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Sweat beaded on Jake’s brow. He tried not to bite his lip, aware that those around him would recognise it as a sign of his weakness. His hand quivered slightly, his treacherous muscles betraying him.

Four men watched him, waiting. He laid his cards down.

The fat man opposite him laughed and leaned back in his chair.

“I think that you are all done now, my friend, hm? Time for us to say goodbye.”

Jake jumped up, slamming his hand down on the table. “No!”

Three hands reached inside jackets, stilled at a tiny motion from the fat man.

“Please,” Jake said, holding his hand up apologetically. “One more game?”

“But you have nothing left to bet, my friend, no more money in your wallet.”

He swallowed. These were the high stakes. He had to win back what he had lost, but it was true. His wallet lay empty on the table; he was utterly broke.

“Unless…” The fat man leaned forward, steepling his hands in front of his face. “Unless we play for something other than money.”

Jake nodded eagerly. Too eagerly. The fat man’s cohorts smiled knowingly, sat back at ease in their seats ready to watch the game play out.

“Yes! Yes, I have…” He fumbled in his pockets, pulling out his car keys. “My car, look, I got a great car. We could play for my car?

The fat man shook his head. “I am not interested in your car, my friend.”

“Well, there’s gotta be something? Name your stake, man. Just name it.”

The fat man looked at him, a smile spreading slowly across his face.

“Very well. I will be generous. If you win, you will take back everything you lost today. I will even throw in a little extra.” He lazily tossed a few chips into the centre of the table. Jake swallowed hard as he realised that the fat man’s “little extra” was close to five year’s salary.

“Wh-what if I lose?”

The fat man gestured towards Jake’s wallet, lying open and empty. A photograph was visible in the window. “Lovely lady. Your wife, yes?”

Jake paled. “I can’t… not that…”

The fat man shrugged. “Then you leave with nothing. I named my stake. If you wish to play, you must bet your wife. If you lose, she will be mine.”

Silence fell. The sweat on Jake’s brow turned cold as he contemplated his fate. Angela had already threatened to leave him if she caught him gambling. And if he won- the amount on the table was lifechanging. He would be out of debt. He could even buy a new car. Take Angela on a cruise. As long as he won, she would never know. He could say it was a lottery win.

His hands stopped shaking. He felt lucky.

“I’m in.”

© Kari Fay