My drink is sweating. Little rivulets drip one by one down the side and pool on the overused cardboard coaster. I don’t know how long I’ve been watching them, my eyes going in and out of focus, waiting for the other players to arrive. It must have been a while though, because it seems like we’re all here now.
“When the heck are you gonna invest in an air conditioner?” I grumble, focusing on Billy Bouton, the owner of this fine establishment. “All the money you’ve taken off me in the past 8 years, you should be able to afford one by now.”
Billy grins, scratches his head, the curly mop of red hair shifting like a helmet and resettling into the same position. “It ain’t so hot, Bella,” he says defensively. "Quit complaining, I put extra ice cubes in your fruity drink."
I look pointedly at the sweat stains gathering at the armpits of his t-shirt and he gives me the finger. Billy hasn’t changed much since we met in college. Maybe ten pounds heavier, but aren't we all? He still has the same geeky lost-soul look that made all the girls in Philosophy class fight over who got to sit next to him. Kierkegaard my butt, he was in it for the chicks. That’s how this whole bookstore thing started, he thought it would be a great way to meet women. And there've been enough of them.
Billy and I never did go out on a date. I don’t remember why. I think I thought I could do better. Now I know I could do a lot worse.
I haven’t missed poker night once in 8 years, unlike some of these other schmucks. I’ve got a demanding career too, and trust me, my family ain’t no ride in the country either. Difference is, I take my commitments seriously. Even when I was in labour with Joe Junior, I still finished out the last four hands. Joey came to pick me up and take me to the hospital. I remember he was so mad he had to wait in the car for me to come down. First rule of poker night: No spouses, period.
At least, that used to be the rule, back then. . .