John Rolfe

The Atlantic

Two Years Later

I was watching the sun set over the banister when Reverend Alexander interrupted my thoughts.

"You alright, John?"

I didn't answer. We'd been at sea for almost eight weeks now with no sign of land in sight. The water beat the side of the ship like angry fists, and if I could have hit something, I would have too.

Eight weeks at sea and eleven weeks without her.

These days I went back and forth between being numb and angry. Tonight I was angry. The Reverend must have sensed that because he didn't push any further, just stood there beside me as the sun disappeared and night descended.

The sky was a heavy purple. Overhead, I could see the beginnings of stars.

"Sarah," I finally said, but that was all I could get out.

What I wanted to say was that she should have been here. She should have been leaning over the railing with her hands folded and her eyes closed, breathing in the smell of the sea, and adjusting her head to keep the hair out of her face. I should've had my arm around her waist, holding her, making sure she was steady. Instead, I was standing next to Reverend Alexander.

"I know," he said. "I wish she were here too."

Although they'd only just met, Sarah and the Reverend had become fast friends. He wasn't that much older than us, maybe a year or two. They talked philosophy and God and me.

"She loved you," Reverend Alexander said.

I wish I could have heard that in the end.

I felt around in my pocket for the bag of seeds. I'd been carrying them since before we left Trinidad, and every now and then I'd roll them between my fingers or pull them out entirely. These. These were what I had gone to town for. They were supposed to be our livelihood, the beginnings of a home and a plantation in a far off place where we were supposed to build a life and a family together. Instead, they were the reason she'd died alone.

My hand closed over the bag, and I thought about throwing it overboard then. I'd thought about that a lot lately. Maybe it was because Reverend Alexander was there. Maybe it was because it was all I had left of her. This. Our whole reason for going to Virginia in the first place. I guess that's why I took my hand out of my pocket and placed it back on the banister. The little bag fell back against my leg. I carried it the same way I carried Sarah: close and tucked away.



Two Weeks Later

It was winter again. The trees were frosted over, and the air had a slight bite to it. It pinched my skin as I made my way toward Jamestown to deliver, not food, but even more bad news. Thanks to a bad growing season, the Village barely had enough food to feed itself, let alone an entire colony. As a result, all trading would cease until further notice.

I could just see the look on that new captain's face when I told him what my father had decided. Argall, I think his name was. I'd only dealt with him a handful of times, but every time I did, he was rude and dismissive. He had hair on his face that reminded me of Meeko's tail, broad shoulders, and a boulder sized chest that shoved everyone else aside (opinions and all) when he walked into a room. In that way, he reminded me a lot of Radcliffe. Apparently, the settlers had a type.

Thankfully, I wasn't going to deliver the message alone. Nomito and Nutomon were attached to me like shadows. Since John Smith had returned to England, my father didn't think it was safe for me to go to Jamestown by myself anymore. Funny how you could go from wanting someone dead to trusting them to protect the most important thing in the world to you. I guess jumping in front of a bullet warranted that kind of change.

I pushed the thought away as we neared the fort's gates. Some things were just too painful to keep revisiting. What happened to John was one of them.


Inside, Jamestown was a lot fuller than I remembered. Even within the last couple weeks, the number of buildings seemed to have doubled and, with it, the number of people. I remembered when it was just a hundred or so men in tents. Now, it seemed, they had brought their entire families too.

The women of this culture were so restrained. I couldn't imagine dressing in that many layers and still being expected to move. In the winter, the extra clothing probably kept them warm, but in the summer? They had to be hot and uncomfortable.

As I passed them on the street, I always thought that the layers were one thing. How they managed to turn their heads with those things over their hair and under their chins was another. But maybe that was the way their culture liked them: grounded and focused, too anchored to even think about stepping out. And silent. Their culture must have liked them silent because I didn't think I'd ever heard any of them speak, not in the presence of their men and most definitely not in passing. The whole thing seemed a little dehumanizing to me, but what did I know? What I did know was that I'd be dead before anyone ever did that to me. That much was absolutely certain.

Captain Argall's office was located at the very back of the fort, closest to the sea. It was a tall, wooden structure with two little windows and a big, imposing door. It had a metal thing in the center that I had learned to hold and then pound against the door when I needed something. In this culture, they called that knocking.

When it came to summoning Argall, I had a routine. As usual, I took two deep breaths, put my fingers around the metal thing, and rapped the door three times before taking a step back. Behind me, Namito and Nutomon let out a deep, collective sigh. They never said as much, but I had a feeling they hated these errands as much as I did. Food running I could do, but this game of go-between was getting old.

