The Queen of Spades
The Queen of Spades was nothing like the Queen of Diamonds. She was her opposite in every way; she was base metals and ash-infused dirt, she was the rough soil around her unpainted nails, the heat of the forge, the roots of wild-sown trees. She was small and thickset, almost Tolkienesque dwarf, with ruddy smoke-and-auburn hair; small, bright eyes; radiant, burning cheeks. She might never be as lovely as the Queen of Diamonds, but there was something about her, something that made you want to turn and look at her again.
He met her at his local. It was New Year’s Eve, and the crowd was raucous, the smell of beer permeated the air, laughter was all around.
The Queen of Spades was playing darts over in one corner. She laughed and cheered and sipped from a huge glass mug, when she wasn’t up there playing. On her turn she was suddenly focussed and serious, eyeing up the dartboard and delivering a killer shot every time.
He was nine cups into the liquid courage, it didn’t feel that hard walking up to her.
“Not bad, I guess, for a lady.”
The Queen just snorted.
“I’m pretty sure I can beat it though.”
“I’m pretty sure. I’m Gordon.”
“You’re about to get your ass kicked, Gordon.”
There were cheers bursting out of the friends she had assembled there. They all heckled him and suggested humiliating bets, all with the assumption that he was destined to lose.
And he was. He’d barely played a full ten fingers worth of darts in his life. He was a crap shot, and he knew that going in. Was it manipulative to have talked himself up just so she could have the heady satisfaction of putting him in his place? In a way, it might have been. Was he buffing her pride just to get her into bed.
Maybe. And that was where things went. As the countdown went on behind them, and the cheering, and the warbling rendition of Auld Lang Syne; they were out the back, arms twined around each other, making out as fiercely as teenagers. He warmed himself from the heat of her desire, and maybe she buffed his pride as much as he’d buffed hers. Maybe with the same goal in mind.
Later. His flat. With the sun trying to struggle into the sky past a heavy flotsam of grey-and-green clouds. A grey day promising rain. He woke up to her lying beside him, spread-eagled and calm, half-asleep.
“Stick around,” he said to her. “Please.”
The Queen of Spades was a philanthropist too. Not in the distant, gilded way the Queen of Diamonds had been. Her philanthropy was fierce and hands-on. She worked with the kind of disadvantaged kids he imagined would be her calling. She was tough with them, and straight, and full of equal measures of love and fury. She was their rock – but she could be their hard place too when they pushed her.
Nearly a year was shared between Gordon and his Queen. It was satisfying, enriching; he came to imagine that there might be a picket fence at the end of this, a wedding dress – white lace, rosebuds; there might be an army of children, of grandchildren. It all seemed to follow a natural progression.
He didn’t understand at all, didn’t see that her eyes were set in another direction. He didn’t see it coming until the moment she told him: this wasn’t for her; a measure of enchantment had gone from what they’d once been. No recriminations, no shouting, but above all no hesitation. She cared for him, there was still a residual vein of love, but it wasn’t enough anymore. She wasn’t the kind to settle for half measures; she wouldn’t make do with a shadow of the roaring passion they’d started with. One thing about this Queen, she’d always live life to the fullest.
“I’m sorry, Gordon. I wanted this to work out. I’ll be here for you, that much won’t change.”
And with that a page turned; a chapter fell closed.
Picture credit/discredit: author's own work