chapter twenty-four

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(here's a long chapter to thank you for all the support <3)

JENNIE

I hate gambling.

My parents always told me that the only purpose of casinos was to steal the money from those who lost the right path. The ones who lost themselves: for instance my uncle. He used to be a happy man until he lost his job. He lied to his wife and tried to gain money with gambling but all he had accumulated was debts. If my father wasn't here to help him, he would probably be in this casino, trying to save the loss of his job.

Las Vegas is full of dark places where illicit activities take place and casinos are one of them. I strongly believe that slot machines are rigged for the benefit of casinos. Card games like poker and blackjack are the only game here legitimate to me, but the best players must be good liars.

Being in a place that my parents always forbade me to enter makes me feel guilty. All these neon-colored machines, the faces of those who have just lost, the parasitic noise of colliding rooms, and the blood-red carpet are making me feel like I'm in another world.

I don't feel so good.

"That place is huge," Niki says, looking at the surroundings while Jackson's eyes are pointed on a slot machine.

They are both overwhelmed by the grandeur of the casino for a reason that is beyond me. I have already been to a much bigger place.

It's not that impressive.

Lisa appears by my side, her gaze fixed on the large alley with a small smile on her plump lips. I look at her but immediately look away when her eyes turn to me.

"Pennies for your thoughts?" she asks me with a soft voice.

I pinch my lips and look at her. She smiles at me and I intertwine my fingers with hers. The softness of her hands surprises me. Unlike Jaden, who had large, rough and sweaty hands, hers molds perfectly with mine.

"I'm glad we are friends again," I admit.

Lisa shifts her attention to our crisscrossed hands and looks at me. We often hold hands when we were in high school. She was always the one who initiated this and I never complained about it. Why is she so surprised? I don't understand why it should be different. We have grown up, but habits are still the same.

With a frown, I ask, "You don't like it?"

Lisa bites her lip and puts her hand in her pocket.

"Yes, I mean no..., I like holdings hands, it's just that--"

"Lisa! Jennie!" someone interrupts us.

I glare at the person who disturbed me: Jackson. He has a big smile and he walks towards us. He purses his lips when our eyes met, but before embarrassing himself, he turns to Lisa.

I know he has a crush on me, but I avoid all relationships with friends of my friends. Jaden was a friend of Elijah, and when we broke up, he had cried in front of her to gain her empathy. She thought I was the one at fault in our relationship and it made me sad to hear that. This is why I don't want to go out with someone who has affinities with my friends: it can cause too many problems.

"I'm going to hang out at the bar, someone wants to join me?" He asks us and his gaze lingers longer on me.

"Maybe after," said Lisa. "I'll go see the roulette table before. "

"I am coming with you! I exclaim.

Jackson is like an open book. He is disappointed and it shows. He still sketched a thin smile before leaving, hands in the pockets of his leather jacket. I turn my head, and my heartbeat leaps when I see Lisa's eyes already on me.

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