The Lucky Winner

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Chapter 43

“So. Stock broker, huh?” asked the young woman, Misty Anderson, after a sip of her martini. “You must be a successful one.”

Dad and she were seated at the bar.

It was supposed to be a passing, quick lie to a total stranger whom he thought he’d never see again, but now he had to go with it. “Yeah… a bit stressful at times.” He’d seen enough movies that he knew something about the job; enough to carry on the conversation for one drink. Hopefully.

“That’s hot. Sexy.” She gazed into his eyes with a seductive smile. “I didn’t know they could afford to play at a thousand-dollar-minimum-bet table.”

“I… I inherited some money, too.” Dad replied. Before she could ask more questions, he quickly figured it’d be safer to just let her talk. So he asked hurriedly, “What about you?”

“What about me?” she said as she took another sip.

“What do you do? Are you from around here? What were you doing in here? I know you mentioned something about your friend flaking out. Why couldn’t she or he make it tonight?” Any subject would have been good as long as he could get her to talk, and not him. Soon, she’d finish her martini and he’d be able to say good night and part ways.

“Yeah, that’s right. I was meeting a friend to have drinks here,” said Misty, not answering all of his questions. “This place is like the only nice place around here. I believe that’s why you’re here, too.” She pulled out the olive from her martini while her eyes never left his. She continued, “Do you come here a lot?”

“No, no. It’s my first time.”

“Oh,” she raised her eyebrows.

“I was just passing by.”

“Passing by? Where to? Back to New York? It’s not even close to the airport.”

He began to feel uncomfortable. Lying just wasn’t in his DNA. And now he had to keep coming up with more fake stories. Obeying the urge to leave as soon as possible, he downed his scotch.

“Yes, back to New York. Leaving early tomorrow morning,” Dad said as he rose, putting money on the bar. “I have to go now. Great talking to you.”

“But I’m not done with my drink yet,” she looked up at him and her expression made him worry he’d just done something incredibly rude.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” he said. Apologizing was his natural response to sad faces.

“Could you stay until I finish mine? I actually just broke up with my boyfriend and I’ve been feeling pretty down…” She looked at the floor.

After all, her glass was almost empty. It couldn’t take more than five minutes. Tops.

“Sure,” he sat down again.

“Am I that boring?”

“What? No. It’s not that.”

“My ex used to tell me I was. He made me feel worthless,” she sighed.

Suddenly, he felt terrible. “Don’t let anyone make you feel worthless. Because you’re not.”

After all, Dad was a kind-hearted man. If someone was hurt, he couldn’t help feeling truly sorry for them.

Misty looked up. “You seem like a really nice person.” Then her eyes landed on his wedding band. “Your wife is a lucky girl.”

He was relieved to know she saw he was married. “Thank you.”

“For times like these, this really helps.” She bit her lower lip as she raised her glass, tears welling in her eyes. “Thank you for hanging out with me. I just didn’t want to drink alone.”

“You’re welcome…”

“Would you like another round?” The bartender asked in a cheerful manner.

Misty’s misty eyes searched his. She sure looked like she needed another. But he didn’t. He had to leave. Now.

“Are you…okay?” The bartender asked as she peered into Misty’s soggy face. She looked like the type who could have been the president of a human rights organization.

“I don’t know…” Misty answered as she put a napkin under her eyes. “I’d like another but I know he doesn’t. It’ll be too sad for me to drink alone.”

“We’ll take the check,” Dad replied, trying to be strong.

The bartender looked compassionately at Misty. Then she turned her gaze on Dad as if he were an asshole who didn’t give a damn about his young girlfriend’s feelings.

Tears streamed down Misty’s cheeks.

“Oh, sweetie, here,” the bartender handed Misty a stack of napkins as if she were drying off a frightened, little kitten that was abandoned in the rain. Then the bartender turned to him. “Just one more drink, sir?”

“Sure,” he said, feeling obligated now.

“Are you sure?” asked Misty, wiping her tears. “I don’t want to force you into something you don’t want to do.”

“It’s fine,” he said, smiling like a gentleman. “One more drink won’t hurt.”

By the time he realized it, the two of them were pretty tipsy. Another round soon turned into two more rounds.

“I feel much better now,” she smiled.

