I. two months.When she realizes she is going to have a child, she knows somehow that it is a son. The kind made right after the passionate rage of battle. And she secretly prays that he will be like both of them, not only one.
All of this time and she still has never truly chosen one of them. But at least she did not have to.
William James. A nice name. But not Will. He is not here.
II. five years.
Nobody calls her Elizabeth anymore. It is such a terribly formal, sophisticated name. It just isn't right for a woman who can doze off on a filthy floor, lulled to sleep by the creaking of the ship around her as it sways back and forth.
She seems to be only half-asleep, somehow aware of the sound even as she is unresponsive to anything else. The wood squeaks softly in somewhat of a constant, slow rhythm, like the Pearl is snoring. Then suddenly, the new sound of footsteps on the stairs makes her eyes open. Jack has gone down to the bottom deck to get something, without a doubt because he's run out of rum. Suddenly feeling more awake, she sits up and looks around at where everyone else is curled up or sprawled out in a deep slumber.
Right across from her on the opposite side of the ship, Ada and Lars are lying together sharing a hammock, looking like they are meant to fit together entwined so tightly. The newest additions to Jack's ever-changing crew, they have been sailing the seas together for six years but are yet to admit to anyone, including themselves, that they are quite in love. Watching them looking so peaceful together in their sleep, as they never allow anyone to see them when they are awake, makes her smile. Loving each other and never saying it, she supposes, is better than being bound in name and with words but not truly belonging to each other at all.
These days she goes with Jack to all the places he thinks to take the Black Pearl whenever she fancies doing so. Sometimes she is part of the crew. Sometimes she is just there. And she will stay until one of them does something to give them reason to pretend to be enemies again and she either knows she has worn out her welcome or is too angry to stay. Then in another few months, she will be back. They play their old games this way, each perhaps a little afraid of when the game will be over. Of there being a winner, once and for all.
It was him who started calling her Lizzie, of course.
Jack has come back with a bottle of rum in each hand and he walks over to stand above her, holding a bottle out to her. She takes it with a sleepy smile as he sits down next to her, pulls the cork out with her teeth and throws back a long drink.
She is now thinking of Billy, left behind at Tortuga with Gibbs to look after him, who elected to sit out on this particular voyage after he got his arm broken in a brawl at a tavern. Billy is almost four and a half. It marks an important time.
"Five years, Jack," she says quietly. "It's halfway here."
He knows what she is talking about without asking. He knows all the time that it is on her mind. That is why she still follows him everywhere. She needs to do something to make the time seem shorter. But it already feels like it was in another life that he made Will stab that heart. He doesn't even remember why he did it.
He looks to the side at her, his head rolling lazily but his dark eyes focused on her intensely. "I know, Lizzie."
They drink to Will, clashing their separate bottles together softly so as not to wake anyone. It seems this is always how it is: each of them craving the same thing, but never drinking from the same bottle. As they sit there side by side, not even their shoulders touch. But their breathing seems matched, the rhythm the same, just like the quiet murmuring of the ship feels like a part of them. Jack is tired, and closes his eyes. Lizzie watches Ada and Lars holding each other as they sleep across from them. An identical deep sense of peace fills both of them.
When they come back, Billy will run to his mother and she will kiss him adoringly, arms squeezing him from all around, and she will say, "Look what Mommy brought for you, darling," and hand him a gold medallion the size of his little palm. Then when Jack appears behind her, he will run to him just as excitedly. His presents will be bigger, and the boy will never know how to appreciate all his mother has done to give him as much as she can. A hero to look up to, who lets him look through his telescope and wear his hat, even if she feels a faint, unexplainable ache in her heart to watch them together.
She goes to all these distant destinations with Jack, constantly in search of something, but seems to always take little and give most of it away. She has never really cared for gold. It is the desire that matters most to her, not the prize.
III. ten years.
When the day that Billy shall meet his father finally shows its face, Lizzie does not know what she expected it to look like. Brighter green, maybe.
When Will steps onto land at last and they run to each other, he says with heavy emotion, "Elizabeth," and she looks at him in a way that makes him wonder what is wrong. Was that her name? It feels like it was never her real one. He will never know what she has become, all she has done, all she has seen. Even if she tells him all about it, it will not be the same. He was not here.
She does not know how to tell him, so she instead looks down at Billy and puts a hand on his shoulder, telling her husband who he is. William James Turner, his son. A prize after ten long years.
But somehow he knows. The child is his but not his, just as she was never anyone's. It is nobody's fault. A boy needs a father. As she feared, he grew to be like only one of them.
At least she did not have to choose.