Once I finish my turn, I look across the table.
“By the way. You’ve caught on, haven’t you? You know.”
Only a moment before a wordless smirk stretches across his face. He makes his move.
“I didn’t want you to know,” I explain. My eyes dart back to the board. “I only saw the first… glimmer of recognition in your eyes today.”
“That’s because today I stopped hiding that I knew.” He gestures to the board, urging me to counter.
“Since the beginning of March,” I say, advancing my pawn and answering the question he didn’t ask. Silence. His knight clacks an L across the board.
I wait. Still nothing. “Is that it?”
This next part didn’t happen.
I advance a knight of my own. His black lacquer gleams, carved eyes narrowing as he readies his offense.
“Do you know why I didn’t tell you?”
He would shrug, feigning nonchalance. He would guard his king, bolstered behind rooks and bishops, tower walls and holy dignity.
“Because he’s so close to you. For the second time in a row, I choose someone close to you but not you. And you say you’re over it and that you don’t care but the first time you said that even half-convincingly was a week ago, when it’s been almost half a year since the first time I didn’t choose you. And three months since you chose someone else and I became the one with no one to hold onto.” As the words trickle past my lips, rolling down my chin and dripping onto the board, my knight rushes forward, charging his sterling white opponent. Their swords clash, ringing malice and steel. “Because you hold grudges, even though you’re the one with a happy, loving girlfriend now and swarms of friends buzzing around you like–” The black knight stabs at the air and nicks his enemy’s horse. Blood splatters the battlefield. Enraged, the white knight strikes back and runs my champion through. He slumps lifeless onto the hilt of his opponent’s sword. The victor shoves the corpse away, wordless. Clack, as his body hits the board. I sigh.
“…like moths at a flame. And I’m just another moth.”
But this didn’t happen. We stayed quiet. We finished the game. I don’t remember who won. I only remember that when the boy I chose walked through the door with a smile for both of us, I smiled back, and he did not.