Monday, April 24, 2017

Choices

The sleet pelted at the window, as Deanna opened one eye, and saw a white mess. She grabbed the covers and tucked them under her chin. When she went to bed last night, her plan was to arise early and run outside.  The weathermen said it would be brisk and sunny.  She wished she had a job where she could make mistakes, and get paid an astronomical salary.

 Her head pounded as she remembered her week from hell.  Her boss reprimanded her for a stupid administrative error, her sister yelled at her for forgetting her niece’s birthday, and  Jon, her boyfriend of 7 months, decided he wanted to see other people. She hated her life right now.

She peeked at the clock. 8AM.  She never slept this late.  She  got out of bed and shivered when she felt the cold floor under her feet. She went to the bathroom, grabbed her slippers, then made her way into the kitchen.

“Damn it, I forgot to buy coffee!” she screamed as she scrounged through the cabinets, hoping to discover an extra container somewhere.   She pouted and poured herself a glass of OJ. She winced as the acidy flavor hurt her throat. She left it on the counter, unfinished.

She looked out the window at the slushy, icy mess.  She wished she lived in the city so she could walk to a Starbucks. She hated suburban life.

Her phone dinged a text. It was from her ex-husband David.  Hey, Janie has a bit of a fever so could you pick her up? I don’t know what to do.

“Seriously?! You have her till 5PM. I don’t want to drive in this crap. That’s your responsibility,  you piece of shit!” she screamed into the phone. Instead, she texted,  I’ll be there as soon as I can. She looked outside. She hated driving in bad weather.

She pulled on yoga pants, a turtleneck, and Uggs. She pushed her hair into a ponytail and grabbed her purse. She saw a lottery ticket sitting on the counter. She  purchased it last night in a fit of desperation. She quickly pulled out her phone, got to the lottery app, and checked her numbers.  The first number matched, then the second, then the third, and holy crap, they all matched!

She screamed and pinched herself to make sure she wasn’t dreaming. She sniffed the glass of OJ and scrutinized it, convinced she was drugged and was hallucinating.  Real people don’t  win the lottery.

She stared at the ticket and thought she would pass out. She envisioned a big house, a new car, lots of clothes, and then she stopped. She didn’t want material things. She wanted options, choices. A good life for her daughter, a new job for herself.

She imagined long lost relatives materializing and asking for money. This made her want to vomit.
She sat down and took deep breaths. Her phone dinged. She looked down and saw a new text from David. Coming soon?

Yes, in my new private jet,  she wanted to write back,  as she realized she may be able to afford a private jet soon.

Her head spun and she felt dizzy. Nausea overcame her and she went into the bathroom and threw up. She stared in the mirror,  wishing her anxiety would take a walk.

She picked up the ticket, her hat,scarf, coat, and gloves and ambled to her car. She slipped on the ice and fell down hard on her butt. “Ow. You know what, fuck it,” she said out loud.

She pulled out her phone and texted David, roads are bad, walkway is icy. You’ll have to keep Janie for the day. Give her Tylenol for her fever.

As she sat in the middle of the sidewalk she thought how next year , her chauffeur could pick up Janie. She got up. Her phone dinged again. This time, it was her ex boyfriend Jon. I made a mistake, I miss you.

“Well you will really miss me once you find out I’m a millionaire,” she yelled at her phone.

She rubbed her temples as she imagined  hiding for the rest of her life It was a three hour drive to Albany, where she would need to go to collect her earnings.

“Screw the bad roads. I want my money. And I want it today.”

She opened her purse, saw a day old bagel  amongst a massive amount of used tissues and papers. “ I really need to be more organized,” she muttered, as she pulled a piece of hair off the bagel. She flung off what appeared to be a piece of snot. Since the bagel was inedible by now, she took the ticket out of her pocket, and shoved it in the bagel hole so it wouldn’t get lost amidst all the clutter.

She walked  to her car, in slow motion, to avoid icy spots.  Then she saw Oscar, her neighbor’s overly friendly 130 pound bull mastiff. He galloped over to her, jumped, and she fell again, knocking over her purse and all of its contents.  She went to put everything back in  when Oscar, excited by the bagel,  lunged forward, took the bagel and the ticket, and ran off.

