Bailey: at just ten years old, she shot her mother’s lover, Dr. Peabody, rescuing her from a savage beating. Although traumatizing the girl, the incident was never reported due to the doctor’s social prominence, and it became submerged in family silence. The child’s subsequent heavy drinking drowned the memory until she was fourteen, and became the youngest alcoholic ever admitted to Stockbridge, an exclusive rehabilitation center.
At Stockbridge, Bailey meets Jim Peabody, the twenty-year-old son of the famous doctor. Both suffer from alcoholic amnesia and become acquainted as though for the first time, despite the fact that Bailey had fallen in love with Jim as a child, while he was going out with her older sister, Cary.
The social snobbery that prevented Jim Peabody from marrying Cary now infects the relationship of the hospital’s “odd young couple.” Preparing Bailey to be his wife, he is training her to speak like a lady. Her ugly, lower class accent is being replaced by the beautiful speech of breeding. Ironically, when Bailey delivers the tone and style of Jim’s “lady,” she becomes a sewer of pornographic speech.
At Stockbridge, Bailey begins to recover her memory, but Jim does not. She remembers that he was once her sister’s boyfriend – the drunken youth whom her mother would not allow in the house. He was also the beautiful blond boy whose humorous attention had made her feel appreciated.
The struggle of Bailey to recover her belief in the goodness of the child she’d been and the growing certainty that Jim Peabody was the hero of her childhood provides the momentum of the story.