The exchange was supposed to be clean. Having won the lottery, a whopping $6 million jackpot, she couldn’t believe it. Despite all the hardships she had endured, the cold, hungry nights, and the numerous evictions by her landlords, this was the outcome of everything she had gone through.
With her daughter in tow, she boarded the first bus into the city that morning.
However, she had no idea what was waiting for her at the end of that road.
Sarah Stewart’s last hope was to buy those lottery tickets. Desperation had driven her to this, even though she didn’t think it would work.
After taking her last fifty dollars, the thirty-five-year-old mother walked down to the corner store. She told herself that life could not get any worse.
Now was the time for God to show her a sign that He was watching over her and her daughter.
Having grown up in Polson, Montana, Sarah was accustomed to small-town life. Her daughter and she were struggling to make ends meet after a harrowing past that saw her divorce her husband of three years.
However, she had been having a hard time lately. She had been laid off from her job due to downsizing and was scouring her town for employment.
Her situation appeared to be at its worst, but it only worsened from there.
Bills Began Piling
Her bills began piling up, including rent, water, electricity, and internet services. Within a short period of time, she and her daughter, Melissa, moved into a motel.
However, the rabbit hole continued to deepen. Almost all of her life savings had been depleted, which were being used to sustain the two of them. Most odd jobs were completely saturated with people trying to make ends meet, and companies were not hiring.
However, it did not end there.
Sarah considered taking out a loan. Her daughter had been seeing a physical therapist for joint pains, and she desperately needed the cash. Additionally, she needed to meet their basic needs.
Initially, the loans worked, and Sarah believed that her financial situation would improve.
However, she would soon realize that she had made an extremely costly mistake.
After seeing her financial statements and all the loans trailing her name, Sarah realized she’d made a mistake. Her debts were crippling, and she had no cash in the bank.
Banks and loan companies took whatever little she had left, including her car. Due to their default on her accounts, other loan companies refused to help her.
They had reached the end of the road.
Sarah held the fifty dollars in her hands as she stood in front of the corner store. She was wearing dirty clothes, and her five-year-old daughter was clinging desperately to her dress.
“Everything will be fine, mommy,” she whispered into the cold evening breeze. Even she was aware that things were not going as planned.
It was hard for her to believe her, but in her mind, this was their last chance.
In an attempt to comfort Melissa, she caressed her head as if to tell her that everything would be fine. Fifty dollars stood between them and utter poverty, and they were on the verge of crossing it.
In the past two days, Sarah had been going without food and giving Melissa all of her portion during that time.
In the middle of buying her last round of groceries, she had an idea.
Sarah and Melissa entered the store, their eyes fixed on the hot dog stand next to the counter. There was a three-dollar charge per dog, which was too expensive at the moment. However, Melissa’s eyes were so hopeful as she stared at them that Sarah was moved to step up to the counter.
She called out, “One hot dog, please.” before sliding her money across the desk. Although her stomach grumbled at her decision not to buy herself one, she did not allow it to affect her decision.
As she was debating whether or not to purchase some groceries for the household, her eyes caught sight of the lottery tickets.
There were neatly arranged tickets along the glass window between Sarah and the cashier. Each of them was worth two dollars, giving Sarah and Melissa hope for a brighter future.
It was the first time Sarah had ever gambled. In fact, she did not even know how to play poker.
Nevertheless, she wondered for a long time whether God was watching over her and Melissa. Could this be the sign she was seeking?
Let’s Play A Game
She bought five scratch-off lotto tickets, picked up groceries, and returned to her motel. After a quick bowl of ramen soup, she told Melissa they would play a short game before bed.
She laid out the tickets and asked Melissa to pick one. The daughter did, and Sarah scratched the card. The idea was to do this every night until she thought of a way out of this hellish life.
She didn’t know that everything was about to change.
Each night, she’d check her online lottery account as a matter of follow-through. She didn’t expect to win or anything and only needed something to keep her mind rooted in the presence.
You can imagine her surprise when she saw the six million dollar jackpot staring back at her on the second day.
She refreshed the page and fell back when the numbers didn’t disappear.
It was deep in the night when Sarah found out she’d won. She gasped with her fingers over her lips before letting out a scream. Scrambling from her laptop, she called out to Melissa.
Her daughter, asleep beside her, arose to find Sarah pacing all over the room. Every problem she had was suddenly nonexistent, and she was thinking about how she’d put Melissa into an excellent physical therapy program before enrolling her in a fancy private school.
But her dreams would be cut short.
Sarah couldn’t wait for sunrise to come so she could visit the lottery offices. She was a millionaire now, and her life was about to change.
At dawn, she dressed Melissa in her favorite dress and wore one of her remaining work suits. She’d sold the rest to survive the tough days. All set, they hopped into the first bus headed for the city.
They had no idea who was about to beat them to the punch.
A Quick Exchange
The bus dropped Sarah and her daughter at the lottery offices in Missoula, Montana. This was supposed to be a quick exchange. Sarah had already called her bank, informing them of the incoming transaction.
