The chessboard sat getting cold between the players, but it was in no hurry. The frosted glass pieces could be counted on to stand and wait patiently. Some slept, others meditated, but many preferred to ponder the players so they could make good gossip later. Whoever told the best story about the players got to have their way with their choice of pawn when the board closed for the night. (The pawns never spoke at all.)
While the man strategized, the woman stared at him most intently. (The Queen began to wonder if she was going off her game. Well. She would not be surprised for he was most distracting.) At length he reached for a piece and she took his hand before he could touch the board. He was startled but allowed it. She lay his palm on hers and his hand covered hers entirely, fingers overhanging hers. His palm was rough and warm. These were hands that held hammer, shovel, rope, yet his fingernails were trimmed back neatly, smooth and glistened like glass beneath the Tiffany light. He had said his hands hurt sometimes, but his joints were well proportioned. She rubbed out whatever ache she believed might be hiding there, one by one, applying gentle pressure on the joints, harder on the long bones. These were the fingers that untied sneaker knots, necklace knots, and knotted the best bowlines in the business. She pressed her fingers into his palm for a while, then slid down to his thick wrist, stopping at his ulnar process. She upturned his palm and rested two fingers on his pulse. Smooth, strong, unremarkable. She rubbed his hand a little roughly, as if to rouse it from a trance then let it go. He opened his eyes, wondering at what point he closed them.
“Your move,” she said, and smiled. (The Queen was pleased, for her lady partner was most assuredly on her game.)