Do You Leave Angels Behind?
(Takes place sometime before POTC 1 on a tropical island in the middle of the Caribbean under the hot, blistering sun. It's a first person perspective of Jack from a (mostly) proper English lady…)
"As it were, am in no hurry to return to the gallows. I find nooses around my neck distasteful, don't you agree?"
Scanning the horizon and not expecting to see anything had become an unconscious habit. I sat with the coconut gripped between my knees to punch in the eyes when the dark shadow registered in my brain. I looked up and blinked my eyes.
He was beside me in a flash and squinted at the speck in the distance but unmistakably coming toward us. "Royal Navy, no doubt..."
I had not given any thought to rescue and what it would mean for Jack. It just stayed in the back of mind as a possibility some day. But now, here it was in what—a week?—and civilization had come a-calling.
He helped me up and then clapped his hands together and rubbed them as though he had a job to do. He turned to me and bowed with flourish. "M'lady, the pleasure of your company has been, well, a pleasure. I shall treasure this time together as a fond memory. I wish you well and following winds... good-bye!"
He whirled off, but I was quick enough to grab his arm and stop him short. "Wait! Where are you—?"
He removed my hand and held it tenderly. "M'lady, I'm sure you're elated at the prospects of rescue—civilization... rum, food, water, rum... a ship." A brief trace of temptation crossed his face before his eyes narrowed, intent on self-preservation. "As it were, am in no hurry to return to the gallows. I find nooses around my neck distasteful, don't you agree?" He kissed my hand and turned away.
"But you can't just hide here."
"Oh yes, darling, I can." He stopped and turned back to me, anxiously wringing his hands. "Why don't you send a ship back for me when you reach Port Royal. But time is of the essence before I'm spotted, and I really do hate these long good-byes."
"That could take months—even you can't survive here that long." I came right up to him and grabbed the braids of his beard. "You're coming with me."
"I see you've grown very attached to me—and my chin." He tried turning his head away, but I held fast.
"I promise you, luv," his perpetually grubby hands came up and attempted to pry my fingers loose as he spoke, "you don't need me a'tall. You'll be just fine on your own. Truly. Honestly."
My response was to tug harder until he yelped and bowed his head in submission. "You can act a part to save your life, I know you can—something about impersonating a cleric? But these have got to go."
"What!?" he roared in mortification as he tried to look down his nose to see them.
"Servants don't wear braids, we need to cut—"
"Yes, his name was Jeffries," I sighed, missing him as well. "But I guess you'll have to be Jamaican with that dreadful hair of yours.
He gazed at me shrewdly as he weighed his options and considered my proposal. He glanced at the growing silhouette on the waves and then pure amusement curled the corners of his mouth. He bowed his head subserviently, putting me completely in charge.
Still holding the braids, I kissed him lightly on the lips before I let go. "I never thanked you for saving my life."
Jack stamped his foot in frustration. "Now the wind changes when there's no time for me to—"
"Yes well, such is my life and the reason there are no Barrett heirs. Now come on." He followed me up to the protection of the shadows near our shelter and all the supplies.
"Now hold these so I can cut them off, " I ordered as I grabbed the knife out of his sash. He obediently pulled the braids down taunt and I sliced them off at the chin. "Besides, I'm sure you have a painted lady waiting in every port... those brazen barmaids." I smoothed out the area as best I could. "Those tavern trollops... You really should be clean shaven, but there's no time."
"Sinful strumpets?" he added helpfully. "Or wicked wenches?"
"Yes, yes, I think we've established the kindred of your "ladies". He was thoroughly enjoying my stroking his chin and I fought the urge to slap that flirtatious smile off his face. "Now get rid of those things in your hair," I snapped. He held his hand out for the knife and I slapped it in his palm.
I started hunting around for a long kerchief I had seen earlier and absent-mindedly stuffed the braids down my chemise. They might search the beach and they were worth saving—men's vanity being what it was and all that. Perhaps I could some how sew or weave them back on his chin later. Of course without cleavage, they fell right through to my waist.
He held up several severed strings of beads with one hand while the other reached for my chest.
"What are—ah, no, not there!" I shooed his hands away. "Never you mind about that. If you must save them, put them in that valise over there with anything else of value to save." I glanced over my shoulders and the ship had doubled in size. "No, wait! Quick, first put those other breeches on—no, the darker ones—and the matching vest—probably the captain's cabin boy or something, but it looks enough like a house servant. Hurry!"