When the door opened, it wasn't Argall who answered; it was a member of his council.

"Pocahontas!" he said. "Do come in."

This guy was a little bit younger and smaller than Argall, but like the Captain, he too had hair on his face. It was long and scraggly. I wondered if it ever itched.

"Captain Argall is just finishing up another meeting," the man said, ushering us inside. "Can I get you anything while you're waiting? Water? Tea? A glass of wine?"

I wasn't sure what those last two were, but I declined all three.

"That's alright," I said. "We won't take up too much of his time."

As it turned out, he wouldn't take much of ours either. No sooner had the words left my mouth than Captain Argall appeared in the hallway. No matter how many times I did one of these deliveries, I never could get used to the way he took up entire door frames. The man with the itchy beard stepped aside.

"Pocahontas," Argall said. For some reason, it sounded a lot less friendly. When he noticed Nomito and Nutomon behind me, he rolled his eyes and sighed. "Right," he said. "This way." He gestured for us to follow, and I reluctantly stepped into his study.

Inside was a fire place, a desk, piles of paper, and a few wooden chairs. Namito and Nutomon held back as Argall slipped behind his desk. Although he motioned for me to sit too, I chose to stand. This wouldn't take long.

Argall raised his eyebrows.

"Everything alright?" he asked, although I suspected he already knew. Without taking his eyes off me, he lowered himself into his chair. Probably a good thing.

"No, not really," I replied. "The harvests at the end of the fall were bad. We no longer have the ability to feed your people and ours."

What I said, I said matter-of-factly, with a straight face, exactly as I was supposed to. Inside, I was bracing for the kickback. You didn't just drop a bomb like that and expect someone to react warmly.

Argall didn't say anything at first, just closed his eyes and started rubbing his forehead as if I'd unleashed a massive headache. In a way, I suppose I had.

"So what you're saying is..?"

"Trading stops."

I don't know exactly what I was expecting, but silence most definitely wasn't it. I stood there for a few minutes waiting for him to say something, and the more time that passed, the thicker the air became. Eventually, I had no choice but to excuse myself. Nomito and Nutomon followed.

As we stepped back out into the cold, that should have been the end of it. I should have been relieved to be done and on my way home again. Instead, I couldn't help but worry about what we'd just done.

Though it was true that the Tribe couldn't possibly sustain itself and the settlers after the season we'd had, I couldn't help but think that our reasons wouldn't be good enough. Something was coming. I didn't know what; I didn't know when, but if I knew Captain Argall even a little bit, I also knew that he wouldn't take this lying down. Like a mother bear, he would do whatever it took to sustain both himself and his baby colony.

My father must have known this too because he looked grieved when I went to tell him the news. His eyes were sunken, and he looked as if he hadn't slept in days. In the center of the longhouse, the fire crackled absentmindedly. I watched as the smoke drifted up through the hole in the roof and then disappeared into the sky. I think that if he could have, Father would have willed this to disappear too.

Suddenly chilled, I wrapped my arms around my stomach and held them tight. In times like these, I tried not to think about what John would say if he were still here. I'd like to think he'd put Argall in his place and find another way, but maybe that was just wishful thinking. In the end, John was just as powerless as I was. That didn't stop me from wishing he were there though.

Sometimes when I crossed my arms and closed my eyes, I could still feel him holding me. Sometimes when I went to sleep, I could feel it too.

My father must have sensed the direction of my thoughts because he came over and put his arms around me.

"I know this has been hard," he said. "Going back to that place. But John Smith wouldn't want you to be sad for him."

That was only the second time my father had ever used his name. The first time was shortly after John had saved his life.

"What am I going to do?" I asked. Some days I was so good at putting one foot in front of the other and stuffing it all away. Other days I was a wave waiting to break. I tossed and turned and rolled forward until I hit the shore and spilled over. Today was one of those days.

In the quiet of the longhouse, I clung to my father, wondering if it would always be like this or if eventually the loss would change. Would it get gentler, quieter, less raw and jagged around the edges? I wouldn't have time to find out.

Outside something exploded and with it, everything I knew.


Captain Argall

They had to have known this was coming, and even if they didn't, she most definitely did. I could see it in the way she scurried out of my office and then back up the road. I watched her and her two guards until they disappeared behind the gate. Stop trading? With me? Not a chance.

Clearly those Natives had no idea who they were dealing with. One did not simply "stop" trading with England. And if it were a choice between our people starving and their villages burning, we would burn their villages every time. This evening, my men were under strict orders to destroy their homes and take whatever they could find: food, tools, supplies, and above all the Princess herself.

