Do You Sell Time (Writing Prompt)

The prompt from Reddit:


She sat in the middle of the room, in the middle of a quiet bar that had nothing to offer but empty seats and a bored tender who still wouldn’t provide a genuine ear to your troubles. Davin approached with apprehension, each step affirming his suspicious that he was in the wrong place, that she was the wrong one, that like everything else in his life, he’d again made a mistake. He rounded her shoulder with nervous eyes. Her face was calm, pale, and beautiful. Long, dark bangs were parted and hung over her plump cheeks. In front of her, over a wooden table that was stained and warped from every fluid imaginable, she dealt a game of Blackjack to no one, and she was winning every hand.

“Are you Carina?” he asked. “My pardon. Ms. Carina?”

She looked up with blue eyes as calm as the Caribbean Sea and continued dealing to the empty chairs in front of her. “Yes.”

Davin watched the cards dart to their places. His hand touched the old wood of the chair, but he hesitated. The cards at his seat put him at a disadvantage.

“They’re just for me,” she said. “Just for fun. A way to pass the time.”

Davin’s nervousness flashed to anger at the flippant response, but those cool blue eyes looking back at him said no slight was intended, that certain luxuries come with any occupation, and hers was no exception.

“Sit down,” she said as she turned the cards in front of her. “Relax.”

The chair shuddered across the floor and Davin sat, placing his gray top hat on the empty chair beside him. He suddenly felt foolish in his appearance. His nicest dress, a gray suit and black tie, was no comparison to the exotic threads she wore, most likely hand sewn from all regions of the world in vivid colors that would make sunsets weep, and she wore them as casually as an old bathrobe.

“Twenty for the dealer,” she said, turning a fortunate eight onto her twelve. She paused, giving Davin an apologetic look for the victory, and scooped up the cards in silence.

“I would like to make a purchase,” he said. “Or a transfer, I mean to say.” He gripped the edge of the table with soft fingers and pale skin. “I need to make a transfer.”

“I don’t do transfers,” said Carina. “I don’t support that market.”

“But it’s the same thing!” Davin pleaded, his voice becoming incredulous in an instant.

She flipped a card between her fingers while staring at him. The motion was quick, but the flash of color caught in the dim light showed Davin what she held—the queen of hearts. “I’m sorry,” she said, her voice thick with sincerity, “I don’t do transfers. Not anymore. I buy or sell, but I won’t do a direct exchange.” She returned the card to the deck and held up her hand. “And don’t argue with me that it’s the same thing, because I know it is. But I don’t do that anymore. It’s a disgusting thing.”

Davin peered into her wondrous eyes and soon saw his own sadness looking back at him. He inched his hands forward, onto the table, and Carina flicked more cards to each seat. Those directed to him stuck under the pads of his fingers. His pale skin broke out into cold sweat. He could feel the moisture building on his cheeks and bare lip.

“But it’s my daughter,” he said, just louder than a whisper. “Please, there’s nothing else I can do.”

Carina issued the hand and retained the remaining deck in her own. “You do what nature demands of you.” She turned a card to the first empty seat. It resulted in a bust. Her eyes captured his. “You let go.”

Davin’s eyes fell to the table and saw what he held. Fourteen. In front of Carina sat the King of Spades and another card face down. He looked to her, and she gave a gentle nod. He tapped his fingers on the table. Carina spun the card at him as if she already knew what it was. Perhaps she did. Davin turned it over. It was a four. He sat on a difficult eighteen.

“She’s sick. She’s only thirteen, Ms. Carina. Thirteen and bright and beautiful and so young and ready to experience everything amazing in this world.”

Carina watched him, watched the hopelessness in his eyes, and waited.

Davin glanced between her hand and his own. “The doctors, as much as they’ve tried, they give her six months. According to them, she won’t even reach her fourteenth birthday.” He let out a shuddering sigh and kept his eyes down, afraid to see the truth waiting in hers.

Carina held the deck in silence, slowly rubbing the backside of the card with a finger.

“I’ve spent all my money,” he said with eyes still cast down. “I’ve given away everything. My wife died some years ago and I swore I’d never make the same mistake twice. If given the chance, I’d never let the material take precedence again. I swore then I’d give everything if I had a second chance, even my life.”

Carina motioned the top card of the deck. She saw the truth of the words coming from the broken man in front of her. “I don’t do transfers,” she said.

His eyes rose, and a stern anger began to fill them. “Didn’t you hear what I said? I’ll give you anything. Everything.”

“That’s the problem,” she said. “You’ll give me everything, and you’ll leave your daughter with nothing more than a few rotten years of sick, painful life and nothing but a dead father to show for it. I’ve played that game. I’ve seen how it ends. Hit or stand.”

Sneering shadows took to Davin’s eyes. He waved his hand over the cards in front of him. Carina turned her own to reveal a nine of diamonds. With their eyes locked, she reached over and pulled the defeated cards toward her. Fire was swelling in Davin’s eyes, the kind of fire that comes from hating a painful reality that cannot be escaped.

Denied, he stood, donned his hat, and left without saying a word.


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