I turned away just in time before he dropped his breeches—knowing that's exactly what he would do right there and then. I felt the color of my cheeks flush red. Of course there was no time for him to properly run off behind the palms to undress, but still...
"Hah, this will have to do." I found a white napkin and a hanky in fairly decent shape.
I came back to him as he was buttoning the vest. I saw that he had changed into a more appropriate shirt. "Perfect! Oh and occasionally pull it down in place like my father—like men, you know, like stuffy men do to seem important." I handed him the napkin. "Get that thing off and tie your hair back, you know, like a slave—like a servant."
"Demanding mistress, you are!"
"Bloody hell, just do it! Hurry!" He gasped at my profanity but it felt like eyes were watching our every move. He struggled with the tangled mess of braids and dread locks until it was back off his shoulders.
"No, that's not good enough." There was no time to be vain, I spun him around and began raking back his hair using the fingers of my good hand like a comb. He yelped and whimpered like an unruly little boy, but after removing several more beads hidden in the dark mass, I got it all gathered into my one hand and twisted it.
"There, tie it off now... No, no, no, can't you make one of those caps they wear knotting the corners? Never mind, try a bow. No, that's not right—just secure back tightly—neatly—in a knot. There, that's good." I stepped back for a quick appraisal and was impressed. The pirate was almost completely gone.
He watched me with amusement as though he was playing charades to humor me as opposed to saving his life. Did he not realize the seriousness of the situation? Did he ever take anything seriously? I stuffed and fluffed the hanky in the vest pocket. One eyebrow shot up questioningly.
"He was…," I shrugged sadly, "oh, Jeffries was always pulling it out and dusting things—wiping things whether it needed it or not. I... well, anyway, it fits. It looks rather servantly. Alright now, I dare say just let me do all the talking and we should be just fine. Now wave to them excitedly to show we've seen them and then go about packing some valuables in the valise."
I went to the pile of clothes in an effort to make myself more presentable when I remembered one other detail.
"The rings! Quick, take them all off—" I gasped, startled at the total transformation that had taken place. His whole demeanor had changed as though he had been a servant all his life. One would never have guessed otherwise. He held up his hands—no rings—and waved me off as he went back to packing.
When the landing party reached the shore we were ready for them. The captain advanced on to the beach as though he meant to conquer it while his two guardsmen helped the oarsman secure the boat. I stepped forward and met him half way. "Oh Captain, you have no idea what a relief it is to see you!"
"Lady Barrett, I presume?"
"'Miss'," I corrected, aware of how his eyes scoured the beach and came to rest on Jack. "Lord Barrett was my father."
"I see, and there are no other survivors?"
"Other then my father's servant," I glanced over my shoulder at Jack who stood ready with the valise at his feet. He was doing an excellent job keeping his eyes and face neutral under the captain's scrutiny. "He saved my life, but my father..." I held back a sob, not entirely out of pretense. "No, there are no other survivors, Captain...?" I paused significantly.
"Vernon, at your service," he answered with a slight bow. "My condolences for your lost, Miss Barrett. We will get you and your "servant"...?"
"Jeffries. Oh I am so grateful, Captain. I can't bear another minute on this retched island. I want to put this ordeal behind me as quickly as possible. You have no idea what—"
I started for the boat when the Captain politely but firmly restrained me. "One moment, Miss." A slight nod of his head got the guardsmen moving. One started searching the beach while the other took up a position behind Jack.
"Were you aware, Miss Barrett, that the Victoria was escorting a prisoner back to England to stand trial?" He withdrew a faded piece of paper from his inside jacket pocket. It revealed a simple sketch of Captain Jack Sparrow—a warrant actually—stamped by the East India Trading Company. The indistinct image was rather vague for identification purposes except for a few telling details, including the double braided beard.
"Why yes, of course. My father told me a prisoner was being kept down in the hold, but not to worry about it. I knew we was perfectly safe in the care of the Royal Navy."
"Dat my brodder?" Jack said casually in a perfect Jamaican accent, startling everyone. He had easily edged over without being noticed. The guardsman hastily moved up into position behind him. The Captain's eyes narrowed, but Jack shrugged, impassively neutral. "Could be. My modder was... who know?" he shrugged again and took his position slightly behind me.
The scouting guardsmen came up and stood at attention. "Nothing, sir. There is no sign of him—anyone, sir."
The Captain scowled at Jack again before pulling me aside. His kept his voice low. "Are you sure, Miss, of your servant?"
"Of course I am! I say, who else—?"
"You don't understand the gravity of the situation. This felon is highly dangerous and very clever. I must be sure you are not being threatened or somehow unwillingly coerced into aiding this, this despicable pirate."