If anything would make the Chief rescind his decision and continue to supply us, it would be his favorite daughter. Surely, he'd stop at nothing to get her back, and by the time he did, perhaps he'd have figured out how to farm better. More importantly, he'd remember who was actually in charge.

A knock on my door interrupted my thoughts. It was too early for them to be back already.

"Come in," I said, turning away from the window.

"Captain," Amos said. "Minister Whitaker is here to see you."

The Church. I'd completely forgotten about that. Although it was about time this town had a place of worship, it wasn't exactly high on my priority list.

"Send him in," I replied.

The man that followed was a lot younger than I expected him to be. While I had been picturing someone well into their fifties, the man that stood before me couldn't have been more than thirty.

Minister Whitaker was tall and clean shaven. He was wearing trousers instead of robes, and if I had seen him walking down the street, I would have thought he was someone's apprentice, not a leader of the Church. Maybe that was the point though. Maybe they thought he'd last longer.

I stood up and extended my hand.

"Nice to meet you, Reverend. Welcome to Jamestown."

"Thank you," he said, shaking my hand. "Pleasure to meet you as well." I sat back down, gesturing for him to sit too.

"I trust your journey went well?" I said. "Is there anything I can get you? A brandy? Tea?"

"No. Thank you, Captain," he said. "I won't keep you. I just wanted to introduce myself and pick up the keys to the church, maybe even ask you a few questions about the community if you don't mind?"

"The community?"

"My clientele," he replied. "And…" He looked down at his lap as he said what came next. "The Natives."

I should have known that would be a concern for him. It was a concern for us all. Most of us knew how to handle a gun though. I couldn't say the same for a man in his position.

"They're being handled," I replied. And they were. Even as we spoke.

"No, that's not what I meant," said the Reverend. "I'm not worried about safety so much as them. As people."

And there it was. The real reason this young, strapping, man of God had left the comfort of England for the chaos of Virginia. He was an evangelist who thought he could save everyone with religion. I choked back a laugh. The whole thing was absurd, but it might be fun to let him try.

The Reverend must have sensed my thoughts because he sat back and looked down at his hands again. If he didn't look like a little kid before, he definitely did now.

"I just think," he said, "that everyone deserves to have the hope that we do, and I wouldn't be fulfilling my vows if I didn't include the Natives in my ministry too."

This was all very touching and pathetic, but suddenly, I had an idea. If the Revered wanted to convert the Natives so badly, I knew exactly who he could start with.

"There's a princess coming in from one of the villages tonight," I said. "She'll need a place to stay and someone to look after her. Perhaps you could introduce her to God too."




Argall's Attack

"Stay here," my father said as he tore out of the longhouse. Outside, people were screaming; shots were being fired. I could hear them zipping past the entrance of the tent, making contact with bodies. Less than a few feet away from me, someone fell, and their arm crashed through the slit in the doorway. I screamed, staring at the open hand that was too small to be my father's. It didn't help.

Behind me, something was burning. At first, I thought it was the fire that we had started. It wasn't. I watched in horror as the flames swept up the wall, and a wave of smoke barreled toward me. It beat the breath right out of my lungs and burned my eyes so that I couldn't see where I was going. Desperately, I threw my hand over my face and took off in the direction of the screaming.

I tripped over the body outside the door and skidded across the frostbitten ground. The air had turned a sickly grey. Above me, everything was spinning. My entire side stung as I rolled to my feet, but I didn't dare stop to look. The people who could were running toward the woods. I took off after them, shedding my humanity as I did so.

I was not a person anymore. I was legs. I was lungs, a heartbeat, breath. Then I was on the ground.

Someone I didn't see tackled me to my knees and rolled me onto my stomach where they sat on my back and yanked my hands behind my head. With my face in the dirt, I inhaled a mouthful of dust. Coughing ensued. My final thoughts: This was it, and I was going to suffocate.


John Rolfe

Outside, night had fallen, and I'd spent the last forty-five minutes pacing the length of my new quarters. It was eerily quiet without the waves pummeling the walls or a crew stomping above. I looked around at the dusty floor and the bare walls. What little furniture I did have was sparse and spread out. If Sarah were here, it wouldn't look like this.

Suddenly exhausted, I laid down on my bed and stared up at the ceiling. I still hadn't gotten used to having the whole thing to myself. Under any other (temporary) circumstances, I probably would have enjoyed it.

