The Lucky Winner

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Chapter 17

Mom was released from the hospital, and she chose to stay home for a while. Dad took some days off work too, so he could stay with Mom. Mom feared that with both of them missing work, people could become suspicious. But I told her even the poorest people had to take off work if they got poisoned, and it was only natural for their spouse to stay home to take care of them. Mom only seemed to hear the word, poison, and she made me promise not to mention it to anyone. She worried it might lead people to suspect that we were the lottery winners.

Come on, already! I had to scream in my head. When would this ever end? How long was she going to act that way? Did she plan to live the rest of her life in a state of abject paranoia? Always dreading the chance that people would find out about her lucky lottery ticket? That was more than ridiculous. It was, in fact, the most moronic, asinine delusion I’d ever heard of.

At any rate, she swallowed the lump that was lodged in her throat, and she and Dad stayed home, resting together.

Thank goodness.

I went to school as if absolutely nothing had happened. I was exhausted from lack of sleep, but I didn’t want to stay home with my parents.

Sophia was back, having finally recovered from her persistent flu.

“Look who’s finally here,” I approached her when she was chatting with Zoe.

She looked great. Her face was radiant, her cheeks, plump and healthy pink. It was hard to believe she was bedridden for a whole week.

“Wow, maybe I should get the flu, too. You look awesome.”

“Oh, she didn’t have the flu. She had a facial.” Zoe said in a way that the whole town would have easily believed her. I always thought she’d be a good poker player.

“I did have the flu!” Sophia sounded unnaturally cheerful. It felt like I was watching a school play. Perhaps bed rest worked like magic for her. Too bad I hardly got sick.

“Ella. You look horrible. Do you want to borrow my concealer?” Zoe was always blunt. But that was what I loved about her. No BS.

I took her concealer, and applied it under my eyes. “I stayed at the hospital all night. I could only nap like, two hours max.”

“Why were you at the hospital?” asked Zoe.

“Oh, because of my mom,” I paused. Crap. I wasn’t supposed to tell anyone about it. “She fell and hit her head. She’s okay now though.”

That was hard. I couldn’t tell my girls anything anymore. Ugh.

“Oh, no!” said Zoe with a concerned look.

“Really, she’s okay now. No need to worry. At all.” I said quickly, trying to change the subject.

Then we noticed people crowding together and some were Jerry’s football teammates. Judging from their odd expressions, it didn’t look like they were talking the usual silly gossip.

We approached the crowd.

“What’s going on?” Zoe asked one of the guys.

He shook his head. “He’s dead.”

Zoe furrowed her brow. “Who’s dead?”

“Jerry,” he replied with a deep sigh.

What?” Zoe and I chorused loudly.

There was no way Jerry could be dead. Okay, people died somewhere in the world every day. There were accidents and illnesses always looming, killing the young and the old across the globe. But Jerry? That sounded too cliche. The notorious Jerry? The guy who bullied and manipulated everyone? The popular quarterback whom all the air-headed girls went nuts for? The Chief Deputy Sheriff’s son? Nah, he couldn’t be dead.

However, the expressions we saw on everyone told us quite clearly that it actually was true. If this were a prank, they were doing an award-winning job at pulling it.

“Good job, guys,” I giggled. A part of me refused to believe it.

All eyes shot over to me. “Ella. He’s dead!” said one of the girls as she glared at me with an overly scrunched-up face. She seemed to be tacitly suggesting that I needed a psychiatric evaluation.

“How is it possible? How did he die?” Zoe asked, still incredulous.

“He was shot. On the way over here,” another girl said.

That was one of the things that could never have happened anywhere except in a town like ours. If it occurred in a metropolitan city, the killer would have been caught in a matter of seconds, owing to a ton of eye witnesses. The shooter would have had to plan his crime better than just shooting someone in broad daylight. It surely wasn’t anything like shooting a woodchuck with a BB gun.

“No freaking way!” Zoe shouted.

Wow, is this for real? Is Jerry really dead?

As the words began to sink in and my brain slowly grasped the information, a thought flashed into my mind. Did someone mistake Jerry for the lucky winner?

Okay, that was a junk concept without any logic or reasoning. So what if someone erroneously believed he was the winner? Could they have stolen any money from him by shooting him? Of course not.

But wait. Maybe the shooter demanded his money, but Jerry refused, so they shot him impulsively as punishment for his refusal to comply. I believed the term was voluntary manslaughter.

I wondered how Sophia took this news. Her face was blank but I was certain she must have been shaking to the core inside. He was a total ass, but he once was her boyfriend. It must have shocked her considerably.

Right?

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