Money Grab

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I had my eyes fixated on the obscene amount of money the lady was quickly organizing into the machine. It was a stack of 20s; probably 950 bills in total. "You like what you see?" Hero whispered to me. Oh yes, I do. "There's $19800 in total in that stack." I say, turning back to him. "That's a bold statement. What makes you so sure there's exactly $19,800 in that stack?" - If life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Corduroy Lemon, a senior in high school, has just lost a scholarship to college and is now facing a financial problem. Through her little side hustles that turned sour, she looks at the only thing that would guarantee her fast and easy money: delivery. After a few deliveries, she gets assign to drop off a car in the middle of the desert. As sketchy as this may seem, she made a quick 5 grand. Days of lost scholarships and failed gambling antics are behind as she meets the mysterious Hero Bassett, an attractive, yet mysterious wealthy figure that seems to offer her the world. From the glitz and glamour of the fast life, she soon finds herself deeper into the underworld of crime and money than she intended. Scholarships turned murder coverup and infatuations turned deadly. Everything soon catches up and turns south. Who is Hero? How does Lemon get herself out of trouble? What exactly happened in the desert? After all, everyone has motives.

Romance / Action
rhild rhants
Age Rating:

Chapter 1

Jumbled notes of a Mozart piece was the declared winner. Second went to Chopin's Nocturne in C-Sharp minor, then Debussy's La Plus Que Lent.

Of four contestants, I somehow came out with nothing. Ravel's Prelude in A-minor had let me down.

To be honest, I didn't deserve to win. Ravel's prelude was written for a sight reading competition but I still had the audacity to play that as my final piece. Don't even get started with the level of technical difficulty and musicality. Still, Debussy should have won, but this is coming from a person that dislikes classical and baroque.

With this loss, I now had a problem on my hand: money. The prize money was supposed to help me with some of my future college expenses, but with a few keystrokes I had failed. My parents, being the demanding immigrant parents, went unfazed at my loss. At least I shouldn't be worried considering my parents expected nothing of me in the first place.

Immigrant parents are brainwashed into thinking college is good for you to the point where they think going into a lifetime of debt is worth it. The ideology is centered around the ideal that everyone in America, no matter their background, is given a chance to succeed. What they don't realize, is that even though everyone does have a chance to succeed, the majority of people have a great disadvantage. The playing field isn't leveled, and it never was to begin with.

Middle class individuals are set up to fail. Not poor enough to receive benefits but also not rich enough to do anything. This is for my family. We struggle to provide for college but have enough for food and housing. We don't binge on luxury goods but have enough for a biyearly vacation. My parents say over and over again that they'll be able to cover the partial cost of my college, but I know they don't. I've gone over their finances (yes, I was one of those kids who had to help with tax forms in the third grade) and I know they don't have enough.

Knowing my parents came over in order to give me a better life yet we're still struggling for that overrated "American Dream" that so many speak of.

The American dream is, and has been dead for decades. Imagine living in a quiet suburban neighborhood with a husband and two or three kids that you come home to from your 9-5 job. Then you wake up and head to your job only to save up for your retirement and spend a few days on vacation every year or so. Isn't that what most people spend their lives doing after college? To me it's like living in a metaphorical jail cell.

There are bigger things out in the world, but this is all I've ever known. Go to to college, get a job and start a family. I don't like it, but the thought of straying from that path gives me anxiety. No matter what i think of, it feels like my life is going to be a blank canvas.

With my (somewhat deserved loss?) during the weekend, it's an understatement when I say I'm repulsed by the sight of the piano in front of me. I start playing, fifteen or so pairs of eyes fall on me in an instant. Coincidentally, it's Ravel's Prelude in A-Minor.

I start with the first measure, then it quickly flows the second, third, etcetera... and I'm done in about 2 minutes or so. The class claps, and as expected I see faint traces of smiles on their face. No one in this class cares for the piano, they do it for the credit. But since I'm the only advanced player here, it's nice to have a well-played performance even if they don't care much for the instrument.

Right on cue, the bell rings. The class emptied out within a few seconds into the wave of people in the hallway.

My least favorite part of school isn't the AP calculus class my school forces me to take, but the lunch line. Everyday I hold my breath while walking past because of the amount of people who don't understand the basic concept of soap; not to mention the girls who substitute perfume for deodorant. The smell of Victoria Secret's Love Bomb mixed with bacteria breaking down is more disgusting than the lunch itself.

I skip the line and head straight to my usual spot where I sit with Frieda. She takes out her lunch that smells grossly of skunk and eyes me down as I take out my own.

"You should go vegetarian," she suggests as she stuffs grass into her mouth.

