My lungs burn as I run, top speed through the market place. The loaf of bread in my pocket seems to weigh me down immensely as I go. How could I be so stupid? Everyone knows you can't steal from Mr. Florence! He doesn't go down without a fight even over a silly little loaf of bread. I sure picked a great stall to grab a snack from. But then again, I didn't know it was the F-man when I took his bread. My growling stomach just got the better of me and I didn't stop to think who I was stealing from.
"Come back here thief!" Thank the gods the pudgy man is slow. I may not be the best runner, but soon I'm lost in the crowd. I can still here Florence though, so I keep running right down to the docks. Maybe it's best I ditch this town. I see a ship boy holding a sign for Tortuga.
"Ship boy!" I call, running right up to him. I can see he's uncomfortable with my boldness, but I don't have time for awkwardness. "How soon is your ship sailing?" I demand.
"Soon as the tide goes out." he shrugs.
"Is your captain aboard?"
"Yes miss. The cabin neath the stairs there." He points and I immediately jump over the deck rail and race to the door. But I pause before knocking. I want to make a good impression. These days it's hard to convince captains to take aboard women. Stupid superstitions. But to my surprise, it's a feminine voice that calls for me to enter.
"Um…captain?" I call, opening the door just a crack.
"Come on in lass." A beautiful golden haired woman calls from her desk. She's observing maps and marking little dots on different places in the ocean. "You're a new face."
"Yes ma'am. I'm Joss." I say shyly.
"New name too. What are you doing in a ship yard little one? You must only be twelve."
"Actually I'm sixteen." I say defensively. "And I saw that you're bound for Tortuga. I'd like to offer my services aboard for the venture."
"I see. Where are your parents Joss?" she asks.
"Don't have any ma'am. Just escaped the last orphanage two months ago. I need a new start, somewhere far away from here." The loaf of bread weighs heavily in pocket as I say it. I wonder if Florence has given up his chase, or if he's stalking around the shipyard looking for me. The thought makes me all the more desperate to hear the Yes come out of her mouth. But she's taking her sweet time thinking about it.
"Are you in some sort of trouble Joss?"
"Why does that matter ma'am?"
"Well, I've had my fair share too. I'll take you to Tortuga. Will!" she shouts over her shoulder and a boy of probably 17 or 18 appears from another door. "Will, this is Joss. She'll be needing a room away from the men folk."
"Yes mum." He nods and goes to lead me out.
"I didn't get your name captain." I explain.
"Elizabeth Turner. But the boys call me Captain Turner." She says shortly and nods to Will. He nods to me, and this time I follow him.
"Will, why isn't your dad the captain? I mean, Captain Turner doesn't seem the kind to have a bastard child, so I can only assume you have a dad." I state as we walk away.
"My dad's sorta…got his own crew to look after."
"Both your parents are ship captains? How can you bear being on ships for so long?"
"It's not that hard for me. I like the sea."
"I do to, but I hate ships." I shrug. He gives me an odd look.
"Are you sure you're 16." This time I give him an odd look. "I was listening to your conversation with my mum. You do look so young. And you're behavior is hilariously uncharacteristic for a young woman." He explains.
"Well I am 16. The first home I lived in was one right by the sea. The woman who found me said I washed in with the tide one day. A brand new baby in a basket, with a fishing net for a blanket and a weird looking locket as a toy." I reach into my pockets and pull out the crab shaped trinket to show him. "They think it was my mothers. So I keep it with me for good luck. Anyway, I couldn't have been more than a month old, and that was sixteen years ago." He still looks a little doubtful, but he doesn't mention it again.
"Why didn't you stay with those people?"
"They said I was cursed. Every year on the anniversary of the day they found me, there was a huge storm that wrecked their house and left stinky fish all over the beach. So after my seventh birthday they sent me away, trying to make it sound like it was for the best. And the first orphanage I went to was dreadfully far away from the sea. I got out of there within a month. After that it was just trying to find a good place to sleep. Some orphanages were okay. But in the end, I left all of them for one reason or another. You're lucky you have a home. Even if it is a ship." Like the ship boy, Will also seems a bit uncomfortable by my bluntness.
"To be honest, I wish I could spend some time on land. But really mum only likes docking for a day at the most and then once every ten years, the three of us, me her and dad, will spend the entire day together on land. It's only been once so far, but that was the best day of my life. And I can hardly wait the two years until I see him again."
"That's an awfully long time to not see your dad." I point out.
"Sometimes I wish I could sail with him. But what would mum do all alone? And dad sails some troubling waters." He sighs deeply.
"Maybe once you get older your mum will be okay with you going with your dad."
"Maybe. This is your room. It's pretty small, but it's better than the male sailor deck. It smells frightfully bad down there." He shudders a little.
"Thanks Will. I'll see you tomorrow?"
"Yeah, see ya Joss." He waits until I get in my cabin to leave. I take in a deep breath of the ocean air mixed with wood and sigh. This feel so much better than any orphanage I was ever in. the sea has always been a safe place to me. Somewhere I can feel good and safe. It makes me wonder just who my parents were. Pirates or sailors or just sea people in general. Some mystical beings from far away that just couldn't take care of a child.