Ch3: Wooden Ideas, Glass Memories
A/N: Hey, amazed I could update at this point. Beem majorly busy since term got back. I think I need another holiday...more time for Fanfiction! ;)
'Something wrong Willie?'
Warley's head suddenly turned to Charlie, his expression changing from his previously thoughtful state.
'Just thinking that's all.' he answered plainly. Charlie didn't buy it.
'Should I be concerned about what you're thinking, or that you're thinking at all?' she asked in reply. Any hint of a smile Warley showed soon faded, as his fair face once again became troubled.
'We could get the ship finished a whole lot faster you know.'
'We can only go so fast.' said Nagle, leaning against the wall, and taking a scull of rum.
'I know, but the Acheron's build could give us some advantage, is all.'
'What you talking about Willie?' Nagle asked. Warley ran his hand through his light ruddy hair.
'Well, the Acheron weren't always been a Frenchie ship. She was built in Boston. Looked mighty fine she did.'
'How would you know?'
'I saw it, I did. Remember every part of it, it was a well good sight to see.'
'When were you in Boston?' asked Charlie, curiously.
'When our last ship docked in the summer, I visited my sister's brother-in-law, where I met his cousin who worked at the dockyards. So he took me around, and there she was: still being crafted.' Warley's bright blue eyes were gleaming with excitement, as he remembered his past journey. Charlie and Nagle watched on with interest.
'That must've been something Willie.'
'Oh, it was.'
As he recounted the event, Charlie thought it over, an idea slowly forming in her mind. 'Do you remember what it looked like Willie?' she asked. Warley nodded,
'Yeah, a pretty good idea. It wasn't built like our ships, different like.'
'The rudder side, it's shaped more like a tail...streamlined! That's it.' he said, slapping his hand down on the table in elation. And its build around hte back makes it...'
After Warley had finished going over the exact details from memory of the Acheron, Nagle and Charlie exchanged surprised glances, grinning as they shared the same thought. Joe turned to his best friend.
'Well, that's great Willie, but we still don't know what it looks like properly.'
'But, Joe could make a model of it. We could show it to the Captain!' added Charlie, slamming her mug down. The three friends looked around at each other in anticipation.
'Well, I could describe it to you again, but I don't think you'll get it exact.' Warley commented cautiously, hoping not to offend. Charlie shrugged.
'Then describe it to me. I'll draw it. My hand's not too bad.'
'You sure Charlie?'
'Yeah. I've got some paper left, I was going to write home, but it can wait.'
'Well then.' said Nagle, rubbing his hands together. 'Go get your damn paper, we've got work to do.'
'You do it.'
'No, you do it!'
'No, it was your idea.'
'Yeah, but you built the model!
'But you're the one who...'
'Oh, I'll do it!' Charlie groaned, tapping on the door, with the approval of the Marine standing guard. Nagle was looking down, turning his wooden model in his hands anxiously. Warley just stood with his hands behind his back. After they were told to come in, the Marine opened the door, and the three sailors filed into the Captain's magnificent study. The two men were a little awestruck at its apparent grandness, but soon looked to Captain Jack Aubrey, sitting before them. Warley nudged his two friends hastily, and Joe and Charlie removed their beanies from their heads, Joe's chocolate brown hair hanging on his shoulders. Charlie inwardly groaned as her dark, plaited hair dropped to her back, hoping the Captain didn't suspect anything more of her. She always hated removing her hat, her wild curls were growing back, she feared it made her look more like a girl when unkept.
'Mr. Hobbs said you wanted to see me?'
Warley and Nagle nodded dumbly, so Charlie took over. 'It's about the repairs sir. We think we can re-build the ship better than before.'
'Is that so?' the Captain said, looking between them with interest.
'Yes sir.' Nagle continued, still holding his wooden miniature. 'Willie saw the Acheron being built in Boston you see. He was visiting his sister's, brother-in-law's cousin, who works at the docks, see.' he recited slowly, getting it right. 'This is what it looks like.' he added hastily, presenting the model in his hand. Aubrey observed it with curiosity. He reached out to take it, Nagle handed it to him.