"What?! How absurd, Captain. Jeffries has faithfully served my father for over twenty years." I snatched the sketch from his hands and began fanning myself with it, wilting under the heat.
"Sir," the guardsman hissed as he glanced meaningfully down at Jack's pocket.
A string of those beady-trinkets he had in his hair was poking out. Before anyone else could react, I took the offensive and pointed at them rather indulgently. "Jeffries, what on earth is that? Where did you find it?"
He sheepishly pulled out the string and held it up. He nodded up the beach. "Pretty, no? For m'lady?"
"Looks like something a pirate would wear," commented one of the guards.
Jack shrieked like a woman and flung it away as though it were a snake. He danced around screeching and shaking his hands, then tried scrubbing them together as though he had touched poison.
"Jeffries! Jeffries! Calm yourself. It's alright. I dare say you must calm yourself!"
Jack took a deep breath as he whipped out the hanky and wiped his hands with it. He mopped his brow and fluttered the hanky in front of his face femininely. He glanced up at everyone staring at him. "Jeffries donin' like pie-ritz."
The guardsmen made eye contact with each other knowingly. One of them lifted his pinky and wiggled it daintily. The other one smirked in agreement. The Captain sighed in resignation.
"Yes, yes, Jeffries, none of us like pirates. Besides, we are under the care and protection of the Royal Navy. I—" I swayed, suddenly faint, and reached out to the Captain for support, clutching his arm. The warrant fluttered to the sand.
"M'lady!" Jack flitted up to me anxiously and started mopping my brow. He surreptitiously kicked some sand on the paper, hoping to bury it, but one of the guardsmen grabbed it.
"Captain, may I... if you by chance happen to have... I haven't had fresh water to drink for weeks. Could you please..." I desperately tightened my grip on his arm, "could you please spare me a cup of water?"
Startled at my sudden distress, he looked at me fully for the first time, completely appalled at my condition. "Good heavens! Lafayette, fetch the canteen! Prepare to make way. There, there, Miss Barrett. We have a skilled surgeon on board—the best in the fleet—and he will see to your injuries."
He gently but firmly disengaged my hand from his arm and pushed me towards Jack. "Gentle. Easy, have you got her? Good." He brushed and straightened his sleeve where my sweaty, grimy palm had marred the crisp, clean starch.
Lafayette handed him the canteen. He carefully uncorked it. "There you go, Miss, don't gulp—"
Without thinking, I yanked it out of his hands and took a long, unlady-like drink. I dare say it was the best tasting water I ever had. They stared at me, aghast at such an unseemly display before politely adverting their eyes. I wiped my mouth on my sleeve and handed it to Jack who took a dainty sip.
"Lafayette, help them along to boat."
We moved off in a huddle towards the boat. I could easily have ran to it and jumped in, but I let them guide me along as a proper, terribly wounded, lady would.
Out of the corner of my eye something flashed bright. The slightly unkempt oarsman was stashing a small flask back into uniform pocket. Ahh, so Captain Vernon had a wrinkle in his clean, crisp crew. I sighed and prayed that he was not the one steering the ship.
Jack got in the boat first. He deftly wiped the seat clean with his hanky before reaching for my good arm and helping me on board. Lafayette rolled his eyes impatiently, but said nothing. Once I was securely seated, he pulled the vest down with dignity and sat next to me. He neatly folded up the hanky and put it back in his breast pocket while his eyes kept darting to oarsman's pocket—he had seen it as well.
I glanced back at the captain as he gave additional orders to the guardsmen. I sighed again. We were not out of the woods yet, we had merely passed the first hurdled. Vernon was most likely planning to search him on board and would discover the pirate brand on his arm. And surely Jack was aware of all this and had come up with a plan of his own. Nevertheless, I whispered for him to stay with me at all times. He nodded once in acknowledgement, then flashed the oarsman a brief, friendly smile—one servant to another.
The captain stood ramrod straight facing us and the beach, unaffected by the waves. The slight squint of the eyes and the clenching of his teeth told me that the successful rescue of Lord Barrett's daughter had not been their primary concern.
The transfer from boat to ship was a bit of challenge with only one good hand. A sailor was bent over the rail, reaching for that good hand while Jack had me braced from behind, hands on my hips. Suddenly I was over come with an intense craving for coconut milk. Wait! I demand you take us back immediately! My heart screamed in my head, as hung poised in mid-transfer.
