By: Trish Hubschman
Karen’s gaze was fixed on the TV screen. Her eyes were wide. Her mouth was dry. In her right hand, she held a lottery ticket. She kept comparing the numbers flashing at the bottom of the TV screen to the six printed on the ticket. Five times she looked up, and then down. The numbers matched.
She jumped up and squealed, and then collapsed down on the sofa. Her two roommates came running into the room.
“What’s wrong? What’s happening?” Debbie Brooks, a nurse’s aide, asked, dropping on the sofa beside Karen. She pressed her hand on the other woman’s forehead.
Karen tried to speak but couldn’t get anything coherent out. She held up the winning ticket. Debbie didn’t notice it. She was busy taking Karen’s pulse. Sissy Collins, her other roommate, grabbed the ticket.
“Let me see what you have here,” Sissy said.
Debbie looked up from her task. “Her heart rate is fast,’ she noted. Nobody was listening to the nurse’s aide.
As if just noticing Debbie beside her, Karen looked at her confused. “I’m not sick,” she protested.
It was Debbie’s turn to look confused. Sissy set everyone straight. She held up Karen’s winning lottery ticket. “This says it all! Our beloved third grade teacher, Miss Karen Decker is rich!” Sissy started dancing around the room. Karen was crying.
Debbie was still confused.” Since when do you buy lottery tickets?” Deb asked. “You don’t even do the scratch-offs.”
Karen giggled. “I know.” She shrugged. “I was in the card store and, when I was paying, I suddenly had this weird urge to buy a ticket for tonight’s Lotto.” She giggled and shrugged again. “Kind of déjà vu, I guess.”
Sissy raised the ticket high in the air. “You can say that again!” The three of them burst into laughter. Sissy slid passed her two friends’ knees and plopped down on the other side of Karen. She handed Karen back the winning lottery ticket. “What are you going to do with your newfound fortune?”” she asked.
Karen hadn’t thought that far ahead. On impulse, she reached out for Debbie’s and Sissy’s hands. “Share it with my best friends. “
Sissy and Debbie were touched. They didn’t know what to say.
. . .
Two weeks passed. Two weeks of stress connected with that win. Karen was one hundred percent sure it had only just begun. Not sure the steps she was supposed to take in order to claim the win, Karen went to the card store where she purchased the ticket. Being able to speak privately with the store’s manager wasn’t an easy task. She didn’t want other store employees to be privy to this, or customers in the store at that present time.
Now the paperwork was being processed and she would receive her check in approximately six to eight weeks. Karen was surprised that it would take so long. She was advised to continue her life as she had been doing before this happened. Yeah, right, like that was possible!
Well, she would try. She got up in the morning and went to the elementary school where she taught third grade. She did not tell anyone. She would have to eventually but, right now, she was continuing with the low-profile plan. Unfortunately, her roommates were doing the opposite.
Karen took the bus home from work. They all did. It was a lovely afternoon to be walking through her condo development. When she reached her condo, she stopped dead. In the parking spot reserved for Unit Number 22 was a huge white Lexus SUV. It had a red ribbon across the hood.
Karen didn’t know what to think or feel, or who to scream at first. Getting her bearings, she marched to the door of the condo, flung it open and stopped. A smiling Debbie stood in the kitchen doorway brandishing a set of keys. “Want to go for a ride in our new set of wheels?” she asked. “We can share it, until we each get one of our own,” Debbie said.
Karen’s mouth dropped open. What on earth was she to say now? “Sure, why not?”
And then Sissy came home from work. She was a dental assistant. She was excited. “Guess where the three of us are going? Guess who we’re going to see?’ she blurted out. She didn’t give Karen and Debbie time to ponder the question. She held up three concert tickets. “Bon Jovi at Madison Square Garden, first row center, and we’re going backstage too, not just for a five-minute photo session with the king but we’re VIP’s and get some real time with the superstar. We’re going in by limo too. Oh, money talks! She rubbed her hands together.
