The Prize - Game night
It was Friday evening, and Dawn had already prepared the pizzas for her husband’s regular poker night with his friends and told him more than once when to put them in the oven and for how long to cook them.
As he set up the table in the dining room ready for the arrival of his five friends she stood in front of him.
“How do I look?” She asked.
He glanced up at her and nodded. “You look great honey.” He replied.
She sighed. “You didn’t even look!” She snapped.
He stood up and looked at her. He nodded.
“I was right, you look great.” He said.
She sighed, it would have to do, and at least he looked at her.
She walked into the hall and checked herself in the mirror.
She wore a knee-length blue dress, the top was fitted and hugged her body, accentuating what curves she had. She stroked her hands over her breasts and smiled. They were still remarkably firm for her age and having breastfed two children. Her hands slid down her body and over her hips, which weren’t that pronounced, and as she turned to the side she slipped her hand behind and smoothed her dress over her small bum.
“Not bad, considering. Pity he doesn’t notice you much anymore.” She sighed.
She heard her taxi pull up outside of the house. She wandered back into the dining room and kissed his cheek.
“Have fun.” She said.
He smiled and nodded at her, “you too. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.”
As she walked away she closed her eyes, “chance would be a fine thing,” She said to herself as she left the house.
The poker evening was the usual mix of serious game-play and friends taking the piss out of each other. The six friends had known each other for years, two of them had grown up together.
Billy was thirty-six and had worked for John for over ten years. Danny was thirty-four and had been with John’s company since the beginning, almost fifteen years ago, he was the company’s first apprentice.
George was one of John’s oldest friends. They had met at school and had been friends ever since, he was the same age as John, forty-eight. Neil, who was a year older than John, was another of his school friends and he had also worked for him a few years ago, and finally, there was Larry, his neighbour.
Larry had been a good friend to them since they moved into the house before the birth of their daughter Caroline, twenty-three-years ago. Larry was fifty-five, and he had lost his wife Debra four years ago to breast cancer. It had been a difficult time for him, his children both lived abroad and Dawn had spent long hours comforting him through the dark times. Due to this Dawn and Larry became very close friends. But he had come through it and was as normal as one could be, having lost the love of his life and best friend.
The six friends always had a good evening together; they drank a lot, laughed and joked, and played some poker. It was a friendly game, but occasionally, things would get a little tense and the stakes would be raised. But, over the years, each of them had come out on top at one point or another. They had been lucky that no matter what, they had always managed to end the game with a nice chat and a drink with no hard feelings between any of them.
That was, until this night.
It had been a good night; the first couple of games had been their usual ten-pound buy-in game with the winner taking the pot. But as the drinks flowed things started to get a little more serious, which wasn’t unheard of but had so far never got out of control.
They started their last game, and as it progressed the atmosphere changed after a couple of big hands and soon there were only two guys left in the game, John and his neighbour, Larry.
The guys were all still sat around the table watching, Neil acted as the dealer as the game headed for its ultimate conclusion, an ‘all-in’ bet from one of the guys.
John picked up his cards for one more look; he held the Ace of hearts and the Jack of clubs. The five cards in the centre of the table were the Ace of spades, the Jack of spades, the Four of spades, Jack of hearts and the Three of spades. He glanced up at Larry, he rarely gave anything away but he was confident that he had him beaten. John nodded.
“I’ve got you, Larry.” He smiled.
Larry stared back at him, his eyes never flinched. John glanced around the table and smiled.
“I think that he’s bluffing guys.” He said though he didn’t sound that sure to some of those looking on.
Larry sighed. “Okay. Then, you know what you have to do.”
John looked at the pile of chips in front of him.
“I know I have him!” He said again.
Larry rolled his eyes.
“I’m so confident.” John insisted with a very serious tone.
George interrupted, “Oh fuck here we go again. Here it comes! We haven’t heard this for a few weeks!” He groaned.
The others all moaned and some threw their hands up. John looked around.
“I’m serious! I can’t lose.”
He pushed his pile of chips into the centre of the table.
“All in, and I’ll sweeten the pot by adding a night with my wife if you win!”
He sat back and smiled. He knew his friends had never dared to call his bet when he brought Dawn into it.
