I frowned at the chessboard, looking for possible traps. Seeing none, I lifted my bishop and moved it three spaces diagonally to the right. I left my fingertips on the piece for a moment longer, double- and triple-checking that it wasn’t in any danger, then I released it.
“Check,” I said with a triumphant grin at my opponent.
“Is that the best you can do?” The faint smile on his face belied the threat in his voice. I just raised an eyebrow, smirking, and Dad laughed. The sound was nearly drowned out by the crash of the surf against the shore, just a few hundred yards away from the back porch. The light, brine-scented sea breeze swept across my face and ruffled my short-cropped hair. I absently ran my hand through it, letting my mind wander while Dad contemplated his next move. I heard laughter through the screen door, as well as the scraping of a wooden spoon against a bowl. Mom and my sister Carmandy were making bread, as was typical of Saturday afternoons, just like the weekly chess games I shared with Dad.
“Your turn, Jon,” Dad told me, breaking the silence, a smile in his voice. I turned my attention to the chess board, and saw that he had moved his king left one space to escape my bishop. After a few moments studying the board, I moved a knight in. Then I sat back with a grin—two more moves and then I’d have him. Dad frowned, seeing that I hadn’t moved into the capture range of any of his pieces. I let my mind drift again while he tried to figure a way out of my as-yet-unforeseen trap.
Through the screen door I heard my sister mutter a curse as something clattered loudly into the sink and grinned—it wasn’t English. Carmandy had picked up that habit from me. The previous year, our junior year, I’d taken a German class, and finding regular vocabulary to be boring me and a few friends took it upon ourselves to look up some curse words and commit them to memory. I’d used them fairly regularly since. In fact, being twins we had many of the same habits, and thought alike.
Despite being twins, though, my sister and I were still different. For one, we were fraternal twins—she took more after Mom while I was more like Dad, in looks and personality. Carmandy had Mom’s more delicate cheekbones and slender shoulders, as well as Mom’s tendency to be quiet, sometimes even totally withdrawn and shy, around strangers but pretty lively in familiar company. I had more defined features and a lean, athletic build from Dad, as well as his boisterous attitude. Though, if you put my sister and I side by side and cut off Carmandy’s long, copper-colored hair, there were enough similarities that we’d be nearly identical. We both had the same odd grouping of traits that combined Mom’s hazel and Dad’s blue-grey into the vivid turquoise color of our eyes, a little more blue than green, as well as the uncommon red color of our hair. I called it rust, Mom called it auburn, Carmandy called it copper, Dad just called it red. It was an odd, almost shimmery red-brown-gold combination. I didn’t know where that came from, either, since Mom’s hair was chestnut brown and Dad’s was nearly black.
“Jonny!” My dad’s voice broke through my thoughts, though I heard the smirk in his voice before I saw it on his face. I scowled at him—I let him get away with calling me that until about sixth grade, then insisted on Jon, short for Jonathan.
“It’s your turn,” Dad answered me, gesturing to the board.
I glanced at the board, and tried not to grin—the way Dad had moved his pieces made it possible for me to checkmate him this turn. I moved my bishop a few squares back, lining it up directly with where his king now sat, then casually announced, “Checkmate,” while leaning back against the porch railing with my hands lazily behind my head, letting my triumphant smirk come through.
Dad looked back at the board, disbelieving, then groaned in playful dismay. “All right, you beat me. Now tell me where your mind was wandering while I walked right into your trap.”
I shrugged. “Not much, really. Just thinking about how much I enjoy pulverizing you every weekend,” I answered, smirking. Dad shook his head, though he was grinning.
“I really don’t care about the game, you know. Just the time together.”
“Same,” I answered, shrugging again. “That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy the victory.”
“So, what’s been on your mind this week?” Dad asked as he set the board back up for a rematch.
“Not much,” I replied, helping to set up my side of the board. “The teachers are starting to pile on the homework, though.”
“You can take the load,” Dad answered. “You’ve always held up well under stress; I doubt it will be a problem. Now, how about I be white this time? Maybe the color will be lucky.”
I couldn’t help but laugh. “I doubt it. But good luck—you’ll need it,” I told him, turning the board around, and the second game commenced. While we played, we talked about nearly everything, bantered, joked, and just had fun like we did every Saturday. I rarely ever said it, but I really enjoyed the time we spent together. It was one of few opportunities we had as just us to talk and hang out together. I’d never admit it aloud, but I’d always been closest to Dad, even as a toddler. Having the chance to talk through any problems or concerns I had, or just to bond, was something I valued and always looked forward to. The few times it’d been neglected I always felt like something was missing.
We played for another hour or so, just talking about whatever came to mind. I beat Dad twice more, though the last game was really close. We might have played longer, but Mom called us to come in and help prepare dinner. Still chatting, Dad and I collected the pieces and the game board.