A/N: So sorry for the long delay! I got really caught up in my Run Over story and schools been hectic and stuff.
A sharp knock on my cabin door broke me out of my daydream. Glancing at the old clock in the corner, I raised my eyebrows. It was only seven in the morning. Who would want anything from me at this hour?
Sighing irritably – Jesse had been playing the lead role in my daydream – I got up and unbolted the door. Opening it, I found myself face to face with Captain Paul Slater.
"Miss Susannah," he said pleasantly, a typical charming smile on his face. "Good morning."
"I--uh, good morning, Captain," I said confusedly. "Can I help you?"
His perfectly shaped lips stretching further on both sides, he answered, "Well, it's a beautiful morning, Miss Susannah. I was wondering if you would like to accompany me for a walk on the deck." "If you're not busy, of course," he added as an afterthought.
He had me there. He knew I couldn't possibly have anything important to do all throughout the voyage so I couldn't possibly find a polite enough excuse to reject his offer.
"Of course, Captain," I replied in my most dignified voice. Wrapping my shawl tighter around my cotton dress, I stepped out of the cabin and closed the door behind me.
Once we were on deck, Captain Slater led us to the quieter side of the ship where none of the crew ever intruded. I silently waited for him to start talking. He had some intention, I knew, he did not just call me out for the sake of walking.
"Beautiful morning isn't it?" he asked, nodding towards the mellow yellow sun reflecting on the gentle waves.
I nodded, waiting for him to get to the point. "Yes, it is beautiful."
"Miss Susannah," the Captain said at last. He looked out onto the sea for a few seconds and then took a deep breathe and turned to look at me directly in the eyes. I noticed how beautifully blue his eyes were, the same color as the sea on a hot afternoon.
"It has been about three weeks since we first met each other on the day this ship set sail. During these few weeks, I have noticed the fine woman that you are, Miss Susannah. You have all the excellent qualities of a refined young woman. Therefore I—I want to ask for your hand in marriage, Susannah," he said, never breaking eye contact with me.
I stared up at the Captain, shocked. Suddenly, the rhythmic rocking of ship that normally would lull me to sleep made me feel nauseous. I had been expecting a marriage proposal from him some time, but not so soon.
"M-marry?" I squeaked, looking at him wide-eyed. Suddenly, the place seemed too hot. My hair was sticking to the back of my neck from the sweat.
"Yes, Miss Susannah. Marry," he answered, still not breaking eye contact. He looked a little guarded now and I noticed his return to using 'Miss' before my name.
My mind was flying. Should I accept his proposal? I knew my father would be greatly pleased if I did. I knew too that my life would be set, marrying such a rich, well-connected man like Captain Paul Slater.
But I didn't love him. I certainly did not. Because my heart belonged to another man. Another man who, incidentally, happened to be on that same ship.
My silence must have been long because the Captain said slightly worriedly, "Miss Susannah?"
I blinked. "I…uh…could you please give me some time to think about it? We are on a ship after all, there's no hurry," I said.
The look in the Captain's eyes was not so amiable anymore. I had a suspicion that he didn't think of the morning as all that beautiful anymore. His eyes, so beautiful when he was smiling, were now giving me an icy stare.
Pursing his lips slightly, he replied, "Very well. You can tell me when you make up your mind, Miss Susannah. I'll see you at breakfast." With that he walked away, pausing only to nod at my father who was making his way towards me.
"What did he want, Susannah?" my father asked watching Captain Slater walk away.
I gulped and looked up into my father's chocolate brown eyes, so warm compared to Paul Slater's icy gaze. I couldn't lie to him. Not to my father.
Staring down at the toes of my boots, I mumbled, "He asked for my hand in marriage."
Finally daring to look at father's face, I saw him stare wonderingly at me. "He did? My dear child, what did you say?"
"I...umm…I asked for some…uh, time," I answered, grimacing at what would come next.
Father frowned. "You did not say yes?"
Biting my lip and staring at the wooden floor, I nervously shook my head.
After a long pause, I heard him sigh wearily. "Let's go to breakfast, Susannah."
"…and I told him I needed some time and now my father is disappointed with me and won't talk to me," I finished explaining to Jesse.
I had slipped down to his cell in the dead of the night just like I had been doing for the past three weeks. Fortunately, his broken door hadn't been fixed due to the lack of wood. Entering the dingy little room always washed over me a feeling of complete peace and warmth, no matter the dirt and the pungent odor.
Jesse and I talked about our lives before, about books and plays we had seen and our families. Nothing else. Just talked. Even though each hour with him made me want to do more than that with him.
He had also remained stoutly silent on the reason to his being in a convict ship in the first place. And I just couldn't figure out how a man like him could have committed a crime worthy of getting him shipped to Australia. I knew he was not criminal. I just knew.
Now he was looking at me intently in the dim light of the lantern I had brought with me.
"Why didn't you say yes?" he asked suddenly.
I blinked. Was he seriously asking me that? Wasn't the answer obvious?
"I—I don't love him," I stuttered.
Jesse's normally tired but cheerful form was suddenly rigid. He was looking out onto the sea through a hole in the wood beside his head. His large hands, I noticed, were clenched into fists.
"Oh?" he lightly said, still looking through the hole, stone-faced. "Why not? He's rich and, from what I've heard, very handsome. Any woman would be thrilled to marry him." His words were strongly laced with bitterness even though he tried hard to hide it.
I gave a loud, very unladylike snort. Jesse looked over at me and raised his eyebrows amusedly. I blushed and lowered my eyes to my skirt – I didn't want Jesse to think of me as manly in any way if I wanted him to kiss – yes, yes, that's what I wanted to do with him – me, did I?
"I…well, that doesn't make me love him, does it?" I mumbled, still looking at my skirt from embarrassment.
"I suppose." Jesse's voice sounded strange to me. Looking up at him, I noticed he was looking at me strangely. I had noticed him look at me like that a few times before but this time he didn't do anything to hide it.
Slowly, he closed in the polite distance we had been keeping and gently took my chin in his fingers and tilted my face up so I was looking directly at him.
My breath caught. The dancing little fire from the lantern reflected on his black eyes, forming two stars in each. I looked deep into his eyes, so deeply that I could faintly distinguish his pupil from his coal-black iris.
Suddenly the both of us were breathing hard, like we had just come in from an exertion. Slowly, he leaned forward and, at last, he claimed my lips in his own.
The kiss…it was like nothing I had ever experienced before. It was my first ever kiss but I could still make out that it was a very good one. Jesse's full lips caressed mine gently and deliberately. His hands were placed modestly at my waist, however. He was a gentleman, I could see. Another confusion as to why he was in a convict's cell.
When we were both out of breathe, we began to pull apart but we just couldn't. We leaned our foreheads against each other's and didn't fully break the contact between our lips. It was a gentle, lingering caress, a hesitation to part, like we were memorizing each and every detail of the feeling before parting.
"Susannah?" Jesse said. His voice was deep and ragged, making an excited shiver run down my spine.
"Yes?" I answered, still panting slightly.
"I'm glad you didn't say yes, querida."
A/N: Not my best, I know. But please review!