How the angel drowned my spark
I stood up from my seat. “What the hell?”
I could feel everyone’s awestruck stares behind me. Stares that had been directed at me up until this very humiliating loss. People whispered behind my back, and my mind filtered out their mocking words.
“That was fun,” she said, patiently sitting on the bench we shared. “You’re very good.”
My head swam. I was in the arcade for a fighting game tournament. It had been over for two hours, and most of the players packed up to go drinking or whatnot. My frustration from my quarterfinals loss kept me in the arcade, hogging the game in the hopes that I could extract a reason as to how or why I lost.
I had racked up more than a dozen wins already, when this girl challenged me. She looked like a different species, what with her dainty Sunday dress and gentle demeanor. An angel like her had no place in a dingy arcade filled with fools like me.
It took us five rounds to finally declare a winner. Yet something was very wrong with how she won.
“Fun? ‘Very good’?” I echoed the words, tasting their now-corrupted meaning in my mouth. “You were toying with me, you—”
I halted, watching my language. “You’re much better than I am. Yet you played badly on purpose. If you were half-serious, I’d never have brought your lifebar down to half. You only needed three rounds to beat me.”
The AI match started as we talked. The girl stared at me, ignoring her fighter being beaten to a pulp by the computer.
“Then you wouldn’t have any fun,” she said. “Isn’t that how games are supposed to be?”
She idly touched the tip of her joystick with her index finger, flicking it up and down. Her fighter jumped and crouched in place, and ate an uppercut. I brushed my unkempt hair from my eyes, looking back at her innocent gaze.
“Fun? This wasn’t fun at all. Don’t you realize what you’ve done? I’d be less angry if you beat me at your full strength. This way, you’re just condescending me, as if I’m that bad that you have to stoop down to my level.”
She blinked twice, averting her eyes. “Is that so…? I’m sorry. I didn’t know that.”
“KO!” Her character lay unmoving on the ground. “Perfect!”
She spared her loss with a cursory glance before looking back at me. “My brother plays in tournaments. I’m just sneaking in a few games when he’s not around. I’ve been looking for him, but he’s nowhere to be found. And I, um, forgot my cellphone at home.”
That was how the angel drowned my spark. Girls don’t usually play fighting games competitively. I did, and it took me years of practice to play at my current level. I was proud of myself, but this no-name girl didn’t even approach the game with the seriousness it deserved. She didn’t even belong here, for starters.
“What’s your brother’s name?” I asked, hesitantly. Looking back, I saw that some of the bystanders were closing in, tokens in their hands, their bullish faces telling us to leave if we weren’t going to play anymore.
I pulled her hand and took her out of the arcade. The atmosphere in there gets choking at times. Too much brusque tension, and there’s the occasional creepy stare I get from boys unaccustomed to seeing a girl beat their asses in such games.
“Byrd99,” she said, almost too softly for me to hear. “That’s what my brother calls himself.”
She lowered her gaze down at her hand, hoping me to do something with mine still clamped tightly over hers. I slowly let go.
“Oliver, huh? You’re in luck. I have his number right here.” I took out my phone and dialed his number. I beat Oliver in the second round, but I didn’t tell his sister about that.
“Camille?” the sullen voice greeted me without as much as a proper hello. “Did you call me to gloat?”
“Stupid. Your sister’s here. She’s been looking for you. Come back to the arcade now. And you’ve got some explaining to do.”