England, 1685 — Thirteen-year-old James Huntley plopped his tricorne hat crookedly on his head, flattening his messy light brown hair. He let his coat hang over his arm as he hopped around his room on one foot in the process of tugging on his remaining boot. His gangly arms slid through his coat sleeves as he tiptoed down the stairs and past Doctor Jones to the door.
The plump, middle-aged man slept soundly in a chair, powdered wig askew on his head. He let out a loud snore just as James’ hand closed around the handle of the door.
James gulped, his blue eyes studying their old family friend. If Doctor Jones woke up before he made it outside, he was sure to ask about the lady of the house-er, inn. Upon telling him, James would likely hear yet another gentle, but firm lecture on how she needed to avoid the docks for her own good.
When that didn’t happen, James slipped out and headed out in the cool, early summer morning air.
He was right about his mother’s whereabouts.
Sarah Huntley was indeed standing on the dock his father’s ship used to come in at. She’d done so without fail since he was only two years old.
James sighed and came to stand beside her. Small for his age, his head had yet to reach her shoulder.
The gentle breeze wove through her soft brown hair, of which a few silver strands could be seen if one looked close enough. And if it weren’t for the tired bags under her hazel-green eyes, one would say she was ten years younger than her actual age of thirty-three.
“Mother?” His voice hadn’t changed yet either.
She didn’t answer. Didn’t jump or yelp in surprise either. Just kept her eyes on the horizon.
James shuffled his feet. It wouldn’t do any good to try and persuade her his father was never coming home. He, along with many others before him, had tried time and time again.
Time and time again, they failed.
James snorted in amusement at the memory of Frederick Fawkes trying to woo his mother, then shuddered. Just the mere thought of that fancy blonde buffoon being his stepfather…
A gentle hand suddenly touched his shoulder and he jumped.
His mother blinked, then slid her arm around his shoulders. “Come along,” she said softly. “We have tenants to attend to.”
“Mother, are you ever going to stop coming here?” James blurted out. Sarah stopped for a moment.
“That’s for me to decide,” she said, then continued to the inn, bringing him along with her.
“I know that, but-” James cut himself off. What was he thinking? He wasn’t going to change her mind, not one bit.
“Sarah Huntley, you are stubborn,” Doctor Jones said from the doorway when they returned to the inn.
“Don’t start with me now, Phineas,” Sarah replied. “It’s hard enough for me and James as it is, being the anniversary today.”
Anniversary? Of what? Wait. James slapped his forehead. Of course…today was the day his father was lost at sea eleven years ago.
Doctor Jones gave them both a sympathetic look. “My apologies, Sarah,” he said. “I’ve forgotten yet again.”
James followed them both into the inn and set his hat and coat back in his room. His gaze traveled to the treasure map hanging on the wall. According to his mother, his father, Jonathan Huntley, had had it made for him to play with before he had left on that fateful voyage.
James glanced at the globe Doctor Jones had given him last year on his birthday and spun it, letting the design blur. When it stopped, he let his finger travel over the sea until it rested near Bermuda.
That was where his father’s ship was said to have gone down in a storm, during the late spring.
He sighed and went downstairs to help his mother, all thoughts of his father being pushed to the back of his mind.
©H.S. Kylian 2019
(Critiques are welcome and appreciated!)