The Death of the Girl
The wall painfully met her shoulder as she crashed into it. She was sure it was going to leave a bruise. She grabbed the top of the oak cabinet, trying to steady herself. This storm was much wilder than expected. The door opened, stealing her attention. Sinn walked in. It took the weight of his huge body to shut it again.
“Sinn.” She stumbled towards him. “How be me father?”
He ran his hand over his wet, baldhead to sweep the water off. His lips turned into a smirk. “Well, as always.”
Her body slumped in relief. “And t' ship?”
“A sail be down.” He shrugged, showing he was not worried about it. “It be nothin' we cannot handle.”
“And t' crew?”
He laughed. His lids lowered, hiding his amusement. “I be happy t' hear you care.”
Gentina scowled at him, her hands going to her hips. A wave hit the boat and knocked her to the side. She threw out her arms to balance herself. “I care.”
“Only after t' ship and your father.”
She shrugged playfully. “Of course.”
He shook his head as he lovingly watched her approach him. His muscled arms crossed over his chest as he forced his face to harden. ”What be you doin'?”
“Goin' out t' t' deck.”
His eyebrows rose with interest. “Oh, you believe you can better me?”
She stumbled some more. If only the damn boat would hold still she’d be fine. “Of course.”
His chest bounced with laughter. "You be an arrogant one.”
She fell but caught his arm before she hit the ground. Her smoky eyes met his. “I be me father’s daughter.”
He had never heard truer words spoken at sea. “True,” his eyes softened as he pushed his chin up. “But you still be not goin' out thar. Your father will feed me balls t' t' sharks as he nails me feet t' t' wood meant t' weight me down.”
She laughed because she knew it were true. “You be silly.” She held onto his forearm as she swayed with the ship.
“Am I?” his brows wrinkled with disapproval.
Her face sobered. She knew her father just as well as he. “Why be you not gettin' knocked around?” She inched closer to the door.
“It takes more than our precious sea t' get t' better o' me.” His lips pinched together stubbornly as he noticed she was still trying to get out.
Her hand settled on the knob. She felt Sinn’s presence close behind her. “I just want t' glance outside once. I want t' know how it be t' truly be a pirate instead o' a protected lass.” She stared at the door. She wanted to open it but wouldn’t until he said she could. Her feet were spread, holding her steady for the moment.
“Okay,” he softly gave in. “But only a look.”
“Only a look,” she promised, turning the knob. The wind threw her back into him.
His strong hands grasped her shoulders, determined to keep her safe. The rain attacked her face. She turned her face away from it slightly but refused to turn completely away.
The sky was gray and ugly as the waves battered the ship, tossing it left then right. A few men fought to control a loose sail. They didn’t want to lose it since it was the center one.
Her father stood with his back to the rail as he shouted orders. She saw Jove slip on the wet deck. She took a step forward, wanting to grab him before he slid off the ship. He saved himself by grabbing the rail. His feet were off the ship, but thanks to his hold, he was still on board. Her father was the only man to look at him and see what had happened. The others were too busy trying to save the sail. Jove’s left hand slipped.
“No,” she screamed, unaware she did it. One of the men was going to fall to their death, and all she was allowed to do was stand there and watch. She struggled against Sinn’s hold, to no avail; he was much too strong.
Her father’s eyes met hers. Her brows lowered in distress. His face was a stone. He knew what he had to do for his daughter, if for no one else. He braved the slippery deck for another man’s life. "Continue with that sail," he yelled to the crew.
She calmed as she watched her father play hero. Jove had a hold of the rail with both hands again. His feet slid and kicked off the side of the ship. It appeared he was going to fall. Her jaw set with worry as she watched her father only slightly struggle to pull him up. Both fell back onto the deck of the ship. She smiled, resting her body against Sinn’s.
“Let us close t' door,” he said over her head as he stared out the opened door.
“Just a moment more,” she pleaded.
His eyes drifted to hers. She was seeing her father as a hero, a way no pirate should ever be seen. Except, perhaps, by a daughter his mind whispered. “A moment more,” he caved.
Her father shouted at Jove, chasing him away. He proudly rose to his feet as he watched his men. He knew they would beat this storm as they had done many times before. He met his daughter’s smoky eyes through the rain and gave her a small, reassuring smile. She was the best thing in his life; no pirate should ever be as lucky as he.
