Alex gazed at the clouds ahead, pregnant with rain. He could see a couple of ships still out at sea, hurrying their way back to port, before those clouds would get to them.
He heard boots behind him and noticed Stanley looking up at the sky as well. “You think it’ll rain?” he asked, smiling.
“A bit…” Alex replied.
“Let’s get some grub and shelter then, shall we?”
They made their way down the boardwalk. Upon seeing some fellow sailors heading towards a building up ahead, they followed them. After a fork in the road, they entered a reddish building, with stone and wood piled around it, and several anchors lying around. Or, it probably was red in the light, it was getting darker by the second.
It was late in the evening when Alex heard her, as he was walking back to the inn. He had to go outside to relieve himself as the inn’s privy was apparently clogged up by someone’s previous meals. Mostly beans. He didn’t mind going outside – the fresh air was pleasant and reinvigorating. It was cooler here up north, almost piercingly so.
As Alex looked around in the semi-darkness, several lanterns lighting up the boardwalks near the shore and buildings near the inn, he heard someone sobbing. A person was slumped up against the building opposite the inn, in the dark. There was no one around, save for several seagulls that looked on, indifferent. Meaning to head straight towards the inn, Alex recognized who it was and sighed.
“I’m guessing your boyfriend wasn’t keen on you showing up like that…” Alex said as he looked at the girl who’d snuck onboard the ship.
“What?” She sniffed. “Oh… it’s you…” She tried to smile a bit, but it didn’t really work. “You could say that…”
Alex looked around and sat down next to her. He offered her a piece of cloth. She accepted it and continued crying.
Eventually she stopped and stared down.
“Remember to keep breathing,” Alex said, smiling.
She attempted to take a few big breaths, shaking a bit, but managed.
“You want to talk about it?” Alex asked. What am I doing?
“Well we got into a fight…”
“I assumed as much,” Alex said.
“He asked me… why I had come and I thought he would be… well, not happy perhaps… but at least glad to see me… instead he got angry. Asked me why I didn’t listen to him… and I said I didn’t care if it was dangerous or not… I just wanted to be with him….” She sniffed. “Then he told me to head to the inn and stay there till tomorrow… like a child!”
“I see,” Alex said, his gaze on the water in the distance before returning to her.
She looked at him for a while. “I just wish he’d be happier to see me… I don’t know why he’s making such a big deal out of it….”
“Well, he’ll probably be heading back tomorrow as well, so the two of you will have time to figure it out then.” He stood up and offered his hand to pull her up. She did and as they stood thus, he looked at her. “Hey, I’m sure he’ll come around.”
She nodded and headed back to the inn.
Alex shook his head and headed back in to join Stanley and several other crew members.
Alex woke to the sound of a bell ringing.
He rose in bed and looked around the small room Stanley and he’d bunked in. Light shone through a tiny window across of him. The room lit up with that hazy morning look, dust particles visible in the rays of light.
Alex wondered if Mary was awake now. She probably would be – she usually got up earlier than he did. What would her day look like? Would she flee the house and go to the orchard that she’d walk in when she needed time to herself? Would her family bother her as they usually did? Would she be thinking of him? He hoped she wouldn’t spend that much time worrying about him. He thought back to when they said goodbye in Capri. Her standing in the doorway, her chemise contrasted by the sable mantle haphazardly thrown on her. The look in her eyes – fear, loss, uncertainty perhaps? He vowed once more that that wouldn’t happen again. That she wouldn’t feel that way, not for him. He wanted to be with her. Put his arms around her and look at the sea. More than anything, he wanted her to smile. To laugh and giggle. He loved it when she laughed. It didn’t happen often, but when it did, it made him feel better than he had had for a very long time.
He heard Stanley move around. “Stanley, you better get up before we’re late again.”
“Five more minutes…” Stanley mumbled.
Alex smiled, dressed and went downstairs to eat.
Downstairs, most of the men were in a good mood. They’d done most of the work, only needed to go back to Anastor now, and all that talk about raids and whatnot was unfounded. The innkeeper told those who wanted to know, and those who didn’t, who really was at fault of their low times – statesmen making backhanded deals with traders or merchants from other countries, thereby decreasing the demand for local produce because of competition with lower priced commodities from abroad. Or something along those lines. Alex wasn’t really paying attention to them. He was counting his payment for the journey they took to this place. It wasn’t much. But at least it was something. If he could keep this up, he might be able to…
Who am I kidding? I’ll need a shitload more to even come close to that dower… Since leaving Capri, he’d amassed two pounds. Two fucking pounds…
His mood brightened a bit when Stanley informed him that George, the first mate, would be going south again and had some work for them if they wanted it. He didn’t mind George that much, to-the-point, he liked that.
It was about noon that they headed back to the docks. Supplies (not that they were many), were brought aboard, and the crew was being signed posts by George. Stanley was assigned to one of the barges, Alex to the Lady White.
“It’s not like I’m going to miss you or anything,” Stanley said, grinning like an idiot.
Alex smiled. “Keep telling yourself that mate. See you when we land.” They embraced each other and he watched Stanley head down the dock and board one of the barges.
Before heading to his ship, Alex asked George if Andrew would be joining them.
He laughed. “Don’t worry mate, he’s with your pall.”
Alex didn’t really find that reassuring. If anything Stanley would be arguing with him already. He sighed.
“That girl though,” he mentioned a figure standing at the edge of the Lady White,” will be accompanying us. And she’s ‘not to be allowed out of sight’, or so our mutual friend insisted.”
“That should be fun,” Alex said, gazing at the skies. He saw some clouds in the distance. So far for the good weather.
“Good! As you’ll be watching her.”
“Wait, what?” Alex asked, bewildered.