She was not home. She never was anymore. Will wasn't sure why he bothered stopping by the governor's mansion on his way home. He'd grown tired of the slightly pitying looks the governor gave him when he asked if Elizabeth was in. It was a farce he kept up only in hope that one day, she would be home and their lives would return to normal... to how things were before Jack Sparrow and his infernal ship.
Will wound his way down the path to the bluff where he knew he'd find Elizabeth. She's been there every afternoon since they'd returned from World's End nearly a year earlier. He spotted her near the edge, her light dress blowing out behind her. With her eyes fixed on the horizon, she looked almost ghostly. He walked up behind her, making no attempts to hide his presence, but she did not turn. He inhaled her scent, amazed at how unfamiliar it seemed to him. He had always remembered her smelling of lavender soap, rose, and linen, but now he caught whiffs of pepper, coffee, and, most disturbingly, something that smelled like rhum.
"I stopped by your house. Your father said I'd find you here."
"Elizabeth, you must stop coming here every day. I've heard whispers about town that you've gone mad after our ...ordeal... You must understand that I don't care, but I don't want people to say such things about you." He went to brush his hand against her windburned cheek, but she shied away.
"I can't sit in the house all day and make samplers and darn socks like you and everyone else seems to want me too. I can't be at sea; must you insist I no longer see it too? Really, Will, you're getting as bad as James Norrington is."
He sighed. "I only say this out of concern for you. I love you, Elizabeth. We're to be married, I only want you to be happy."
"You only say this out of concern for your shop. You fear that no one will want to have swords made by a hand that holds a crazy woman. Isn't that what everyone is saying, after all?" She turned her face slightly and he could see the hard look she had developed there in the last few months. There was no point in arguing when she got into moods like this. He sighed.
"You only want me to be happy," she continued. "In a way you consider proper. No running about, no watching the sea from the bluffs, no pirates." Her eyes returned to the horizon, the look on her face clearly saying that Will didn't understand a thing about what made her happy.
"All right, you win. I'll come here tomorrow rather than stopping by your father's house." The corner of her mouth twitched and twisted into a semblance of a grimace. It was the closest he'd seen to a smile since she'd walked off the gangplank of the Black Pearl. "Now, will you at least allow me the pleasure of walking you home? I'd hate for your father to think that I allowed you to be out alone at night."
She turned with a sigh and stepped towards him. She did not reach for his arm, as she had in the past, but instead chose to brush past him and head down the path. Before following her, Will turned to look out over the bluff. The sun had begun to set, a glowing red orb in the sky. It would be hot tomorrow, he figured. Motion made his eyes drop to the horizon and for a moment, he would have sworn that he saw the ghost of a black ship at the perceivable edge of the world. It was only a moment, though, and when he blinked, whatever he had seen was gone. He had to hurry to catch up to Elizabeth, who was halfway down the path. She never waited for him anymore.
He sat in the drawing room of the governor's mansion, having a glass of brandy as he watched Elizabeth. She had withdrawn into herself again after dinner. Now, she was sitting and sorting through a small box of found objects and things she had collected. Will supposed she had picked them up on the shore as she wandered. She held each object up, as though appraising it, before repacking it in a small wooden chest. She had ignored him since he came into the room, so he set down his snifter and walked over to where she sat. He reached for a small, familiar looking, silver ornament.
"What's this?" She looked up, startled by his voice, and snatched away the object before he could touch it.
"It's nothing," she snapped, slamming the lid of the box shut. "Just a little trinket I found washed up on the beach. Why the interest?"
He stepped back, as though she had slapped him. He could feel the heat rising in his cheeks at her harsh words. He had no idea what had happened to her over the past few months, but it was difficult to take. His mind drifted back to after Jack had been lost, after he'd seen her kissing him aboard the ship before his "heroic" choice to stay behind, and his confrontation of her at that voodoo woman's shack... what was her name? Tia Donna? He couldn't remember now. It wasn't important anymore. She had tearfully confessed the kiss and begged him to forgive her, that it meant nothing to her, to Jack, or to anyone and it should mean nothing to Will. He'd believed her then; he couldn't imagine her lying, but her behaviour had been odd since that moment. Finding Jack had briefly alleviated it, but the gloom had returned the moment she left the Pearl.
He was dragged from his thoughts by the featherlight touch of fingers on his hand. Elizabeth was looking at him without the hard look he'd grown so accustomed to. Instead, regret softened her features.
"I'm sorry, Will," she said softly. "I shouldn't've snapped. I've just been somewhere else lately and the only thing that helps is being by the sea."
Will nodded, accepting her apology, but the only thing that stuck with him was how empty and dead her eyes seemed. Perhaps after they were married, they would go someone outside of Port Royal for a few days. The change, he thought, would do her a world of good. Better than sitting around the bluff staring at the sea, that was for sure... He'd speak to Governor Swann tomorrow and see about moving the wedding date closer. The sooner things began moving up, the sooner Elizabeth would be able to move on.