Poker Face

It's amazing how one experience with one person can changer your future.
It's amazing how you can go from most unpopular to famous.
It's amazing how simple things can stay in your memories forever.

Remember that every action has a consequence.

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3. Chapter 3

Jake's on the door again.
"You're in early." He phrases it as a question and, this time, I surprise him with a reply. 
"Day job closed at lunch." His eyes widen with shock but he recovers quickly with a hasty nod and smile. I stalk past him and notice how all eyes drop to my legs that rarely come out of hiding. When I get to the usual room at the back, I scan the entrance for any possible opponents. I see a man wearing a black hoodie. His face is hidden but I can tell he's new: when you prevent others from seeing you clearly, it usually ends in a paranoia fuelled fight. Luckily, he's tall. That gives him a better chance.

I head into the room and close the door behind me. The guard nods a greeting and I settle into the big chair at the far end of the table. I tuck the money bag between my knees, a tactic I learned a long time ago. Men won't dare attempt to grab it else they could be charged with sexual harassment. Not to mention, theft.

The first group come in and their faces are slowly revealed as they take their seats.
He's probably a cheat.
He's going to try to flirt with me.
He's knows he'll lose.
He thinks he'll win.
And he's the new guy.
Like the others, his shadowed face reveals nothing. 
He pauses. 
He sits. 
I stop breathing.
I feel my mask slip and whispers fill the room as I finally show emotion. A lump forms in my throat and I fight to keep back the tears that threaten to spill. We stare at each other and, when I see the moisture in his eyes, I push away from the table and stumble out the room.

Eyes follow me as I push through the casino, trying to escape the very real smell of Lynx. My vision blurs as I run round the side of the buildings and escape to the space behind the bushes. Tears stream down my face and I have to take big gulping breaths to stop a full blown panic attack. 
He's back. After nineteen years, he's finally back. I just...I can't believe he's back.

I hear my name being called and the sound of his voice gives me a sharp pain in my chest. His footsteps get closer.

I don't understand. He should be moving away. That's how it goes.

I refuse to look at him when he comes round the bush and sits beside me. I sense him watching me and I'm aware of every breath that leaves him. All of it so familiar, even after so long.

"I'm sorry... I should have at least called first." When I say nothing, he sighs but keeps going. "I don't know how you feel about me now but it took me a long time to realise how you felt back then. I tried to forget about you, you know. I couldn't understand why it so hard at first. I tried going out with so many girls even though I meant when I said I wasn't ready."

"One day, I just kind of gave up. I accepted that you'd be in the back of my mind forever and started reading through all our old chats. I kept them all because they made me laugh. I remember you told me you do that to keep you happy. You remember?" Again, I give him no response.

"Anyway, looking at them all together, made me see the message behind them. I figured you liked me at the time and I wanted to see how you doing. If you'd moved on or not. I've spent the last two years trying to find you." This time, I look up. He gives a small smile at the reaction but comment on it like most people would do now.
"So...how did you find me?" My voice sounds hoarse but I couldn't care less.

"I asked your brother but he didn't know where you lived. He suggested asking one of your friends. It took a while and the time I spent looking started quite a few rumours. Finally, I found someone who was still in touch with you and they said you met up here once. It wasn't really enough, though, so I finally decided to ask your mum. She kinda scares me so I didn't go to her at first but I was pretty desperate at this point. She wasn't happy to see me but she said she sent you a birthday card once and that you told her to put a different name on the address. She said she went to that address before and it wasn't yours. She said good luck finding you because you barely talk to anyone now. I can see that's true." He glances my way and I bite my lip in guilt which I used to do before I perfected the poker face.

"So, I typed the name your mum gave me into Google and finally found a gambling forum. That name was mentioned a lot and I made an account so I could see all of it. I asked about you but most of them had only heard of you. Then, one day, someone posted the first online glimpse of this famous female gambler. It was dark but you hadn't changed at all."
"Is that a good thing?" I don't know what I expect but the sincerity in his voice surprises me. 
"Trust me, it's a very good thing..." I see him scan my body in the hungry way most men do and shove him.
"Sorry, I forgot how much I love your figure."

His words paralyze me and he pulls his gaze back up to my face. He realises what he said and looks down in embarassment. Naturally, I lie my head on his shoulder to reassure him and bend my legs up to rest on his. I feel him relax and we stay like that until our chests steady into a synchronised rise and fall. 
Then we fall asleep as if we never parted.

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