A week went by and Lotto’s dad stayed true to his word. She wasn’t let out of her room for any reason. Her meals and school work were brought to her by her parents. She never saw Tera but could imagine her standing outside the door with a self satisfied grin. Lotto went two days without eating before her dad threatened to feed her himself. She finally gave in but only took a few bites to satisfy him. She wouldn’t speak a word to her parents. She tried getting a message to Erin and Ned with the phone they gave her but she never heard back from them. The only thing she continued to do was her school work. Logic told her that doing her school work was to her benefit. If she could finish high school she could leave this family that obviously didn’t care about her.
On Sunday she decided to try something other than her hunger strike and not talking. When her mom came in with her breakfast of cereal and yogurt, she was relieved. She knew her mom would be more receptive to her idea than her dad. “Mom? Would it be possible for me to go out today? I have been doing my homework, I’m not sick anymore, and I think I have earned it. Don’t you think?”
Her mom looked Lotto in the eyes, trying to find a hidden agenda. “I don’t know Lotto. You gave us quite a scare. I think before we can consider anything, you need to apologize to your dad. You screaming at him last week wasn’t okay.”
Lotto hung her head, trying to convey the shame she didn’t feel. “Alright. Can you ask him to come in here?”
Her mom stuck her head out of Lotto’s room and yelled, “Scott, can you come here please?”
Five minutes later Lotto’s parents were sitting on her bed while Tera stood in the doorway. “Does she really need to be here?,” Lotto said, pointing at her sister.
“Yes, she is fine,” Dad replied, “Go ahead.”
Swallowing her grumbling, Lotto said, “I’m sorry for the way I have been acting. I was really scared. I have never felt like that before and when you wouldn’t let me out of here, I got mad. It won’t happen again.”
Her mom spoke first. “Lotto, do you understand that we didn’t know what was going on?”
Lotto shook her head yes. “I’m sorry.”
“Thank you for your apology Lotto. Was there anything else?”
“Yes Dad. Would it be okay if I went out today? Like I told Mom, I have been doing all my school work and I’m not sick anymore. I need to get outside.”
Her dad thought it about for a couple of minutes and then cleared his throat, signaling he had come to a decision. “You can go out for a few hours but on one condition. Tera has to go with you.”
Lotto’s first instinct was to yell, “NO!” She caught herself in time and said, “Okay.” She didn’t dare look up at her sister, knowing she was going to have that special look that she reserved only for Lotto.
“Tera, is that okay with you?”, her dad asked.
Tera put her hand on her hip and sweetly said, “Sure dad. Anything to help out you and mom. I’m sure you need a break from Lotto.”
“Then it’s settled. You can leave when you are ready. I want you home before dinner time.”
Lotto’s family left her room so she could finish her meal and get ready. Lotto was done eating and ready in less than 30 minutes. She put her cellphone in her pants pocket, making sure it wasn’t noticeable. When she went to get Tera, she was still in her pajamas. “Tera! Please get dressed.” Lotto knew that asking her sister to do anything was pointless. She would be ready when she wanted to be ready.
By the time Tera was ready, an hour had past and Lotto wanted to throttle her. They said their goodbyes to their parents and walked outside. Lotto never thought she would miss the ever present smog but she took a deep breath, almost choking on it. But she didn’t care. She wasn’t surrounded by walls for the first time in nine days. After a few minutes of walking she noticed her sister wasn’t behind her. She turned around to find her sister standing on the corner of their street. Lotto jogged up to her and asked, “What’s the problem? I want to go to the movies.”
“I’m not going with you. Mom and Dad don’t have to know we aren’t together. Meet me back here at 5 or I will tell them you took off and I spent the whole day looking for you.” Lotto wanted to dance. She had been trying to think of a getaway plan so she wouldn’t have to be with her sister and she had just been given it, free of charge.
