The Augustine set sail for what felt like weeks ago, yet only a full day and night had passed. Emma began to feel a ball form in the pit of her stomach. She had never felt more ready to reach a destination or plant her feet on the soil again. Yet, the moment her eyes fell upon Jade when she boarded the ship the day before, Emma felt her heart drop into her gut.
Somehow, she managed to avoid having a conversation with Jade. But, how would she be able to avoid one for the next twenty days?
The sun began to set on the never-ending horizon of the sea. Emma found a comfortable spot to hide away from roaming eyes at the stern, propped against a barrel of whiskey secured by rope. Tucking her body behind ropes, she sat against the barrel and began to daydream.
She spent her life being adventurous. Her father raised her to have a heart for adventure. She would stay out late into the evenings, exploring and return home just before dusk, before her father began to worry. Gathering herbs, spices and creating mixtures of scented oils took Emma to her happy place in a world where women were often thought of as property – having no opinions, education, or ideas of their own. Her father raised her in the country, wanting to avoid the social norms of societal standards.
“Everything will be different in America!”, She repeated as her thoughts rolled rapidly with mixed feelings and emotions, churning her gut from the inside.
She had no intention of staying in Virginia. She wanted to find her father if he was still alive. Something told her the trail started there. If she wanted to find out what happened to her father, she had to go. Despite not hearing from him in a year and then, out of nowhere, receiving word of his death, things seemed too suspicious.
His last letter referred to the sale of his estate in hopes she would not have to bargain her way to America. He wanted a new life for her. He wanted her to join him and grow their mercantile business as an independent company. He sent all but a small portion of his earnings to her in his last letter. He did not explain why the sale was so urgent—an uncertainty brewed in Emma’s chest as the possibilities made up their own stories in her head.
Leaving the security of the rope, Emma stood and stepped toward the rail of the ship. From the corner of her eye, Emma observed Jade peering toward a distant beach. The Augustine would sail along the coast for another day before reaching the sea. Men hurriedly rushed around Jade, clearing away the rope that lay near her feet. The boat cricked and surged forward hard as the massive mass of the ship filled with a gust of wind, causing Emma to lose her footing briefly. Jade stood solid and sure-footed, without a single misstep.
Emma briefly allowed herself to marvel at the way the wind seemed to caress through Jade’s hair. It tugged her long black petty coat against her slender body. Her breasts were held tight by a black, silver-trimmed bodice that expanded with every breath she allowed to escape her perfectly trimmed lips. A white collared shirt, stained with sweat around the neck, did not quite meet the expectations of the meticulously elegant wardrobe she wore on top of it.
It was there, on her neck, that she noticed a blemish on Jade’s skin. Squinting her eyes as if trying to recollect from memory every inch of that neck, Emma found herself lost in reminiscent memories. But, this was not simply a blemish of her beautiful skin; it was a scar, a big round scar, new to Emma’s eyes, one that she hadn’t been able to caress with her fingertips.
Emma’s mind wandered a bit too far when Jade bent over to adjust ropes near her feet before standing up with a stern expression on her face, barking an order to a nearby deckhand. Then, she recalled Jade’s features being fuller. Now, Jade’s body appeared lean and chiseled underneath her tightly dressed clothes.
“How in the hell did I get myself into this mess?” Emma mumbled under her breath. She watched Jade disappear into the Captain Quarters. “And how in the hell did she get herself in that position? She leaves out of nowhere for five years, and suddenly here we are, and she is the Captain of the Augustine. Some irony!”.
The sun finally disappeared with a final wink, as the Augustine became quiet with only distant mumbles from the crew chattering in the mess hall below. Emma made her way to her bunk. Fortunately, it was tucked away in a cabin with two other traveling women that were braving the sea to meet with their families in Maryland. Their dresses and accent, British obviously, were tell-tale signs of their Stature. Emma felt disgusted hearing their tones toward the crew and bit her tongue to avoid their begrudging stares for the next twenty days. She would have to tolerate them as much as they would have to accept her no-nonsense, witty remarks.
