“William, honestly,” I chastise under my breath as I calmly unruffle the younger boy’s shirt for the third time that morning. My patience is rapidly wearing thin as he keeps moving around, his eyes full of wonder. William is always excited and rambunctious - the total opposite of his younger sister, but for some reason, he is more lively than usual, which proves it a difficult task to get him ready for the day ahead of him.
“You should’ve seen it!” He gushes, his light brown eyes wide in awe. “The lightning and thunder, did you see it? Did you?”
I certainly heard it. There was a raging storm the night before, and I barely had the chance to catch a wink of sleep due to the thunderous booms overhead and the constant flashes peering through my window. I have never feared storms, but the loud noises made it hard for me to sleep peacefully without stirring, wondering when it will end. Unlike William, I am not excited and marvelled by the storm. I feel the exact opposite. Tired and ragged, I am more than ready to finish the day before it’s even begun.
I’m not always in bitter spirits. Normally, I tend to always strive and see the positive outlook in the things I come to terms with, no matter how overwhelming they may seem. I believe that if you did that rather than focusing on the negatives, things will come much easier to you, such as a more uplifted mind.
Nonetheless, we all have our good and bad days, and today is one of my bad days. I can feel it each time I stifle a yawn, or how my eyes slightly burn from fatigue. I regret being unable to sleep last night, letting the storm overpower me. But what’s done is done; all I can do now is go on with the day and do the best I can do make it through.
“Yes, I saw it,” I tell William as he breaks from my hold and runs to his window, climbing recklessly onto the sill.
“It reminded me of the bedtime story,” William says, gazing outside dreamily. “The one from last night. I felt as though pirates were outside, the thunder as the cannons,” he elaborates, making excited gestures with his hands.
I am the one who tucks the children into bed, and since they tend to be restless at times, I read them bedtime stories. Their mother loves buying her children books, so I always have an interesting variety of stories to choose from. Despite their restlessness, the children are thoughtful and imaginative as all other children, and William has a deep fascination with pirates.
For as long as i can remember, I have always feared pirates. The stories I’ve heard of them were horrifying - they were never light-hearted, and I never grew as excited as William to hear about them. I feel as though William really wants to be the hero he sees in his own imagination, the hero that is always spoken of in the books I read them. He wants to one day fight pirates rather than fear them. He is young, but one day, I know he will grow into a strong man with ambitions like no other. I can already see it.
I sigh and figure there isn’t much to do with William at this point. He is dressed for the day, and I can only hope he won’t dirty his clothes too much by the end.
“Breakfast is waiting,” I tell him with a patient smile. “You don’t want it to get cold, do you?”
“I’m not hungry.” William says with a disinterested shrug, staring fully out the window with a smile tugging at his lips. He is thoughtful and dreamy, as if imaging the horrible storm last night was actually a pirate ship docked in the waters with a crew of pirates for him to take on.
I chuckle and shake my head. Children will be children.
“If you want to ever prove your strength to a pirate,” I say playfully, “then you must eat your food and become strong. How else do you hope to accomplish that if you don’t eat enough to grow?”
William snaps from his thoughts, realization lighting his face. Suddenly eager to go to breakfast, he springs from the window sill and dashes out into the hall, nearly missing his younger sister, Alice, on the way out. Clearly she has just woken up; her light auburn hair messy around her soft face and her little fists rubbing her tired eyes.
She must’ve been unable to sleep because of the storm as well, her light green eyes lacking of life. I smile softly as I grasp onto her hand and gently lead her to her room to help get her ready just like I helped William.
She doesn’t speak much, which isn’t unusual, since Alice keeps mostly to herself. I dress her in silence, noting how she continues to glance at her window, which is halfway shrouded in billowing curtains that are normally closed. Alice does not like her window bare, and I remember hanging those curtains a while back, due to the fact that she was unable to sleep at night.
Just as I finish braiding her long hair, she says, “There’s a new ship.”