When he broke their eye contact, she chanced a look at the sea. It had calmed. Her feet swayed less. We have won, she mentally told it. Her lips curved smugly.
If she had heeded the past warnings of her shipmates, she would have known better than to tempt the sea. She was a moody bitch. In the distance, the water gathered beneath the surface. When none expected it, she struck.
Fear closed Gentina’s throat as the wave rose out of the deep blue sea. Her father turned as the wave crashed down on him. She almost collapsed as she watched in horror as he was knocked off his feet. If Sinn hadn’t had a hold of her, she would have fallen, possibly tossed around as the sea raged on.
“No,” she screamed when her father disappeared over the rail. Sinn’s fingers dug into her flesh as he held her back. “Father!”
The crew froze. One of them let go of the rope as he stepped towards the rail. “Our captain,” he mumbled, feeling and looking lost.
“Let me go,” she screamed, her throat pinching in protest.
“He be gone.” Sinn bowed his head with respect. Lost in thought, he wasn’t ready for the pain that exploded in his shin. “Shit,” he mumbled, holding his leg instead of the girl.
She slipped and stumbled to the rail. The wind tried to push her back, but she tightly held onto it. Below, her father was nowhere to be seen. Her warm tears merged with the rain hitting her face. Her anger rose like the wave that stole her loving father. She reached down, violently snatching a piece of wood from the broken mast to throw into the sea, wishing to hurt it as it had hurt her.
Her fingers painfully dug into the rail as she fought to get her breathing under control. Her eyes burned with tears that hadn’t fallen yet. She was a pirate no matter what anyone else said, and pirates didn’t cry. They cut their losses and moved on.
Sinn stayed back as he gave her the space she needed. She squared her shoulders as she got ready to face the others. When she turned he saw a difference in her. Strength not there a moment ago; a distance no one could cross. A mist formed over her eyes, closing her off from everyone.
“Get back t' work,” she yelled at the men. She took a step and slid a few feet. She refused to acknowledge it and continued forward. “Hank, get t' rope and help t' others get control o' that sail. If it be lost, it will be on you!” She clenched her fists at her side as she dared him to challenge or disobey her. He did neither.
Sinn stayed where he was, watching the girl become a woman before his eyes. The wind sent her brown hair this way and that, but it could no longer toss her. Watching her father die had steeled her back. She could do this.
The sail was tamed and tied to the mast. It was secure. “Go down below everyone, except you, Pevake. You will stay with me at t' helm.”
He obeyed. They all obeyed; only Chicory paused to look at her. He stared at her with narrow, angry eyes. “Is somethin' amiss?” Sinn asked, stepping in his way so he couldn’t watch Gentina.
He forced himself to look away from her, to look into the bigger man’s eyes. He pushed his resistance aside; now was not the time. ”No, Sinn.” His feet shuffled as he went below deck with the other men.
She braved the rest of the storm at the helm, as any good captain would. Sinn stayed as well and was amazed that she held herself together. She had never been so hard. What happened within her he could only imagine, and he wasn’t sure he wanted to.
The stars slowly came out, filling the sky. Her skin goosed as the cold settled around them. She swallowed. “All is calm,” Pevake told her, feeling awkward. He glanced uneasily at Gentina. “Captain.”
Her eyes dropped at the sound of the title. Her father was Captain, not her. Your father is dead, her mind reluctantly reminded her. A knife twisted in her chest. “Good,” she replied.
“Captain,” he turned toward her. “You can go rest. It has been a long day for all o' us but especially you.”
Her fiery eyes snapped to his face in warning. He dropped his chin to look at the deck. “Sorry, ma’am.”
Her eyes drifted to the calm sea that now appeared like glass. Now it was beautiful where before it had been terrifying. She suddenly felt sick. “Are you sure you will be okay?”
“If you need any help then come and get me.” Though she wouldn’t know what to do. He father hadn’t taught her much about running a ship.
“Do you want me t' come?” Sinn asked as he took a step toward her.
“No,” she said softly. “I can take care o' me self.”
She went to the cabin she and her father had shared. Her bed was in a small private room, while his was in the main one. Everything looked different to her after she lit the candles. His stuff was everywhere.
