Initially inspired by a white T-shirt with the design of a single spade on it. Plot hatched after careful contemplation of said issue, and several rounds of bridge.
(Note: Tricks here are referred to as sets, since that's what everyone around me calls them. Also, in my experience, the norm is that nobody bids five or higher unless one has a really royal flush, or a couple of screws loose.)
Ace of Spades
The games room was deserted, save for the four of us. I glanced over at the unoccupied tables and chairs, and wondered why we were all sitting on the floor instead.
I didn't want to read too much into it.
Adrien groaned and stretched. Damien couldn't stop yawning. "We should've brought plastic cards," he sighed. "At least they won't get all . . . soggy."
"Of course! And they're my cards!" Damien shook his head, rearranging his hand into their respective suits. "I can't believe we've been playing bridge for the whole day . . ."
"Then we'll make this the last round. It's getting late anyway."
"My sentiments exactly! Not a bad mind-reader, aren't you, Spade?" Damien gave me a wicked smile. "But too bad you've lost — five times in a row!"
This time Adrien yawned. "Shut your trap already, Damien. I'm tired! Let's just finish off this game so we can go home . . . Someone start bidding!"
I stared at my hand. Four Clubs, four Diamonds, four Hearts, one Ace of Spades. Which meant two things: I had exactly four points, and there was no way I could bid for any suit.
Behind my cards I could sense something trying to penetrate through them to me. Relm, sitting directly opposite me, had his eyes fixed intently on mine; hesitantly I looked away.
Adrien blinked at his set. "Two Diamonds," he drawled.
I sighed, and passed my turn.
"Two Spades." I sensed that Relm hadn't looked away ever since his first bid, and it triggered off a slight chill down my spine. I didn't want to read into that, either.
"So fast?" Pause. "Three . . . Diamonds."
"Man, my cards suck!" Damien slapped his forehead, and cursed rapidly under his breath. "Pass!"
His voice was particularly calm and unhurried as he spoke, but the last word sounded particularly odd. It was almost . . .
. . . almost as if he was directly addressing me.
It was as if my entire self was swallowed, and slowly savoured, by an invisible force that worked against the laws of nature. I tried as best I could to shake off that feeling.
Yet I could not ignore the mystic amethyst that glowed in his eyes — the eyes that haunted me as I nervously inspected my cards, the eyes that cornered me in a tight cuboid, and spared me only a few mere inches for movement.
I reverted my gaze to the Ace of Spades, the rightmost card in my hands.
"I can't play Spades!" Adrien moaned. "Four Diamond —"
"Four Spades." The liquid purple in Relm's eyes continued to swirl.
The bidding twin counted his cards — presumably the number of Diamonds he had. I shifted nervously, hoping he would hurry up and let us finish this last game as quickly as possible — I wanted to leave.
Adrien took a deep breath. "Okay then. Since there's no money involved . . . here goes: f —"
The silence was undeniably deafening, and I didn't like it. I didn't like it at all. Say something, I pleaded silently, struggling to concentrate on my hand and nothing beyond it. Somebody please say something.
"Downright Crazy, with a capital C!"
"Stark raving mad." Damien shook his head slowly.
"How many Spades do you have there, Relm?" Adrien demanded, then hissed angrily to himself, albeit a little too loudly: "I don't have a single one!"
He said nothing. But I knew what card he was going to call for. There was no other choice. And his partner was —
"Ace of Spades."
Adrien slowly laid down the Ace of Diamonds. The rest of us simply put down trash cards of the same suit — no false alarm. I didn't want to know how he would manage to win two more sets.
Surprisingly, the next one was the Queen of Diamonds.
"A costly move," Relm murmured, coolly placing a King to complete his first set of quadruple red. With a similar nonchalance he put out a two of Hearts, and Damien triumphantly slapped down the Ace of Hearts. I stared as he swept away the twins' second set.
One more. They need just one more set to win! How can Relm be so certain?
"Game over, people." Swiftly he laid out the King of Hearts, expecting to emerge victorious in one of the most ludicrous games alive.
But the next card to be out was a three of Spades.
Damien stared. Adrien gaped, his mouth opening and closing like a confused goldfish. I was just speechless.
No wonder he's so bent on Spades, I thought.
"Out-trump that, Adrien!" Damien commanded, jabbing a finger at the black card.
Adrien limply put down a five of Hearts. "I can't," he said, rather painfully.
I stared across as I gave up another Heart. Exactly how many Spades do you have? Must you really break trump so early?
. . . Or do you have another reason for calling for Spades?
He kept on smiling, pure enigma hidden behind that unflustered face of his. "This is my reason," he replied — to my unspoken train of thoughts — as he displayed the rest of his cards: all Spades, black and white, five through King.
I didn't believe in coincidence.
But there they were — all nine cards, glowing under the fluorescent lights as if they spelled the end of the game. And they did.
"What the —"
"You have . . . ten Spades?"
