"So, hun, how'd a pretty girl like you end up on this hunk of rust?"
Evelyn laughed as Nancy reached for her rollers. The pair were sitting in Evelyn's cabin, it was mid afternoon and Lumpy had given Evelyn a couple of hours off before the evening meal was to be prepared. As usual, Nancy had insisted she do Evelyn's hair while they had the time spare, despite the fact that they should have been enjoying the good weather outside. However, as there was not much else to do, it hadn't taken much for Evelyn to agree.
"Long story," the young girl replied.
"You say that every time I ask."
"Perhaps I have good reason to," Evelyn returned.
"You can't hide nothing from me, missy. 'S about time you spilled."
"It's really not that interesting…"
"Don't care. Tell me anyway."
Nancy seemed adamant to know and Evelyn was not quite sure how to answer. She didn't exactly want to tell her. Despite the fact that they had become good friends, Nancy did like to gossip a lot. In fact, she made gossip out of anything. It was down to boredom mainly and of course, it was all harmless, but nevertheless, she didn't want to risk her secret getting out just to calm a persistent woman's constant questioning. But at the same time, she was a friend and she hated lying to her. She decided to settle on a middle ground.
"There's really not that much to it. I ran away and that's about all I can say. Didn't much like home, so I left."
"Why didn't you like it?"
Evelyn rolled her eyes, trust Nancy to ask such personal questions and feel no qualms about doing so. "Same old really, Father who was never home, Mother who didn't care much. I'm sure you've heard it all before."
"Mmmhmmm, kid. There's hundreds of girls like you out there. You're not alone, hun." She squeezed Evelyn's shoulder affectionately.
"So what about you? Where are you from?" she said, wanting to change the conversation away from her past.
"Down South, of course. Can't you tell by the accent?" Nancy laughed. "Austin, Texas, to be exact. Not much going on down there anymore though, not since this damn Depression."
"So, is that why you were in New York?"
"Yeah…" she answered unconvincingly.
Nancy shifted uncomfortably in her seat on the bed. Evelyn could tell she had wanted to avoid telling her own story. She didn't say anything for a long moment. Then she put the hairbrush that she was holding down beside her and stood up. Evelyn watched as she sat down in front of her on the floor, crossing her legs to mirror Evelyn's own position.
"Can you keep a secret?"
"Of course." Evelyn nodded. She grew uneasy now. She had just lied, well partly, to her very good friend, who was now willing to trust her with her own secret. She couldn't help but feel guilty.
"You mustn't tell a soul. Promise."
"I do. I won't tell anyone. Doubt anyone on this ship will be much interested in girl's gossip." Evelyn chuckled.
"No," said Nancy, her face serious. "It's more than that."
She chewed her lip nervously. Evelyn was a little worried about what Nancy had to say. She took her hand and gave it a squeeze.
"I promise I won't say a word. You can trust me," she reassured her. And it was true. She had never been one to gossip or betray people's trust, especially not now that she had her own secret. She knew how it would feel should it get out.
"Okay," Nancy said, quietly. "When I lived in Texas, I was married. His name was Ted. I was only young when it happened, 'bout your age, didn't really know what I was doing. Anyway, he didn't turn out to be very nice. Pushed me around a bit, wouldn't let me out the house and all that. But I couldn't leave. By the time I thought about doing it, my parents had died and I had no where else to go."
"Oh, Nancy," Evelyn sighed at the sound of it all, squeezing the older girl's hand harder. It made Evelyn appreciate that she could have been dealt a far worse card in life.
"But then I met Bobby. And he was nothing like Ted was. We had an affair right under Teddy's nose. It took him years to persuade me to leave and the night that we were gonna go, I made Bobby go to the house and get my things. I thought it'd be better if he went, I was so scared of what Ted might do when he found out I was gone. Anyway, they got into a fight, a big one. I don't know what happened exactly, but…" She paused for a moment, on the verge of tears. She took a breath and continued. "He killed him. Bobby killed Ted."
"Oh my goodness," Evelyn gasped.
"Oh, hun, please don't think bad of him! It was self-defence, Ted had gone crazy. Threatened to kill me, to kill both of us. It was the best thing anyone could have done. I know that sounds cruel, I wouldn't wish anyone dead, really I wouldn't. But I was so relieved. That man was pure evil."
