Once again, I was faced with a decision. Unfortunately, this time, I had much less confidence in my choice than before. With reckless abandon, I closed my eyes and pulled randomly from my hand. Even with my eyes closed, I could feel the pressure of Yumeko’s stare.
“Fun, Ryota. I like that you’re giving yourself over to the gamble.”
Even though I wasn’t looking at her, I could imagine her punctuating her sentence by dragging the tip of her tongue across her bottom lip. I swallowed and held my card out.
Yumeko giggled, and I could hear her cards shuffling.
“I’ll join you. Let’s let the fate of the gamble be determined by destiny!”
With that, I placed down my card. Only then did I open my eyes, only to find swift defeat awaiting me. I had played one of my scissors, and my opponent had played rock. With genuine glee, Yumeko opened her eyes, saw she had won, and squealed.
“Looks like I am back in the game. Watch out, Ryota.”
The way she said it was playful. She said it with a gentle and calm cadence, but the way her grin stretched across her face and the way she pressed her breasts against the table to lean closer to me felt aggressive. Her red eyes twinkled and bulged from her head. It felt like I was in some kind of sexy horror movie. Even so, I smiled and nodded.
“Looks like I’ll have to. Don’t give up on me yet.”
Though I did my best to keep my tone even, I couldn’t stop the quivering in my voice. There was irony in telling Yumeko not to give up on me. In reality, I had gone into this game prepared to lose. I had bet my life, which wasn’t a safe or conservative bet. I wanted to believe Yumeko, even if she did win, wouldn’t cause me harm. She enjoyed my company, I felt confident in that. That wasn’t the point, though.
I didn’t go into this gamble without purpose. I would never gamble with Yumeko without reason, out of respect for her. She held the act of gambling to a high standard. It wasn’t just a game to her, no matter how carefree she acted. It was an art form, and it was something that you were supposed to throw your whole self into. That was what I was doing. I was throwing everything I had in this gamble. I had to win, even if she didn’t know the reason why.
With sweaty hands, I picked my next card: paper. I didn’t have any rhyme or reason. I was going with my gut, something that Yumeko had taught me during our time at the academy. If I felt it was right, I had to play it no matter what. Then, even if I lost, I at least had a good gamble. Even saying it to myself, it felt absolutely crazy. Still, I dedicated, plucking it from my hand.
Yumeko must have been able to sense my intentions. I had never seen her smile so wide. Sometimes it seemed she had far too many teeth for her mouth. Her lips were moist, and it was hard not to watch them curve and stretch as she formed words.
“I don’t think I’ve seen you so intense, Ryota. What are you hiding?”
Once again, I swallowed. My goal was to reveal it to Yumeko once I had won this gamble. I had to remind myself, I was going to win this gamble. I met her smile with one of my own.
“You’ll see once I’ve won.”
Yumeko’s eyes seemed to really come alive then. They glowed as if someone was holding a flashlight behind them. As she prepared her next card, she tugged on the hem of the neckline of her shirt, exposing more of her flushed flesh.
“Oh, Ryota, you tease me.”
I did my best not to stare at her increasing cleavage and instead focused on the card I held in my hand. Yumeko held her’s out, and on a count of three, we placed them both down. Much to my surprise, my gut had been right.
“Oh, shoot. Your paper beats my rock. An excellent choice.”
I couldn’t hold back the small cheer that erupted from me. Even Yumeko joined in, cheering along with me. This was proof, I decided. It was proof that I could win this. Coming off the high, I trusted in fate once more, not that I had much choice with the last card. If I won this, I won the whole gamble. I was betting everything on it.
Without much more show, we placed down our final cards. Time froze as I glanced at the two cards. My last card was scissors, hers had been another rock.
“You had three rocks?”
Yumeko smiled coyly and made a show of shrugging her shoulders.
“It was destiny, I suppose. It appears I’ve won this hand.”
Destiny, indeed. Fate wasn’t going to let me win that easily. Deflated, I leaned back into my seat and assessed the situation. After two hands, we were left with ten scissors, ten papers, and only seven rocks. Based on the odds, I desperately needed those scissors. That would provide the best chance of victory.
I reached for the deck, ready to start dealing the final hand when Yumeko’s hand rested atop mine. My gaze jerked up to meet hers. Her eyes were still shining, but they lacked that hungry red glow they usually had when she gambled. Even her smile was softer and even more reserved. This was a side of Yumeko I hadn’t seen before.
“Ryota, before we continue, what will you do with my life if you win?”
The ocean roared as my thoughts raced. There were so many things I wanted to say. If I won, I wanted to take her out to a restaurant and talk. If I won, I wanted to hold her, to feel her skin against mine. Deep down, I desperately wanted to kiss her. I wanted to spend every day on this back porch and listen to the ocean while I basked in her aura. I didn’t want to do anything with her life, I just desperately wanted to be part of it.
I said nothing. Instead, I flipped my hand so I could grasp hers in mine. Clearing my throat, I tried to conjure my best Yumeko grin.
“Don’t worry. You’ll find out when I win.”
At that, I released her hand, which she quickly hid beneath the table. Then, I dealt the cards. My hands shook as I finished dealing. This was it, the last hand. Mentally, I prepared to lift my hand and see three scissors. If there was such a thing as fate or destiny, that is what I would have. Even as I assured myself, my fingers fumbled as I shakingly revealed my hand to myself.
Every emotion I had evaporated into the humid ocean air that whipped around us. In my hand, I had three papers.