Promise Me No Love, Just Chess - Part 2

Promise Me No Love, Just Chess - Part 2

| 42

If my rating could go up by one point each time I thought of you, I would become a grandmaster in one day.



Continued from here.

They met at their usual coffee place. When Josephine walked in, Damien was already sitting at the table. The chessboard and clock were perfectly set up. Two cups of tea were steeping at each side of the table. The October air was filled with a mixture of freshly brewed coffee, cinnamon rooibos, and autumn mildew.  “Is this for me?” Josephine asked, pointing to a cup of rooibos tea at her side. Damien nodded. “My favorite! You remembered!” she said in excitement.

“Hey, Jojo! You look …” Damien paused.

Ravissante?” Josephine asked in French. “Stunning? Drop-dead gorgeous?” Another moment of silence followed. Damien couldn’t take his eyes off Josephine … “Common, say something? Am I ugly? Pitiful? What? How do I look?”

“Yea, all of the above … except ugly and pitiful. You don’t look like a kid anymore. You’re now like a … woman or something.”

All these years that he had known Josephine, Damien always thought of her as a little sister, except for those strange few weeks where he experienced his ‘loss of judgement’. What was that all about? He brushed it off because it was the most volatile time in his life. Not that it was hard either. Josephine never put any effort into her looks. She always preferred to dress down as opposed to wearing fancy, revealing clothes, particularly when playing chess. And especially against Damien.

But now, at 25, she barely resembled that shy, young chess girl who often looked like a tomboy. Now, at 25, at the coffee shop, Josephine wore a sleek, chartreuse dress that elegantly hugged her slender body. A little more make-up than just the usual to ‘hide her imperfections’ went a long way. Her dark-blue eyes looked larger and dreamier. Her lips were flirty and expressive. Her cheeks were crimson as if she had just made sweet lo … won a national chess championship (same effect on the cheeks!).

“Or something?” laughed Josephine. “What is that something, I wonder?” But Damien didn’t reply. Despite obvious excitement, there was also sadness about him. Josephine noticed new wrinkles on his sun-kissed face, which, by the way, suited him very well. He hasn’t shaved for a few days and has never looked more seductive. “Ugh, stop staring at him, Josephine” she pinched herself, as her heart pounded a little faster. “So, how have you been?” she asked.

Damien looked at the chessboard and made his first move. “Go. Your turn.”

“Hey, you didn’t answer my question!” Josephine protested.

“Make your move.”

Josephine made her move, reluctantly. The game was long and intense, filled with emotion and humor, just like it had been five years ago. For a moment, both players forgot all the worries in their lives. That little “escape” that chess always offers – it’s priceless! Rejuvenating.  After an hour, the players agreed to a draw.

“Damien - how is cute, little Oliver? I saw his pictures on your Facebook.”

“Ollie is great! I love him to pieces. But I’m also … um, getting a divorce,” said Damien.

“Oh no. I’m sorry to hear that.” Although Josephine wasn’t so sure who she was sorry for the most. Oliver, Emily, Damien or … herself, for she felt a pang in her heart with such news. A dazzling firework was trying to resurface into her dark cloud. Josephine found herself ashamed and struggled to tame it.  

“Don’t be. It just wasn’t meant to be,” he said.

A pregnant silence was instilled. Neither Damien nor Josephine spoke a word. But not because there was nothing to say. In fact, both of them had so much on their hearts and minds that their words got all tangled up, unable to be released into meaningful sentences.

At last, Damien had a spur-of-the-moment idea born by an unexpected coup-de-foudre. “Come with me to Hawaii for a week, Jo! We can swim and play chess all day. Escape this world for a bit. Will you?”

The idea of swimming in the ocean and playing chess all day intrigued Josephine. She was way overdue for a good vacation. Ever since she graduated with a Master’s in Combinatorics and Optimization, she’s been working non-stop, often late hours. She was still single, still a little geeky, still waiting to meet her ‘the one’.

Josephine imagined herself with Damien on a beach, playing chess under the warm, illuminating sun. And then going for a dip in the ocean to cool off. And then back to chess. It was like a dream come true. Then she imagined beating Damien in chess, infuriating him with his loss. To show his ‘frustration’ he lifted her off the ground and carried her into the ocean, their semi-nude bodies in each other’s embrace. She screamed and giggled, wiggling her legs, pretending to escape, and then … O-o!


“Surrender, Josephine. Completely,” her subconscious teased her.

“I feel like I’ve lost you there, Jo,” said Damien as if reading her mind. “Come back from your Hawaii and tell me it’s a ‘yes.’”

“Damien … I… It’s impossible.”

“Sure, it’s possible! All you have to do is pack your bags. I’ll get you the ticket and will pick you up at your doorstep.”

“I can buy my own tickets Damien,” Josephine smiled. “It’s not that.”

“Then what is it? Am I an old, ‘damaged’ dude that you no longer want to hang out with anymore?”

“Quite the opposite,” Josephine blushed. She was now getting the courage to spill all the sudden emotions that were quickly piling up on her heart. “I know that if we go to Hawaii, it won’t be just chess and swimming. Believe me, things will happen … between us. And we will come back and break our hearts because we know this will lead to nowhere. We will then hate each other and never play chess again, and I LOVE playing chess with you and I don’t want to lose this special bond we have, especially after all this time, and ….” Josephine gasped for air.

“Wow, wow, don’t get ahead of yourself, woman. Who said things will happen? What makes you think I’m even ….?” Damien’s sentence remained suspended in the air, unfinished, like a puff of cigarette smoke, dissipating slowly into the atmosphere. He was suddenly immensely attracted to Josephine like more than ever and desperately wanted to explore that feeling. This revelation was shocking. Everything was unfolding much faster than he could comprehend.

As for Josephine, one thing she knew for sure: she did not want to be caught in the middle of Damien’s divorce. Plus, he was missing one of the key elements of her mate-selection criteria – solid family orientation. “And bla-bla-bla”, her conscience continued the torment.

“It’s chess. It does that to you. It messes with your brain if you let it. And if it gets under your skin, it can also mess with your heart.”

It’s chess. It does that to you. It messes with your brain if you let it. And if it gets under your skin, it can also mess with your heart.

“Hold on. Chess does what to you!?” inquired Damien, intrigued.

Josephine blushed. “It’s better than wine, red wine, that’s all I’m going to say. … Anyhow, I’m sure you wouldn’t be all that attracted to me if I didn’t play chess as well as you. And ….”

But Damien didn’t hear the rest. He was still hung up on his revelation about the effect of chess on Josephine …and all the signs he had missed in those youthful years of them playing chess. When he regained his senses, Josephine was still talking, oblivious about the world Damien had just visited: “I mean, I can be pretty boring. I don’t drink, except on my birthdays. Hate watching TV. Not into the bar scene. I’m just ONE serious chick! Oh and I …”  

But before Jo could finish her rational explanation, Damien, who loved Broadway musicals, began to sing Aladdin’s A Whole New World:

I can show you the world

Shining shimmering splendid

Tell me, princess, now when did

You last let your heart decide?

The song was right on. A solid chess player that she was, Josephine trained herself making all the decisions with her logical mind. But following her heart – that was something left unexplored ....

Read part 3, the grand finale, here.


*** Praying for Peace ***

Drama aside, "Jojo and Damien" are now running a Fundraiser for Save The Children to support the children of Ukraine. Please donate if you can: PlayChessAndSaveLives

Thank you!

Former Canadian Girls Chess Champion (1999 tied for 1st, 2001 1st place)

Busy mom of two

Blogger and chess addict happy.png