+ CONTRIBUTING AUTHOR: S. Thompson
She had lived in Chicago all her life and loved the city, but she often wondered in the winter months as the wind slapped her face and went right through her what it might be like somewhere warmer. But there was no chance of that. She was tied to her job in the city.
Sally had worked as a waitress for a few years now and got to know all the regular clients. She hadn’t concentrated in school and wound up not having many career choices after that. Sally spent a few years without a job and then fell into waitressing. She enjoyed working there.
The banter with the regulars was good and the summer brought tourists that she could talk to about the places they had come from. Sally would often imagine going back with the tourists to see the rest of the world. But her ambitions lay a little closer to home. If she could, Sally would have moved to Florida. She went there as a kid on vacation and fell for the place. Maybe one day, with a little more behind her than waitressing she would.
Sally had seen the age of 30 looming on the horizon when she decided to make a change. She still worked just as hard as always for the wages and tips that would pay the rent and put food in her belly, but she studied too. At first, it was English and math so she could have those basic qualifications but the longer-term ambition was to be an accountant. Sally worked hard and only stopped to daydream about walking to work from a condo near the beach to an office in Florida. It was going to be her way out of the cold.
Sally was around half dreamer, half realist and this was a strange combination. At times, she would throw herself wholeheartedly into her work, knowing that this was her ticket to someplace else, while at other times she would dream of finding a quicker way to the life she dreamed about.
On the TV in the restaurant she worked in, Sally noticed a news item one day about the state lottery. It had not been won for a few draws on a row and was now showing a hefty sum. Sally looked around the restaurant at the people in there and wondered what their chances were. Did Alan at the bar have a chance of the millions? What about the cook Joe? All the while she looked around the restaurant, Sally assessed the chances of the people she saw.
On the way home, Sally knew she was out of cereal. She stopped at a store that had high prices but was open 24 hours a day for the cereal she had eaten since she was a child. The shop smelled of incense and the swirling wind had brought this to her attention before she even walked through the door.
While queueing behind an old man who looked like he would drop all the items he had decided to carry without a shopping basket, Sally noticed that the store sold state lottery tickets. She counted up the change in her purse and the dreamer overruled the realist and bought a ticket.
Sally went home, got warm and fell asleep in front of the TV. The lottery ticket remained in her purse and Sally got on with her life. It wasn’t until several days later when she caught another news broadcast at work that Sally even thought about the lottery again. The TV anchor was explaining that the lottery was won but nobody had come forward just yet. He read out the winning numbers. She was due for a break so she wrote them down to check.
Sally sat out back of the restaurant to get some fresh air, and it was fresh indeed. Chicago has a reputation for the wind, but this was as much as Sally had ever experienced. It took all her might to keep hold of the two pieces of paper – one was her lottery ticket and the other was the numbers she had jotted down when the anchor read them out. To her amazement, the numbers on the two pieces of paper were exactly the same. Sally had won the lottery.
The next few days were a blur as she quit her job and made plans to get to Florida. Sally decided she would just get there and work everything else out from then. She wanted to feel the warmth away from the harsh winds of Chicago. Her parents had passed away a few years earlier and her work friends were the only real connection she had in the city. Sally said goodbye and rode on the Amtrak with her final destination of Miami firmly in her sights
It was such a change from Chicago. Sally had arrived with one case of clothes and they were all for the Chicago winter she left behind. The first thing she had to do was go shopping for clothes. It had been a few years since she had been able to afford new clothes so even this experience was fresh to her.
Sally spent the evenings in the bar of the hotel she was staying in. She didn’t know anyone in Miami and was wary of the new place at night. The days were fantastic, but the nights still held a little trepidation for Sally. She had spoken briefly to a man in a suit who she assumed was on a business convention in the city a few nights earlier. It was only a short conversation, passing the time of day, but Sally saw him again across the bar. She remembered she had blushed when he first approached her. She thought he was handsome and charming, quite the combination!
Sally walked across the bar with as much confidence as she could muster and sat down next to him. She decided that if she was going to make a new life in a new city that she had better start speaking to people.
– “Hi, my name is Sally. We spoke the other night but I didn’t get your name,” she said with a wobble in her voice.
– Good evening Sally. My name is Gordon.
Gordon was just as charming the second time around. Sally and he spoke for hours. He was a businessman, but not at a convention. He lived in the city and worked as an insurance agent. They hit it off. Toward the end of the evening, Gordon asked Sally if they could meet again. She had started to make enquiries with real estate agents and didn’t know how much longer she would be at the hotel.
– Sally. I’d love to go on a date on Thursday. How are you fixed?
She stopped in her tracks. Sally had no idea how to respond. She didn’t know him well. She didn’t know the city at all. She had just won a lot of money. He life was starting anew. She paused before giving her answer. She didn’t know what to say.