WRIT LARGE: Ch 8, Part 1
Previously, in Chapter 7 when Lucas arrived to brunch, Cathie was already chatting with Leann as they were already acquainted. Olivia made an appearance for a brief chat with the three of them before Lucas, Leann, and Olivia headed into brunch. Cathie was apprehensive at first but was quickly convinced of Leann’s suitability to write her biography. Leann agreed to join them at the poker game that night.
In this part, Olivia tells Lucas she has convinced the poker players to play Doubles Poker, and gifts him a matching team jacket. The game begins and Lucas wins a bluff against Leann.
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There is a knock on my door. I check the time on my watch: 7.45pm. Olivia is early, and I wonder if she is at a loose end or simply wants to run over the Texas hold’em rules one more time. Earlier, I asked what would happen if it turned out we are playing a different variation of the game, and she said, “You’ll pick it up as you go, Lucas. Watch the others.” Her confidence scares me a little, I think, but maybe this is simply because I set myself high standards and generally avoid any pastimes I haven’t quite mastered.
I open the door, and she enters without being invited and as if we are travel companions who arrived together and have been allocated adjoining rooms. Inside, she turns to me with a wide smile and offers me a jacket; it is ivory with red stitching around the lapels and cuffs, and identical to the jacket that Olivia is wearing. I look at her questioningly as I accept the garment.
She widens her eyes. “I have a teensy confession to make.” She embellishes the word by showing me her thumb and forefinger almost touching. “I bumped into Tuah earlier, and I might just have persuaded him to make tonight a Doubles Poker game.” She wrinkles her nose waiting for my response.
I assume that Tuah is one of the gentlemen from the Genting Group that I spoke with in the steam room this morning. I inform Olivia that I have taken three things from her comment: firstly, I am guessing she has no doubt that her powers of persuasion have been successful; secondly, I have no idea how Doubles Poker works; and thirdly, matching jackets?
She laughs. “Yes, maybe I was fibbing, Lucas. Doubles Poker is no different to playing alone, except that the couple take it in turns to either play or bet. And why not matching jackets? We’re a team. Let’s look the part and intimidate the other players from the outset.”
I can’t help laughing with her. This afternoon, at the Gardens by the Bay, while Bernard’s grandchildren explored the super-trees, Olivia had explained the rules of the game to me, which basically meant understanding the winning hands and their ranking as to which hands scored highest and lowest. It is all about watching the cards and reading the other players. I remind her that my only experience has been gained from playing with drunken uncles, and my grandfather who was a world-class cheat. There is no possibility of anyone being intimidated by me.
“Try the jacket on,” she says. She watches, as I slip it on over my shirt and peer at my reflection in the mirror. It is a perfect fit. I ask how she managed that. “I asked Bernard. These are borrowed from his latest collection.”
I am impressed with his eye for size. There is nothing quite like wearing a lined jacket for making you feel capable and accomplished; I wonder if this is how celebrities feel when they are dressed up and ready to walk the red carpet. I study the jacket from all angles. At first sight, I had visualised a scene from Mary Poppins, the one where the crotch of Dick Van Dyke’s trousers are around his knees and he dances with the penguins, but when Olivia stands beside me, I have to admit, we look like two people who are playing to win.
“You see. Oh, one more thing.” She reaches into her pocket and produces a pair of Greytip Shark sunglasses. I raise my eyebrows at her. “Because your poker face is non-existent. These are no ordinary sunglasses. They are non-tinted and provide crisp vision while covering your eyes.”
I take the black matte framed lenses from her and slip them into my own pocket.
“Shall we?” She slips an arm through mine and we head to the cigar room to meet the others.
Tuah and Putera, his Genting colleague, are already there with Leann and Cathie. The two men rise to greet us with handshakes, and Leann welcomes me with a kiss on the cheek.
“Have you heard the news?” she asks. “We are now playing in doubles, and I am guessing,” she eyes up the jacket, “that you are playing with Olivia.”
I ask if she and Cathie did not think to wear matching outfits and she shakes her head at me. “I think we might stick to matching drinks instead, Lucas.” She raises a crystal wine glass and clinks it against Cathie’s to toast the impulsive decision.
We are soon joined by two men I vaguely recognise from Bernard’s entourage at Universal Studios. They are introduced as employees of IHG Hotels and Resorts and explain that they look after Bernard’s worldwide accommodation. I am struck by how effortlessly the conversation picks up following the introductions. Olivia and I speak about our afternoon’s visit to the Gardens, and Leann says that she would be happy to accompany Cathie should she wish to view them before she leaves. We discuss the famous Singapore Sling, and the Night Safari which I have yet to experience.
When it is time to begin the game, Tuah runs through the rules again. It is to be a friendly game, a way of everyone getting to know each other, while hopefully having a little fun, and a few drinks.
“Aw, shucks,” says Cathie adopting a slow southern drawl. “I was hoping to make enough money tonight to fund my next business venture.”
It is the first time I have heard Cathie joking around and I find myself warming to her more than I have since we first met at the theme park. Even Olivia smiles.
We take our seats. Olivia plays our first round and unsurprisingly wins with a straight flush in diamonds, and only using the lowest card, the eight, from the hand on the table. She shrugs. “What can I say?”
Putera shakes his head at her. He had a full house, threes and sevens, and had clearly expected to be in with a chance of winning.
Tuah has supplied each of us with a bundle of chips, and already our stack is higher than the others. When it is my turn, she whispers, “Come on, Lucas, don’t let me down.”
My hand isn’t great, and coupled with the cards on the table, I can only scrape together three of a kind, nines. I decide, encouraged by Olivia’s enthusiasm, and the designer jackets, to take a risk and bluff my way through this. Leann is watching me closely and when I exaggeratedly hold her gaze, she caves and folds her hand. To her dismay and my delight, she was holding three of a kind, tens, which would have beaten mine.
“Oh, yes!” Olivia raises her hand in a high-five. “I’ve taught you well.”