Any Saturday night in most poker rooms is a busy night but the Saturday night before the main event starts the next Monday was exceptionally busy. There was an amazing array of games spread. Tricia paused to watch a seven card stud table for a while and at first it brought back memories of her youth when her older brother would allow her to play with him and his friends sometimes. They only played for pennies though and these people were playing for far more than that.
As she stood watching she wondered what Andy would think of her here. They were ten years apart and thus had never been terribly close. She had only been nine when her brother had left home. She had only found out in later years what the blow up between him and their parents had been about and since he lived in Texas now she seldom heard from him and had not seen him since he had surprised her by visiting shortly after Matty was born. It occurred to her that she’d probably never even mentioned her new found interest in poker to him in any of the brief notes included with recent birthday or Christmas cards.
A big yawn escaped her, reminding her that she had to be up early in the morning so she moved on in search of Rick. She was about to give up when she found him on a $20/$40 limit hold’em table. He was in a hand when she walked up to the table and smiled in acknowledgement before concentrating on the game. He scooped a pot that had to be well over $300 Tricia estimated and then got up, telling the dealer he was going to take a break and to deal around him.
“You must be out if you’re here now,” Rick said. “I’m sorry.”
She shrugged. “I feel pretty good about it. I was only eight spots out of the money. I was short stacked all day and managed to claw my way along somehow. I went in with the best hand and got outdrawn. There is not much more I can do.”
Rick nodded agreement. “I’m ready for a break, want to take a walk? This is not a great place to try to talk.”
The noise level was high enough that while you didn’t have to shout to be heard you had to speak pretty loud. Tricia quickly agreed to take a walk. She was surprised though when Rick led them all the way out of the casino.
“It’s a nice night and I could use some fresh air. I try to get out of the casino at least once a day.” Rick quipped.
Tricia giggled at that and then said, “I thought you detested limit hold’em?”
Rick shook his head. “I think I said something along the lines of finding $4/$8 limit like watching paint dry. As you’ve found out even there you can make some money. I have enough of a bankroll to be willing to play higher limits. I do usually play no-limit but that game I’m in is a very juicy one. It’s nearly as loose as most $4/$8 games and five times the size. I’m up almost $800, that’s almost $200 an hour for the time I’ve been in it.”
“Wow!” Tricia exclaimed. “That is amazing but I think it would scare me. I know it would.”
“Well one day you’ll be ready for it mentally. You’re already ready for it from a skill sense I think.” Rick told her then said, “You’ve got to be getting to bed soon I guess with the ladies event in the morning huh?”
She nodded apologetically. “I do. I’m sorry. Honest I want to finish what we started. At least I think I do.”
“I’m sorry about the way that turned out. I really think it was just being tired and having a bit too much to drink. If that is why you only think you want to finish then I can say I hope to do better next time.”
Tricia felt herself blushing and was glad the light was not good enough for it to show probably. “I have no problems with that Rick. You made me feel wonderful. I do feel a little guilty I could not do the same for you. I said maybe because I am feeling guilty about it.”
“I may be about to step in it here,” Rick said cautiously, “But I’m going to ask anyway. Are you feeling guilty because you’re married or because Jaime is here?”
The question surprised Tricia at first but it was, she thought, a valid one. She’d told him about her and Jaime after all and now Rick had even started to get to know Jaime some.
Before she could answer Rick went on. “I have to admit that after Friday night and spending all that time with you and Jaime and Kevin at dinner and getting to know him some I’m feeling a little funny about it.”
“Oh?” Tricia was not sure if she was relieved to hear that or not. She felt both relief and disappointment.
“You told me about your affair with him and it’s pretty obvious that you still care about him. He obviously still cares about you. I don’t think I want to get in the middle. I like you a lot and he seems like a nice guy and now with meeting Kevin I’m liable to be around Jaime a fair amount. Can you see what I’m trying to say?”
Tricia had to smile. “Well it sounds like you’re maybe trying to say what Jaime did, that we should just be friends.”
Rick shot her a sharp look. “Jaime told you that you and I should just be friends? Did you tell him about the other night?”
“God no!” Tricia said quickly. “I didn’t mean that at all. I meant he says he and I should just be friends!”
“Oh, Ok.” Rick said. “I’m not much good at relationships. I have been married twice and screwed it up both times. Well I blame myself but friends kept telling me that it wasn’t my fault. Maybe it wasn’t, maybe it was. The bottom line is that it didn’t work. Traveling like I do now is not good for having a steady girl friend.”
