Goodbye Sol – Page 20

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I watched as Skyler racked the balls. With one last flick of his wrist, he pulled the triangle rack away and shot an exaggerated wink at me.
Asher grabbed a pool cue and positioned himself at the end of the table. “I’ll break,” he said. An explosion of movement covered the table with two solid balls falling into pockets on opposite sides. “I guess we’re solids.” Asher smiled at me, then turned his attention to Skyler. “Maybe you should just quit now?”
“It’ll take more than one lucky shot to stop me,” Skyler replied with a wide grin.
Asher continued to make strategic moves and sunk three more balls before making a mistake. He backed away from the table. “I guess you get to go.”
“If you don’t mind, Willow?” Skyler said chalking his cue.
“No, go ahead.” Willow sat on the stool near Emeric. Her face flushed and her breath laboured.
I walked over to Willow. “Are you okay?”
She just presented me a smile as a response.
“You two ladies have to watch this. It might be over before either of you have a chance to play,” Skyler said. He leaned over the table. “Eleven ball, right corner pocket.” The stick slid gracefully and the ball went exactly where he said. “That one was for you Anaya.”
“Are you going to play or talk?” Asher said.
I could feel some odd tension in the air as Skyler walked passed Asher, entering his personal space, before he positioned himself for his next play.
“Play? Talk? It doesn’t matter, I’m going to win,” Skyler replied. “Nine ball, center pocket,” he called out, and again made his shot. “I could do this all night. You ladies could go get yourselves a drink if you want.”
Emeric lifted his eyes and looked over his tablet at Asher. I watched as Asher noticed Emeric’s glance and the two exchanged nods.
Skyler moved to set-up his next shot. “I’ll do this one with my eyes closed. Wouldn’t that be impressive Anaya?” He licked his lips as he looked at me.
His constant use of my name made me a little sick to my stomach. I knew what he was trying to do, but with all I knew, there wasn’t a move he could make that could make me attracted to him. I had to continue to tell my face to relax as it contorted in disgust at his comments.
Skyler called out his shot, lined it up and just as he had done before, he gracefully pushed the pool cue forward, but this time, just before it came in contact with the cue ball, the ship jolted. The white ball rolled off course, and went into a corner pocket.
“Oh, I’m sorry. Hazards of playing on a spaceship, I supposed,” Asher said gleefully.
Skyler let out a muffled growl and snatched the chalk from the edge of the table. He ground it into the end of the stick so forcefully that I could see his biceps flexing through his shirt.
I went up, and Asher handed me his cue stick. I tried to line up a shot. I looked at the table and tried to picture the cue ball moving where I wanted it to. I looked at the diamonds at the edge like Asher had shown me, and once I felt ready, I pulled back the stick and then pushed it forward with confidence and strength, trying to follow through. The cue ball bounced all over the table hitting a number of balls, but the outcome was just one of chaos. None of the balls went into any pocket. I felt a little embarrassed. “Well, I think I effectively stirred things up.”
“It’s your turn, darling,” Skyler said as he walked over to Willow. “Show them how it’s done.”
Willow grabbed the pool cue from his hand, and leaned forward to get off the stool. With both feet on the ground, she tried to move forward and stumbled, her feet seemed almost glued in place. I offered her my arm for stability. “No,” she whispered firmly.
Each step she took seemed deliberate, and the distance from her stool to the table seemed to stretch farther and farther away as I watched. Finally, she reached the table edge and leaned against it. “Fourteen. Corner pocket,” she stated, and lined up the shot. Her hands trembled. She took a deep breath and let it out. The fourteen ball went into the corner pocket.
“And here’s to my partner, the poolshark!” Skyler announced as he skipped round the table to give Willow a high five.
She lifted her hand in the air, and it shook more aggressively, but Skyler was still able to connect. I was concerned for a moment that the contact was going to knock Willow over.
Refocused on the game, she turned her attention to the table. Willow turned her head, looked at me, and smiled timidly. “T-t-,” she swallowed hard, “ten.” She pointed at the pocket directly opposite where she was standing and lined up to make a bank shot. At the last moment her arm twitched erratically and the cue ball leapt from the table and hit the floor. Asher and Skyler both chuckled awkwardly, while Emeric raised an eyebrow at me. “Bu-bu-t-ter fi-ing-gers,” Willow mumbled with a smile.
“Maybe it’s time to end the game,” I said.
“But we just got started.” Skyler’s voice reminded me of my nephew Torin when Abarrane would tell him it was time for bed.
“Nah!” Willow said with a smile, stumbling back to the stool. “s-a-ll good.”
With that, Asher took back the pool cue from me and chalked the end. “Hey, Skyler?”
“How old were you when you left Earth, again?”
“Twenty three,” Skyler replied.
“Anaya, do you remember seeing the launch?”
“No,” I answered.
Asher nodded. “Four.” He pointed to the left corner pocket. “Like how old Anaya was when the Raven launched.”
Emeric let out a laugh, as Asher sunk the four ball just as he had called.
Willow smiled at me. “Good shot, A-asher,” she said with a little clap.
Asher nodded to her, and lined up for his next shot.
Skyler slid over to me and stood shoulder to shoulder. “So, are you single? What’s your type?”
I heard a clack, and Asher stood holding his cue in two hands, staring at Skyler with wide eyes, his mouth agape.
“And that’s a scratch!” Skyler called out, taking his spot at the table, and pulling the cue ball from the pocket closest to him. “You’ve cleared out the table really nicely for me. I’ll finish this now.” Skyler’s whole posture changed, and his face tightened. He put the cue ball down on the table, and twisted it, pushing it firmly. He leaned in close, his chin almost touched the table. He pulled back the cue stick and slammed it forward. Two striped balls disappeared. “Did you see that?” Skyler called out, his voice dripped with confidence and excitement. “Only two left, other than the eight ball. Thank you all for coming out. I’ll take on all challengers.”
“Still anyone’s game here, pops.” Asher said, still holding his cue stick.
The bravado flying around the room was thick. I could almost smell the testosterone. I found myself praying for Skyler to make another mistake. I looked at Asher, but he was focused on Skyler.
Emeric audibly sighed and stood up. “Good night all,” he said and made his way towards his quarters.
Another loud crack, and the table only had one solid ball, one striped ball, and the eight ball sitting on it. The cue ball was angled awkwardly for Skyler’s next shot, even an amateur could see that it was going to be difficult for him to make it.
There was a visible sheen of sweat on Asher’s forehead as Skyler lined up for that shot.
“Game over,” Skyler said as he focused his eyes on me. “Winner gets to share an evening drink with Anaya, right?” His teeth were exposed in another wide smile.
I rolled my eyes up into the top of my head so violently that it was actually painful. Thankfully, Skyler’s confidence in his abilities was misplaced as the eight ball rolled into the far corner pocket, ending the game.
Asher shrugged at Skyler. “Game over.” He said calmly as he walked toward me and offered me his arm. “Shall we, partner?”
I laughed and playfully tapped his elbow.

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