Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Chapter 45

“We’ll take our rental. I’ll drive,” Kevin said as they headed for the car as Tricia’s parents with Matty in the back seat drove off.

“But you don’t know where you’re going,” Tricia pointed out. “Wouldn’t it be easier if I just drove?”

“Humor me,” Kevin said opening the doors on the passenger side for Tricia and Caroline. “I’m sure you can direct me.”

“I’m beginning to see that the man is a bit of a control freak,” Tricia said sliding into the front seat after Caroline slid into the back. “He must be a joy to travel with.”

Caroline chuckled. “Actually he’s not bad. He let me have the window seat on the plane and he didn’t snore when he slept. He’s not a control freak exactly he’s just particular when he has a plan and right now I’d say he has a plan although I have to admit I have no idea what it is.”

As they drove out of the driveway and onto the road Tricia asked. “So what is the plan you have?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Kevin replied, eyes on the road, a faint smile playing over his lips. “I’m here to visit a friend after a day of taking care of business. It’s a shame my friend doesn’t trust me.”

Tricia looked at him to see if he was serious and when he looked over long enough to smile at her she knew he wasn’t. She also knew she wasn’t going to get any more out of him the way she’d been going so she decided to try something else.

“What was that with my dad at the end? I think I told you that he thinks Hold’em is stupid.”

“I don’t think he thinks its stupid so much as he doesn’t think it’s poker. In part I think that is because it’s different from what he has spent years doing. That is natural.”

“What was that stuff just before we left though?” Tricia asked. “It sounded like you were trying to get him to ask me to play with him and his buddies.”

“Well it would be good for you.” Kevin said. “How much seven card stud have you played?”

“Well we grew up playing off and on,” Tricia said. “My dad taught my brother and he taught me. Knowing what I know now about Hold’em though I know I don’t know that much about seven card stud strategy. I’m sure I could learn though.”

“I’m sure you could and I think you would probably enjoy it. Eventually you should learn as many different variations as you can. Don’t rush into it though. Until I met your dad I was going to suggest that you learn Omaha and then get into Omaha eight or better. I think though that you might as well work on seven card stud.”

Caroline leaned forward. “You’re up to something Kevin. I know the signs.”

Tricia looked at Caroline and then at Kevin who smiled. “Well I always like to see old barriers broken so I’d like to see the old guys allow a lady into their game. I think it would be good for you Tricia and I think it would be good for them. I’ll bet you that they will have you teaching them Hold’em in short order.”

“You think? You don’t think they are all like my dad?”

Kevin chuckled. “Oh I imagine most of them are, or worse. I think though that they really will want to learn because they’ve seen it on TV by now and are curious and probably thinking that it looks so easy that they ought to be able to do well.”

“I don’t see my dad inviting me to play,” Tricia said.

“Want to bet?” Kevin asked, smiling.

Tricia looked at him appraisingly. She knew her father but she was also coming to know that Kevin seemed to be able to read people very well so she decided that betting against him would be a bad idea. She just shook her head and concentrated on giving him directions to the restaurant.

When they pulled into the parking lot Tricia said, “Now I know it’s not the fanciest looking place but the food is great and there is plenty of it. It’s also one of Matt’s favorites and I thought that might be best in this case.”

“It looks interesting,” Kevin said getting out of the car and reading the sign over the front door. “The Friendly Farm, family style dining. What exactly does that mean? That we can argue like we’re related?”

Caroline rolled her eyes and Tricia giggled.

“No silly.” Tricia looked at Kevin and decided that he really didn’t seem to know what it meant. “You really don’t know do you?”

He shrugged his shoulders and shook his head.

“Well here it means you order your entrée and they put that and the sides of the day on the table in bowls, like you’d get if you were eating at home.” Tricia told him.

“At home my mom never took orders for our entrée,” Kevin said. “She just said, ‘tonight is meatloaf, or tonight is fish’.”

Tricia smiled. “Well I admit the part about ordering individual entrees is not a lot like anybody’s family life I ever knew either but it’s good food at good prices and the atmosphere is nice. I think you’ll like it. They also don’t rush you in and out so if we take some time to talk over dinner you won’t have a waiter trying to get you to leave so he can fill his table with new customers.”

