Chess

Ana loved to watch the sunset from her bayside window, loved to look above and see the sky swirl into an orange-purple haze. Even now as the late afternoon perpetuated into a dark dusk, she could feel the warm and lasting kiss of sunlight against her skin. The sound of the sea always sang to her as she laid and stared at the wall. Each evening she took time to close her eyes and listen to the relentless crash of the waves against the shore. Yet her serenity failed to last at the hollow and haunting call of crow over the sea. She could feel her peace retreat like the tide as the blackbird emerged from the sky. Yet her eyes could not peel away from the paper clutched between its talons.

With the evening breeze pushing against its back, the crow was ushered towards her window in mere moments. No longer did Ana hear the relentless flap of its wings as it cocked its head and cawed. Any other day she would have smiled, approached the bird with open arms and retrieved whatever it had brought her. But today she dreaded to read the note between its talons. Was it her father bidding her his final farewell? Four years ago he had disappeared across the sea without a word. For four years she received nothing but trinkets.

The last time she enjoyed his company was the day before he departed. Ana’s father was a fanatic when it came to chess. Day in day out, they spent their time staring at a board, anticipating each other’s next move. She could still remember him lounging on the porch, bathing in the sun and waiting for her to move her pawn. They never ended her game. One moment he was there, smiling and waiting for her decision and the next he was gone.

Ana did not know what to expect as she managed to take a step closer. The Crow once again cocked its head and cawed, leaning forwards at her approach. Her touch was gentle as she reached for its foot and carefully unwrapped the scrolled note from its talons. As a child, she had been taught how to handle birds from every corner of the globe. They came in every color and every size, yet her father’s interests fixated on the crow. Even years later, Ana’s skill did not waver as she gave the bird a soothing pat on the head.

“Now go” She spoke, turning her shoulder dismissively. The crow cawed one last time before disappearing into the darkness. Ana was left with the scrolled paper in her fingers, palms sweaty despite the cool breeze blowing through her open window. She unrolled it with care, worried the fine paper would fall apart if she touched it the wrong way. She could smell the sea, the fish and the salt and even the scraggly crow. The handwriting was messy, undoubtedly written by the hand of her father. Still, she spelled out the words in her mind.

         Checkmate