“ No!” she yelled.  She attempted to run after Oscar but kept slipping on the ice. She then realized she never signed the ticket. And Oscar’s family were not the nicest of people.

“Shit!” she screamed as her phone dinged consecutively. She glanced down and saw a text by David, followed by a text from Jon. She wanted to cry. She saw Oscar run into a doggy door connected to his house. She prayed that he hadn’t eaten the bagel and ticket by now. She slipped several times but managed to run to the front door. She rang the doorbell.

The door opened and Deanna gasped. She was face to face with the wicked witch of the west. Deanna stared at Sylvia’s green face.

“ Don’t look at me like you’ve never seen a woman in a mask before. It’s a great exfoliator. Anyway, what can I do for you?”

“So, your dog accidentally took a bagel from my purse and I need it back,” stammered Deanna.

“You’ve got to be kidding.. Here honey, buy yourself a new bagel, really.” She grabbed her wallet and handed Deanna a $5 bill.

Deanna felt the tears,  but pushed them back. She couldn’t tell Sylvia the truth about the lottery ticket, she didn’t trust her. Oscar appeared at the door with nothing in his mouth.

“Oscar loves to play with bagels but never eats them.  He is a finicky eater. Anyway, I’m sure it’s around here somewhere, I’ll chuck it,” said Sylvia as she tried to close the door in Deanna’s face.

“No, please it has sentimental value and--”

“A bagel has sentimental value, are you okay?” sneered Sylvia.

“No, I’m not okay, I’m delusional, so please just humor me and let me have my bagel back.”

Sylvia sighed and let her in. Deanna ran to the kitchen , looked around, no bagel.  Her heart sank.   Sylvia’s bratty 5 year old came running in holding the bagel. “ Look Ma!” Behind her was Melanie,  her 14 year old goth babysitter , looking bored wearing a black turtleneck, black jeans, and black boots. She didn’t look like someone Deanna would ever hire to watch her kid.  Deanna wondered why they needed a babysitter if they’re home. Deanna grabbed the bagel but there was no lottery ticket.

“You happy now?” asked Sylvia.

She  thought maybe the ticket fell out before Oscar got to the doggy door.  She ran to the backyard, dropped to her hands and knees, and searched for the ticket. Sylvia, plus her bratty kid, and Melanie followed her. They must think she is an escaped mental patient and need to watch her every move.  Searching through the snowy, slushy, icy mess was not fun at all.

“What the hell is going on out here?”  She heard Sylvia’s muscle tattooed tough husband Barry.

‘Oh, just looking for ---”   At the exact same time both Deanna and Barry spotted the lottery ticket on the ground.

Barry lunged at it before she was able to. He scooped it up. “What’s this?” he bellowed as Deanna felt her heart about to explode out of her chest.

“I..I.. bought that for my...um… dad.. And ...um.. ,” lied Deanna, praying the improv class she took in high school was paying off right now.

Barry looked at her sideways with a look of disbelief in his eyes.

“ Ever since my mom died, he has been collecting lottery tickets and---”

Barry pulled a dollar out of his pocket. “Here, buy him another ticket.  I am feeling lucky.” He shoved the ticket in his pocket. “You need to leave, you’re trespassing.”

Deanna felt like she was going to fall apart.

“Please, I have to give it to him, he’s really ill and this--.” She lost her train of thought as Barry said, “Get out of my yard,” as he and his entourage stomped back into the house.

Her shoulders slumped, she trudged home, feeling like she had been run over by a truck. Her phone had multiple texts from her husband and her ex. She couldn’t confide in either of them. She thought of her dilemma. She needed to do something drastic, but what?

She thought about her relationship with David, her ex, and what went wrong. They dated all through college. They both sang in the chorus, and performed concerts together. Every Friday night was pizza night. Their relationship escalated into marriage, and then Janie was born. She was  the love of Deanna’s life. Deanna couldn’t remember the exact moment things went downhill.  David’s affair with her best friend didn’t help.  

