Jesse walked to the parking lot, feeling fly in his rented tux. As he walked, he caught a glimpse of a group of girls checking him out and giggling. He climbed up into his truck and started the engine. Jesse felt fully ready to talk to Jasmine. After all, how could she resist him when he looked this good?
He looked up to his dashboard and saw the mysterious slip of paper he found in his pocket earlier. He unfolded it and pulled out his phone. He took a deep breath and began to dial the numbers. He felt his lungs tighten with anticipation as he awaited the unknown caller at the end of the other line.
“Hello?” A familiar feminine voice answered.
“Hello, this is Jesse Sterling,” he replied nervously.
“The guy from the pizza shop, right?” she asked.
“Yeah,” he answered.
“Hey, it’s Melody Tripp, remember me?”
“How could I forget you?” Jesse asked with a smile.
“Aw, you’re sweet,” Melody said. “I’m sorry for running out on you so quickly this afternoon, my friends and I were on our lunch break and we went a little over,” she explained.
“It’s okay, my friends and I were getting ready to leave anyways, we have a big night tonight,” Jesse said.
“Oh, yeah, what are you doing?” Melody asked inquisitively.
“Our church is having a charity casino night,” Jesse said.
“Oh yeah? What church do you go to?”
“Beulah Missionary Church,” he replied.
“That’s cool, I’ve gone to that church with my friends a few times,” Melody said.
“So, you’re a Christian?” Jesse asked.
“Yeah, something like that,” Melody answered her voice trailing off.
“Well, hey Melody, I need to go, this event starts in like half an hour, so I’ll call you later?” Jesse asked.
“I look forward to it,” Melody said with a gentle tone of voice.
“Cool, I’ll talk to you later then,” Jesse said as he hung up the phone.
Jesse switched his radio on to the local country music station, put his truck in gear, and made his way up to the church.
Jesse could see the church from a mile down the road, the wild casino lights flashed through the thick trees that lined the road. He pulled into the parking lot and drove under the church canopy.
“Can I park your truck sir?” Ken Peaches asked as Jesse drove up.
Jesse stepped down out of his truck and handed Ken his keys, “Don’t scratch the paint.” Jesse said. “Here, go buy yourself a new job,” Jesse said as he shoved a twenty-dollar bill into Ken’s shirt pocket.
Jesse walked into the church and was impressed by how authentic the decorations and set-up were to that of a real casino. The church even paid some of its members to act as bouncers.
“Can I see an ID sir?” Dan Bowman, the church youth pastor asked upon Jesse entering. Jesse pulled out his wallet and handed it to Dan. “Okay, he checks out, go on in and have fun.” Dan said opening the doors to the main gym for Jesse.
“Dan, aren’t you going to participate?” Jesse asked feeling that using the term “gambling” in a church setting was inappropriate.
“I will here in a little while, go have fun Jesse,” Dan said as he turned back to face the door.
Jesse made his way to the main gym, where the party was taking place. On his way he couldn’t stop thinking about Melody. He felt guilty fawning after both her and Jasmine. “I’ve known Jasmine longer, but Melody actually seems to have a genuine interest in me,” Jesse reasoned with himself aloud.
“Jesse! You finally made it!” He heard Sean call to him from down the hall. Sean ran up to Jesse with Nick and they all high fived and brought each other in for a hug.
“Your girl is in there running the blackjack table, why don’t we go see her?” Nick said snickering. Jesse simply rolled his eyes and headed into the auditorium with his friends.
The auditorium was filled with the sound of loud chimes and the excited shouts of people winning extravagant prizes. The Hills of Beulah, the church’s worship band, were on the main stage playing different genres of music, primarily rock. Flashing lights filled the usually austere auditorium with reds, blues, and greens.
“They certainly made it look authentic!” Nick yelled over the sound of the band playing.
“Yeah!” Jesse yelled back as he scouted the area for Jasmine.
“She’s over there Jesse!” Sean yelled as he pointed to a blackjack table on the other side of the gym.
“Under the basketball hoop!” Sean yelled again.
“I’ll see you boys later, I’m going to talk to her!” Jesse said as he made his way to the blackjack table.
“Hello sir, can I help you with anything?” A familiar host asked him.
“Kyle? What are you doing here man?” Jesse asked puzzled by the appearance of one of Papa Ed’s employees.
“I go to church here and volunteered to help work this event,” Kyle explained.
“Cool, well it was good to see you Kyle,” Jesse said as he brushed Kyle aside.
“Is there anything I can get for you sir?” Kyle asked.
“No, Kyle, I’m kind of busy at the moment,” Jesse said feeling a bit annoyed by Kyle’s repeated interruptions.
“We have an extensive list of beverages and food items–” Kyle began.
Jesse pulled out his wallet. “How much to make you go away?” Jesse asked hostilely. “Here’s ten bucks, get lost.” Jesse said as he shoved the ten-dollar bill into Kyle’s shiny red vest.
