Something was wrong. Jacqueline was not responding. Her mouth was slightly open in shock. After a few moments of silence, she closed her mouth and swallowed hard. "James…" She shook her head ever so slightly.
Norrington felt his heart drop into his stomach. She was going to say no.
"James…I'm sorry. It's too soon."
Norrington released her hand and looked away. "I…I'm sorry. I should not have asked. You hardly know me."
Jacqueline took his hand, and he raised his eyes to hers, suddenly daring to hope. "You don't understand," she said quietly. "I-I didn't mean…" Her gaze dropped to the sand beneath their feet. "I was to be married by now." She took a deep breath. "I just lost my fiancé, James. I'm not ready." She looked up at him, biting her lip. "Please don't…don't think that I don't…" Her eyes lowered again. "I need time, James. To heal."
Norrington lifted her chin. "I understand. It's too soon." Jacqueline smiled softly and nodded. She squeezed his hand and began walking along the beach, Norrington pacing alongside her. A few minutes later, Norrington hesitantly asked, "Does this mean that, under different circumstances…?"
Jacqueline turned to face the sea, and Norrington was quite sure that she was blushing. "The answer would be different," she said quietly after a moment.
Norrington took a deep breath. "That's…excellent," he said. Jacqueline laughed quietly, and Norrington suddenly felt something light touch his cheek. He turned sharply to Jacqueline, who was now refusing to look at him. Norrington felt himself flush as he reached up with his free hand and touched the spot where Jacqueline's lips had touched his face.
Jacqueline continued to live at Norrington's mansion, though still in the bedroom down the hall. Somehow, rumors never managed to circulated far enough to reach the ears of Governor Swann. The servants were quite tight-lipped about Jacqueline—Norrington was under the impression that Jacqueline had asked them to keep quiet in order to preserve their master's image.
Two weeks after his proposal, Norrington received new orders for the Intrepid. He was to be at sea for four weeks. The morning that he was to leave, he was running late, and was still putting on his uniform as he rushed down the stairs. Jacqueline seemed to find it endlessly amusing when he was unable to find the second sleeve of his coat.
"All the servants had to choose today to get an early start at the market…" he muttered as Jacqueline finally helped him get his arm through the sleeve. She straightened the front of the coat and dusted it off a bit.
"You can't get dressed by yourself?"
Norrington glared at her as she laughed again. "Promise me you won't be out after dark," Norrington said. Jacqueline gave him an innocent look, but promised nothing. "Jacqueline, it can be dangerous at night." He kissed her forehead. "And I would never forgive myself if something happened to you."
Jacqueline bit her lip. "Fine," she said after a moment. "As long as you promise not to go off and get killed by pirates."
Norrington smiled. "Worried?" Jacqueline didn't look at him. His brow furrowed slightly, realizing that she was indeed worried. "I'll be fine," he said quietly. "I promise." He started heading towards the door. "And don't forget me and run off with some sailor while I'm gone," he joked.
Jacqueline laughed brightly. "I could never forget you, James." Norrington smiled. Jacqueline walked over to him, looking up at his hat. She shook her head and reached up to it. "It's crooked," she said. "Do you not have a mirror in your room?"
Norrington reached up and touched her soft cheek. Jacqueline looked down from his hat and to his eyes. They were standing only about half a foot away from each other. Her hands dropped slowly from his hat and onto his chest. She awkwardly straightened his coat again.
Norrington lifted her face to look up at him and slowly brought his down to meet it. Norrington gently touched his lips to hers, closing his eyes. Jacqueline pressed against his lips slightly, her hands still on his chest.
Norrington pulled away a few blissful moments later. Jacqueline's cheeks were tinged pink, and she bit her lip. She cleared her throat and began looking everywhere except directly at Norrington.
"I…" Norrington began. He smiled boyishly. "I'll be back in about four weeks," he said quietly.
Jacqueline nodded. "Right," she said with an awkward smile.
Norrington took a gold ring from his pocket, the emerald set in it glinting brilliantly in the early morning light. He took Jacqueline's right hand and placed the ring on her finger. He then kissed her hand. "This was my mother's," he whispered. "If I see this on your left hand, I will know you have healed." Jacqueline nodded in understanding; Norrington did not need to clarify.
