Disclaimer: I don't actually play chess, so sorry if I got some of the details wrong. With that being said, enjoy!
Chess strategies lined up in my head as soon as I glanced at the chessboard, waiting for me to pick and apply one. The board was made up of exactly 64 squares, 32 white and 32 black. It was a perfect mixture, one that I loved.
“Next up, Varsha Vimal playing white, and Zelene Gilbert playing black!” The announcer declared. This was the biggest chess tournament of my life, it was the state tournament and it was being broadcasted live on TV. I had wanted to win this for as long as I can remember, and this year I was finally old enough to participate. I had been practicing nonstop for the past months, staying up until midnight memorizing every known chess strategy. It was a few days until the new year, and my New Year’s resolution for this year was to win this tournament, and I would.
I always win.
The audience clapped, and my opponent and I took our seats. I clasped my hands as I studied her. Blonde hair, blue eyes. Quite pretty, but beauty doesn’t matter in chess.
I shook her hand, wished her luck and pressed the timer button to start, producing a clicking sound that I was used to. I smiled at her, and wrote down my moves, a precaution for mistakes. My pencil scratched the paper, the sound seemingly echoing through the silent room.
The key to winning chess is not studying the chessboard, but studying the person that you’re playing against. My strategy was to get inside their brain, to be able to predict their every move. It has never failed me.
Halfway through the game, I saw Zelene start to sweat. She played with her hands and bit her lip, the signs of nervousness. It wasn’t long before a player cracked after these signs.
She glanced at me, and I smiled back.
She moved. Click. Scratch.
I moved. Click. Scratch. I sat back, a smug grin slowly appearing on my face.
Zelene stopped, her fingers hovering over her King. I could see her mind running through ways to protect it.
But it was no use. I had her cornered. I watched as her timer ticked down, and once it did, I would be declared winner. There was no way she would be able to get out of my trap.
Zelene sighed, and pushed down her King with her index finger, the sign of surrender. The clang when the piece hit the board ricocheted all around the room, and the audience started to clap. Slowly at first, but building up to a thunderous, standing ovation.
I breathed out, releasing the breath that I had been holding since the beginning. I smiled at the camera, but tuned out while the announcer was concluding the tournament.
I had finally won the states competition. But I didn’t feel contempt, I felt like something was missing.
As the announcer ended the chess tournament, I realized what it was.
All of Zelene’s family and friends came up to her, crowding her and hugging her, saying that it was alright that she lost. At least she tried.
Even though I was the one who had won, I had less people congratulating me than Zelene did. I only had my mother, who always supported my dream of becoming a famous chess player.
My father did not. It was one of the many reasons why I worked so hard for this dream. I wanted to prove him wrong, that I could become a world famous chess player.
I also had no friends surrounding me.
Sure, I had people who I sat with at lunch, and people who I occasionally talked to, but none of those people were close enough to call friends. They were mere associates. I had never been jealous of people who had lots of friends, most of them were probably fake and would stab them in the back as soon as they got the chance. At least that’s what I always told myself.
I didn’t have time for them, anyways. People used to want to hang out with me, but I always declined their offer. I was too busy practicing chess. After a while, nobody wanted to hang out with me anymore.
Not that I cared.
“Oh, my sweetie! You did so good! I am so proud of you,” my mother exclaimed, running up to me with tears in her eyes. She looked at me for a minute, as if not believing I was real. Then she crushed me into an embrace.
“Thank you!” I hugged her back, breathing in her sweet citrus scent that I had become so familiar with. It was the scent that floated next to me every time I was feeling down, and when I was feeling in need of a hug. That scent made me feel like I was protected, that I at least had one person in this world who loved me.
Little did I know that scent would soon vanish from my life forever.
I traced my finger over the curves and twists of the chess trophy as I sat in the backseat of the car. Each crack of the trophy made it real, and it constantly reminded me that I had just won the states chess tournament.
“Robert! Your daughter just won the states chess tournament! And yet you’re not even a bit proud?! What kind of father are you?” My mother interrupted my thoughts. She shook her head angrily, but fell silent, listening. Her eyes were fixated on the road in front of her.
“What happened to you? I married you for a reason! You have turned into the person that I was afraid you would turn into.” My mother never raised her voice, a quite incredible feat as the life that she lives in is full of anger.
So I should have known that the one time she did, tragedy would strike.
“I’m done with you! I AM TIRED, OKAY? I MIGHT AS WELL BE A SINGLE MOM WITH THE WAY YOU ACT. YOU HAVE NEVER CARED FOR VARSHA,” she yelled, her head whipping around in anger.
Taking them off the road.
“Mom!” I cried, as we neared a turn.
But she paid no attention to me.
“THAT IS IT! I CANNOT STAND YOU ANYMORE! I want a divorce.” That made me go into shock, but it quickly wore off.
