My eyes must be playing tricks on me. Nina Lawson glanced at the digital clock in the lower corner of her Hewlett-Packard laptop. It was two forty-five in the morning. Yes, her eyes had to be playing tricks on her. She was dog tired after staying up studying for her latest real estate exam, so she knew she shouldn’t put much stock in the email that was blaring at her. She’d only checked it because she came across it as she was looking for an email from one of her clients. She realized she hadn’t checked her numbers from Saturday’s drawing, so she decided to quickly look at the update email from the Lottery Commission.
She never expected this.
“‘The winning lotto numbers for Saturday’s Texas Lotto drawing are four-seven-fourteen-seventeen-twenty-one-twentyfive,’” she mumbled, reading the email again.
Nina’s eyes made their way back down to the little pink ticket clutched tightly in her right hand. 4-7-14-17-21-25. This was her fifth time comparing the numbers, and the results were still the same.
Slowly, any semblance of weariness began to fade away.
“Ohmigod, ohmigod, ohmigod.” Nina’s whispers gradually turned into an all-out shout.
“I won! I won! Yes!” Nina began screaming as she jumped up from her leather chair, sending it toppling to the floor. She didn’t realize how loud she was being until she looked up to see her fiancé, Rick Henderson, standing in the doorway to her office.
“What in the world is wrong with you?” he groggily asked. “You know I have to get up and go to work in the morning. Why are you still up? And why are you in here screaming like you’re crazy?”
Nina shook out both her hands, trying to calm herself down. Rick was standing there shirtless, his caramel-colored skin and rippled abs reminding her why he was one of the most soughtafter personal trainers in Houston. They’d met two years ago, after he whipped her best friend Michelle into shape. He’d flirted with Nina, telling her how pretty she was and how much she looked like Gabrielle Union. Even so, she didn’t give him the time of day because she was married at the time. Then, two months after her divorce, she’d bumped into him at the gym where he worked. They’d gone to lunch, and the next thing Nina knew, he was spending every night at her house.
Rick was sweet, caring, and the finest man she’d ever seen. But more than that, he was good to her. After her ex-husband, Todd, betrayed her, Nina thought she’d never be in love again, but Rick had quickly changed that. Too quickly, her friends said. He’d moved in with her about six weeks after their first date to help her with her bills, which she’d been struggling to pay since Todd left. Despite her apprehension about getting involved with someone so soon after her marriage ended, things had progressed quickly. Before she knew it, not only were they living together but they were engaged to be married.
“Baby, you’re not going to believe this,” Nina said, bringing her excitement level down a notch.
“Do you know what time it is?” he repeated. “I have a client at five o’clock, Mrs. Brighton. And you know she comes all hyped up and ready to work.”
Nina smiled widely. “Well, you need to call Mrs. Brighton and tell her you aren’t coming to work out with her tomorrow. Tell her you won’t ever be working out with her again.”
Rick rubbed his closely shaven head. “Nina, what are you talking about?”
She had to use everything in her power to contain her excitement. She inhaled deeply, then sauntered over to him, lightly waving the pink ticket in front of him. “This is what I’m talking about. This little piece of paper is about to change our lives.”
“What is that?” he asked, squinting.
“Here.” She excitedly handed him the ticket. “Take a look at this.”
He took it but continued to frown as she raced back over to the computer.
“Look, girl, I don’t have time to be playing. I need to get some sleep.”
“Just gimme a minute.” Nina began reading the computer screen again. “‘The winning numbers for Saturday’s Texas Lotto drawing are four-seven-fourteen-seventeen-twenty-one-twenty-five.’” She stood up triumphantly and pointed at the ticket. “What do the numbers on that ticket say?”
“What do the numbers say?” she repeated.
He huffed in frustration, then read the ticket. “Four-seven-fourteen-seventeen-twenty-one…” His eyes grew wide as he looked up at Nina. “Oh, my God. I…is this for real?”
Nina was grinning like a kid at a chocolate factory as the excitement began building up again.
“As real as it gets!” She could no longer contain herself. She raced over and threw her arms around his neck. “We’re rich, baby. Rich, rich, rich!”
Granted, they weren’t married, but he had popped the question out of the blue two months ago. Rick was trying to open his own gym, and he wanted to be financially secure before they actually set a wedding date. He had bought her a small band, with promises to upgrade to a platinum and diamond one as soon as he got his money right. Still, Nina had no doubt that she was sharing her winnings with her man. Shoot, if anything, they were definitely ready to marry now.
Rick pulled away from Nina, taking a look at the ticket again. Shock was still blasted across his face. “H-how much?”
She kissed him hard. “Sixteen million,” she said, pulling back. “I mean, I did the cash option payout, so I don’t know how much that actually equates to, but I’m sure it’s somewhere in the millions, even after taxes.”
Rick kept staring at the ticket like he couldn’t believe it. “But how, I mean…is this for real?”
She nodded. “I wouldn’t play around with something like this, especially at three o’clock in the morning.”
“Since when did you start playing the lottery?”
Nina shrugged. “I’m not a regular player. I just play every now and then. I was in the gas station Saturday and found a five-dollar bill folded up in my pocket, so I just bought five tickets. I never in a million years thought I’d win.”
For once Rick was speechless. He was a hustler, so he was always talking a good game. Nina always told him that his gift of gab was so great, he should’ve been in sales.
Nina took Rick’s hand and led him out of her office, down the hall, and into the living room of their small three-bedroom home, which she’d moved into after her divorce.
“Do you know what this means?” she said, easing him down onto the sofa.
“It means you’re rich?” he said slowly, like everything was still registering.
“It means we’re rich, baby. I can pay off those student loans, get out of debt, open my real estate business, and you — you can now finally open that gym you’ve wanted to open.”
Rick had been scrimping and saving for years to fulfill his dream of opening an upscale gym that catered to young professionals. He’d managed to save a nice chunk of change, but three months ago, his only brother was killed, and Rick had to use the money to bury his brother. So he was essentially starting all over.
A smile finally crossed Rick’s face as his eyes began to twinkle. “We’re rich?”
Nina nodded, matching his smile. “We’re rich.”
He jumped up and swung her around in circles as they both let out piercing screams. Nina couldn’t remember a time she’d been happier. She knew from that moment forward, their lives would never be the same.
Copyright © 2009 by ReShonda Tate Billingsley