The Lucky Winner

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Chapter 13

Since Sophia ditched school during lunch that day, she’d been sick and hadn’t returned to school. She also prohibited us from coming to her house to check on her. It was a nasty flu, and she didn’t want us to catch it from her. I hung out at Zoe’s house, but I was spending more time at home.

I watched TV in my own room. Along with the French doors, the TV was another purchase I acquired from the five-thousand dollar fund. Now that I had privacy and a TV, I could invite my girls over here, but as long as Kyle continued to exist on the face of the earth, that wasn’t going to happen.

I got up to go to the bathroom. That’d be next—a bathroom in my own room. It’d be impossible to install one in my tiny den though. All the more reason to build a new house as soon as possible.

I walked by Kyle’s room, which was quiet. He didn’t seem to be in there. He’d been coming home later recently. There was only one place he could be besides school—Nerd It. Nerd It was a video game store that Kyle worshipped. He was probably checking out some new video games, and chatting about it with other nerds. Who knew?

When I came out of the bathroom, Kyle just entered the house. I had to admit—I almost didn’t recognize him. I had absolutely no clue what the deuce could have happened. Earth must have stopped mid-orbit to prompt him to lose the Dumb and Dumber hairstyle and the Milton glasses altogether. Although his transformation had been my dream for years, it was unexpected and I wasn’t prepared for it. I never thought that would happen in a trillion years! I’d asked him so many times in the past to lose those two items, but he’d simply been ignoring me. Until now. So how would anyone have expected me to prepare for this day?

I supposed I was more flustered than I realized—I just dropped my phone, which Kyle magically caught before it hit the floor.

What just happened? I wondered if I were in The Twilight Zone. “Thanks… I didn’t know you could see.”

“I got contacts.”

Contacts? So this phase of no Milton glasses is permanent?! I screamed in my head. There was no doubt that a zombie apocalypse was coming.

I realized he was still holding my phone. I reached my hand out to get it.

“Can you send me the photos from the carnival?”

My hand paused midair.

“What carnival?” Frightened, I snatched my phone back from him.

“The one at Wilson Park.”

“Why?”

“No reason. I just want to have some pictures on my phone.”

I knew exactly why he wanted pictures from the carnival. It was about three years ago when the carnival came to Wilson Park. The four of us, Sophia, Zoe, Kyle and I went to it together. Back then, I didn’t know Kyle had such a huge crush on Sophia (Okay, I kind of suspected it). Thinking back to it now, that was like releasing a stinky, wild hyena with a cute, little bunny.

We’d taken some selfies—well, a whole bunch of them—at the carnival, and Kyle wanted to have them now so he could have some of Sophia’s pictures on his phone.

Uh-uh, I wouldn’t sell out my best friend so easily.

“I don’t have them,” I lied. “Gosh, that was like three years ago.”

“Yes, you do. You have pictures on there ever since you got that phone.”

I didn’t want to know how he knew that. I hoped to God he was just guessing.

“I might have deleted those. The ones from the carnival.” Now it sounded like an obvious lie. Pictures to me were like expensive jewelry. I would never have deleted a single one of them, not even the hideous ones—I could always fix them up with multiple layers of filters.

“You never delete pictures,” he replied, eyeing me like I was a nasty liar. He knew me.

Who is this guy?

Not only did he have the nerve to ask me for my best friend’s photos, but he was also being incredibly aggressive. He may have changed his appearance, but he was still the same pathetic Kyle. Yes, the one who had a girlfriend named Candy. He couldn’t have fooled me even if he tried. I wished he’d just give up and go back to his room to play his little game already.

“Hey, what’s the new game that you just got?” There was nothing else I cared less about, but I asked anyway, trying to switch gears.

Kyle didn’t buy it. “Could you please send me those photos?” he insisted.

Oh my God, he’s as persistent as the annoying weeds in the backyard!

“No,” I said sharply. I had to be strong. I had a sacred duty to protect my dear friend.

“Why?” he frowned.

I paused. Then I decided to just blurt it out. “Because you’d do the same thing you did to Candy to my friend. And I can’t let you do that.” I couldn’t have convinced myself to even mention that until then, but it seemed there was no other way to get him to back off.

Kyle seemed paralyzed from head to toe with embarrassment. Instantly, his face turned as red as an overripe tomato before it fell to the ground and was smashed by someone’s foot.

Mortified, he quietly went back to his room and closed the door behind him.

Yes!

He withdrew. I won the battle! I breathed a sigh of relief.

I looked toward the kitchen. Mom was there, preparing dinner. I stood there for a moment watching her. It was almost impossible to believe we were actually millionaires. Keeping it a secret from others was one thing, but shouldn’t she at least have looked slightly happier than appearing so insanely nervous all the time?

Then I noticed her eyes were locked on one spot in the drawer. Her body didn’t move an inch.

The soup in the pot was boiling like it would overflow. I stepped into the kitchen. Her eyes were glued on something inside the open drawer.

“Mom,” I said as I turned down the heat.

She looked up.

“You didn’t notice?” I pointed at the pot.

“I’m telling you,” she said. “it’s not my imagination.”

This again?

Mom picked up a spatula from the open drawer.

“I never put this particular spatula in this drawer.”

I just looked at her.

“You didn’t move it, did you?” she asked.

“No… but maybe Kyle did. Or Dad.”

I felt like I was hyperventilating. Her nervousness was becoming contagious.

“The only thing they touch in the kitchen is the fridge. Why would they move a spatula when they don’t even cook?” She asked with the spatula in her hand.

“Kyle,” she called out to his room.

No response, of course. It was rather surprising that she hadn’t figured out he couldn’t hear anything else while playing video games—which meant all the time.

“Kyle!”

I flinched. She usually didn’t yell that loud.

“Mom, I’ll get him. He’s playing the video game. He can’t hear.”

I knocked on the door hard.

“What?” his voice was heard through the closed door. “I’m on the phone.”

I knew that was a lie. He never called anyone. And nobody called him. He was probably too embarrassed to face me right then, after I mentioned Candy.

“Did you move a spatula?” I asked through the door.

“Huh…?”

“Have you touched anything in the kitchen except the fridge?”

“No.”

“He didn’t touch anything,” I relayed the message to Mom. “Do you want me to text Dad and ask?” I waited for her response but she just stared into the drawer.

“Isn’t it funny Dad’s on the road non-stop now and he doesn’t even have to work?” I chuckled, trying to distract her by switching gears. “Funny how things work out, don’t you think?” I kept pushing to make her say something. Something besides the spatula.

“Some people left and they’re short-staffed…” she mumbled with her eyes fastened on the spatula.

“Understandable. I’m sure it happens!” I tried to respond with unnecessary cheerfulness—anything to keep distracting her. I tried to keep going. “I bet they’re interviewing more people now because—”

Despite my efforts, she cut me off, talking over me. “Somebody must have found out about the win…”

“Mom. Stop. Seriously. You really need to relax. I mean it.” I said it in a stern way. “Remember, we have the alarm? There’s no way someone can break in without setting off the alarm. Besides, our money’s in the bank. They can’t take anything from the house even if they wanted to. So why would they even bother breaking in?”

She listened to me quietly. Then looked up and stared at my face.

“Think about it. You’re paranoid over a spatula. Do you know how silly that sounds? Maybe your memory isn’t as good as before. Who knows? You have to stop being so paranoid.”

There was a pause before she nodded absently.

Sometimes, a sixteen-year-old daughter acted more like a mother than a mother.

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