Idina Menzel as Florence, Josh Groban as Anatoly.


If there was one thing Florence had learned over the years, it was not to cry in front of anyone she respected or wanted to impress.

Sometimes it didn't work.

There was one time, when she was in the orphanage in London and all of ten years old, where she had been punished for crying. A prospective couple had just left— without signing any adoption papers. The scenario had repeated itself countless times, so— she thought— she should be used to it.

She was wrong.

She ended up in a corner, curled into a ball and crying. They had seemed like the right people— they were kind, they were financially stable, and they didn't seem to mind that she was Hungarian.

But they had walked out, just like all the rest.

One of the caretakers came over and asked her what was wrong. Ten-year-old Florence shied away, because this was one of the mean caretakers, who was known to take a birch rod to someone if everything wasn't perfect. So Florence hastily tried to wipe away the tears and said no, everything was fine.

"It doesn't look like that, Florence," the caretaker said, and Florence was surprised the woman remembered her name. "Tell me what's wrong."

One did not talk back to a superior or refuse to say anything, so Florence spoke. "They didn't adopt me."

"Who are you talking about?"

"Mr. and Mrs. Brown. They didn't adopt me. They left."

The caretaker's eyes grew hard. "Did you expect they would?"

Whatever Florence said, it would come out the wrong way. "I..."

"No respectable English person would want to adopt a Hungarian child, especially not now. Stop crying."

That just made her ten-year-old self cry even more.

The caretaker had taken a birch rod to Florence then. Her twenty-eight-year-old could still remember the sting— but even more, the humiliation. Gradually she learned to swallow her tears— or at least save them for the bathroom. It took time, but eventually she developed her stiff façade.

So now she was sitting in the lobby of the Merano Mountain Inn, with Anatoly Sergievsky and no Freddie in sight.

Not that she was complaining.

Anatoly Sergievsky had revealed himself to be more than just The Russian Opponent. Now he was Anatoly— a caring, charming, wonderful man who was as sick of the farce that was the Competition as she was. He even made her forget about Freddie, at least for a time.

But then Freddie came in and ruined everything, just like he always did.

She left, furious at Freddie and furious at herself. She could have said something to Freddie or Anatoly; but no, she just had to leave like any weak-willed woman would.

But she wasn't. She was going to fix the situation, because she wasn't going to let emotions mix in with chess. Some said politics were messy, some said emotions were messy, some said it was a combination of the two. She didn't know what to believe.

She only knew that later that night, when everything was supposedly fixed and the next game was scheduled for the following day, Anatoly had materialized in the lobby of the Palace Hotel as she was waiting for the elevator.

"Miss Vassy?"

"Yes, Mr. Sergievsky?" she said, because even though they had come close to something in the Merano Mountain Inn, they were in public and they were supposed to be enemies.

"I wanted to ask you—"

The elevator doors opened. She stepped inside the elevator, expecting the conversation to end but not wanting it to. But she was surprised when Anatoly held the door of the elevator. "May I go up with you, to begin?"

"Yes, Mr. Sergievsky," because if her mind was working like it normally would, she would think this was an opportunity to find his weaknesses— but all she could think about was how Freddie wouldn't even be back at all tonight, he would be spending the night in a bar, and Anatoly was right there.

"Thank you. I wanted to ask you about the likelihood of Mr. Trumper appearing at the match tomorrow. As he's been so unpredictable as of late."

She should have been offended and she should have tried to defend Freddie. But she merely nodded wearily, leaning back against the wall of the elevator and closing her eyes. "He'll be there," was all she could make herself say.

"May I escort you to your room— Florence?" They had given each other permission to use first names back at the Inn, and when it was just the two of them... "You look as if you will fall asleep standing up, and an elevator wouldn't be the most comfortable place to spend the night."

But with you it would.

Where had that come from?

"All right. Thank you, Anatoly." She stifled a yawn as the elevator doors opened at her floor. They walked down the hall together in a comfortable silence. Anatoly was being a complete gentleman, so, utterly different from Freddie.

He turned to go when they reached her door, but she reached out and touched his arm.

"Why don't you come inside for a few minutes?"

Was she offering to let him stay the night? Even she didn't know.

But he was married. She could see the ring on his left hand. What was she doing?

He shocked her by saying, "I believe I will. Thank you."

"Not at all." She unlocked the door with slightly trembling hands.

Thankfully the room was still neat, so she wasn't going to humiliate herself in that regard. Even so, she went around the room, straightening various things to quell her nervousness.

"Would you like something to drink? Wine—"

"Miss Vassy..."

That made her stop.

He sounded concerned. For her. No one was concerned for her. She was merely Trumper's second, Trumper's lover, the one who straightened everything out and let Freddie walk all over her.

"Florence..."

And that made her break.

She started crying.

She tried to wipe them away (no one wants a Hungarian. Stop crying) but the tears just kept flowing, regardless of the fact that she could feel the birch rod on her skin and Anatoly was probably thinking she was insane.

"Florence..."

And that made her lose it.

She turned to face him, went across the room, and kissed him, pressing her lips against his in a desperate attempt to fight the gnawing feeling of utter loneliness.

They broke apart after a few moments, and she was acutely aware of the ring on his finger and his dark, searching eyes. Then they were kissing again, and she was clutching at him and trying to convince herself that this was what she needed, even as they tumbled into the bed.