The bed she chose for him while in Italy. The table he had forced someone to carve for her in France so she could decorate herself the way all girls do. Her eyes drifted to the top of the table. The diamond-laced necklace he had taken from a Spanish ship shined up at her. A strained smile touched her lips. The jewels were cool against her hot flesh when she picked it up. She carried it with her to the bed, his bed.
With her free hand she gently caressed the blanket as she slowly circled the bed. Her feet stopped when there was no more room to walk. She stared at the pillow, the pillow his head had been on every night. The pillow he would no longer use.
Her knees gave way as she slowly sank onto the bed and stared at it. The mattress was curved to match his body. She caressed the silky fabric of the pillow, surrounded by his scent. His pipe smoke laced the walls. He had enjoyed his tobacco.
She raised the necklace to her chest, to her heart. Her brows met in sorrow as she rested her head on his pillow, staring at the wall he had always stared at.
Never again would he lay here. Her face crumpled as her strength left her. On this one night, she would not be the woman she had to be now. She would be the girl one last time, one last time to grieve for her father properly. One last time to weep for the love she had lost. One last time before she buried that side of her for good to embrace the strong, brave, possibly cold being she was going to have to be to make it at sea.
Sinn woke her the next morning with a heavy heart. He wished he could let her sleep. He wished he didn’t have to watch her go through all she was going through. He wished he could do more for her than hand her father’s old, deadly sword. He wished for many things, but at sea all that meant nothing except weakness. The strong never wished because they took what they wanted as she was going to have to learn this day.
“Come, young one; it be time t' prove yourself worthy o' this room.”
She wiped the sleep from her eyes as she pushed herself up. “What be you sayin'?”
“Our captain be gone. He left no first mate.” She stared up at him with a blank expression. He rolled his eyes as he looked at the wall above her head. “One has voiced a challenge against you t' be captain. You and him must settle this before t' crew does.”
She rose to her feet to stare him, still not taking the sword from his hand. “Who would do that? I am rightfully captain!”
His eyes burned into hers, with a fire she didn’t understand. It was the pirate’s fire; she didn’t have it yet. But she will, his mind purred, if she lives long enough. ”Chicory believes he should be captain.”
“He would,” she whispered, pushing her hair off her forehead. “T' others?”
“Are choosin' t' stay out o' it. Not all agree you should be captain, but all have too much respect for your father and all he’s done for them t' betray you.”
She nodded to herself. “So if I take care o' Chicory, I will not have t' worry o' them?”
“Probably not, but no one really knows t' mind o' another man. No matter what he says.”
She sighed as she dropped her shoulders in disappointment. “I suppose I have t' go out thar.”
“I suppose you do.”
Her eyes slid up to meet his. A sheepish grin touched her lips. “No matter what, you will stand beside me?”
“I stand beside whoever has t' ship,” he said with curved lips.
She raised her chin with pride as she took the waiting sword. “That will be me.”
“Then I be beside you.” He inclined his head as he bowed like her servant.
She buckled the belt around her waist as she walked to the door. Before walking out to face Chicory and whoever else wanted to stand against her, she took a deep strengthening breath. “Father, be with me,” she prayed.
“He is,” Sinn whispered, standing close behind her.
She nodded to herself as she turned the knob. Outside, the sun was bright and harsh on her just awakened eyes. When the crew saw her, they parted just enough so Chicory and she could see each other
His feet were spread, and his hand rested on his sword. A cocky smile touched his lips as he watched her approach. She slowly, calmly walked toward him. She eyed the crew as she did. Their eyes fell with shame. She placed one foot in front of Chicory and then the other. Her chin rose as she looked up to meet his eyes. “Chicory,” the name was crisp coming from her lips. “Do you disagree with somethin' that you would like t' bring t' me attention?”
His lids lowered with distaste. “No, perhaps you do since I now be captain.”
Her brows rose as her head inclined to the side. "Oh, really. How so?”
“No one knows this ship and crew better than I.” He eyed the men with a confident smile. His hand was still resting on the hilt of his sword. “And I can sail.” His eyes fell on her. “Can you?”
“Me father was captain!”
Her brows fell with dismay; she felt herself sinking. “What?” Her brow smoothed as she collected herself.
“What o' last night?”
His smile dimmed. “What o' it?”
“No one but I took control. No one but I was able t' lead us out o' t' storm.”
“I,” he started to protest.