“I’m glad,” he said. “It only cost me two hours of sleep,” he winked. Yes, he winked—that was the alcohol, not him.

“Where are you staying?” She asked before quickly adding, “Let me guess. The Ritz?”

The Ritz?

“Why would you say that?”

“Because that’s like, the only nice hotel around here.”

“Ah,” he had no idea what hotels were located there, but now he went completely right along with it—as if he were actually enjoying being a totally different person.

“Your guess is right,” he shrugged amusingly. None of that would matter once they said goodbye and left the bar.

Misty held up her martini at eye-level.

“This one’s not stirred,” she said, putting her index finger inside the glass and stirring her martini. Placing her finger into her mouth, she slowly pulled it out as she licked the juice off it. Her seductive eyes stayed on Dad’s, which followed her finger.

“Excuse me. Boys’ room,” Dad said as he got up hastily.

He splashed water on his face in the bathroom and tried to calm himself down. He needed to wait until the rush of endorphins subsided.

What am I doing…? He asked himself.

He couldn’t remember the last time his body reacted in such a way. At least, not since becoming a father. He and Mom hadn’t had sex in quite a while. But he had no complaints about his life with Mom and us. He just took it as normal because he thought it was just the way life was supposed to be.

Dad went back to the bar, and noticed Misty suddenly looking serious.

“What’s wrong? Are you okay?” asked Dad.

Perhaps the bad memories of her ex were revisiting her. It was not his job to make sure this woman’s emotional state was intact, but he felt like it was, at least as long as they sat together at the bar.

“My ex just texted me.”

His guess was right.

“What did he say?”

“He’s coming here for me. He knows I’m here.”

“Why? You broke up with him, right?”

“He’s trying to get back together.”

“Oh,” he said. This was not at all his department. His life was nothing but a calm sail, married for twenty years, just a routine life. He had no clue what to say.

“I need to get out of here,” she said urgently.

“Okay,” he said, feeling more than relieved. He would have been lying if he said he didn’t enjoy sitting at a bar with such a sexy, young woman at all. But he knew it was best to finally say goodbye and call it a night.

“Can I hide in your hotel room just for a little bit?”

WHAT?

“I don’t have any place to go. I was crashing at my friend’s after leaving my ex,” she blurted out in a rush of emotion, “He’ll find me there. I can’t go there.”

Dad searched for the right words but was pitifully unsuccessful.

“Please. I really don’t want to see him. Just for like, twenty minutes, max. I promise. Then he’ll give up, and I can just go back to my friend’s.”

“Uh…” he still couldn’t find the words to respond. First of all, he didn’t have a hotel room, and second, he had no intention of being unfaithful to Mom. Even though he had no desire to do anything inappropriate, staying in a hotel room alone with a woman didn’t sound very appropriate.

“I know you’re married. It’s not going to be like that. I’m not stupid. I promise,” she said as if she could read his mind.

He had to think—even though his thinking ability was impeded by the amount of alcohol he’d consumed.

Misty looked down at her phone and sighed. Her pretty eyes told him she’d been truly suffering. Maybe her ex was a real psycho. Maybe he’d been physically abusive to her.

How could I not care and let this guy abuse her? Am I that cold-hearted? Dad thought.

But wait. She was a complete stranger. He didn’t even know her. Why would anyone try to get involved in a complete stranger’s relationship problems? And hers sounded like a pretty complicated one. She left her ex and was staying with her friends since then. She didn’t even have a place of her own?

Whatever the argument, his two-hour-chat at the bar with her seemed to be enough for him to care.

“You don’t have anywhere else to go at all?” He asked.

“No… I lived with him for three years, you know…” she replied weakly. “I promise. Once he stops texting, I’ll go to my friend’s. He’s not gonna look for me all night. I know him.”

“Okay.”

Dad felt like he didn’t even know himself any longer. It was as if he were a helpless puppet and the puppeteer was making him move in ways he never intended and putting words into his mouth.

“Thank you,” she said, throwing her arms out to hug him, and she let them linger longer than they should have for just a casual hug. He felt her plump breasts flatten against his chest.

“But I’m too drunk to remember where I’m staying,” he lied to make it sound like a joke, surprising himself how smoothly he could pull this off. He’d never been a smooth talker, and far from a player, not even while dating. The alcohol buoyed his self-esteem and he was fast becoming the man he never knew he was before.

