The Gods hated Jared. In the grand scheme of the universe, they saw fit to curse him.
“Why? Why me?” Jared would despair, time and time again. Perhaps he unknowingly offended a descendant. Maybe they hated the sound of his voice. He could have stepped on the wrong worm. Not that Jared goes around purposely stepping on worms. We all know how the ground turns into a minefield after a hard rain. Despite one's best step, things just happen. Things just kept happening to Jared.
Despite his best efforts, Jared's luck was running out. Jared had often wondered if he even had any to begin with. He never thought of himself as the superstitious type. He was a practical, feet on the ground, head forward kind of man. After these last several months, Jared found himself wishing on every star, pinching salt over his shoulder, and carrying around a rabbit's foot that he had once been gifted, and surprisingly, had not thrown out. All in the hope that his luck would change for the better.
He even bought himself Lucky Bamboo and a Maneri Neko, a lucky cat statue. He later found out, they are only lucky if you've been gifted them by someone else. So he gifted the plant and the statue to his boss... ex-boss's... six-year-old daughter.
The one he accidentally backed into with his car.
It was this incident that sent Jared down the slippery slide of unlucky happenstances.
“Quit your moping, will you? Positivity only today!” Susan's voice was laced with stern optimism.
Positivity, that was a hard concept for Jared.
“You should've just left me at your house. I'll only bring you down.” Whatever optimism Jared may have held had long turned into hard pessimism.
“Hush now. My home is your home for as long as you want or need it.” Susan sighed while putting the car in park. Want it and need it, he did. He was grateful for Susan and the warm safety she provided but it wasn't his home. Jared pondered the thought if he ever actually had one, a home. He could’ve had one, but that went up in flames.
“It's been so long since I felt any desire or motivation for anything. So I'll have no negativity, not when I'm feeling lucky.” Her motherly warm brown eyes gave him a warning. She wasn't his mother, but in her opinion, she was as good as. Having grown up the best friend to her son, Jared had been there when Cole got married then moved away, and when her husband died. He saw Susan’s spark for life diminish over time. Which is why he couldn't help but feel like he was taking advantage of a lonely old lady. He had no money for food, no money for rent, nothing at all to give. It's not like he hasn't tried, but it's hard to move forward with a black mark casted on him. By the Gods and his ex-boss.
The diminishing spark flourished brightly as Susan bounced in step toward the building. He nodded with a small smile as he followed her into the casino. His life was Murphy's law. Being in a casino was the last place for him to be. For Susan, he would stay.
He just hoped her luck was better than his.
Smoke drifted and danced to spinning bells and blaring sirens. Chimes rang out as fortunes were won. Groans and curses could be heard as fortunes were lost. The familiar scent of cigars and cigarettes perfumed the air as Susan trotted along the recently forgotten path.
Each step further into the folds of the casino, memories flowed in. The joyful rush of her weekly visits faded when her husband died. Granted, she no longer had much joy for anything in her life. For two years, happiness faded as her loneliness grew. When she found out that her son's best friend's home laid in a pile of ash it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Although her funds weren't exactly unlimited, she at least had some. She was feeling lucky. In that luck, she hoped to pay back in kind what he gave to her.
Jared followed Susan as she obviously knew where she was going. In no time she had gotten them set up in the bingo hall in front of a couple of screens.
Jared felt this was a waste of time and money. Even if he managed to win something, it wouldn't change the circumstances in his life. Each day, there was always something to make him miserable. The most recent misery was his former landlords blaming him for the fire. It wasn't his fault the dryer went up in smoke.
Still, Susan had taken him in and asked for nothing. He gave back where he could but he owed her.
Accompanying her through rounds of bingo was the least he could do.
“I haven't done this since my Bill was alive.” A distant sadness etched across her face, memories of her husband. She gently pushed them to the back of her mind so as to not get caught up in the longing and sorrow of missing him. Today was not about sadness.
Jared never saw the point of bingo, even as a child in school. He thought it boring, monotonous. However, for Susan, he’d try his best to at least enjoy himself. The screen held four playing boards that he found difficult to maintain with hundreds of boxes filled with random numbers. Letters and numbers flashed across the screen, one after the other.
A woman’s flat voice droned on, “B 13, B 13.”
No sooner she’d announce one, a new call would come out.
“N 39... N 39... I 22... I 22...”
He barely had one board checked before the next number came rolling across the screen. “How can you keep up,” he groaned in frustration.
“Just click the auto-fill,” Susan informed him like it was an obvious fact.
Round after round, he’d watch the numbers fill in. Four filled boxes—up, diagonal, across but never a fifth box—signifying a bingo. Susan had a few wins here or there. Considering what she spent to play, she’d only break even. Not enough to have a windfall to send Jared's way.
“I need a break!” Jared told Susan. Tired of sitting and almost winning. Always so close, always falling short. A year ago the “Almost” would not have bothered him. But the days of slips and falls, scrapes and bruises, how his shoes always found the deepest puddle had left him sensitive.
“Go, I’ll keep an eye on your screen,” Susan understood. Not everyone had the patience for bingo. She knew some of the best things were worth waiting for.
Jared walked the halls of the casino but was in his own world. He did his best to not feel sorry for himself but he wasn’t doing a very good job at it. When he was a child, his grandma always said, “Everything happens for a reason.”
He just couldn't see it. The reason. But he could see the result.
His ex-boss's daughter, who was left to her own devices, ducked behind his car while he was backing. As a result, he lost his job. It wasn’t his fault that no one was looking after her, but his boss didn’t care.
A clogged dryer vent caused the home he was renting to burn down. To make matters worse his landlords decided to sue him for negligence. Susan was a blessing, but he felt that too would blow up in smoke.