In the early days of our marriage, Sarah had this habit of wrapping her legs around my waist. She'd make me sweat and push me off the bed, steal all the covers, and snore. God, would she snore. Tonight though, I would have given anything to have that back.

Lately, my evenings consisted of about three things: pacing, staring off into space, and moments like these when the air moved in and out of my lungs, but I still felt deceased. After Reverend Alexander had his meeting with the Captain and got the keys to the church, we had dinner in the kitchen of his new home. I guess he didn't want me to be alone. The problem, however, was not that I was alone but that all the company in the world wouldn't fill the Sarah sized hole inside of me. No. That void was unfillable- by friends, by food, even God Himself.

The Reverend prayed over me before I left. I wish I could say it helped.

As I left the Reverend's house and started toward my own, there was a commotion down the street, a group of men, though I couldn't really see. They turned toward the Captain's office and disappeared behind a building. I thought about following them then. Depression debilitates, but it also makes you reckless.

I didn't know what I'd do when I caught up with them. As I approached my own door, I could hear protests, and I knew that someone was being arrested. If I had to guess, it was either a Native or a stowaway. It didn't matter. I could still jump the guards and set them free.

Standing in my doorway, I let myself fantasize about being captured and charged with treason. At least if they hung me, I'd finally be as dead as I felt. I thought about it. I really did, but then I put my hand on the knob, turned it, and went inside. Only God knew why.


Reverend Alexander

After John left, I went to the sanctuary to pray. I prayed for John and his wellbeing. I prayed for Sarah and her new life with Christ, and when I'd exhausted all the ways I could intercede for the Church and the colony, I started asking God about the Natives, most notably the Princess whose care I was about to inherit.

If I were being honest, I wasn't entirely on board with the Captain's proposition. I was a missionary, not a prison guard, and I didn't much like the idea of getting involved in the Captain's politics. I was here for one reason and one reason only- to further the Kingdom- God's kingdom, and even though introducing the Natives to Christ was what I'd been called to the New World to do, a hostage situation just didn't seem like the time or place to do it.

A knock on the door made me jump.

"Reverend Whitaker," someone said. "Your presence has been requested in the Captain's quarters."

Whatever wisdom the Lord had for me would have to wait. Duty, for all of its compromise and treachery, had finally called.


Captain Argall

"Captain, they're here."

"Bring her in," I said. It was time.



The walk to Jamestown was a slow and cold one. Between staring at my feet and trying to ignore the pain in my hip, I had plenty of time to contemplate all the worst scenarios- for myself, but also for my people. I had not stopped to count the bodies. I hadn't even seen who'd gotten away. I hoped my father had been one of them. I imagined him gathering those that were left and moving them to some place safe. I did not want to imagine the look on his face when he noticed that I was missing.

In all honesty, I knew that this would happen, not that I'd be kidnapped, but that Jamestown would not stand for a cease trade. I knew that they would retaliate; I just didn't expect it to be this soon. I thought we'd have more time. I was wrong. If I'd learned anything, it was that there was no such thing.


I waited until I was on Captain Argall's street before I allowed myself to be scared. I thought we were going to his office, but we continued for another block and turned in a different direction. With my hands behind my back, they walked me to the back side of a different building. I suppose it was because they didn't want anyone to see. Not that I was surprised. Good deeds didn't need back doors.

Someone must have been watching because it opened without knocking. When it did, they pushed me inside.


The room that I found myself in was darker and mustier than I expected. Argall was there along with a couple of his councilmen and another man that I didn't' recognize. He was draped in white and lantern light but couldn't have been much older than myself.

"Welcome back," Argall said. "I trust you got our message?"

"If by message you mean invitation to war, then yes," I said. "You were loud and clear."

The men behind me tightened their grip around my wrists. I winced. Argall smiled.

"Maybe," he said, "But if the Chief wants you back, he'll go a different route."

This was bigger than a trade agreement now. I could feel it.

"What do you mean?" I said. "What do you want?"

The man I didn't know looked at me with sad, apologetic eyes. I could tell that he didn't really want to be there.

"It's more what I don't want," Argall replied, taking a step forward. "I don't want the colony to die."

"Neither do we," I started to say, but Argall held up his hand, interrupting me.

"So until we get this mess figured out," he continued, "you'll be under the care of Reverend Whitaker."

The man in the white stepped forward. Suddenly his unease made so much more sense. Like me, he was also a piece in a game that he didn't want to play.

"We'll get you taped up," he promised.

Taped up? Was that the same thing as tied up? It occurred to me to ask, but the next thing I knew I was being led away. Behind me, the man in white followed.