When winning is the only game in town

My face was a porcelain mask - no emotion apart from cool boredom reflected in my pale green eyes.

Letting my facade slip was not an option. Letting it slip would mean the game would end, and that was not something that would let me escape this alive.

I'd been in this room before, yet now the cosy atmosphere was suffocating.

Even the mahogany floorboards were a little too red for my liking, now that I think about it.

There was only one source of light in the confining room - a bare lightbulb that glared down at me, casting a harsh light and throwing many shadows into sharp relief.

I blinked slowly and only then seemed to realise I was not alone in this prison.

When did that man get there?He wasn't there a second ago, was he?

I blinked again, not revealing the nervousness clouding my mind.

Yes he was, he's been here with me the whole time.

There used to be five of us, but now there were two.

The others had already won, they were alive and well, gone from the prison and gone from the game.

Mentally shaking my head, I refocused on the man, brown hair, blue eyes and pleasing features.

He had been my friend once.

Before the game had started, before it had ended with the two of us left.

I lazily stretched and forced myself to yawn, adjusting myself so that my back was no longer hurting from the stiff position it had copied earlier.

Faking boredom was the key.

It made me look like I would win, that I had the victory cards and was just waiting to use them.

I hoped my costume of indifference wouldn't falter.

It couldn't, not with the chance of winning the game within my reach.

All my once-friend had to do was ask the correct question, the question that would be answered with my victory.

I suppressed the smile that wanted to mar my expression.

It would make him hesitate, it could even make him ask the wrong question.

He cleared his throat and I perked up in my chair before I could stop myself.

He smirked and I knew he noticed my mistake.

I smirked right back to hide the alarm in my eyes and his face smoothed over.

I kept my smirk in place and locked my gaze on to his, unweilding in its intensity.

''Anytime today would be nice, Toby,'' I quipped lightly, running my finger around the curved edge of the small rectangle in my hand.

My lifeline.

''Yeah, yeah,'' he muttered stonily, shuffling in his seat and rearranging his own cards.

What if his plan was to lure me into a false sense of security?

What if he knew I was bluffing?

What if he won the game?

Forcing myself to swallow the lump in my throat, I regarded Toby in a different light.

His posture was relaxed, shoulders slumped ever-so-slightly, arms resting comfortably atop the mahogany table.

His face was the only sign of his nervousness, or his plan.

Azure eyes flitted about the room every few seconds, his adam's apple bobbing with every large swallow, nostrils flared just enough to be unusual, and lips pressed together in thought.

''All right, Spencer,'' he acquiesced, straightening his spine and inspecting his cards.

This is it, this is the moment of truth.

Panic flared in my mind but I suppressed it and fixed all of my attention solely on Toby.

''Do you have, a four?''

Relief flooded me so quickly I nearly toppled off my chair, and only then did I realise my heart was pounding at my temples.

I released a breath I hadn't even known I was holding, before answering, ''Go fish!''

 


By Amy Bonis, Year 11, Otago Girls' High School