Right off the bat, Bill knew Ellen wouldn’t be a love interest, at least from her end, and that she had over-prepared for the occasion. Got herself worked into a tizzy for basically nothing. Good ol’ Grassy, she thinks. If it wasn’t for him…
“Umm, delicious. What do you think Bill?”
“I agree it’s pretty good ice cream, Ellen. Pistachio, yum.” A cold-stimulus headache suddenly kicked in. “But, oww, should we be really eating our desert before the main course?” She rubbed her forehead with her free hand.
“Ice cream is the only decent thing on the menu here, dearest. I have other plans for the evening if you don’t mind the surprise. My assistant has rented a house in the southeast corner of the Moth Village. I think it will be to your liking. Sidechick can teleport us over in turn. The tuna should be grilling by now.” He downs another gob of the sweet cream.
The night was finally looking up for Bill. If this was all they had here, anpan (Japanese sweet roll), milk and Singha beer were only going to go so far.
“Better, huh? Ahh, smell the aroma. Nothing like grilled tuna. Sidechick is a 5 star chef, believe me. Finish up your ice cream and we’ll have a grand old time of it.”
Bill again wondered about motive. The game challenge seemed ages ago, months and months, but it was only 2 weeks back. Did Ellen want to forfeit now? Or maybe switch over to a different game? What was that one more complicated than chess the Oriental people liked? Gong, she though incorrectly. The one where black plays first. Maybe this is some kind of hybrid game; maybe that’s why the moves don’t seem to make much sense. She had to ask.
“Ellen,” she starts more seriously, setting the ice cream to one side. “I’m wondering about your moves.”
“As am I.” He stares at her kindly but intently. She sensed no malice in him at all.
“I mean, they are pretty lame.” She laughed to diffuse the seriousness of the statement.
“Notice what I have done, though? Can you see?”
“Umm, no. They’re just pretty bad moves overall. I’m not really even trying on my end because of it.”
“As you shouldn’t. No need to try.”
“Hmm. Care to explain?” She smiled slightly.
“I moved a pawn. Then I moved a knight. Then a bishop. Then the king and rook at one time in a castle. Then, lastly, the queen. The game is basically finished — no more pieces. We are here to celebrate. *You* are the queen.”
Uh oh, Bill (Wheeler) thought. Here we go. Here’s the *real* motive.
“I have something for you.” Ellen pulls a small box out of his robe and presents it to Bill, who hesitantly takes it and then hides it in her hand, staring forward, face somewhat flushed. “Go ahead and open it, dear,” Ellen encouraged. “You’ll *like* it.”
Marriage proposal?? — could it be *possible* that Ellen… Bill quickly snapped open the box just to end this line of speculation. A ring indeed, but it didn’t seem like an engagement ring. The gem was ambiguous, if it was a gem atall. Maybe, um, agate? Jasper? She found herself compelled to put it on nonetheless, then cautiously held the hand forward. “Care to explain?” she asked again as seriously as possible. No smiling this time.