All she needed to do was present her lottery ticket and collect her winnings.
But nothing prepared her for who she saw walking into the head office.
Like Looking Into A Mirror
The woman had the same build as Sarah, short and a little stout, and her strut and how she stood exuded confidence. Her voice was just as smooth, her hair the same blonde hue.
But her clothes were different, more tailored and expensive looking. She had this air of importance about her that made everyone cower from her path.
Everyone except Sarah.
Is This A Nightmare?
Sarah had never believed in the supernatural. She didn’t even believe in science to some extent. But what she’d seen here left her reeling toward the wall.
She rubbed her eyes, watching the woman through the office’s glass walls. Was this one long nightmare slowly unfolding before her?
It was about to rob her of the little sanity she still had left.
Trying To Rationalize It
“Mommy,” Melissa tugged at her dress, pointing at the office. “Look, mommy. It’s you.” That alone was enough to snap Sarah out of her trance.
She didn’t know what was happening here, perhaps identity theft.
But one thing was clear. Whoever was inside the office posing as Sarah was about to claim all her money.
This Is War
Sarah took Melissa by the wrist and cut through the busy office floor. There was no way an identity thief would steal from her while she watched.
She threw caution and etiquette into the wind and shouldered the office door open. Rarely a violent person, even she understood that sometimes people just lost all restraint.
This was war.
These Are Confusing Times
The man inside the office turned to Sarah before facing the woman on the chair. His mouth fell open, his eyes wide as he pointed a trembling finger toward Sarah and the lady.
The woman turned, too, shocked by the commotion. Like the man adjacent to her, her eyes broadened. She pushed back her chair as if to scramble away.
What was happening?
Sarah had expected the woman to sprint for her life after being caught in a lie. But she seemed just as shocked as Sarah was when she first saw her.
Melissa jumped and clapped by her side, shouting, “I have two mommies!”
The woman’s eyes bounced to her, her lips quivering. “What is this?” she asked the man across the table. “What’s happening?”
Her voice was identical to Sarah’s, albeit with a distant British accent. “Somebody talk, or I’ll scream,” she warned. “Somebody say something!”
“Ms. Stewart,” the man called, and Sarah and the woman answered “Yes” quickly. “No,” they both said, pointing at each other before smoothing out their curls simultaneously. The man leaned forward, closing his eyes tightly before opening them.
His brows drew up.
It Gets Even More Confusing
The two women were each called Ms. Stewart, which didn’t make sense. But this was only the beginning of a mind-boggling journey.
“Ms. Sarah,” the man tried to change the name to avoid confusion.
But as before, both Sarah and the woman answered the title. “Are both of you called Sarah Stewart?” he asked with a disbelieving chuckle, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand.
The Confusion Continues
“Yes,” Sarah said at the door, and Sarah in the seat answered the same. “I have two mommies!” Melissa exclaimed.
The man shook his head and pointed at Sarah at the door, “Please don’t tell me you also have a winning lottery ticket.”
“I do,” Sarah said, holding Melissa back. “Six million dollars. I’ll be damned if someone else takes it from me.”
The woman faced her before standing.
The power she’d exuded while walking into this office suddenly returned, and Sarah found herself inching back.
But the woman presented her own lottery ticket, urging Sarah to take it. “Take a look,” she said. “It’s from last night’s win. I never have and would never steal from someone.”
They’re Both Winners
Sarah’s brows parted, her lips thinning. The ticket was identical to hers, from the winning number to the date sold. “Here’s mine,” Sarah said in a low voice.
The woman took the ticket and studied it carefully before smiling.
“A bit of a conundrum, then, Ms. Stewart?” she asked. “I am Sarah, Sarah Stewart,” she added, and Sarah had to introduce herself too.
Two Winning Tickets
“Sarah Stewart as well,” she said, and as if on cue, Melissa whispered her refrain about having two mommies.
The woman smiled at her and turned to the man, who was still dumbfounded in his seat.
“Two winning tickets by two identical and similarly named ladies,” she said. Sarah was still in shock but needed to be on top of her game to go home with her money.
The Only Way Forward
“What happens now?” she asked. “Two winning tickets. What’s the procedure for that?” “Well, usually, we would split it down the middle, giving both tickets half the amount.
But this is a special case. Are you two identical twins by any chance?” he asked. Sarah had considered the possibility.
But it didn’t make any sense.
She had grown up a single child in a small family. She’d also been very close to her mom, who would have told her if she had a twin sister somewhere in the world.
There was also no way her ‘twin’ would have the same name as her. What made it even more confusing was that they’d bought identical lottery tickets and won the same lottery.
But there was still more confusion to come.
So Close, Yet So Far
“I’m confident we can split the prize,” the man said. But the other Sarah’s face fell. “Sir, I came here for six million dollars,” she said. “I won’t leave with anything less.”
“Well, neither will I,” Sarah exclaimed beside her. She had no idea the woman had enough firepower to win this battle. But Sarah had everything riding on this.
She’d prayed for this blessing and wasn’t about to watch as it slipped from her grasp.
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.