Loraine slowly turned the knob of her father's bedroom door. She halted her breathing like her life depended on it as she peered into the darkness. A small lamp illuminated his sleeping face as he held tight to a pillow as if it were a dear friend. Loraine gently closed the door, as soundless as she could manage, and made her way down the staircase leading to the basement, which she'd recently made her room.

"Asleep, finally..." she whispered to herself. "Now, looks like I can do this in peace." Loraine lit a small blue candle and sat it on the edge of the table that laid in the center of the room. Cotton candy was a favorite scent of hers.

"Ah, damn..," she thought out loud. "Almost forgot." She picked up the candle and lit her way to the closet door. It creaked painfully as she pulled on its handle. She knew however that it was muffled enough by the house itself to remove any chance of awakening her father. She held the candle inside the closet, revealing a small deck of playing cards on a shelf that stayed just above her collar. 

Loraine picked up the cards and looked at the back of their box. She could tell it was the same deck as last time because of the white back, devoid of text or imagery. She put the cards in her pocket and closed the closet door before setting the candle back in its position on the table. She pulled up a wicker chair so worn, it was as if it had always been in that condition. She set the deck of cards on the table, before sitting down in the pitiful chair. The candle lit just enough to see the table, while the rest of the room lay in a seemingly impenetrable blanket of darkness. Loraine opened the box and poured the cards out on the table.      

She picked them up, checked to see that they were all facing the right way, and began shuffling them. After the cards were thoroughly mixed, Loraine took a deep breath. She closed her eyes for a moment as she stretched her back. She slowly opened her eyes and peered into the darkness on the other side of the table.

She began dealing cards out to her side of the table, and to the side of the empty space. Seven cards to her, and seven to the other. She again closed her eyes. 

"I'm ready."

Loraine opened her eyes and neatly stacked the seven cards into a small pile, taking care not to see their numbers. She looked ahead to see the other cards arranged in the same way.

Loraine picked up the top card, not looking at its number, same as before. She had a bad feeling about it, so she discarded it to the left side of the table. The next card, she set in front of her. She discarded two more, added two cards to the one in front of her, and discarded the last card. She looked to the other side of the table. The cards had not been arranged in the same way yet, so she leaned back in her chair. She was used to the worn chair, and didn't mind how it felt. "Alright..." she thought to herself. "I just need my cards to total a higher number.. I can do this.. I'm lucky, I know it.." She cheered herself on like this until the cards on the other side had been arranged.

She slowly turned over the first of her three cards. An eight. A smirk came to her lips. She looked to the other side of the table. Only a six. 

She smiled a little and turned over the second card. A two. Loraine flinched and looked across the table. A seven. She looked down nervously at her last card. "Ten against thirteen," she whispered. "I can still do this." She turned over the last card. A nine. Her eyes widened and she eagerly looked to the last card on the other side of the table. 


A voice giggled from across the table. "Not your night, I guess," the voice teased. Loraine could see those familiar crooked teeth crack a smile. 

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Loraine's father awakened to his daughter's face next to his, standing beside the bed. "Hehe, well hey there dear," he said. "What do you want for breakfast, Loraine?"

"You know, Loraine..." Loraine's father said as he set down a plate of pancakes in front of the girl. "I'm glad we moved to Asheville. The way the sun shines in the mornings just feels... refreshing."

Loraine watched from the darkness as her father sat down with his own plate, and chatted with the girl. She felt like crying, when he didn't see the slightest difference. 

Written by Queen Citadel
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