1. a beginner in learning anything; novice

Cards hit the table with quick succession. Slick, shiny, new. The face of each one reflecting the dim light from the single bulb hanging above the table.

Anyone observing the game would probably be confused. The players sat silently, hunkered over weak hands, trying to gauge their competitors’ next possible moves.

Ace of diamonds.

Ace of hearts.

Five of spades.

Everyone groaned.

A mix of Pass-round and Rummy, the rules would seem slightly off for any tyro walking into the basement for the first time. After the eyes adjusted to the dark scene, the most obvious element in the room would be the suffocating humidity and heat. That was enough to distract a newcomer from the game known by very few and mastered by a handful.

But not Sandy. She had picked up the nuances quickly, while passing around cold bottles of root beer to her brother and his friends. Her job was to keep the cool drinks coming and the chip bowl full. If her brother won, he’d share his winnings with her and she needed that money to finance her latest project.

The only problem was her brother wasn’t winning. At this point in the game, he was usually ahead by a few cards and about a dozen points. Today his best friend Nathan had claimed the lead.

Sandy felt her dreams slipping away as the game progressed, her hopes spiraling downward. She needed that money. But by her calculations, her brother’s chances of winning were slim. There were only two queens left in play and an ace was unaccounted for, which could possibly knock the sly grin off of Nathan’s calm face, if it weren’t in Nathan’s–.

Nathan’s grinned broadened as Bobby dropped a five, which Nathan ceremoniously covered with an ace of spades, before casually straightening the deck.

“Well guys…this game has certainly been interesting,” Nathan said with a slight chuckle, fingering the final card in his hand.

Sandy quietly fumed.

“Don’t talk about things in past tense when the games not even over,” her brother said.

Sandy wanted to add a “yeah” to the end of her brother’s statement, but settled for glaring silently.

“Don’t be a sore loser, James,” Nathan said, mirth filling his voice.

“No one has lost yet and no one has won.”

Andy cast down a five of diamonds, shaking his head in disgust. Nathan was still winning.

James glanced at the cards left in his hand, seeming to deliberate between the two.

“Come on, James,” Nathan goaded. “Let’s end this.”

James sighed heavily and dispensed a two of clubs.

“I can’t,” James said dejected.

“But I can,” Bobby piped up, throwing down two queens in succession.

Another round of groans echoed throughout the basement, including Sandy’s, but the sound seemed dull compared to Bobby’s hearty laughter.

As much as she hated the fact that her brother had lost, Sandy felt a wave of relief knowing Nathan hadn’t won, furthering his cockiness.

But she still had a problem; she needed money.

Sandy turned on her heels and headed upstairs. As much as she hated it, now she’d have to go see Kip if she was going to have what she needed by the end of the week.

And that was the last person she wanted to turn to for help.


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