As he scanned the columns, reciting 23, 5, 1, 9, 6, 8, the date of his late wife’s birthday, Jonah Mallory rubbed his eyes, trying to clear away the lingering blurriness of last night’s tryst. He had no faith in lottery luck, however, he had become accustomed to buying the numbers daily, as his late wife once had. It was a part of his daily routine, the last link to his wife. Her bright, sky-blue eyes had somewhat faded in his mind and he thought that the chances of winning the lottery were slim, next to nothing really. She had never won and he questioned why he continued this routine, particularly as he had just begun a new chapter in life.

As though to mock him for his scepticism, the numbers appeared before him on the page.

1, 5, 6, 8, 9…

Jonah dropped the paper on the bottle blue glass top, astounded. An amiable chill in his stomach; prickling and incorrigible and sweet. His face contorted involuntarily into a broad, sheepish grin as the excitement welled within him. Jonah did not dare to look at the final number, not yet. To torment and tantalise himself with the hopes of a fortune – how sweet! How thrilling!

Jonah Mallory waited a little, holding his breath as he peered at the bold heading.

$20 Million Saturday Lottery

Twenty million! Jonah burst into a fit of laughter, his voice (normally baritone) was a high manic treble. He paced back and forth, clutching the newspaper like it were a love letter. A present from his dear departed wife. The win bewildered him. Oh, it was his ticket to happiness! What would he do with the money? What would he buy? Where would he go?

Jonah Mallory looked up towards the blue sky above, his chest knotted up with anticipation. The last number-

23

The number burned bright on the grey paper, gleaming as if it were golden. Jonah was silent. Dumbfounded by his luck, paralysed in a look of shock, Jonah began to dream.

The pictures filled his imagination, each more poetic than the last. He saw himself tranquil, healthy, well fed. He saw the sensuous woman he dined with the night before, a red headed beauty, in his arms, watching the sunset on the Riviera. His future children, little scarlet haired boys and girls crawling about near him, building delicate sandcastles or catching ladybirds in the grass. Jonah dozed, he did not need to go to the office tomorrow, nor the day after. Jonah Mallory saw sepia evenings, sipping on gin as his future family huddled around the fire pit in their estate’s garden, dozens of rosebushes perfuming the air.

His hands jittered anxiously as he reached into his leather wallet, pulling out the week’s tickets.

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday …Saturday. Where was Saturday’s?

He rummaged through the wallet, still evading him. Jonah cursed desperately. He searched again. Out spilled the silver coins as he shook it vigorously, clawing open all the flaps in the hope of finding the elusive ticket.

Saturday. Wait. And then he remembered.

Glee and hope drained away instantly. Jonah Mallory’s room felt smaller, dimmer, emptier, as if it had shrunk and deflated. He was destroyed. That day’s ticket was never bought. In his excitement of spending the evening with his scarlet-haired lady, he had broken his routine. After all, it was only one day missed and he had never won, he had thought to himself the previous afternoon.

Jonah Mallory collapsed upon the stone-cold deck, staring up at the blue sky in all its glory. His wife seemed to be mocking him, gleefully dancing amongst the clouds in that beautiful shade of blue.

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