Daughters of the Hall – Chapter Seventeen

champJuly 21, 2015 —  Chapter One, Chapter TwoChapter Three,Chapter Four, Chapter Five, Chapter Six,Chapter Seven,Chapter Eight, Chapter NineChapter Ten, Chapter Eleven, Chapter Twelve, Chapter Thirteen, Chapter Fourteen, Chapter Fifteen, Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

The past few days had been a whirlwind of emotions, coming and going waves on the Jersey beaches. Between the argument at brunch and witnessing Andrew and Melissa so much in love at the Chinese restaurant, Jenny couldn’t catch her breath. Events like these happened to be the reasons she avoided matters of the heart. The rewards may be worth it when things went your way, but she hadn’t experienced too much of the positive side of exposing your feelings to the world, making it seem reasonable to hide away from it.

On Monday, the morning flew by in a flurry of activity, so Jenny didn’t have time to dwell on her sorrows. Mrs. Chadwick had stopped by to pick up the button for her gala dress, and Jenny was surprised to see her in such a state. The woman who rarely smiled was beaming, peculiar enough, but she also gave Jenny a handsome tip for her efforts. Something had happened over the weekend to put her in a better state of mind. She looked rested, even younger, and happy, quite the opposite of her own experiences, and for the first time, Jenny was envious of the woman.

She also located several selections for desk sets for Charlotte Ampstead, and put in a call to have her come into the store so they could make a decision. Her mother’s birthday loomed around the corner, and Jenny wanted to make sure everything shipped on time to appease her favorite DIH women. She couldn’t thinking about their last encounter at the shop when Jenny had relaxed her defenses and revealed too much about the DIH activities. She wondered if Charlotte had put the pieces together and would confront her about it. She also wondered what she would say if she did.

Not only were emotions surging through her, but lottery activity boomed and streams of customers had been coming in all day to play their special numbers in hopes of becoming millionaires. Powerball fever had been the hottest topic in the neighborhood, and probably across the entire region. Headlines boasted about the largest jackpot in Powerball history. It made her wonder again about what happened to the lottery ticket Mr. Hiller purchased for her.

As the thought crossed her mind, Mr. Hiller walked into the store, Jenny’s mood instantly lifted.and instantly her mood improved.

“Good day,” he greeted.

Jenny smiled. “I hope it’s exactly that for you, too, Mr. Hiller.”

“Ah, it certainly is, Jenny. The sun is shining, the air is warm, and we all woke up this morning to the sounds of spring’s pending arrival.”

“You’re a true poet, Mr.  Hiller, do you know that? I thought you were referring to the lottery.”

“Didn’t I mention that, too?” he said laughing.

“You’re welcome to watch the drawing here if you want,” Jenny offered. “We could have a little celebration. It’s the least I can do for my best lottery customer.”

Mr. Hiller’s face brightened. “I think I’ll take you up on that, Jenny.”

“I have a bottle of champagne chilling if you’d like to share it with me,” she said. “Once you win, that is.”

“A bold move by a woman who is willing to believe anything is possible,” he said. “I’m happy for you and it would be my honor. If you don’t mind me asking, why the sudden change?”

Jenny shrugged. “I had an awful day yesterday, and I’m tired of feeling bad. Besides, all of those little pep talks about being positive and taking chances were bound to have an effect on me.”

“Isn’t that grand? Now we’re guaranteed to win,” he said. “Although I’m sorry about your awful day yesterday.”

Jenny blushed. “I’m fine, Mr. Hiller. Just feeling sorry for myself, I suppose. Besides, I don’t want to ruin your day listening to my problems.”

“I get the feeling you don’t want to talk about it, so I won’t push,” he said, “but I’m here if you want to chat. I’ve always been a good listener.” Jenny smiled as Mr. Hiller walked to the door. “I’ll be back for the drawing,” he said. “Until then, have a wonderful afternoon.”

After a busy afternoon, Jenny waved Fiona, who was walking home from work, into the store. “I wanted to invite you to watch the lottery drawing with Mr. Hiller and me,” Jenny said. “I have a bottle of champagne chilled and I ordered a deli platter from down the street, so we can celebrate even if Mr. Hiller doesn’t win.”

