THE BIG DAY
Kate was sitting at a table on the balcony and reading the newspaper. It was a nice warm late summer morning. When she opened the newspaper on the middle page, she couldn’t miss a big advertisement in the right down corner. It was from the local bank. The title read: Come to bet on your champion! You can win a fortune! Kate was very intrigued.
She did not hesitate and texted George to meet up in the piazza by the fountain.
She quickly finished her coffee, picked the envelope with her life savings from her suitcase and was on her way to the square.
George arrived in five minutes. He was very curious about what Kate had on mind.
“I hope it’s something interesting, Kate,” said George and hugged her.
“Good morning to you too,” she smiled.
“So tell me, Kate. What is it about?”
“I was reading today’s newspaper and found an interesting advertisement,” she said.
“Really? That’s curious!” George made fun of Kate. “And what does it advertise?”
“Bets on horses of today’s race,” Kate said enthusiastically.
“Well, that’s an intriguing news,” he said. “So you want me to bet on Bella?”
“Yes. And I want to bet on her too. Only I cannot do it legally, because I am the jockey… So, I was thinking-” Kate didn’t finish the sentence, because George interrupted her.
“So you were thinking you could give me your money and I would bet on Bella in your stead.”
“Exactly,” said Kate.
“Well, this looks like a legal way to do it. How much money would you like to bet on yourself, Kate?” asked her George.
“I have been saving money over the years, but I haven’t managed to save up a lot. I studied the rules – the person who bets on the winning horse will get 1000% of the initial sum… but only in case nobody else has bet on that horse.”
“Yes, that’s not probable. Usually there is always a good candidate and most of the people go for him,” told her George. “But consider the fact that the more people bet on your horse the more money you’ll get if he wins. Of course you will have to split the win with the others, but you anyway get more money than you initially had,” continued George.
“Yeah, but I am not the candidate. I have never raced before, plus I am new here and nobody knows me.”
“So, how much money do you think your racing skill is worth?”
“Everything I have… One thousand-seven hundred-eighty simos.”
“Kate… That’s way too much to put at stake,” warned her George.
“I know. These are my life savings. I have nothing else.”
“Don’t you want to think it through?”
“I already have.”
“As you want then. I will add my two hundred-twenty so we make it a round number. In total it makes two thousand,” calculated George. “That’s not a bad amount to start with! And in case you win, you can keep my part.”
“Wow, George. I don’t know what to say…”
“Then don’t say anything, Kate. Do you have your savings here?”
“Yes, here in this envelope. Take it.”
“I really hope you have made up your mind really well,” George sighed when Kate placed the thick envelope in his hand.
“Don’t worry, George. I will win,” Kate smiled at her friend.
I hope so, George thought to himself, because seeing Kate put her lifetime savings at such a high risk so easily made him feel less sure about her victory. “Well, I guess I will go to the bank then… Make sure to come to pick Bella on time,” said George and headed towards the building with the simoleon logo above its grandiose door.
“Don’t worry! I’ll be on time,” told him Kate and went to sit on a bench by the fountain.
Kate decided to observe the morning routine of Monte Vista’s inhabitants. Some of them were rushing across the square – probably being late for work, others enjoyed their cup of coffee in the sun-bathed garden of Tasty Treats and Tomes – the other restaurant located in Piazza Regalia. A bunch of people together with George waited – probably all with the same intention – for the bank to open its doors, while a few older people were sitting on the benches around the fountain and reading Monte Vista Daily, the local newspaper. Kate got lost in her thoughts. She thought about today’s race and dreamed about all that she could do with the money in case she won. Then her phone suddenly rang.
“Good morning Ms. Loewe. This is Mrs. Petite’s secretary. I wanted to inform you that the race will take place at 8 PM instead of 5 PM,” said a familiar female voice.
“Hello, thank you for the information.”
“Make sure to present yourself 30 minutes before the start, at 7.30 PM,” the voice continued.
“Don’t worry, I’ll be on time,” assured her Kate.
“I wish you a nice day, Ms. Loewe and I’ll see you tonight.”
“Thanks! See you later!” said Kate and hung up.
Kate walked back to the bench and when she was about to sit down her phone rang again.
“Yes? Did you forget to tell me something?” she asked thinking it was the secretary.
“Hello Kate, this is Luis.”
“Oh, hi! I thought you were someone else!” laughed Kate.
“No, it’s just me now… Luis.”
“How are you? Did you… Did you need something? I am on my way to the restaurant,” asked him Kate.
“Actually… no,” answered Luis with a trembling voice.
“Are you okay, Luis?” worried Kate.
“Yes, I’m fine… no, actually I am not fine,” he said, sounding a little confused.
“Is something wrong, Luis?”
“It’s Lia… she’s…. she’s dead..,” Luis said weakly and started sobbing.
“Oh my God… No, that cannot be… I am so sorry, Luis…,” Kate was shocked and did not know what to say.
“I found her a while ago… on the floor… in the kitchen, she… she…,” Luis couldn’t finish the sentence, he was in shock himself.
