French.”

“And do you speak French?” she asks pointedly.

I shake my head. “She put me off the language forever,” I confess.

“Exactly.” I’ve made Piper’s point for her. “So, can we agree that Trevor’s a terrible human being, and you would be excellent at pool if you were taught by someone even the slightest bit encouraging?”

“The former point, I concede.” I laugh. “The jury’s out on the latter. Incidentally, you sound like a trial lawyer. Taking lessons from Wendy?”

She grimaces. “I’ve inherited the kitchen staff from hell, so I need to channel my favorite shark in order to get people to fear me.” She sips at her cocoa and we are both silent for a while, submerged in our own problems. “Listen Bailey,” she says finally. “Would you like to be my roommate again? I could use a hand with the rent, and you need a place to stay.”

“Are you sure?” Piper had just inherited her restaurant when Trevor had asked me to move in, and it seemed like we were both getting what we wanted. I was living my fairy tale, and Piper was getting some space. Five months later, it seems that we are both back to square one. “I don’t want you to feel obligated to offer. I can find something else…”

“The money will help,” she admits, refusing to meet my eyes. “Business isn’t good.”

Piper’s situation is very strange. Her eccentric aunt left her a restaurant in her will, but she only inherits it free and clear if she can make the place survive for three years. But the place is run down, and the staff is surly and unprofessional. In New York’s hyper-competitive restaurant market, it’s a recipe for disaster.

I don’t know what to say, so I keep it simple. Piper doesn’t like to get mushy anyway. “That sucks ass.”

She smiles wanly. “Look at us,” she mocks. “The Tragic Two.” She shakes her head. “You know what we need? A drink, something stronger than hot chocolate. We need to celebrate that you finally left Trevor, and I need to remember that life could be so much worse. I have friends and I have my health.”

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