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The Trillionaire Chapter One: We Don't Need Money Baby

This time last year was just the beginning of things going drastically wrong. Tori had been on the wrong end of luck most of her life, however, with her mother's lung cancer becoming more aggressive by the day, Tori came to terms with knowing that recovery for her was out of reach. Hope gave way to sadness, anger, and eventually numbness when the sight of her whithered mother's face confronted her with each encounter. Her mother had been getting weaker for years, something Tori hadn't understood until she noticed the life fading from he mother's once joyful glow as she grew up in each picture they had taken together. Tori could almost feel the suffering her mother endured on the quietest of nights when only the sound of strained breaths filled their home. Chemo was done, the hospital visits and the doctors who all would give Tori a somber glance when they passed her in the waiting rooms were no more. All recourse and efforts were unsuccessful. Her mother not only accepted this fate, she welcomed the relief of the simplicity of looking out her window waiting to gasp her final breath. This was her end.

When Tori was a child she remembered living in a modest house with a tiny yard, her mother worked nights at a casino in those days. By Tori's middle school years, the two had moved into a studio apartment after her mother's shifts were cut back and she was unable to find steady under-the-table work. Now that Tori was in high school her mother and herself were calling an abandoned trailer their home. Her mother had called it a" squatter's rights move" after a moonlighting nurse alerted them to an elderly woman with no next of kin who had been taken from there to a convalescent home the spring prior and died at that facility. It was for a good cause though, surrounding out-of-pocket costs not covered for a family that was on both welfare and Medicare were a burden all the same. Waiting lists for things like free housing could take years and Tori's mother feared losing custody of her daughter due to her failing health. She was concerned with the state's history of putting children in foster homes with abusive caregivers or equally bad foster siblings. Tori's mother held on as long as she could for her daughter's sake, something Tori witnessed each day.

For a person like Tori, emotional attachment to anything was dangerous. One too many letdowns and a person could become a victim of their misery. She was aware of her innate ability to notice from afar the poison that an individual who succumbed to their vices turned into. It was as if they were screaming behind their very own eyes but never able to stop this fluid-like death from seeping into their every thought, causing a vicious cycle of a slow demise of the spirit. These people walked as zombies through life attacking anyone who hadn't lost their way as they had. This cycle was noticeable to Tori in the people who lived in the trailer park, which over time became the trailer park. An outsider would not be able to distinguish the two, but it was pronounced to those familiar with the environment. Tori thus far considered herself a trailer park resident and not a perpetual inhabitant.

Overall, Tori liked coming home from school to her shanty of a dwelling, even though it was not something she admitted freely. Unlike her former apartment complex, the trailer park offered a multitude of sympathetic neighbors who would look after one another. With each neighbor having their cross to bear, Tori felt at ease with them. On this day when she exited the school bus, Tori could see her mom watching her arrive from the kitchen window. Tori waved to her as she approached their front door. Tori knew that her mom hadn't eaten yesterday due to her medications causing an unfortunate side effect of suppressing her appetite. Instead, her mother watched Tori eat oatmeal before she took a nap on their musty recliner while Tori read her history textbook for a school assignment. When her mother woke up it was sunset, Tori was laying out her clothes by her bed for school the next day. An old fat back TV was on playing an episode of Friends on mute. Tori's mother turned up the volume from her seat. Tori sat on the floor next to her as they watched together. "You know when I was these girls' age, I lived in New York too." Tori listened as her mother continued in her scratchy tone. "My roommate would always tell me we'd get a job and make it big." Tori was familiar with her mother's tales from her youth. According to her mother, she was a model in the city, until her she got pregnant and decided to reform her life for Tori's sake. Tori wasn't sure how much was true and how much was rose-tinted nostalgia if not full-on painkiller-induced rambling. If her mother had been as big in the party scene as she claimed, where were the pictures of her, and where was the money or connections that such a lifestyle came with?

Tori would ask her mom if they could go see any of her old friends when she was little. Her mother would always tell her "We don't need people like that baby." Tori would press her asking why not go to them for help knowing they were not doing well financially, unlike her supposed friends. Her mother would respond with something to the effects of "we don't need money baby, it's more poison than any drug." For a child who had been utterly poor her whole life, it seemed odd that anyone would have that outlook on something so necessary as money. To her mother, the very idea of money was toxic. Other mothers wanted to go window shopping or talk about having nice things in the trailer park. Tori's mother would bring up all of the flaws those images conjured. If Tori pointed out a nice perfume sample in a magazine, her mother would say, that it was harmful chemicals sprayed on paper. If Tori talked about how pretty someone's makeup was, her mother would comment that it caused acne. All the wishes in the world that Tori had were the aversions her mother had to the finer things in life, not that it mattered all that much anymore. Tori's mother was at the last of her days, so Tori tried as best she could be take in every word from the woman. Before Tori went to bed she walked her mother to the toilet one last time for the night because she was unable to stand on her own anymore. Tori felt such loss for so long, it was like she was already gone when she felt the lack of weight an adult woman should have as her mother leaned on her shoulder for balance and laid back on her recliner to sleep. Tori brushed away a tear from her eye out of her mother's sight as she tucked herself into bed her throat choking up.

This day had been scary, it was the last day before Tori's mother was to enter a hospice care facility. In the morning a van would be by to pick her up. There was nothing more to do but to let her go. Tori's mother had insisted that Tori have a normal day like any other. She said that it was important that no matter what happened to her, Tori continue with life as usual. Tori's mother turned down all festivities, saying that she just wanted to spend the last of her days with her daughter in their home together. The arrangements were in order. A social worker had been by to walk Tori through the process of emancipation. Hence the dumpy trailer was a gift from the cancer society to put it officially in their name. A donation that Tori could use until she finished school. The cancer diagnosis was one of many horrors to have to face in a long line of them. To her mother, this was a small victory in a world with so few. She had held on long enough for Tori to be eligible for emancipation by the courts.

Tori never knew her grandmother or other relatives. Her mother had been disowned sometime before she was born. Tori was told that her grandmother was a lawyer's wife and that Tori had an aunt who was a spoiled, petty woman. Tori's mother had gotten too far into the party life in the city and called her mother, Tori's grandmother for help. Only when the woman found out that her daughter a drug addict, she was repulsed and as a result her whole family distanced themselves for fear of a bad image becoming associated with them. Tori didn't even know their names. Tori had asked her mother once if their money would help her get better medical care. Tori's mother took a deep breath and said, she had already asked and they told her "she was getting what she deserved." Tori's mother even produced a few voicemails that said as much. The grandmother's voice was that of a woman with no care for a single other person in the world save herself. Tori's mother also showed Tori the letters from her family, all essentially with the same message, that they wanted no part in her mother's treatment because to them her mother's death was a relief from a social liability. Tori cried saying that she would call and ask for help, that no one could be so merciless. Tori's mother only replied in pure defeat, "It's too late anyway. We don't need money baby."

That was the time as wounding as the moment was, that Tori readied her mother to go and never come back. The hope of her being saved was nonexistent. They hugged each other that last time before the van for the hospice arrived.


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