In confusion, I pause in braiding her hair and whisper for her to repeat herself. With a sigh, Alice gets off my lap and goes to her window, pointing against the glass. Quirking an eyebrow, I step beside her and follow her gaze. Her window looks out onto the harbor of Penzance. There aren’t normally a lot of ships in our waters; mostly they are composed of travellers and merchants in hopes of visiting our town, although it isn’t big or well-known throughout the land. Nonetheless, we do receive visitors at times, which arouses the interest of the townspeople instantly upon noticing.
Today, there is indeed a ship in the harbor. I can’t see much of the details, but I’m not surprised Alice took notice, being a very observant child. Although I do wonder why she noticed this more than anything else, mostly because she is afraid of having her window bare.
Nevertheless, I send her downstairs to eat breakfast, and I begin tidying the children’s room. I pass by Julia, who is another maid working in the estate, and she smiles in greeting, humming lightly under her breath.
She and I don’t speak too often, but that’s mostly because I don’t speak much to the other maids at all. When I clean, I like to think and mull over my thoughts while I do so. It somewhat entertains me. I’m not much of a talker, to begin with, and I never find this much of a disadvantage because of who I am. Most girls of 17 would be concerned because of the aspect of engagement and marriages that come with being young. Although I do hope of raising a family one day, I believe I won’t be married anytime soon, simply because of who I am.
I begin thinking of the storm again, my skin turning icy cold despite the warm draft in the house upon the noise of the thunder. The thunder was so loud - I remembered how the walls seemed to tremble from the piercing noise. No matter how hard I tried to ignore it, I can’t. It’s impossible. I can only imagine how rough the waters were during this storm. That ship being in our waters is a miracle in itself for surviving the storm through the night, that I was certain of.
Frowning, I grasp the necklace hanging around my neck reflexively, lost in thought. Something isn’t right.
“Roselina!” William shouts from the kitchen. Shaking my head, I head towards him.
“What can I do for you, William?”
“We don’t have milk! I can’t fight off the pirates if we don’t have milk!” He whines, motioning at his breakfast in distress.
“Well, you can ask Julia to go get some? There’s a dairy shop not too far away.” I say.
“About that,” Julia comes in, arms filled with dishes. “Could you go? I really need to finish up with these dishes. I’m pretty sure Sabrina can take care of Alice and William while you’re gone.” she says, placing the dishes in the sink before rolling up her sleeves and grabbing a couple plates. “It really shouldn’t be long, half an hour at the most. You can tell the clerk that we’ll send someone to bring him the money this evening. He usually doesn’t mind. ”
“Alright. No problem,” I nod.
“Thank you, Roselina!” William claps. “I’ll be able to fight the evil pirates!”
I smile and shake my head at his relief before grabbing a bag from the pantry and leaving the estate. The final thing I hear as I close the door is William telling Julia about the storm, and I can’t help but smile to myself as I walk down the steps of the front porch.
I have worked here on the estate for a few years now, and over the years, I have grown close to Alice and William. At first, since I was younger, I was afraid to watch over young children. But then I came to notice that they are very well-behaved and don’t wish to cause me trouble. So, inevitably, I grew very close to them, and their needs and wants became a personal priority to me.
The sun shines brightly as I walk down the small, pebbled road leading to the town square. The grass still glistens with moisture from the rain last night, and I carefully maneuver my way around thick puddles to avoid soiling my shoes too much. I can’t help hearing the numerous whispers talking about the unusual presence of the ship in the harbor.
“Nobody saw anyone come out, don’t you think it’s uncanny?”
“Do you think they’re in the city right now, whoever they might be?”
“I bet they’re filthy rich: their ship is made of the finest oak I’ve ever seen.”
“I do hope they’ll visit my shop.”
It is all everybody is talking about. No visitor has ever made such an impression on the town. Ever.
A cheery bell chimes as I step into the dairy shop, the strong odor of mixed cheese, cream, and milk hitting me all at once.
“Hello, miss! How can I help you?”
I jump, startled; my fingers unconsciously latching onto my necklace, as a cheerful voice abruptly greets me.
“I am so sorry, I did not mean to frighten you!” The young man apologizes, rapidly walking towards me. “Are you alright?”
