Well, it's been a long ride. It took me about a year to write this whole thing. I sure hope it was worth it.
Thank you, in alphabetical order:
Assassin Ada Weathers, Define X (HorseLuv), DiegoReedeemedLover, Evelienhs, glalf, Gollum4077, HumanAlien (Lisa), IreneAndFrodoForever, IspikedThePunch, Keivanatae, Lady Nelson, Laura, orlande22, Owlkin, Papya, PrinceJonathan, ScarletRoseX, scgirl-317, StariiEyes, supernaturaldeanandsam, Tireless Ship of the Line, WonderWomanFan
You've been die besten Leser in der Scheisswelt—the best readers in the whole crapping world. (Kudos if you know who that's from, btw)
With no further ado, I give you the last installment. Enjoy it; I know it's pathetically short. Review one last time, please!
Chapter 16: A Beginning From Many Endings
Lottie woke early, feeling the first sun rays of the new day warm on her skin and the light invading the peaceful darkness of her eyes. Realizing she probably wouldn't fall back asleep, she opened her eyes slowly, taking in the brightness of her surroundings. Glancing down, she admired the string tied around her ring finger. It symbolized that she was now a married woman. The string, Wellard had promised, would quickly be replaced with a silver band as soon as they reached England.
Rolling onto her side, she saw the figure of her friend, her love, now husband—Henry Wellard, still sleeping peacefully. They had been married yesterday, in the Kingston Protestant Church. After they had said their vows, the couple had rushed off to a nearby tavern, where the officers and some of the crewmen from the Renown joined them in celebration. Even Pellew had attended the gathering, having a soft-spot in his heart for the women passengers. The afternoon had been spent consuming too much drink, dancing, laughing, and other merriments. As the evening approached, the newly-weds departed for the inn, their friends cat-calling and throwing slightly drunken, off-colored jokes after them.
There was only one person who had not enjoyed himself at the wedding. Buckland had made a brief appearance, then begging the bride's apology, he left under the alibi that he was feeling under the weather. Lottie felt a tinge of pity for the man, remembering that he had once said to the lieutenants, "You're so full of yourselves, and of each other." Though on the surface his comment seemed like a simple insult, she knew that it held many feeling unexpressed; his self-pity for his unpopularity, his fear of making the wrong decision, his jealously over the fact that his younger officers were liked, handsome, and capable—everything that he wasn't.
Lottie had seen him slipping away as the trial had approached. Even after the trial his eyes held no happiness, no succor at being dismissed from the mutiny charge. His naval career had reached a stale-mate. Most of his depression had begun to overflow to alcohol, something that wouldn't do him any good. He had said his farewell to the girls, and as he left the tavern, it occurred to Lottie that she would most likely never see him again.
Smiling softly, Lottie inched closer to Wellard and laid her head down onto the pillow beside him. He looked so calm, so serene when he slept. Knowing it would feel like a crime if she woke him, she let him sleep. His dark hair contrasted beautifully with his pale, freckled face. It felt silly to admit, but she knew that she would enjoy being able to wake up next to Wellard. Minutes passed while she contented herself by just watching his blissful slumber; his chest rose and fell evenly, not a single crease crossed his face.
Unable to resist, she gently ran her finger along an old scar near the top of his arm. He twitched slightly and long lashes fluttered. Sleepily he murmured, "Lottie?"
Lottie ran her fingers through his hair and kissed his head tenderly. "Shh," she soothed, "I'm here." He was quiet after this, and not opening his eyes and probably still half-asleep he rolled onto his side and laid his head drowsily onto her shoulder, burying his face into her hair and exhaling contently. Lottie resumed the stroking of his hair lazily, musing about the events that had taken place.
Glancing around her—no, now it was their—inn room, all the memories of the previous evening flooded back to her. And what a night it had been! The best of her life, that was for certain. This is where they would be staying until their ship set sail. It was sad to think that this was her last day in Jamaica, her last day to stroll around the docks without a care in the world. Now that her worries had ceased, it had become much easier to recognize the beauty the Jamaican island held.
There were obviously things that she wouldn't miss about this place, the humidity, the heat. But there were some things she would miss—the people she had befriended, for one.
The Comtese and her daughters had by now left for Boston on the American Frigate, the Liberty. Their farewell had been tearful, as both parties knew that the chances of ever coming in contact again were slim. Colette had been the brightest, confident that one day the three American mademoiselles would come and visit them in their new home in Massachusetts.
Lottie found that she was even going to miss Hobbs. Yes, she couldn't believe it herself. It brought a sense of finality to their story, his leaving did. Their voyage with the Renown had come to a conclusion, their journey had ended. Never again would Lottie walk those dark, unforgettable decks. Never again would she felt that seizing apprehension. Never again would she be the same.
Now, the three—that is, Amy, Cat and Lottie—along with most of the Renown's former crew had been granted passage to England on the newly re-named ship, the Retribution, compliments of Pellew. Horatio, having been promoted, would be the Captain of the Retribution until they reached England, where he would achieve the command of the frigate, the Hotspur.
