The noise of the locker room around us was drowning out the majority of his sentence as he talked to me. Boys talking and laughing loudly and the soft hissing noise of the water running in the showers still audible underneath it all. One word of what he had said however stood out clearly in the noise.
My eyes looked into Token's dark ones and I repeated: "Poker?"
"Yes, poker." He quirked an eyebrow. "You know how to play that right?"
"Yes, yes of course I do!" I said quickly, not liking the look he was giving me. "So when is this?"
"In about a month and a half. We want to hold a practice this weekend so that we can see how we play together and work together on beating West Park."
"Okay, sure. After football practice?"
"Yes, at my place. 8 o'clock."
"Okay. Who else are playing?"
Token sighed. "Well, so far you, me, Cartman, Clyde and Jason. They'll be there too."
"Okay, good." I nodded and watched him walk away.
But I didn't know how to play poker. At all. The mere idea of Cartman being there and laughing at my crappy playing abilities was making me very nervous and uncomfortable. No way I was going to have him teach me how to play. Unfortunately, there weren't many other people who could tell me teach me, especially after I had just told Token I already knew how. But I did know someone who knew how to play. I knew I had to track him down as soon as possible. I closed my locker and quickly went outside, I already had a suspicion where I could find him.
And I was correct: I found him hanging out with the goth kids, lounging on one of the benches and smoking a cigarette. He liked hanging out with them, but that was the way he was: friendly and open to everybody. It was one of the reasons why so many people liked Kenny.
"Hey, man." I said.
"Hey, Stan! Sup?" He grinned up at me.
"I need your help, can I talk to you?"
"Sure." He got up and tossed his cigarette on the ground. "See you guys!" He waved to the goth kids who ignored him.
"So, Stanley, my man." He slapped me on the back as we walked away. "What can I do for you?" He smiled his sly smile, like I had asked him a dirty favor. But he smiled at everybody like that, I knew.
"I need to learn how to play poker. You know how to play poker, right?" I asked. If he didn't know how to play it, I didn't know who would be able to help me.
"But of course!" He exclaimed, as if the mere idea of him not being able to play poker was ridiculous.
"So, can you teach me? My football team is going to play against West Park's in six weeks and I really want to be good at it." He nodded and ran a hand through his wild blond hair.
"A man with a plan. Are you free tonight?"
"Yeah, I'm going to study first with Kyle but maybe at 9? My place?"
"Deal." He pulled me in for a quick hug. "I have to go, I'm meeting Bebe in half an hour." I smiled at his obvious slutty behavior. I remembered how only a month ago he had been seeing Red.
"Good, see you tonight."
"So basically, that strike caused a sort of chain reaction leading to- Stan, are you listening?" I looked up from my textbook that was still open at a page of European history and met Kyle's light brown eyes.
"Oh, I'm sorry dude. You were saying?" He looked at me skeptically.
"You've been distracted all evening. What's the matter?" He took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes.
"I don't know. It was just not nice seeing Wendy and Clyde together today." That sight had had me stand stock still in the middle of the cafeteria. Wendy and I had broken up months ago and even before that we had had big fights for over half a year. But that didn't mean seeing her with another guy didn't freak me out big time.
"Look." He rubbed my arm in a soothing manner. "They won't last." I scoffed and pushed my books away. That was such a super best friend reply.
"No really! I'm not just saying that." He bit his lip. "I'm pretty sure Clyde doesn't like her enough for it to last."
"No really." He patted my shoulder. "I don't want you to be sad about such a thing. You have been too hung up on her for too long now."
"I know, I-" We were interrupted by a loud knocking. I looked to my window, the source of the noise, and saw Kenny's grinning face. His blond hair messy as always. He waived in his cheery manner and he slid the window open.
"Hey guys! I'm not interrupting your date am I?" He climbed inside.
"Kenny! What are you doing here?" Kyle asked surprised.
"Oh, right! I'm sorry!" I nearly smacked myself. I looked at my bedside alarm 9:11 PM. I had totally forgotten to tell Kyle I was meeting Kenny as well that night.
"Well this is awkward." Kenny said with a glint in his eyes. "The mistress meets the wife." Kyle barked out a laugh. Kenny flopped down onto my bed, lounging there as if he belonged there.
