Chapter Six – We'll Meet Again
As rain trickled down the windowpane on another rainy winter evening, Florence was curled in bed with a steaming mug of tea, her blankets looking like various newspapers and journals had replaced them. Florence held the most current paper scouring for news of players at he upcoming World Chess Championships Interzonal in Stockholm, a competition that would chose a player to compete against the current champion. There was something in her that could scarcely believe that it was almost two years ago that she and Edward had been discovered by the British Chess Federation and had begun to play with them full time. They were now lined up to be part of the lower ranking members of the delegation being sent to Stockholm to represent England at the Championships.
Florence set her mug down next to the plane ticket and her passport, which she had barely let out of her sight. She could feel the brimming excitement even though they were not set to leave for another two days. The familiar patter of the rain was comforting as she immersed herself in her reading. She had read every single document on her bed at least twice so she knew what she was reading almost by heart and where to find what she was looking for now.
It was just a name printed in black and white on the paper but she couldn't help but feel the pull of her eyes every time they scanned the page. It was true she hadn't spoken to the American chess player since he had sent her flowers. She never replied to the message. She didn't know why. She still had his address, stuck inside the card that had come with the flowers behind a photo of her and Edward and the rest of her university chess team in Edinburgh. She had even gone so far as to press a rose from the bunch in a beaten hard cover of Art of Attack in Chess by Vladimir Vukovic she'd found in Camden Markets the weekend of her return to London. Why she kept these things she had no idea. But it was the same thing, the same feeling that made her look for his name, to follow what he was doing, wondering if he was doing the same for her.
She had learnt from her intensive readings that Freddie had been doing very well for himself and the American team. He was ranked fourth in their delegation and had won quite a number of the smaller tournaments, although he was no where near as good as the current world champion, the Soviet Tigran Petrosian. There was no doubt in her mind he would win this next tournament in Stockholm, he was too hard to beat and whilst it annoyed her that he played for the Soviets she had to admire his skill.
This Championship was going to be a whole other world for her and Edward. The stakes were higher on the international level, as she had been reminded repeatedly whenever she saw Professor James or Leila at university. They were ready though, she mused as she slid under her covers, pushing the books and papers so they slid to the end of her bed.
She was ready.
Florence's first thought about Stockholm was that she was cold, much colder than England which was in her opinion too much of an obvious thought. Her second thought, as she stared out the window of her hotel room at the Hotel Diplomat at the river was that is was strikingly beautiful.
"They always seem to hold these championships in exotic places." She remarked to Edward who laughed a little too loudly and forcefully that it came out like a bark.
They were to play a game that morning, she knew Edward was nervous, not that he had any reason to be. They weren't expected to win but to aid in their teammates getting further. And in any case they were booked to see the rest of the tournament play out even if they got knocked out on the first day of competition, which Florence had to admit was very likely.
They made their way in the hired town car to the playing venue with the rest of their teammates and were split off to the various locations to begin their games. The media attention that the championship was getting surprised Florence, film crews from around the world were milling about in the entranceway, trying to get shots of the top players in town. Edward pulled her aside of the swarming crowd and pointed to the corner of the room where the man of the hour himself Tigran Petrosian was conducting an interview.
"He looks very dignified." Edward said in a hushed voice in Florence's ear. She nodded in assent.
"Do you want to get closer? Listen in?" Florence raised an eyebrow at her partner, who for the first time in days cracked a smile.
They moved closer to the media scrum and hovered on the edge, just outside the ring of photographers. Petrosian spoke in a low and measured voice but despite his volume he could be heard over the clicking and the shuffling of the press.
"What do you say to those that think you're too cautious when you plau?" A local Swedish news anchor asked.
Petrosian gave the reporter what Florence thought might be his 'warm smile', "Some consider that when I play I am excessively cautious, but it seems to me that the question may be a different one. I try to avoid chance. Those who rely on chance should play cards or roulette. Chess is something quite different."
"You know there's a science behind cards and roulette too." A drawling voice scoffed from somewhere behind Florence. She felt her stomach twist a little bit and she glanced over her shoulder. Standing a few metres behind her in the centre of the American team was Frederick Trumper. His teammates chuckled at his joke, one of them clapping him on the back. A young woman with curling golden blonde hair laughed shrilly and touched his shoulder. Freddie lapped up the attention from his teammates. Despite the snide comments about the Soviets however, Freddie was engrossed in the interview, his eyes never leaving Petrosian.
Florence checked her watch and nudged Edward. "We should go so we're not late."
Edward nodded; he too was engrossed by the interview with the Soviet Grandmaster. They were moving back through the crowd towards the doors to the playing area, still somewhat focusing on the interview, when Edward accidentally bumped into someone, almost tripping over himself in the process.
"Sorry mate." Edward gasped in shock.
"Eddie!" Came the exuberant response.
Florence looked back and saw Edward shaking hands with Freddie as the American helped her partner up, slapping him on the back in that typical guy way. She felt some heat rise in her cheeks as she hurried to Edward's side.
"I hope you're more on your game when you're playing today than when you're walking around." Freddie laughed, looking over Edward's shoulder to Florence. He grinned at her, a bright glint in his icy blue eyes. She smiled back and put a hand on Edward's shoulder.
"Are you alright?" She asked.
"He's fine! Happens to everyone. This guy is enchanting to listen to. Not Eddie's fault at all." Freddie grinned earnestly.
Edward laughed, relaxing a little bit. "It was good to see you again Freddie, it's been a while."
"It sure has." Freddie said, more to Florence than to Edward. "Have a good game today mate."
Edward grinned and waved goodbye to Freddie. Florence smiled weakly and followed, glancing over her shoulder at the American. Their eyes met, he'd been watching her walk away from him. Freddie winked at her and she felt her stomach flip again.
"See you soon Florence." He called after her before following his teammates into an adjoining room.
Edward raised an eyebrow at her but she shook her head and her chess partner chuckled.
"Let's just go play some chess huh?" She sighed.
"Sure. If that's what you really want to do." Edward laughed.
Florence shoved him playfully as the two entered the quiet of the playing room. The real competition was about to begin.