Head sunk in pity as he walked, Jared didn't see the woman with flaming red hair bumping into him.
“Sorry,” he muttered first, thinking he was the one that walked into her. She kept walking without a glance back. Jared's eyes returned to the ground, to continue sulking when he noticed a thick white envelope on the ground. Shock ripped through him as his thumb ran across dozens and dozens of one-hundred-dollar bills. His feet pivoted to look for the woman with the flaming red hair. In the distance, he thought he saw billows of red turning a corner. He took off after her and hoped his balance wouldn't falter.
“Excuse me!” he called out after her. He managed to shorten the distance between them, but she didn't notice him trailing after her.
“Miss!” he called again, closer than before. She turned to him with inquisitive eyes. “You dropped this,” Jared informed her, handing out the filled envelope.
“So I did.” She hesitated a moment before reaching for it. She stared incredulously at him, her hand on the envelope, the envelope in his. “It's all there,” he insisted while fighting the urge to fidget. He wanted to remove his hand but he wanted to make sure the envelope wouldn't drop. She slowly blinked as realization dawned her face.
“I'm sure it is. I'd be lost without it. Thank you…” her voice tapered, brows raised, almost waiting for him.
“Jared,” he blurted, assuming his name is what she was wanting.
“Jared, my lucky charm,” she smiled before walking away.
Lucky charm. “Yeah right,” he chuckled.
He went back to Susan in the bingo hall and chose to not waste another thought on what happened. He found Susan with a happy smile and tears in her eyes. Before he could ask she told him, “Cole just called, I'm going to be a grandmother.”
Her happiness shined bright like a beacon in the dark of night. This is what Susan was needing and he knew it.
“Also, while you were away we both won a few bingos!” She handed him a few vouchers, and found himself shocked at the amount. Of course, he wasn't surprised at all to find out he won while he was away. He took the bad luck with him.
“It's all yours,” she insisted as he tried to hand back the vouchers.
“Susan, no. I can't,” he told her but she wouldn't have it.
“Please, let me help you,” Susan tried to protest.
“You have been, but this, I won’t take from you. Use this money to go visit your first grandchild,” Jared insisted. He wouldn't accept this from her. It wasn't right. He couldn't ask any more of her than for a place to sleep. She would argue with him on this, but she'd do that later.
“We'll table this for now. Let's play a little more. Anything won, You. Will. Keep.” She huffed in defiance. He nodded. He knew it was best not to argue with her.
In the back of the hall the woman with the flaming red hair watched with interest and growing irritation laced with anger. She flitted back through the door, shifting herself to her home realm.
“Your scheme failed.” The God of Circumstance was pleased her attempts to cause good fortune for Jared had failed. Granted her expertise didn't lie in fortune, but in luck rather. She let her fury for the circumstances the God created for Jared flow through her.
“I wouldn't need to scheme if you hadn't felt the need to impede his luck and fortune!” She hated the way he felt the need to control the circumstances of people. Even though as the God of Circumstance, he could, she didn't think it right for him to mess with luck and fortune. Luck is random. Luck is being in the right place at the right moment. It doesn't differentiate and doesn't decide who is deserving or not.
The Lady looked at her mate, the God of Fortune, with equal anger. A finger pointed in his direction, “You let him do this!”
For months she had heard Jared's pleas. She couldn't understand why her God of Fortune would do nothing to intervene. Her mate gulped. He didn't want his Lady angry with him.
“Perhaps it's time to find another to change the circumstances of others.” The mated pair looked at the God responsible for all interactions, all occurrences, and the indirect fate for so many.
“Jared can hold out for a while longer. There are still many he is connected to who need their circumstances changed.” The God was adamant that the misfortunes of Jared were for the greater good.
“That little Girl was sick. Her parents didn't notice and wouldn't have taken her in to be seen. Because of the accident, she had a full work up and they caught it. She will do great things when she grows up. His landlords? They were scamming their renters. Thanks to the fire, an investigation is being conducted. Their scheming will come to an end!” The God of Circumstance explained his justification for Jared’s unfortunate–not so happen–happenstances.
“Find another! You always do!” Her arms crossed in defiance. He stared back unwavering. Not liking the fury of energy between his Lady and his friend, the God of Fortune stepped in front of her.
“How about we settle this with a game? If my Lady wins, you leave Jared alone and allow her to make him lucky. If she loses, she won't interfere in your circumstances for the next decade.” He felt a brief jab of pain as his Lady smacked him on the arm. She didn't like this bet. She wanted to spread her luck to whoever, whenever.
"Fine!” the other God agreed. “What game?” he asked, realizing he should have clarified that first.
"Heads or tails!" the God of Fortune yelled as he flipped the small gold coin in the air.
She did her best to suppress a smile. She was Lady Luck after all.
Jared had long been ready to call it a day. He hoped bingo with Susan wouldn’t become a frequent trip. A loud ringing pierced his consciousness as Jared had zoned out.
“Jared! You won,” Susan ecstatically brought Jared's attention to focus.
“Winner” flashed in big bold letters across the screen. He looked at the boards. There were no down, across, or diagonally filled boxes that signified a bingo.
“Oooh! That's lucky. You got a clover,” Susan explained. Four squares in the top left, top right, bottom left, and bottom right flickered and spun. Lucky, he thought. He hasn't been lucky in so long. He waited, expecting the shoe to drop. That his winning was a mistake. He expected to be tackled at the door to be prevented from leaving with the amount he won.
It wasn't until the next day when he heard his previous landlords were being arrested for fraud that maybe... just maybe his luck was changing.