"Stay," I begged her. "Stay with me." But she shook her head regretfully.
"I can't." The rain had started to fall, and her face was flecked with drops.
"You don't have to leave," I said quietly, searching her face. "You could come with me."
"One day, perhaps." She attempted to smile a small, weak smile.
"Please," I said desperately. I looked deep into her eyes, and they were full of sadness and grief, as is she were losing something and was trying to hold on.
"Don't worry," she said gently. "I'll come back. I'll come by moonlight."
"Don't go…" I said. "Elizabeth, I love you." I held her close. She leaned in, and the tip of her long braid brushed my face just as she was removing the ribbon that kept it in place. Her hair fell around us like a waterfall, protecting us from the world. The kiss was loving and gentle, but I felt the pain and sorrow mixed in.
"I'll come back."
"Elizabeth." I stared at her with longing.
"Don't go too far," she whispered.
"But I might have to leave forever—they're looking for me. I may never see you again. "
"Don't. Not yet… Wait until I come. I'll come back."
"Promise?" I asked softly. There was no other choice, but still I hated the decision. I pulled her in a tight, mournful embrace and wished I never had to let her go.
"I promise. One day, all right?"
I stood still as she gently pulled away.
"Goodbye, Jack. I love you. I will always love you."
"Elizabeth," I said again, taking her hand. She looked at me, tears sparkling in her eyes.
"Jack, I'm sorry," she whispered. "Goodbye." I let go of her hand miserably, staring at the dull ground.
"Goodbye." I looked up at her again, staring desperately into her beautiful eyes, feeling my throat close in any other words there might have been.
"Don't go too far," she said. "Don't leave yet—wait for me to return. I'll come back. I'll find you by moonlight."
She started to walk away slowly, up the road towards the hill. I heard the distant sound of horses drawing a carriage on the other side. I watched the figure of Elizabeth becoming smaller and smaller as she grew farther and farther away from me. I stood helplessly in the gloomy weather, not knowing whether it was rain or tears that soaked my face, and watched Elizabeth start to trudge up the hill, her hair swirling around her in the cold, bitter wind. Then, at the crest of the hill, just as she was about to disappear down the other side, I saw her turn around and call back to me.
"Wait for me!"
And she was gone.
I stood in the darkness, still and silent.
The memories haunted me. In the daytime I could drive them away with the duties of a captain, but they came at night, by moonlight. They came with the flood of silver light that washed over me and the Pearl when the clouds parted.
I loved her, but she never came back. I remembered, and as I remembered, I could see it all before me--her shining eyes, her slender form, the wave of her hair in the wind. I closed my eyes and I could hear her charming voice and uplifting laughter, and when I opened my eyes again she stood before me, at the bow where she so often stood.
"Elizabeth," I whispered, but she was fading away--yet another illusion that I had to watch disappear.
She said she would come by moonlight. She said to wait...
I had waited. I had waited for her for months--perhaps even a year already. I didn't count; it didn't matter; every day was a dull passing of time without her.
Above me, the loose sails flapped a little in the ghostly whisper of a breeze, tattered and worn from years of flying taut in the wind.
She said she loved me.
There was no moonlight tonight. The night before the waning crescent had been the faintest and most delicate of silver curves; tonight there was nothing. Perhaps the next day there would be a new moon, but there was no moonlight tonight.
She said not to go too far.
I hadn't gone too far, and every so often I circled close to Port Royal, in a desperately hopeful way. It was dangerous, I knew, to be sailing so close, seeing as the Royal Guard were still on the lookout for me, but love knew no boundaries.
There weren't even stars tonight, as if they had gone to search for their lunar companion.
Every day her absence pierced into me like a dagger, and I would have happily given up the ship to see her again--to hold her, to kiss her, to stare into her eyes. For weeks--months, perhaps--I stood at the helm, whether it be in moonlight or darkness, waiting for her, letting the terrible, devastasting pain sink into me. I had lost almost all hope, after having bitter disappointment, in seeing her again, but still I waited--because she had asked, and I would wait for eternity.
She said she would come back.
Pain was like nothing else in the world. It ate through me, gnawed at my emotions, brought forth the most wretched feelings, until there was nothing left for it. I felt nothing now--or almost nothing.
At first there was only sorrow and grief. She's gone. There were no other thoughts for a long time. I felt as if I had been breathing deeply perfect air, and all of a sudden it was all gone and there was only the thinnest air to sustain my lungs. And it hurt.
After a while I couldn't tell whether or not I was angry. She had given me a taste of something--the richest, sweetest flavor, the feelings and desires of a human. She had taught me how to feel, how to love, how to laugh--she had let me feel all the reasons to be living... and she had torn it away. But I knew she hadn't wanted to leave. It had been for Will--even though they both knew she no longer loved him, even though they both knew the wound was sapping away the rest of his life.
But still I stood every evening to watch the moon rise. It was always there--except perhaps when the raining clouds covered it, or the last of the waning crescent was gone, but I knew it still had to be there, somewhere in the sky. How steadfast and faithful it was--and unlike people... would it really stay there forever? Would it be there when she came back? Would she come back?
I looked up into the sky. It had rained in the afternoon, and the gloomy grey clouds were parting. I watched for the moon. Yes, it was there, it was a full moon. The great silver orb hung in the sky, emitting a pearly white, incandescent light, turning the ancient wood, the ropes, even the ebony sails to a glowing grey. And with this moonlight I imagined again--I imagined sailing into Tortuga and finding another ship, just arrived. And perhaps, perhaps, it carried her. With this moonlight came the promise of happiness again, an idyllic life like the one I lived before I met her, simple and beautiful.
Perhaps, on another moonlit night like this one.
She said she loved me.
She said to wait for her.
She said she would find me by moonlight.
She said she would come back.