A car suddenly cut in front of us, and my mother, who was still not paying attention to the road, didn’t have time to press down on the brakes. I screamed as our car crashed into the one in front of us, jerking me forward as airbags popped out. I winced as my face smacked into the airbags, and I could feel blood start to stream out of my nose. But other than that I was fine.
I looked over at my mom, and screamed again.
She was sitting there, deadly still, a pool of blood near her forehead.
“MOM? ARE YOU OKAY??” I asked her, shaking her. “MOM WAKE UP!” I started crying. “Please…”
My mom was the only person who cared for me, and if something happened to her… I would be alone in this world.
I sat there, stunned, hoping that this was just a dream. Red and blue lights swirled around me. The sound of the police siren whirling made me disoriented, all the sounds mashing up into one long scream.
Or maybe I was the one who screamed. I wasn’t sure of anything anymore.
A man with a blue uniform broke down the car door, and he took me by my hand, whispering something that I couldn’t make out. As soon as I was out of the car, my legs crumbled beneath me, unable to support my body weight.
The last thing I saw before everything went black was the sympathetic looks on the police officer’s face.
I woke up to blindingly bright lights. Am I in heaven? I sat up, but a sharp pain in my head made me fall back.
No… you can’t feel pain in heaven. I groaned, and looked around. Everything was white, the chairs, the walls, the floors.
A… hospital?! Why am I in a hospital? I started to panic, until everything crashed back into me. Which was ironic, really, because that’s how my mom was killed. By a car crash.
A little, hopeful voice inside me spoke, it’s possible that she survived…
But I quickly smothered that thought.
Having hope hurts. It is so easy to be broken, like a thin, shaky platform that only gives you the feel of security for a small amount of time. And then it breaks, shattering as you are jerked back into the cruel, unforgiving reality. The only thing having hope accomplishes is having a further way to fall.
It was better to have no hope than to have your heart in pieces.
The numbness was back, dragging me into its deeps, and no matter how hard I struggled and pleaded, it wouldn’t let go.
“Looks like you’re awake!” A nurse walked into the room, wearing a bright smile.
“Wish I wasn’t,” I murmured inaudibly.
“Nothing.” I smiled back at her.
The rest of the visit passed somewhat quickly. All the nurse did was check-up on me, and send me her condolences. Not that I wanted them.
I hated when people said “I’m sorry.” They didn’t even know her! What are they sorry for?
And for those who say “Everything will be alright.” Everything will not be alright! If you don’t understand my life, please don’t comment about it.
“Your father will be here shortly.” She nodded at me, and then left the room so I could change back into my regular clothes.
I waited, and anxiety chewed me up inside.
My mother was gone. All I had now was an unloving father who doesn’t approve of my chess playing. And worst of all, I had no one who could comfort me. No friends, no siblings, not even a single aunt or uncle to dry my tears.
“Varsha?” My father drew me out of my thoughts. He stood at the doorway, but he looked so… disheveled. I’ve never seen him like this.
My father was always the one business man that wore his suit everywhere. His face was always shaved, and he always looked very sharp.
But the man who stood in front of me looked like he hadn’t taken a bath in weeks, not alone shaved his face. His clothes were wrinkled, and he wasn’t wearing his signature suit and tie.
“Father.” I glared at him. It didn’t matter if he looked different, he was still the same person.
And then he did something that I didn’t expect.
He walked up to me, slowly at first, but then breaking into a run. Then he threw his arms around me.
I stiffened up, not used to this gesture.
“Oh, Varsha, I am so, so sorry! For everything! The way I’ve treated you, and how I didn’t support your dreams.” He looked at me. “I know that you probably hate me now, but we only have each other. So, will you please forgive me? Or at least try?”
Tears formed in my eyes. My mother was dead, I had no relatives that cared about me. Only my father.
I don’t know if it was because he was my only parent left, or if deep, deep down inside, I still loved my dad.
But I reached back and hugged him, squeezing hard as the tears pooled out of my eyes and spilled down my cheeks, forming rivers of sorrow, but also hope. Sorrow for my mom, who I would never see again, never witness her smile when I won my chess matches again.
And hope for my broken family to mend, to come together like pieces of a puzzle. Of course, the puzzle was far from perfect, but I know that one by one, piece by piece, my dad and I would find all the parts to it, and we would have a complete family.
I laughed, my voice ringing out. Ever since my mom had passed away, I’ve realized that chess and success aren’t everything. I mean, what good is it if I’m good at chess, but very lonely? I would never be actually happy.
I have never really understood what happiness really was. Sure, I was happy when I won my chess tournaments, but that feeling quickly disappeared within a few hours.
But now, standing here with my new friends, and my loving dad in the background, I finally felt happy.
And I knew that this time, the feeling would last.
THIS STORY IS DEDICATED TO VARSHA VIMAL FOR BEING ONE OF MY BEST FRIENDS, AND HELPING ME CRITIQUE MY NOVEL!!!!!!!!!!