Some people have all the luck. Ayla Milandri heard this little saying all her eighteen years of life. Far too often, she witnessed it firsthand. Unfortunately (and unsurprisingly), no one bothered to tell her that the luck to be had was not necessarily good. She learned quickly, though, the taste of the other luck, the bad luck.
Bad luck taught her its nature in ways life alone could not. Ayla learned quickly, but misfortune always had more insight and misery to share. Like the moon hovering in the sky, bad luck haunted Ayla day and night, but only half the time did it present itself blatantly for everyone to see.
During the coldest of life's seasons, bad luck shone brighter, yet offered no form of hope or solace. The hard times stuck around for awhile, but eventually lessened their punishment . . . until the next year, when they predictably arose in the sky again.
Ayla was getting to the point of wondering if it was bad luck as she assumed or if her fate was bound in a black curse that pursued her. With her luck, she knew she would not find out until it was too late and cruelty could laugh whole-heartedly at her. Ayla might have been tempted to laugh too, if she was not closer to cracking.
Not yet satisfied with tormenting her life, fate must have decided to provide an incentive for Ayla to keep walking out her parent's front door. Ayla knew it had to have been fate messing and scheming with her, for coincidences like this simply did not happen. They were planned strategically. The probability was too complex for her to ignore. Yet the promise proclaimed was undoubtably too good to be true.
The date was in early June. Summer school. Ayla's few friends had already graduated in the spring. Ayla should have graduated with them, but of course a few required classes would show up missing. Of course she would be detained. Of course.
At the beginning, a bit of good seemed to come from her summer courses. She was able to spend more time with her boyfriend, Jarrod, who would be a senior in the fall. Extra time with him was always pleasant, until she saw him spending extra time with Malisha Druming.
Malisha. Just thinking of perfect, beloved, Lady Luck favorite, blessed-beyond-belief, able-to-graduate-on-time Malisha made Ayla's lips twitch into a sneer. She was not jealous, though, not until she caught Malisha and Jarrod making out. K-I-S-S-I-N-G, out in the open for everyone to see.
Ayla's stomach turned. Was it bitterness? Hurt? Hatred? Jealousy? Surely not. Perhaps it was indigestion. Ayla did, after all, have the urge to vomit when she saw their lips smooching, tongues licking, and hands roaming.
Not wanting to stay and face the music, which Ayla had no doubt would sound like battle drums and then a funeral requiem, she left class early. Jarrod had been so kind to drive her to school while they were dating. Now broken up, Ayla was forced to walk the two mile trek home.
The travel was not that bad, really, considering she had to run three miles for cross country. The walk might have even been a good thing, giving her time to vent our her emotions on the loose dirt and rocks.
Along the way, she felt an irritating prickle on her right thigh. Reaching down inside her pant's pocket to ease the itch, her fingers graced something that felt a little off. Instead of the slickness of her gym shorts, the material felt like thin, crumpled paper.
Intrigued, she pulled out the matter to find a one dollar bill bundled up like a used tissue. No doubt it had accompanied her shorts through the previous week's laundry, but somehow it had survived and looked . . . usable? Yes, it looked good enough.
In a surprise twist of fate, not only had Ayla found money, but she happened to find it as she passed the local grocery store. For once, her timing was what she needed. She prayed that luck would not be so cruel as to seemingly provide opportunity for her thirst to be quenched and not deliver. She did not need to be shunned at the register for inability to pay. She needed liquid: real, cold liquid.
The day had been burning hot under the scorching sun. It was one day of the many that some people called the glorious weeks of summer. Ayla was not one such person, not even close. Gym class was horrid enough, but enduring it in the middle of summer in the middle of New Mexico? No matter how fit Ayla was, the high temperature ate away at her body, leaving her drenched in sweat as thick as a dog's dirty slobber.
As if fate could not be cruel enough, not only did Ayla sweat more than the heaviest males in her school, she tended to smell like a unbathed warthog too. It was true. Jarrod had told Malisha so, and Malisha, in turn, told her friends. Not long after, everyone knew of Ayla's bodily aroma (if they had not already experienced it first hand).