The rocking of the ship lulled her exhausted mind to rest for several hours until the cook stumbled into the corridor, carelessly bumping into boxes like a drunken toad.
Emma focused on the silence of the night above. It beckoned her body to greet the night air. Still groggy, she sat up, took her thin shawl, and wrapped it tightly around her shoulders. As she opened the hatch door and climbed into the darkness of early morning, brisk, damp, salty air filled her lungs. A subtle smile crept across her lips as she approached the bow, hugging her arms snug around her shapely body. The wind whipped her hair across her face and through her silk-like red curls. Specks of mist freckled her skin in the moonlight.
The stars winked at her through the clear sky. She stared in awe. Her body began to match the rocking of the ship as she leaned effortlessness against the railing, feeling utter safety and abandon of thoughts in the silence of the night. An echo of laughter bellowed from the cabin hall, and her mind began to stir as a woman’s voice approached.
Thoughts swirled like a whirlwind as memories revisited her rested, yet still groggy, mind. She promised she would never touch those thoughts again – not if she could help it! Memories caused Emma to graze her bottom lip with her teeth. Thoughts of Jade’s long brown hair draped across her chest after a series of exhaustive pleasures brought a warm, rosy feeling to her cheeks. She recalled the details so damn well, too well. Then, realizing where her mind was going and what her body was feeling, she shook her head, tossing hair away from her face, and let out a loud, groaning sigh.
“I haven’t heard that sound in some time, Miss Witley.” The voice behind her, now much closer, startled her.
It was that sweet, dreadful voice she recalled from all those years ago, not the sharp jagged tone that she had been hearing barked as orders to deckhand. Her spine stiffened, and she pressed her waist tightly against the rail. The ship rocked, crashing forward into the waves, jolting her body hard, untethering her Shaw from her fingertips, exposing her figure as it clung to her shoulders in the wind. The calm she felt just moments before had disappeared, and suddenly, she felt her legs grow weak. Emma relied on the rail a bit more than she cared to admit.
“You should mind your own business.” She responded in a sharp tone while looking into the stars.
Jade’s softened laugh approached even closer. Emma changed her gaze upon the forward horizon. A distant lighthouse faintly glowed as it warned of dangerous shores.
“I would love to mind my own business if you didn’t always create such a distraction. But, aside from that, everything on this ship is my business. That includes you.” Spoke the soft, seductive voice again.
Emma could feel the tightness of her knuckles as she clenched the knot of her shawl and the rail simultaneously. Emma’s teeth clenched, and the hair on her neck stood up. A sudden hot rush of anger trickled through her veins.
Jade knew her words could neither be right nor wrong, even if she chose to speak a bit less dominating, but she was no longer the type to shy away.
As Jade stepped beside Emma, she caught a hint of lavender from Emma’s hair, and familiar memories struck her in a way she had not anticipated. Jade’s breath caught in her chest, and she was unable to speak.
Emma turned swiftly with a glare of distaste in her eyes as they met Jade’s emerald green stare, “You certainly didn’t have a problem minding your own business in Verona!” Jade met her harsh tone with silence. Their eyes met for the first time in five years. Fighting back further harsh words and tears, Emma looked away with her jaws clenched. This massive knot in her stomach now made its way into her throat.
Jade nodded, “I deserved that.”. She yearned to tell Emma everything about the night she disappeared. She was attacked and kidnapped. She struggled and fought but was no match for the three barbaric men who took her as their prized possession for the following year. She wanted to wrap her arms around Emma and hold her tightly. But, instead, she stood in silence with a million words reeling through her mind, yet unable to speak.
“You deserve a lot more than harsh words, Jade Walker, but it isn’t going to come from me this time! If you will excuse me, I should be trying to go back to sleep now! The sun will rise in a few hours.”. Emma shifted, fleeing the rail, brushing past Jade. Jade’s knuckles caressed the hem of Emma’s shawl. Air swam past Jade, and Emma’s scent filled the air around her. Again, that scent of lavender oil Emma always meticulously weaved through her hair slapped Jade across the face.