"What the —"
"I don't believe this." Adrien was shaking his head in denial, his eyes fixed upon the other Spades. "Who the hell shuffled these cards?!"
Damien closed his eyes. "I did," he mumbled.
Adrien slapped the rest of his hand hard onto the floor and stood up, grabbing his jacket. "This is ridiculous. I'm leaving. It's bloody late, and we lost." He glared at Damien. "All because of you. Come on!"
I watched mutely as the twins left — Adrien without so much as a wave or a grunt, Damien without collecting back his deck — and the door slammed shut. I tried not to read into the fact that it locked automatically right after that, but I didn't want to be rude.
My gaze reverted to the spread of cards on the floors once more. Five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, Jack, Queen, King — that makes nine sets. Add the two previous sets, and that means . . .
". . . we won?" I asked, a little too faintly,
Relm was standing on his knees, his arms placed casually on his lap, looking on with slight amusement as I glimpsed at him for an answer. "In case you haven't realised," he merely said, a teasing smirk playing across his face.
Somehow I felt myself sinking, drowning in those two pools of liquefied purple gold — those eyes of his that seemed to be shimmering with an undesired invitation, glowing with an unknown motive. I forced myself to look away, and instead at the white top he wore, underneath an unbuttoned black shirt: ruffled creases, half hidden in shadow, that shifted in the light. But I had already sent the wrong message.
And he had received it.
"I mean . . ." I spluttered, the moment he slid one knee marginally forward. "How can we — I mean you — possibly win just like that?" I started to edge my way backwards, slowly, nervously. "And I . . . I didn't even get to . . . help in any way . . ."
My dread was overwhelming. I glanced briefly behind me — the wall was less than a metre away. But he simply advanced, slowly but surely, crouching slightly, as if in wait for one final strike.
"Anything is possible, Spade." His voice dropped to a low whisper, and his hand reached for the rightmost card in my hand that I was still holding on to, revealing the Ace of Spades as it touched the floor. "And I didn't win it alone. You're my partner, aren't you?"
"Were," I corrected, perhaps a little too hastily.
He paused just then, cocking his head deliberately to one side. "Were?" he asked softly; then in one swift motion he reached for my wrist. I yanked it away before he could get a grasp of it, but his other hand deftly grabbed my other arm, and I lost my balance. In the rain of cards that scattered down as he made his move my body crashed onto the floor, the tiles hard and icy against my skin.
I struggled, but in a flash he managed to pin me down by the other arm, and I was trapped. My eyes squeezed shut, but I couldn't get rid of the warm reminder of him that trapped my wrists against the floor, and the silhouette that contrasted the glare of the light even from beyond my eyelids. Desperately I turned my face to the side, one cheek against the floor — but not remembering that the other was turned right up to him.
"I . . . why . . ." Why are you doing this? Why me, of all people? Why? But I was weak. "Why . . ." I heard myself gasp, "why did you bid for five Spades when you . . . when you could've gone for no-trump?"
I was weak.
I knew the answer to my own question, but I didn't want to hear it.
"You know what cards I've got." I could feel his temperature nearing my face, his rugged breath jolting my senses. "Ten Spades. Ten. Doesn't it make sense to bid for that suit?"
A warm, fleeting breath caressed by my ear, and I shuddered, helpless. He had ventured too close, far too close for comfort, for privacy. But there was nothing I could do, nothing to keep him away. At the back of my mind a little voice tugged and nagged, whispering sweet nothings, abolishing my resistance to this unsolicited invasion of his, fraction by fraction.
I was losing the fight.
"And furthermore . . ." His left hand slipped away from my right, but I had lost all control to it: I did not retaliate. "You wielded the Ace of Spades. The one and only trump card in this game."
My left cheek gained a little more coolness, and I opened my eyes slightly, only to see the card he was holding near my eyes — the one card I shouldn't have had, for all the complications it brought.
"But I . . . I didn't even use it," I whispered, an unfathomable fear stifling deep inside my throat.
"You didn't have to." His face crept closer once more, and out of the corner of my eyes I saw the glittering amethyst in his eyes again, this time swirling with a new shade of dark desire I wished I wasn't part of. "I just needed one Spade to help me win the game. Just one."
My vision clouded over with warm tears in all the tension and apprehension, but I dared not shut my eyes, for fear that he would do something else while I was at it. His right hand shifted, from my wrist down my arm, to the nook of my shoulder that led to my bare neck. With every stroke of his fingers my skin burned, and all I could do was to hold back my breaths in vain — which merely ended up as low whimpers that spurred him on, that aroused him to go further.
"One . . ." My thoughts matched my words no more. ". . . Ace of Spades?"
His hand left my neck for somewhere else, and a hot breath replaced where it had just been. "One Spade . . . You know what Spade I'm talking about." The intricately designed Spade symbol on the card swam about psychedelically before my eyes as he continued holding it.
And then I saw it no more — his left hand developed a mind of its own and gave room for more exploration, and I finally succumbed, with one last desperate cry, to the sweet offerings of his, to the point of no return.