“I’m fine,” I gasp, his bright blue eyes suddenly too close to me. “Though I’d appreciate it if you’d take a step back and let me breathe,” I stammer, his closeness completely taking me off guard.
“I’m terribly sorry,” he repeats, passing his hand through his brown hair nervously. “I’m new at this,” he continues, his hand dropping to rub his neck.
“It’s fine,” I pause.
“Niall,” he supplies, holding out his hand for me to shake.
“Niall” I repeat his name softly and place my hand in his. My eyes widen as he brings my hand to his lips and kisses it. Never did someone kiss my hand like that.
“How can I help you?” He asks, oblivious to how flustered I am from his action. I silently scold myself for growing flustered from something so trivial, and it takes me a moment to remember just why I came here to begin with.
“I came here to get a pint of milk,” I answer, looking around to shyly avoid his gaze.
“Follow me,” he chirps with a warm smile, taking me farther into the small store. “Wait for me right here,” Niall says, heading behind the counter and into a small room. He returns moments later, arms filled with a box containing multiple bottles of milk. ”Take your pick,” he smiles and heaves the box on the counter.
I choose two bottles, and Niall efficiently wraps them in brown paper before tying them together with a piece of rope.
“There you go,” he smiles again, handing them over. “Is there anything else you need?”
“No, that’ll be all, thank you.”
“It’ll be two shillings miss,” Niall says. “But if you care to tell me your name, it’ll be on the house,” he adds, a cheeky smile dawning his face.
I ponder the thought for a second. What harm could it do? Besides, it’ll save Mrs. Bridgeport some money.
“Roselina. My name is Roselina,” I tell him. ”Have a nice day, Niall.” I end, placing the bottles of milk in my bag before turning to leave.
“You, too, Roselina!” He says before adding hopefully, “I do hope you’ll come back again someday?”
“Perhaps,” I smile, shooting him one last glance before the little bell rings, announcing my departure.
“...and they lived happily, ever, after.” I finish yet another bedtime story and close the book softly. William is fast asleep in his bed, his young face peaceful, his breathing soft. I smile fondly and set the book on the rocking chair, rising to quietly leave the room after putting out the candle next to his bed.
As I walk down the stairs, I see Mrs. Bridgeport with her husband in the living room, in front of a warm fire, quietly talking to one another. Although they prove to be very kind and polite, I have yet to become very close to them.
The maids of the estate live downstairs in the maid’s quarters, but instead of going down there, I tighten the shawl around me and exit through the front door. The sun is setting off over the horizon, and I see a rowdy group of young children running across the street, their lively voices reaching me from the short distance. They’re playing some kind of game, kicking pebbles with their feet and trying to outrun each other.
I stay out of their way and walk alongside the path, looking towards the sky to see it is clear of clouds. Hopefully there won’t be a storm tonight. I doubt there will.
Though I am still exhausted, especially after trying to convince William to finally settle into bed, I don’t feel like going to the maid’s quarters just yet. It isn’t bad living there; it’s certainly better and more preferable than living at the orphanage.
There are simply times when I enjoy watching the sun set over the beach, and when I arrive at the beach, I see that it’s nearly empty. The harbor is close by, and I can hear the mysterious ship still there, silent and looming. Nonetheless, it seems like a normal ship, though I feel uneasy looking at it, for a reason I cannot explain.
I pause for a moment to take off my shoes, setting them gently on the sand and sighing in content as I feel the soft sand touch my bare feet. My feet being sore from all the work I’ve done today, he softness and warmth of the sand feels welcoming .
I breathe in the salty sea air, sighing happily. The waves gently kiss the tips of my toes, rolling in serenely from the deep mass of ocean. The sun is well over the horizon by now, lighting the sky with deeper colors, and I can see stars beginning to make their appearance overhead. It’s a lovely sight, and I find myself silently staring in deep thought, lifting my dress to let the cool waves to wash over my bare calves, the sound of their lapping soothing to me.
