I stand on a lone rock in the middle of a flaming sea, the brilliant colors of the aquamarine ocean mixing with the burning hues of apricot and gold. A mighty vessel is being slowly devoured by the great fire, its fine wooden beams becoming nothing but dancing ashes. I hear men yelling commands, screaming for help or simply bobbing face down and motionless. Yet I stand unscarred with a gleaming sword gripped in my strong hands. My blonde hair is no longer whimsy but whipping through the air with a dangerous beauty about it and the drowning passengers look at me with desperate pleads on their faces. I pay no attention but instead feel my body arch back gently and my feet loose their grip from the rock. I am immersed in the roaring waters, my blissful oblivion.
I wake up with a jolt and heavy breaths. My head lies on a cold, damp pillow and for a second, I feel myself relax. But then I feel the burning.
I gasp with no sound coming out from my mouth and clench my fists by my side. My eyes are slammed shut to prevent those damn tears from flowing again but as the frigid, soapy slithers down my raw, open flesh, I can hardly keep from screaming. I wish I was back asleep. At least there I was powerful and magnificent.
"Shhh...We're almost there, I promise." A familiar voice whispers. Despite the pain that nearly knocks me out, hearing Nellie (the only person who defended me in any way) practically makes me smile.
I peel open my eyes to see where I am. I realize I am in my room. My dull, white washed room that contains nothing personal but the smell of my exhaustion and depression. The bed I lie on is not exactly 'comfortable' but at least I don't have a loose beam on mine, like Mary Anne's. I see Nellie leaning over me, her pale blue dress and white sash splashed with my crimson blood. Her long, brown, chestnut hair is tied back in a gentle bun so random strands fall out of it but I think the worry etched on her petite face is the most lovely characteristic about her. It warms me up inside to think she is concerned for me.
"Nellie-" I rasp hoarsely, but before I can continue she hushes me. I am eternally indebted to her for helping me recover again as if she were to get caught, she would be in a similar situation to me right now. Even thinking about that makes my stomach curl in disgust and I begin to panic.
"Nellie, thank you for doing this but please, you must go immediately." I tell her with hast. But when she doesn't retort back or even stop what she's doing, I crane my head to look up at her only to see her crying.
I inhale sharply. "Did she... did she hurt y-you?" I stammer, struggling with the concept.
She wipes the back of her hand across her face. "You have to get out of here. Now." She breaths.
I look at her suddenly puzzled. "What do...what are you talking about?"
"I can't take this anymore, Emma. She is going to keep punishing you like this until she kills you. One day, I won't be here and...and.... Emma, I'm going to get you out of here, I'm not going to let my mother...torture you any longer."
I laugh dryly. "Not happening. Under no circumstances will I EVER leave you with her and your sisters alone."
"Oh come one, Emma!" She yells at me. I flinch- I have never known she could use that tone of voice. "I am mother's prized possession, you know this. I am one of the fairest women in all this town. You really think my materialistic mother would ever risk hurting me in a way that could tamper with the possibility of marrying a wealthy man?"
She looks at me with a fiery glare , tears streaming down her reddened cheeks. "The only reason you don't want to leave is because you're a coward. You're afraid you'll lose the last connection of your parents. Well let me lay it straight: they're dead and they're never coming back."
Nellie suddenly realized exactly what she said and clamped her hand over her mouth with a look of horror.
"Wait, Emma, I'm sorry, please, I was just trying...." She stammered.
But it was too late. I feel her words stab my heart and something dies inside of me. I stare at her, my mouth gaping open. I don't notice I am crying the last of my tears until I feel one drop on my hand.
"How could you?" I murmur, still shocked. "My last member of family..."
Nellie squeezes her eyes shut. "Please Emma. Listen to me. I just.... you are my only REAL family as well but I can't bear to see you being treated like this anymore." She says in an almost apologetic tone.
My feelings are numb, though. I know she wants me to leave for the good of myself but in a way, I wanted someone to be selfish... Someone to want me to stay so badly that they couldn't let me go. I just couldn't get past that wish. Which is why I had to depart.
