Snow-covered tables in a stone courtyard in a park in the city. He sips from a thermos, pretending it's tea. She sits across from him, slim and pale, dressed in yellow, pretending that she believes it's tea, too. Winter birds step through the slush around them.
He lifts a hand over a piece, thinks twice, puts the gloved hand back in his lap.
She has more in common with them, the winter birds, than the geese and robins who flew south. She fluffs her feathers and walks under gray skies; she has nothing to complain about cold stone seats and snow on her dark hair that doesn't melt.
She knows she will win this one. Six moves. If he sees it, he says nothing. Doesn't try to re-bargain. His whiskers are harsh silver stubble on ruddy skin.
She remembers when they were light brown, fine, the best beard in the city. How they whispered and tickled against her neck, her stomach...
He sees it. Plays to the end. Their hands move, back and forth, until his last piece is removed. She never knocks them over, just takes them away.
"That is the last game we will play, Gregory Abut." She waits, but he says nothing in reply. She begins to collect the pieces.
"No." He stays her hand. "Leave them. Let whoever comes along next try to figure out how we got here."
So she leaves them, and he stands and comes to her side of the table and kisses her, like always. He used to taste like Turkish tobacco, but he gave that up years ago, when his son died. Now he only tastes like gin, sharp and clear.
He takes the thermos when he goes. He has a limp now, she notices. So many small inconveniences of mortality that she could've fixed, long ago. If it were up to her... Ah, but that is part of the game. They must say aloud they want her to do that for them.
Gregory was seventy-nine; there were no further moves to make. She sighs.
The winter birds want something for their trouble. She arranges her yellow dress and whispers, "Find me another."
And to a hundred city windows go a hundred birds, and somewhere in the cold afternoon, they find him.