“I’m sure it will be great,” Kevin said. “It smells very good and that is reminding me that lunch was quite a while ago and was hardly served family style.”

Caroline laughed. “That’s for sure, it was scarfed from a busy McDonalds between meetings. I’m ready for some real food.”

Tricia was looking around for either Mary Beth’s car or Dutch’s but didn’t see either in the fairly crowded parking lot. “Before we go in there is something I didn’t get a chance to tell you.”

“Uh oh,” Kevin said, “That sounds ominous.”

Tricia smiled and shook her head, “It’s not that bad. It’s just that I invited my friend Mary Beth and her husband Dutch also. I hope that won’t be a problem. They’re having some problems and I feel sorry for her. She is really into decorating and wants to start her own business now that her kids are old enough not to need her around all the time. Dutch seems to have this Neanderthal attitude that it will look like he can’t support his family if Mary Beth goes to work now. She has really been down and I just hoped getting out would cheer her up.”

“The more the merrier,” Kevin said.

“I’ll even be nice, “ Caroline said with a smile, “And not rip her husband’s face off if he spouts that attitude in front of me. I’ve heard that so much and I’m so sick of it. I hope that your friend knows she’s not the only one dealing with the problem.”

“Yeah, but it doesn’t help much in this case to know you’re not alone.” Tricia said with a sigh leading them into the restaurant.

A hostess came up and greeted them warmly.

“Thank you,” Tricia said. “I have reservations for six people. The name is Bateman.”

“Oh yes! Some of your party are already here. I’ll show you to them.”

Looking out over the restaurant she saw Mary Beth standing up waving from a back table. Even from that far away she could see Dutch trying to get her to sit down as people were turning to look at her. Mary Beth, of course being Mary Beth, was oblivious to the fact that she was attracting the attention not just of Tricia but of everybody in the restaurant.

Tricia had to smile. “I think I can find them on my own. Thank you.”

The hostess giggled. “I guess you can.”

As they moved through the restaurant toward the table Kevin, in an amused voice, said to Tricia. “I think I’m going to like your friend.”

“Yeah I think you are. You’ll be dangerous together because I think you’d do that kind of thing.”

Caroline chuckled. “She’s got you pegged Kevin.”

“And your point is?” Kevin asked innocently.

“Remember she’s married Kevin,” Tricia said, only half joking. “She’s gonna really like you too and right now I am afraid she’s a bit vulnerable.”

“I will try to restrain myself,” Kevin said so formally Tricia looked quickly to see if he was angry with her. He grinned down at her and quietly said, “Don’t worry even if she throws herself on me I will turn her down gently. Will that suffice?”

“I didn’t mean you’d try to seduce her or for that matter that she’d try to seduce you, as far as I know she has never cheated on Dutch. It’s just that I think there may be a bit of an attraction there.”

“I think what she is saying Kevin,” Caroline said with a smile, “is that she thinks your hot and knows her friend will think so and is worried about it. Isn’t that about it Tricia?”

Tricia found herself gaping at Caroline and then realized that mostly she was having her chain pulled. She shook her head and motioned them toward the table. “Come on you two. I swear it’s a good thing I like you guys.”

She heard Kevin chuckling behind her but didn’t turn around so he would not have the satisfaction of seeing her grin.

Mary Beth hugged Tricia and Tricia said hello to Dutch. She then introduced them to Kevin and Caroline.

“Excuse my wife for the greeting,” Dutch said. “She seems to like to do embarrassing things.”

“Honestly Dutch!” Mary Beth said. “I just let them know where we were sitting. It’s no big deal.”

“Nothing to excuse Dutch,” Kevin said. “I like a person who knows what they want and does what they have to in order to get it. We found our way here so it worked out.”

Tricia looked sharply at Kevin, knowing he was taking a dig at Dutch because of what she’d told him. A look at Dutch showed that it went over his head though. Mary Beth had not missed it and was looking at Kevin appraisingly making Tricia wonder if it had been a good thing she’d warned Kevin to behave.

