Laura sat down on the edge of the bed. She looked around the tatty motel room. An old TV sat in the corner, the dust collected on it told her it was no longer working. The walls had been dyed yellow with the number of smokers who had used the room. The condensation run races down the insides of the window.
Laura shifted her weight on the edge of the bed. She could feel the slats through the thin mattress. She looked down at the small worn rucksack at her feet. Inside was everything she had managed to salvage from her ruined life.
The motel was not that bad, she supposed. This was her life now anyway, living one motel to another, always staying hidden and never using her own name. The motel was the best she could afford. The type that didn’t ask for ID to book in. Anonymity was her friend now. Hidden away, but free at last.
Laura reached down into the bag. Amongst the jumble of clothes lay the trophy. She picked it out turning it over in her hand. That stupid chess trophy that is where it had all begun.
Laura was 17 and in 6th form when she joined the chess club. Her form teacher told her she needed to mix more and join some after-school clubs. Staring at the list of sporting clubs, chess seemed the easiest option. It wasn’t as if Laura didn’t have friends. She had several friends and spent time with a mix of people. At school, however, she preferred to keep herself to herself and study her books.
The following Wednesday Laura was off to her first chess club. Her grandad had taught her to play chess when she was younger. She knew the basics but nothing amazing.
That was Laura’s first mistake but not the only one she would make that day. Laura’s grandad had been a master player and had passed on a great deal of talent to his granddaughter. Her tutor was impressed with her skill. That was when she first saw the trophy. Mr Williams told her she would definitely be competing for the trophy at the end of the school year. Her second mistake that day was smiling at the quiet boy in the corner of the room with floppy hair.
Three weeks later she was sat opposite the kid with floppy hair. His name was Max he was the year above her and until she walked into the club he was their best player by far. His name appeared on the trophy four times, once more and he would keep the trophy for good. Instead of being mad that Laura could spoil his four-year run, Max was delighted she had joined the chess club.
Weekly practising together turned into daily competitions between the two of them. Before Laura realised it they were inseparable. Max devoted every minute of the day to her.
The day of the trophy challenge came with a friendly rivalry between the two of them. Both Laura and Max progressed through the early stages as expected. Before either of them knew it, they were sat opposite each other in the final.
Laura knew it didn’t matter their relationship was strong even though it was in its early stages. The Trophy final was the best of 3 games. The first game Laura won easily. That’s when she saw a brief flicker of anger across Max’s face. If truth be told she let him win the second game. Laura convinced herself she had imagined the look and won the last game. Max shook her hand gripping a little too hard and then vanished from the room.
For two weeks after the competition, Max had ignored her and broken her heart. Then the phone calls, letters and presents started. He was sorry he acted the way he had, he loved her, could she ever forgive him. Laura let him suffer for another month before agreeing to meet him. It was as if they had never been apart, her old Max was back again.
On her 18th birthday, he proposed. Despite all the advice that she was too young she accepted. By the time of her 20th birthday, they had been married a month and had moved into their own flat. As a thoughtful gesture, the school gave them both the chess trophy to keep. Laura placed it on the mantlepiece, a happy reminder of how they had got together.
Their first big fight happened 6 months into their marriage. Max said she was reminding him of his failures by having the trophy sitting on the mantlepiece. He picked the trophy up and threw it in a cupboard after smashing up the dining table and chairs. This time he didn’t hit her. Two months later he did.
Max isolated Laura from her family and friends. He was always sorry after a fight. This never lasted long. As the dust collected on the trophy, the fights got bigger, so did the injuries Laura sustained. Ten years she put up with the abuse until she was finally brave enough to leave the marriage. She packed a few things into her old school rucksack and finally escaped. Why she took the trophy with her she would never know.
As she sat on the motel bed she thought about the irony. A trophy had brought them together but, to Max, she was the true trophy. Now all that was ahead of her was a life of constantly running and anonymous motel rooms. Making money where she could to survive and keeping one step ahead. It was worth it to escape her life of torture. She licked the end of her finger and wiped the trophy. She must have missed that speck of blood when she had washed it.
God, it had felt good in the lounge holding the trophy above her head. Repeatedly smashing it against his skull. She was free, free at last.
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