The Lucky Winner

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Chapter 12

“You’re just imagining it, honey,” Dad said when he came home and Mom told him about the photo frame incident. He’d been away for eight days, driving to and from California. He looked exhausted.

I didn’t blame him for saying that. Anybody would have assumed she was just being paranoid to think there was an intruder simply because a few photo frames got moved. Dad didn’t know about Mom’s anal retentiveness as well as I did. I was always around when she cleaned the house. I’d seen how precise she was in putting things back after dusting. If I measured all the angles with a protractor, I bet they would have been returned to the same exact angles as they were pre-dusting.

Mom looked up at him and her eyes froze. “Oh, my God. What happened to you?”

What, now?

I glanced over at them from the couch I was lying on.

“What do you mean?” Dad looked like he could pass out on the floor. I assumed coming home to Mom’s unnecessary paranoia after driving such a long distance wasn’t too easy to deal with. Besides, how comfortable could it be to sleep in the truck’s confined sleeping compartment?

“You lost your tooth…”

“What?” I got up and walked into the kitchen so I could take a closer look at him.

I laughed. One of his front teeth was gone and he looked pretty funny. “How do you lose your tooth exactly? Wasn’t that an adult tooth?” I laughed again. If he were Kyle, it wouldn’t have been so funny because I’d simply think he got punched by Jerry.

But Dad didn’t get punched by anyone.

“I tripped over a rock and fell. It was dark. It was the bad tooth though. Luckily.”

“Well, be more careful, honey,” said Mom. “You should go see the dentist tomorrow.”

“I will,” he said. “Then I have to get back on the road again.”

“You aren’t even taking a couple days off this time?”

“They’re pretty short-staffed right now…”

“Oh, okay…”

Dad looked at her, concerned. He knew she was feeling vulnerable.

“Honey, we have the alarm. It didn’t go off, right? Because they’ll call you right away if someone breaks in.”

Oh my God, the security alarm! How could I forget that?

Seeing how Mom remained so nervous, Dad had installed a state-of-the-art security alarm system. As I didn’t see any reason to be nervous since no one knew about our win, I hardly ever set it myself. I usually didn’t have to anyway since I left before Mom and came home after her. I frequently hung out at Sophia or Zoe’s houses for a few hours after school.

Mom nodded.

“And you turned it off yourself. Right?”

“Kyle did… He was in his room when I got home.” Mom’s eyes dropped to the table.

Now I began to wonder about her mental health. She’d looked awfully horrified earlier. If she reacted like that purely from her wild imagination, I had to admit, that made me suspect there might have been something terribly wrong with her.

“Kyle,” Dad looked toward his door and called his name. I knew, of course, he would receive no answer.

“Ella. Can you get him?”

I walked over and knocked on his door loudly.

“What?” he answered from inside the room.

“Dad’s home. He needs you.”

The door opened and Kyle came out with a sigh. He’d evidently washed his face, so now there was no dried blood but the purple nose would probably stay for a few days.

He joined us at the kitchen table.

Dad stared at his face for a long moment, but didn’t say anything about it or remark that it was unusual. “You were home when Mom thought there was an intruder. Is that right?”

“Yeah.”

“Did you see anything strange inside the house?”

“No.”

Kyle always answered by using only one word unless absolutely necessary. The shorter the answer, the sooner he could return to his video games. I stared at my brother, What’s so addictive about killing monsters?

“Honey,” Dad turned to his wife and touched her hand comfortingly. “I know you’ve been nervous. It’s okay…” He continued, “But you really shouldn’t. Nobody knows we won that money. Remember?”

She placed her hand over his and nodded. I supposed she began to realize she was overreacting. Perhaps she wasn’t as meticulous as she’d been before. Perhaps she moved things around and forgot about them. After all, her brain wasn’t as fresh as that of a twenty-year-old.

Who knew?

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