Debbie was jumping up and down. Karen was rolling her eyes. She was a major Bon Jovi fan and always wanted to see him in concert.
“That must have cost a fortune,” she said.
Both Debbie and Sissy gave her sour looks. “Are you going with us or not, Karen?” Sissy threw at her. “This is a once in a lifetime thing and none of us should miss out.”
Karen closed her eyes. Of course, she was being a party pooper. Opening her eyes, she smiled. “You know, I wouldn’t miss it, Sis.” She had to be honest with the girls before she exploded. “I guess this money thing is going too fast. The check won’t be here for another few weeks. I don’t feel comfortable spending money I don’t have.”.
Sissy cocked her head to the side and thought about it. “Guess some things just can’t wait and have to be done right now. We’ll think about the other stuff later.”
That did make some sense, Karen conceded to herself.
A few days later, Karen had an argument with her longtime boyfriend, Nick Forest. They’d been together five years. He had a small apartment. She had suggested him moving in with her and the girls or her into his place. What she really wanted was to get married, but Nick didn’t want to talk about marriage.
Nick asked her to marry him. She knew he loved her. One day he would have popped the question but his timing didn’t sit well with her. Maybe she was being paranoid, but oh God, she just didn’t know. The tears started falling down her cheeks. She’d been crying far too much lately.
He gripped both her forearms and looked directly into her eyes. “I don’t know what that means, honey. Are you saying yes to me?” He sounded hopeful.
Sniffing hard, Karen shook her head. Frankly, she didn’t know what it meant. Turning, she raced out of his apartment.
As soon as she walked into her own condo, Sissy jumped her. Karen was more composed now than she had been in Nick’s place. Part of her kept telling her that she should go back and have a heart to heart talk with him. Was he asking her to marry him because he was sincerely ready to be husband and wife or did her lottery win have something to do with it? It was a harsh accusation. She trusted Nick and loved him, but she was afraid.
“Did he ask you?” Sissy shrieked. “Did he show you the ring? I want to see it on your finger. “She grabbed Karen’s left hand and was disappointed when she saw there was no ring. She was confused. “Didn’t you like it? I told Nick you would love it? I loved it.”
The three people she loved so much in the world were deciding how she would spend her life and how they would spend her money. It was her own fault and she had no idea what to do about it. She didn’t want to hurt any of them, but she was going nuts. This lottery thing was killing her.
She looked at Sissy. She felt so tired. “I just want to curl up with a book and go to bed early. I’m not hungry. Maybe later I’ll slip out and grab something to eat.” With that, Karen left the room and went into her own bedroom. She locked the door behind her.
“What’s eating her?” Sissy asked Debbie, who had come
out of the kitchen.
Debbie shrugged. “Something or somebody’s rubbing her the wrong way,” she replied.
“Well, it’s not any of us. I helped Nick pick out Karen’s engagement ring. It’s gorgeous. Maybe it’s more me than her, who knows, but frankly, I wish she’d mellow out.”
. . .
Karen had a lot of decisions to make, least of all what to do regarding Sissy and Deb. Her two roommates were going spend-crazy.
Sissy drove home one afternoon with a brand-new Deluxe Jeep Cherokee. Karen and Deb were wide eyed. sissy teased that she had wanted to buy a Mercedes, but it would have made her boss, the dentist, look bad. “I couldn’t outdo Dr. Williams,” she teased, throwing her hands up.
Karen bit her tongue and wished her friend good luck with the new vehicle.
Sissy also had this great idea of the three of them buying a huge house together, big enough for whatever the future held for them, husbands and children. Karen found out this game plan when a real estate agent from Remax called her.
“I applaud your desire to see the Beacon home,” Sharon Eden said. “And thank you for allowing me this wonderful opportunity to share in this with you.”
Karen had to ask the woman what she was talking about. Her response was a major surprise, no, shock to Karen. Sissy was out of control.
