Check Mate - (The Game of Love)

She stood, motionless on the wet black marble.
He stood shaking on the white marble, only a few centimetres from her. She could feel his shallow, short breaths on her cold skin and it made her wince. It was taking her all her effort not to make a sound. His hearing was impeccable. Losing his sight had strengthened his ability to not only hear a sound, but pin point its exact origin and location. She felt sure by now he knew she was standing near him, but to be safe she did not move anyway.

This was a game they had played many times, and each time it got harder to win. He was not only a tough competitor, but a man worth fearing. His arms were rippled with muscle, his legs were thin and sinewy, and his core strength was practically unbeatable. He was more machine than man; the war had done that to him.

Her eyes darted from one body part to another, as she tried to predict which part of him would move toward her first. Each part of him was shaking with intensity; he was so on edge, screening the air waves for her, that he could barely control his own movement. This was making it increasingly difficult for her to protect herself against him.

All he knew was that she could not make it to the other side of the room. He had to stop her. She was not allowed to win. If she made it to the door way, she would leave with him, the man she referred to as “her knight in shining armour”. He could even hear the horses out in the stables shuffling anxiously, as they were forced to wait for the game to finish. The final game.

He belonged to a different world than her. She would never fit in there. He wished he could stop her heart from desiring that man. That man would never provide for her as he could. He would never know her as well as he did. He was outraged at what “her Knight” had done. That he had sent a direct command from the Kingdom for her release. That he had suffered the embarrassment of having it read to him.

She stood still watching him. It had been some time now since he had stirred. She decided he must be thinking of what his next move would be. In these games, patience had always been a virtue. Her mind began to drift to the last time she had seen Anthony, his long hair sweeping just past his strong shoulders, his armour, the exact shape of his manly torso. He had said then that a letter had been sent by royal guard to her father, requesting her immediate release and that the two of them would be together soon. A week had passed since then and she had seen no letter. Her father controlled their farm with precision despite his disability; he would have received the letter, and a stable hand would have been forced to read it to him.

It had been too long. She did not wish to wait a second longer to see Anthony. She must make the next move. With speed she moved her bare left foot from the marble below her, and stepped backwards on an angle to the black marble square diagonally behind her. In an instant he located her; he swung one outstretched arm at her making harsh contact with her delicate left arm. In pain, she stumbled backwards on to a tile of white marble. She looked down at her feet in anger that they had betrayed her by moving.

He smiled knowing that he had found her, and sensed that she would not move again. He shifted towards her again and stopped only millimetres from her face. He felt her breath and could smell her hair, fresh like roses.

There was a deep pain that rushed through his heart in that moment, and suddenly he knew that he would never smell her hair again, or feel her breath on his face. It was as if in that instant he believed, he was not the man that should have those things. Those things were for a partner, a husband, a friend, but never for him and he was intensely jealous.

She stood shivering in front of her father, looking directly into his grey, lifeless eyes. As she looked at him, she saw his face contort, in a look of anguish and pain. Despite the pain he had caused her, she could not help but reach out to him, her hand gently touching his. His fingers entwined with hers hungrily, and slowly tears fell from his eyes and his body slumped, defeated. She opened her arms and pulled him into her, and held him as though he were a scared child.

Leaning her mouth to his ear she whispered “Father, I love you. I always will. You will be fine.” He shuddered in tears and between sobs said “My daughter, promise me he is a good man, and that he will look after you better than I have”. “He is a good man. He wants for us to be together always, he would do anything for us and the love we have” she said softly as though it were a lullaby. She stroked her fathers thinning hair, and continued to hold him for some time, until his sobbing ceased.

This would be a time she would never forget. The most peaceful moment she would share with her father.

There was an alarmingly loud knock at the door, which caused both father and daughter to jump a little. “I will go and see who it is and you stay here and rest father” she said gently, helping her father to sit on the marble floor. She ran quickly to the door and opened it. It was her soul mate. “Anthony, my love” she began, but Anthony cut in. “My sweet lady, you look shaken. It is him isn’t it, he has hurt you again?” Anthony yelled from the door way, hoping that her father would hear. “My arm hurts a little, but he has been crying my love, there is nothing to” she said quickly but Anthony cut her off midway. “Scoundrel! You will pay for this. You will not hurt your daughter anymore” yelled Anthony furious, pushing his way past Jasmine and into the house.

Jasmine ran after Anthony but was too late to stop him. As she entered the marble floored room, she saw Anthony standing over her father, knife in hand. Her father could not see him, but knew he was near and yelled “Please, I beg of you, I meant her no harm. I did not mean for her arm to be injured, I am blind” pleaded Jasmines father. “You have tried to stop this, to stop us for a year. You have hurt her more than once. You have no place in her life anymore old man” said Anthony, spitting at her father in disgust.

Jasmine began to cry, both men she loved were fighting over her and it was not her wish to be in this position. “Anthony, please, he has learnt, and now he will do me no harm. Let him go” she begged.

Anthony looking up at her said “If it is your wish then I will release him my love. I trust your judgement”. Looking down again at her father he said “Sir, I love your daughter, and I want to spend my life with her. My mother, the sister of our great Queen, wishes for Jasmine to live in the castle and for us to marry. With your permission she will be the wife of a royal knight.”

Her father raised his arm in a gesture to ask for help from the floor. As Anthony lent down her father took his arm for support, and stood up right. For a small time he smiled and Jasmine felt relieved. But her father was suddenly overcome once again with anger and jealousy, but he would not show it on his face. Feelings about the war he once fought began to fill his mind. He decided the knight would not win this battle.

As Anthony turned away to walk toward Jasmine, her father kicked his leg in Anthony’s direction. Anthony’s leg buckled as it struck him. The force of the impact pushed Anthony to the ground, his head hitting the black and white marble floor with a thud.

Screaming, Jasmine ran to Anthony, dropping on the floor next to his body. She tried to revive him, she imagined he was just asleep, and soon he would wake. But the blood seeped from his head, crushed by the fall to the floor, and soon the marble was covered in crimson sorrow, the black and white squares, made equal by the colour rushing to cover them.

Confused and grief stricken, Jasmine turned her head to look up at her father, and grabbed at his ankle shocked. He did not look at her. He simply whispered “Check mate”.

Check Mate - (The Game of Love)

Flic Manning

St Kilda, Australia

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“The Game Of Love”

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