Izdihar, staring unseeingly at the pieces on her chessboard, suddenly cried out angrily and shoved the board off the table. There was a loud clattering and the pieces went skittering around the room. She heard footsteps outside and a familiar voice. “Princess? Are you alright? Can I come in?”
Izdihar tried to slow down her breathing.
Unable to help herself, she let out a sob, and Faruq came running in. He stopped when he saw her sitting there. He seemed unable to speak for a moment.
“I’m sorry, I…”
“Don’t worry,” said Izdihar, wiping her eyes. Faruq bent down and started to pick up the chess pieces. When he had returned them all to the table he hesitated.
“Faruq…” said Izdihar. “Have you ever had the feeling that you’re like a piece on a chessboard? And you can’t escape no matter which move you make, and there’s only one place you can go even though you know you’re playing right into their hands, doing exactly what they want, but you’ve got no choice!”
“There’s always a choice,” said Faruq softly.
“Well I don’t see it!”
Faruq sat down opposite her. “I know things can seem hopeless. But remember that life is not a game of chess. There are an infinite number of moves, of possibilities. And you never know what’s going to happen. No matter how impossible things might seem, the game could always be turned around. You’ve got to have faith.”
Izdihar, staring down at her lap, sniffed.
“I know you’ll do the right thing.”
She looked into his eyes, kind and earnest. “But what if the right thing feels wrong?”
“I know it’s hard for you. You have a responsibility over more than just yourself. But you’re not on your own, whatever you choose.”
Izdihar looked down. There was a long silence. She remembered the first time she had met Faruq. ‘I would risk my life for my kingdom, and for my King.’ She knew with absolute certainty what Faruq would do. Back then he had handed her a handkerchief and somehow made things seem better. But there was no doing that now. ‘I know you’ll do the right thing.’
“There really is only one choice I can make. I see now that the decision has always been made. I know what I have to do. It’s just been hard to accept it.”
“If there’s anything I can do…”
“No, there isn’t. Thank you.” She gave him a weak smile and touched his hand briefly. “Now I must go and see my father.”