Shivers run up my spine as a gunshot rings, followed by rambunctious cheers. My heart pounds loudly in my chest as I try to stay calm and find a solution to all this. I reflexively start pacing in circles, and the ship’s floorboards creak under my weight as my bare feet trudge over them.
The boat rocks sideways, making me stagger. My fingers subconsciously reach for my necklace, but I only end up touching the hollow of my neck. I crumple to the floor, overcome with sadness.
Seconds later, the captain brusquely opens the door, startling me. Determined to get answers, I stand up.
“Why did you kidnap me?” I ask unwaveringly, placing my hands on my hips.
Without acknowledging me, he tosses his pistol on his desk with a loud thump and removes his jacket, revealing tattered clothes. I watch him, silently stunned that he won’t even look at me. Sighing, he sits lazily in his chair before his hand reaches inside his pocket and pulls out the stolen piece of jewelry. He dangles the golden chain in front of his face, staring at it in fascination.
“Why did you take my necklace, ravage my town, and take me away?” I question again, anger bubbling inside me.
Again, the man ignores me and deposits the necklace on his desk before leaning in to inspect it.
“I know what you said,” he silences, shooting me a dark look. “I may be many things, but I certainly ain’t deaf. Now keep your pretty little mouth shut--I’m working.”
A dagger whistles beside my face, a hollow thud resonating as it hits the wood not far behind me. My heart stops. The captain is suddenly standing and shoves me against a solid surface. My head ends up right beside the knife. I gulp.
“What did I say?” He asks calmly, though everything about his demeanour screams anger.
I can’t help the tears from forming in my eyes, frustration and fear mingling together. Not daring to respond, I look down at my feet and purse my lips.
“That’s what I thought.”
I’m frozen in fear as his dark eyes pierce through mine menacingly. The dark-haired man takes a step back, cocking his head sideways as he watches me. He says nothing else before reaching beside my head and pulling the knife out of the wooden plank, placing it in his belt.
Only when he is a good five feet away do I start breathing again. My knees give in under me, and I end up curling into a ball with my eyes shut, silent tears running down my cheeks. Come on, Rose... Get a hold of yourself. I hear him move around, shifting some objects and throwing others on the ground.
“Where is it?” He growls, irritation lacing his every word.
I cringe as the sound of breaking glass fills my ears. Hesitantly, I open my eyes, afraid of what I may find.
“Where is it, damn it?!” He roars, sending papers flying all over the place. He violently opens a couple drawers, throwing its contents to the ground. “There it is,” he grunts, digging inside the smallest one.
The captain sighs in relief, wrapping a necklace quite similar to mine between his fingertips. The dark-haired man reaches for my own necklace, placing it right beside the other one. He holds both of them at arm’s length before approaching his window.
I watch in awe as the moonlight reflects through both pendants, causing symbols to suddenly materialize on the floor. I gasp in shock. The captain’s gaze lands on me for mere seconds, clearly annoyed. I shrink, trying to disappear into the wall. He drops his hand, making the lighted marks vanish as he does so.
“You’re lucky it’s authentic,” he says after a couple seconds, moving away from his window and towards me. “The last few weren’t, so their owners paid the price,” he continues, crouching down so we’re face to face. “How did you get it?” He enquires abruptly, his finger tilting my chin upwards so I’m staring into his eyes.
“I’ve had it since I was born,” I answer, my lip trembling from his close proximity. I’m so close to him, I can smell his breath.
“Interesting. So it’s heritage?” He probes, curious. I nod hesitantly. “Who are your parents?”
“I don’t know.”
“That’s unfortunate, ay?”
I don’t reply and look away apprehensively. His hands tightly lock around my jaw, forcing me to meet his soulless eyes.
“It’s rude not to look at someone when they’re talking to you,” he warns, face and body tense with irritation.
“It’s even ruder to harm women,” I reply, feigning a brave face. He chuckles.
“Darlin,’ I don’t care about regulations. I’m a pirate.”