She contemplated about  Jon, her ex-boyfriend, who now had a change of heart. She met him at a coffee shop six months ago.  They clicked over their love of coffee. She adored his whole family. He called her every day, and told her he loved her after two months. The night of his sister's’ wedding, they danced for hours.  She was positive , this was her second chance at love. And then, out of the blue, he decided it was too serious, and they should see other people.

Memories floated in her brain.  She tried to push them away. The thought of confronting Barry, made her shake. She decided to escape the reality of life instead and put on Netflix . She binge watched TV, and ate chocolates for hours. She decided Barry probably signed the lottery ticket and collected his earnings by now. She cried over her bad luck. She felt bad Janie was sick, but knew David could handle, or he could call his mommy to help.

Hours later, the doorbell rang. She opened it and there was Melanie, the goth babysitter, still dressed in black, with black eyeshadow and black lipstick.

“Here.”  Melanie handed her the lottery ticket.  “I quit my job with them. They’re brutal. Plus their kid’s a brat.”

Deanna gasped and pulled Melanie in.  “Oh, my , how did you…?”

“ When Barry was taking a dump, and her highness Sylvia was soaking in the tub, I crept into their bedroom. I know their secret hiding places. Once, when they pissed me off, I snuck in with a tiny needle and put little holes in their condoms. Right through the wrapper!”  Melanie laughed.

Deanna’s eyes opened wide. “ Um, wow, I , I don’t know what to say.”

“ It was fun. Anyway, this was easy. So here.”

“Thank you but .. I mean..you could have kept it.”

“Neh, ” she said, which made Deanna feel guilty. “Plus you have to be 18, so no biggie. “

Deanna hugged her, and said, “I will definitely give you some money and----”

Melanie shrugged, looking bored.  “ Did you really win, like, a million dollars?”

Deanna hesitated, and prayed for forgiveness for lying. “Probably only five hundred, but better than nothing. How about once I collect my money, I give you $100?”

Melanie’s eyes lit up. “Wow, cool.  I hope creepo doesn’t come over.”

Deanna grabbed a pen, signed her name, and put the ticket in her purse. “He’ll know you took it, we need a plan. I don’t want him to go after you.”

The doorbell rang, as on cue. “Hide in the closet! Quick!,” said Deanna as she pushed Melanie into her walk in closet.

 Deanna  inhaled, exhaled, and opened the door. Barry stood there looking like an angry wolf about to attack his prey.

“ Is Melanie here?” he barked.

Confidence overtook Deanna.  “ No, last time I saw her was at your house.”

“She quit. And the lottery ticket is gone. She stole it.”

Deanna remembered the golden rule of improv. Always agree.

“I can’t believe that little twit stole the ticket. Ha, won’t she be surprised when she cashes in and finds out she won $2!” Deanna faked a genuine laugh.

“If the ticket was only $2, why did you want it so badly?”  snapped Barry.  He looked like an angry crocodile when he spoke.

Deanna used every skill she ever learned in acting class and started blubbering.  “ I started to tell you before. My dad was making a scrapbook for me of all my lottery tickets. I know it sounds corny, but he doesn’t have long to live, and this was really important to him. It was a tradition we started after my mom died.  I never won more than $10 , but no matter how little I win as soon as I  collect my earnings, I give him the ticket. He has every one!” Deanna wiped her eyes with her sleeve.

Barry softened a bit. “ Oh, man, wow.  So, it was only worth $2?”

“Yep,” said Deanna as she sniffled.  “ If you see her, you tell her that---”

“ I doubt I’ll ever see her again. OK, well, gotta go.”  And Barry sauntered away.

Melanie came out of the closet and said, “ Oh my God, that was amazing. I almost believed you.”

“I almost believed myself.”  Deanna laughed.

She glanced at the clock.  “I gotta pick up Janie.”
“Well, if you ever need a babysitter…?”  Melanie looked at her with puppy dog eyes.

Deanna pictured Melanie, dressed in black, poking holes in condom wrappers.

“ Well, I’m lucky that my ex is often free. Plus his parents help, and my parents too, but sure, you’ll be the first person I call if I need someone,”  lied Deanna, knowing there was no way she would ever hire her, even though she would be eternally grateful to her for the rest of her life.



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