Danny pushed his chair back and stood up.
“Fuck John! Why do you always do this? You have to spoil a good night with this shit! You call all-in with the stupid addition of Dawn, and whoever goes against you folds! You’re such a prick sometimes.”
He walked away and grabbed another bottle of beer from the cooler nearby.
It was true. Now and again John would make this ridiculous bet, and to date, no-one had ever called his bluff.
All eyes returned to Larry, everyone expecting him to fold as they normally always would, John smiled and sat back in his chair.
“Well?” he said confidently.
Larry picked up his cards and looked at them, then looked at the pot again. He raised his eyes to John.
You could have heard a pin drop. Everyone in the room stopped, no-one even breathed for a few seconds. They glanced at each other, had Larry called him? John stared at him, his heart raced, he hadn’t expected that, but still, as he looked at his cards once more, he had a full house. His eyes scanned the table, he frantically tried to work out what Larry might have, but as panic set in he couldn’t concentrate.
“I called John, what have you got?” Larry said calmly.
Billy tried to defuse the situation and started to push John’s chips back to him.
“Guys, come on! We’re all friends here, this is getting silly now.” He said.
The two guys stared intensely at each other.
John sighed and lowered his cards turning them face up.
“Full house, Jacks over aces.” He said, sounding cocky and confident.
All eyes fell on Larry who picked up his cards and flipped them over; he had a Two of spades and the Five of spades. John stared at them, he couldn’t speak.
“Fuck Larry! That’s a straight flush!” George shouted.
Danny stood up and pushed the stake money towards Larry.
“Well done mate. I think we’ll call it a night eh guys?” He said.
The others agreed and began to finish their drinks.
Larry and John stared at each other, John extended his hand towards him, and Larry stared at him, ignoring his gesture with a look of anger hidden behind a solid emotionless stance.
“You’re a prick, John.” He said just before turning abruptly and storming out of the house.
It was a tense end to their evening, and as the guys got into their taxis, George hugged his friend.
“You’re a fucking idiot mate. Let him cool off and I’m sure it’ll all blow over. No-one thought you were serious you know.” He said.
John nodded. He was right, he wasn’t serious, hell; his wife would kill him if she knew that he even fantasised about her with another guy, let alone used her as a stake in a game of poker, like an object one might not care to wager and lose. He never had thought about what she would think, feel or react like if she ever found out he had done such a stupid and insensitive thing. Even in a joking manner.
As he closed the door he leaned his back against it and sighed.
“You are a fucking prick, John!” He said to himself
When Dawn got home she was shocked to find the house empty, as the guys were usually there to greet her. She’d even share a beer and some laughs with them all. Over, the years it had become like a weekly ritual for her, just as John’s poker night with his buddies had become for him. She loved his friends, especially the two school friends of John’s, George and Neil; she felt as though she had grown up with them too, they were like family.
She found John already in bed. She climbed in beside him and nuzzled up to him, feeling horny, an effect of the alcohol combined with the attentiveness of the guys in the bars’ trying to hit on her and her friends. She slid her hand across his belly seductively, in an attempt to signal him she was in the mood, as she kissed the back of his neck.
“Sorry honey. I’ve got an awful fucking headache. That’s why the guys left early.” He lied.
She sighed disappointed, but slid her fingers around and over his brow and massaged it gently, trying to comfort him, as he leaned against her and moaned softly. He’d always enjoyed her touch, and then his mind drifted to thoughts wondering how he could face Larry the next day.
He needn’t have worried. When they woke up in the morning, he looked out of the window next door as he could see the driveway from his bedroom. Much to his surprise, Larry’s car was not in his drive that morning. Dawn noticed it too and commented that he must have left early. She asked John “How is your headache?” while she secretly wondered if there was more to last night that he was letting on to her. He pulled himself together and tried to forget the disastrous and regrettable events of the previous evening and looked forward to putting them right the following Friday when they would get together again.
He got through the day without Dawn noticing his mood. He had checked outside several times during the day but Larry’s car was still not back. As night fell he closed the curtains and glanced to the right, the drive, still empty.
'Where the hell are you?' He wondered.