A/N: A simple little 'guy meets girl' chapter. Enjoy!
"What is she doing here?"
My question bounced of the flimsy wooden walls of my cell and returned to me. I ransacked my mind for some kind of explanation but couldn't find any.
That morning, when we were taken above for some fresh air, I had set my eyes on an angel. She was the most heavenly creature I'd ever seen. Her chestnut curls, which were glistening in the pure light of dawn, formed a halo around her divine face. The innocence and tenderness radiating from her made her glow amid the ugly, ruthless faces of the seamen.
And that was the root of my question. What was this beautiful girl doing in this brute-filled ship? As far as I knew, women were not hired on ships, especially convict ships. I had even heard that it was believed that they were bad luck to have on board. Though, from the looks of her neat, respectable dressing, I was quite sure she was not here as an employee.
Leaning against the creaking wood, I twiddled my thumbs together and thought of the feeling I had experienced that morning. Looking at her had aroused a funny feeling in the pit of my stomach. I had suddenly had the harsh desire to knock down all the men who were staring at her hungrily. I had the selfish longing to enclose her in my arms and keep her, all of her, only to myself.
Sighing, I looked out of the hole in the wood – yet again – and could only hope I would see her again.
The opening of the door – if you could call something so thin and weak a door – woke me up from the light doze I had drifted off to.
One of the crew, a huge, hairy ape of a man, lumbered in and set a small plate of food in front of me heavily. His pungent body odor overpowered my senses.
I couldn't help but remark, "Lost your scent bottle, did you?" As soon as I said that, I braced myself for the slap.
I wasn't wrong. He slapped me right across the face, leaving my cheek stinging. I clenched my hands into fists but resisted the urge to punch his chunky face right back.
"You watch whatya say, yeh ungrateful little vermin," he growled. With that threat, he left the cell, slamming the door behind him and making the whole wall shake. It was only a matter of time, I knew, before the cheap wood gave in.
I turned to the food he had left me and laughed wryly. Food. It was supposed to be something edible, a definition which definitely did not apply to what that man had left me. Still, it was late in the night and I just noticed the way my stomach was rumbling.
Missing my Madre's delicious homemade tortillas more than ever, I dug into the stone-hard bread and saltless stew.
I was halfway through my meal when a soft thud on my cell door caught my attention. Putting down the soup-soaked piece of bread, I cautiously looked in the direction of the door – I couldn't actually see anything in the darkness.
Suddenly, with a louder thud the door gave away and whatever was behind it came flying into my lap. I was so surprised that I tried to jump up but the weight on my legs stopped me from doing so.
The object in my lap uttered a startled shriek then hurriedly tried to get up. But I was trying to get up too and soon the both of us were back on the floor again.
My first thought was that it was one of the crew. That ape must have sent someone to beat me up for my words, I thought.
But then I realized that the person – for I was now sure it was a human – on my lap felt too…light. This could not be one of those huge shambling men who manned the ship.
As the person breathed deeply, trying to catch their breath, I felt one end of them. Clothe. Lots of clothe met my hands. No man wore so much flowing clothe.
'What is this?' I thought, completely bewildered.
'Skirts' said a voice subconsciously in a back of my mind.
My hand continued its way up lightly. The many layers of clothe ended and I could feel a body beneath the fabric. I felt an arm but instead of having a mane of hair sprouting from it like the men of the crew did, I only felt very sparse small hairs.
Then, suddenly, my exploring hand went up a hump on the body and at once the both of us reacted.
"OH MY GOSH! You pervert!"
"WHAT…?" I cried disbelievingly. My astonishment was beyond imagination. What I had felt…
The person in my lap jumped up and cried in a decidedly feminine voice, "You're sick!"
"Who are you?" I asked, still utterly shocked.
Something in my voice must have calmed her down a bit because after a pause, she said in a melodious voice, "I—I'm Susannah. Susannah Simon. Are—Are you the man who was looking at me today morning on the deck?"
It was her? I silently thanked my lucky star which must have been shining brightly in the night sky that night.
"Yes, I—Yes, I'm Jesse de Silva," I replied softly. Then I realized what I had done. Or, more specifically, what part of her body I had touched.
Feeling my face heat up like one of those stoves my mother cooked in, I muttered, "I'm…err…sorry for…that. I didn't know…"
I could feel her embarrassment too as she fidgeted silently before saying, "Umm…yes I…forgive you. Sorry for calling you a pervert."
There was silence which was punctuated only by the loud snores of the prisoner in the next cell. I took that time to study how much of her I could discern.
Then she broke the silence. "What are you in here for?" she asked.
I said nothing, just continued looking at her silhouette. I couldn't find anything to say. I didn't want to tell her the story that everyone knew because I wanted very badly to be good in her eyes. But the truth was too complicated.
"Err…alright if you don't want to say. I was just wondering…" her voice trailed off. "Tell me," she started with renewed energy. "Don't you find the thought of going to Australia exciting?"
I raised an eyebrow. Exciting? This lady was surely one of a kind.
"I do," she continued. "I mean, the thought of savages and cold, desolate moors and bloody brawls over ladies sounds so thrilling, doesn't it? I—why aren't you saying anything?"
I was chuckling softly. "Where in the world did you hear those stories?" I asked, unable to hold my laughter. It was such a big relief to be able to laugh again. The action immediately made me feel lighter.
I saw her outline shrug. "Everyone says so back in London."
I looked at her. She was so different from any other girl I had met – and I have five sisters so I should know. As far as I knew, no lady in her right mind would want to go romping in a land filled with "savages and cold, desolate moors and bloody brawls over ladies" as she put it.
She must have felt my searching gaze on her and felt uncomfortable because she said, "I'm sorry for talking so much. I can't help it. It's been rather boring up there these past three days and now that I've found someone I can talk to…"
I smiled widely. "I feel the same. You won't believe how much of a relief it is to be having a decent conversation again." And seeing you again.
She laughed. I fell in love with the sound immediately. "Conversation?" she said disbelievingly. "Then a rather one-sided conversation, don't you think?"
I laughed. Then suddenly, a thought struck me.
"Hold on, how did you get in here?" I asked curiously.
"Oh…" she started flustered. "I…well, I was up on the deck just looking out into the sea when a wind blew and it blew out my candle. I couldn't feel anyone about, only a few of the crew on the other side of the ship and I honestly didn't want to encounter them. So I just sort of felt my way about in the darkness and, well, I took the wrong set of stairs and stumbled here."
I sighed. "You should get back up. This place is dangerous," I told her.
"But I really want to talk! And I'm not sleepy yet," she protested.
"Aren't you scared? You're sitting in a convict's cell, for God's sake. You should be scared!" I said.
"You're not a convict," she said quietly.
I started. How did she know?
"I don't know why you're in here but I very well know that I'll be safe in this cell," she stated confidently as she got up and brushed off her skirts.
When she reached the hole where the door had stood, I called out hopefully, "Susannah! Will I be seeing you again?"
She turned back and I thought I saw the curve of her lips turn up. "That's very probable, Jesse," she said and walked out.
When she was almost out of sight she looked back at me and added in a delightfully mischievous voice, "Though I would prefer a different method of greeting next time."