"So that's why you moved to New York and why you're going to England?"
"Yeah, we got straight on the train to New York that night. Ran away as far as we could go. That was three years ago now and we hid as long as we could, but I guess things caught up with us. They're looking for us, Katherine, they know it was us – of course they do, they ain't stupid. But I can't let them get Bobby. They wouldn't believe us, they'd say it was murder. He'd get the noose for sure."
She was full on crying now, Evelyn wiped the tears away with a handkerchief she retrieved from her pocket. "It's okay, Nancy. They won't. We're hundreds of miles away from New York now and they have no idea where you went."
"But we can't be sure…"
"I promise you they won't find you. When we get to England, I'll make sure of it. I'll help you find somewhere to stay. I'll do everything I can." Nancy smiled at her in thanks.
"Oh, hun, I know what he did was wrong, but he did it for me, and Ted would have killed him otherwise. And no doubt gone after me, as well. But they won't see it that way, will they?"
"Perhaps not, but the right thing isn't always the best thing, that's for sure," Evelyn contemplated.
"I'm sorry, hun, I shouldn't have put all this on you. I just get so worried and I wanted someone to talk to about it. Bobby doesn't ever wanna talk about it. And I'm stuck on this damn ship with nothing to do."
"Don't be silly, you don't have to apologise for anything. I'll do everything I can to help."
"Oh, you're such a gem, hun. I'm so glad you're here."
Evelyn smiled warmly at her friend and embraced her. But not a word of Nancy's reassurance against Bobby, or any of her own comforting words, could cease the uneasiness in the pit of her stomach.
Evelyn did not quite know how to react to Nancy's new revelation. It was shocking to say the least. She had stayed in Evelyn's cabin for the rest of the afternoon, until Evelyn had to go back to her duties. They didn't speak on the matter for long. Although Nancy seemed pleased to get the weight of her secret off of her chest, she did not seem to wish to dwell on the subject much further. And Evelyn was more than happy with that. Though she wanted to help her new friend as much as possible, she was reluctant to get involved given the seriousness of their situation. Not to mention the fact that she could not help but feel guilty that Nancy had confessed her secret, but Evelyn had not in return told the woman her own.
There was something unsettling about it all. Evelyn was conflicted. On the one hand, she wanted to help her friend as much as possible, but on the other, she could not avoid thinking that there was more to the story than Nancy had told her, or possibly than Nancy even knew.
In fact, the more she thought about it, the more the concept started to develop. At first she had told herself that there couldn't be anything more to it, for why would Nancy lie to her? But simultaneously, she couldn't for the life of her shake the anxious feeling away. That was when it hit her that Nancy might not know everything, that perhaps Bobby had hidden something from her.
It was him that had made her think this, for why else would she doubt Nancy's story? There was something unnerving about him. Evelyn could not quite believe that he would do something so selfless, so dangerous, all in the name of Nancy. It pained her to say it, but was he really the sort of person to do such a thing? A man who preys on other women? Who pleased only himself? It was like a jigsaw puzzle, except all the other pieces fit but him. Evelyn just could not push the image of his sly smirk from her mind. It made her even more wary of him.
But she knew she could not contemplate the subject for long. There was nothing that she could do, really. She had no power now, no money and no connections that might help the pair out. All she could do was make sure Nancy was safe and away from London when they got to England. Besides, she had to think rather selfishly now that she was on her own. If she stayed with them and the police caught up with her, there would be no chance of her beginning a new life, they'd ship her off back home and that would be it. She couldn't risk it.
Evelyn sighed as she slowly stirred the bubbling stew before her. She'd had enough of thinking now, she'd been going over everything that had happened and everything Nancy had said to her over and over again all evening. Now she was tired and rather half-heartedly preparing the evening meal. Lumpy was none too happy at her unenthusiastic attitude.
"Come on, girl!" he called from the other side of the kitchen. "Put some effort into it."
"Sorry, Lumpy," Evelyn replied. "I'm on it, I swear."
"Must be ready now. Get those bowls and start filling 'em."
Evelyn did as she was told, just as the first of the crew members started to fill the galley. She began handing around the bowls of hot stew, still feeling rather morose. It must have shown however, for when Jimmy entered the room he frowned at her.