Misty pulled back to look at him while her arms stayed around his neck.

“The Ritz-Carlton, silly,” she giggled. “I guess we’re helping each other after all. Now I feel better.”

Oh, the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, it is.

Dad and Misty staggered their way outside to grab a cab and arrived at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in no time. Misty was right. The hotel was conspicuously the best one in the area. The bellman politely bowed and welcomed them. Dad noticed the bellman sneaking a look at her. As a matter of fact, he’d been noticing people’s eyes since first being with her.

They entered the hotel. Dad was overwhelmed by the fancy-looking interior decor. He’d never stayed at a hotel with more than two diamond ratings. His eyes wandered around until they caught Misty’s. He forced himself to appear more nonchalant. To her, he was a wealthy man who stayed at five-diamond hotels all the time.

“Wait here. I’ll be right back,” he motioned for her to sit down on the couch in the lobby.

“Okay,” she said as she comfortably sank into it.

He nervously approached the front desk.

What if there were no rooms available? What would I possibly tell her? He thought, getting flustered, as if ruining the fantasy were tantamount to a death sentence.

“Hello, sir. Welcome to the Ritz-Carlton,” the front desk clerk greeted him politely.

“Uh… I was wondering if you have a room available for tonight? I don’t have a reservation…” He spoke in a low voice to prevent Misty from hearing him from across the large lobby.

“Let me check. One moment, please,” the clerk looked on the computer. “We do have several standard rooms and some suites available.”

“Just the ch—” he stopped, nearly biting his tongue. He was about to say the cheapest room. Of course he almost did. That was what he’d been saying his entire life. But he didn’t need to say that now.

“Sorry, sir? Could you repeat that?” The clerk asked.

He realized he hadn’t deposited the one thousand dollar bills back into his account yet.

“We have a special rate on our junior suite. It’s seven hundred dollars plus tax per night.”

“Okay, I’ll take that then,” Dad replied, overwhelmed at being able to say those words just like that.

“Great. May I have a credit card?” the clerk replied with a smile.

“Oh, uh… no. I-I’ll be paying cash for this,” he stuttered. Eventually, Mom would have to notice the withdrawal from the account, but credit cards revealed the venue and location of each purchase transaction. Having a bill from the Ritz-Carlton Hotel on their credit card statement certainly didn’t sound like a smart idea.

“You may. But we need your card to hold the room and also for any other incidentals, sir.”

“I’m not going to use the phone or anything. I can pay you now if you want,” he said, growing agitated.

Dad looked over at Misty, who hand-gestured, Is everything okay? He waved his hand back with a smile so she would just keep waiting for him on the couch.

The clerk noticed the silent communication between them. As if she figured it all out, she said, “You may pay the total now, if you’d like. It’ll be seven hundred and fifty-seven dollars with tax, sir.”

“Thank you,” he took out the cash and paid it in a hurried manner.

“It took a while. Was everything okay?” Misty asked when Dad walked back over to her.

“Oh, yeah. Everything’s fine. Their system went down briefly. That’s why it took a bit longer. She had to wait until her computer came back on.”

“Oh, okay.”

The two of them took the elevator to the suite floor.

He opened the door and they entered the room. It was nice—the nicest that he’d ever seen in his forty-three years.

“I love it here. So pretty,” Misty said as she flopped into the most comfortable-looking suede couch. Then she looked up at him, “Do you stay here often?”

“Yeah.”

“Do you travel a lot?”

“Yeah, I’m always on the road.”

That was true.

“On the road? You flew here, right?”

“Yeah… I meant, always out of town.” Feeling the need to switch the conversation around, he asked, “Is your ex still calling you?”

“Yeah,” she took out her phone from her purse, and repeated, “Yeah.”

“Was he… abusive to you?” He wasn’t used to asking personal questions, but he had to. Otherwise, she’d keep asking him questions, which increased the chance of blowing his cover.

“Yeah. He was nice and generous, too, but he has a bad temper.” She touched her hair and twirled it. “He’d hit me and apologize hours later with a piece of jewelry from Tiffany’s. You know. He wasn’t all bad.”

He wasn’t all bad?

“But he hit you. Right…?”

“Yeah, but, like I said, he would always give me nice things afterwards for an apology.”

