Disclaimer: I own nothing that belongs to Disney, not these characters, not even a pair of Mickey Mouse ears. Really. I do own the character of Grand-mama. But you can have her if you want.
This story is the seed that grew into a behemoth of a story that I'm working on now, called "So Much to Learn". It was born fully formed one night while I was admiring the awesome stars I had just had painted on my bedroom ceiling. Sleeping in my master bedroom now is just like sleeping outside, only with central heating/air conditioning, and no mosquitoes. Comfort and inspiration all in one place--what could be better? But I digress. This is my first publicly offered fanfic. Polite comments and criticism and adoration are welcomed.
Elizabeth itched. She itched everywhere—her scalp, her arms, her legs, around her waist where the stiff woolen pants rubbed against her skin, and other places she tried not to think about because scratching there just made it worse. She gave up trying to sleep and sat up carefully, making sure she did not bump her head. She crawled out from under the steps, pushing the canvas curtain aside. When she was sure she was well away from the stairs, she stood up and walked out onto the deck. It was a clear, moonless night and every star in the black Caribbean sky was ablaze. As she studied the sky the ship's watch bell rang 2 o'clock in the morning. It was going to be a long and itchy night.
She walked over to the base of the mainmast and sat down with her back against it, stretched out her legs and looked at her feet. She was slightly surprised to even be able to see them because she knew that they were nearly as black as the deck upon which she sat. Most likely so was her face, although she did not know for certain because she had not been near a mirror in weeks. She made a half-hearted attempt to run a hand through her hair, but pulled it back before she hit the mass of matted tangles that started at the back of her head. She cringed at the greasiness of the hair where she touched it. Elizabeth was disgusted. She had never before gone more than a few days without a bath in her entire life. She had lost count of the days she had spent on the ship, but she knew it had been several weeks since she had so much as had a chance to wash her face properly. She reminded herself yet again to never leave home without soap, a face flannel and a good comb.
She leaned back and looked up at the stars. The glorious tropical night sky glittered above her like shards of crystal on black horsehair. Elizabeth was suddenly taken back to a scene from her childhood that seemed so distant and long ago that it could have been a story from a book.
Elizabeth was nine years old. Her mother had been dead for three years. Every summer her father took Elizabeth away from London on holiday to visit her maternal grandmother who lived in the countryside not far from Burton-Upon-Trent. Grand-mama was a stern woman. Her house was immaculate because her servants lived in fear of her reaction if she ever found even a speck of dirt they had missed. She had room after room of furniture that never saw visitors because it was "too good to use", and fragile gee-gaws everywhere.
During this particular visit, Elizabeth had been left to her own devices while Grand-mama and her father discussed whatever it was that adults talked about. Elizabeth had been reading a book about pirates before they had left home, but Father had not allowed her to bring along the book. She was not allowed to touch anything in Grand-mama's home, so she had nothing to do to amuse herself indoors. In fact, Grand-mama seemed quite oblivious to her presence. If forced to acknowledge her, Grand-mama often sniffed audibly as if something unpleasant was nearby.
Elizabeth wished she had the book she had been reading before they had come to Grand-mama's. She was entranced with the stories of the battles, and in her mind she fancied herself quite a swords woman. She ventured outside onto the perfectly manicured grounds, and found a piece of pruned tree branch, which transformed itself handily into a rapier in her nine year old hands. She tucked her skirts up into her petticoat waistband to free up her feet, and spent a happy hour or two fighting imaginary foes around Grand-mama's many gardens and ponds. It had begun to rain, so she had moved the battle indoors and continued it in one of Grand-mama's many unused parlors, far from where Grand-mama and her father sat talking.
She had been gleefully leaping from the sofa to a chair in pursuit of an invisible enemy when the slippery horsehair upholstery on the sofa tripped her up. Tree branch sword still gripped tightly, she threw her hands out to keep from falling teeth first into the corner of Grand-mama's lacquered Chinese cabinet. The stick in her hand caught a small cut crystal bowl that sat atop the cabinet. It slammed it into the wall and shattered loudly into thousands of pieces which scattered themselves over the black horsehair upholstery.
