Erik glared across the polished wood table at his opponent, who looked back at him with a satisfied smirk while twirling a black chess queen— his queen— in her fingers. He had been playing chess with Miss Fleck, the oddity in his show recognized for her aerial talent, for nearly the entire morning. And lost every time.
Erik scanned the board with his intense green eyes, scanning for a way out. Slowly, cautiously, he moved his king diagonally.
Wham. Fleck slammed her rook down on his king so hard it flew off the table. "Checkmate. I win." She singsonged, bending over to pick up the fallen piece.
Erik growled with frustration. "You've beaten me five times already, woman! Where did you learn to play?" He demanded.
Fleck tucked a strand of raven black hair behind her ear with a satisfied grin. "That's my secret, Mr. Y." She replied. "Care to play again?"
Erik smiled grudgingly, adjusting the irregular piece of porcelain that covered the left half of his face. "How much do I owe you?"
Miss Fleck tilted her head back, counting exaggeratedly on her fingers. "Let's see... five games, two dollars for each win... ten dollars, sir." She replied, flashing a triumphant little smile again. Erik dug into the pocket of his midnight blazer and pulled out a five dollar bill. "I will pay you in full tomorrow." Fleck plucked it delicately from his fingers and tucked it into the collar of her sparkling black dress. "You're too kind, sir." She purred as she moved the ivory pieces back to their respective squares. Erik grunted. "Let's switch sides. I'll have a better chance at winning if I can go first." He grumbled.
Fleck grinned, but turned the board so the white pieces faced her employer. Erik moved a pawn two spaces. "This is our last game, Miss Fleck, and then you are going onstage."
Fleck cocked her head, listening to the vaudevillian notes of the little blonde Meg's dance sequence begin. "Let's get this wrapped up quickly." She moved one of her pawns forward two spaces.
Erik captured it. "Do you think it's bad luck to lose the first piece?"
Fleck rolled her purplish-black eyes. "You must lose pawns to get ahead." She demurred, handing her pawn to Erik before nudging her bishop on the white square forward four spaces with a black painted nail, using the space she had freed by moving her pawn.
Erik mirrored her action, except with the bishop on the black square. He could still hear Madame Giry screeching at the other dancers to get onstage, and his mind wandered back to when she had gotten angry with him for brushing her daughter aside when she had practically begged for him to acknowledge her performance.
Erik would admit the little Giry girl had talent, and much potential. But... the simple fact remained: Meg was not Christine.
"Erik." Fleck's voice startled Erik out of his thoughts. He looked up sharply, his smoky green eyes revealing some of the pain he had been pondering on.
She reached over and lightly touched his hand. "Your move." Erik pulled his hand away and tried to focus on the game. Absentmindedly he moved his knight forward, not aware he had captured Fleck's bishop.
She frowned, her plan to capture the king foiled. Nevertheless, she moved another pawn forward. "What is on your mind, sir?"
Erik shook his head. "Nothing." He muttered, but was interrupted by Fleck's twittering laugh. "It's obviously something," she lowered her voice. "You're thinking about her."
Erik banged his fist on the table, upsetting a black knight and a white bishop. Fleck didn't react; just set the pieces the right way up again.
"You'd better be glad Madame can't read minds. Otherwise the old hag would be screeching day and night." Erik clenched both hands into fists. Fleck put her hand over his right, stroking his knuckles with her thumb.
"Don't speak disrespectfully of your manager, Miss Fleck." He practically growled.
Fleck waved her free hand dismissively and moved the pawn on the far left forward two spaces. "This is New York, Erik, in case you've forgotten. I'm allowed to say whatever I wish about the old witch." Erik deflated, then moved his middle pawn forward. "It does not mean you should."
Fleck rolled her eyes and moved the rook forward to the fifth square on the board. "She's an old witch, and you know it," She muttered. "Always screaming at all of us, and ordering her twenty nine year old daughter around like a servant."
Erik's expression became crafty as he noticed a path from his bishop to her queen, and moved it a space. "How Madame disciplines her daughter is not my business. Besides," he looked up at the black and white clad woman. "I don't recall you having a particularly close relationship with the girl."
Irritated, she flicked her ebony knight forward a little too violently, causing it to topple. "I don't. But I do know what it feels like to be a servant." She snapped, righting her fallen piece and placing it on the correct square.
Erik decided to change the subject, and a smirk played across his lips. "Check."
Shock flickered across Fleck's ivory face as her purple eyes darted across the board, searching for an escape. But her own pieces flanked the queen, making it unable for her to move.
Her eyes filled with grudging respect as she uselessly moved her rook forward to capture one of his pawns, her last triumph before Erik won.
However, just as Erik was about to push his bishop to Fleck's king, Madame Giry's calls echoed through the backstage area. "Miss Fleck! Miss Fleck, where are you?"
Erik could almost hear the grin in her voice as she adjusted her trademark black top hat on her midnight knot of hair and said, "I suppose I have to leave. You haven't won quite yet, Mr Y." Erik watched her retreating form stroll in the direction of the tall, spindly figure that was Madame Giry. "This is not over, Beltza." Her real name flew out of his mouth before he could stop it.
Fleck paused and glanced over her shoulder. For a flickering moment, Erik feared he had offended her. But she emitted that charming, warbling laugh of hers again and moved on.
Fleck knew he hadn't been talking about the game of chess.