Summary: "I suppose we are all held by boundaries, even those of our own making." A man and his daughter, isolated and restricted by those invisible lines that restrain them, that keep them from what they truly desire. Norrington, OC
There had always, always, been boundaries for her.
Growing up the daughter of an important and powerful man, there were never-ending invisible lines drawn everywhere, holding her back and preventing her from doing things that were not right, that were not proper for a lady of her standing. She could never associate too closely with the boys of the town, the boys who were not officers of the Navy nor sons of the upper class families. She neither could join the hired help in a game of cards or even chat with one of her personal maids.
And she could never, never venture too closely to the common docks. Ever. A decree declared so by her father, who had fixed a look of steel onto her as he spoke his command, reminding her that to him, she was not much more that another of his crew, and that she was to obey him, completely and utterly.
She was the product of a loveless marriage, the child of two people joined only by law and by the silent agreement of benefiting each other. Her father had received the son, the heir, he desired; her mother had obtained her freedom from her fate of loneliness and the elevation in stature that she had so craved. More like a business transaction then a marriage, they were husband and wife in name only. And she, she was the leftover, the initial attempt at a son destined for a greater future, a daughter with little purpose and even less attention given.
Not that she was ignored or abused; far from it. As a young girl, she had been cared for intently, by both the hired help and the somewhat distant affections of her mother. She had received an excellent education, far beyond any that all the other girls her age had obtained. She could read, and write, and compose poems and songs that were eternally locked away in her wardrobe, safe from the world. No, she was not ignored, just simply almost forgotten about, as if her presence could simply be erased from another's mind.
Her mother had passed on three years ago, after a bout with a lung infection that would not release its all-consuming hold upon her. Her brother was gone for five years now, first to a proper institution in England to complete his final three years of education, then into the Navy, taking his first true steps into the destiny that had been planned for him since before his birth.
And her father, he was constantly away, either out on the sea or occupying himself with the tasks of his office. Her father, the strange, isolated enigma. She had never truly understood him, the tall and contrarily imposing man of a slight build, a man who said few words in his family's presence and showed even less emotion.
That was why, Isabelle noted, that she had been so completely taken aback when she had discovered him on the main balcony in the dead of night, eyes concentrated on the black sea before him, the opaque waters consuming the world beyond the town and extending far past the horizon.
"Oh!" she exclaimed, as she stepped out onto the landing, startled entirely. "I'm so sorry, Father, I did not intend to intrude." She quickly made to leave, turning and striding forwards swiftly to escape the balcony. It was only when her slender fingers grasped the door handle that she heard a deep and quiet voice resonate in the air behind her, a voice that was so rare for her to hear.
"Please stay, Isabelle."
Her hand froze, touching the cool finish of the handle. There was something strange in his voice, a secret and alien vulnerability that she had never, ever heard before. She retracted her fingers, and turned back towards the moon and the stars, and away from the door and the house beyond.
"Father?" she asked softly, unsure of what to do next.
She heard a strange noise escape his lips, and as she stared uncertainly at the outline of his back, she realized that he was chuckling, laughing softly into the night air. However, she could almost taste the bitter undertones that permeated his superficial mirth, a laugh that was ridden with angst. Without her knowing it, she moved closer to him, and found herself standing beside him on the edge of the terrace, placing one delicate hand on the railing before her. Saying nothing more, she became immobile, simply waiting.
"I was not always like this, you know," he began softly, turning to steal a swift glance at her, and smiling sadly as he gazed into her eyes. "I was someone else, something else, long ago. A man of feeling, a man of emotion. I truly, completely, loved another woman, so long ago."
Isabelle stayed motionless, absorbing his revelation without speaking. She was still stunned by her father's sudden willingness to speak with her, let alone reveal secrets of his closely guarded past to her.
He sighed, with long contained grief, steadying himself with both hands placed onto the railing. "She died this day, seven years ago. I have no idea how, or where, or even who killed her. But she died, a pirate until the end."
At this, Isabelle could no longer remain silent. "A pirate?" she exclaimed, incredulous. James Norrington hated pirates, loathed those thieves of the sea with alarming ferocity, hunting them down and capturing them with renowned fervour.
The man beside her grinned at his daughter's confusion, but his smile was short-lived. "A pirate indeed," he whispered softly, remembered in the pale moonlight the curve of Elizabeth's neck, the determined eyes, and her dazzling smile. Her ghost lived within him, a permanent reminder of all the failures he had ever known.
"You loved her?" There was more than a little jealousy in her voice, though she had tried her hardest to mask it.
"I did," he admitted, looking down and studying the veneer of the polished wood with a wary eye. "And I will love her forever."
Isabelle's voice rose once more, soft in the silent evening air. "Then how did you lose her?" she asked, unrelenting.
At this, he grimaced to himself, as he dropped his hands down to his sides. "Boundaries, my daughter. Lines that I drew myself, silent borders that could not be trespassed. My own pride and honour prevented me from demonstrating to her my true feelings, my true nature. I wanted nothing more than to sweep her into my arms and take her away. But my boundaries stopped me, stopped me from doing everything I wanted and everything I craved."
He turned then, away from th shadow of the night, and stared deeply into the cerulean orbs of his daughter, his first-born child, a child that reminded him constantly of a life he almost had, a life he could have had. The determined set of her lips, and the restrained defiance in her eyes, the perfect combination of self-control and independence that had defined his Elizabeth. He paused, almost uncertain of how to continue..
"Isabelle..." he began, as he found the strength to continue, "I am sorry that I have not proven to be the father that I had always imagined myself to be. I am sorry that I have not shown you the care and consideration that you so deserve. And I am sorry that I was never present for you, from your birth until this moment. You are my daughter, and, contrary to all evidence, I do truly love you."
At this, his eyes turned strange, and he looked away, uncomfortable and slightly shaken at his own candor. He grew even more surprised when he felt the warm touch of another's hand upon his, and he turned to see the sad smile of the young woman who was his daughter.
"You are my father, and I love you as well. And I am sorry for the love that you have lost, for the woman that you were never able to have. I am sorry for the future that eluded you, forever gone."
And her hand dropped away from his, as she looked down with the light of the whole moon, her gaze locked upon the mysterious and forbidden common docks, which still, even at this hour, showed a quiet activity, busy and silent under the cover of night.
"I suppose we are all held by boundaries, even those of our own making." she whispered.
Under the pale illumination cast by a brilliant Caribbean sky, the two figures considered silently and painfully futures and fates that would never be theirs, forever contained and restrained by the numerous invisible boundaries of their lives.