I stomp into the bar, soaking wet from the downpour outside. I slump over to the bar and flop myself out across the counter. My head hit the counter harder than it was supposed to, I can feel a bruise forming that’s going to cause me trouble tomorrow. I let out an exasperated sigh as the bartender sets a glass down with a thud. The sound of ice clinking against glass echos through my skull.
“Having some troubles?” Jim, the bartender, asks me with a concerned tone. I’m not in here unless something’s wrong so he knows what to expect when I’m here.
“Yeah,” I respond, voice muffled by the counter.
“How bad?” I glare up at Jim, “Oh, that bad?” I nod before planting my face back onto the smooth counter. The door suddenly bursts open and I groan, well aware of what’s coming my way.
“James,” my friend George storms in, wet black hair pulled into a ponytail. He plops down in the stool to my left and stares at me judgmentally. I roll my head slowly to look up at him and let out an irritated groan.
“You’re interrupting my busy evening,” I complain to him. He only rolls his eyes and lets out a sigh.
“Look, I know you’re upset,”
“A little,” I interrupt him, fully aware of how much it’ll get on his nerves. He takes a moment to shoot me a deadly look before continuing.
“I’m here on business,” a sharp object pokes at me and I snatch it away from him. It’s a wet envelope, the ink is smeared slightly from the trip to the bar, “A girl dropped this off for you. She looked disappointed that you weren’t there.”
“How come you didn’t direct here here?” I interrupt him again, but he doesn’t let it faze him a second time.
“It wasn’t my choice! Captain told here that you weren’t here and then sent me to deliver her message. So, here,” he responds harshly, “That’s not all though,” his tone changes to something that’s more cautious, “They bumped me up to First Mate. I start my duties tomorrow.”
“Oh,” now I understand his cautious tone. I used to be First Mate, but not anymore. He’s looking at me expectantly, icy blue eyes drilling into my soul. I sit up so that we’re face to face, “Congratulations!” I exclaim, and I truly mean it. If anyone deserves to be First Mate it’s George! Besides, we’re friends, and I can be happy for my friends. Even if they take my jobs.
“Really?” he sounds happy, or he’s just glad I didn’t freak out on him. Either way, his expression brightens and I feel a sort of pride that my friend received such a noble title, “Thanks James!”
“But it really is,” he smiles excitedly, “Well, I have to get back,”
“Okay,” we hesitate for a moment, neither of us wishing to say goodbye. We both know that this will most likely be the last time we ever see each other. I move first, “Good luck George,” I hold out my hand and he shakes it. I’ve never been the best at goodbyes. That fact has haunted me for around six years! That was the final time I said goodbye to the last person that was crazy enough to be friends with me.
“Thanks,” George said, “You too,” his tone has turned solemn and I plaster an encouraging smile onto my face. He smiles back at me one more time before turning away and stepping out of my life. I flop back down onto the bar stool.
“Weren’t you First Mate?” Jim asks me. He’s carefully cleaning the inside of a glass with a raggedy brown towel.
“Yeah,” I respond dryly.
“But you’re not anymore!” he chuckles and continues down the bar. I look back down at the counter and see the letter, sitting flat in front of my face. The edges of the envelope are starting to crinkle as they dry. The slightly smudged handwriting reads my name and has a feminine look to it. Curiosity overthrows me and I quickly tear it open. I hurriedly read through it and then rush out the door. My luck is about to change!
When we were kids, you always told me that you wanted to sail the open sea without a care in the world. I always responded that I’d love to, and I still think so. I know that things didn’t end on the best terms after you left, but I hope we can put our past behind us. I mean, given both of our pasts, we already do that every day. Anyway, there’s a ship at the dock that they never use and I was wondering if you still wanted that life at sea.
