‘So boring! There’s nothing coming on TV. Scrabble?’ said he with expectant eyes. She, on the other hand, had something else on her mind. She looked at the soundly sleeping baby, bit her lower lip in thought and then finally acquiesced, for now. How long can a game take? Plus, I’ll still have time for mine.
He jumped off from the bed, went to the other room and was back in what seemed a second. Like a gladiatorial trophy he carried the green box in his hands and a thick, podgy Scrabble dictionary on top. On top… Uff! Stop it! Concentrate! When was the last time you won? Or even made a 7-letter word? Huh? Gleefully, as if aware already that this game too like most would be his to pocket, he opened the board and smoothed it flat on the bed. With such tenderness he picked the racks and placed them across the board, she just couldn’t watch those fingers any more, without feeling jealous.
‘Shall we, madam?’ he asked and she wanted to say yes, now, please, right now, on the board, why wait but all she said was ‘Aye aye, Captain!’
Then, it began. The sound of silent thinking or of tiles shuffling in the bag; the click when they were laid as a word on the board, or the click of the tongue at a triple letter poached. His score card soared, like always. Only when by a stroke of chance one consonant and six vowels reared their heads on his rack he strained his neck backwards and she knew it instantly; finally, he’s got tough nuts to crack!
‘Hey, I forgot our drinks! Be back in a minute. Your turn anyway,’ and off he ran. As if it mattered to her, those few extra seconds, because a Q without a U is like a life without love, unless there’s a free ‘I’ somewhere to couple with it. Qi is a word, isn’t it? I think it is. Should I peep into the dictionary?
‘With Coke or lemon-soda?’ he called, interrupting, as if he had read her intention. Read my intention. Yeah, right! She said she wanted lemon-soda, for then he’ll take longer and she will plan her attack in the meantime. No. Not just landing the ‘Q’ on double letter or even making two ‘Qi’s. Back-to-back.
He walked in with a confident swagger of a Scrabble winner despite the bad rack, with the ice jingling in two glasses – one full and grey the other golden and neat. Ah! He’ll need that straight. Wait till he sees what I made. And what I will make, right here, in a little while. Nonchalantly she yawned and stretched letting her strap fall over her shoulder. She let it lie there, the bare shoulder did not go unnoticed by the corner of his eye, but the two ‘Qi’s acted the mistresses demanding full attention.
‘Oh God! Well played, honey!’ cooed he even before he sat fully, and quickly glanced at the vertical columns of score on the back of an envelope. Those pursed lips and deep-set eyes roving over the numbers told her he was doing the math, mentally. Taking stock of the situation, one slow sip of Bourbon at a time. She smiled wickedly in the lamp light. You fool! You should just have thought of another game then! Today is mine to perfect my way now. She leaned back on the pillow and stretched her legs, letting her toes surpass his knees but not without dropping a caress somewhere along the way. He kept his hand on her foot, rubbed it thoughtfully, still busy thinking of a word-bomb to drop. So him!
Turn after turn the board filled up, the glasses emptied. Words were now taking longer to make but the edge remained. It could be anyone’s game, he knew that. She didn’t need to care.
Just as he sat down on the bed after getting the third round of drinks, he scrunched up the tile bag to check how many more to go. The bag was empty, except for one tile which would be hers to pick. She noticed that and turned to look at the clock. Aha! Not much longer now.
‘What the hell is wrong today? I’ve either had all vowels or all consonants, and now I could open up a shop selling ‘Es’, complained he, as he made a puny ‘E.L.’ in a nondescript corner of the board. She was enjoying this moment, not of victory yet but of reaching it. How I love to see you helpless in a game. Of course, she didn’t say that. That would have been mean, and she wanted to be meaner. So she bent forward, crinkled her eyes and shook her head slowly from side to side ‘Tch tch tch’. He just smiled a good-sport smiled, and drained his glass in one gulp. ‘Ahh! Anyway, pick your tile, miss. The final move. How much damage can you do, after all?’
The tile in the bag read ‘X’. What luck! Just what she needed, but she took her time to do it. Slowly, as if she was making love to it, but more because she was three down and the board swung a bit, she placed it on the triple word. That’s all that was needed. A humble ‘E.X.’ in the same nondescript corner of the board, using his 'E' but snatching 27 points when none extra he could afford to give. The game was hers.
Only one of them knew if all pieces of Scrabble made it back to the box that night. The board had been pushed to a corner of the bed some time ago by her free arm. Finally! As their moving shadows met on the walls, he had quietly pulled the score card from under her and pocketed the evidence of defeat that he wanted to bin.
And she had, as quietly, stolen it back from his pocket and slipped it under her pillow, where it later slept satisfied with a pile of tiles that were being hidden away by her ever since this perfect game began.
What damage can I do, you asked, honey?
The baby slept soundly through the night.
[Written for WordPress Daily Prompts : 365 Writing Prompts. The prompt for today was -The perfect game - You’re set to play poker (or Scrabble or something else . . .) with a group of four. Write a story set during this game. Or, describe the ideal match: the players, the relationships — and the hidden rivalries.]