Scotland, 1718 – Her hands shook with the cold as she struck the match against the stone fireplace. Nothing. She tried again, and a spark flew. A third time, and then a small flame jumped up.
Quickly, she set it to the twigs lying underneath the logs, and after a few minutes, a decent sized fire was blazing.
She rubbed her hands together and held them out in front of the flames. Outside, rain poured, dripping off the recently mended roof and mixing with the dirt. On the other side of the room, another girl a few years younger than her still slept. She almost woke her up but decided against it.
A small bell chimed and she groaned. Had they actually woken this early?
With a sigh, she gathered her soot covered skirt and stood, grabbing her apron off a nearby chair and tying it around her waist before heading to the stove.
He shivered and hugged himself in an attempt to keep warm in the chilly air. Rain soaked his red hair and his dirty clothes as he knocked on doors to ask for shelter.
Each door slammed in his face.
With a dejected sigh, he turned from the last house and wandered into an alleyway next to it, where he tucked his bare feet underneath him as he curled up against the house’s stone and wood wall. Reaching up, he touched the bloodied rag around his left eye.
Perhaps that was why no one would help him. After all, why would anyone want a half-blind child?
A window above him opened and he soon found himself drenched even further. He scowled up at the closing window and crossed his arms with a huff. If only he could remember where he came from.
She’d just gotten the fire in the stove going when the door across the room opened and a plump, middle-aged woman came out, tying her apron around her waist. She bent down and shook the younger girl awake, telling her it was her turn to gather eggs. The girl replied with a prompt, “Yes, Grandmother,” and got up.
A few minutes later, a lanky middle-aged man came inside, carrying a load of soaked wood. He greeted the older woman with a small kiss on the cheek and the younger girl, having gotten dressed for the day, ran over and gave him a hug.
Her stomach growled, and she stared at the breakfast she and the older woman had made. Perhaps, if she just snatched a crumb or two…no. No, she could wait. She would survive. She had so far.
She was so hungry . . .
Her stomach growled again, and this time, her hand shot out and grabbed a roll. The older woman saw but said nothing.
She was about to take a small bite when the bell rang again. Sighing, she stuck the roll in her pocket and heaped the steaming hot food onto the three plates she had set out.
The bell rang again. “I’m coming,” she muttered under her breath. “Be patient for once.”
Heavy footsteps approached, and he looked up. A man with raven black hair looked down at him and asked, “What happened to your eye?”
“I got into a skirmish with the wrong people,” the boy replied as he stood. The man didn’t reply. He looked him over. “What’s your name, boy?”
“How old are you?”
“About thirteen, I think.”
“You have any family?”
Jamie shrugged. “I don’t know, sir.”
The man looked him over again and stroked his graying beard. “Well, Jamie,” he said, “are you willing to work hard to earn your keep?”
Jamie’s good eye widened. “Are you saying I can come with you?” he asked, hopeful.
“I am,” the man replied. He turned and shouted, “Duncan! Get over here!”
A tall young man with shaggy blond hair came jogging over. “Yes, sir?” he asked.
The other man motioned to Jamie. “See if you can find something better for him to cover his eye with, along with a coat and shoes,” he said. “He’s coming with us.”
She heard chatter as she came up the steps, carefully balancing the three plates she carried.
“Finally,” was the quiet remark she received from Lady Murdoch. She muttered an apology as she set a plate down in front of the older woman.
“It’s about time you woke up,” said Matilda, the elder of Lady Murdoch’s two daughters. She wrinkled her nose and tossed her dark hair over her shoulder. “And covered in soot no less. There better not be any on my food.”
She bit her tongue to keep from retorting.
“Ignore her, Ella.” The younger daughter, Felicity, said as she took her plate. “After all, what does she know?”
Matilda sent her sister a glare and Felicity stuck her tongue out in return.
“Now girls, calm down,” Lady Murdoch said. “Ella, Matilda has a point. In the future, do learn to wash up before serving the food.”
Again, Ella bit her tongue. If only Lady Murdoch would realize that she never had time to wash up in the mornings.
“Why are you still here?” Lady Murdoch asked. “Don’t you have chores to do?”
“Yes, ma’am.” Ella turned away from the table, catching Felicity’s sympathetic look in the process.
Life on the Sea Holly was both hard and exciting. Jamie was a quick learner, and Duncan joked that he’d be the first mate before he reached adulthood. Though an eyepatch had been found for him to cover his injured eye with, part of the scars still peeked out from under.
Captain Douglas liked everything to be in order and was a gruff, stern fellow. But not long after arriving in the Thirteen Colonies, Jamie found a puppy and brought it on board.
The pup took a liking to the Captain, who tried his hardest not to let the mutt win him over, but failed miserably. Jamie dubbed him Scuttles, and he soon became a quick companion to everyone on board – yes, even including the Captain.
