A Sure Bet
Briana and I let ourselves into the apartment without knocking. They knew we were coming and we could already hear the murmur of voices and music from hallway.
"Sup bitches." I announce loudly as we step into the entryway.
"Eyyyy!" I hear the boys call back.
Briana just smiles and rolls her eyes. We kick off our shoes and make our way down the short hall to the attached kitchen and living room area. The girls were lounging in the living room as the guys sat around the big kitchen table already set up for the poker game. Poker night had become a monthly tradition among our group for a couple years now, stretching back into our senior year of high school. Now that we had moved on in our separate directions, some of us going to college and others diving straight into the job market, this get together had evolved into the one real connection we all still shared. A time to reconnect and shoot the breeze.
For Briana and I it was also a welcome reminder of the days when she was the head cheerleader and I the star quarterback, when we still felt like the blonde haired blue eyed king and queen of our little world. The two years since graduation had been humbling for the pair of us. I was still playing ball for my college but mostly I rode the bench as the third stringer and Briana hadn't even been accepted to a university after her abysmal final year of school that saw her just barely graduate. Currently she was working as a hairdresser as she worked on her beautician's certificate. But on these nights we all settled into our old roles, with Bri and I as the undisputed alpha couple of the group.
Briana gives the boys a cursory wave before hurrying to gossip with the gals, a glass of chardonnay was already poured and waiting for her. Jasmine, Alexis, and Camila greet her excitedly and the four of them begin to chat in that nonstop way women had.
As I turn my attention to the kitchen I immediately notice a new addition to our party. There was Mikey, Trevon, and Ethan as always but there was also a face I hadn't seen in a long time.
I point to the pencil neck nerd sitting against far wall. "What the hell is he doing here?" I half laugh as I look at my grade school victim, the boy I used to bully unmercifully all through our youth. "Get lost on the way to the dork convention Arthur?"
His eyes lower and he shrinks in his seat like the pathetic beta boy he always was. Two years hadn't done much for him. He was still scrawny and awkward with thick glasses, a bad haircut and a fashion sense borrowed from the 1970's.
"Dude." Mikey says. "Grow up. This isn't school anymore."
I laugh. "Well what's he doing here?"
"He's my roomie." Mike says. "I told you I got a roommate."
"You didn't tell me it was...him." I don't even disguise the derision in my voice.
"He's quiet, he pays his bills on time, and he's not so bad once you get to know him." Mike says.
"M-my Mom said it would be g-good if I got out of the house." Arthur offers unasked.
There is a moment of silence before snickers start up around the kitchen. "Your Mom!? Ha ha ha ha!" I tease. "Does she still come over to tuck you in?"
Ethan nudges my leg. "When Mikey invited him to game night he thought we were playing Dungeons and Dragons." Ethan, Trevon, and I share a good chuckle over that.
"I should...go." He mumbles as he attempts to slide from his chair.
Mikey plants him down with a hand to the shoulder. "No way! This is your place too." Mike looks back at me. "He's playing. Okay? Can you be cool?"
I hold up my hands. "Okay, okay. Calm down." I then smirk to the others. "A bigger pot means more money for me."
To this they groan in unison. Another reason I held such a prestigious reputation in this group was that I was, by far, the best poker player among us and oh how I lorded it over them. I didn't win every time of course but over the years my winnings probably equaled the rest of theirs combined.
I grab myself a beer from the fridge then I move around to my usual spot in the corner. Pulling from my pocket my wad for the night I slap the two hundred dollars in small bills on the table. "Whose dealin?" Before anyone can answer I motion over toward the very uncomfortable looking Arthur. "Art is a newcomer, what say we let him get the ball rolling."
The rest of them shrug and nod as they bring out their starting money. The deck is slid over to Arthur who stares down at it as if he were afraid to touch it.
"You do know how to play, don't you?" I prod.
"Travis!" Mike says with a hard look.
I just chuckle.
Arthur clears his throat and very reluctantly pulls out his 200 bucks and places it neatly on the table in front of him. "I, uh, I've played online. Not so much...like this."
"Same thing." Ethan says.
"Nah." I reply. "We still play baby rules, these pussies don't want to learn anything else." To this there are a series of hisses and jeers. "Five card draw. One dollar ante for the first hour, five dollar for the second if we get that far."
He nods and reaches for the deck with a trembling hand. As the game hadn't started yet I don't bother to hid the big confident grin that grows across my face. Oh, this was going to be fun.
His grey eyes dart around to the rest of us then starts to shuffle. On the very first pull of the cards half of them spill out of his hands and scatter out across the table. Even Mikey joins us this time as we laugh at the hopelessly dorky Arthur. This was going to be VERY fun!