Commodore Pellew was due to travel back to England as well, and would be commanding, once again, the HMS Indefatigable. A complete tour of the Inde had been promised to the three ladies before their departure from Jamaica. Pellew was more than happy to show off his ship; it was his most dear possession in addition to his family.
The Admiral had confessed to the girls the previous night, after the wine had loosened his tongue and his thoughts, that he was uncertain how exactly he would explain everything to the Admiralty once they reached England. It was a difficult position to be in, especially when Sawyer had been thought of so highly. "Nevertheless," he had told them, "Life has been preserved," he said, shooting a glance at the lieutenants, who were teasing Wellard jollily, "Even if a name has been tarnished. I suppose the Admiralty will have to decide which is the most important result."
Lottie had never fully agreed with the chosen title, 'Retribution'—though now that her journey and the trial had passed, she disagreed completely. She thought that the name 'Reconciliation' would be more fitting, considering the circumstances. After all, mercy and forgiveness had clearly been shown more than justice and discipline. There were countless examples.
Bush and Amy, who had once been enemies, were now quite the opposite, engaged. Hobbs had reconciled with those who disliked him: the lieutenants, Wellard, and even Lottie. Wellard had forgiven his fellow midshipmen, Johnson, Delaney, Collins and Brennan, for their cruelty and now the five laughed and jested together as if they were brothers. And finally, if not most importantly, Clive's testimony had persuaded the admirals to free the lieutenants of the Renown of all charges. However, the name 'Reconciliation' just didn't seem to be the right name for a ship, according to the Admiralty's standards. Since when did the navy ever listen to the idea of forgiveness?
After the wedding party, Amy had giddily informed Lottie and Cat that William had proposed to her—and that she had accepted. If it had been up to Bush, he would have had them married eminently, strolling over to the courthouse to see it done. But Amy had advised him to wait, perhaps once they set sail. "He's so impatient, it's ridiculous," she had told her friends, rolling her eyes. However, both Lottie and Cat knew that underneath her surfacing annoyance, Amy was positively flattered at Bush's eagerness.
Amy's excuse for holding off on the ceremony was that she had always wanted to know if it was true that the Captain of a ship had the right to marry a couple while at sea. "It would do Horatio some good, you know, to have some different experience," she had said, smirking, knowing how awkward it would be for the newly established Captain to go about such a procedure.
Of all the men Lottie had thought Amy might marry, William Bush had not been one of them. The two certainly made a fitting—if not quarrelsome—pair. However, she could have not been more thrilled with Amy's excitement. Her friend had matured considerably through this voyage. Though she would always be playful at heart, her wild behavior had subsided somewhat. Lottie liked to think it was because of Bush that she had grown so. Or, maybe it was this place; the people that had influenced her, the places she had been, the things she had seen. Though it was not only Amy that had changed, Bush too, had become more relaxed in his usual strict manner. He would always have that sourpuss attitude, but deep down, he was surprisingly compassionate, and fiercely protective of those he cared about.
As for Cat, she and her soon to be husband—Archie Kennedy—planned to marry as soon as the two reached England. Both hated the wait, but thought it for the best—as Archie could first introduce his lovely fiancée to his family. Lottie thought that this conclusion to their journey was quite similar to the ending of a Jane Austen novel. All three poor girls were going to be or already were happily married. Two were quite expected from the start, and the third pleasantly surprising.
The ship, the Retribution, was anchored in the bay, ready and waiting to carry the ladies home. Home. The word had taken on quite a different meaning since the start of this adventure. Through this journey Lottie had learned so much. The Horatio Hornblower movies had become her life, not just mere entertainment. Once, near the start, it had bothered her terribly that she would never know again the ease and familiarity of her own life. Now, she had become used to this life and no longer was pained by the thought of her old one. She would surely remember it often, especially her family, but distantly, like a long ago dream.
Where this life would take her, she had no idea. She didn't how she would survive as a working wife in England. However intimidating, she found that she welcomed this new season of life, this new journey. With God above and Wellard at her side, she knew she could take on any hardship this life brought her. For one of the rare times in her life, she was confident, fearless, and did not feel anxious about the uncertain future. Though this adventure had finally come to a close, a new one awaited her. A beginning from many endings had emerged, and an adventure was waiting around the corner—one that she couldn't wait to start.
Let me know via voting on my poll whether you would like me to write a sequel or not. Thank you so much for reading this story, everyone! Have a merry Christmas and a very happy New Year. Check back in the next six months; you'll see more from me.
Lady E out.
And I totally met my end-of-year deadline. Kudos to me.
Oh, and Define X... I BEAT YOU! SO THERE! Now finish your story, please.
Seriously, I'm going now.
EDIT 2012: There will be a sequel to Reconciliation—a much shorter and fluffier story, to be sure. Hopefully it will be posted around Fall 2012, God (and my life) willing. Check back once in awhile, okay? Peace.