“Then why do you care if I’m rude?!”
“Because you owe me respect,” he retorts harshly, obliging me to stand up. I do not owe you anything, I seethe internally, biting my lip to avoid speaking my thoughts. “What’s your name?”
He laughs humorlessly, his fingers pressing harder into my skin. “I’m the one asking questions here, not the other way around.”
“Roselina. Roselina Aldrich,” His eyes grow wide and eye me up and down.
“Aldrich. You wouldn’t happen to be related to Richald, ay?” He questions, lacing his voice.
“How would I know? I’m an orphan.”
The captain backs away from me, his eyes seemingly gazing right through me. “Well, you certainly have his eyes,” he decides before turning on his heel and returning to his desk. “Clean up my cabin, darling,” he instructs, placing his feet on the wooden furniture.
What?! No. I stand unmoving, anger coursing through my veins as I stare at him indignantly.
“Now,” he booms, his voice rattling my bones. Scowling, I do as asked, picking up the various maps and piling them up beside his feet as neatly as I can. I feel his gaze burning a hole through my back as I bend down to gather them all. “Place the ones with an x in the corner in this drawer,” he continues, motioning the one to his right, “and the others in that one,” he ends, motioning the one to his left.
I’m not sure why I feel indignant. I should feel terrified of this man. I should cower under his unrelenting gaze.
But I don’t.
Perhaps it’s because he has yet to lay a finger on me. I don’t know what it is; in the orphanage, I was always taught to be seen, not heard. I used to be beaten for speaking my mind when it wasn’t needed, so I grew accustomed to keeping my thoughts and opinions to myself.
For some reason, this pirate captain is drawing something from me I had kept buried for as long as I can remember. I purse my lips and feel my walls rise again, my angering thoughts diminishing, unable to escape my lips. I focus all my attention on cleaning his room; he no longer needs to order me to do anything because I’m already moving on my own accord.
It’s only when I finish cleaning do I realize he’s gone.
I’m alone in the room, and it’s perfectly clean. I wasn’t sure of where to put everything, but I put them all in places I could think of. If the captain disapproved of the items’ placements, he never let it show.
I can hear men speaking outside, and I sigh to myself as I slowly sit on the bed. The open window lets a breeze wash through the room, and I can smell the tangy scent of salty water - it’s a foreign smell, and I’ve always dreamed of experiencing it, but right now, it’s not the way I imagined it.
I had always dreamed of embarking on the open sea, to find and experience adventures. Never have I thought of being captured by a pirate and being held captive in his quarters. I fiddle with my fingers nervously as the fear comes back into play, my mind having its toll on me.
I think about why the captain brought me here.
It’s obvious he has interest in my necklace, and I bit gently on my lower lip as I mull over why he would take interest in it. I cannot remember exactly how or when I received the necklace. I was only told that it belonged to my mother, and I always wore it because it became a part of me. I could scarcely remember a time when I didn’t have it wrapped around my neck.
Still. Why would he bring me here for a necklace?
I knew pirates were greedy thieves who prowled the seas for unprotected ships to steal from. I knew they were thugs and low-life creatures. But why would he go through the trouble of seizing a town under an attack and bringing me, a girl, on board? Wasn’t it bad luck for a pirate ship to carry a girl, or was that simply a myth?
A round of loud, cackling laughter sounded from the door, and I stiffen on the bed, eyeing it warily. What if pirates break through the door and have their way with me? The thought sounds rash and insane, but what else can I expect? These men have been at sea for months or even years without laying eyes on a girl. There’s no doubt a girl will stir crude thoughts…
Strangely, the captain didn’t seem to have eyes for me. He locked me in here and left me alone. It’s obvious that he doesn’t wish to toy with me, that lust doesn’t drive his intentions for having me here. This still leaves the question as to why I’m even here, and I cannot conjure an answer to the question, no matter how hard I mull over the matter.