1721 – The sensation of falling woke her yet again. Tossing aside the thin, ratty blanket, Ella stood and walked over to the window, pushing it open to see the night sky completely clear and blanketed with stars. The water beat against the shore, its waves glowing with the light of the half-moon.
It was so beautiful. So enticing.
After wrapping her shawl around her shoulders and grabbing her shoes, Ella climbed onto the windowsill and carefully made her way down the vines crawling up the side of the house. When her feet touched the soft grass, she slipped on her shoes and then ran towards the water.
A smile touched her face as she closed her light green eyes, the cool spring breeze lifting her soft golden blonde curls. Opening her eyes, she looked out across the water, at one of the many isles surrounding the country.
Maybe her family had managed to escape to one of them. She hoped so.
Cannon fire. Screams. Steel against steel and gun smoke. Just like all those years ago, from a time he only had vague, disjointed memories of.
Memories that came in dreams, and tonight, those dreams had been interrupted with the cry of pirates.
Jamie ducked and covered his head, splinters of wood flying past. He then grabbed his sword and moved beside Duncan, who wasn’t doing very well on account of his leg, which had never fully healed after the accident he’d had a year ago.
Behind them, Jamie could hear Captain Douglas’ yells as he plowed into the pirates head on.
“Duncan, no!” Jamie shouted, even as the older man pushed him. Jamie hit the deck and coughed as smoke filled his mouth. When it cleared, he spotted Duncan just off to the side, unmoving. Jamie crawled over and shook him, ignoring the fight.
Out of the corner of his good eye, he saw one of the pirates swing his cutlass at him and Jamie ducked to the right. He grabbed Duncan’s pistol lying on the deck and shot the pirate before the latter could make another swing.
When all was done and over with, Jamie tried to rouse Duncan again, only to discover it was pointless.
Ella’s eyes were red and swollen, but she continued to diligently scrub the floor. Last night had been awful. Not only had she been forced to stay up until the wee hours of the morning, therefore giving her only about two hours of sleep, but she had also gotten a horrible ache in her chest when she thought of what could have happened to her family, all those years ago when she was a young girl.
Her vision blurred, and she allowed the rag to drop from her grasp as she burst into a fresh round of tears.
Jamie kept his gaze on the horizon, where the stars touched the calm sea. He’d been sitting on the side for hours, replaying today’s battle over and over in his mind, despite not wanting to.
Heavy footsteps approached, and he immediately detected them as belonging to Captain Douglas. Sure enough, the man came and leaned his arms on the railing, a pipe in one hand.
For a long minute, there was silence. Then the captain spoke, his voice unusually soft. “If you’re blaming yourself, lad, don’t.”
Jamie swallowed and looked down. Captain Douglas glanced at him, then back to the calm sea.
1723 – Ella was finishing up the laundry when Felicity came running by, chasing one of the chickens. Quickly, she snatched a sheet out of the way before the other girl ran into it and exclaimed, “What are you doing?”
Felicity paused in her chase and brushed her chestnut brown hair away from her face. “Muriel’s sick in bed and since Leslie is tending to her, and Neil took Mother and Matilda to town, and you’re doing laundry, I thought I’d help out with dinner.”
Ella smiled. “That’s very thoughtful of you, but I think I can manage.”
Felicity rolled her silver gray eyes. “At the rate you’re going?”
They held a staring contest for about a minute before bursting into laughter. “Fine, you win,” Ella said, folding the sheet and putting it in the basket. “But don’t blame me if your mother finds out.”
“Well, it’s a good thing that she and Matilda won’t be back for a while yet,” Felicity said.
Ella glanced at the sky. “And lucky for us, it’s still quite early in the afternoon,” she said, picking up the basket full of folded laundry. “I’ll put this inside first, and then come help you.”
“Are you serious, sir?” Jamie asked, flabbergasted.
Captain Douglas, all his hair now silver-gray, nodded. “I’m perfectly sure,” he said. “Jamie, I’ve been living mainly at sea for years now, and would like to live in the green hills of my homeland once more before my time on Earth is up.”
“I understand that, but-” Jamie felt Scuttles nudge him and he reached down to scratch behind the dog’s lopsided ears. “Why make me Captain?”
“Because you’re a capable man and I can trust you with the Sea Holly,” Captain Douglas replied.
“Don’t you trust any of the others?”
“I do. It doesn’t change that I’m still picking you.”
“Sir, with all due respect, I don’t have any experience captaining a ship,” Jamie protested.
“That’s why I’m giving you the position,” Captain Douglas said. “So that you can get the experience.”
Jamie didn’t reply. The man did have a way of getting the point across. He sighed. “When do I start?”
Captain Douglas responded by taking off his cocked hat* and shoving it onto Jamie’s head. “Right now.” He stuck out his hand. “Good luck to you, Captain Jamie.”
*cocked hat is another term for a tricorne
© 2018 H.S. Kylian // All images © 2013-2018 Hannah Killian
(Critiques are welcome and appreciated!)