She cut him off with her own cocky smile. “Were starin' after me father like a lost child. If not for me brains, t' sail would have been lost.” She crossed her arms as she leaned back on her heels. ”See, Chicory,” she spoke as if he was a child. “If thar be nothin' here,” she tapped her skull. “Then t' sailin' really be pointless, be it not?” Her eyebrows rose and fell in acknowledgement that she had won. Her point had been made. She eyed the crew; only their thoughts mattered. They looked at her with acceptance and him with distaste. She was captain.
“Fine. If words will not prove my point then this will.” He drew his sword. He bowed as he spoke his next words; “See, little sea princess, brains do not matter with pirates if thar be no fire. And I do not believe you have it.”
The sight of the unsheathed sword startled her, but she quickly regained herself. Slowly, she drew her own. “We do not have t' do this,” she said calmly.
He grinned at her wickedly. “You mean you do not want to?”
She held her sword to his, her eyes darkening. “But I will.”
The crew stepped aside. The winner would be captain, and the loser would be whatever the captain chose. This was a deadly dance meant for two. He tried to lead, but was not strong or swift enough. Her father had not taught her to handle a helm, but he did teach her how to handle a sword. All women should be able to defend themselves, especially at sea, he had said.
She blocked his sword with her own. Putting her body weight behind hers, she pushed him back a few steps. His anger took charge of him, making him act without thought. He raised his sword and opened up his mid-section. It was only for a second, but that was all she needed. She stepped aside and lashed out with her blade. It cut the skin above his ribs.
His chin dipped so he could look at it. She cut me, he realized as blood appeared on his shirt. She used the tip of her sword to raise his head so she could meet his eyes. “Drop t' cutlass,” her voice held no emotion.
His wide eyes stared into hers with disbelief as he dropped his sword. His hands rested at his sides. “Now what?” He breathed a soft, mocking laugh. “You kill me?”
Her lids lowered as her hand tightened on the hilt of her sword. “Step back.” His thick brows frowned in question as he did as he was told. “And another.” She kept her sword to his throat and added pressure to keep him going. He stopped when the rail pressing against his back refused to budge.
His throat pushed into her point, and his skin was cut when he swallowed. “Now what?”
He cocked his head to the side, not understanding what she meant. “What?”
She pushed the tip deeper into his flesh. Her eyes were cold. “Climb,” she repeated.
He eyed the others for help, and saw they weren’t going to help. At sea you were on your own. He straightened his back before doing as he was told. Holding onto the rail, he looked at her because he didn’t want to look over his shoulder into the sea below. He had seen enough during the climb. “Now what?” he whispered.
She flicked the sword to the ocean. “Take a walk.”
“We be miles from land. There be sharks in these waters,” he pleaded, his pride now forgotten. Her eyebrows rose, not amused. He had never seen her this cold and uncaring.
“Then I suggest an early start, and as for t' sharks,” she smiled a heartless smile. There was no hint of her old self in it. “Walk quietly.”
Their eyes held as he tried to find mercy in hers. Finally, he smiled. “All be well, sea princess, I will walk. But when we meet again, I will be takin' back this here ship.”
“Never,” she promised him in a heavy voice.
He took a breath before releasing the rail. She looked down to watch him hit the water. She didn’t lower her sword until he was swimming away. She forced herself not to care about what was going to happen to him. I am a pirate her mind commanded of her.
She turned to face her crew. Sheathing her sword, she rested her hands on her belt. “Anyone else disagree that I be captain?”
“No,” numerous shouts said as their heads shook.
She nodded. “Hank, take t' helm. Pevake, you can go rest.” She walked along the deck, her deck, to Sinn. She eyed the crew as they eyed her back. Her face relaxed as she rolled her eyes. “T' rest o' you get t' work. There be a fallen mast that stills has t' be removed from this ship, and Hank cannot sail this ship by himself.”
Feet ran as they got to work. She and Sinn stood next to one another. “Well done.”
She licked her dry lips. “Thanks.” She didn’t feel like she had done a good job.
“Now,” she stared into the horizon. “We continue on t' way me father would.” A smile touched her lips.
“Did he not say t' Spanish treasure ship would be on route soon?”
His lips curved in return. “Aye, I do believe he did.”
“Then let us go make our names.”
He laughed loudly, glad to see she seemed okay and up to the task of being their captain. “You heard her, men, time for another lootin'.”
Howls of encouragement filled her ears. I can do this; she knew deep inside herself that these words were true.