‘First pawn. Queen moved….what is she going to do?’
“Would you tell me something dearest?” said Death, eyes studying him. She smiled as she watched her opponent sweat and scan the board. She moved a knight, clicking the timer. Her hands had rings on every other finger, glittering every now and again. When she smiled she smiled sincerely. “What is your favorite piece?”
“What do you mean?” murmured the opponent. They moved another pawn, avoiding capture, and clicked the timer.
“You’ve played this game before?”
“Yes. With my mother.” He answered. “She learned from her mother.” He bit his tongue, wondering why he chose to tell her that.
“I know. I’ve met her, she’s quite lovely.” Death scanned the board, trying to decide how she wanted to proceed. “She passed from...a blow to the head?” She said to him.
“She was thrown by my father into the coffee table’s edge.” The opponent answered sharply. “Her temple, actually. She died upon impact.”
“A pity,” Death replied, finally moving. She placed her King in the corner, guarding him with the others. “She was a brilliant woman. Smart, and so funny. When she spoke,” She hastily clicked the timer. “She spoke with such...oh what is the word? Intimacy? No, no...I’m sure there is a word but I can not think of it. I remember the experience was lovely. I kissed her hand before she departed to the other side.”
“How kind of you,” Click.
“I am very kind, despite your tone,” Click.
“Do you want me to thank you?” Click.
“No,” She replied, scanning the board. She tucked a loose strand of her black hair behind her ear. “I expect nothing. No thanks, no love, no appreciation.”
The opponent stopped the timer completely. A permission Death allowed. The numbers blinked as they looked at the other. “Appreciation? And why should I appreciate you?”
She crossed her legs, back still straight, “You do not have to.”
“Answer my question.”
“You will not like it.”
“Tell me anyway.”
She leaned forward, hands folded together, “She went into peace. Her life was finally met with safety, tranquility, and happiness. You may disagree, may be angry about that fact, but that is what it is. Do not hate my work, hate that she was deprived of life. Hate the man who took that chance from her, and hate that justice had to come to her from her passing.”
There was a heavy pause.
The numbers stopped blinking.
“I don’t hate you.”
“I know.” She replied leaning back. “No one does. Not really.”
“What was her favorite piece?”
“The same as mine, the Queen.”
“She’s the most powerful piece, and there is only one of her. She can move everywhere she wants, take any piece she wants, and is the only piece that represents a woman.”
“You never did tell me what your favorite was?”
“Oh...I’m not sure…”
“Maybe the pawn?”
“The pawn? An interesting choice.”
The opponent scanned the board a little more, remaining on his time. “Do you do this a lot? Chess games.”
“Not with anyone that can’t play.” She replied. “One time I played Twister. That was fun.”
“Who did you play with?”
“Someone wonderful. She won.”
“Oh.” The Opponent smiled for the first time.
“Should we switch?”
“No, no, I prefer Chess. Less likely to cheat that way.”
“Well, you can..but it requires a great deal of skill, perhaps a quick hand.” She smiled, deep eyes fluttering at him. “Many people can do it, have done it, and only a few have beaten me. If that helps any idea that you intend to come with?”
“Cheating seems unnecessary.” The Opponent offered softly.
“Cheating...can be unnecessary.” Death answered. She took the bundles of her hair, and let it fall. It was long and thick, the color of smoke with the smell of lilies. Then put it back up, tucking it behind her ears again. “Or very necessary if you have something you need to do before you pass on. The most determined of the cheaters have needed only a moment to say one last sentence. Do you have anything you would want to say? To your daughter? To your father? Your wife?”
“What could I say? I don’t know if the world would be benefited if I say something?”
“Oh forget the world, what about you? Your family? They’re the world. What would you tell them?”
The Opponent thought on it for a moment. Reflecting on what he really wanted to say, and what he imagined would be the most important to say. What would his daughter need to hear to grow up? What did his father deserve to hear? The rat. What did he want to tell his wife, so she could move on? There was not a lot he could think of...what he really wanted was more time. If he beat her, how much time would he get back? A moment, a week, a month? Years? Time, he just wanted more time.
“I’m sure she misses you,” said Death, breaking his thoughts.
Click. She folded her hands back together. “Do you like tea?”
“Me neither.” She replied. “I will make coffee. I always preferred it to tea. Many people who pass through enjoy it though. Much more than coffee. I find that rather sad.” She waved her hand, recovering a gooseneck kettle to pour into a porcelain teacup. “I prefer teacups, however. Much more of my aesthetic. Would you like sugar or creme?”
“Two sugars, if you don’t mind.”
“Certainly.” She smiled, mixing the sugar cubes into the cup.
The Opponent studied the board, seeing something peculiar. She had not noticed...yet, he was sure she hadn’t seen it. She was distracted, he could move the pieces quickly with just a graze of his fingertips.
“Here you are, dear.” She handed him the cup.
“Oh thank you.” He took the coffee.
“Now for mine...I much prefer creme to milk.” She began to pour her own. “Oh, dear….it’s mine...no, no, it’s yours! It’s yours. Still thinking?”
“Yes,” His hand lingered on top of the table. “Still thinking.”