I wait there for what feels like hours, expecting someone to come to the door. Anyone. But soon enough, I’m laying on the bed, my stomach growling with hunger. Fatigue empowers me but I’m too afraid to close my eyes and let my guard down. I’m afraid that if I do, someone will take advantage of me.
It grows dark outside, and soon, I’m staring out the window as the sun sets over the horizon. The sky is lit in beautiful colors - colors I have never seen before with my own eyes. I’ve only seen these array of colors in paintings drawn by influenced artists, so I’m unable to waver my gaze when I have the chance to see them. It’s a beautiful sight, and I find myself wishing I was in better circumstances to be able to witness something so magnificent.
The ocean water seems almost calm in this time of day. My stomach is slightly uneasy from the rocking of the ship, but luckily, I haven’t gotten seasick. The water seems to glimmer under the tranquil lighting, and I silently wonder what kinds of creatures lay underneath or how deep it is. The thought somewhat frightens me because I’ve heard many tales of what kinds of creatures much live under something so deep; certainly they must be huge, and I wonder if these pirates can fend off a monster if one chooses to attack the ship.
I chuckle to myself, feeling too imaginative reminiscing the stories I’ve read. I’ve always loved reading stories and losing myself in the author’s adventure.
A sudden noise brings me from my thoughts, and I look down on the ship to see a bonfire and men surrounding it. There’s music, and I can hear them talking animatedly to one another from below. They’re drinking rum and celebrating for something.
Celebrating for what? Destroying a town?
Before I know it, I’m weeping, and I have to look away from the sickeningly joyous scene because I’m not sure if William or Alice survived the attack. It’s a huge possibility that most of the people I’ve seen for the past years of my life were dead at the moment, and the thought alone destroys me.
I remember the flames eating away at the city as the pirates sang their song of triumph at sea. I remember the screams I heard as the pirate carried me over his shoulder, onto the ship and into captivity. I close my eyes tightly and will the tears to stop, but they don’t.
I’ll never be able to forget the screams or the flames.
I grasp tightly onto the blanket sitting on the bed and grit my teeth, trying to think of a way to escape. I can’t throw myself overboard - that’s out of the question. I wonder if there are lifeboats, but I doubt I’d have the courage to embark on the sea in a small boat, alone.
The door suddenly opens behind me, and my breathing instantly picks up upon being startled from the abrupt noise. The captain strides into the room without looking at me.
I look away when he strips out of his shirt, and I listen as clothing is shuffled and tossed to the floor. He’s changing. My cheeks flush from the thought, and I bite my tongue to refrain from saying anything as I dreadfully wait for what comes next.
“Get off the bed.”
I look up to see his dark eyes staring at me. They’re somewhat unfocused, but they’re still deadly. I swallow thickly.
“Get off my bed. Now.” His tone is colder, icier and less patient as I simply stare up at him.
Shakily, I pull myself off his bed and onto wobbly knees. I anxiously wait for what’s to happen next, and I expect him to grab me or harm me. But instead, he simply lies on the bed and turns his back on me. I stand there for a few moments, watching, until I realize he’s about to go to sleep.
I lick my lips and wonder if I should speak up and ask what I’m to do. I glance at the door and realize I have a chance of running.
With my heart racing, I quietly rush to the door and grab onto the knob. Then I turn. The knob doesn’t turn; it’s locked from the inside. I curse inside my head and slowly turn around to see the captain still facing the other way. I wonder if he even knows what I’m doing right now.
That’s when my eyes fall upon his desk, and I remember all the things I settled on it. The lighting is dim in the room, with only the moonlight filtering in through the open window, and I freeze for a moment as my mind goes over all the things I picked up from the floor.
I watch his form on the bed carefully, gauging any signs of movement as I silently go to the desk and blindly search for the keys I picked up earlier. I’m not sure if the keys are for the door, but it’s certainly worth a try. The captain lets off a sigh, and my entire body freezes in horror, waiting for his dark eyes to open and see me rummaging around on his desk.