"I'm sorry dude." I turned to Kyle. "I forgot to tell you Kenny was supposed to teach me how to play poker tonight."
"Play poker?" Kenny used air quotes as he said that. "Well, that's a word for doing the dirty that even I have never heard of before."
"Playing poker?" Kyle repeated, frowning at me.
"Yeah, the football team is playing a poker match against West Park and I have to learn how to play."
"Do you really think you should be spending your time like this?" He was sounding a bit like my mom, but I knew how to handle Kyle when he got like this.
"Come on, dude!" I ruffled his hair softly, affectionately. He was very sensitive there and just loved getting stroked like that. "We have been studying every night for the past week!"
"Yeah, Kye." Kenny joined in. "Let him relax for a night. I swear I'll return him to you as good as new."
Kyle huffed and closed his book. I knew we had won.
"Fine." He stuffed his books into his backpack and put his glasses back on. We both got up and hugged goodbye. I loved Kyle and his bossy and bookish ways. He had been my best friend for years, our personalities just matched. I could even out his uptight manners with my more emotional way of dealing with things.
"By all means, don't leave on my account!" Kenny called from the bed, sitting up. "We don't mind you here!" He grabbed Kyle and pulled him onto the bed. Kyle yelped as Kenny hugged him to his chest.
"Ken- Kenny!" He protested as his face was being pressed against Kenny's chest. I burst out laughing as Kyle's long and lanky arms flailed desperately. Kenny grinned at me from across Kyle's head.
"Kenny, stop harassing him." I snorted. Kenny sighed dramatically.
"Okay." He let go off Kyle who gasped for breath and fell back against the bed.
"Jeez, Ken." The blond boy just grinned at our red headed friend. He adjusted his glasses and got up. "I'll see you guys tomorrow." He grabbed his rug sack and with a last pet on my shoulder and smile at Kenny he left my room, closing the door behind him.
"So." Kenny got up and shrugged his coat off. "Where do we start? Do you know anything about playing poker?"
"Uhm." I sat down at my desk chair. "No, not really."
"Hm, I figured as much." He sat back against the headboard. From his worn out, slightly ripped jeans he got a deck of cards, smudged and dirty.
"Come sit." He petted the bed. "I want to be relaxed when doing this." I got up and sat next to him.
"At least take off your shoes." I grumbled, eyeing his dirty, red All Stars. He untied them and kicked them off. He shifted closer, taking out the cards and shuffling them in his hands. I looked at the fast movements of his hands and realized I didn't hang out with Kenny alone a lot. We were always joined by either Kyle or Cartman. We both had busy schedules, I hung out with Kyle often and spent a lot of my time playing football, he had his part time job at Café Monet and hang out with a ton of people in his spare time.
Kenny was popular, I admitted with reluctance. Even more popular than I was, and I knew I was already pretty popular. Though in some way I could not compete with Kenny.
His wild, blond hair and stunning blue eyes made ladies swoon all over South Park. His crooked grin helped with that too. But the thing that most people found attractive was his charm: he was always genuinely interested in people, listened and laughed at their jokes. That was also the reason I liked Kenny so much: he was always honest and really cared for people. His voice interrupted my thoughts.
"First thing you need to know, is that there are different kinds of poker. Now, I assume you will be playing regular 'Texas Hold 'Em', but you will have to check that for me. So that we can make sure that I'm not teaching you the wrong kind."
He started to explain some of the basic rules and I looked at his focused and happy face. I realized that I really hoped we had fun and that this might lead us to hang out more with just the two of us. I felt I didn't get to hang out enough and maybe him learning me how to play poker would get us a chance to get closer to each other.
After explaining the basic rules we revised some of the stuff he had learned me. He dealt some cards onto the sheets.
"So this is...?" He prompted me. I looked at the cards: 3 tens and 2 eights.
"Three of a kind?" I tried.
"Almost. It's a full house."
"Oh right, three of a kind and a pair."
He took the cards away and put some new ones, all of the same suit, on the sheets. This one I recognized immediately.
"That's a flush!"
"Very good. And if the cards would have been consecutive cards?"
"A royal flush? But- but that's only when the highest card is an ace, right?"