"What's up with you?" he asked.
"Nothing," Evelyn shrugged in reply. She handed him a bowl. "Here's your food."
"I don't believe you, but alright," he said, giving her a nudge on the shoulder.
She gave him a small smile as if to convince him that she really was fine and they sat down to eat.
The crew were clearly feeling rather raucous tonight; perhaps it was because today had been a little warmer than the days previous and the sun had been out. It was the simple things that made their day a little easier that they treasured. In any case, they were much louder than usual and the jokes were flying all over the place.
They say that misery loves company, but in actual fact, Evelyn's spirits improved the moment she sat down with all the others. She could not help but join in with their banter, their laughter was infectious. Then, after everyone was finished with their meal, they had decided to have a little dance. A few of the crew members played various instruments and apparently it was a regular occurrence on the ship, though Evelyn had yet to experience it.
"Come on, Jimmy, get your dancing shoes and let's go!" one of the crew members shouted.
Evelyn's head whirled round at the sound. "Jimmy, you dance?" she exclaimed incredulously.
He became a tad shy and gave a small nod. Evelyn grew excited. "Really? How wonderful. You know, you surprise me more and more everyday. Now, this I have to see."
She put down the bowls she was holding and made to skip out of the door to follow the others.
"Ah, just you wait a minute, young miss," interrupted Lumpy, blocking her path. "Don't you have something to do?"
"Yes," she answered. "I must go and watch!"
She tried to weave around him but he blocked her again. Jimmy watched from the door, rather amused.
"I don't think so. Not 'til you clean up, miss." He gestured behind her and Evelyn turned to see the state of the galley. It was more than a little messy, to say the least. She pouted and turned to Lumpy.
"Oh, please, can't it wait 'til after? I want to see the dancing." Evelyn was fully aware that she sounded like a ten year old girl, but she didn't care. The thought of missing out on it all was awful.
"No," Lumpy replied, ignoring the puppy dog eyes Evelyn gave him. "Do it now. And stop being such a…girl about it."
He picked up a nearby cloth and threw it into her hands before leaving the galley. She stood open mouthed before looking towards Jimmy. She gave him her best pleading eyes.
"Don't look at me!" he said, shrugging, a smile playing at his lips. "See you when you're done."
"Oh, Jimmy!" she cried, throwing the cloth at his retreating back. "That is so unfair."
This was one thing Evelyn did not like at all. It was like being back at home with everyone telling her what to do and wear and say all the time. Usually she didn't mind Lumpy bossing her around as she quite enjoyed her work in the kitchen, but she hated not being able to do things she wanted. This was precisely why she had left home in the first place. She growled in frustration and began gathering the bowls together. Only a few more weeks and she would be off the ship and could do whatever she wanted. The thought settled her.
After a while of scrubbing away at the dirty bowls and cutlery and just as she was reaching the end, Evelyn heard footsteps in the corridor outside. She smiled.
"Come back to help me, have you, Jim-"
But she stopped. It wasn't Jimmy. It was Bobby. Fantastic, Evelyn drawled in her head. She had been hoping to avoid him. Possibly forever.
"Oh, sorry. Thought you were someone else," she backtracked as he entered the room. Against her own wishes, she grew nervous. "Where's Nancy? Doesn't she want dinner?"
She kept her tone light, not wanting to give anything away. She hoped Nancy hadn't told him that she knew about everything, it was the last thing she wished to discuss with him.
"No, she's having an early night," he replied, sitting down at the table. "But you can hit me with some, kitten."
Evelyn made a face at the kitchen wall at the sound of the pet name he had called her. Kitten? She thought. Really? God, he really is a sleaze. She poured him out the last of the stew and set it before him on the table.
"Boy, aren't I sick of this," Bobby sighed.
"You don't have to eat it," Evelyn replied sternly. How dare he insult her food?
"Hey, cool it, will you? I didn't mean it like that."
Evelyn began to grow suspicious. He was being too nice. She had expected the opposite. She could not quite work out if this was a good or a bad thing. She ignored his comment, however, deciding she didn't care how he was acting, she didn't want to speak to him either way.
"Listen," he said, rising from the table and making his way over to where she stood at the sink. "I think we got off on the wrong foot. Can we start again?"