But he doesn’t.
He simply shuffles a little on the bed and goes silent again.
I go back to searching for the keys, and after a few moments, my fingers come into contact with the cool metal. I smile to myself in relief and hold my breath as I rush back to the door. With trembling hands, I push the key into the hole and turn, praying it works.
This time, when I twist the knob, it turns.
The door opens with a small creak. I’m about to bolt into the dark, narrow hallway when my hair is grabbed from behind, and I’m pulled harshly back into the cabin. I yelp loudly from the burning sensation in my scalp, and the door slams closed. I’m staring up at a pair of dark, furious eyes set with a seething scowl.
“You little wench,” The captain snarls, towering over me. I smell his breath, the harsh scent of rum. He drank earlier - not a lot, but he drank nonetheless.
I instantly back into the room and fall clumsily onto the bed. I helplessly crawl towards the window as a final resort, but he grabs onto my ankle and drags me back towards him.
“Let go of me!” I shout, flailing viciously in his grip. I kick my legs and twist my body, but his grip is tight and unrelenting. He pulls me even more towards him, and I feel the fury emanating from his body.
“I can’t believe you’re stupid enough to try to fool a pirate,” he seethes, his fingers digging bruises in my skin. I gasp as he tugs me off the bed and throws me painfully to the floor. “You want to get out? Fine.” he continues, holding to my left ankle as he drags me through his cabin and out the door.
I squirm in his hold, trying desperately to stop him by grabbing anything we’d cross. I manage to grasp the corner of a wall and whimper as he tugs me sharply.
“Next time, I’m slicing those fingers off, hear me?” he menaces, towing me out the small corridor and onto the deck.
“Let go!” I protest. He’s pulling me right across the celebration his crew was having.
“Blimey Capt’n! Got a feisty one, ay?” One of them laughs and the others join.
“I’ll bet’cha her skin’s porcelain!”
I squeal in shock as a pair of hands latch around my thigh. Brusquely, the captain let’s go of my leg and pulls his knife out of his belt. My heart is pounding. I hurry to stand, but the pirate pulls out a rifle from his boot and points it at me, daring me to move.
“Keep your bloody hands off her, mate, or you’ll lose them,” he warns menacingly, towering over the man who touched me, the knife pressed at his throat. “Am I clear, Mr. Barnes?” he sneers, a bead of blood forming on the older man’s neck from the pressure the weapon was applying.
“Very, Captain Malik.”
“And let this be a warning to all of you filthy scoundrels!” the dark-haired man adds, turning around to look at all of them. “I don't want any of you near the lady! Not without my permission!”
Without adding anything else, he grunts and shoves his weapons back into his belt before grabbing my arm and dragging me away. I’m forced down a set of stairs, then another and a third, the smell of rotten fish and salty water mingling strongly once we’re at the very bottom of the ship makes me wince. A thin sheet of water covers the floor, making my feet cold and wet.
“There.” He shoves me into a cell-like chamber. “Welcome to the brig. Sleep tight, Miss Aldrich,” he finishes, locking me in. “Oh, and mind the rats,” he adds, disappearing up the half-broken wooden staircase.
I rattle the iron door furiously. I’m only met with silence. After a couple minutes, I give up. Shoulders sagging, I trudge my feet through the water and sit on the small bench my cell provides. I curl into a ball, and the iciness of the water makes me shiver.
My head flips up, surprised. The voice sounds familiar.
“Who is it?” I enquire hesitantly. I squint and look around in front of me. There seems to be nothing except multiple barrels and brown sacks.
My eyes widen as I spot a blonde head peeking out from behind a wooden barrel. I finally recognize his blue eyes and associate it to his voice.
“Niall?!” I gasp in surprise.
“Shhh, not too loud,” he winces, looking up apprehensively.
“Your hair...What happened to your hair?” I ask, confused. His hair isn’t brown as I remember. It’s a bright blonde color. I almost don’t recognize him, if not for his accent and bright, blue eyes.