"My, my! You are a quick learner!" He winked at me and nudged me softly with his fist. I felt a blush creep over my cheeks. I still wasn't entirely used to his flirting. Which didn't mean I didn't like it, getting attention was always a nice thing.
"I can't understand why Wendy broke up with you." My stomach nearly plummeted at that comment. It must have shown on my face because he leaned in and gripped my shoulder with his free hand.
"Hey." He looked at me with a reassuring look in his eye. It wasn't a look of pity, but just a look of real sympathy.
"I'm sorry for bringing you down like that, I should have know the pain was still there."
"No, no. It's okay."
"You do know that Kyle's not the only one you can talk to, right?" I looked into his vivid blue eyes and realized with a shock that I had been holding out on him: I was usually an emotional person, every possible thought magnified and turbulent within my mind. Much like a girl's, I admitted with some chagrin. And the only one I ever really really confided in was Kyle.
"I- I know." I said with some hesitation. "It's just that, you know.."
"Yeah, I know. You are more used to telling Kyle this stuff."
I nodded. The cards lay forgotten between the two of us.
"You do know the whole school thinks you two are fucking, right?" He added, eyes dancing with mirth. I rolled mine at his comment.
"Yeah, I know. It's getting really old, just because we're friends doesn't mean we want to see each other naked."
"No?" He asked with apparent surprise, as if he would very much like to see both of us naked. This time I could handle his flirty comment a bit better. I was still blushing a bit, though a lot less.
"No. Sleeping in the same bed as him is enough, thank you very much."
"I forgot you two still do that. You're telling me nothing has ever happened between the two of you when you were laying pressed together?"
"What?! NO!" The thought was pretty horrifying for some reason.
"Hm, no I guess not." He grinned crookedly at me. "I bet you like brunettes better than red-heads anyway. Or blonds." He winked at me. This time I laughed too. He took the cards and shuffled them again.
"Want to have some practice rounds?"
"Yes, but please don't make fun of me when I turn out to be bad at it!"
He laughed out loud.
"I wouldn't dare, Stan. Okay, let's go." He dealt us both a hand and we started practicing: when to call, or raise. Which hands were absolutely too bad to make work or which ones were worth giving a shot. The whole order of the game became clear to me quickly, due to his careful and patient explaining and I felt a bit confident when in the end I even managed to win a couple of times.
After a bit I looked at my bedside alarm and noticed it was already 10:30 PM. He noticed too and took the cards.
"I think we should call it a day, we have been practicing quite a bit and it's a lot to take in. But I took some notes with me for you to read." He extracted a wad of paper from his backside pocket. They were crumpled and folded twice. With some horror I also noticed they were a bit warm because he had been sitting on them. I took them from him
"Can't I also look this up on the internet?" I asked. He made a mocking shocked sound.
"Are you saying all my work has been for nothing?!" Then he continued in his normal voice. "Yes, you can. But my notes are better anyway."
"Oh, okay." I didn't really see how that could be, but decided not to go against it. He grabbed his shoes and started to put them on again.
"Do you want to practice some more another time?"
"Yeah, I think that would be best. I have to play against Cartman after all."
He made a face.
"Oh, dear, I forgot that for a moment. Yeah, we have to get you really good for that." He turned to me and pulled me in for a hug. "I had fun tonight, Stan."
"Hm, yeah, me too." I mumbled in his shoulder, hugging him back. He moved away from me and opened the window.
"Dude! I have a front door you know!" I said as he swung his legs over the window sill, but he just shrugged and smiled.
"Isn't this the way all people enter and exit houses in South Park?" I smiled back. "See you tomorrow at school."
"Yeah, see you tomorrow." I watched how he climbed outside, his blond hair twirling in the soft evening breeze. I sat down on my bed and looked at his notes. His wild scribble was a bit difficult to read but I could still make out things like:
"When it's your turn: Call: you keep playing but that's it. Fold: you are scared as shit and want to stop. Raise: adding more money to make those motherfuckers scared of how brave you are."
Same drawings of cards and different combinations of suits with descriptions underneath them:
"Same color: 2 dudes and 3 aces: HOLY SHIT call me when that happens because it's really rare! You'll win fo sho."
I lay back against the pillows on my bed and leafed through his notes some more, a smile on my face.