Runcible Spoon

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Five Card Trick

 

       “This is cosy, isn’t it?” Vivienne said loudly after her usual flamboyant entrance . “It’s a bit like sitting around a camp fire.”

 

       She said this to try and break the ice with the other two women. They murmured vague agreement. She decided to be more direct: “I’m Vivienne by the way.”

 

       “Hi, I’m Candy,” said the one to her left on the two-seater sofa. She sounded American. While her shape looked good in her cocktail dress her long blonde hair and pretty face was generic cheerleader. Nature had been enhanced by silicon in both lips and boobs. Large whitened teeth in a big lipstick smile completed her.

 

       “Moira,” said the woman opposite Vivienne, who sat in the twin of the fine grey fabric and high-backed armchair she herself occupied alongside the open wood fire.

“Good to meet you both,” Vivienne smiled back. It generated nothing in return. Pale, thin Moira with long straggly and mousy hair looked like her uninspiring dress might fall from her any second.

 

       The log fire crackled inside a large granite fireplace that rested at shoulder height as they sat in this dark and brooding house. Wood was piled in an alcove below ready to feed the flames. It was clearly an original feature in what they were told was an old mill, the location several kilometres outside Paris.

 

       Their husbands had just walked through a doorway, its oak panelled door now closed, along with another man introduced simply as Lee. Their purpose was to play a high stakes poker game; the ladies meanwhile would be made comfortable. It was an illegal game but nothing had been said about this. A muscular flunky stood outside the door while another served drinks and snacks. They had not been informed who owned the house or who had arranged the game were as vague as what lay behind the dim lighting and candlelight.

 

        “Sandwiches! Goody! I’m famished,” said Vivienne, still hoping for some kind of response from Candy and Moira. She took a generous selection of the small crust less sandwiches onto a side plate, then munched and thought: damn them, I’m going to have a good feed.

 

       The others took smaller amounts on their plates. Vivienne considered that she was a real woman, with nothing being added or dropped from what she was. Okay, she was maybe a little bit over on the scales but her husband liked what she had; built for comfort, not for speed, was the phrase that made her giggle when they made love. He was rich and she knew this poker game was going to take a good slice from him.  Candy and Moira seemed to be less aware of what was happening, as their husbands, equally rich, followed their passion, their addiction.

 

       “Is there anything to drink, monsieur?” Vivienne asked serving flunky.

A wide range of alcoholic and soft drinks were reeled off.

 

       “I’ll have some cognac,” said Vivienne. “Ladies?”

 

       She was pleasantly surprised that they agreed to have the same. It was a false dawn. Candy and Moira each took a sip from their glasses, coughed, grimaced in unison, laid their glasses on the coffee table and sat back again. Vivienne drank her cognac like welcome medicine. Serving flunky poured her another, more generous amount from the cognac bottle. Vivienne watched as its amber liquid glittered in the firelight.

 

       “Can you guys keep a secret?” she asked after a long silence. The two women nodded an emphatic yes at the prospect of intrigue. “I’m having an affair with the man who is playing poker with our husbands.”

 

       Vivienne paused to polish off her cognac, refilled unasked by serving flunky. The guys were interested to hear too. Let them. After a sip from the refilled glass she continued:”His full name is Lee Stryker and he is a professional card player. Our husbands are going to lose money tonight. Let’s face it they can afford to lose. And they will lose, as Lee is going to deploy his five card trick. He told me all about it in bed after we made love. He showed me how the cards work and he has an excellent mathematical mind, especially if you want to work out the probability of who has what cards. His favourite way is when he puts an arm around me and lays out the cards on my breasts while whispers in my ears.”

 

       “How long have you been together?” asked Candy, with a big beam smile that could mean anything; she might even be about to chop you up with a meat cleaver.

 

       Vivienne had serving flunky pour another drink before she answered:”We’ve been together six glorious months in all the different hotel rooms you could ever imagine. We’re going away together after this game with the winnings to stake us.”

After a further sip of cognac Vivienne slid back in the comfortable armchair and fell asleep lulled by the crackle of the fire. She snored quietly as the other two women sat in silence. She dreamt of meat cleavers, playing cards on her breasts and blood, so much blood.

 

       The sound of a door opening, the smells of cigar smoke and jovial male voices woke Vivienne. The game was over. As predicted, Lee appeared with a visible bulge in his inside suit jacket pocket. His big brown eyes gave Vivienne a smouldering look, his lips had a knowing smile that Candy and Moira noticed.

 

       Coats were fetched, put on and pleasant good nights made. Vivienne hoped Candy and Moira and the ‘guys’ had enjoyed her fireside tale. Calling something a story can spoil the effect. Calling it true has a totally different impact. Had it enlivened their evening? She nearly hoped her imaginary affair with Lee the professional card sharp was true. She smiled inside at her daring. He would have lost money, but she still had him.