Jade’s elbows rested on the rail as she turned back toward the onward path and peered into the distant star cluttered skyline; the bow crashed through waves. Reaching into her pocket, she pulled out a slim stick and placed it in her mouth, gently holding it between her teeth. In her smaller breast pocket on the inside of her coat, she reached in and pulled out a small folded sketch. It was without color, but the remarkable smirk across the lips of the drawing glorified Emma’s most favorable feature. Curl for curl, that sketch came to life as a walking, breathing, sassy memory of everything Jade remembered about Emma.
For a moment, Jade allowed herself to think back to the night everything changed. Five years ago, everything was different. Never would she have imagined that the life she lived would take the turn of events it had taken.
Even though it had been five years, she could still remember the lavender buds Emma hung to dry and the process of crushing and soaking them in oil. Emma ground herbs and lavender buds; she would beg Jade to test them on herself with a poor pitiful look on her face that could win over a million hearts. When mixtures went wrong, Jade would smell like a rotten bed of flowers, but the laughter it brought into their lives made every sacrifice worth it. Emma perfected her blends and sold them to anyone that sought her out, wanting to impress their lovers.
Memories flooded back like a storm. Jade allowed herself to bask in them, even if only for the moment. Then, to distract her mind, she pulled herself away from the rail, ensured that Augustine’s route was correct, and returned to her quarters for a few hours of sleep.
Emma settled back into her bed. Despite the rocking of the ship that would typically nudge her to sleep, she found herself unable to close her eyes. Her mind continued to reel with thoughts, memories, and questions, so many questions.
Half of her wanted to run into Jade’s arms and pretend not a day passed since they were last together. The other half had questions that needed answers. She had so much anger. “How could she?” she asked herself as she threw her arms down beside her. She felt warm tears began to build. Refusing to be vulnerable again, she briskly brushed them away and turned toward the wall, pulling her blanket over her head. Still, her mind whirled. So much time had passed. So much had changed. Emma was not the same person she was five years ago, and Jade resembled nothing of the soft, tender woman she remembered.
Again, Jade’s silhouette while standing on deck earlier that day slammed its way into Emma’s imagination like a lightning bolt. The way her breasts peeked out over her bodice, her shoulders no longer delicate and feminine but rather masculine features, appearances of strength, the scar on her neck. Why were these images so unnerving yet so arousing? “What caused the scar on her neck? It looked like a brand. What happened?” These questions repeated themselves in Emma’s mind.
With another deep sigh, Emma whisper, “Jade fucking Walker, you have the worst timing. Yet, you have ALWAYS had a way of making me feel this way.”
Across the bunk, Emma’s cabin mate, Misty, spoke out with her British accent, “Do something or shut up with your obsessing, will you? Some of us are trying to sleep!”.
Surprised at the sudden shout, Emma responded, “Fine, Go to sleep! Nosey goat!”
Laying in silence, she racked her brain. Emma could not understand how, of all voyages, this one could bring Jade back into her life through a series of untold events. Had she been able to leave the week earlier as her original itinerary planned, this never would have happened. But, instead, now, she is forced to face heartbreak all over again.
She hadn’t realized it before, but she never got over Jade. Forgetting a person does not mean getting over them. Now it was clear to her. The feelings that stirred inside of her were those in which she had not felt in years. Still, there was so much anger, and resentment despite this yearn to fall into Jade’s arms. Shaking her head again, she whispered to herself, “God, shut up already! Nothing good will EVER come of this! Don’t do it!”
Emma often spoke to herself when thoughts in her head became too loud. Sometimes, others would witness her talking to herself and give her the side glance they would only risk giving a crazy woman. However, Emma knew she was not a crazy woman, only a woman that felt intense feelings all the time and loved immensely in a cold, harsh world. Finally, she had grown into a place in her life where she no longer tried to fit in, no longer tried to explain. She merely accepted that she was different and would forever be too much for many people.
Jade’s voice in the corridor brought Emma’s attention back to her current situation. “Damn it all to hell.” she thought to herself before finally drifting to sleep.