Bloody hell, what is wrong with me? I don't want to leave!, my heart cried out... Yes, that was it, pure and simple. I don't care about hot tea, or a hot bath or beef wellington served in its flakey, hot pastry. I want the blistering hot sun in the middle of the Caribbean. I want that idyllic island life. I dare say it was rather limited in resources, but the freedom... it was—quite simply—fun. With Jack.
No more laying in our shelter gazing the brilliant night sky of lights. No more stories of his adventures—legendary or otherwise—or dreams of future riches just beyond the horizon. Jack had proven to be rather jolly good company. And perhaps there could have been more given more time... Yes, yes, I know eventually the romance of the adventure would have given away to the tedious, tiresome task of survival. But it hadn't yet.
Once we set foot on this ship—and back to Port Royal—he will disappear before I can utter an invitation to stay with me. I dare say he won't even look back. With no hesitation whatsoever, he'll go straight back to his trollops and taverns and treasure maps. His world will quickly crowd me out of his memory and I had to admit I rather enjoyed having him to myself. I just wanted a bit more time, that's all... my heart whispered with longing.
A hiss of impatience behind me and a pinch on my bum got me moving again... back to a society of starchy men and no unrestrained, passionate pirate...
I sighed as stood on the balcony over looking the ocean, watching the brilliant colors of sunset fade as the first peeks of stars took their place. I sipped at the warm coconut milk—a very effective sleeping draught, I had soon discovered upon my return to civilization... three years to this day. Actually, the rescue would come a week and a half hence. This was the day the grand adventure had started when I awoke to find my rum-scented angel was the infamous Captain Jack Sparrow.
I heard the distant knock at the front door and soon soft feet padded into drawing room behind me. The young lad cleared his throat for attention. "Mo'am?"
"Yes, JJ, what is it?"
"Package, mo'am, spes-sial deliverin'". I turned to see Jeffries Junior holding a brown paper package.
"At this hour?" He nodded as he handed it to me and waited. "Thank you, JJ, and tell your mother I won't require anything more this evening."
"Yes, mo'am." He nodded and started off.
"Oh, JJ? Please bring me—" Before I could finish, he had already grabbed the sissors off the desk and returned with a lamp so I could remain on balcony. I shook my head in amazement at his quick cleverness, smiled and winked. "JJ, I don't know what I would do without you."
He smiled and winked back before scampering away. "Donin' even tink it, mo'am." He dismissed the thought with a flick of his wrist before closing the door behind him.
I sat down, looked the barren package for any sort of markings of origin before tearing it open. The simple box was filled with dry straw to protect the contents which lay nestled in the center. Half of a coconut husk had been carved into an intricately detailed ship, complete with sails and a flag woven out of palm leaves and attached to bamboo shoots.
"Oh, it's beautiful! This must be the Black Pearl..." I said to myself as I recalled how I had kicked it and threw it in my frustration of the dalliance that never was.
A plain, unmarked but some what lumpy envelope had been placed underneath it. I carefully set the husk aside and slit it open. I looked inside—a gasp and a cry of shock escaped my lips—as I shook the contents on to my hand. I stared at the two braids of hair, tied off at one end with some beads while the other end had obviously been hastily hacked off a chin.
"This couldn't be the same ones? No, this must be another set..." He surely must have grown another beard, and circumstances must have necessitated them being cut off again. I did not know whether to laugh or cry and ended up doing a bit of both until I finally blew out a breath in silly relief. I dare say I had felt rather badly about having to cut them off... perhaps this was his odd sort of sentimental way of saying it was alright then as it was now. But most of all, I had not been forgotten.
I yawned and finished off the coconut milk. I put the braids in the husk as I went back inside and placed it on the mantel. As I shut out the ocean and locked the balcony door, I started wondering what sort of predicament he had gotten himself into now...
The author would like to extend her gratitude to Nytd for discovering this scurvy ol' story and her encouragement to get it done. May you always have sharp eyes for proofing and following winds...
(No braided beards, warrants or canteens were harmed during the production of this story.
Jack's impersonation of a Jamaica servant used with permission (Jamaican Servants Union, Local on dis island, mon). However, the BBATT (Brazen Barmaids And Tavern Trollops) have reported some disgruntlement in being considered "kindred" to wicked wenches. Sinful Strumpets are actually all bubble heads and were totally clueless.
Captain Jack Sparrow and the world of Pirates of the Caribbean are the property of Disney—and Mr Depp because he is Jack. I'm just visiting for a little fun and not for profit, savvy? jk, 12/2008.)
Captain Jack has left the island...