Apologies for posting an incomplete story this week, but a death in the family took me away from writing. Get to know Delia Freeman and look for part two of her story later this week.
#52weeks52stories: Week 3
Word prompt: Lottery
Word count: 1376
Delia Freeman stepped over the drunk on the sidewalk, not sure if he was dead or alive.
There was always a drunk or a junkie or some other lost soul invisible to society crouched against the back wall of Tilly’s Quick Stop.
Delia wasn’t heartless or uncaring to their situation… she was one of them. Once a young woman with a promising future, now caught in the vicious grip of poverty and hopelessness. If anyone looked hard enough, they might see the former up-and-coming college-educated accountant hidden beneath the layers of depression, low self-esteem, and self-hate.
If anyone looked.
She reached the front door of Tilly’s and had to push her way through the usual crowd of drug dealers, con-men, and thieves.
“Hey, Miss Delia. You looking mighty tasty today. Girl, we need to do some conversating.”
Delia cringed and took a step back. The mixture of stale beer and poor hygiene wafting off the wide-eyed crackhead turned her stomach.
“Man, she is a nice piece, but back up off ‘dat. You know she Perk’s woman.”
Perk’s woman. She was anything but his woman. That would mean she was loved and cherished… and wanted.
But Delia was none of those things. She was his financial support, cook, cleaning lady, errand girl, and punching bag. And when she was exhausted, longing for peace and sleep, he’d climb on top of her and rut like the greasy pig he was.
No. She was not Grayland Perkins’ woman. She was his prisoner.
Delia wasn’t held captive by weapons or threats, but the cruel icy fingers of fate.
Glaring at the assembly of lowlife, Delia entered Tilly’s and headed for the beer cooler.
Turning, Delia saw the tiny great-grandmother with the sparkling eyes seated in a camp chair behind the counter.
“Hey, Miss Myra. You doing okay today? Those idiots outside not bothering you, are they?”
“We have an understanding—do not darken my doorway unless you have cash in hand. End of story. No one wants to cross a gypsy.”
Delia laughed and wondered how the old woman did it. While crime was rampant in the neighborhood, Tilly’s was trouble-free. The liquor store a half-block away had been robbed three times and had three attempts—all in less than a year. But Tilly’s didn’t even have bars on the windows or a front gate.
Myra Tilly shared counter hours with her children and grandchildren. While she didn’t work weekends, the septuagenarian was behind the counter Monday through Friday without fail.
Reaching the cooler, Delia had a moment’s panic when she didn’t see Perk’s favorite brand.
The last time she took another brand home, the man flew into a rage, accused Delia of open defiance, and choked her into unconsciousness.
Delia touched her neck at the memory and said a silent prayer of thanks when she saw the twelve-pack on the bottom shelf.
After grabbing a few other items to make her lunch for work, Delia unloaded her hand-basket on the counter.
“Baby, you’re too young to look so tired and beat down.”
“I know, Miss Myra. Just waiting for the winds of change.”
“Girl, you can’t wait for change. You gotta’ make it for yourself.” She rang up and bagged Delia’s items. “Keep on waiting and you’ll end up old like me… and still waiting.”
Embarrassed, the young woman dropped her head.
“I know you’re right, Miss Myra. I do.”
“Knowing I’m right don’t help you either. Child, how old are you?”
Delia’s body went rigid, amazed at the timing of the old woman’s question.
“Today’s my birthday. I’m thirty.”
Myra’s face brightened.
“Happy Birthday, sugar! Shoot! I don’t have anything in here even close to a cake.” She snapped her fingers. “Hang on a sec.”
Delia watched, amused, as the petite senior citizen scurried to the opposite end of the counter. Removing something from a lower counter, Myra returned to her customer wearing a triumphant grin.
“I keep a box of these on hand for the few people who pass through my door and understand fine chocolate.”
Delia’s eye widened as she watched Myra drop three bars of pricey imported milk chocolate in her bag.
Myra winked, clapping her hands together. “One for each decade.”
Delia was touched by the woman’s gesture. The big box store she worked for gave her a twenty-five-dollar gift card, and her supervisor bought her a super-pretzel from the store’s snack counter. That had been the extent of her day of birth being acknowledged.
“Miss Myra, that is so sweet of you. Thank you!”
“You’re welcome, child.”
She grasped both of Delia’s hands. “I know you’re supposed to make a wish and blow out the candles on your cake,” she shrugged, “but no cake, no candles, so I’m making the wish for you.”
She tightened her grip on Delia’s hands.
“By your next birthday, I wish for you to be happy and healthy and doing something with your life you love. And if you haven’t found that special someone, I at least want you to be free of relationships… and friendships that are squeezing the life out of you today. This is my birthday wish for you.”
Delia averted her eyes, blinking to hold back her tears. She returned her gaze to the spry store owner.
“This is the nicest thing anyone’s done for me since my mom died. Thank you, Miss Myra. And I promise to keep my eyes open for opportunities to get that wish.”
Myra beamed. “Good!”
Delia gave her friend’s hand one last squeeze, then let go, reaching into her bag and retrieving her wallet. She pulled out two bills and handed them to Myra.
After making change, Myra dropped the coins into Delia’s hands.
Delia reached for the bills, but Myra didn’t let go.
“Wanna do something crazy for your birthday, young lady?”
Delia tilted her head and smirked. “With six dollars? What did you have in mind?”
Myra’s smile grew as she pointed toward the sign next to the register.
“The lottery? Are you kidding me?”
“C’mon, baby girl, take a chance. It’s up to fifty million!”
“I’ve never bought a lottery ticket in my life, Miss Myra. I don’t even know how to play or what’s involved.”
Myra handed Delia a Lottery form. “Most people play their six favorite numbers and add a random number. Or, you can do quick picks and allow the machine to pick the numbers. One dollar a ticket.”
Delia rocked against the counter, staring at the lottery form. What did she have to lose besides six dollars?
“Fine. I’ll do it. Give me six of those quickies.”
Laughing, Myra turned on the machine. “Quick picks. They’re called quick picks.”
Before Myra could press the first button, Delia yelped. “No, wait! Make it five.” She grabbed the pen on the counter and filled in six circles on the form.
She paused, chewing the inside of her lip. She needed a random number.
Myra watched her and chirped in. “Today’s your birthday. Go with that.”
Delia considered the suggestion.
“Miss Myra, when is your birthday?”
The old woman’s eyes sparkled.
“No way! We’re birthday sisters? Now I have to use your birth date.”
Delia filled in the last circle and gave the form to Myra. She marveled at the brisk pace Myra keyed in numbers as she went through the process. So much for the argument senior citizens didn’t get modern technology.
“Here you go.”
Delia took the single slip of paper, confused.
“There are six rows of numbers on that slip. Each row is a ticket. Your chosen numbers are the first row, followed by five quick picks.”
“Look at me, turning thirty and playing the Lottery.”
Delia dropped the ticket with her wallet into her handbag and gathered up her purchases.
“Miss Myra, I walked in here tired and grumpy, feeling sorry for myself, but you made my entire day. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome, child.”
“I’ll stop by tomorrow to wish you happy birthday.”
“I look forward to it.”
Delia left Tilly’s feeling better than she had in any recent year. She didn’t even hear the catcalls and lewd suggestions from the corner crew.
Nothing could taint her mood. She was happy.