Read the previous part here: Reaching For Luna – Middlegame

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The next day passes by quickly. I drive to school, attend my classes, and then go straight to the chess park a full thirty minutes early. This tells me how excited I am to see her.

I get to a random table and sit down. Looking at my watch doesn’t make time go any faster, but I wish it did. Then I would be able to talk to Padma a lot sooner. I play out a line that my thoughts had wandered to during school on the chessboard as I wait. Soon enough, I see Padma in the distance waving to me.

She walks over to me. “How are you?” she asks me. I smile at the sound of her voice. Soon, we are talking just like the last time we met. “Why didn’t you text?” I ask her. “School got really busy,” she says. “I texted you as soon as I could.”

The fact that she texted me as soon as she got some free time makes me feel happy. It also makes me hope that she may be feeling the same warm feeling that I feel. I try not to think about that. After all, bringing it up is a sure way to embarrass me. Instead, I listen to Padma, laugh at her jokes, and pour my heart out to her. Padma listens to everything that I tell her: about chess, life, and everything else. She’s a great listener.

Time flies all too quickly, and before I know it, I need to leave.
“Wait,” she says. “When can we do this again?”
I become a blubbering mess. “Uh, well, we can…we can do it anytime,” I stammer out.
“So you want to meet in three days? Same time, same place?” she asks. “Yeah,” I say, trying to collect myself.
“Alright then!” she says and then leaves.

Weeks pass as we keep meeting. My feelings for Padma grow to a point where I can no longer deny them – I have to admit that they exist and do something about it. I’ve never been good at reading people’s emotions, but I hope that Padma is sending me mixed signals at the very least.

I don’t know how it happens, but it does. One day, after we have just ended our two hours of talking and playing chess, she gets up to leave. “Same time, same place, day after tomorrow?” she asks. I usually respond with a quick nod, but something happens to me this time. “How about we meet at the Italian restaurant in town?” I ask her. “My treat.”

I say this, knowing that my wallet will hurt after our meal. But what’s some money down the drain for the sake of love?
“That’s nonsense,” Padma says. “It’s on me.”
“Huh?” I’m confused for a second.
“It’s a date!” she says, winking. She kisses me on the cheek and leaves, trying to hide her blush. I do not attempt to do so, as hiding my cherry red face would be nearly impossible.

We meet at the Italian place the next day. After some divine eggplant parmesan, we order gelato to share for our dessert. I’m careful with my words as I say, “You didn’t mean it when you said this was a date, right?”

Padma’s face falls just a hint. “Did you want me to mean it?” she says in a teasing manner, but I can detect the sincerity in her voice. It’s so obvious that even an emotionally blind person like me can feel it. I take a deep breath, ready for all of this to blow up in my face. “Yes,” I exhale. “I did.”

She stares at me for a second like I’m an alien from Mars. Then she leans in and kisses me. I’m too stunned to react, and I realize this is turning out like a scene from a clichéd rom-com. Finally, she pulls away and I smile at her.
“I didn’t know you were into girls,” I say.
“Neither did I,” she says softly. “But I am now.”
We end our date successfully as we part ways in the parking lot. It is the happiest day of my life.

It has been weeks since Padma and I started dating. Every day, my feelings for Padma are growing. But along with them comes fear. There is fear that my parents will not allow me to see her.

I take a deep breath as I step out of my car and walk into the house. There is no smell of weed today, which encourages me a bit. If my stepdad is sober, he may be a bit more considerate. I cross my fingers and walk in, noticing that most of the broken beer bottles have been swept away. My parents are in the living room talking to each other. When I walk in, my mother turns to me and asks me, “Where’ve you been?” she asks.
“I’ve been out with a friend,” I say. If I don’t tread carefully here, I might get into trouble. I take a few deep breaths.

“You’re always out with friends these days, aren’t you?” my stepdad says. “It would be better if you spent some time studying.”
He sees the murderous look on my face and adds, “Of course, it’s really up to you. As long as you keep passing all of your classes, it’s all okay.”

He’s got a point, of course. My grades have suffered because of my dates with Padma. Earlier, I used to split my time between chess and studying, emphasizing greatly on chess. Now, I split my time almost evenly between chess and Padma. My grades have been the first to protest this recent development. I’ve been ignoring all of them, but I know that they’re vital. I tell myself to deal with my grades after settling this situation. Maybe I can do an extra credit assignment or something.

I tell myself to focus on one thing at a time. So far, so bad! This is not quite the dream start I had envisioned. My biological dad is still alive in my dream, and my stepdad does not exist. It proceeds with me calmly telling my parents that I was lesbian. My parents lovingly hug me and tell me they don’t care who I like. In the dream, I even get myself a Porsche!

My biological dad was in the military. He didn’t earn that much, but he always made enough to pay for a decent apartment. We chose not to travel to military bases with him. Instead, we lived together in our apartment. I vividly recall the times when he came back from war. He would always bring back something or the other. Once, he brought back a chess set and taught me to play.

I borrowed books on the subject from the library near our apartment and read them hundreds of times. I would’ve owed the library a fortune in overdue fines if a nice librarian hadn’t kept checking the book out under my name. I returned the book nearly a year after I borrowed it.

When it happened, I was nine. My dad came back home, as always, but we went to meet him at the hospital this time. He bore no gifts that time. All he had to give me was his Purple Heart. I soon learned that the cause was an unexploded landmine from the 1991 Iraqi Gulf War that exploded, killing one of his comrades and severely wounding him. My father died a few days later. I still treasure his Purple Heart and keep it safely with me.

I talk to myself so much these days that I think I’m going insane.

I snap myself out of my daydream and focus on the task at hand. I need to come out somehow.

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Read the final part here: Reaching For Luna – Checkmate