Promise Me No Love, Just Chess - Part 3

Promise Me No Love, Just Chess - Part 3

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Love is like chess, anyone can comment, speculate and guess. But only the two of them truly know what is going on and what move to make!

-Shaik Ameen 

PART 3 - The Grand Finale

Continued from Part 2

“You know Damien,” said Jospehine, “after picking at your brain through all these chess games we’ve played together, I’ve gotten to know you much too well! I’ve learned to read your thoughts, predict your moves. It’s almost creepy. You’re too passive, for example, when you should be proactive. Just look at the game we just played. You could have captured my bishop with a pawn, not a knight, opening up a file for your rook to attack my king. If you had asked me five years ago to go to Hawaii, it would have been much easier to say ‘yes’. But you choose circumstances to dictate your life.”

“Hey, you can’t psycho-analyze me through chess! And, if anything, look at yourself, Missy. Blundering the knight in a winning position. What does this tell me about you? Ah, let’s see: you are careless …” Damien folded his fingers into a fist and stuck out the thumb, to count all the miserable things he was going to list about Josephine.  “You are …” Damien stumbled, unable to think of anything else to add.

“… Human,” Josephine finished for him, laughing.

To save his dignity, Damien quickly added: “You live your life the way you play chess too, Jo. Always so cautious, so solid. You are afraid to take risks, unwilling to explore new possibilities. You cling to your French Defense opening like you cling to your stupid idea of ‘the one’. Am I right? Cause I’ve had enough practice reading your mind too, over all these games. Do something unpredictable, for once!”

This sent shivers down Josephine’s spine. He knew. Everything! They had played way too much chess together. Except for one thing. Josephine decided not to tell him about her bungy jumping experience in Taiwan. Nor about her two months backpacking trip in Europe with a German guy she had only known for five days. Nor about the skinny dipping at a cottage lake with her girlfriends in the month of December. Being “out of character” was very much in her character. But only a few people knew that. And, of course, Damien wouldn’t be able to guess any of it, no matter how much chess they had played.

“It would be easier without love”, she said, in a hesitant voice that betrayed temptation.

“No love, I promise … just chess,” replied Damien. Yet, for the first time in years, he wasn’t so certain he could keep his promise …

This same instant, Josephine knew she had faced her Waterloo. One last battle on the chessboard. One last battle in her heart. She detected a small hesitation in Damien’s voice. People like to label it “intuition” but, really, it’s just humans using all their senses to notice that something is off, even if they can’t logically comprehend what it is. As such, Josephine decided to follow her heart, for once.  

“It would be impossible without love. I’m sorry … I think we should not see each other for a little while.” She knew if she had said ‘yes’, her life would take on a whole different course. The one she was trying to avoid. Josephine wanted to stay true to her dream of finding ‘the one’, however “stupid” it was. She felt so surely and so strongly about it, that it no longer cast any doubt in her mind.

She was trying to finish her thought without tears but failed miserably. The idea of not seeing Damien was a stab in the heart. But it was the only right thing to do. “You need to deal with your divorce, figure out what it is that you want from life. I will only be a poisonous pawn in all of this, which you will regret taking.”

“If that’s what you want, Jo …” Damien stood up and without further words stormed out of Starbucks like a hurricane. He was not very good at accepting defeat of ANY kind!

“You forgot your chess set!” Josephine shouted in vain, her voice drowning in tears. Her entire world, that withstood all the obstacles so far, was shuddered. The solid ground beneath her feet was quickly dissipating.  How could she possibly continue her existence, knowing there is this man in the world that had such power over her? The man that could challenge and change her beliefs. That man who had just walked out of her life. If only Josephine could break into pieces, she would …

“Cheesecake. On the house,” said Tom, the waiter, who has all this time been quietly observing the scene, with curiosity. Or, perhaps out of sheer boredom.

“Does he really think I want cake at this tragic moment?” Josephine thought infuriated. With all her sudden rage (although it was probably out of frustration), she stabbed the cheesecake with a fork with such might that it made the bystanders gasp. A little toddler-boy standing nearby had his eyes wide open in shock, staring at her. And then Josephine heard him clapping: “Again, again!”

She felt embarrassed. At the same time, she couldn’t resist scooping the big piece of cake into her mouth. Sweet, silky texture with a hint of lime, slowly melted on her tongue. The sugar hit the spot. “Mmm, guilty pleasures” she thought. “Who said I should feel guilty for anything?” And with that, she gobbled the remaining cake in three humongous bites. “Thanks Tom!” she waived to the frightened waiter, while wiping her last tears. And surprisingly, for the first time in five years, the dark cloud that hung over her head ever since Emily’s pregnancy news, started to dissipate. Somehow, Josephine felt lighter and more confident.

