The Lucky Winner

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Chapter 59

DAD/MOM

“You’re supposed to be driving out to California today, aren’t you? I’m fine. I’m just worried more people might start to get suspicious…”

Dad gazed at Mom’s exhausted, pale face. Her cheeks were hollow and her eyes were sunken in deeply. She looked as if she’d aged ten years overnight.

She didn’t have the slightest clue what had been going on behind her back.

Dad’s heart, meanwhile, was aching as if someone had drilled a hole in his chest. Nonetheless, he had to swallow the pain and finish what he’d started. He was so close to making everything as it used to be—pre-winning. Then he could try to forget everything that had happened and just move on with his life. All he needed to do was convince himself they were all bad dreams—the worst nightmare ever…

Misty’s death, although not part of the plan, appeared to work out in his favor after all.

The funds transfer transaction by the hacker was supposed to appear once either of my parents logged onto their online banking account. He had a choice. He could either wait until Mom logged on and let her find out that way, or he could tell her, pretending he just found out. He was leaning toward the latter. Who would commit a crime and then tell it all? If he were the first one to discover and report it, he’d be the last one she’d suspect.

Before he did that, however, there were two things he needed to confess to her—his ATM withdrawal at the casino and losing his job.

Since she wasn’t very tech-savvy, and never did any online banking—even though she asked Dad to create accounts—he could buy some time. But he knew she’d eventually find out. The same went for losing his job. Sooner or later, he had to tell her. And his guess was that the damage would be far less with his confession, than by waiting for her to find out and confronting it then.

“What is it?” Mom asked. Even though she’d been emotionally distressed, she still knew Dad. She knew that look—the one he always had when he wanted to tell her something important. After all, they’d been married for twenty years. They knew each other like they knew themselves.

It was the best timing for him to proceed with his plan. Besides, he couldn’t stand to tell another lie for a second longer.

He took a deep breath inaudibly. “There’s something I need to tell you…”

“I know. I can see that. So, what is it?”

“I got laid off.”

“What? Why?”

“Budget cut. I was just one of many. It just happened.”

“But I thought they were short-staffed right now.”

“I thought so too, but…” His eyes shifted. That was the lie he told her when he went to see Misty in the hotel.

“Was that what the call was about? At the hospital? Ella told me you had to call in to work.”

A visual image of Misty’s lifeless eyes flashed into his mind.

“Y-Yeah, that’s right,” he said before adding quickly, “I didn’t want to tell you right then, obviously. I’m sorry.”

“Honey, don’t be sorry. It’s not your fault you got laid off. It happens all the time,” she said, touching his hand comfortingly.

So that wasn’t too bad.

He doubted his boss would contact Mom and tell her he’d received a call from a mobster who demanded that he be fired. His boss wouldn’t want to be involved in any problem Dad had, especially if he suspected Dad was somehow associated with mobsters. At least that was the impression Dad received over the phone when his boss called to fire him.

The tricky one was the other confession he had to make—the ATM withdrawal.

However, there was no more retreating from the truth any longer. It was now or never. He remembered Nike’s Just Do It slogan. To remember something like that in a situation like this sounded like a big, sick joke, but it sure helped him vocalize the words.

“There’s one more. I withdrew a thousand dollars to play poker at a casino.” He said it fast without any pauses, as if a moment of hesitation would have sunk him.

Mom just stared at him in silence.

Well, what did he expect? Did he think she would clap her hands and say, That’s awesome, honey!?

“I’m sorry. I’ve never done it before and just wanted to do it once. Just once. It’ll never happen again. I promise,” he looked at her imploringly with all sincerity.

That was the truth. And as strange as it sounded, admitting it gave him a certain degree of contentment. I supposed he was pleased to finally tell the truth, despite the subject matter.

Since Mom had no clue that he had any desire to gamble, it was hard for her to understand his impulsive action. She thought she knew everything about him. Throwing away a thousand dollars for gambling was not at all the person she’d known for the past twenty years. Sure, it wasn’t the end of the world to lose a thousand dollars when they had tens of millions of dollars, but what shocked her was how he spent it. It simply wasn’t his style.

Could she really blame him though? Even though how they spent money was distinctively different, she did withdraw a large amount of money without his knowledge also. She had to admit—she was just as guilty as he was.

“It’s okay.”

“What?” Not expecting to hear those words from her, he had to ask, “Is it? Really?”

She nodded. “I’ve spent some money, too. I should have consulted you first but I didn’t. I knew you’d find out sooner or later, but I couldn’t tell you at the time. So who am I to blame you?”

Dad’s eyes stared into hers in happy disbelief.

So that’s it? He never thought he could get away with it so easily. For the strangest reason, he thought of how happy customers must have felt with the stores that advertised, Free Returns. No Questions Asked.

He breathed a sigh of relief, happiness radiating from him. “Honey, I don’t even know what to say. Thank you. For forgiving me.”

“You’re not going to even ask me how much I took or how I spent it?” She asked.

He chuckled in an overwhelmed way. He couldn’t care less why she used her own money or what she spent it on.

“Oh, yes, of course. What did you buy?” He eventually asked her, as if he were reading his lines at an audition.

“I made a donation to our church,” Mom replied, pausing to take a breath. “Ten thousand dollars.”

“Ten thousand dollars? Didn’t Father Paul think that was a little strange? I mean, for us to have that kind of money?”

Mom looked down, her sense of guilt sweeping across her face. “He knows.”

“He knows what?” Dad surveyed her face. “That you won the lottery?”

Her head dipped lower, and she nodded.

“But we weren’t supposed to tell anyone.” His voice was far from sounding accusatory. It was more just curious.

“I know. I feel awful… After I made you and the kids promise,” Mom looked down, utterly deflated. “It makes me a hypocrite.”

He stroked her back. “It’s okay. No big deal. I know you trust Father Paul. And I know you had a good reason to tell him.”

Dad smiled as if they were now even—as if forgiving her action could somehow erase the terrible sin he’d committed.

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