Karen’s first decision was that she would pay off the debts her two friends accrued, within reason. She’d give them both a million dollars, pay a year’s rent in advance on the condo for them and find herself another place to live.
Karen needed a fresh start in a different place where nobody knew her. As for Nick, she didn’t know what she would do.
“You’re the best of the bunch,” she teased him one evening when they were at a diner. She told him about Deb’s and Sissy’s behavior. “They’re showing-off and I’m not comfortable with it.” She said.
Nick nodded. “Money does that to people sometimes,” he said. “But I agree, it’s better to be low key or invisible.
She smiled. “That’s exactly what she wanted to hear.
The day came when she was to get her check. It would be presented to her by the mayor. A car was sent to take her into the city. The girls went with her. After the ceremony, Karen turned the prize money over to the accounting firm she hired to handle the management. She would have access to it but Randall Meyer would have to be aware of the transactions. Karen was willing to oblige. Without fanfare, she presented her roommates each a check for one million dollars. Neither said a word. Deb and Sissy had always been wonderful friends. When she filled them in on her plans of moving out, both were upset.
“Are you leaving us forever”?” Debbie asked.
A warm feeling flowed through Karen. She wanted to smile but she suppressed it. Instead, she looked at her other roommate. Sissy stood with her arms crossed over her chest. Her foot was tapping. Karen waited for Sissy to speak. Something had to be coming but the other woman remained silent. Finally, Karen turned and walked to her own bedroom to start packing.
. . .
Karen bought a spacious condo near the beach. The development had its own in-ground pools, golf course and tennis court but the nearby beach was what she wanted most. Summer was coming and she just wanted peace and relaxation. She also thought maybe she’d travel a bit, go to Florida or California. She wasn’t planning on going too far away. She bought a Toyota Corolla too.
She was in her living room one afternoon reading when her doorbell rang. She opened the front door. Nick leaned against the frame. She hadn’t seen him in months. He looked great in a pair of faded jeans and a black t-shirt.
Missed you,” he said.
She had missed him too. She longed to throw her arms around him but held back. “You’re still talking to me?” she said.
Nick raised one shoulder and shrugged. “Why wouldn’t I be?” he asked. Karen cocked her head to the side and, gave him a withered look. Nick chuckled. He held up his hands in surrender.” The ring, right, my proposal?” he asked. Karen didn’t reply. Nick sighed. “Your ex-roomie insisted that you’d love that ring. I knew you wouldn’t,” he said. “She’s furious at me for returning it, by the way. I got you something else.”
Karen smiled. Inviting him in, she closed the door and leaned back against it. She crossed her arms over her chest. “The floor is yours, Mr. Forest.”
Nick felt nervous. His hands were in his jean’s pockets, his fingers wrapped around the ring box. “I love you, Karen, okay,” he said. She didn’t interrupt. As for why I picked that moment to pop the question to you,” he began. She nodded. Yes, she was curious. Simple, baby, you didn’t change when you won that money. People do. I was afraid you would too but you didn’t. You were still my Karen.” He released a sigh. “Am I making any sense here?”
She nodded vigorously. Tears pooled in her eyes. “Yeah, you are,” she replied, sniffing. “Keep talking. What happened then?”
Nick looked flustered. Impatiently, he swished his head to the side. Karen giggled. “I love you for you,” he blurted out. “I realized it then. You were you despite that money. “He pulled the ring box out of his pocket and flipped it open. It was a simple ring and perfect. He dropped onto one knee. “Karen Marie Decker will you do the honor of becoming Mrs. Nicholas Forest. If you don’t give me a straight answer this time, I’m going to stay down here on my knee until I’m old and gray and arthritis sets in.”
Karen was giggling wildly. Instead of answering him, she dropped onto her knees and threw her arms around his neck. Together they fell back onto the thick carpet. “Yes, yes, yes,” she squealed, feeling that, now, she had really won the jackpot.
Jackpot was originally published in the E-zine: DB Touch Of Everything
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