She recently went vegetarian after discovering an Instagram that promoted vegetarianism with special oils that "cleanse the soul". I think it's a sham since they smell like the CBD oils they sell at the Costco hair product section, but I say nothing and let her embrace the placebo effect.

She claims she's been healthier and happier, but this is the same girl who says she hates capitalism and that she exclusively shops at thrift stores but it's a known fact her cow print purse and her t-shirts are directly from SHEIN.

"How was the competition?" Frieda asks, stuffing grass in her mouth.

"I got fourth place out of four people," I said with a sarcastic smile.

"Did you choose Prelude?" Frieda gave me a sly smile. "It's a good one, but not the right one."

I shrugged my shoulders. She was right. Two of the options were prelude and one of Chopin's ballade, and I went with the worst one.

"I think I need to focus all my efforts on scholarships and maybe gambling,"

"You lost out on a few thousands, but aren't you like the Jeff Bezos of Bitcoin?"

I let out a small laugh. "First of all, I own a small chunk of a single coin. Secondly, I make money off of crash gambling, which isn't the best idea." Crash gambling gives me anxiety so I cash out within seconds instead of letting my chances rise, not to mention I play with small amounts.

"How bad is it? The money, I mean."

Cash was tight. I avoided eating out for a year or two while I used the money to save up for college food. "I think I might be eating dirt for four years."

A silence followed, and I noticed Freida had stopped eating. Slow and steady, she looks up at me and blinks.

"You can do delivery with me."

Freida knew I would never risk getting caught for a few hundreds but she wouldn't ask unless there's a flip side.

"You know I won't risk-"

"Listen, I deliver once a week and get about a grand for it. You know I wouldn't be bringing it up unless it's for a good reason."

A grand once a week. That was just commission money. As tempting as it sounds, I knew I couldn't.

But I tell her otherwise. "Pass for now, but I'll think about it."

Frieda nodded understandingly. "Just give me a call."

— —

Two hours for calculus, one and a half for biology, and the rest I do throughout the school day. This leaves me with a good amount to do whatever I want until my bedtime at 11:00.

My focus usually isn't good but when it came to the bright pink screen of the gambling site and its rocket ship that displayed the multiplier, it felt like another adderall pill. It's calming, even though it shouldn't be. I lay, sit, on my bed for hours, stimulated by the soaring numbers and the euphoric feeling of satisfaction.

I place 2 bucks at most per round, another way to prevent myself from losing my entire life. I've heard countless stories of addicts, but I understand where it comes from.

Win, loose, win, loose. The cycle repeats itself. Sometimes the multiplier is big and I get cocky, investing more into the next round only for me to lose it. I make as much as I lose sometimes, but I'm just aiming for a good enough profit for the day.

Within the next round, I cash out at 3.56x, Bringing today's record earnings to $300.

I could win more, given more time at the game but I limit myself to prevent falling into the rabbit hole of gambling.

Feeling satisfied with myself I head out to the bathroom in the hallway to end my night.

I went through the routine of washing my face with a random wash I found at the mall kiosk and hurried back to my room once I was done.

From the bathroom looking down into my room, I see a small figure sitting on top of my bed leaning over my laptop with a purple screen illuminating on his face.

My heart sank once I realized what that no-good obese, food driven, slobbish, mess of a brother was doing.

I sprinted towards the screen, faster than any sprints I did during track. Grabbing the laptop from his hands, my heart sinks to the deepest pits of my stomach, once I saw the amount I had left. The screen had displayed a little over $700.

My brother scrambled out of the door and into the living room where he knew he had the safety net of my parents.

Just like that, the few thousands I had accumulated over the month or two disappeared. I'd like to say I have good self control, but I never wanted to throw a kid out of my window more than now.

To make this type of money again quickly would require luck, patience, and bigger bets.

Losing the scholarship was hard enough, but the "official" job as a gambler hit even harder. This was countless nights turning one dollars into hundreds or so.

One after another of lost opportunities, I wipe my tears and place in a bet of one dollar.

It's hard to rebound after losing so much money, but it's not impossible.

The multiplier bounces from 1x, to 2x to 3x. I quickly withdraw my bet, making a profit of 2 dollars.

It was going to be a long night ahead.

I do this for another hour or so, and my profits have only been a mere 50 dollars. There's no way to increase my profits to the thousands without big bets, but big bets are big losses.

Taking chances isn't healthy for me right now, but it's the only risk I can take to regain what I had lost. Maybe I won't be able to regain the thousands I lost in one night, but it's a start. I put 50 dollars into the betting system and it grew by double in an instant; but before I could cash out, it crashed. I had just lost 50 dollars.

It's hard not to let discouragement get to me, but it was obvious I wasn't going to get back into the same mindset that I had before.

In the midst of my world crashing down, my phone sits on my desk, facing downwards with a polaroid of Frieda and I.

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