'You made this?' the question was more directed to Nagle, but his eyes moved over Warley and Charlie too.
'Willie described it, Charlie drew it down, and then I made it from scratch with the drawing.' Joe explained. Aubrey examined the model with great care, his weathered face set in concentration. Warley took his cue to describe further, his blue eyes were alight as he spoke with pride,
'You see the tail is streamlined sir, lets it move faster through the water. And the curves of the outside, they're shaped more precisely. The general build makes it heavier, but still faster, so it can get away on an advantage sir with that levelling...' he went into a few more complex details, with precise accuracy.
Captain Aubrey suddenly looked up at the three sailors standing opposite him.
'Do you have the drawing?' he asked, his eyes moving to Charlie expectantly. She fumbled around in a pocket of her large over-jumper, and pulled out a crumpled piece of paper, attempting to smooth it out. With a shaking hand, she gave it over. Aubrey's face changed to one of marvel.
'Well, this is most impressive. Mr. Hobbs!'
'Extra rations of rum for these men please.'
'Thank you sir.' the three elated sailors responded. Mr. Hobbs gestured for them to move out, and with another quiet thanks, they put their hats back on and left the Captain's study. Once they were at the other end of the pasgeway, they let out a loud, collective sigh. Charlie turned with a wide grin at her fellow crewmen.
'Well, that wasn't so bad, was it?'
'You know,' Nagle said from his position up in the ropes, speaking to young Pizzy and a few others. 'We're lucky the Captain like my model, otherwise, we may not have started building this old girl a lot better.' he finished smugly, chancing a glance at his two best friends nearby. If looks could kill, Nagle's rope would have snapped, and he'd have been one very crisp-burnt carpenter. Warley and Charlie glared daggers at him, before Warley put on a visciously fake smile.
'Yeah, funny though, you know boys. He wouldn't have had a clue what he was building, cause he never saw the Acheron being built, now did he Charlie?' he asked, grinning at Charlie. She nodded from her kneeling position on the deck.
'That's right. It's Willie's doing, he knew what the boat looked like in the first place. I don't know why you're so smug Joe; it don't make you're face any more pretty.' she added deviously, "accidently" sploshing Nagle with a bit of water as she wavered her hands around dramatically as she spoke. The other men laughed heartily. Nagle scowled, and didn't bother retaliating as Midshipman Calamy walked past with Midshipman Hollom. It was only because Calamy was more respected with authority, the sailors didn't muck up any further. As they passed, Nagle muttered under his breath:
'I swear Blue, I'm gonna get you for that.'
'For what? You got your rum, the Captin's happy. With our work, we'll get the Acheron, and all's fine and dandy. And you know what that means?'
'What?' Warley and Nagle asked together. Charlie shrugged, only answering with what they'd want to hear.
'Victory celebreation, and more rum.' she answered simply. The men laughed good naturedly, and returned to their work.
'You know what Bluey?' Warley said after a while. Charlie looked up from the damp wood of the decks. Her curious frown was answer enough for Warley.
'I'm glad we've got you to rely on. You know, it's been over a year, and we've decided...you're not that bad.'
Slowly, an amused grin swept Charlie's mouth, and brightened her face a little more. She knew Warley was always one to joke, but she was grateful to have found such trustworthy firends on the Surprise. Trust wasn't an easy thing ever since she'd stopped being a girl. Mistrust or a loose tongue led to deeper issues, as she knew very well. As rogue and disgusting as her shipmates could be, she had learned to live with them. She mumbled her thanks to Warley, a nod and mumbled something cheeky, to do with being mutual. Yet Charlie couldn't help but ponder Warley's words; she could have sworn she'd heard them somewhere before...
'Ma, what are we going to do?' said Charlotte McGann, absently playing with her black curls, dulled by days of not washing, and the dimness of the room. Her face was pale- paler than normal. Her blue eyes were still red from raw tears, the shadows under her eyes made her look ill. Her Mother wasn't looking any better; her ghostly face would've made her look frigthful, were she not so upset. Her head was in her hands, and it was only after a long, depressed sigh, she made an effort to look up at her oldest daughter.