“Is there something I can do for you? Do you want me to come over?” asked him Kate, but he didn’t seem to be listening.
“… she went to prepare the tea… in the kitchen…”
“Luis, please, listen to me. I know it is difficult, but please, tell me what you need and I will come to your house right away,” Kate tried to calm him down.
“Hello? Luis? LUIS?” asked Kate, but Luis hung up.
Kate didn’t hesitate for a moment and called him right back.
“Lia is dead.”
“I know Luis, but please, listen to me,” told him Kate very emphatically. “I need you to concentrate. Call your son immediately and tell him what happened. He will come to help you.”
“Yes,” said Luis.
“And now, tell me what can I do for you. Should I close the restaurant? Yes?”
“Yes… and put away the decorations…”
“Luis, please, call your son. Do it now, please,” insisted Kate.
“Thank you Kate… Good luck with the race… I will not come… I need to organize the funeral…,” said Luis and hung up again.
This didn’t have to happen. Not yet. Not today, Kate kept on repeating this to herself on her way to the restaurant.
When she entered and saw the flowers on the table, she couldn’t stop the tears.
She sat at the table, wrapped her head in her hands and sobbed for almost an hour. Then she pulled herself together and went to the bathroom, washed her face and returned downstairs. As she watched around herself she suddenly didn’t know where to start.
Putting the decorations away took her all the morning. When she was finally done, Kate decided to have the lunch at Tasty Treats and Tomes where they allegedly did some delicious pasta. Kate went for a typical Italian dish – Spaghetti alla bolognese.
After she filled her empty stomach it was almost time to pick up Bella. She called a taxi, but when the driver asked almost all of the last simoleons she had left, Kate realized that betting everything wasn’t maybe the best idea she has ever had.
Kate didn’t even have to ring the bell this time, because George was impatiently looking out from the window and waiting for her.
He invited her inside and offered her some tea. Kate refused it and started to cry. George didn’t understand and kept asking her if she regretted betting all her money or if she was nervous because of the race. Kate couldn’t bring herself to answer his questions.
“Come on, Kate, it’s alright. You can still win!”
“It’s… it’s not about the race…,” she said.
“Then what is it, Kate?”
“It’s Lia. She… she died this morning.”
“Oh my God, that’s a really bad news! I am so sorry for her… and Luis. She wasn’t that old… Poor Lia,” said sadly George. “You should drink the tea, Kate, it will calm you down.”
“No, I don’t want any tea… Poor Lia got a heart attack while she was preparing it this morning…,” explained Kate. “I really cannot drink it now.”
“Do you at least want a glass of water?” asked her George.
“Thank you,” answered Kate, sipped from the glass that George passed her and calmed down.
“Look Kate, I know the circumstances aren’t at all ideal, but you need to concentrate on your race now. You can mourn Lia’s death tomorrow,” told her George.
“…” Kate was left without words. The woman that welcomed her with opened arms just died and George tells her to start mourning tomorrow?
“I think that if Lia could be here now, she would wish the same,” continued George.
“Maybe,” sighed Kate.
“It’s getting late, you should go to change yourself. Did you bring your riding helmet?” asked George.
“Yes, I have it.”
“Good. Well, I guess I should give Luis a call then,” George put his hands together, gave Kate an unsettling look and walked out the door.
Kate went in the bathroom to change into the riding clothes. George was probably still calling with Luis so she didn’t want to interrupt and took a little longer to get ready.
After what seemed like forever, Kate finally left the bathroom and found George outside raking the first leaves that fell on his lawn. The autumn was at the doorstep.
“Do you have some advice for me before I go?” Kate asked her friend.
“In the beginning just keep your pace steady, don’t risk too much. When you see that the others start speeding up, go ahead.”
“I don’t know how many rounds there are going to be, so you just follow the others and then put everything you’ve got into the two last rounds, you will probably have to run really fast, so save up Bella’s energy for the end.”
“Thank you, George, I will do exactly as you told me,” thanked him Kate.
“I wish you all the luck of this world!” told her George and hugged her.
“You are my best friend, George,” Kate whispered in his ear as they hugged.
“You should probably go,” said George, turned around and picked the rake.
“Yeah,” sighed Kate and mounted Bella.
“See you soon, George!” Kate called at him from the saddle.
“See you soon, Kate! Show them what you’ve got!” George called back at her, trying really hard to sound convincing, because when Kate told him he’s her best friend he felt very moved. Kate looked at him one last time and when she saw George wasn’t going to look at her she rode away.
When Kate reached the Petite Pony equestrian center it was almost 7.30 PM.
She entered inside to present herself and her horse.
The race started precisely at 8 PM with a shot from a pistol. The other jockeys seemed quite tough, but Kate wasn’t afraid. She knew she came here for the first prize…
… but unfortunately she came second. Her life fell apart. This was the only hope she had. She really needed to win so she could buy herself a house and start living properly. The money she saved up had to bring her happiness, but it only brought her despair. This night belonged to the other woman. Kate was only the next one in line…