I look up at her, my eyes dead. "Fine. You can even help me pack." I sneer. Nellie sighs with defeat as I stand from my bed and pull my tattered dress on. Pain shoots up my back as the rough fabric comes in contact with my skin but I ignore it. Nellie tries to come to my aid but I merely push her away, feeling nothing. I am past pain now. I am past feeling at all. Perfect for a vagabond life, I think, and smirk at fates cruel game.
She looks at me with sad eyes. "Come, let's go to my room. We can plan privately there, I know mother is out today and tomorrow. She is visiting London to see a 'friend' of the opposite sex."
I saunter sulkily behind her, dragging my feet. This was partially just to try and annoy her but partially out of pain, too. I don't know how I will be doing any escaping with my torn up back.
We walk silently up the grand staircase all the way to the third floor. The steps loop majestically up into the more private wings of the household and the more private wings, of course, is where the most elaborate bedrooms are. I don't clean up here much only because Auntie thinks I have diseases and filth slathered all over me so when we finally get to Nellie's room, I nearly die of jealousy and awe.
Her chamber is painted a rich emerald color with tiny rose flowers crawling up delicate vines. Two massive stain glass windows let in glorious amounts of raw daylight that bounce playfully off the diamond chandelier that hangs low from the ceiling. Nellie's bed frame is a rustic gold that has a midnight blue canopy draped richly from it. The quite haven of her actual bed just whispers words of warmth and comfort as the mountain of pillows looks simply divine.
She walks over to the couch that sits in front of the fire place and beckons me to come sit by her. I try to look reluctant as I amble over but the curiosity of my buttocks gets the better of me as I practically run to sit. The feeling of true, expensive setting is magnificent and out of the corner of my eye, I see Nellie giggle.
I almost start to laugh, too, but then I remember I'm supposed to be mad at her.
Nellie sees my trying not to smile and looks solemn. "Listen, Emma, I just want you to be-"
"I get it. Now, how are we going to get me out of here?" I ask emotionlessly. I do feel a prick of pain when I see her really start to hurt but I don't try to comfort her.
"Well," Nellie began, "I know Sir John has a sister and I thought you might be able to house with her for a while. He says that she's been looking for a housekeeper as she just wedded a few weeks ago. Apparently her new residence is rather large."
I look at her pointedly. "Not happening. Nellie, I've been a slave to my own family for eleven years. Cooking, cleaning, shopping... If I'm leaving, I leaving for a new life."
"I-I know. Sorry. Just tossing the possibility out there."
"I thought you wanted me to leave, go far away." I reply harshly.
Nellie's eyes look watery now. "You know I don't WANT you to depart, but I can't let her.... I'm done with explaining myself, but do you have any better ideas?"
For a moment I sat in silence, staring at Nellie's grand stain-glass window. It depicted a calm ocean and a gleaming sun. On the horizon sat a perfectly pieced wooden boat, floating along far away. My love for those unexplored bodies of water were so great it made my heartstrings pull.
Then it hit me.
Grasping Nellie's hands, I looked her straight in the eyes as I began to excitedly share my idea. "Nellie, remember when we were girls and we used to sit in your monstrous library?"
She grinned fondly at the memory. "Why yes, we always used to read a specific story. Wasn't it the ancient Ballad of Mulan?"
I nodded ecstatically. "Do you remember our favorite part? The part where she chopped of her hair and took her father's armor to take his place in the army?"
Nellie faced became perplexed. "Why of course but how is this relevant to you?"
I laughed now. "Because, that's exactly what I will do. I will crop my hair short like a boys but instead of armor, I will wear a shipmates uniform. Then the rest is simple. Climb on a large trading boat and become one of the crew members. I'll be able to start over. Explore the world and be somewhere I love. Nellie, it's perfect." I cry gleefully.
For a moment, she looks completely overwhelmed and then just... lonely. Her position becomes reclusive, her gaze becomes hazy and her mouth a thin line.
"I will miss you so terribly, you know."
I feel relived as I know she agrees with my plan but then my heart shatters. She is like a sister to me and when I sail away on my ship to the ocean blue, I realize it's unlikely that I'll ever see her again. As angry as I was at her, she said what she said out of love and anyways, I could never be mad at her for long. Not when we were children, not when we are grown.
"I'll miss you more, silly." I grinned. "But for now, I must put away my emotions and get ready for this big adventure that never would be happening without you."