2018 Apr 24 : 15 minutes
They were playing different games.
To him, what he saw was what he played. The rules were simple, explicit. He won or he lost. The games were limited. Sometimes they played bullet games, sometimes games lasted for hours, but there was always an upper bound, and the winners and losers were always clear, with the occasional stalemate or agreed upon draw.
That was not the game she played though. Her game never ended, and the players moved in and out, depending on the day, and were never well-defined. When she played his game, she wasn't playing to win, at least not in the way he conceived. Each move was a chance for her to observe him - how would he react? Would he gloat? Get angry? Become thoughtful? Her moves would be intended to elicit the appropriate reaction from him, but not a reaction on his gameboard, rather a reaction on her gameboard, which included all of her reality.
When he thought he won, he would think his game over, and it would be, as he patted himself on the back. When she lost his game to him, her own game was still in progress, and the loss merely another move in the game in which he was merely one of the pieces, rather than an actual opponent.
He would spend hours and hours studying the masters of his game, improving his expertise and ability to defeat others who were playing his game. That made him feel good, gave him a sense of progress. To him, she would no longer be a match for his skills, clearly surpassed by his diligence and intellect.
She was not concerned at all by his skills, though she was at times more worried about his attitude. She would let him have his games. They were, after all, a source of happiness for him, but his game was beneath her, though she would never tell him that. To him, she would always pretend to be impressed by his skills in something she considered barely important at all.
In some ways, she would have to protect him from his own obsessions, so long as she still believed he was worth protecting. Sometimes it was tough to decide if she still wanted to play her own game.