A Slip of the Hand
It was hazily lit; gilded gold and all shattered diamond shards. An understated sort of establishment, if you will – idle pleasures like heavy, velvet brocaded curtains. A classically styled hung equidistant, gleaming smugly with vanity.
It was in the back right-hand corner where lacquered mahogany ran amok, polished with a chocolate sheen, amidst darkening oil paintings with haunting eyes. Wayward chairs lay discarded, their legs akimbo. Cards are war, in disguise of a sport; five players, five cards apiece, one game – poker.
■ ■ ■
A hand that consists of two pairs of matching cards.
He had a pair of Queen and Jack of hearts; his hand wasn't the highest, or the most accommodating, but it would have to do. The two of them, his wife, with her gold, gold hair and soft brown eyes, and his daughter, her amicable persona, her diamond eyes, wide green shards - so similar to his own. They were his sole possessions – he'd do it for them, he'd raise it, and he'd win.
It was the least he could do.
■ ■ ■
A hand with five sequential cards.
His hopes were sky-high, soaring, wings slicing the air effortlessly and wind rushing in their ears. "Watch out, Icarus. You're too close to the sun, with your dreaming," she'd laugh teasingly.
He got scorched; the heat was tangible, searing his flesh; his high card, his Queen of Hearts, was no match for his opponent's hand. He'd assumed the role of Orpheus now: in his anxiety, he glanced back, aching for a fleeting glimpse, and he'd lost her – his Eurydice, his wife.
■ ■ ■
Three of a Kind
A hand with three matching cards.
It was futile, this mêlée. He'd almost relented, he had to consider his role as a father, as a provider. Daddy's little girl, motherless and alone. So he upped the ante.
She'd offered, the one with cold eyes; fathomless, like the night, and he consented; her emotions were ominously hidden, her saccharine smile, her facade perfectly in place – if only he'd realised. His pair was no match for her three of a kind – Queens, two of them black.
It was cliché, but he came to realise that her winning Queens were just as black, as callous as her heart. Her bellicose persona, her poisoned tongue, sullied his household, tainted him. He took a leaf out of their book – the countless others: Romeo, Tristan and Orpheus. He picked the lock of his mortal prison, he reunited with his seraph of glossamer hair.
A new player. Her pale hair, her glittering eyes all hung with jewels. She was confident, determined, like a phenomena.
The atmosphere had changed now, she reflected, flicking her cigarette into the ash tray. Akin to her Step-Sisters arriving at a party – the collective groan of the attendees? No, not that – it was ablaze, aflame, her head hummed – it was singing in her blood. This was the night. She had her lucky ribbons; as childish as it may have sounded, she faintly remembered the smell of lavender, soft hands entwining themselves in her lengthy hair, and a fervent smile. Her mother, if she could see her now, wouldn't have been proud, but it was never meant to be like this.
She was so close, teetering over the edge, she could do this. She'd win just like her Daddy taught her to.
■ ■ ■
The fourth of five cards dealt to the board; constituting one face-up card that each of the players in the game can use to make up their final hand.
" Draw one, " drawled the dealer.
She had a two doubles – undoubtedly advantageous. She was taciturn, withdrawn – a ghost player – the least noticed out of those partaking.
She glanced at the board, beaming internally; the coincidence of a joker being picked up during the turn was extraordinary. She could've sworn that his ink-and-paper smirk extended into a bright grin when placed in her palm; his reedy little voice sailed through her mind. 'You only have until twelve before they get home. I'm here to help you. Take the risk!' He cajoled.
Perhaps she was being quixotic about the whole matter. She thought that if his arms spread just a tad, they'd be wing-like, and match his ethereal features. A fairy. A Fairy Godmother.
■ ■ ■
A hand with three matching cards of one rank, plus two matching cards of another rank.
She nodded, reticent, staring blankly for a few moments, before sliding the entirety of her chips into the middle. "All in," she spoke, reticent. The words were heavy on her tongue, like dullen wine we pour unto our grief.
She tossed her head; the pervasive cigarette balanced in her slender fingers, and tapped it mid-air, unbeknownst as ashes of silver buried themselves in idle gold-her hair. She smelt of far too much of smoke and cinders.
The final card dealt.
He was watching. He'd always be watching, despite the fact that he had bigger and better things to do – running this place, for instance; surely you couldn't blame him for leaving his tedious paperwork upstairs.
She was new, he gathered. It was evident in the way she sat, her posture stiff, perfect – gamblers have a habit of slouching. He couldn't imagine how she even managed to run in those stilettos, bladelike and sharp edges – oh, of course – she couldn't. She grasped them in her hands now, striding back to her table, undoubtedly about to miss the next round.
In her rush, she'd carelessly dropped a shoe; he bent down to retrieve it, watching in her wake; his new-found treasure clutched firmly in his hands.
A hand which contains A, K, Q, J and 10, all of the same suit.
She had won. It was bliss -candescent dreaming, this victory, this storm. Euphoria, blanketing her with elation, every cell inside her body sang, swooning. She felt oddly drunk, her vision swimming slightly, as if her balance had been misplaced somewhere between birth and learning to walk.
Utterly caught in her victory, she was unaware her Jack of Hearts had disappeared from amidst the flush; the looming shadow was hardly discernable in her seat. A tap on her shoulders quickly resolved her of both issues. She stood quickly, awkwardly with one hand pressing upon the table, and a knee on her chair.
This stranger, he had burning eyes - blue, cerulean, dashes of periwinkle, smudged with azure. In one hand he grasped the card; in the other, he held out a burnished silvery heel, fragile and glass-like.
"I do believe this is yours. I'm charmed to meet you," he grinned sheepishly.
"Of course you are," she shot sarcastically.
He laughed. Here was a girl with blazing eyes and ashen hair, the perfection in imperfection. She was his.
And they all lived happily ever after.
Written for my English Unconventional Short Story. Kudos to Max and Mrs. G for editing it.
Definitions from and Wikipedia.