Author's Note: I've been doing several bets and challenges lately, along with short Moments that tickle my brain here and there, but this one? This one started stomping around in my head and WOULD NOT get out. It's been a while since I embarked on a multi chap, but here it is. Special thanks to the incomparable Jaded-repartee for the back and forth, the talented Baileyjane for her suggestions and the unparalled Sunsetdreamer for her encouragement.
It would be so easy to win a few hundred dollars. He always was good at pool. Just a small bet.
The man playing at the far right table in the pool hall wasn't any good but he liked a challenge and couldn't resist a bet. Booth had noticed him at the bust there that morning and the guy was still there hours later, probably down, but not out and willing to bet more.
A few hundred dollars would help.
He didn't know what the biggest draw was. Was it the smell? The stale beer and blue chalk permeating the air? Was it the sound of the balls into the pocket, the clatter of the break? Was it the lighting, dim with pale yellow bursts over the tables themselves?
Or was it just the money?
The house the realtor had found the day before was a great house. Perfect. And well over budget. She reminded him their budget didn't have to be what it was. That the money wasn't important to her, but that it was important to her that they both love their new home. He said he didn't think he could love a home that he wasn't paying his fair share for. She accepted his words and called the realtor, telling him to keep looking.
He understood it was his issue, not hers. But it still ate at him.
Fifty-fifty. He wanted to split things fifty-fifty.
Which meant settling. Settling for a smaller home, with a smaller yard and no room for a tree house.
They both really wanted that tree house.
He hated that she had to settle. For him. It just killed him. Because she deserved everything and he wanted to be able to give her that.
And he couldn't.
She was accustomed to certain things. Price tags didn't mean much to her. And while she would still buy the clothes that she wanted, the shoes, those crazy, chunky necklaces and earrings that she liked, other things like couches and beds and rugs and even the nursery were just becoming a matter of her settling for second best. He felt strongly that she was doing most of the compromising while he just kept looking at his bank account trying to figure out how to get her what she wanted.
He knew it was asinine. Somewhere in his brain he knew he was being ridiculous. She could afford so much more than he could and had no problem paying for things. She saw no inequality between them.
But he couldn't get past that stupid, old fashioned idea that he was supposed to be the one to pay for things. The fifty-fifty alone was a kick in the gut for him. He wanted to provide for her and the baby, the way his father had never quite managed to provide for his family. The way he hadn't been allowed to provide for Parker.
Just that morning he'd spotted several baby gear catalogues in the garbage.
Very expensive baby gear.
In the garbage.
He'd pulled them out and looked through them while she was in the shower. He'd never even known thousand dollar strollers existed. But there were actually several and his partner had circled one.
He had to admit it was nice. But a thousand dollars nice?
It just highlighted the differences between them. He couldn't imagine paying that, she likely never even stopped to consider much beyond that she liked it.
But the catalogue was in the trash can. Which to him said that she knew. She knew he couldn't pay for even half of that. She knew he didn't have the money.
And when he found the baby gear catalogue open on the kitchen counter to strollers all under two hundred dollars his heart thudded in his chest then sank into his stomach. Again, she was compromising. Again she was silently giving up what she could easily buy on her own. Because of him. Him and his stupid ideas and ridiculous pride and his desire to be everything his father had never been.
He wasn't his father.
Or was he?
Because standing there now, ready to go back down the path to hell, he sure did feel unable to beat back the demons that plagued him.
Maybe it was all of it. The lights, the sounds, the smell and the money. It was all calling him, making him consider doing something he hadn't done in years.
Place a bet. Take a gamble. Make some money. Win.
One win and he could afford his half of that stroller. If he could win again he could almost afford to buy it for her outright.
He always was good at pool.
The feelings that came with a win…it was something he could nearly taste even after all this time. It was a rush, an invincibility….it made everything better.
He'd been good for years; controlled it all for so long. He was stronger now than he was then. He could pocket the money and walk, he was sure of it.
And the win would make him feel good, but buying her that stroller…that would be the best.
He could do it. Just this once.
He shook as he took out his wallet. He didn't have to open it to know he had fifty dollars in there.
He could turn that into more. Of this he was certain.
Until his phone rang. It rang the way it did only when it was her cell calling his.
And suddenly he wasn't certain of anything anymore.
She wanted to know where he was. He was supposed to pick her up. She'd been waiting.
That's when he remembered why he'd had to quit. It was things like this. Forgotten pick ups and missed appointments, all nighters and nothing but lies and excuses to everyone, himself included.
He broke into a cold sweat and said the only thing he could.
"I need you."
~To be continued~