For the past few weeks, Ayla thought the rumor was a lie meant to pit her against Jarrod, but oh no, she found out the spreading gossip was quite true. Mr. Jarrod and Miss Malisha were sharing rudeness, and Jarrod was sharing himself. Ayla just so happened to find it out today, when she just so happened to see a Mr. Jarrod and Miss Malisha making out. Of course.
If there was a bright light at the end of the tunnel, then it was another little piece of gossip. Students had agreed there was one smell, only one, that was worse than the "newborn camel" scent Jarrod accused Ayla of having. The foreboding stench clung to the inside of the men's locker room, and to any unfortunate soul that dared step inside. Ayla was that unfortunate and was also blamed as the cause for many girls' unpleasantness.
Back in the fall, Ayla had been running late (due to inexplainable bad luck) and was the last girl to be changing for cross country practice. She was absolutely minding her own business when eroded piping decided to let loose. Her situation of being covered in crap was bad enough, but in her attempt to escape the mess, she was forced to run outside in front of everybody while being covered in the waste.
Since that fateful day, the school forced the two sexes to share one locker room until everything was fully inspected and repaired. Either the football team did not know how repulsive they were, or they did not care. Some of them took pride in their grossness. They bragged that their foul odor was a synonym for very manly. Ayla did not know whether to rejoice that something out there smelt worse than she, or if she should mourn at how close she was to smelling like them.
Anyway, this other fateful day had been such a disgusting hot day, and Ayla's body was fighting for any and all resources of water. Her tongue felt like sandpaper as it scraped against the roof of her mouth. Her innocently-sized, pink lips were thinning as she gasped.
Clutching the lone dollar to her small chest, she walked into the store and sought out the refrigerated liquids. Opting for flavor over nutrition, she reached for a sweet bottle of soda. The particular brand was bright and flashy with its strategic marketing contest. The signs promised that she could win a free vacation. Ayla would have chuckled if she did not find her situation so deplorable. She was promised to lose, nothing more but maybe something less.
She rolled the frosty bottle against her lightly tanned forehead as she walked to the cashier. Her head swung in a different direction as she heard that laugh. That giggle. She grimaced. Malisha Druming had entered the store with two of her friends. They were laughing loudly about some dumb joke, no doubt . . . if Ayla dared to call that a laugh. Train wheels screeching against railroad tracks sounded more musical and jolly than that beauty queen's howling guffawing. At least, Ayla thought so.
As soon as she paid for her drink, she smiled at the cashier and said her thanks. Before she exited the air-conditioned building, she popped off the cap and took a swig of the sweet, cold, and burning carbonated beverage. She did not even try to contain her grateful sigh.
A bead of sweat had accumulated at the top of her head and slowly began to make its journey down. She lifted her arm and used the side of her hand to wipe the fluid away. As she did, her hazel eyes involuntarily rose to the lid being held in her hand.
"You're a Winner!" it proclaimed. Stunned, Ayla unblinkingly brought the lid directly in front of her prominent eyes. Everything seemed to have frozen except for the thoughts racing through her mind at an undoubtedly unlawful speed.
"Oh my God. I think I won. I . . . I think I actually won for a change," she thought.
Yes, Ayla's potty poor luck appeared to have finally turned around.
"OH MY GOD!" a loud voice screeched.
Abruptly broken away from her shock-induced trance, Ayla turned to see Malisha holding a similar bottle in one of her dainty hands and a similar looking cap held in the other.
"I WON! OH MY GOD! I WON!" the girl yelled as she stared at the object before her eyes.
And then came the screaming.
First, it was just Malisha, but then her friends joined in. Again time stood still for everything except the screaming sound waves that crashed against Ayla's eardrums like a tsunami. Before any more damage could be done, she hustled out through the grocery door. Her long, dark brown hair was waving out behind her like a sarcastic goodbye.
Ayla squinted her almond shaped eyes and berated herself ruthlessly. She had hoped. Honest to God, she had hoped. She thought her luck was changing. Despite eighteen years of getting her butt kicked by life, she thought she had won a fortunate trip. Yet fate was not going to let her go easily. Any dreams Ayla had of freedom or escape, of a journey in self-discovery would be overshadowed by the powdered presence of the one and only Miss Malisha Druming.
Perhaps nothing significant in her world had shifted after all.