03 | Bailey

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"I'll try to come back sooner if I can," Ethan says as we all walk out of the restaurant after closing time.

"Nonsense!" my mom says, giving a light hit on his shoulder. Well, light by her standards anyways.

Ethan's rubbing the area where he received the supposed act of affection. "I still feel bad taking a whole week off."

"It is for your family, so no feeling bad."

He sees the hidden command in her eyes and nods. "Yes, ma'am."

Today is Ethan's last day before his week-long trip back home to France to visit his parents. He hasn't taken a vacation once during his year working at The Cho's Chows, so of course my mom and dad don't oppose the decision. My mom had insisted he take two weeks off, but Ethan doesn't have the heart to leave his master's side for any longer than a week.

With an apologetic smile, he says, "Well, I'll make sure to bring a lot of gifts, Mrs. Cho."

"Gifts!" My mom can't hide her pleasure from the word.

She probably already has a list of cosmetics, clothes, and jewelry in mind. It must be nice to be the son of the CEO of Bellamy Cosmetics and a world-famous fashion designer. Thinking about that, it's crazy Ethan works as a waiter and assistant chef at a Korean restaurant with an embarrassing cow chef as its logo. The idea wouldn't even have been conceivable had he never fallen asleep drunk on our front yard. Those tulips were worth the sacrifice, I suppose, even if their death did make my mom shed a tear that morning.

After locking the restaurant up, my dad says, "Forget the gifts! Just be certain you do not drink too much and party."

Both my mom and Ethan look hurt for different reasons. While my mom sends glares at my dad, Ethan says, "Master Cho, I thought you would think better of me now. I have sworn to you numerous times that those days are over for me. I will not disappoint you, master."

My dad nods contently. "That is my Ethan. I have taught you well."

"Yes, you have, and I'm grateful to keep learning as your student." Ethan gives a respectful bow to my parents. "Jal danyeo-ogesseupnida. I'll be off then."

The hard line on my mom's lips softens into a motherly smile that, as sad as it is, I rarely get to see. "Onya."

My dad gives a light pat—an actual light one—on Ethan's shoulder. "You be safe."

"Of course. Good night!"

Ethan heads to his car and so do we to our own. We watch as he drives away first. Then, my dad pulls out of the parking lot in the opposite direction. While I routinely check Instagram on my phone in the backseat, my mom starts a conversation with dad at the front.

She says in Korean, "Honey, don't you think Ethan would make just the perfect son-in-law? He's handsome, well-mannered, and comes from a wealthy family. There's nothing he lacks."

My dad shakes his head. "Ethan still has a long way to go before he can be suitable for our daughter."

"Dad!" I burst out in the middle of getting my daily dose of Instagram cat posts.

To my dismay, my mom adds, "At least that means you're not against the idea of marrying him to our Bailey."

"Mom!" My face is burning. My parents can be the worst sometimes. "I am not getting married to Ethan!"

My mom turns her head to me with a sharp look. "And why not? Men like him are one in a million. You need to snatch them as soon as you find them."

My dad's face in the rearview mirror does not look impressed. "Ethan is no meat sale at the supermarket. He does not need to be grabbed in a hurry. I am not done making a decent human out of him yet. There is still much for him to learn before even a fraction of him can be worthy of our Bailey."

My mom scoffs. "I think you're speaking too lowly of him."

"No, I am just speaking highly of our daughter. Bailey is beautiful, hard-working, and not to mention intelligent. She's on her way to becoming a successful scientist."

"The way you put it, it seems like no man will ever be good enough for her."

"Of course! Bailey is the most precious girl in the world to me."

My mom sighs. "You're so obstinate, it's unbelievable. Why do I bother talking to you, honey?"

My dad turns to her with a smug look. "And who was it again that said I had such a great way with words?"

"That was back in university when I didn't know any better," my mom snaps. She pushes my dad's face away from hers with one finger. "Eyes on the road."

The conversation at this point turns into an ear-sore. There's nothing to worry about. My parents may argue a lot, but they always make sure to reconcile by the end of the night. I put my earphones in and blast some heavy rock music to block out their voices.

My face is still hot from my mom's idea of marrying me to Ethan. Thinking about marriage is so much more awkward when you haven't even been in a relationship before. Besides, it's obvious he and I would never work out. Of course, to my parents I appear like the most perfect girl in the world. But in reality, that can't be farther from the truth. The rest of the world knows it, and I know it too.

I may be hard-working and intelligent to some degree as my dad claims, but I'm nowhere near beautiful. Apart from my mom and dad, everyone else around me during high school had made it very clear how ugly I am. Me dating Ethan would be nothing but a joke, a bad joke at that.

I stare out the window into the black night as my mind draws flashbacks of an equally bad joke. It was of my three-year crush from middle school.

Caleb—

I stop myself before he can fully form as a thought in my head. It's embarrassing how many times I used to imagine the possibility of him liking me back. How many scenarios I had once created of the day he would finally ask me out. I was so naïve back then.

I will admit that I occasionally still do dream about him. But dreams have an inconvenient tendency of being involuntary. I would stop those dreams if I could. What used to be a few lucky moments in sweet fantasy has transformed into a mocking fairytale of the pathetic girl with equally pathetic wishes. They only leave a bitter aftertaste now. 

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