'I...I don't know love. That's the second I've lost now, and with two more on the way, I just don't know if I can handle it no more.'
The woman and the girl were slumped in mutual silence, unable to comprehend how they'd manage from here on in. Charlie was dead. The oldest son and child of their family had finally succumbed to the fever, and the dreadful coughing fits, that rendered him unable to work. Now, the boy was dead. At 11...such a waste. He had been working to support the family, to bring the some food, that were more promising than the leftover scraps Jennifer provided from her work at the pub. And the children's father had only come home for a few weeks, before he was off to sea again, with no word of where he was. With Charlie gone, they were in dire straits as to who would provide for them now- it wasn't like their fsther was much help. Their uncles had already been generous enough, yet the family already struggled to pay anymore debts.
'We ain't got no one else now Mama. Who's gonna bring us something home?'
'I just told you Lotte, I don't know. I won't be able to work soon, I'm getting so big, see. And your sisters aren't old enough to do anything yet.' Jennifer moaned. 'We'll just pray to the Lord that he shows us some favour I suppose.'
After minutes of more quiet pondering, the nine year old came to a simple conclusion. It could work- if she was careful. Surely, it was the right thing to do for her family.
'Mamma?' she asked tenderly.
Charlotte hesitated. 'We don't got no one to work for us. Charlie was the oldest, but that's me now. Isn't it Mam?'
Jennifer paused to sluggishly process the thought. 'Yes, that's right. Why?'
'The oldest child always works, that was Charlie. Now that's me...could I work?'
Charlotte's mother suddenly looked up, horrified. 'Good gracious child! What made you think of such a thing? And what would you do?'
'I could do what Charlie did. Or go around the streets again. I know the ways, Charlie showed me.' Charlotte replied, her small voice growing in confidence. Jennifer just shook her head again, wondering how her children ever came up with such wild ideas.
'Now, now Charlotte.' she said, taking her daughter's hand in her own. 'What Charlie did, that was different. It's a boy's job. You can't do work like that, it's not done. No one would let you.'
But Charlotte was determined. 'We still have Charlie's clothes. I'm only a little bit smaller. I could wear them.'
'What are you saying sweetheart?' asked Jennifer, dreading what was coming.
'I could dress like Charlie, and pretend to be a boy to work!'
'Oh Charlotte, please, I know you're upset, but I don't think you don't know what your talking about...'
'I do Mama! I do! I can do it! I can be like Charlie!' the girl retorted, with surp.
'Don't answer me back child. You can't go about the streets dressed as a lad.'
'I could! I could try it Mama, please. Charlie said I if I wanted to help, I could help him. Because he was helping you.'
Jennifer just stared at her daughter. She was more outgoing than she thought. Almost too outright. Especially for a girl, but children were children, they didn't understand the risks- the number of things that could happen. She was reluctant to let her now-eldest child go through with this, but a part of her wanted to support her. They had no one else now, and without any food or support, the family would starve, and end up like Charlie- or worse. She- Jennifer would starve, her unborn twins would starve, Charlotte and Lucy and Maggie would starve. She couldn't let her family suffer like that, not after everything they had only recently gone through. With a heavy heart, she decided to her self that she would write to her brother. She needed his advice, but for now- she would go with her heart, and hope her head was in the right place. Her child's safety was at risk, her fate could go anywhere. But if she did not act, nothing else would become of them.
'But, what would your name be? No boy can be called Charlotte, or Lotte.'
The child pondered for a moment.
'Charlie. I can be Charlie. The other Charlie. My brother was Big Charlie, there can be another one. Can I Mam? Can I?'
The first week was the scariest. Charlotte had always felt safe travelling with her brother. She looked up to him- literally and otherwise. He had been her protector. Now, that was her role. And she honestly had no idea how she was going to do it. She was nine, and was unexpectedly thrust into a new, big, dark and scary world. The streets were wide devouring.