"Goodbye, Captain," she said with a smile. "I'll see you…later."
Captain Norrington returned to Port Royal nearly a week earlier than he had expected, and came home to an empty mansion. The servants believed that Norrington would be returning in five days, and Jacqueline was doubtlessly wandering on the beach.
The sun began to set, yet Jacqueline did not return. Norrington smiled and shook his head. He supposed he should not have believed that she would do as he had asked. She was a unique and independent woman, with seemingly undying love for the night and sea.
Anne was the first to return to the house. She appeared to nearly faint when she saw him. "Sir! What are you doing back so soon?" she asked in surprise. Norrington also saw something else in her eyes…fear?"
The wind was on our side," Norrington said, frowning. "Is something wrong?"
The maid's eyes darted about as though looking for someone else to be the bearer of bad news. A horrible feeling suddenly swept over Norrington. "Jacqueline…where is she?" Anne looked startled. "My God," Norrington gasped. "What happened to her?"
The maid opened and closed her mouth a few times before answering. "I don't know, sir." Norrington's breath suddenly felt difficult to find. "She left about a week ago, sir, in the morning. And she ne'er came back."
Norrington's mind went blank.
He sent all of his servants out the next morning to see if they could find a clue, pick up some hint of what had happened to Jacqueline. Not only could they find nothing, but also no one, aside from Norrington's servants and the crew of the Intrepid, had ever heard of such a woman. It was almost as though she didn't exist.
A week later, Captain Norrington was once again on the Intrepid. He had heard no news of Jacqueline. She had simply vanished.
"I am sorry, sir," Lieutenant Gillette said. "I know…I know how you felt about her."
Norrington smiled grimly. "Was it really that obvious?" Gillette nodded. Norrington looked out onto the sea before him, and felt as though Jacqueline was there. The spray of the sea on his face was like the touch of her lips, and the sunset burned with the joy in her eyes. And Norrington cried for her, his tears falling into the waters that were as free-willed as she was.
"I will never forget you, Jacqueline."
O O O
Norrington stood and walked slowly over to Robin, who was currently strolling along the edge of the Black Pearl, running her right hand over the wooden railing almost lovingly. On this hand was a beautiful gold ring with a bright emerald. Norrington paced alongside her for a few moments, his eyes focused on the familiar ring, before speaking. "When were you going to tell me?" he finally asked quietly. He wasn't sure how to interpret Robin's moment of silence before she responded.
"I don't know what you're referring to," Robin said, avoiding his eyes.
If it had been anyone else, Norrington would have believed that he was mistaken. "What happened to you, Jacqueline?" Norrington asked. Robin stopped for a moment and took a deep breath before she continued walking. "Jacqueline…"
"My name is Robin, Admiral," Robin said coldly.
Norrington grabbed Robin's hand from the railing. "Then how did you get this?" he asked, touching the gem in his mother's ring. "If you're not Jacqueline…" Robin jerked her hand away from him.
"I…yes, yes, I am Jacqueline, I just go by Robin now. Ragetti has never stopped calling me Jacqueline, though." Robin leaned on the railing and looked out onto the sea, her eyes distant.
Norrington shook his head sadly. "Jacqueline, what happened to you? You were…"
Robin's whole attitude changed and she laughed brightly, her eyes glinting. "A fine woman? Yes, I have had practice making men think that," she said with a smile, flipping her hair.
Norrington was astonished. "You were…you were acting? I saved your life, Jacqueline!"
"Yes, and I do appreciate it."
"You were…you were a pirate…even then?" Norrington said as horrifying realization washed over him. "Everything you said…everything you told me was a lie?"
Robin thought for a moment. "Yep, pretty much." Then she added, "Except I did like your hat."
Norrington felt as though his heart had been ripped out—something he had already felt too many times before. He suddenly grew angry. "I trusted you! I-I--." Norrington managed to keep the rest of his feelings inside as Robin laughed even more gleefully.
"I suppose you'll never to that again."
The woman Jacqueline had become laughed brightly and walked away, leaving a stunned and brokenhearted James Norrington behind.
O O O
Author's Note: Norrington and Jacqueline meet again after the events of At World's End (excerpt above). Read about the rest of their relationship in "The Rise of Libertas."