Dad couldn’t quite understand how that justified anyone’s abusive behavior. “You said he’s trying to get back together with you? Did you tell him you didn’t want to?” Suddenly feeling like a relationship expert, he added. “I think he’ll let you go if you just tell him.”

“Are you serious? He’s not gonna listen to what I say. He wants me back. That means, he wants me back.”

“Don’t let him control you like that. I don’t mean to stick my nose into your business, but…”

“I wish it was that easy,” she answered. Then the tone of her voice changed. “Should we open those cocktail bottles?”

“Cocktail bottles? I don’t have any.”

“You know, the minibar bottles.”

The two-star hotels he stayed in before never had any minibars.

She lifted herself off the suede couch and hopped over to the minibar. Holding up the cute mini bottle of scotch, she quipped, “Looks like they knew you were coming.”

I guess I can pay for it later, he thought.

Either way, he’d already consumed four glasses of scotch and was overly intoxicated. He had to be fully able to drive the truck tomorrow. Otherwise, he’d be fired. It would have been fine, money-wise, but he didn’t want to lie to Mom over the reason why he got fired.

She’ll be gone soon. As soon as she leaves, I can just go right to sleep, get an espresso tomorrow morning, and hit the road. He thought.

Misty poured the drinks into two glasses. She approached him and held a glass out to him, smiling her little smile.

“Thanks,” he said as he took the glass.

She gulped her drink, straight up. “Thank you. For saving my life. From my crazy ex. I’ll go after this.”

See? Everything is going to be fine. I enjoyed the past few hours, and now I can go back to my life, he said in his head. “No problem,” he smiled.

“You’re so nice…” She gazed into his eyes, which suddenly made him nervous. “Here, let’s sit down and relax.” Moving to the bedroom, she sat down on the bed, motioning for him to join her.

That’s a very very bad idea… He fought hard.

“It’s more comfortable than the couch. That’s all,” she made it sound like it was purely innocent for two strangers to sit on the bed in a hotel room. It was as if she knew exactly how to play the game. Or maybe it was just the generation gap. Maybe women her age thought differently than in his era.

“Don’t overthink it, silly. We’re just friends,” she raised her eyebrows and giggled as if it were the craziest thing for him to hesitate over sitting on the bed with a stranger.

She’s right. She’s just a friendly person. What’s the harm to just sit down? I’m not doing anything bad… I’m not going to do anything bad… He told his intoxicated mind.

He sat down on the bed next to her. She wasn’t lying about one thing for sure. It was indeed the most comfortable bed he’d ever sat on.

“You’re right. It is very comfortable!” Then he remembered he was a regular at that hotel, according to what he told her, whenever he was in town. “It never fails to impress me.”

She smiled and clinked his glass. “You’re not drinking.”

“I have to get up very early tomorrow,” he shrugged. “Work.”

Then she suddenly began stripping, leaving only her bra and a pair of cheeky panties on.

Looking aghast, Dad’s eyes widened, “What… what are you doing?!”

As if she didn’t hear him, she continued, removing her bra and panties smoothly.

“I… I can’t….” Flustered, his voice came out as almost a whisper. “You know I’m married…”

She ignored him, closing the distance between them. Now her bare breasts were touching his shirt.

“Please, Misty…” In shock, he was at a loss for words. Honestly, if he didn’t see this coming at some point, he must have been ridiculously naive.

Misty took his hand and placed it on top of her breast. He could have resisted, but he didn’t. She slowly pushed him down on the bed, and her naked body hopped over his like a hawk catching its prey.

This is not happening. This can’t happen. I can’t do this. This is not me… He repeated the words in his head, lying motionless underneath her, as if he were under sleep paralysis.

He had two choices. One: break the spell and push her off him; or two: betray his wife and ruin all that they’d created together for the past twenty years, selling his soul to the devil for a fleeting moment of pleasure.

His mind, without a shadow of a doubt, opted for the first choice. The easiest way would have been to just tell her the truth—that he was just a trucker who lived paycheck-to-paycheck inside a small house in a tiny town in North Dakota. She would have been straight out the door at the speed of light.

However, before he could tell her that, she moved. Her naked breast was barely an inch from his lips.

His ill desire seemed to opt for the second choice, despite his mind.

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