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Rated: E · Other · Family · #1810248
Claire has always struggled, and has now won the lottery, a dream come true? Or not...
The worst time to wake up was two hours before you needed to. You haven't had enough rest, it was pointless trying to get back to sleep, yet too early to get up. Also, you were awake enough to have some conscious thoughts, usually about the problems you were facing in the day to come, or unresolved issues from the day before.

Claire Huffam was thinking exactly that when she glanced at the bedside clock, illuminated like a lighthouse in the darkness. It was four o'clock, and she had to be up in two hours! She was a hard worker, honest and tried to never think poorly of anyone, but she needed a holiday, a break from the monotony of her life, which seemed to consist of working, cooking and sleeping when she could.

She glanced over at Tom, her husband of 23 years, still sleeping, but not a restful sleep, tossing and turning every few minutes. He had been worried, Claire knew, not so much about their finances, but about his role as a husband and provider. She could never convince him that all she cared about was their life together, their love for each other and how happy they could be. Not how much money they had, or how successful they were.

Tom's trucking business had gone into liquidation two years ago, and their finances had not really recovered. They were still working to pay off the bank loan for the new truck and sometimes it seemed the light at the end of the tunnel was a long way off.

They had kept the business going for as long as possible, always hoping for a big contract which could turn things around. But the big contract never came, the bank came calling instead and had little sympathy for someone who took out a business loan and was now having trouble paying it back. The bank had threatened a mortagee sale, and so they had little choice but to wind up the business, lay off their employees and find good paying jobs to repay the loans.

Now they had won the lottery.

Twenty million dollars, an obscene amount of money, thought Claire, who didn't believe in getting something for nothing. They were excited of course, thinking about how their life would change: a new life of priviledge, freedom and choice. Yet their teenage children, Alison and Toby, seemed strangely underwhelmed by the sudden change in good fortune. For Alison it meant a new wardrobe, and for Toby, well, he would be able to buy the brand new car he had always dreamed about, or so he thought, smiled Claire.

But Claire had worried that although the money might solve some problems, it would create others. She had heard stories of lottery winnings tearing families apart, and she didn't want that for her own family.

"You're worrying about nothing Claire," Tom had responded to her concerns. "Have you ever heard the saying: 'Never feel sorry for a man who owns a plane' ?. Well, that's us, we own the plane."

Claire couldn't even smile at his silly joke, a quote from his favourite Anthony Hopkins movie: Off the Edge. They didn't own a plane, and never would: Tom hated flying. "That's just ridiculous Tom, you forget that it's not just you and I. How will all that money help Alison with her self-esteem issues, she's only just started to make friends at her new school, and you know all Toby wants at the moment is to buy an old car, and take the engine to pieces. How will all that money help either of them?"

Before Tom could respond, Claire continued her diatribe. "You forget Tom, that if it wasn't for this money we would still be miserable, working eighty hour weeks to pay off your business debts." Seeing Tom's face in despair, she had instantly regretted her words, but her point was made.

On reflection, Claire had thought their life was turning around. They had accepted their new situation, begun to clear their debts and discovered new interests and friendships. Claire had taken up tennis again, and Tom had discovered he loved to write. Short stories, poetry, and he thought one day he might even start a novel.

Money was really the only problem, yet in reality, the things that made them happy didn't rely on money. They had each other, their family and friends and their newfound interests. Life was starting to become fun again.

But a few months after they had won the money, a chilling thought had struck Claire: the things they had enjoyed doing, the tennis, Tom's writing, making new friends, were starting to seem dull and a little boring. They had money now, so why play tennis when you could go to Wimbledon and watch Raphael Nadal play instead? She was putting on weight, and Tom seemed to be drinking again and hanging out at the new sports bar a little more. Claire even had a cigarette last week.

Their old friends had stopped coming around, they were making new friends who seemed to have more in common with them. Claire wondered if the money had driven their old friends away? Were the new ones attracted by the money, or did they have money too, and so were more comfortable with them?

The turning point for Claire was when she discovered Alison crying in her bedroom one Saturday evening. Claire tried to comfort her daughter: was it a boy, a falling out with her friends, her upcoming exams? Alison had just looked at her mother, shaking her head sadly, "You just don't see it, do you! How our life has changed since winning that stupid lottery. I don't have any friends, not anymore, and I'm comfort eating again."

Open-mouthed, Claire had just stood there, tears in her eyes. No, no, she pleaded with herself. Had she been so blind as to not see what was happening? Her own daughter could see it, perhaps Toby could as well.

She quietly reflected on what had become of their lives since winning the lottery. Tom had stopped writing, was drinking heavily, and probably spent more time watching sport than actually being with his own wife. Toby had his new car, the BMW 7 series, but he never tinkered under the bonnet, or did his own repairs and Alison, as Claire had just discovered, was losing her battle with self-esteem and was just miserable.

She had a choice to make.

Claire again looked over at Tom, still tossing and turning in the bed beside her, almost time to get up. She smiled at his discomfort, and knew he was struggling with a new idea for his writing, and when he awoke, he would be on full adrenalin, his creative energies would know no bounds, happy and content once more.

It was a relatively easy decision to make, to give away their lottery winnings. It seemed an awful lot of money, but how much money did it really take to be happy? She recalled a quote from Deepak Chopra: "You can have anything in life that you truly desire."

That was the answer, she knew, being true to yourself. Did they want to be wealthy, or happy? They didn't truly want the money in the first place, that was why it was tearing them apart, and so there was only one solution. They kept enough to have a comfortable life, pay off their debts, and donated the rest to various charities. Claire had never known her family to be so happy.

She heard the sound of a car pulling into the driveway, it was only six o'clock, who on earth could it be at this hour!

"Yo, Toby, where are you brother?" It was Derek Jacobi, Toby's childhood friend, yelling at the top of his voice. Claire had forgotten he was coming around to help Toby take out the engine of his new purchase, a broken down 1968 Ford Mustang, which he had purchased on E-bay for the grand sum of $500. But at this hour of the morning?

Then, Alison appeared tearfully at the bedroom door. "Mum, this is so unfair. Toby knew I had a big day today! I have to get my hair done for the wedding, I am a bridesmaid you know and I needed to have a sleep-in today. Of all the days for his stupid friends to come calling, and at this hour!" Alison stormed off, her ringing cell phone distracting her from her discomfort.


Claire smiled. She was at peace once more, her family intact, and happy.

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