Three years Later…
Life is hard. Matter of factly, life is hard. Whether you’ve experienced it first hand or through the eyes of a friend, we’ve all learned this lesson. However, we’ve also learned that life can be unpredictable. Just when you think you’ve seen it all, there’s always a catch. “Throw everything at ‘em guys! We’re not letting them get us just yet!” James shouts from the wheel. I smile down at him from my post on top of the mainmast. The lookout tower is small and littered with nicknacks. Some useful, others not. I duck back down to grab the tiny telescope, my coattails flying back behind me in a swift motion. Suddenly, a cannon ball whizzes above my head and just misses the large flag that symbolizes our ship. Then, the realization hits me that the British blaggards shot first today, and they almost took me out! I bounce back to my feet, leaning eagerly over the side of the wooden bathtub we converted into a watchtower. My hands firmly grip the side, letting the sharp wooden edges slightly prick my rough skin. Blood and anger flush into my cheeks as I wave my arms in the air, grabbing their attentions.
“Come at us you bloody British cowards!” I scream across the ocean waves, letting loose a little bit of my original British accent that, since turning to piracy, I’d discarded.
“Aargh!” the rest of my crewmates yell in agreement. A bit of pride swells through me since the crew have never been my biggest supporters. Women in piracy aren’t often accepted by their male crewmates, and being outnumbered gives them the upper hand. However, by Captain James’ orders, I shall not be harmed by any member of the crew that values their life. It says so in our Code, and they all signed so that’s that. Unfortunately, I do get stuck with a lot of the chores, which I don’t always mind doing.
“Nitwit! Are the cannons ready yet?!” James shouts to our weapons expert. I glance over at Nitwit, who’s fiddling with the fuse of one of the cannons we have on deck and laughing devilishly. He’s on the shorter side and has skin of a more tan color than the rest of his crewmates. He wears a torn up tank top that has blue and white stripes. The white color, however has faded to a dirty brown from years of wear. What’s left of his black hair is standing straight up. I’ve always thought he looked like he just nearly escaped an explosion, which sometimes is actually true. His thin arms finally wave over to James, signalling that he’s ready and smiling that creepy smile of his that unnerves me every time I see it. James then looks back up at me and I begin to scout an opening.
My job is pretty much to observe the enemy. James has told me since we were young that I was good at noticing things that others could miss, and now I can put that skill to use. It’s a very stressful position. If I mess it up, I’ll be marooned for sure! Even with James to have my back, he’ll have to give in if he ever hopes to keep his ship.
I snatch my telescope from the ground and peer into it excitedly. The British ship, named Mercy (how ironic), has been painted a sickly seaweed green since our last encounter, which I might add also ended in our victory. It has three, brand new, white sails on each of her three masts. There are six lifeboats that line the sides, not enough if they plan on saving their entire crew in case of emergency. She has around a dozen cannons on each of her sides, each have been upgraded in the past few months.
The crew is running around mad, new recruits are obvious since they aren’t really doing anything. They’re probably just there to intimidate us. I don’t know why though, our crew is only made up of eight members. The British are readying their cannons again, focusing on aiming just right. My eyebrows furrow in concentration as I study their progress on their cannons.
“Ready?” James shouts and I hold a hand up, telling him to hold on. Then, the British soldiers plop a cannon ball into one of their on deck cannons and I turn to look back at Nitwit.
“Fire!” I shout and Nitwit lights the fuse with a torch. Not likely the professional way to light a cannon, but Nitwit will murder you and make it look like an accident if you ever told him that. He was a trained assassin in Port Royal, Jamaica when we picked him up. The surrounding crewmembers scatter and cover their ears in an attempt to protect themselves from the inevitable sound of the cannon. I drop down to the ground and cover my own ears, hat falling down to the deck in the process. My dark brown hair with highlights of red falls into my face as I brace for the loud boom of the cannon.
Boom! The cannon goes off and sails through the air before smashing into the Navy ship with an earsplitting crack. I remain hunched over, just in case the British set off their own cannons. However, nothing happens. I slowly peek over the edge of the tub, ready to duck down again if necessary. I snatch my telescope from where I dropped it on the floor and hastily examine their ship.