Tall people in suits and caps and vests were walking, scurrying hurriedly going about their own business. Boys, men, they all looked to be feared. Charlotte had no idea if she could. Some of Charlie's friends had mercifully taken pity (Charlie had been their friend to) and pointed her in the right direction of the ways of this world of theirs. After scouring the main streets, the backstreets and alleys, the canals, and any other profitable corner of Portsmouth- "Charlie" as she was now known, made her way home- with food. Some she'd artfully taken, the rest she'd just found. As she rounded an alley corner, she was nearly bowled over by something very big- and solid.
'Allo there, what we got here, eh?' the deep, gravelly voice said. Charlie looked up a long way, to see a gruff looking man in filthy clothes staring down at her. His hair was shaggy, covered by a cap. His face was gaunt, and in the shadows, he looked like a skeleton. His teeth were yellow and rotting, and he reeked of alcohol. He was leering over her now.
'What's a little thing like you doing in these parts? What you got there in that bag lad?' he asked, pointing to the bag. Charlie was too frightened to say anything, and stepped back. 'Here now, you don't need to be afraid of me now, do you? Don't you worry boy, Old Afie's gonna take care of you...'
He lunged not necessarily at Charlie, but at the bag. Charlie gasped, and ducked him, managing to escape his further attempts to subdue her. And she ran. Too scared to make any noise, she ran faster than she had ever imagined herself running. The adreniline was pumping through her, and she knew she had to get home. Only home. She took the route the boys had advised her by, where few travelled. She weaved and ducked through the nooks and crannies only she could fit into to move thorugh the city. The sky was dark, the air was chilled, the world had never seemed so cold and scary. Still clutching the rucksack tightly, Charlie sprinted through another small alleyway, fearing the presence of even the rats. She approached another corner, when-
'Hey Blue. Charlie! Charlie, wake up Blue! Wake up!'
'No! Get off me!' Charlie moaned in distress. She felt two strong hand shake her shoulders rougher.
Charlie jolted awake, gasping in panic as Warley kept his grip on her, in an attempt to bring the young sailor back to reality. She had instinctively brought her hands up for in fear for protection, her frightful blue eyes still wide as she locked gazes with Warley. Charlie's breaths were quick and louder than normal. In the lamplight, Warley's ruddy face looked concerned.
'Whoa, whoa, whoa. It's just me. You alright mate?' he asked, peering closely at her pale face. Charlie blinked a few times.
'Uh, yeah, just a dream... that's all.'
'Really? Must've been some dream, you looked ready to jump out of your skin. Come on, we got work to do.' he said with an encouraging smile. Warley clapped her shoulder, as he began to move away, up to the decks. Charlie sat up further, and gave a small groan at the aching in her back, courtesy of yesterday. She rubbed her eyes, and rested her head on her knuckles, trying to shake away the flashbacks of her past. Running a hand through her curly hair, her wandering eyes suddenly met with Nagle's. He had been watching her from his hammock with his usual glaring curiosity, always with that little bit of suspicion on his face.
'Sure you're okay Blue? You look a fright.'
Charlie reached for her blue beanie that was stuffed in her pocket, and shoved it on, jumping out of the hammock a little too quickly. She nearly lost her footing as the ship rocked to one side. Clutching her head, she glanced over at Nagle again.
'I'm fine Joe, fine.' she muttered irritably. And she stalked off, finally reaslising the significance of Warley's words that morning. After her encounter in the alleyways, she had darted home, saying nothing of her encounter. She felt relief in that her mother had praised her for the supper she'd brought home.
'Oh well done my love!' she had said. 'Oh, God bless you child, I'm glad we've got you to rely on.'
Not anymore you don't Mum. thought Charlie bitterly. And I'm sorry I left you too, but I will come back. I'll make things right.
A/N: A lot of that wasn't dialogue from the movie, but it's close enough. Despite the few of you reading this, please tell me what you think! I should probably get back to work, and revising for exams. It's getting late though, time for bed. I will get round to more action, especially some good old scenes between Charlie and Mauturin- he's awesome. Reviews and stuff appreciated.