Thomas Englehorn watched the horizon, as his friend Andrew's ship became a tiny pinprick in the distance, then disappeared. This would be Thomas' first year aboard a ship as cabin boy. Thomas' parents disapproved but had eventually relented when he had reminded them he was nineteen and ready to leave home. He had also promised to visit more than once a year. He trembled with the excitement of anticipation.
A high screech suddenly interrupted his thoughts as a flying bullet of a girl flew past him. She was being chased by a boy her size. They both had smiles on their chubby little faces. The girl had seen Thomas though and ran faster than boy to circle around and hide behind the barrels where he was. She stopped and raise a small finger to her lips. The little boy rushed by again, calling her name. His voice trailed off in the distance.
"Jo, that was mean of you." Thomas admonished his five year old friend in his native language.
She gave him an irresistible, mischevious smile. He was already more than twice her size, but her smile was twice as powerful. He lifted her up with a groan, making her laugh a tinkling laugh. She grew serious suddenly.
"Thomas," she said, pronouncing his name differently than it was supposed to be. She spoke to him in English, though it was not his native language. "Mama says you are leaving today on a ship to go see the ocean and maybe even China!" The girls eyes grew wide and excited as she played with the fringe on his hat.
"That I am," he replied also in English, his accent evident. "Maybe even Russia." He told her.
"When will you be back?" She asked sadly. "Tomorrow?" Her eyes grew hopeful.
Thomas smiled sadly at her. "Probably not for a year."
The girls eyes grew wide again. "A whole year, Thomas?"
"Yes, Jo. But you will wait for me, will you not?"
"Yes, yes, Thomas." She said in a grown-up manner.
Thomas laughed at her, but she did not mind. He studied her slowly, wishing to memorize the things that reminded him of home to think about on his journey. The girl's bright green eyes alone made her unique, but her physical uniqueness did not stop there. She had a medium toned skin that shocked most woman since everyone in Europe, especially dreary England, were proud of the palest skin. Jo got teased for it by the other girls, but it did not bother her. Her hair was a rich, dark shade of brown and thicker than average. Thomas had taken to her quickly from the first day her mother had arrived with her from the East two years ago. The small family of two had arrived from Eastern Europe, though he was not sure if that was where they'd originated.
Thomas had taken to Jo so quickly because she had been an outcast and still was in many circles. Her friendly, easygoing manner and kindness made her many friends quickly though, including Thomas. He adored the girl and was angry every time she mentioned the father who had left her and her mother in poverty, though the girl spoke of the good qualities of the man. Thomas touched the girl's eyelashes once more. They were lovely, long, thick lashes. She blinked and giggled.
"What are you looking at, monkey brains?" She asked him, switching to his native tongue of German, which he had taught her over a matter of months. That was another thing about the girl. She learned quickly.
"The most beautiful girl in the world." Thomas said proudly with a smile.
The girl smacked him softly with a laugh. "You know you're supposed to call me a boy, Thomas, not a girl." Then she smiled a bright smile, so wide it scared him sometimes. "I'm going to marry you one day, Thomas."
"Is that right?" He asked amusedly.
She nodded ferociously.
"Well you'll have to be a girl then, won't you?" He asked.
She thought about it. "I guess so."
"And what about Andrew, your little friend? Doesn't he want to marry you first?" He asked her with a serious face.
She frowned. "Yes, but he doesn't have a hat like yours." She said, touching the frayed edge of his hat again.
"You want to marry me because of the hat?" He asked.
She nodded, serious. He took the hat off his head and placed it on hers. "Well you may have it until I return. Then you can give it to me, and we'll see if you still want to marry me, yes?" He asked her with a smile. She nodded happily.
"I do want to marry you, and I won't change my mind."
He smiled mischievously. "So, you'll wait for me, beautiful one?"
She smiled shyly with a nod.
"Promise?" He teased.
"Promise." She wrapped her pinky around his own.
"And you'll come back for me?" She asked outright.
He was surprised for a second but nodded.
"Promise?" She asked in all seriousness.
He swallowed, but spoke. "Promise."