03-28-2012, 09:45 PM
The meeting in the casino office was mercifully short and to the point, to Angela's relief. They gave her some release forms to sign, including an agreement to a forty-eight hour waiting period before claiming her million-dollar winnings; the slot machine on which she had hit the jackpot had to be inspected for any signs of tampering. "Standard procedure, no big deal," they explained. "We have to make sure it was a legitmate win. You'd be amazed at how many people have tried to hack into the system."
Angela nodded numbly in agreement and signed the form. It was a good thing to wait two days, she told herself. That way, she could put off telling Bianca about her winnings for a while yet, sparing herself a nasty confrontation. God only knew what would happen when she found out.
If she found out.
Maybe she didn't have to tell her at all. She hoped against hope. Maybe she could quietly arrange for her winnings to be direct-deposited into her own personal savings account, and no one, especially Bianca, would be the wiser. Maybe this would work out after all. Maybe.
She signed the publicity release form and handed it to the red-jacketed man who had so grandly escorted her out of the casino, whom she had just discovered was the casino manager, formerly known as the pit boss back in the day. Then there was the tax forms to fill out for the proper state, local and federal taxes to be deducted, the acknowledgement form stating that she had not used any type of deceit or device to tamper with the slot machine she had played upon, and other bureaucratic fol-de-rol that left her bewildered and overwhelmed.
Once all the paperwork was out of the way, they shook her frail hand in congratulations and sent her on her way. Angela made straight for her suite, glad that it was all over. "I filled out fewer contracts than that when I applied for my teaching job!" she muttered to herself.
Angela lay on her bed, recovering from the trauma of the afternoon. The peace and quiet soothed her frazzled nerves. Bianca had not yet returned; a relief in itself, because she knew from long, painful experience that had her sister been there waiting for her, she would have been interrogated like a POW to account for everything she had done while she was out. With luck, she could stay out of Bianca's way long enough to enjoy a quiet evening.
She heard the click of the door latch, followed by a dreamy humming. Bianca had returned, fresh from the spa. The massages, the seaweed wraps, the mani-pedis, the long soak in the hot tub, always put her in a good mood. As far as Angela was concerned, it was well worth the expense to be spared her sister's ill temper for an hour or two after a trip to the spa or the salon. There, she could be pampered and catered to like a princess, her every wish fulfilled. It was the life to which she felt entitled, a world of her own where everybody lived only to serve her.
If Bianca had her way, Angela thought, she'd live at the spa for the rest of her life, going out only for shopping trips, clubbing, and meals at five-star restaraunts. Unfortunatly, her trust fund allowed her only two thousand dollars a month, far too little for the lifestyle she craved. She had to make do with occasional weekends at different luxury hotels, splurging on spas, new clothes, and entertainments to satisfy her craving for the good life. It was only a stroke of luck that she had won this weekend at the Luxor, the only hotel she hadn't tried yet. The only downside was that she had to bring Angela, the bane of her existance, along for the ride because of the contest rules. Other than that, she was free to indulge in her pleasures to her heart's content.
Bianca sailed into the suite, humming and smiling. Angela peeked out of her bedroom, not daring to disturb this rare tranquil moment with her presence. Bianca, however, brushed by her as if she wasn't even there, going into the master bedroom to prepare for an evening out. It seemed that she had not yet heard about the million-dollar jackpot. If Angela's luck held, she never would.
Angela ducked back into the bedroom while Bianca flounced around in her sheer white peignoir, flipping through her extensive wardrobe to decide what to wear. She finally decided on the blue suit, the very one Angela had forgotten to pick up from the dry cleaner's yesterday and had suffered for it. With a knot in her stomach, Angela closed the bedroom door behind her. She just wanted to crawl into bed, pull the covers over her head and shut out the whole world entirely. At the same time, she wanted to escape this gilded cage, just go somewhere where she could start her life over again without her domineering sister lashing out at her just because she forgot the dry cleaning. Somewhere. But where?
Well, she had just won a million dollars. There was that. Even after taxes, there would be plenty left over for her to make a fresh start. She could buy a new car (or at least get a better one), buy some new clothes, get an apartment or look into some townhouses or condos somewhere as far from Bianca as possible. She could finally start living again. No, that wasn't entirely accurate. What she meant was that she could finally start living, period. The life she was living was no life at all, merely a hand-to-mouth existance on her teacher's salary until her trust fund became available. But somewhere out there in the big wide world was a place she could call home, where she could wake up every morning without her sister screaming for her to do this or that, where she could watch TV without the channel being changed suddenly if not turned off altogether--a place where she didn't have to live in fear and apprehension. A place where she could be...alive.
The room was quiet again. Bianca was gone, and who knew when she would return. Angela left the bedroom and made a light dinner from the complimentary fruit basket provided by the hotel. After tipping the bell attendant that morning and five dollars in the slot machine, she didn't have much money to spend on a restaraunt meal, and besides, she wasn't all that hungry. After eating, she settled down with the large-screen TV, her only companion for the evening. It would have been nice to go out and meet someone, but her lifelong shyness all but crippled her social life. Indeed, if it hadn't been for her volunteer job at the shelter--
Angela shot up. The shelter! She looked up at the clock: five-thirty. She had thirty minutes to get to the shelter for her evening teaching job. But how was she going to get there without her car? In desperation she phoned the director on duty that evening, Pastor Bob Beaman. Maybe he could help her get there once she explained matters to him. He had to. She had no other choice.
The phone on the other end burred twice, then a click. "Sanctuary Shelter for the Homeless," she heard Pastor Bob's voice answer mechanically. "Pastor speaking."
"Oh, Pastor Bob," Angela breathed. "Look, I need help getting to the shelter tonight. I'm at the Luxor Hotel, staying with my sister, and I don't have my car. Can you give me a lift or something?"
The pastor was perplexed. "The Luxor Hotel?" he repeated, puzzled that Angela of all people should be at such a place. "What are you doin' at the Luxor?"
"Well, my sister won this contest, see," Angela explained, "and I sorta got roped into going with her. I didn't want to go, but, well, you know Bianca. She can be...very persuasive."
She heard Pastor Bob chuckle. "All right, Angela," he said warmly. "I'll reroute the shelter bus to come pick you up. They should be there in about ten, fifteen minutes, so you just sit tight there, all right?"
A huge weight rolled off Angela's shoulders. "Oh, thank you, Pastor," she said gratefully. "I really appreciate it."
Both said their good-byes and hung up. Angela began to prepare for her evening class by changing into her crisp white middy blouse and knee-length navy blue skirt, an outfit approved by the conservative clergymen who co-operatively ran the shelter. She grabbed her old handbag and school satchel and left the suite to go down to the main entrance to wait for the shelter bus. At least she wouldn't be alone this evening.
She rode down the elevator and stepped out into the atrium. Had she stopped at the casino level, she would have seen the LED marquee lights rolling out CONGRATULATIONS ANGELA HONI WINNER OF THE MILLION DOLLAR SLOT GAME!! over and over again.