In only seconds, Grand-mama stormed into the parlor, followed closely by her father and several of the maids. Grand-mama stopped just inside the door to survey the damage. There were dirty footprints on the upholstery of every seat in the room. The rugs were all wrinkled and shoved aside, the curtains were awry, there were handprints on all the highly polished furniture, and the crystal dish was entirely beyond repair. Elizabeth stood in the center of the room with the stick held in her hands behind her. Her shoes were filthy, her skirts were still tucked up to one side in the waistband of her petticoats and there was mud all round the hems.
Her father spoke first. "Elizabeth, are you hurt?" Elizabeth only shook her head mutely.
Grand-mama's voice sounded like far away thunder on the horizon, and it grew louder with each question. "Elizabeth Swann, what is that in your hand? What are you doing with that filthy stick in my house? What have you done to your dress, girl? What happened to my grandmother's crystal dish? That was the only remnant of her few belongings to pass to me, and now it's ruined! What did you do to my lovely furniture? Where did all this dirt come from? WHY did you bring a stick into the house? Answer me!"
Elizabeth stared her straight in the eye and replied simply "I was playing swords and pirates, Grand-mama."
Grand-mama blanched, and turned to Elizabeth's father. "Oh, my stars! Weatherby, you're raising my granddaughter to be a hooligan! It's a blessedly good thing Anne can't see the way she's turning out, or she'd be spinning in her grave. Why can't you be a proper father and raise her up to be a lady instead of a… a PIRATE!?"
Weatherby looked a bit queasy. "She's just a child. There will be time for her to grow up soon enough. She's quite a spirited girl, and she has her own ideas about things."
It wasn't a very good answer, but it was the truth.
Grand-mama only hesitated a second. "Elizabeth, give me the stick". She held out her hand for it. Before Elizabeth could move, Grand-mama grabbed the stick away from her, gripped the hand that had held it and caned the back of it with the stick. Whack. "Ladies do not play in the mud." Whack. "Ladies do not climb on furniture." Whack. "Ladies do not break things belonging to other people." Whack. "Ladies do not fight with swords." Whack. "Ladies do not pretend to be pirates." She stopped then, broke the stick over her knee, and threw it to the floor. Then she turned on Weatherby again. She failed to notice that Elizabeth did not cry.
"Weatherby Swann, you are ruining your child with leniency. You must put a stop to this foolish imagination nonsense and force some sense into her very soon. Otherwise, your daughter will grow up to be a wild and undisciplined woman full of… of…. ideas... which will get her into trouble at every opportunity. Women like that cheapen themselves. They attract only perfidious and dishonest men. If you do not take action immediately, your only child will end up trying to live by her wits in a world of deceitful men. Unless she is very, very lucky, which is not likely, she will end up no better than a filthy pirate or a common strumpet."
Weatherby had noticed the look in Elizabeth's eyes as she stared at her grandmother. He was rightfully worried that Elizabeth would speak out. He quickly knelt by her, took her hand and examined it. Elizabeth took her reddened and rapidly swelling hand from him and said quietly "I'm fine, Father. May we please go home soon?" Her father agreed that it was indeed time to go home. He had a servant call for his carriage. When it came up, he politely bid his late wife's mother goodbye, boosted Elizabeth into the seat, and they drove off. Elizabeth said nothing. She had not understood every word Grand-mama had said, but she definitely understood that she had been insulted. And the caning….that was purely beyond belief. Elizabeth had never been hit before. She never saw her grandmother again before they left for Jamaica, and she did not miss her one bit. She had not thought of the woman even once since then...until tonight.
Elizabeth roused herself from her memories and looked again at the sparkling stars.
She caught motion out of the corner of her eye. Jack came out of his cabin and headed up the stairs toward the ship's wheel. He saw her on the deck below him and smiled, a leer in his grin. He toasted her with an imaginary bottle and grinned that lascivious grin again. Elizabeth shrugged her jacket tighter around herself, sending a new wave of itching across her back. She grimaced. It pained her to think that all these years later, maybe, just maybe, Grand-mama had been right.