She eyed his outstretched hand apprehensively. The memory of her conversation with Nancy flashed across her mind. He had killed someone once. With the hand that he was currently offering to her. Even if it was supposedly by accident or self-defence, or what ever excuse he had given, even if the man deserved it, he still killed someone.
"I'll think about it," she returned, going back to her work.
"I think we'd get on real well…if you'd let us." His tone grew ominous again, there was a slyness about his words, like they had a double meaning. Evelyn did not wish to contemplate what that other meaning might be, she was in no way naïve to the seductions of men. He took a step closer to her. She ignored it and continued drying the newly cleaned bowls.
"Sure, if you say so."
She kept her tone polite but detached and uncaring. She couldn't let him see what she was thinking. To make doubly sure, she did not stop what she was doing. He watched intently as she stacked the bowls and put them away before walking away from him and starting to wipe down the tables. It appeared he wasn't fooled though.
"Don't be like that, dollface."
Evelyn cringed inwardly at the pet name again. He could not be any more infuriating if he tried. She opened her mouth to say something – something that probably would have landed her in rather a lot of trouble, so it was lucky that, at that moment, footsteps could be heard scampering down the hall. Jimmy appeared in the doorway.
"Katherine," he said, breathing heavily and grinning broadly. "You done yet? Lumpy's just started singing!"
It was only then that he realised there was another man in the room. His grin faded somewhat.
"What are you doing here?" he asked, almost accusingly.
"Just having some grub," Bobby answered casually, raising the bowl he held in his hands to prove it. He flashed him a grin. "Ain't she just swell to save me some?"
Jimmy ignored Bobby's comment, which surprised Evelyn. She thought she was the only one who did not like Bobby. The others seemed to get on with him well enough whenever he showed his face up on deck. However, it only served to make her like Jimmy even more, he was clearly a good judge of character, even if he had nothing to base his notions on.
"Katherine?" he asked again, bringing her attention back. She snapped back, right on form again.
"Well…I did have to pick it out of the trash," Evelyn said to Bobby with a false sweetness, giving him a grin in return. "Enjoy!"
At that, she ran out of the room, grabbing Jimmy's hand as she did. She didn't turn back this time. Lord knows, she didn't want to see his face after that. Evelyn knew that she riled him; she could say nothing to his comments, but then again, where was the fun in that? Anyone would have thought she would be more careful considering what she had just found out about the man, but Evelyn could not be bothered with it anymore. What could he do to her on this small ship? At first, she had believed he might know who she was, after their first encounter, but he had not mentioned it since, making her believe that he had been winding her up the whole time. She'd told herself to stop being so paranoid. Besides, the prospect of the evening's entertainment blew all thoughts of Bobby out of her mind.
A giggle escaped her mouth, involuntarily, as they approached the sound of music. Evelyn squeezed Jimmy's hand a little tighter.
"How exciting!" she exclaimed. She felt like a child again, and was no doubt acting like one too, but to Hell with it all, after so many days of hard work and long hours, it was most definitely what she needed.
They rounded the corner to be met by the whole of the crew gathered together on the deck. A few of the members had formed a sort of band to one side, some of which seemed to be playing instruments that looked like they'd made them themselves, Evelyn had no doubts that they had – one of them was definitely playing the washboard she used to do the laundry. She laughed at the sight and at the sound of Lumpy singing loudly amongst them. In all credit to him, he wasn't that bad.
Jimmy jumped in straight away, clearly the best dancer out of them all. He immediately fell into step with the other men dancing, unmistakably a natural. They performed a kind of jig, something Evelyn had never really seen before. It was fast-paced and involved a mix of tap dancing and folksy, jig-like steps. She wondered how they all kept up with it. It was unlike any of the dancing she had ever been taught.
Evelyn sat amongst the crew and watched, tapping her foot in time with the music and thinking that Nancy should be there enjoying it with her. The idea of going to her room and dragging her out of bed to join them flitted across her mind, but then Bobby's face loomed in front of her and she thought twice about it. Besides, Jimmy was beckoning to her excitedly.
"Katherine!" he shouted over the noise of the music and the men's laughter. "Come on! Get up here."
