The store manager had confronted her several times about how many hours she spent in the bathroom. She’d realized the woman would go in for upwards of two hours, leaving her post unattended.
But then the lottery company announced the first lottery winner, and the manager didn’t think much of it. She thought it felt a little too convenient when it happened twice on the same day. But she knew something was terribly wrong when it happened twelve times in the next month.
Seeing Her Leave
But Melissa Harding never thought she’d end her day cracking her ex-employee’s secret to winning the lottery. Although she’d had a difficult one and a half-years of working with her, she was sorry to see her leave.
Although the mom, Christy Ford, had her issues at work, she only wanted to make ends meet and care for her family. But Melissa never thought she’d go to this extent just to keep food on the table.
She Deserves It
But what Christy had done netted her more than a single night’s meal. She and her two sons could have spent the rest of their natural lives eating out in five-star restaurants and never felt the pinch financially.
Melissa should have been happy for her. No one deserved this more than Christy. But after winning the lottery fourteen times, the manager knew she had to get to the bottom of this mystery. What she’d find would leave her rushing for her phone.
Melissa had already spent two years as the manager of a local convenience store in Geneva, Illinois, when she met Christy. The woman had been the quiet, ever-tired single mom with two boys in elementary school.
After a nasty divorce, she’d found herself at the mercy of the world, needing to find a way to care for her kids. One look at her had convinced Melissa to hire the woman. If only she knew what she was signing up for.
There Is More To Her
Melissa thought she was doing right by hiring the woman. She’d seen Christy move up and down the town streets, going into one business after another, searching for employment.
Her clothes were tattered, and her hair was disheveled, even though she did her best to look presentable. But Melissa should have known there was more to her than what met the eye.
A Great Fit
Hoping to help the mom however she could, Melissa hired Christy. She realized that the mom was a quick study and loved teaching her how systems around the store worked.
By the end of her first week, Christy was already making Melissa proud. Melissa had no idea that the mom had already set in motion a plan that would change her life forever.
What Drives Her
Christy’s first month at the shop was perfect. She showed up on time, worked as intended, and left in the late afternoon so she could pick her sons up from school.
She was a hard worker who didn’t mind odd shifts or coming to work on holidays or weekends. Melissa thought she only wanted to make as much money as she could. But the truth would be much more heartbreaking.
Melissa learned that everything Christy was doing was for her kids. Her second month followed the first down to every detail. She never missed a day and even started smiling more instead of sulking alone in the breakroom, as was her habit.
But just as things were starting to improve, everything turned on its head, resulting in a long and arduous fifteen months for Melissa and the rest of the employees at the restaurant.
Christy’s behavior had taken a sudden dip that worried everyone in the store. Working as a shelf stocker, she was supposed to ensure the shelves were filled with goods.
But of late, she’d started visiting the bathroom for what felt like hours. At first, she told Melissa the frequent bathroom visits were because of a bladder surgery she had a few months back. But Melissa would find the truth out soon enough.
What Is Happening
Melissa didn’t mind the bathroom visits at first. Christy had been taking long shifts at first. But when she started leaving empty shelves and sitting in the bathroom for long periods, Melissa became concerned.
She tried to explain her worries to the mom, hoping they could come to a sound understanding. She could only imagine how difficult her life was and only wanted to help. But this would end in nothing but an ugly unmitigated disaster.
As the months passed, Christy’s behavior went from bad to worse. What had started as fifteen to one-hour bathroom breaks soon turned into two to five hours spent in the bathroom.
With her post going unattended, Christy was setting herself up for failure with her stunts. But with how big the pay would be, she saw this as worth it.
Dealing In Absolutes
Melissa found it challenging to keep Christy under her employ. Whenever she tried to talk about the mom’s ample bathroom time, Christy would send her a glower fit to wither any person’s insides.
Melissa was at a crossroads, caught between needing to fulfill her duty as a manager and fire Christy or still be a good Samaritan and continue sticking her neck out for her. Her decision to this problem would bite her at the worst time.
Melissa watched in silence as every day, Christy would disappear into the bathroom for hours on end. She’d warned her enough times, saying she’d fire her if her behavior didn’t change.
You see, Melissa chose to thread the line between being Christy’s friend and boss. But if she were smart, she should have taken one route and stuck with it.
She Doesn’t Care
By the end of Christy’s first year at the store, the state of her work ethic had taken such a hit that Melissa no longer bothered with her. She’d already hired a different shelf stocker and only kept Christy around out of the goodness of her heart.
She’d also cut her pay, promising to reinstate the full amount when Christy decided to take her job seriously again. But from where she stood, it seemed Christy didn’t care about the pay cut.
Melissa was still deciding whether to keep Christy when she got a call from her superiors. One of the town locals had just won the lottery from a ticket sold at their shop.
The winner had requested her identity to remain anonymous, and since the prize money was $250,000, the Illinois Lottery had agreed to their request. If only Melissa knew who this person was.
Two Tickets, One Morning
As was required by company policy, Melissa informed everyone that a ticket from their store had won the grand prize. But she wasn’t done talking when her phone started ringing again.
She picked it up, and her lips parted in disbelief as she learned that the second runner-up winner also came from a ticket sold at their store.
Where Is She Going?
