Note : I do not own the characters. This story is set after Tales of The South Seas, virtual season 2, "an honest woman".
Many thanks to Michelle who had to deal with many grammar errors and funny spelling mistakes.
until you are resting here with me
- - - - - - -
"You must have been a brilliant student when you were a child."
As soon the words had left his mouth, he was almost sure he shouldn't have said them. Since Isabelle had mentioned her orphanage before, there was a possibility that she hadn't had much education despite her cleverness.
"I didn't go to school much." Isabelle answered without sarcasm or defensiveness.
Her openness to him struck him more than her usual boldness.
He could feel how much Isabelle trusted him now, -and was amazed. They had got through so many adventures together since she had come to Tahiti.
He was curious about her childhood but hesitated to ask, since he himself was the one who always avoided conversations about his past.
However, Isabelle didn't seem embarrassed or uncomfortable. David thought that he could answer her, too, if Isabelle asked about own. If you don't seize this chance, old boy, you'll regret it.
"So, what did you do instead of going to school?"
"Working. I was sent to a factory after my mother died." Again her answer was simple and without self-pity. And their mood remained casual and a kind of comfortable despite of her dark, cold story.
Maybe it was because of Isabelle's uncaring tone and bright eyes. Or maybe it was because of their closeness? David wondered.
"You worked in the factory all your childhood?"
"No. I also worked on a farm, and also went to the races. I mean horse races."
"What? You're saying that you gambled when you were just a child?"
Isabelle burst out laughing. "No, no! Silly, you, David!" she chuckled. "Okay, I'll tell you my secret."
Later, David would wonder how his heart kept from sinking. He felt amazement or admiration rather than tragedy when he heard her amazing, strange, childhood story -at least in the beginning of the tale.
- - -
"I was adapted into a family when I was ten. They were horse breeders. I don't know why they chose me instead a boy in the first place. Maybe I was a cheaper one."
"What? You mean you were sold?" David frowned.
"Yes. It wasn't odd, David. Orphans who didn't have people to care them were often sold, even now they are sold, I believe."
Isabelle didn't appear troubled or sad. She was just telling facts.
"Of course, after some years my price would have been much higher, if they knew the right place to sell, you know," she snorted. Ignoring David's expression of shock, Isabelle continued, "There were races, -horse races several times a year at a big farm in the next town. And there were many good horses. The big farm had good race-courses also." Isabelle had a far away look now. David didn't interrupt her story and hoped nobody would intrude on them during her talk.
"I was good with horses from the beginning. Soon I got to know how to handle horses. Maybe because some experience gained from William a long time ago. Or maybe it is in our blood."
She looked up at him merrily with those large, now blue eyes.
Even though the young horse-woman didn't mention it, he could imagine easily how hard the chores in stables were for a small child.
"My foster parents figured it out, too. They trained me to ride. And when I was thirteen, I could make a horse run like the wind, like the lightning. Then, they cut my hair short, very, very short," She wrinkled up her pretty nose with disgust.
"-They brought me and one of their good horses to the big farm and called me 'David'," her eyes twinkled at him.
David, being intrigued with her tale so much held his breath and waited for her to continue.
"I raced and won. They earned a lot of money from it. After that, I raced several times. When I won, they allowed me one whole free day and gave me a little pocket money. I could buy sweets and ramble over their farm or a field with the sweets in my pockets. I really was a good jockey."
David couldn't find words.
"Cat ate your tongue, David?" Isabelle laughed cheerfully. There weren't many times that she could make Captain Grief speechless!
Pretend to be a boy! Jockey! My god! Isabelle, you really surprised me!
"-This is a quite amazing story. But how long could you do that? I mean someone must have found a girl like you pretend a boy sooner or later." And you still had to work like that, even after the adapting? Didn't the foster parents let you go to school?
"You're right. I pretended to be a sixteen-year-boy," she chuckled. "I knew I didn't look even fifteen from the first race even if I looked a boy. And I didn't look any boy anymore when I was fourteen even with that ugly, stupid, short hair. So they quitted to use me for their gamble." She frowned slightly and added, "-and I left them."
"You mean they didn't take care of you anymore?"
There was a long pause. David was beginning to feel that he asked a wrong question.