A large chunk was taken out of the left side of the foremast pole. The entire British crew stare at the damage in shock, worried it’s going to fall over. And then, it does. The foremast tumbles backwards and rams into the mainmast! Half of the Navy crew hurry to get their fallen foremast while the rest scramble to catch the mainmast.
The crew manage to throw the foremast over the side of the boat, saving the deck of any damage. They also manage to remove the mainmast from the boat without much damage, but their mizzenmast sails are severely torn. I watch the events unfold in horror and assume the rest of our crew is as dumbstruck as I am since the ship is at a standstill. Eventually, James comes to his senses and begins to steer the ship away, leaving the British Navy to await rescue. We do what we can not to kill anyone, but sometimes it has to be done. I plop onto the floor of the bucket and lean my head against the side with a breath of relief. We live to sail another day!
My crewmates hoots and hollers echo off of the ocean waves and a smile spreads across my tired face. I slowly pick myself up, carefully climbing down the rickety ladder we installed ourselves. I hop off of the ladder, rocking back and forth slightly with the motion of our ship, and the crew run past me towards their quarters. I’ll join them eventually, but for now I decide to stay up on deck. I slowly walk over to the railing and lean over to watch as the British ship fades into the distance.
I stay out there a while after the ship is out of sight. I can’t help but wonder what they’re doing now. The sun is starting to set as the rest of the crew parties the night away in the crew quarters. I’ve never been one for parties, so I’ll likely go down after they’ve all passed out in odd places. Although, it is interesting to see where they end up at three in the morning.
The wind tousles my hair into my face and I quickly brush it away. Suddenly, I hear someone approaching me from behind. One of the sailors probably stumbled up here, nothing out of sorts, therefore nothing worthy of my attention. Then, James leans onto the railing next to me. Strange considering he usually stays away from the party too. Although, he prefers to avoid the crew in his cabin, not on deck. Plus, this is my spot! I wonder what he’s doing out here. He doesn’t seem drunk so it can’t be a mistake. Besides, he doesn’t really do the whole drinking thing much anymore. He said he figured someone’s gotta stay sober and pilot the ship. I look at him for a moment, but he doesn’t give any explanation for his presence, so I turn my attention back to the ocean.
The ocean waves shift the ship back and forth, a motion I’ve somewhat grown accustomed to in the past few years. The rocking of the boat moves my now stiff body uncomfortably. This silence is killing me!
“Hi,” I say meekly with a small smile. He looks over at me and smiles back.
“Hi,” he replies and his expression says it all.
“Run out of things to do in your cabin?” my smile widens when he nods in response. James and I have been friends for almost as long as I can remember. We grew up together in a small orphanage by the sea. Both of us had tragically lost all of the family we’d ever known, left to fend for ourselves in the small city of Briarwood. But that’s another story.
“I don’t know what to do now,” James explains the same way he always did when we were kids and he was bored, “Going down with the crew I’ve already ruled out.”
“Well,” for the first time in the fifteen years I’ve known him, I don’t have an answer, “The sunset is beautiful. Especially from the watchtower. Then you could just go to bed afterwards,” is all I can think of to respond. James has never been a sunset watching kind of person, but he seems to be considering it. I focus my attention back to the descending sun, slowly turning the bright blue sky to a bright pink.
“An interesting idea,” he says, frustration showing on his young face.
“You can always stay here with me if you’re lonely,” I say and he seems to like that idea better, smiling and turning back to face the sea again, “Can you believe how far we’ve come?”
“Not really,” he doesn’t look at me when he says it, “Sometimes it just feels like a really crazy dream.”
“Same here,” I look over at him, “I kind of hope I never wake up.”
“Yeah,” We remain silent as the sun silently slips below the horizon. The party below deck slowly dies down as the crew members pass out. I tell James goodnight before heading down to the crew quarters, our small conversation replaying in my mind.
I quickly forget about it as a wave of exhaustion hits me as I flop onto my bed and am almost immediately asleep.