Melissa swelled with excitement. It wasn’t every day that two cards from her store won the lottery. But out of the corner of her eye, she saw Christy duck away from the group, disappearing into the bathroom.
Melissa shook her head in disappointment. She knew Christy was about to spend half her day in the bathroom doing only God knew what. But it wouldn’t be long before the manager unraveled this mystery.
She asked everyone to return to their tasks, quickly passing by the bathroom to have a quick chat with Christy. Melissa had rarely been one to talk to people while they handled their business in the bathroom.
But this situation demanded her attention, and she decided to let Christy know where she stood on her behavior. But the answer she’d receive from the mom would only make things worse.
A Needed Conversation
When Melissa talked to Christy about her bathroom behavior, the mom only laughed and thanked her for understanding. “I won’t forget what you did for me,” she said over the stall.
The response caught Melissa so off guard that she concluded the mom might have been under the influence. “Are you okay?” she asked, worry lacing her tone.
She Says She’s Fine
“I am,” Christy answered. “I just need a few more minutes. Then I’ll be out, okay?” there was a tinge of genuineness in her voice, which had Melissa stepping away.
“Call me if you need anything,” she said with knitted brows. There was something odd happening here, and she hated that after a whole year of it, she still hadn’t gotten to the bottom of it.
Christy came out of the bathroom earlier than usual, beaming and greeting everyone. This was the first time in almost nine months that people were seeing her smile.
She went straight to the shelves on the last aisle furthest from the store’s exit, helping the new hire stock bags of potato chips. She had no clue that Melissa was keeping an eye on her.
It Doesn’t Feel Right
Melissa had been studying Christy the moment she came out of the bathroom. She feared that her friend and employee had gotten herself into some trouble and was using some illicit substances to cope.
But as she watched the woman work, she picked up on something that told her she might have misread the entire situation. Whatever was going on here didn’t feel right.
Melissa watched as Christy hurried to the counter and handed the cashier, Robby, a thick stack of dollar bills. She held a seemingly delightful conversation with the man, her innocent smile still holding fast.
They talked in hushed tones, with Christy nodding a few times before walking away. But this wasn’t what baffled Melissa the most.
A New Friend
Christy talking to the cashier was the oddest part of what Melissa witnessed. She was used to seeing Christy talking to herself. So when she saw him spend a few minutes talking to Robby, she hurried to investigate.
“I see you have a new friend,” she told the cashier, smiling. “Who, Christy?” Robby answered, telling Melissa what the two had just discussed.
Where Is She Getting The Money?
It turns out Christy had borrowed five thousand dollars from Robby and wanted to pay it back with interest. She was in such a good mood that she was tripling the cash Robby loaned her. Melissa’s curiosity grew at that.
She started shadowing Christy, wondering where the mom, who worked only one job that barely covered her rent and utility bills, was getting all this money. She needed to get to the root of this mystery, or she’d lose her mind.
Things Are Changing
At first, Melissa feared that Christy was involved in something shady. So, she kept her eye on the mom for the next week.
But after a while, she safely ruled that out. At the same time, her superiors called her again, claiming someone had cashed in another winning ticket.
Like the first and second, this also came from Melissa’s store. By now, she’d noticed Christy wore new, more expensive clothes and drove a sleek sports car. Something in her life had changed. Melissa needed to know what.
It Doesn’t Make Any Sense
She tried to follow Christy on her way home, but that didn’t yield anything substantial. As far as she saw it, Christy led a pretty normal, albeit extravagant, life. If only Melissa checked the bathroom stall the mom frequented.
Melissa hated that she was starting to obsess over this issue. Meanwhile, more winning tickets were coming from stores all over the state, totaling eleven. That’s when a pattern appeared.
Melissa realized that each time someone won the lottery, their name would be kept a secret. Christy would go missing for a few days and then show up decked in the most expensive clothing and jewelry. Melissa confronted her.
She came to her as a friend, telling her missing work was a severe offense. If the higher-ups knew, even Melissa’s job would be at risk. But Christy became hostile, leaving Melissa with no choice.
With tears in her eyes and a heart pumping crippling pain through her veins, Melissa fired Christy. But the mom was nonchalant throughout the exchange.
Instead of throwing a tantrum, she hugged Melissa, saying she would never forget what the manager had done to her when no one else wanted to help.
With that, she left. But she wasn’t out of the store before Melissa ran to the bathroom stall. She found it locked and had to bring Robby in to bash it open.
Cracking It Open
Melissa walked into the stall, finding an ordinary room filled with the door’s splinters. Her sight landed on the toilet tank, which sat at an odd angle, and she pulled it open. Her eyes broadened at what she saw. Taped to one side of the tank was a small logbook wrapped in plastic. Melissa knew who it belonged to.
She opened it, her furrowed brows rising. The book contained pages of math equations surrounding lotto numbers. The equations had narrowed to a few thousand tickets that could be the winning ticket in each lottery ruffle. A chill clambered up Melissa’s spine as she came to a staggering theory. Christy had been the one winning the lotteries across the state.
Disclaimer: To protect the privacy of those depicted, some names, locations, and identifying characteristics have been changed and are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblances to actual events, places, or persons, living or dead, are entirely coincidental.