Lotto didn’t waste a second after her sister walked away. She decided to skip the library and head straight to the movie since her sister had gotten ready so late. Once she was safely around the corner from her home she tried calling Erin. Nothing. Ned, same thing. She hung up and stared at the phone. Why weren’t they answering their phones?
Once in the theater, Lotto felt her mood changing and let herself relax. She would enjoy the newest old movie that George was screening and then figure out what to do. She had freedom until five o’clock and she was going to take advantage of that. Ninety minutes later with her teenage romantic comedy void filled, Lotto waved good bye to George. Without looking back she exited under the green flashing light, passing all the empty seats. It felt good to forget her troubles for a bit and she felt refreshed.
Lotto decided to give Cream a chance and headed in that direction. She was only about one block past the box office when she caught a shadow to her left. The sound of quickening foot steps followed the shadow. But before she could walk faster a hand grabbed her and yanked her into the alley. She tries to pull away and falls in the process, scraping her hands. She smells a distinct odor, like the inside of a room that hasn’t been aired out for years, and cigarettes. The shadow hasn’t let go and is trying to pull her down the alley. Lotto is panicked but manages to twist her hands out of its (he?she?) grip. Lotto is then able to get a good look at this person who is determined to harm her. She is startled to see that it is the older man from the theater who tried to approach her before. He tries to say something when he sees the look of recognition on Lotto’s face. All he gets out is, “Lotto….” before she finds the strength to kick him in the knee and run out of the alley, not stopping until she gets to the soda shop.
Lotto is red faced and still trying to catch her breath when she reaches her destination. The first two people she sees are Ned and Erin, sitting on her bench. They are turning their heads from left to right, as if watching a tennis match. They both land their gaze on Lotto at the same time. They wildly gesture at her to come over. Lotto forgives their lack of response from her phone calls and walks towards them. When Lotto is a few feet from the bench holding her companions, she stops. She doesn’t say anything.
Erin spoke first. “We’re sorry we didn’t call you back Lotto. We got nervous when you didn’t show up at Cream last week.” Ned starts talking, not giving Lotto a chance to respond.
“We have been talking about you at school to see if there was anybody else in the same situation. Nobody knew what we were talking about. But on Thursday when I was in biology somebody handed me a note. It instructed me to go to the boys bathroom that nobody uses at the far end of the quad after school. I thought it was weird and didn’t want to go. When I told Erin she said she would follow me and be within shouting distance.” At this point Ned and Erin just looked at each other. Neither one of them seemed to want to offer up anything else. Lotto couldn’t take it.
“So?! What happened?!”
Erin asked, “Are you sure you want to hear this?”
Lotto, not caring who heard her screamed,“I don’t care! For 10 years I have been locked in my house as an invalid. I just want to know what’s going on!” Lotto falls onto the bench, forcing Ned and Erin to move. She is shaking all over, feeling like she is going to throw up again.
Erin nudges Ned and he picks up where he left off. “So Thursday after school I walk over to the boys’ bathroom and sit across from the entrance. 15 minutes goes by and nobody has arrived. I pull out my notebook and start my homework. 15 minutes after that I hear somebody coming. I throw my notebook and book in my bag, zip it up, and get to my feet. I look to make sure Erin is in place and can see her pant leg from behind the building. Finally a kid I don’t recognize appears from around the corner. He stops when he sees me. I wave my hand. The boy swears under his breath and comes closer. When he gets close enough, he sticks his hand out to shake mine in greeting.
“My name is Logan Beerman.” He’s really jumpy, like maybe he is scared that he is being followed. He doesn’t stand still, shuffles his feet, and keeps touching his hair. We sit down on the ground so nobody can see us. Before Logan sits down he sweeps the dirt off the designated spot he has chosen for himself with his right hand and sits down cross legged, very proper like. I do the same, hoping that will make him comfortable. A few minutes pass once we sit down. I look around, trying not to stare at him and risk him running off. When Logan clears his throat to signal he is ready to begin, I give him my full attention.