Fiona smiled. “What if you win?” she asked with an impish grin.

“Chances are neither of us will win,” Jenny said. “Besides, I can’t seem to find that lottery ticket Mr. Hiller purchased for me anywhere. I’d bought another one so I wouldn’t hurt his feelings. Come to think of it, you’re the only person I know who hasn’t bought a ticket. Unless you’re giving your lottery business to someone else.”

“I went in on the office pool, but I left before they distributed copies of the tickets,” Fiona said. She paused for a second, and then shrugged. “What the heck, I’ll join you. Let me put my stuff upstairs and I’ll be right down.”

By the time she got back 10 minutes later, Mr. Hiller had arrived. Jenny locked the front door and the three of them walked up the flight of steps to Jenny’s apartment to watch the 5.30 p.m. drawing.

Fiona held a ticket in her hand.

“So, you did buy a ticket somewhere else,” Jenny said.

Fiona shook her head. “Actually, this is yours,” she said handing over the ticket. “I was babysitting it so it wouldn’t end up in the trash.”

“Fiona, I’ve been driving myself crazy looking for this,” she said. She looked over at Mr. Hiller pouring champagne into three flutes. She hoped he didn’t hear Fiona’s comment about throwing the ticket away.

When the drawing began, the numbers flew up on Ping-Pong balls one by one. After the first five, Jenny realized Mr. Hiller had four of them. She knew his numbers by heart. While they both looked at each with a secret smile, Fiona spoke first. “Don’t tell me they are your numbers and you actually won the Powerball,” she said.

Jenny nodded. “One of us came close,” she said. “Four of Mr. Hiller’s numbers were chosen.”

Mr. Hiller said nothing for a moment, and then smiled. “Five, actually, but not the Power Ball number, so there go my millions.” He paused for a moment and then laughed. “I can’t believe I actually won,” he said. “Depending on how many winners, if there are any, it should be good for a decent amount of money.”

Fiona’s eyes widened in awe. “How much?”

Mr. Hiller laughed again. “Not that much,” he said. “Perhaps a few hundred thousand or so.”

“A few hundred thousand!” Jenny shrieked. “You did it, Mr. Hiller!” she shouted with excitement. “You won the lottery, like you always said you would. I can’t believe it! I don’t think we have enough champagne.”

“Ah, but that’s not the best news, my dear,” he said. “You’re entitled to at least 5% of my winnings, which means you’ve won a good bit yourself.”

“I can’t accept that, Mr. Hiller,” Jenny said. “That money is yours.”

“What do you mean, Jenny? For God’s sake take it,” Fiona said. Suddenly her voice became stronger. “He can afford it.”

Mr. Hiller was kind to smile at Fiona, although Jenny felt embarrassed by her friend’s actions. “Jenny, I purchased the ticket here, so you’ve also won because you sold me a winning ticket. I’m not paying you, the lottery commission is. Besides, even if I did want to give you a percentage, you would take it. What did I tell you about accepting gifts? Your friend is right. Now, what should I do with my winnings?”

“I could put it to good use,” Fiona said quickly. “Shopping, shopping and more shopping!”

Mr. Hiller laughed again. “I was thinking more on the lines of building homeless shelters and community centers,” he said, “but shopping is good, too. My wife always enjoyed a good sale. Still, with $200,000, I could do some good.”

Fiona shrugged. “That’s wonderful of you, Mr. Hiller. It is, but surely you’re able to afford it.”

“Fiona,” Jenny said.

“No, she’s right, my dear. I can afford to be generous. Nevertheless, it is relative. Most people can afford to do something.” He looked squarely at Fiona and she blushed.

Jenny couldn’t believe it. The happiness she felt for Mr. Hiller was intoxicating, but she also enjoyed the news that her shop would get a part of the prize, too. With a little bit of extra cash, perhaps she could take on DIH and come clean about the true identity of Carrie Grant, even without the possibility of Andrew in her life.

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