“So you just meet some cute lonely young thing and seduce her and then move on,” Tricia said teasingly, hoping her smile would cause him to take it right.
He chuckled, obviously figuring out she was teasing. “Well they’re not all young.”
“Hey buster, you better not be talking about me there.”
Rick laughed. “You can dish it out but not take it?”
She laughed. “I’m allowed to tease you. You’re not allowed to tease back. That is standard women’s rules.”
“I think maybe I see why I couldn’t stay married.”
She chuckled. “Could be.”
“Seriously though I have been pretty happy just traveling around playing poker at the various tournaments. Until recently I wasn’t having all that much success in tournaments although I like them. Cash games are still my bread and butter. I do get lonely sometimes and sometimes I get lucky and meet somebody to spend some time with. I was a little surprised things developed the way they did between us. I really didn’t intend to seduce you.”
“It’s kind of sick but I’m not sure how much you did,” Tricia told him. “Things at home have been almost as bad as when I ended up meeting Jaime online. Then coming here, seeing Jaime and finding out that he wanted to be just friends so that what happened before would not happen again was tough kind of. I guess I’ll consider myself lucky if you don’t think I was using you.”
“That never even entered my mind,” Rick said, sounding surprised.
“It just occurred to me,” Tricia admitted. “Hell I’m all mixed up. For a while I was horny as hell. The longer I’m here the more I just get wrapped up in the poker. I had a blast today and really feel good aboutthe way I did. There has not been too much happen in my life the last couple of years to make me feel that way. Matty is about it and there are times I wonder if I’m even a good parent. I mean I left my child to come play poker, then I end up cheating on my husband again.”
Rick was looking at her in concern. “Tricia I think you’re being way too hard on yourself. You left your child for two weeks and you left him with grandparents who, from what you told me, adore him. You are taking a chance to try out something you like a lot and you’ve found out you can play on a high level.”
Tricia shrugged. “I still feel lousy for cheating on my husband. At least I think I do. On the other hand when I get home I think things will be better if only because I’ll at least be happy. It’s just that I know it’s wrong.”
“It’s not wrong to be happy. Mostly you’ll be happy because you did good playing. If what happened between you and I makes you unhappy I’m sorry. On the other hand if it’s something you needed then maybe it will sort of take an edge off that desire and make things more tolerable at home if you don’t spend all your time wallowing in guilt about it. It’s not like you’re thinking about leaving him for me….are you?”
Tricia laughed before she could stop it. “No Rick. I’m not. Don’t worry I’m not going to tell you that I’ve fallen hopelessly in love with you and want to travel the tournament circuit together.”
He shrugged. “There are worse things but while I don’t know you all that well yet that doesn’t sound like you. For what it’s worth while I guess it would be nice with the right person by my side I mostly like doing it alone. Don’t take that wrong please.”
She smiled at him and shook her head. “I understand. Just being here alone for two weeks has shown me that it would be a kind of nice life maybe. I’m not sure about doing it all the time and I do love Matty and want to be there forhim most of the time anyway so I could never do it.”
“Kids grow up Tricia. You can’t do it now, no. Down the road when he heads off for college things could be different.”
“I can’t think that far ahead,” Tricia said, yawning again. “Crap I keep doing that.”
“It’s late and you have to get up early. You should go to bed. Alone.”
She looked at him for a long moment and nodded. “Tonight I’m going alone. That may not always be the case.”
“And if I’m the lucky one when you’re not alone I’ll be happy.” Rick said. “Now get your butt to bed. I’ll check on you tomorrow. I have a feeling you’ll have several people checking on you.”
“Yeah.” Tricia marveled at that. She’d not been sure what to expect when she planned to come to the event. Nothing like what had happened had been part of what she thought might happen.
Impulsively Tricia flung herself against him, wrapping her arms around him and hugging him tightly. He returned the hug and she felt him kiss her on the top of the head. She stepped back and smiled up at him.
“Thank you for putting up with all my confused emotions about things. I know I’m a bit of a mess.”
He put his hand in the middle of her back, gently propelling her toward the hotel entrance. “My pleasure. Now sleep well ok? If you don’t go soon, or if you hug me like that again, you may not make it to bed alone.”
She thought about testing that but somehow knew it would not be the right thing to do. She laughed and walked quickly toward the hotel. A quick look back showed Rick standing in the same spot watching her with a slight smile on his face. Her smile grew broader and she resisted the temptation to skip the rest of the way like a little kid. At the moment she could not remember feeling this happy for a long, long, time.