I sit down on the cold granite of the bench beside the chess table. The table has a glossy chessboard embedded into it and is meant for some fun over-the-board play. I don’t use it for that, though, considering that I’m always alone whenever I’m in this park. I know it’s strange for a sixteen-year-old girl, but I’m a bit of a lone wolf.

I place my silver laptop tenderly on the table, fully aware of the glares I’m receiving from all of the other chess players in the park. Everybody gets annoyed when I hog one of the chess tables, but I love the feel of the cool stone on the table. The sixty-four squares always make me smile no matter what I’m going through. Sometimes, on the rare occasion that there is money to spare in my wallet, I buy hot chocolate from the Starbucks across the street. On those days, I casually drink it, enjoying the burning sweetness in my mouth.

Today is not one of those rare days, though. Like most days, I have just my computer with me as I start playing chess.

I shake my long black hair out of my face as I open my laptop. I am greeted by my account name: LunaMoon. I have a thing for the moon, not just because my name is Luna, but also because I love it in general. The slender white crescent always enchants me whenever I look at it, shining in the sky. The moon is just so dependable – it follows a schedule that it rarely fails to follow and disappears for just one day in a month. On every other day, I am free to marvel at it at my leisure.

My pale shivering hands type in the password to my login, and I am greeted with a few texts from my friends at school. One of them texts me frantically, saying: OMG Luna! I literally have my driving test tomorrow. I’m so scared! How’d you pass it so easily?!!!

I laugh. The driving test was stressful, but I passed it on my first try. Now, I can drive my used Kia anywhere I want. I am grateful to have the freedom to go anywhere I want, which is enough for me.

I open up my web browser and click on the icon in my favorites labeled “Chess”. It transports me to chess.com, and I click on “New Game”. I send out a challenge for a quick game and I get an opponent within seconds. I read my username next to the black pieces: MoonGirl0. I don’t know why I added the zero at the end. Maybe it reminded me of the full moon.

My opponent is rated 1969, just six points above my rating. Their username is PadmeAmidala0. I laugh at the Star Wars reference and notice that he or she has a zero at the end of their username, just like me.

They make their first move, a conventional king’s pawn opening. I counter with my favorite move, leading into an aggressive game. Soon, we have traversed into the lines of my favorite opening, the Sicilian Dragon. I can’t remember the last time I lost a game with this opening, and I look to be doing just fine until my opponent launches a flurry of attacks at me, destroying my hopes of winning with each brilliant move. They hammer their rook down the board with a resounding checkmate.

I am stunned. I type “good game” into the chat just as they offer me a rematch. I accept, eager to get back at them. I go with a safe opening as white, hoping to win a long game. Soon, though, it doesn’t matter – before long, they are making me dance to their tunes. I resign when there is no hope left for me. I type a quick “you’re good” into the chat, not expecting a response. My opponent surprises me, though, saying, “you’re good, too! I like your username!”.

I smile and respond, “thanks! My name’s Luna, so I’m into all of the moon stuff (obviously!)”.
“I’m Padma,” says my opponent, who I assume is a girl. “We should play again sometime!”
“Sure!” I say, eager to play a few more games with her. “Maybe tomorrow, same time?”
“Sounds good!” she responds.

The next day, I am back on my bench, my dark hair cascading down my right shoulder. I do have a hot chocolate today, and I have it gripped tightly in my right hand. The warmth feels good in the biting cold, the winds whipping my hair around like they do in movies. I suppose my long hair flying would look great in slow motion, but right now, the wind bites at my ears. I try to get my hood onto my head, stuffing my long hair into it. As I do so, I curse at myself for not taking the time to braid my hair or at least pull it into a messy ponytail.

I finally manage to get my hood on and notice that it is almost time for me to play chess against Padma. I open my laptop again. It’s a dark and gloomy day, and there is a drizzle. My mother didn’t want me to go out, but I figured that it shouldn’t really hurt my laptop. After all, it is supposed to be waterproof. Just as I think that, lightning flashes. Almost instinctively, I count the seconds before the sound of thunder comes. Not even a single second has passed before thunder cracks.

I frantically calculate the distance in my head, but I know that the storm is close to me. Very close. I run under the cover of a small building and sit down on a wooden bench in front of it. Panting, I open my laptop once again as I gaze upon the bench I was just on. It is soaked with water, puddles forming all around it. I sigh, relieved.

Opening my laptop again, I notice that I am just in time to play my match against Padma. I remember that I didn’t even check with her to confirm – I hope she remembers. I type her username into the search bar and am relieved to see that she is active. The next question is whether or not she remembers me.

I tentatively message her. “I don’t know if you remember me…,” I write. I quickly add, “I’m Luna from yesterday.”
I’m relieved when she responds. “Sorry, I forgot that we were going to play,” she writes, and then adds, “But do you want to play some blitz like yesterday? I haven’t played with someone who gives me such a hard time for a few years.”

“Sure!” I quickly respond. Her message makes me feel happy for reasons I don’t understand. It makes me proud that I gave this brilliant player a hard time. Her words make me want to impress her, and now I’m scared that I’ll mess up.

I tell myself to relax as we play our first game. I play the same opening that I did yesterday, but I clearly can’t match her tactical brilliance. We play for around two hours, playing about 20 games. Between games, she gives me tips as to how I can improve. I try to implement all of them, but my best result against her ends up being a draw. The score displayed is 19.5 – 0.5, with Padma beating me by 19 points.

“You play well,” she writes.
“You play really well,” I respond. “How are you not rated 2200?”
“I just started playing on this website a few months ago, and I don’t play here that often,” she explains. “I like playing over-the-board a lot more.”
“You have to be, like, the best player I’ve ever played!”
“I like playing with you,” she says. “Tomorrow, same time?” 
“Definitely,” I write.

* * * * *

Read the next part here: Reaching For Luna – Middlegame