I knew I never should’ve married.
But my father insisted. Over and over again.
I’d nothing against marriage or the married – given that the pair bonded in God’s name were the correct pair. But the man my father chose was a surly young sailor – two years my junior, actually – and he loved nothing more than drink. He should’ve married a keg whiskey instead of me, the bastard. Would’ve suited him fine, he’s idiot enough.
And then he left.
Off to the Americas, to “fight” for the King.
Ah, what fighting he’ll do! The bastard doesn’t know the difference between a tooth-pick and a sword, aye, and he’ll fight!
I reckoned I could take up arms better than him, but I was woman – God forbid that I should go and fight! That was a man’s world. Aye.
So I’d gone as a man.
I tightened my corset to hide my chest, and wore frock coats, loose tunics and britches. I cut hair short, also, and wore a sword at my side and had pistols in my holsters.
I called myself “Timmy”. Timmy Taylor.
The other sailors poked fun at me, because I was slight and short and pretty-looking for a boy. They called me “Butterfly” most of the time.
But when battle broke out, there was chaos everywhere. Nobody called me “Butterfly” then. There was pitch and cannon fire raining down on us, and we were buzzing around like madmen, trying to put out fires and send in an assault of our own.
“Man the cannons, ye toss-pots!” I barked. The other deck-hands stared at me, “What are ye waitin’ for? This ship t’sink? Fire, damn you!”
They did as they were told, and fired. The other ship lurked to a side on impact. Ours was no common ship.
A man-o’-war was built to fight and win.
“Put out the flame on that sail!” I cried, to another deck-hand, “Go on!”
Others began to pulled at chains attached to grappling hooks, and swung them through they air so that they landed on the enemy ship. As they gained purchase, they slowly pulled the chains, dragging the other ship closer to us.
I pulled out my sword, a fine cutlass and wondered briefly where the captain was.
Probably passed out from drink in the hold.
Wood splintered as the ships collided.
“Lay aboard, lads!” I barked, leaping forward, “Tonight, we send the Spanish to the Devil’s Doorstep!”
We leapt on them, battling them down and sending them scattered. The tide had turned in our favour. Their Spanish yellow livery looked ridiculous against the blood and organs spread over them after the battle was won.
I hadn’t notice something until it was pointed out.
My corset had come loose during the melee. If that wasn’t bad enough, my tunic had been torn and my cleavage was bare. The deck-hands stared, and then stared some more (some of them for all the wrong reasons).
The captain (he must have joined the battle mid-fight) came up to me and pulled me by the arm to our ship and into his cabin.
“What’s the meanin’ of this, lass?” he said, not angry but perhaps… unappreciative of my hoodwink. The captain hated being fooled, “What’s your real name? What brought you here?”
“I’m Tima Green. I’m seekin’ my husband,” I said, “William Taylor. He married me last year and I haven’t seem him since.”
“Oh, that lazy bastard? You’re married t’him, are ye? Be glad he’s been out o’ your hair for the year,” said the captain, spitting to a side and then leaning back in his seat, “The lad’s as dumb as soup, and about half as useful!”
“I need no introduction t’my own husband, sir,” I said, “But you know him? Where is he?”
“He works on another man-o’-war called HMS The Constant, it’s currently docked in Kingston. The captain’s a friend o’ mine, Taylor works for him,” the captain tipped his head to a side, “I should dismiss you, lass. It’s only right o’ me. You should go home, live a peaceful life, leave aside the fightin’ for us t’do. You’ve no business lovin’ that man, or lookin’ for him.”
“What d’ye mean?”
“The captain o’ The Constant told me about your William Taylor. Has a woman for himself. And he’s quite fond o’ her too.”
I paused, surprised, and then flashed an angry look at the captain, “Does he, now? Well, that’s fine and dandy! I come lookin’ for him and he betrays me!”
“I’m sorry, lass. I only felt you ought t’know.”
“And you felt right, sir! Take me t’Kingston!”
“You what?” the captain scoffed, “No, I couldn’t do that. We’re set for–”
I yanked him by the collar and brought him forward so that our noses were touching, “I saved your precious little galley today and I’d appreciate a payment in return. Take me t’Kingston.”
The captain remained calm, “Lass, I cannot disobey orders.”
“Even under threat?”
“I’d rather not–”
“And I’d rather not cut your lips off and feed ‘em to ye!”
The captain stared at me for a long time, before saying, “Alright. A quick trip t’Kingston. But you’re not t’board my ship after I leave you there, understood? Your on your own after we get there.”
“It’s a deal,” I pushed him away and left the cabin.