“Thank you, I’ll be right back with your beverage.” Kyle said, befuddled by what just occurred.
Jesse’s journey across the auditorium finally brought him to Jasmine’s table. “H-Hey, Jasmine,” Jesse stuttered.
“Hi, Jesse, how are you tonight?” Jasmine asked as she brushed her long light brown hair out of her face.
“Not too bad,” Jesse replied.
“You look really handsome tonight.” Jasmine complimented batting her beautiful emerald eyes at him.
“T-Thank you,” Jesse said not sure of what to say next.
“Hit me,” Jesse heard a familiar voice say to Jasmine. Jesse looked over his left shoulder to see a familiar blonde haired woman.
“Melody?” Jesse asked as he stared awkwardly.
She perked her head up from the cards in front of her and turned her head to look at Jesse.
“Oh, hey Jesse!” she said excitedly as she walked up to him and gave him a big hug.
“What are you doing here?” Jesse asked feeling incredibly tense now that both women he was crushing on were right in front of him.
“Well, you were telling me about this over the phone, and it sounded fun, so I figured I’d join you,” Melody explained with a smile.
“Who’s your girlfriend Jesse? She’s quite friendly,” Jasmine asked as she dealt the cards.
“Here is your Mr. Pibb, Jesse,” Kyle said politely as he set the drink in front of him.
“Not now Kyle!” Jesse said raising his voice to the waiter.
“I’m sorry Jesse, is there anything else I can do for you?” Kyle asked, his hands shaking a little.
“Yes Kyle, there is, find me a dictionary,” Jesse said rubbing his forehead with his forefinger and thumb.
“Why a dictionary, sir?” Kyle asked, his voice squeaking a little bit.
“So I can help you find the words annoying, clueless, and dunce and beat you senseless with the dictionary until you have a full understanding of the meaning of those words,” Jesse said glaring at Kyle.
“I just remembered, I burnt another customer’s flat bread pizza,” Kyle said as he backed away slowly.
“Wow, you are rough on the wait staff,” Melody said with a smile and a giggle.
“H-He’s just… I mean… uhh… it’s Kyle,” Jesse said, certain his behavior jeopardized his chances with either girl.
“Don’t worry I understand, I know someone just like him that is awkward and clueless too,” Melody giggled.
Melody moved over and sat in the seat next to Jesse. “Deal me in,” Melody said looking up at Jasmine.
“Deal me in as well,” Jesse asked sounding civilized.
“Five dollars please,” Jasmine asked both of them politely.
Melody reached into her small black purse and pulled out a five dollar bill.
“Don’t worry about it, I’ve got this,” Jesse offered politely as he pulled two fives out of his wallet.
“Thank you,” Melody said with a smile.
“Such a fine gentleman, you’ve got a real winner here Miss,” Jasmine said smiling at Jesse.
Jasmine dealt two cards to each the two of them, Jesse looked down at his cards and revealed a Jack of hearts and a ten of spades. “I’ll stay,” Jesse said.
“Hit me,” Melody said. Jasmine dealt Melody another card, “Well that sucks, bust,” Melody said slid her cards back to Jasmine.
Jesse passed his cards back. “Twenty,” he said as he gave the cards back to Jasmine.
Jasmine gave Jesse a black and white score card. “What’s this?” Jesse asked.
“For every game you win you earn five points, the more points you have, the closer you’ll be to winning the grand prize,” Jasmine explained.
“What exactly is the grand prize?” Melody asked.
“A check for $5,000, second place is a check for $3,500, third place is a check for $1,500,” Jasmine replied.
“Well, win or lose, I’m happy I get to spend some time with you Jesse,” Melody said smiling up at him.
“Aww, that’s so cute,” Jasmine said.
“Here’s your raspberry fruit smoothie, miss,” Kyle said setting a drink in front of Melody.
“Kyle, if you’re going to be a waiter, you need to learn to use the proper name for the things you serve. We talked about this when I ordered,” Melody explained with a kind and gentle tone of voice.
“Yes ma’am, sorry ma’am, the baristas were happy to make this off menu item for you,” Kyle said taking a heavy gulp of air.
“Good job Kyle, I’m happy to hear that. Now, get lost before I decide to get curious,” Melody said with a suddenly piercing tone.
Fear filled Kyle’s eyes. “What do you mean miss?”
Melody looked up at Kyle and glared at him, “What I mean Kyle is, I might get curious and take a shard of this glass and see exactly how your insides would look like on the outside,” Melody said sinisterly.
“Yes ma’am, getting lost ma’am,” Kyle said as he ran off to the kitchen.
“Wow, that was dark,” Jesse said feeling slightly frightened, but also feeling quite amused.
Melody turned to Jesse. “See, I can be just as rough on the wait staff as you,” Melody said with a giggle suddenly becoming her sweet innocent self again. She took Jesse by the hand, “C’mon, let’s go try our luck on the slots,” Melody said as she guided Jesse to the slot machines.