I stared out my professionally polished, double-glass bay window. A well-maintained, outrageously green courtyard stood before me. Each tiny piece of grass was grown to perfection, and there wasn’t a single blemish in sight. The gorgeous pink dogwood trees surrounded the courtyard, making the quiet, peaceful area seem like heaven. Heaven, that is, for anyone but me.
It was the afternoon of July 21st. Just a month ago, my life had twisted itself around, and now in would never ever be the same again.
It started with that simple, perfunctory trip to the drugstore after school. Just like any other Thursday, I stopped by the store to pick up a few necessities: cereal, milk, toothpaste, etc. This time, however, an enormous placard stood above the single cash register of Joe's Pharmacy. It read: “The Lottery Jackpot is now 198 MILLION dollars”. I remember digging into my pocket to search for the money to purchase a ticket this week. I managed to gather up a quarter, seven nickels, two dimes, and ten pennies: just enough to purchase a single $1 ticket.
I filled in my numbers without much thought: 23, 54, 12, 78, and 32. I purchased the ticket, and, not thinking twice about it, I left the store.
I swung open the door to exit Joe’s Pharmacy, and immediately spotted my prized possession, my NEXT bike. It had been handed down four times, and I was the final recipient. The once-blue polish had been reduced to a gray smudge, and the rubber on the handlebars was almost completely gone. Despite the wear, I loved the bike more than any item that I’d ever owned in my entire life.
I hopped on, and automatically felt a wave of comfort and calmness. As I rode the mile back home, the wind in my hair and face felt amazing. Riding my bike was the only thing that could comfort me under any circumstance.
After half an hour, I arrived back home. My family of five inhabited an ancient, miniscule house in a poverty-stricken but cheerful neighborhood. I set my bike against the garage door, walked along the worn path to the front door and stepped inside.
“Haley,” my personal maid called, “You’ve got to go down to the kitchen. Your mom wants to talk with you.”
I lifted my gaze from the window and reluctantly trudged down the hallway, down the stairs, and into the kitchen. Less than a second after I’d arrived, my mother opened her mouth and began to take on the role of therapist again.
“Hey honey,” she soothed with a sugar-coated voice, “how are you doing? I know the move has been incredibly hard on you, but you have to say that you like the quality of life now, right?”
I just stood there and shrugged. We’d gone over this ten times in the past week. My mom would always speak in her concerned, sympathetic voice, but then, immediately after, she’d go on defending the decision to move out here—thousands of miles from my hometown.
“You know, Haley,” she continued, “I know that you may not like being separated from your friends right now, but you’ll make new friends as soon as you start school. By the way, the school is so much better here; you’ll be attending the private school that I always dreamed that you could attend!”
I sighed and stared down at the floor. Typical parental talk, I thought, what does she know about moving. After high school starts, it’s impossible to fit in at a new district. I can’t believe she’s trying to defend the move when she knows that it wasn’t best for me. How long will it take for her to realize I’m never going to be happy here?
“I'll ask Claudia to make you some soup, sweetheart, OK?” my mom smiled sweetly, but I could tell she was getting annoyed that I was not cooperating. “Would you like anything to go with it? How about your favorite saltine crackers?”
I finally lost it.
“Can you stop trying to compromise my happiness with expensive items? I don’t care if we have an expensive house; if I go to an expensive school; if I get an expensive wardrobe! All I want is happiness and you’ve taken it away! I though the lottery jackpot was supposed to make our lives better, but you’ve used it to take everything away from me!”
My mother looked appalled. Never in my life had I talked back to my parents about any of their decisions. I had always been the perfect, obedient daughter, and my sudden uproar had set her off her balance.
“Well,” my mother spoke with a stern voice now, “we’ve gone over this before. Even though you don’t like the decision this family made, there are other people here too. Your father and I, and both of your siblings, prefer this lifestyle. I’m sorry that you did not what you wanted, but keep in mind that life is not just about you.”
She paused, and turned her head to the left. I followed her gaze. “I was going to tell you also that I've picked out and bought you a new bike. It’s brand-new, professional quality, and a pale blue color. If you want, you can take it right now and go outside for a ride to calm yourself.” With that, she got up from the spotless white sofa, spun around, and headed for the powder room.
The second she disappeared across the hall, I ran up to the bike, which was propped against the fireplace. I tore the packaging off, and rode it to the front door, oblivious of the mess I was making.
Bringing it outside, I took a deep breath, and hopped on. The rubber grip soothed by hands, and the gentle breeze calmed me down. Nothing is how it seems, I concluded, everyone says that the lottery is incredible and that they wish that they could win. Wait ‘til they actually do. I groaned, but tried to think positively. The breeze was getting stronger, and, for a second, I was almost convinced that I was back in my old, run-down neighborhood that I called home. Within a minute, I was back in my heaven.