The waves of the sea lay full and pure before me like the shattered shards of a glittering diamond, swept by a light, breezy wind and illuminated by the golden rays of the afternoon sun.
Never had I seen a vision of such incredible beauty; an image that looked as though it’d been snatched whole from a beautiful portrait and placed before me in all its glory.
The only difficulty, of course, was that I was not an old seafarer, but rather a 19 year old girl. And, perhaps as a consequence, I was bored quite silly.
Ah, but do allow me to amend that comment. I did consider myself to be quite fortunate that lovely summer’s day, as I was not one of the hard bodied, muscular, and I couldn’t help but notice passing attractive lads who manned the decks of my schooner; the ones who poured their work and effort into the maintenance and running of this large, ivory walled ocean faring vessel.
I was, instead, the younger daughter of the vessel’s captain; and while I watched those bronze skinned, bare chested men sweat and toil in their attempts to maintain my father’s ship, I was free to sit back and admire the waves that surrounded this mighty boat—and, upon occasion, the strong and well-toned young men who made it run.
The rest of the time, however, I was totally and irrevocably bored. Excessively, one might venture to say.
“I told you that you would be Delphine.” My father often reminded me, rolling his eyes heavenward as he stood at the wheel of his steady, sturdy vessel.
I had to (very begrudgingly) admit his correctness in making that statement; I, after all, had begged my father to take me along on this nautical journey; one that promised to whisk us away to Eastern waters–and, I had told myself, an exotic adventure that could only be found in these wild waters.
So I lied. Or at least that’s how it seemed, as—throughout the course of our four-day journey—the only ‘adventure’ I’d had involved a nasty case of seasickness that had restrained me to my cabin (one side of the cabin, specifically, the one that contained the lavatory facilities) for the better part of one day.
The other days I had passed at this very same spot, center deck on my father’s vessel; being skillfully ignored by the hunky deck hands who—in all likelihood—were collectively regretful of the fact that I wasn’t Bethany, my elder sister.
Indeed, although often praised for my fashionably cropped curly hair of chestnut and keen green eyes, my slender blonde sister often claimed the lion’s share of the attention; both on land and aboard our father’s merchant vessel.
Every time she sailed, in fact, Bethany came away with at least one marriage proposal—I, on the other hand, came away with an acute case of stomach distress.
It hardly seemed fair, especially since I had dressed that day in my most fetching gown; an azure blue silk that matched the hue of the waves, one trimmed with lace at its cuffs and high collar and accented by the presence of a cameo necklace that I counted as my favorite piece of jewelry; this owing to the fact that it was a gift from my mother Dorothea–the same mother I couldn’t wait to go home to tomorrow, when this misbegotten journey came to a relieved end.
“Perhaps I could head down to the galley and have Cookie fix me up the slop—that is, catch of the day,” I grinned to myself, casting a long last glance across the surface of the ocean before retreating below board.
I froze in my steps as a massive ship—one easily twice the size of my father’s sturdy vessel—appeared on the horizon—its smooth wicker sides glistening bright in the light of the sun above.
The ship was probably the most beautiful and impressive I ever had seen; for just a moment I stood transfixed as I admired its smooth planes, shiny high sides and towering bow.
My awe dissolved to sheer terror moments later, as I identified the wide cloth flag that flew above the ship.
Oh, not that I had any form of broad maritime knowledge—if I could tell a wheel from a sail I deemed myself well and fortunate. Yet even I recognized the skull and crossbones that emblazoned the surface of this flag.
“Pirates!” The word hit my consciousness and flew from my throat in the form of an impassioned scream; one that rent the air and drew the attention of my father’s deck hands.
For once heeding my word and presence, the lads sprang to action; following my gaze to immediately identify the approaching enemy boat.
Apparently sharing my initial assessment that we were indeed in trouble deep, they raced across the deck to open subtle compartments embedded beside and below the ship’s deck; retrieving swords, pistols, and even a cannon that they quickly assembled on deck.
“Someone summon the captain!” One cried, squaring his substantial shoulders and hoisting a long, brass handled sword high above his head.
With a flourish of my azure silk skirts I whirled to face my father, who bounded up a narrow tin ladder that lead him from the deck below to the center of a melee; one which he quickly quelled by barking out a series of commands and assignments that put each of his men to work. One, for example, grabbed the wheel of the ship, surging it forward in a desperate drive for a quick and dramatic escape.
Others grabbed their claimed weapons and lined both sides of the deck; forming a surefire line of defense that even I had to admire.
Running to my father’s side I wrapped my arms around his broad shoulders; staring up into his weathered face as I clutched his hand in mine.
“How can I help, Father?” Although I made a valiant attempt to sound brave, my cracked voice and trembling fingers belied my true state of mind.
In my days as a captain’s daughter I’d heard many tales of the pirate—none of them pleasant or complimentary. I’d heard savage stories of these ruthless villains seizing ships and killing all unfortunate men who happened to be onboard—then doing unspeakable things to the more unfortunate women.
Others carried out their ocean invasions in a decidedly more businesslike manner; divesting their target ship of its quarry and inventory before fleeing the scene.
Although I did indeed despise the idea of my hard working father losing his quarry—the shipment of lush silk and satin fabrics every color of the rainbow, goods that would bring top prices on the Eastern market—I nonetheless hoped that the pirates poised to attack my father’s ship would fall into the second category, taking our quarry and granting us our lives in return.
I could see this same sentiment reflected in the eyes of my father, who wrapped a strong arm around my shoulders and drew me to him in a protective clutch.
“How I wish I hadn’t granted your wish to share my journey with me.” His voice low and remorseful. “Your mother begged me to deny you…”