She laughed and shook her head. He gave a look of mock hurt before he was distracted again by the music. Evelyn continued to smile as she watched him. She didn't think she had ever seen him that way before. He was so full of life as he danced; his eyes glittering, reflecting the light of the setting sun, his cheeks slightly flushed as his feet tapped in time on the deck. It was a pleasant sight to see someone so happy.
Evelyn felt a rush of something then. Though she could not put a finger on what it was. She felt a sudden affection for him. But it wasn't one that had come on just at that moment, as she was watching him, it was more like a realisation of a growing fondness. In any case, whatever it was, it gave her a warmth in her chest that she had not experienced before. She decided it was a wonderful feeling.
Then, his eyes were on her again. Her stomach made a little turn at the unexpectedness of it, she also felt a tad embarrassed, as if he had known she was thinking about him. He beckoned once more, but still she refused. She was a competent dancer, alright, but not at dancing like this. Certainly she would embarrass herself by being unable to keep up.
"Katherine!" she heard Jimmy shout again. "Come and dance or I'll make you come and dance."
There was a cheer from the group at his words, but still Evelyn shook her head. A chorus of boos then resounded. Didn't they know that the more they drew attention to her, the less she wanted to dance? She couldn't possibly risk falling flat on her face in front of so many people. Not that she was one to be shy, mind you. In fact, usually she was the opposite, but with all eyes on her and after her previous low mood, for once in her life she felt a little shy.
"There is no way you will!" she called back. Jimmy cocked an eyebrow and gave a cunning smile.
"Wanna bet?" he laughed.
He made towards her, seated at the side of the group, arms outstretched as if to grab her.
"Oh, no you don't!" she cried, predicting his next move. But before she knew it, he had his hands placed firmly on her waist and was lifting her up into the air and putting her over his shoulder. She might have remarked on how easily he had done this, given that he was just a slip of a young man, had her mind not been previously occupied. She did nothing but protest at him. "Put me down! Put me down!"
"If you say so…"
He then, rather unceremoniously, dropped her down onto the deck, in the centre of the circle of men.
"Well, thank you very much!" she growled at him, sarcastically. She allowed him to relax a little, laughing at her response along with the rest of the crew, before pouncing on him. The unexpectedness of it meant that the weight of her bought him straight to the floor with a thump. She stayed on top of him as he lay on his back, straddling his torso and pinning his arms down to the ground, as he groaned in pain beneath her.
"Ha!" she cried, before realising the position she was in and growing a little embarrassed. She didn't think she'd ever done anything so unladylike, her Mother's ways still deeply embedded in her. Quickly, she leapt to her feet, leaving him still lying on the deck. "Now how'd you like it?"
The crew roared with laughter as Evelyn regained her seat at the side. The music, which had died down a little during their little ruckus, started up again in full force and the crew went back to their dancing. Jimmy did not try to get Evelyn to dance again and, though she missed his attention, she did not mind. She was more than happy watching the others and joking with the men sitting either side of her. Even Captain Englehorn and Hayes came to join them later, not that they joined in with the dancing, but it was good to see them there nonetheless. Evelyn did not have much to do with the Captain, but Hayes she spoke to often – him being so close with Jimmy and spending a lot of time with him – and she found him to be fine company.
After a while, the music died down and everybody grew tired. Gradually, the crowd of people began to break up as the crew retired to their cabins for the night. After a short time, only Evelyn and Jimmy were left. When Jimmy had grown tired from all the dancing he and Evelyn had gone and sat together by the edge of the ship. And still they sat there, after everyone else had left, their unbooted feet dangling off the edge, through the bars.
It was a calm night. In front of them, they could only see black. It stretched before them, vast and seemingly infinite, making their ship seem small and insignificant. The only lights that could be seen came from the ship and the full moon that shone clearly above them and the only sounds that could be heard was the gentle puff of steam and the soft parting of the waves as they slowly travelled onward across the ocean. The pair had been sitting in contented silence, until Jimmy cautiously broke it.
"Katherine…" he gently broached.
"Mmm?" she responded absentmindedly.
"I'm not sure I like Nancy and Bobby…" His voice had dropped to a near whisper and his eyes darted briefly about before he said it, clearly worried that they might be overheard.
