It started small.
The nudges against her father’s control, his put downs and criticisms. His expectation she would mould to his will like clay.
Olga watched him teach her brother chess. Of course, her father made sure he never won. The pieces click-clacked against the board and her brother glowed under the sun of his attention, sat up straight and proud.
‘I want to play,’ she said, her voice tentative.
He glanced at her in the same way he had noticed a bird on the windowsill moments earlier, shooing it away with the flat of his hand.
‘It’s not a game for girls,’ he said, turning to the board.
‘I’ve watched you and I know how,’ she insisted.
He raised an eyebrow. ‘Is that so? Well, then. Rory, it’s checkmate.’
Her brother sighed, his body deflated. He glared in her direction and stalked off, his lanky frame almost too tall to fit through the door.
Olga took his place and smoothed down her skirt. She watched her father’s thick fingers and straight-cut nails as he arranged the pieces, his mouth set in a hard line.
He narrowed his eyes. ‘You first.’
She moved a rook onto a black square. Her father slid a king onto a white square.
It became her way.
Olga stared at the traffic below, the white line dividing the road and the winking traffic lights. Morning rain slicked the footpath and blurred everything—a miasma of colour and shape. Cars stopped and started, people moving between like pieces on a chessboard. The floor-to-ceiling glass cold against her palm, she remembered the day she beat her father at chess. Her first game. His smouldering rage as he packed up the board and dragged the pieces into the box with the curve of his hand. At her chrome and glass desk, she tapped on the keyboard and checked her schedule.
The chess win was not unlike the meeting three years before. The silver-haired giant had heckled her, brandished his gold pen in her face. She silenced him with numbers, projected on the wall. Measured words, meticulous research. As the months passed, she did the same with his cronies until only supporters remained.
Olga watched over the new recruits and supervised their training. Men or women, she delivered the same message. There were no obstacles, not if you refused to see them.