Anthony pretended he was okay with this poker game that he was hosting the next day. He tried to hide his own emotions around the inmates and even his co-workers. No one was the wiser that he just wanted to end the poker game, and try to get Eli and Sam back to being that gag-worthy couple they were before he opened his big fat mouth.
Of course, he said nothing. All the guys at work talked about it non-stop about the game. They were looking forward to playing cards, and seeing where Anthony lived.
Anthony headed home less than thrilled about the next day. His co-workers had no idea who Eli was, or if they did, they never mentioned it to him. They just wanted to play, and Anthony wanted the comradery between his co-workers. How else was he supposed to make friends? Join the bowling league? Fuck that. Poker was something he understood. Both Eli and him learned from the best—their mother.
Anthony stepped into the apartment, and heard Derek singing along with the television. Anthony didn’t even need to see it to know Derek was watching Hopper’s Day Out: A MySims Adventure. He headed toward his nephew and found Sam sitting with Derek. Her face full of hurt and tears.
“Any word on Eli?” he asked her.
“Hi uncle Antony!” Derek shouted.
He waved over to Derek, and leaned against the room divider. “Hey sport.” He turned to Sam, who looked to be on the verge of crying. “Nothing?”
“He…” she sobbed. “He’s not coming home.”
Anthony’s entire body went cold. “W-why?” Though he knew why, he just couldn’t believe it. He could not believe Eli would do that to her. Hell, Anthony couldn’t believe Eli would do that to him. They were not just brothers, but they were best friends. He had been Anthony’s Best Man at his wedding a year ago.
“He thinks you’re putting him on display.”
Anthony swallowed that hard lump. He never even thought about it like that. He just wanted to play poker. Would Eli be on display? No way. There’s no way he would let anyone talk shit to Eli.
“He went on and on about how you’re just treating him like a common animal at the zoo. It’s just a poker game, but he says it’s more, and that he’s really torn about being here right now.”
Anthony shook his head. This was getting ridiculous. “Where is he?”
“Marv’s house.” She caressed Derek’s head. “Anthony, tell me he’s blowing this out of proportion. I know you. You wouldn’t do this to him. You wouldn’t make him look like a caged animal in his own home.”
Anthony shook his head though he couldn’t meet her eyes. “I had no idea he’d feel like that. I just wanted to be part of the guys, you know?” Anthony paused. “But it’s not worth it. This is Eli’s place, and he should not feel like he has to hide.”
“What are we going to do?”
“Easy, I’m going to do what I should have done when Eli went ballistic on us. I’m going to cancel the poker game, and tell the guys that until I get my own place, I just can’t host.”
“You’d do that?”
Anthony was already pulling out his phone. “Yeah. He means more to me than trying to find friends.”
“But isn’t it to late? I mean, tomorrow is the game, and—”
“And what? Plans get canceled all the time.” Anthony shrugged as he searched his contacts for Dan’s number.
“Hey, Tony,” Dan answered after the third ring. “What’s up?”
“Hey, dude, hate to do this, but I got to cancel for tomorrow. Something came up, and I have to deal with some family crisis. Rain check?”
“Yeah, totally. I’ll call the guys. Hope everything’s okay.”
“Thanks.” Well, that was easy.
As Anthony put his phone back into his pocket, Sam came over and handed a piece of paper with an address on it. “Go over there, and make things right with Eli, Anthony.”
“Thanks. And I’m sorry I caused this shit between you two.”
“It’s okay,” Sam said and gave him a tight hug before he took off.
“Eli,” Marv called out, and came to the back patio where Eli was sitting on the balcony railing, thinking about home…Sam. Eli’s heart weighed heavy on him since his conversation with her. He should just go home.
“Eli, your brother’s at the door.”
Eli turned his head. “You let him in?”
“Not really. But he is asking to speak with you.”
Eli headed back through the apartment and found his brother by the front door. He still wore his uniform. Right, this was exactly why he wasn’t going home. Sam understood, right?
“What?” he snapped at his brother.
“Can we talk?”
“I really don’t want to hear it, Tony.”
“I cancelled the poker game. Look, I didn’t realize how you felt until Sam told me. I should of, and I’m an ass for not thinking about it. I never told them that my brother’s an ex-inmate over there.”
Eli didn’t know what to think. “They don’t know?”
“Dude, why would I tell them? The only one that knows is the Warden, and that’s because I privately divulged that information to him during my interview to work there.
“Elijah, please. Come home. Be with your wife and son. If you want me gone, I’ll see if Mom will let me stay with her and Ryha. Just give me a day to pack my shit, and I’ll go. And if you never speak to me, I’ll understand.”
“That’s not what I want.” Damn, how did everything get so fucked up in his life? Eli sighed. “Let me go grab a couple of my things.” He went back in and gathered the small backpack he had with some of his stuff.
When Marv noticed him, Eli told him everything that had gone on with his brother. Not that he probably didn’t hear. The apartment wasn’t that big.
“Whatever you do, don’t kick him to the curb, Eli. He may have been an idiot, but he’s not a complete ass. He deserves a second chance.”
Eli sighed. Maybe Marv was right. “Yeah, I know.”