I come here time and time again after a long day. It brings me some kind of consolation, to stare out and see no end to the ocean. You can see the flat line of the sea for as long as the eye can see, no matter how hard you looked. It never seemed to end. Though the ocean tended to be mysterious and uncanny to me at times, it was times like this that made me feel like the ocean was something intriguing, something wondrous…
“What’s a beautiful woman like you doing out at a time like this, ay?”
A low, quiet voice sounds behind me, breaking through my inner thoughts. Strangely, I’m not startled by their intrusion. I calmly open my eyes and find a man standing next to me with dark eyes and tall stature. I lick my lips and stare back out into the ocean.
“It’s a lovely time of day.”
“I beg to differ. Thieves are about, and a woman like you would make easy prey.”
His voice is cold and detached, yet there’s something strangely suggestive. Goose bumps suddenly rise along my skin, realizing I don’t know who this man is or what he wants.
I eye him warily, crossing my arms over my chest. “Would I?”
“Ay.” His eyes scan over me, as if searching for something. Searching for what? I’m not sure, but I suddenly don’t want to be near him. I quietly clear my throat and avert my gaze.
“Well, I must be going home now. It is getting late.” I mutter, stepping back to leave.
However, my breath hitches in my throat when he grasps onto my elbow, suddenly flinging me towards him to where I’m staring up at him. It’s from here where I can truly see how dark his eyes are, almost like he has no color - they’re pitch black, blacker than the night. I stiffen in his hold, prepared to lash out and scream at the first bold move he makes. I’m expecting to see a hungry look in his eyes, his intentions bold and clear.
But I’m surprised to see that his eyes hold no such emotion. They give nothing away. He simply looks at my neck, his head tilting as he focusing on something. But what?
“Let go of me!” I protest sharply, trying to hide the tremor in my voice from our close proximity.
He swiftly ignores my plea and reaches towards my neck, sliding an arm around my waist and keeping me from breaking away. I struggle against him, batting my hands against his chest, panic seizing me. Why won’t he let go of me? What is he staring at?
My entire body freezes when he gently grasps onto my necklace, the only token of my childhood, and his entire face grows completely solemn like a stone mask, his eyes guarded and glancing up at me for an answer.
“Please,” I whisper, unable to look away from his powerful gaze.
Once more, he doesn’t reply. He simply returns his gaze to the necklace, and suddenly, he pulls hard on it, and the lock snaps. He breaks the lock and holds the necklace in his hand, inspecting it at a closer angle. In doing so, he releases me completely, and I cry out, alarmed and angry that he broke my necklace.
“That’s mine!” I protest, fear replaced with anger. I reach for the necklace, but the man merely holds it higher, almost teasingly above my head. Gritting my teeth, I watch as he clenches his jaw in deep thought and looks at me again.
His eyes are different. They’re darker, with clearer intentions. They aren’t good - that much I can tell, but I’m too frozen on the spot to move or do anything to stop him. He quietly puts the necklace in the pocket of his jacket, and my heart drops when a low smirk curls along his lips.
“Not anymore,” He says, and smoothly removes a pistol from his trousers. He raises it towards the sky and pulls the trigger, releasing a boom louder than the thunder I heard the night before. I flinch from the sudden noise, terror seizing my entire body as I turn to flee, realizing the man isn’t just someone with bad intentions.
He isn’t a thief. He’s something more than that. What he did with the pistol was a signal. He was alerting someone of something - but what?
“Help!” I scream as his arm encircles my waist again, his breathing heard right in my ear. I blindly elbow him in the stomach just as I hear more booms sound off in the distance, more guns being fired. Screams pierce the air, caught into into the wind, and I’m struggling so viciously in the man’s grasp that I feel as though I’m possessed by a demon. I’m surprised by my strength, but I don’t think much about it as the man simply grasps onto my wrists, turns me around, and bends them at a painful angle.
The new position causes me to wince sharply, my knees buckling from the pain. Tears spring in my eyes as I’m easily rendered motionless. If I move, he can easily break my arms.
“Let me go,” I murmur quietly, though part of me knows he doesn’t plan on letting me go.