“No sign of Matt yet I suppose?” Tricia asked.

Mary Beth looked like she was going to answer but then Dutch shook his head and said, “Not yet. He’s been hard to pin down lately. Always says he’s working. Are you two having a problem again or something?”

“Dutch!” Mary Beth glared at her husband.

“Excuse him,” She said, looking at Kevin and Caroline, he sometimes engages his mouth before his brain.”

“I just meant I haven’t even been able to pin him down for a fishing trip. That’s not like him.” Dutch said.

Mary Beth had a look on her face that Tricia didn’t understand and could not characterize when she said, “He’s just focusing on his business I’m sure. At least he doesn’t mind Tricia following her dream to play poker.”

Tricia didn’t think what she said had anything to do with the look she’d had on her face but knew she had to head off what she was afraid was about to be a Dutch and Mary Beth argument.

Kevin apparently had the same idea and was drawing a breath to say something when Tricia spotted Matt coming through the restaurant.

She popped up. “Speak of the devil here comes Matt now!” She took a few steps out to greet him, giving him a hug and kissing him when he bent toward her.

“Thank you for coming on time sweetie. I know it wasn’t convenient for you.” Tricia said to him quietly. “Come meet Kevin and Caroline.”

Shaking hands with Kevin Matt said, “So you’re the man who was such a big help to Tricia at her tournament. She’s told me that she owed a lot of her results to you.”

“I’m glad to meet you,” Kevin said shaking Matt’s hand, inwardly grinning when Matt squeezed hard while shaking his hand, he could see that testosterone was going to be running deep at the table tonight. “She owes her results to the hard work she put in learning to play poker. I didn’t do much at all really.”

Matt shook hands with Caroline and they all sat down. They made small talk while the food was ordered and they ate.

After they had finished and were sitting back, comfortably full Kevin held his hand out to Caroline and said, “Let me have that package. I think Tricia may want to share it with her husband and her friends.”

Caroline pulled a flat gift wrapped package out of her purse and handed it to Tricia.

Tricia took it curiously and unwrapped it with Mary Beth hanging over to get a good view.

Inside the gift wrap there was an envelope.

“It’s the pictures I took or was given from the time you were there, I got all I could that had you in them Tricia,” Kevin said.

Tricia panicked then. Could Kevin have actually included pictures of Jaime as well? Surely he wouldn’t have done that. She couldn’t remember if she had told him that Matt might well recognize Jaime from pictures she’d had back then. She looked at Kevin and the look he gave her assured her that he had been discreet.

They went through the pictures. While there were none of Jaime there were some of Rick and that made Tricia a bit queasy but she knew Matt would not think anything of them. None of the pictures had her draped all over Rick or anybody else. Several from the party after her ladies event finish though made it obvious that she was feeling very happy.

Tricia was afraid Matt would not like that but he seemed amused. “Well now I see why you said you had a bit of a hangover. Just from the look of you in these pictures I bet it was a doozy of a hangover. I’m proud of you dear. I thought we were both too old for that. Maybe there is hope for me yet.”

“I’m afraid you’re never too old for a hangover,” Caroline said. “I’m also afraid that you’re never old enough to remember that if you party too much you will pay. I woke up the next morning feeling about the same only I had to play a tournament.”

“I want to point out,” Kevin said, “That there are far more pictures there of people playing poker than partying. It is, believe it or not, hard work though and blowing off steam occasionally is a good thing.”

“Well I’m sure Tricia appreciates the pictures,” Matt said. “She loves to make scrapbooks of everything and every event. I’m sure she will have one made with these soon.”

“Surely you didn’t come visit me just to give me these pictures Kevin,” Tricia said. “I’ll buy that you came to visit a friend because you were in town but I know you well enough now to know that you’ve got something else up your sleeve. Spill it.”

Matt frowned and looked over at Kevin.

Kevin held up his hands. “Ok well there was one more item I wanted to bring up and now is about as good a time as any. As soon as I can flag that waitress down and get some more coffee I’ll tell you all about it.”

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