"Really? Why do you say that?" Evelyn was surprised at his comment. But then, perhaps, at the same time, she shouldn't be. After all, there was the look he had given Bobby in the galley; of course, Evelyn knew better as to Bobby's character but Jimmy seemed to have no reason to dislike him. But now that she thought about it, Jimmy rarely spoke to either of them. Though it could easily be put down to Jimmy's shy nature – it did, after all, take him rather a while to properly warm to Evelyn – after over a week of their company, she would have thought he would have been a tad more relaxed around them. But, then again, it seemed he had his reasons to not feel relaxed.
"I dunno…" he mumbled, unsure of himself now.
Oh boy, he has no idea, Evelyn thought. "Nancy seems nice enough," she tried.
Jimmy shrugged. "I guess. There's just something about them…Can't put my finger on what it is…"
He shifted a little, uncomfortable now, and turned to face her a little more. "Be careful around them," he warned. This surprised Evelyn further, she didn't think she'd ever seen Jimmy act so forthright. He was usually so quiet and hesitant of himself.
"Jimmy, you don't have to worry about me," Evelyn chuckled. "I can fend for myself easily enough."
"Big tough girl, huh?" he joked in reply, the serious tone gone from their conversation now.
"'Course," she replied. "Have you seen who I have as a boss? I have to be."
Jimmy laughed in return. Evelyn loved the sound of Jimmy's laughter. She sighed contentedly at her situation, as she felt the cool night breeze tickle her bare feet. She loved evenings like this, chatting with Jimmy and watching the water.
"You really are a wonderful dancer, you know?" she remarked after a moment of silence.
Jimmy blushed slightly and ducked his head before replying. "Thanks. But I would have liked to see you dance."
Evelyn laughed. "I'm not sure about that…"
"I bet you're good." He narrowed his eyes at her in mock suspicion.
"Well, I wouldn't want to disappoint you then."
"Oh, come on, show me," he pushed. "There's no one else here. I promise I won't laugh."
"Why thank you for the vote of confidence!"
"Prove me wrong then. Show me you can do it."
"But I can't dance like you do. All that jigging around, like an Irish dancer or something."
"Well, what kind of dancing do you know? Is it ballet or something?"
Evelyn cringed. She had, in fact, once attempted ballet. She thought she was competent enough at it, but her teacher had thought differently, much to the disappointment of her mother.
"I'm more of a…ballroom kind of girl…" she blurted out.
"Ballroom? Really?" said Jimmy, incredulously.
"It's not that crazy, is it?" she laughed.
"It's just a bit…"
"Posh?" she answered for him. "Not something I should know particularly well, I suppose."
"Nah, I can see it, you dressed up all smart."
Evelyn shook her head. "No, thank you!"
"Come on," Jimmy pestered. "Show me how it's done."
She started at him in disbelief. There was no way she was going to do that. Not in front of Jimmy, the most talented dancer she'd ever met. He far outshone her in that area. She stared blankly at him. "Pardon?"
"You heard me. Show me how it's done," he repeated. "You wouldn't join me earlier, so you have to make up for it now."
He stood and stretched out a hand to her. She looked at it warily, unsure if she wanted to inflict her dancing ability onto the boy. Frowning and growling slightly in annoyance at his persistence, she took his hand and allowed him to pull her up.
"That's better," he smiled; it was returned with a sarcastic grin and a roll of the eyes.
"Very well then. I'll teach you," she sighed. She stood straight before him on the deck. "Now, take my waist."
He gave a small, slightly awkward cough, hesitating for a moment before placing his right hand on the small of her back. Automatically, Evelyn stepped forward, bringing them closer together, so that she looked him directly in the eye, and took his other hand in hers. Her other hand she placed on his shoulder.
"Right," she began, thrown by their proximity, face flushed somewhat. "Well, that's the positioning, anyway…" She was stalling and he knew it.
"And next?" he pressed.
"Um…I can only really remember one dance – the waltz. You probably know it already."
"A little, probably needs a bit of work though."
"Well, it goes something like this," Evelyn began a few basic steps, taking it slowly so he could respond to her movements. "All you need to remember is that posture is everything. And also, communication. We have to work and move together. Otherwise, the dance won't flow properly. At least, that's if I'm quoting my teacher right."
"You had a dancing teacher?" he repeated dubiously.
"Oh…yes…" she stammered, nervous at being caught out slightly. "Just my mother, really."
