‘I’m your dreams come true,’ she said.
Richard looked up at the woman standing next to him.
‘My God, you’re beautiful,’ he said.
She smiled and said, ‘Does that mean I can sit down?’
‘I suppose it must.’
The croupier on the other side of the blackjack table pretended that she had not noticed. She put down a ten of spades on the cards that Richard had already been dealt. The numbers on his cards added to eighteen. Richard sighed but the beautiful woman put a hand on his arm.
‘Take another,’ she said.
‘You clearly don’t understand odds,’ said Richard.
‘Take another,’ she said. ‘Trust me.’
Richard stared at the beautiful woman, and the croupier was patient although she coughed nervously.
‘I’ll take another card,’ said Richard.
The croupier who was also attractive but no equal of the beautiful woman at the side of Richard dealt another card. Richard and the beautiful woman smiled at one another. Richard who was nearer to forty than thirty felt like a teenager. The croupier dealt the three of diamonds.
The beautiful woman grinned and said, ‘I’m your dreams come true. Just follow me, and everything will be fine.’
The croupier pushed extra chips towards Richard. Nobody else played blackjack at this table, and Richard and the beautiful woman were able to grin and flirt without being noticed. The croupier opened another pack of cards. Richard said who he was and asked the beautiful woman her name.
‘What would you like it to be?’ she said.
‘Whatever it is,’ said Richard.
‘I’ll tell you later, after you’ve followed me.’
Richard stared at the beautiful woman. He was curious as to why she had such an effect. She had long wavy red hair and eyes almost as green as the cloth on the tables in the casino. Her figure was curvy and probably half a stone too heavy for modern tastes but her shape was what Richard considered the most elegant. She wore a red blouse and a black skirt.
‘My God, you’re beautiful,’ he said.
‘I’m your dreams come true,’ said the beautiful woman.
‘Would you like to play, sir?’ said the croupier. The voice was colder than before.
Richard nodded, and the croupier dealt cards.
After three cards, the numbers added to seventeen.
‘Take another,’ said the beautiful woman.
‘I shouldn’t. I’m an economist,’ said Richard.
‘That’s interesting,’ said the beautiful woman. ‘So am I.’
‘Well,’ said Richard, ‘you know the odds.’
‘This isn’t about the odds. It’s about faith. If you lose, I will let you have a kiss.’
Richard smiled and felt like a teenager again. The croupier looked at the ceiling. Richard nodded for another card. The croupier dealt a two of clubs. Richard laughed, and the beautiful woman smiled. The croupier said nothing but raised a carefully trimmed and darkened eyebrow. She folded the cards and pushed the extra chips towards Richard.
‘No kiss, I’m sorry,’ said the beautiful woman.
‘Only when I lose?’ said Richard.
‘There won’t be any kisses at this table,’ said the beautiful woman.
‘Are you really an economist?’ said Richard.
‘I teach at the University.’
‘I provide economic advice for trade unions.’
‘We’ll have something to talk about later. I knew it was right to follow you.’
The croupier dealt cards and sighed. Eventually, they added to seventeen.
‘Again?’ said Richard.
‘Do you want that kiss or not?’
‘I bet all the chips?’
‘You stake everything,’ said the beautiful woman.
Richard nodded for the croupier to play another card. She turned over a four of hearts.
‘Twenty one,’ said the croupier.
Her face showed a trace of smile but she made no comment.
‘No, no kiss,’ said the beautiful woman.
Richard and the beautiful woman played more hands. Richard was not sure how many had been played but they won every one, and soon it was three in the morning. His chips on the table had become an untidy pile.
The beautiful woman said, ‘I think we should stop.’
Richard gave the croupier the biggest tip he had ever left in the casino, and she called for an assistant to carry his winnings to the cashier. The beautiful woman waited on a chair in a corner and ordered champagne while Richard followed the assistant. He agreed that the cashier could pay his winnings into his bank account.
When he joined the beautiful woman the champagne had been served. The casino had also provided a small buffet as a courtesy. Richard and the beautiful woman talked and drank champagne. They took a couple of mouthfuls from the free buffet. After joking about the still awaited kiss, they talked about their jobs and economics. They made fun of the economic plans of the Government and agreed that marginal cost curves determined price rather than supply and demand and that nothing was more misunderstood in macroeconomics than the multiplier. They were pleased that they agreed about so much.
‘Economists shouldn’t be visiting casinos,’ said the beautiful woman.
‘I only come here once a month,’ said Richard. ‘Since my divorce, I nightclub every four weeks and because I can’t dance and chat at the same time I always finish up here. It’s better than going to bed and thinking.’
‘I followed you here. I saw you leave the club. You don’t talk to anyone.’
‘I don’t know why I go. I suppose I’m curious, think that something might happen.’
‘Well, it has now,’ said the beautiful woman.
‘People have bought homes with less than we have won.’
‘Money shapes lives which was why I was glad you came here.’
‘You won’t even let me kiss you,’ said Richard.
‘I told you what cards to play. I’m the one who won the kiss.’
‘Fine, I owe you some winnings,’ said Richard.
He made her stand, and they kissed. Although they only embraced and kissed on the mouth, he felt as if they were kissing each other with their whole bodies, from the tops of their heads to the tips of their toes.
They did not sit down. They ignored the champagne and the food that remained.
‘We’ve won an awful lot,’ said Richard.
‘Tonight means more than a kiss,’ said the beautiful woman. ‘You have to do what I did, Richard. You have to follow me.’
‘To where I can tell you my name.’
As they left the casino, the croupiers and the other gamblers applauded. Their cheers obliterated the noise of the spinning roulette wheels. Outside, in the car park, Richard walked towards his red BMW.
‘No,’ said the beautiful woman. ‘We leave the cars. We go over there.’
She pointed at the road in front of the casino and beyond.
‘It’s dark. I can’t see anything.’
‘You have to follow me like I followed you.’
They left their cars and walked towards the darkness.
The policewoman introduced herself to the woman who managed the casino. The two women were tall and both were strong and imposing. They liked each other immediately.
‘The red BMW that has crashed outside, he was turning right to come into your casino.’
‘We know him well,’ said the woman who managed the casino. ‘He was very handsome. He never flirted with the croupiers. I think he was quite shy. He used to come here every Thursday every four weeks. Tonight was the first night he missed. We wondered what had happened. The croupiers thought he was too superior. Judith, though, had a thing about him. She’s the beauty with the red hair and the green eyes. You see her? She’s a shy thing, too.’
The policewoman nodded.
‘Judith would look at him and dream about him. If he noticed, he never said. Judith will be upset. I’ve stood and watched her stare at him, thinking I was daft as her for looking. Poor Judith, God knows what she imagined.’
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