The Lucky Winner

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Chapter 8

The four of us sat at the kitchen table, all frozen in stunned silence as if we’d forgotten how to speak.

Finally, Mom broke the ice.

“We should definitely not reveal our true name. We should not tell anyone.” Mom looked at each one of us, making sure everybody followed her line of thinking.

“I agree. We’ll remain anonymous,” said Dad. “The thought of people knowing anything about this scares me.”

Mom nodded like a bobble-head doll, emphatically expressing she couldn’t agree more.

Kyle was already on his laptop. Typing something so fast, the sound of his fingers on the keyboard almost made me dizzy. I glanced over at his laptop and saw a bunch of sites about winning the lottery.

Mom replied to Dad’s comment. “I’ve read articles about winners who got bombarded with personal requests. As soon as people know you have money, they ask you for all kinds of things. Your friends, your family… and relationships get ruined because of that.” Mom looked more horrified than anything else, instead of jumping up on the roof for becoming a millionaire that she’d never, in a trillion years, imagined. “Gosh, people even get killed…” she continued as her frightened thoughts flashed in her mind.

I had to admit that it was true. Especially in a small town like this where everybody knew almost everything about everyone, you had to take any privacy matters very seriously. Rumors were tricky animals, like anglerfish—they could be fun but also extremely dangerous.

“Luckily, North Dakota is one of the few states that allows the winners to remain anonymous. I think it’s safer to create a family trust though. Just to be doubly cautious.” Kyle mumbled as his eyes moved rapidly, reading the articles. “And you can name the trust whatever you want. You can even name it Pug, so people don’t ever suspect it’s you.”

Pug. Out of all the names he could think of, he’d choose that. It was so Kyle.

“We should probably consult a financial adviser,” Dad said calmly.

“I’ll look for one and make an appointment tomorrow,” said Mom. “We should have an annuity, shouldn’t we?”

“There are cons that steal annuity payments,” Kyle’s hands and eyes kept moving like a skilled teen hacker.

I’d never seen him talk so much. Not since kindergarten when he wouldn’t shut up about what each Pokemon card meant. I supposed he was secretly super excited about the whole winning and his mind was floating somewhere up in space. After all, who didn’t like being rich?

Kyle continued, “Let’s say something bad happened to both of you, a car accident, a plane crash, or whatever. You die after getting treated in the ICU. Then Ella and I would be left with massive hospital bills, without the ability to pay them. We couldn’t pay for your funerals, either.”

Mom shot a frightful look at him, You’re thinking of us dying?

Kyle sensed Mom’s stink eye. He looked up from his laptop, meeting her stare. “I’m just being practical here. All I’m saying is, what if…”

Mom kept her silence.

“He has a point,” agreed Dad, however. “We’re responsible people. Getting the funds in a lump sum is only bad if you can’t manage money. We can certainly keep the money untouched, and safely invested in the bank.”

“Yeah, and who knows if you guys decided to, like, start your own business or something. You’ll need a stash of cash for that.”

Kyle being talkative seriously frightened me. Although, I had to admit, I agreed with everything he said.

There was a pause.

Then Mom reopened her mouth. “Whatever we decide, we should keep everything as it is for a while. We’ll keep working at the same jobs.” She looked at Dad for reassurance—to see if he were on the same page with her. He nodded his agreement. Then Mom looked at my brother and me. “Keep the same attitude. Like nothing ever happened. Everything is going to be the same. Can you do that? Can we count on you two?”

“Wait. So we aren’t even gonna buy a new house?” I finally asked, joining in the conversation.

“No. Not for a while, at least. We’re going to avoid anything that might draw unsolicited attention.” Mom cast me a nervous look. “Please do not mention anything related to it to any of your friends. Or anyone else. Can you promise that? Can you promise? Ella?” She repeated the same sentence.

I hated seeing Mom so nervous.

However, I had to make my point. “If we can’t even get a new house, really, what’s the point of winning all that money?”

“You can go to college. You can get a master’s degree even. Both of you. People will think you won scholarships.”

“That’s not going to eat up one hundred and two million dollars! This is ridiculous!”

“Ella!” She shushed me and surreptitiously looked out the window, as if people were listening to us with their ears to the wall. Then her nervous eyes returned to me. “We can build a new house. Sure, we can do that. But not for a while. That’s all we’re saying.” She continued to ensure I wouldn’t do anything reckless. “We have to be very very careful, Ella. If only one person finds out, that’s it. The whole town will know.”

It stunk but it was true. God, I hated this town…

“They say it’ll be very hard to know who’s trying to help you and who’s trying to use you when everyone knows you have money,” Mom persisted. “In any case, having the money doesn’t change us at all. We’re the same people. We’ve been always honest and humble, and that’s who we are and who we will always be. Be like-minded, sympathetic, loving toward one another, compassionate, humble…”

Yeah, yeah, there she goes again…

I knew more words were soon to come out of her mouth, but I was no longer capable of just quietly sitting and listening. There was a pause after she said humble, so I jumped on the opportunity, pretending as if I thought that was the end of her lecture. If I wanted to stop her, it was now or never.

“Can we eat? I’m so hungry.”

“I’ll have the Tuscan sirloin with mashed potatoes, please.” I said as I handed my menu to our waitress. “Oh, and a diet Coke and orange juice.”

Mom was in no condition to cook—nor did she need to—so I’d suggested to go out and eat. Despite my request to go to Gabby’s Steakhouse, which was located inside a five-star hotel in the neighboring town and the most expensive restaurant in the area, we were sitting, once again, at Olive Garden.

Mom freaked out when I mentioned Gabby’s. She opposed my suggestion adamantly, saying people would wonder how we could afford such an expensive restaurant so suddenly. As if we knew any customers who dined there! Gabby’s Steakhouse wasn’t even located in our town. However, considering that we only dined at Olive Garden for special occasions in the past, I didn’t have massive complaints to her counteroffer.

However, she gave me the stink eye when I ordered the most expensive item on the menu at Olive Garden. I knew what she was thinking but she didn’t say anything. Thank, God. What did she expect? That the waitress would wonder how we could afford the most expensive item on the menu at Olive Garden and blab it to the whole town? Come on.

It seemed she might have gotten an idea about it though when Dad and Kyle also ordered the higher end items on the menu.

Good.

The dinner was over and we waited for the bill to arrive. I looked at my parents from one to the other and smiled. For my entire life, I’d lived looking at my parents’ nervous faces while we waited for the restaurant bills to arrive. From that day forward, I didn’t have to look at those nervous faces any longer. They seemed as relaxed as two sloths. Especially Mom. Maybe the wine she had with her meal, which was suggested by Dad, contributed to her happy countenance too.

Good.

Great.

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