When the alarm went off my hand was asleep so I had to bite the watch till it shut up. Slowly I slid out of my sleeping bag and crept toward the ladder.
The hardwood was cold under my feet. It creaked on my second step. I froze. The light of the moon lit the room. Nothing moved.
Standing on the tips of my toes I creaked toward the board. The characters shone in the pale light. I moved around the table until I got to the box. Reaching in, I grabbed a stack of hundreds then leaned over my spot. My money from earlier was all tucked neatly under the boards edge. I started to slip the hundreds in.
One one hundred.
Two one hundred.
I moved slowly enough there was no crinkle to the paper.
Three one hundred.
I heard a noise and my heart hid below my stomach somewhere.
It was from outside. From the big sliding doors at my back.
It was probably just an animal.
Four one hundred.
What if it was a bear?
Five one hundred.
A giant hairy bear, with claws the size of hockey stick blades–
The door slid open and Auntie Cara gave me a disappointed look.
“That was a quick answer.”
“Why do you have a handful of bills?”
I looked down at them and gave up. “I was cheating.”
“How much did you take?”
She leaned across me and took two hundred from under the board and put it in my hand. “Put it all back and I won’t tell anyone.”
I did it without meeting her eyes.
“Did you really want to win that bad?”
“It’s just a game, Sean.”
“Why are you up so late?”
“Midnight isn’t late to adults.” She rubbed my hair and walked into the kitchen. “What’s your poison? Milk and honey, right?”
We both watched the mug circle in the microwave. Auntie nudged me, “Come on, let’s go out on the porch.”
It was brighter than I thought it’d be outside. The moon was a pebble on the horizon but it’s reflection off the lake lit everything from below. Auntie lazed in her chair like she was tanning.
With big sweeping arms Auntie explained the world. “This! This is what life is all about.”
I looked down at my milk and thought maybe life was pretty awesome.
“Life is more than just …” She crinkled her fingers together, her face crinkled too and made me laugh. “What matters should be more. What matters to you Sean?”
“Winning at monopoly.”
Her eyes were too hard, too smart. I looked at my feet. “No. Showing Dad I can be good at something. Showing Grandpa too.”
Cara smiled and looked back at the lake. She finished her cigarette and tapped it out delicately. “You can go take that 200 and put it back.”
“It’s okay.” My feet were little and blue in the light.
“I won’t tell anyone.”
“I too five hundred.”
I looked to see if she was angry. She was frozen then she blinked.
“Lying is a great sign of maturity,” she said smiling and shaking her head at the lake. After a while, when I was done my milk she said, “I hear your dad stiffed you with the loft again.” I nodded. “Come on my room has an extra bed.”
“You don’t want the bed?”
“You cough too much.”
She smiled but I felt bad and went inside. On the way back to the loft I took Mom’s fifties and put them in Nana’s pile.