“Something called Peroxide… I accidentally dropped it on my head after you left this morning, and, well, my hair turned blonde,” he shrugs, shuffling out of his hiding spot.
“Why are you here?!” I stammer as he comes to the door of my cell.
“I could ask you the same thing, Miss Roselina… Haven’t people told you it wasn’t a good idea to mingle with pirates?” he whispers.
“The captain wanted me. He stole my necklace and took me.”
“I followed you onboard when I saw you on that pirates shoulder. I even called your name, but you didn’t see me.”
I mull over his words and realize I did hear someone calling my name, but I was too caught up in the moment to be able to focus and recognize who it was. Seeing Niall made me suddenly feel very weak and feeble, and without thinking, I pull forward and hug him tightly. He smells sweaty yet musky, and something about him consoles me, if anything and I don’t feel the least bit ashamed at my rash moment of weakness because Niall is good. He’s selfless. He saw me being carried on the ship and tried to save me, practically leaving his family behind.
I’ve never had anyone do something so nice for me.
“Are you okay?” Niall whispers as he hugs me back, his hands rubbing my back softly. I sniffle and close my eyes, hoping I won’t start crying in front of him. The emotions are hitting me powerfully without any warning.
“No,” I murmur. “I’m not.”
“Don’t worry. They’re bound to stop at the next port. We can think of something by then.” He says.
“Do they know you’re here?”
“No. I came down here as soon as they set sail.”
I gulp thickly, knowing that if the pirates find Niall, he’ll most likely be thrown overboard or become a crewmember. It would be dangerous if he was caught down here. Perhaps I can do something to help…
“Niall, listen to me. If they find you down here, you’ll be as good as dead.” I say, pulling away to stare into his eyes, hoping he can see the desperation. “These pirates are ruthless.” I lick my lips, remembering how the captain threatened his own men because they touched me. I was glad he did, but he was still frightening, nonetheless. “You have to stay down here.”
Niall furrowed his eyebrows. “How?”
“Just...stay down here. I don’t think the captain wants me in his quarters. I can sneak down food and water.” I explain, hoping I’m right.
“Where will you be staying?”
I hesitate and stare down at my lap, feeling my cheeks flush. “With the captain.”
Niall gasps and his face turns grave. “Are you serious?” His own cheeks flush with anger, and his blue eyes swirl with fury. I know what he’s thinking. He thinks the captain wants me for his own sick amusement.
“It’s not what you think,” I say quickly. “I’m still unsure of why he took me, but I don’t think I’m here for...that reason.”
“It’s not safe for you on deck,” Niall growls. “With all those pirate scum―”
I reach out and grasp onto his arm. My face is sober, and I’m fighting back tears. “Please don’t worry about me. I’ll be fine. But for right now, can we get some rest?” My voice is hoarse and weak, and I suddenly don’t have the will to fight or plot against the pirates. I cannot think of any means of escape at the moment, so I find it pointless to rage and question as to why this is happening.
Niall notices my obvious distress, and his features soften. “You’re right. I apologize. If you want, I can stay awake while you sleep.”
“No, aren’t you tired as well?”
He grins. “I’ve slept for a good few hours, so I’m not tired right now.”
I slowly nod and glance around us. This certainly isn’t comfortable with me. The air is cold and stale, and I’m shivering because of it. Darkness surrounds us, and I don’t like looking through it because I fear something will pop out at me.
“I’m very sorry this happened to you,” Niall whispers as I lean back against the wall and hug myself, trying to feel warmer. He sits next to me on the bench and wraps a comforting arm around my smaller, trembling form, and I lean against him, burying my head in his damp shirt. He feels warm, and I know it’s improper to be so close to someone like this, but I feel as though being improper doesn’t matter in this kind of situation.
“Thank you.” I whisper, before closing my eyes and letting Niall hold me as I quietly fall asleep.