They continued dancing, Jimmy picking up the steps straight away – the true sign of a good dancer. Evelyn wished she had been that fast in learning it herself, it had taken her many lessons and left her with a rather frustrated tutor, if she remembered correctly. She had, however, come out of it all having nearly mastered the art of ballroom dancing. Well, at least of the waltz, it was after all, the easiest of all the dances. Though she had no interest in learning how to dance, she had been graced with good posture and good enough coordination for her to pick it all up well enough. And her mother had been happy with the results, so she must have been at the very least competent at it.
Evelyn hummed a tune in time with their dancing, wishing that they had music playing in the background. She looked down at their feet, moving rhythmically below them. She was proud of herself for keeping up with the boy. But she had to admit, where as he managed to do it all effortlessly, seemingly without having to think about it, Evelyn, on the other hand, had to keep looking down and constantly focus on what she was doing. She bit her lip in concentration and Jimmy chuckled.
"Thought this was your thing?" he laughed.
"Well, now, I never said that."
"Yes, you did!"
"Alright, don't pick holes. You should know never to listen to me."
"Too late now."
After a moments dancing in silence, perfectly in time with the tune that Evelyn hummed along as an accompaniment, Evelyn looked back up at Jimmy's face. Except, this time he wasn't looking at her with a bemused expression, as before; now he looked at her far more intently. It was as if he were studying her face, watching the tiny movements of her lips and eyes. It was a similar expression to that which she held when she looked at him. She always found him endlessly fascinating and at the present moment, she might have thought that he thought the same of her.
An amused, yet wary, smile graced her lips as a result of a mix of embarrassment and nervousness at the current situation, unsure of how to respond. She had never been this close to a boy before – she had never let a boy be this close to her.
"Everything ok?" she prompted.
"Perfect," he returned, encouraging an even broader smile from Evelyn.
But something had changed between them. Their movements slowed down, until they simply stood before one another, Jimmy's hand still on Evelyn's waist and the other grasping her own. Evelyn was unsure as to who prompted the movement, but before she knew it, their hands were at their sides, fingers interlaced with one another's. She absent-mindedly wondered how and when they had become so close; so close that she could feel his breath, soft on her cheek and cool with the night's air, that she could see the way his blue grey eyes reflected the silver moonlight, like the sea at rest.
Jimmy's head dipped in an action that was so subtle she would have missed it, had she not been paying attention to his every movement. Unconsciously, she mirrored him, so that their lips were level with each other, so that they were almost touching. If they only moved that little bit closer…
The unmistakable click of smart and well-crafted shoes on hard flooring sounded from behind them, breaking them from their reverie. Evelyn was the first to break away, the sound instantly bringing her back to reality. Jimmy reacted more quickly, senses trained from years of relying on them solely for survival, he took a step back, dropping her hand with more care than she expected.
When no one emerged from the shadows, they dropped their guards once more and relaxed. Evelyn anxiously speculated as to who might have seen them, unsure as to how the crew would react to seeing or hearing of what had happened – or to what had been going to happen. But the thought left her mind again, when Jimmy addressed her. And anyway, they had done nothing wrong.
"We'd better get to bed," he said, a tone of resignation in his voice. Evelyn nodded and they turned to find the lower deck. But, not two steps were taken, before she felt a warm hand enveloping her own. She looked down to see Jimmy's hand wrapped tenderly with hers. She gave him a small, contented smile as they walked back to their cabins. She decided she liked the feeling of Jimmy's hand in hers, of him being so close to her. She had never in her life thought she would say something like that, but here she was, saying it! Once, she had vowed never to go near a boy, never to even talk or look at one. She had been very young at the time, but so far, she had pretty much stuck to it. She had never had much interest in young men – in finding a 'suitable suitor' as her Mother said – but this was different. It had nothing to do with marriage or money or anything of the sorts, this was simple. She enjoyed Jimmy's company and wished to have it as much as possible. There wasn't much more to it than that. She wasn't even sure if she would call it love or something even similar. Did it need to be labelled anything?
There was no care as to what it might turn into, where it might lead or what she might get out of it, none of that mattered. What mattered was the present, the moment that they had just shared. And the only thing running through Evelyn's mind was the hope that he might hold her hand more often.