“At some point during our first month living together, Noah had received a chess set. It had sat on the coffee table, unopened, until we found ourselves without power. Without TV and because smart phones were not yet commonplace, we had no distractions and were at a loss for conversation. Until, that is, I motioned to the chess set.
“Where did you get that?” I asked, pointing to the box.
“Troy got it from Betty. He doesn’t play so he gave it to me. Why? Do you play?” Noah answered.
“Yeah, I love chess, but I haven’t played in years,” I answered. “We should play.”
“Right now?” Noah asked, not exactly thrilled with the idea.
“Well, we can do that, or we can sit here and stare at each other some more. It’s not like we have a lot of options in the dark,” I laughed.
“Sure. Get it out and set up. I need to take the dog out. I’ll be right back,” Noah agreed, jumping up and heading to the back door, Dusty jumping along behind him.
He didn’t seem very enthusiastic about starting the game, but I was glad to have something to occupy the time.
It didn’t take him long to tend to Dusty, and soon he returned to the couch.
“Are you ready? You go first,” Noah said, nodding toward the board, a look of intense study across his face.
I hesitated, finding Noah’s intensity unnerving. The feeling soon passed, as I picked up a pawn and began the game. It didn’t last long. I quickly took command and pulled out an easy win.
“Ha! Checkmate!” I called gleefully, quite pleased that I had been able to win.
“Alright, but I totally let you win,” Noah said with a smug tone. “Let’s play again. I won’t go so easy on you this time.”
“What’s the point of playing if you’re just going to let me win? It’s no fun if you’re not actually trying,” I huffed, the wind ripped from my sails.
“I know. I won’t let you win again. I don’t need to. I just wanted to see how you play. Now that I know, you won’t be able to win,” Noah said.
“You won’t LET me win? Really?” I said, somewhere between offended and insulted.
“Come on. You wanted to play, so let’s play,” Noah insisted, an obnoxious smile starting to spread across his face.
I huffed and complied, ready to step up to the challenge and to show my skills. Our second game went quickly as well, this time Noah taking the lead. We reached checkmate in fewer than five moves. I was irritated that he had won so arrogantly and that he had tricked me into letting my guard down.
“See? I LET you win the first game. It’s the easiest way to get to know your opponent,” Noah said, puffing up with pride.
“Whatever. One more game? Best two out of three.”
“Sure. If you want to LOSE again,” Noah teased.
“Well, maybe I was just letting YOU win this round. Getting to know my opponent,” I teased back.
With that, Noah genuinely laughed as he set up the board once again. We started into our next game – each of us actually paying attention and playing to win. This game took a bit more time and, much to our individual chagrin, ended in a draw. Because neither of us was willing to accept a draw as an acceptable result, we set up the board once again. Two more games and two more draws later, Noah became visibly frustrated.
“What the fuck is this? You’re doing this on purpose aren’t you? Just to piss me off,” he snapped as he swiped his pieces off the board. “I’m going upstairs.”
With that, he stood up and sulked off to his room.
“Okaaaaaaaaaaaaaay,” I said, confused as I watched him storm up the stairs.
I was truly amused with the game more than anything, content to have something to do aside from stare at the wall until it was time to go to sleep. Noah, on the other hand, took the game very seriously. I was surprised at his lack of good sportsmanship. When he didn’t immediately return from his room, I decided to find something else to occupy my time.
I picked up the game and put it back into the box, grabbed the book I had been working on from its home on the shelf and settled in for the duration. It was a little difficult to read by candlelight, but I would just have to make do. I barely read one paragraph before Noah slowly climbed down the stairs. He stopped half way and poked his head over the banister.
“You can come up stairs if you want,” he said quietly.
“No. I’m good down here, thanks. I’ll be up in a little while,” I answered.
I was comfortable and invested in my book. Whatever his tantrum had been about, I wasn’t concerned with it.
“Okay,” Noah said, with a squeak of emotion in his voice.
He turned and took one or two steps toward the bedroom before pausing and turning around.
“It’s just… it’s really lonely up here by myself. I’d like some company. We don’t have to talk or anything. Can you just come up here and sit with me?”
I looked up from my book. Perhaps it was just the candlelight, but when I looked at Noah, his face seemed distorted with either sadness or pain.
With a deep sigh, I placed a bookmark between the pages and quickly extinguished the candles in the living room. The room was darker than I expected. I stumbled around for a few moments until I was able to find the stairs.
When I began to climb the stairs, I assumed Noah had already gone ahead of me. I made it about halfway up before I ran into him, and he grabbed me, throwing me off balance. He had my arms firmly in his grip, but my feet were dangling a few inches above the next step. I tried to kick my foot up and regain some of my balance, but every time I made a move to steady my feet, Noah kicked them out from under me. After a few moments of this, I finally yelled at him.
“Noah, what the hell are you doing?! Let go of me!” I yelped.
“What? Becca? Oh, God! I’m sorry. Are you okay?” he asked, releasing his grip on my arms.
As soon as he let go of my arms, he immediately pulled me close in a protective embrace, and we both fell backwards onto the stairs.
“It was dark. I couldn’t see you. I’m sorry,” he whispered.
“I thought you were going to throw me down the stairs. What the hell, Noah? You scared me.”
I fought my way out of his arms and continued up the stairs to the safety of the bedroom. Once there, I flopped myself onto the bed and opened my book.
Noah arrived a few moments later and silently crawled into the bed.
“Are you mad at me, Becca?”
I looked up from my book. I was confused by his question.
“I’m not mad at you. I’m just reading.”
“How do you do that? Just sit there and read for fun? I hate reading,” Noah offered quietly.
“I don’t know. My mom used to read to me before bed a lot, and once I learned how, I just started reading by myself. You’re dyslexic. Of course you hate reading.”
“My mom used to read when she was mad at me. I could always tell when I really fucked up because she would stop whatever she was doing and hide in the living room with her book. I think she read the same one a hundred times while I was growing up.”
“She probably had to if you kept interrupting her the way you keep interrupting me,” I said as I placed the book mark back in the very same page from which I’d taken it.
I set my book on the nightstand and rolled over to face Noah.
“Probably. I was in trouble a lot growing up,” Noah confessed with a smile. His mood lifted immediately and the conversation drew to a close.”
To read more about Rebecca and Noah’s relationship you can purchase Candy Apple Butterscotch: A Memoir on Amazon! Kindle and Paperback editions available. Audiobook coming soon!
Copyright R. MacCeile 2018