She looked outside the window. October wind was playing with red and orange leaves. Children were screaming and laughing at a distant playground. Couples in love were passing by, holding hands and whispering into each other’s ears. The world kept turning at its regular rhythm making even the most pain-stricken heartbreak seem like just a trivial moment in time. A time that could already be called the “past”.


Ten years have elapsed since Josephine and Damien saw each other last at the Starbucks. They deleted each other from Facebook and halted all communication. Josephine was now happily married to Peter, whom she met shortly after parting with Damien. Together, they had two beautiful and mischievous children, Amy and James. And all the dreams Josephine had about her ‘the one’ have come true. Except for chess. Peter was completely clueless about the game. But that did not bother Josephine. Plus, playing chess was a mission impossible with a three and a five-year-old on her hands.


One evening, Josephine was walking downtown, admiring various boutiques decorated with colorful, dazzling lights. The last few March snowflakes were gently falling from the night sky, reflecting the various rainbow colors of the street. Josephine felt happy and at peace. Like a child, she stuck out her tongue to catch a few snowflakes while no one was looking. Her kids did that all the time, so why couldn’t she?

That’s when something, or rather someone, caught her eye. Out of The Running Gear, burst a jolly man with a beard. An adorable, toddler-girl with irresistible curls and dimples on her cheeks sat on his shoulders. “Faster daddy, faster!” she commanded.

“Oh my God, it’s Damien,” Josephine gasped. She quickly hid behind a nearby tree, hoping to be unseen by the man. She has never seen him so happy in her entire life.

“Put that hat on the child please,” stormed a good-looking blond out of the store, running behind the father and daughter. Damien turned around and threw a snowball at the blond, missing by a few inches. Behind them, trailed fourteen-year-old Oliver, rolling his eyes. Damien took the woman’s hand and gave her the sweetest kiss on the lips, which lasted a liiittle bit longer than what was appropriate for the eye of the general public. And off they walked, holding hands, disappearing into the starry night behind a hill.

Josephine sighed with relief. Damien had found his way in life after all. The way he looked at that blondie surely said that this was the right match for him. Josephine couldn’t help but smile.


Two weeks later, Josephine got a text message. It was Damien. “Saw you hiding behind a tree the other day. Should we play some chess?”

Josephine checked with herself. No fireworks. Not even a spark. No pang in the heart. Nothing.

That’s when a realization came to Josephine’s mind. A subtle, but very important realization. Something she vaguely felt ten years ago but was too distraught and too young to comprehend it. She realized that she “loved” Damien the way one loves an artist or a celebrity. From a distance and with much admiration. She admired his thought process on the chessboard, his creativity and the risky, daring, unexpected moves he made. She was in love with the challenges he posed while they played chess. She was in love with the game itself. And anyone who could challenge her was worthy of admiration. Although it certainly helped if the challenger also had a nice sense of humour. Didn’t Marcel Duchamp correctly remark that “not all artists are chess players, but all chess players are artists”? Josephine loved to seek beauty in everything. And she found plenty of it in chess!

This type of ‘love’ for Damien was far different from the love she felt for Peter, the love she craved all her life. Peter completed Josephine’s soul. He gave her everything she was looking for in a partner. Deep, eternal love filled with romance, excitement, and solid commitment. Love so strong, that she knew that no matter what obstacles came their way, they would overcome them together with grace.

And lust? Surely there was some lust, wasn’t there? Well, lust is just a sign that everything is working properly. That’s all.

As for Damien’s hands, which once spurred Josephine’s imagination, they were too hairy and far too un-groomed for her current liking. What was she thinking about them at the time anyway? After experiencing Peter’s exquisite neatness and touch, there was no turning back.

“Yes. Would love to! Oh, and I still got your chess set ” Josephine replied to Damien’s text. She couldn’t be more certain that all the love-decisions she made thus far, were the best ones.

And just like that, Josephine and Damien’s ‘one day’ was no longer out of reach. That ‘one day’ would be void of romance, fireworks, and temptation. It would be all just about chess and their weird jokes. Just like it was meant to be in the first place.         

*** THE END ***

Thank you all, dear readers, for sticking around and making it to the bottom of this page and for all your comments and feedback!

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Best wishes to all,


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

Busy mom of two

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