Loud laughter sounds from near the harbor along with more gunshots and the metal ringing of sword fighting. Fearfully, I spare a glance at the town and find people running around, their terrified screams reaching us. What is going on?
My wrists are released, and I instantly turn to run again when I am face to face with another man. This man has a horribly scarred face, a rotten meat stench emanating from him. Just as I see him, he grabs me and flings me over his broad shoulder like I’m one of Alice’s raggedy dolls.
“Take her to the ship,” The man’s cold voice says. “Put her in my quarters. Don’t let her escape.”
My entire body stiffens from the word captain. Captain? Captain of what?
And suddenly, it dawns on me. Everything clicks together like a puzzle. The mysterious ship. The lack of men. The signal.
The ship was a pirate’s ship, and Penzance is currently under attack.
I instantly think of William and Alice, and the thought of them being in danger terrifies me to no end. I began writhing on top of the broad-shouldered man, crying out and emitting curses that would make a proper lady blush in humiliation. But I painfully bite my tongue when the man simply swats my posterior, and my face flushes in fury and embarrassment as I hear him chuckle under his breath.
“Roselina!” I perk up as I hear a boy calling my name. It sounds like William!
I double my efforts for release but no matter how hard I fight, the man is stronger than me. He is five times my size, and soon, we aren’t on land anymore. No, he walks up a couple of planks, leading us directly onto the pirate ship’s deck. Looking overhead, I see a new, much darker flag fluttering ominously in the wind, revealing its true identity. Painted alongside of the ship are the words in blood-red color, “Renegade.”
Everything is happening so quickly, and I have no time to register before I’m thrown roughly into a room, harshly hitting my chin on the floor. The door slams behind me, and I can feel the ship rocking on the waves already. I’ve never been on a boat or ship before. I instantly rise and start banging on the door, demanding for the man to release me. My voice is hoarse and shrill, and all I hear is the man chuckling at my vain protests.
The door won’t give, so I abandon that hope and make my way to the window. But I find that the captain’s quarters is high up, and if I climb out, I have the strong possibility of breaking my limbs. My face pales as I come to the realization that I am, indeed, stuck, and I watch as more pirates swarm the deck, carrying swords and pistols, yelling and snickering like packs of hyenas.
My hands tremble, and I nearly fall to the floor if not for holding onto the sill. I can hear the screams from the town. I can only imagine William and Alice being in grave danger. Will they kill children? I knew of the horror that came with pirates - the tales and stories of what they did. But would they stoop so low as to bring harm onto a child?
I cover my ears to block out the sounds of the people screaming. I sink onto the floor and begin weeping, realizing I’m stuck here. Perhaps the captain brought me along as a slave. I didn’t know much about pirates and their traditions or rules, so for all I knew, I was here for purposes I can only dread. And my necklace. Why would he take my necklace?! I know it’s gold, but aren’t his treasure chests filled with gold already?! Why?!
More voices are heard right outside the window, followed by gunshots. It’s a vicious battle, and for a moment, I wonder if I’m dreaming. I wonder if I did go to the quarters and go to sleep rather than visiting the beach. But even if this was a nightmare, I knew it would be difficult for me to forget.
I stop weeping, wiping at my eyes and letting my arms fall limp against me when I realise the ship begins moving. I can feel it under me, the waves roughly brushing the sides of the boat. We aren’t sitting still above the water anymore. We’re in motion.
Sniffling, I rise and stare out the porthole to find that the harbor is growing farther away. The pirates are on deck, whooping and singing pirate hymns, celebrating their victory. It’s obvious they are triumphant about something, but what? Terrorizing a town? Is it even possible for one to have no remorse at all? To feel solace in another’s misery?
My entire face pales, and I find it difficult to breath when I see the imposing, thick cloud of smoke rising in the sky above my town. The flames lick the buildings from the distance, and its as if the entire town is engulfed in them. As if Hell is swallowing it whole.
The pirates are chanting songs that sound happy and celebratory, but instead of filling me with joy, they fill me with nothing but cold dread.