Then Isabelle replied, "I had to leave. Because there wasn't safe for me. So I took some money from their cabinet," Isabelle looked up David challengingly, "-and ran away."
David wasn't sure he could press more but couldn't stop. "Wasn't safe? What do you mean?"
Again, pause, but only a second. She said, "Look at me, David. You can see how pretty I was," she grinned at him. He thought that he already knew her answer.
"They used just a child for their gamble. Can't you see how capable they could be for using a pretty girl for money?" she shrugged. While he didn't find the words, she looked up the sun. It was already just above them. "Why don't we go to lunch?" her tone was even. "You're going to buy a beer for me, David?"
They strode together to Lavinia's talking about next voyage and the cargo. However David's mind couldn't focus in it at all.
Just before they reached the tavern, the rain started.
People went hurry to nearest shades. Two frisky, small Polynesian boys ran past Isabelle. Their father called out for his sons from the Lavinia's porch.
I really hadn't remembered those days for a long time. Why does that memory come back like a recent incident suddenly?
"Come on! What are you doing?" David urged her.
But the slender woman lifted her face high and felt the cool rain on her face.
"I remembered that day was rain."
She didn't answer him and ran for the tavern.
The elegant tavern owner raised her dark eyes towards the entrance to catch the sight of the tall, handsome seaman.
She could always sense his presence when he entered, even though it had been months since their breakup.
Unexpectedly for her, he didn't glance around like usual.
Lavinia well knew that he was avoiding Mo, his best friend.
Odd, he was alone; usually he was with Isabelle Reed when he came in, and seemed unaware of his surroundings tonight.
When he ordered a glass of brandy, their eyes merely met for a brief moment.
-Too quick, Lavinia couldn't give him even a quick smile.
He went to a corner with his glass alone and just stared outside.
David looked back at her again. He could see her standing on the beach with bare feet from where he was working on the dinghy.
They had a short, casual conversation before he had come to the dinghy. She had remained on the beach but urged him to go to work.
The rain started sometimes later.
She had been standing and watching the falling rain on the sea from where he had left her an hour ago.
"Penny for your thoughts."
Isabelle looked up at him slowly. "David."
"Why don't we go to Lavinia's, and I'll buy drinks for us."
She smiled briefly. A smile, very fragile, and innocent. It pained David surprisingly. He had already realized how important Isabelle was for him, and why.
He wanted to comfort her badly, but what could he do?
"Isabelle, I think I can be free tomorrow, so that I'll be available for mending that fence." He knew he sounded fool but no other words came.
Isabelle said nothing.
"Isabelle, this rain's going to pour down. Let's go get a beer."
He gently tugged her arm.
"David." He was stunned as she voiced his name. It was hoarse, and her look -her eyes were lost and really alone on this rainy day, as if she was the only foreign child in this village.
He involuntary gathered her in his arms. Then he heard her talk into his chest.
"When I left the foster family, -when I left there, I stabbed him. And took money and ran away. He tried to have me. He was big and strong, so I stabbed him. I heard from an older worker later that he didn't die. But at that time, I didn't know that. I thought I had killed him. It was rainy. I was hiding in the woods. Cold and frightened…" she trailed off.
David hugged her tight. She wasn't crying or trembling but stood strong as usual.
And it hurt him even more. You don't need to be strong always, Isabelle.
They stood there in the rain, until a soaked Isabelle pushed him away and started towards Lavinia's.
- - -
Lavinia threw a glance at the two from back of her counter.
Every time it had been a little bitter to watch the two together. She had suspected David had had feelings for Isabelle from the very beginning. And now, she was almost sure. However she hadn't been sure that David himself had realized own feelings. –Until today.
She could recognize how he looked at Isabelle, even from a distance.
On her slender shoulders, Isabelle draped one of the towels, which the tavern owner had brought over to dry her drenched friends.
She looked younger-, almost childish today, Lavinia thought.
David dried Isabelle's hair using his towel, and she just let him like a stray cat.
Lavinia didn't know why, but the tender scene somehow didn't make her jealous today.
Maybe because Isabelle looked uncharacteristically lost. Maybe because David looked sad and troubled.
Outside of the tavern, the rain was still falling.