From the outside it looked like any other bed'n'breakfast one might come across in a made-for-TV-Hallmark-Movie-of-the-Week broadcast involving a lone and lonely traveller who plays by his own rules and just needs a good woman to complete him which woman happens to be the sole owner of the said yet struggling to make ends meet bed'n'breakfast. Nothing from the inside contradicted this.
Well, not exactly nothing. The owner contradicted this in spades. For instance, she wasn't struggling financially.
From the outside there were problems as well. I'm not the kind of good-looking rugged stranger who lives by his own rules alone and lonely and who needs a good woman to make him complete. I mean I am alone and lonely but the odds of a woman, any woman, wanting to make me feel complete seem like long odds. The kind of odds that I'm not willing to bet on.
But if I were willing to go all-in on a bet I'd surely lose it would be for the owner of this bed'n'breakfast. A woman only ever known to me as Cassie.
I walked in and asked if a room, any room, was available.
"Dave! I've been expecting you! Please come in and have some chamomile lavender tea before I show you to your room."
How did she know—
"Your name is on the tag on your lapel." She said with a twinkle that I would grow to know and love over the next hour.
My name tag. I was driving home from a convention a few towns over and decided to stop in this town for the night. I was still wearing my jacket with my name tag. Embarrassed I pulled off the tag and muttered something about sleepless nights and lives wished forgotten...
"Nonsense, if we all wore name tags imagine all the social awkwardness we could avoid. Now sit," twinkle "while I get that tea." It was then that I noticed she was wearing a name tag with Cassie on it.
The only place to sit was at an antique table with a backgammon board recessed into it. The dice cups were made of old leather well-oiled and the pieces of bakelite. This was an expensive set that would easily fetch thousands at auction.
And yes she was beautiful. The light from the kitchen shined behind her making her glow in that unearthly way only angels know how to do while holding a silver tray with two tea cups and various cookies that suggested a comforting bosom that would keep a man warm and safe at night, and smiling a smile that would melt that man's heart regardless of how many times it had been trampled on by cold heartless vixens whose only goal in life was to trample the heart of that man.
"I was talking about the backgammon board." Twinkle, a laugh, and a casual hair toss.
Once again, my eyes down, muttered something about how not since the dawn of man …
"Come," that twinkle "let's play a game! It's so rare to find someone these days who knows how to play backgammon!"
"But how did you know—"
The laughter, the twinkle. "You do know how right? So let's get to it!"
I do know and we did.
We rolled to see who would go first and she ended up with a 6-5 and ran her back checker to the safety of her mid-point.
"Ah, the 'lovers-leap' roll. How do you think it got that name?" She was staring deeply in my eyes. So deeply that I had no way to answer even if I had known the answer.
"I'm sure it was something romantic yet tragical. Anyway, it's your turn."
I rolled a 3-2. I played the reverse-split putting checkers on my 22 and 10 points. The best move was a normal split but my brain skipped a beat for some reason and I misplayed.
Of course she rolled double-5s making her ace and trey points while putting both of my checkers on the bar.
I don't remember what I rolled next but I know it wasn't enough to get my checkers back in the game. Everything else after this was a blur. She kept moving her pieces around the board laughing, twinkling, chatting with the ease of a butterfly landing on a sunflower, and filling in her home board. Meanwhile my checkers continued to dance on the bar and each time I rolled I knew what the outcome was going to be so I stopped even looking and instead stared at her as she expertly closed out her board just as my heart was being forever sealed into her twinkling blue eyes.
Even at the end when all her checkers were on her ace point all I could roll was double-1s. She ended it all with a 6-6 and squealed with delight while clapping her hands.
"A backgammon! That never happens in real life!"
In real life I never meet a woman like this.
"I love you Cassie! I love you more than I even knew was possible! I love you like a lone and thirsty dandelion loves the first drop of a Spring rain. I love you like the English language loves the pen of Shakespeare. I love you like the human ear loves the Chaconne in d minor. I … I … I—"
"I know." She smiled but did not twinkle. Her head tilted to the side and she looked upon me kindly, a kindliness that shattered my heart into a million tiny pieces of glass that pierced every inch of my soul.
And then she touched my shoulder. "Now get in your car and drive back home to your wife and remember how you used to feel the same way about her and let that memory guide you on your journey together."
Driving back home I couldn't stop thinking about the game and what Cassie had said to me. How did she know I was married? How did she know that our marriage was in trouble? Did she know about the fight we had before I left for the convention? That there were accusations of infidelity? Questions about paternity? Did she know that that I had bashed my wife's skull in with a stone chess board and left her there dead while I went to the convention? Did she know that my only journey with my wife would be now as I drive my car off this cliff to the ground 1,000 feet below?