The next night, Ingram returned, and she brought chess.
Sylvia pondered what to do. How could she crack the mysterious woman’s facade?
“So, you know Aylin well?”
“You could say that.”
“How long have you known her?”
“A long time. A very long time.”
Sylvia tried a different approach. “Are you two friends?”
“I suppose it depends on your definition of ‘friend.’ Do you consider yourself to be ‘friends’ with Aylin?”
Sylvia wasn’t sure how to parry this attack. Of course, it was her dream to be friends with Aylin, no matter which definition one settled on, but she felt it was presumptuous to declare friendship with the woman who was so much more intelligent, skilled, talented, powerful, knowledgeable, and admirable than she was. In other words, Aylin was peerlessly cool.
“I aspire to be,” replied Sylvia.
Sylvia looked at the board. Her rook was hemmed in, her queen-side bishop was penned, and Ingram was about to capture another pawn.
“Check,” Ingram said.
“Aylin and I are black and white,” Ingram continued, “just like the pieces on this chessboard.”
“Does that mean you are always fighting?”
“Quite on the contrary. Perhaps we are more like Go than chess. Have you played Go?”
“I have played Go,” Sylvia said. “My papa taught me.” She caught a quick memory of attic afternoons, scrunched over the go board, and hustled the memory on its way. Now was not the time to remember home.
In Go, white and black moved together, organically, interconnected, around the board, like pushing hands.
“You’re talking about balance,” she said, and, at once, Ingram no longer seemed so frightening. Formidable, yes, but not quite as scary.
“Well done,” said Ingram.
Then she was gone.