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Captain Marina stood at the tiller of the Night Wind looking into the far-off horizon. An endless ocean of vibrant gold, teal and azure tones stretched out before her, but for months now she had been unable to appreciate its beauty. It was all the new Quartermaster’s fault.
Joanna was as beautiful as she was deadly, and she had captured Marina’s heart the second their eyes met across the crowded bar at Smugglers Cove. The following day, with Libertalia a few nautical miles behind them, she’d called for the First Mate. Within seconds, Joanna was saluting her.
Initially, she had allowed herself to hope that the cunning corsair had gambled her way to a position on the Night Wind because she had felt it too. Feeling her blood aflutter with unfamiliar emotions had put a smile on her face and a spring in her step. She had tried her best to show how she felt, even going so far as to hide a bracelet she’d made under Joanna’s pillow and making sure to call her over so they could share their meals together.
Sadly, Marina’s feelings were unrequited. She had accepted that nothing would come of it and settled for what she believed was a budding friendship. They enjoyed each others’ company – of that she was sure – and they could talk for hours about books and life and work and their pasts. In a fight, they thought and fought as one. So much so that she had come to rely on the feeling of Joanna’s back pressing up against her own. What a fool she had been!
Pirate Captains can’t afford to lose their marbles, and what was this dream of love other than a madwoman’s feeble mind at play? She was glad she had snapped out of it and decided to keep it professional, but the sadness still weighed her heart down. And today, she thought it might burst. Joanna had seemed as unreachable as the distant shores they were headed to lately, and this morning, as she chose to share her vittles with some of the crew, she’d been talking about signing off at the next port. Marina couldn’t bear it.
“The wind’s a-changin’ Cap! Should we adjust the sails?” Joanna’s voice broke through her silent lamentations.
“Aye,” she replied and looked up as if she’d been caught with her hand in the wrong pocket. Their eyes met and she knew she was staring but couldn’t quite help herself. She wanted to say something. Wanted to ask her to stay, but no. She wouldn’t stand in the way of her happiness. If Joanna wanted to sign off, she wasn’t going to put pressure on her to stay. That was not how she ran her ship.
That night, as she was trying to get comfortable in her bedding, Marina found a bracelet under her pillow. Her poor heart nearly jolted out of her chest at the thought of Joanna returning the unwanted trinket in some bizarre farewell gesture. On further inspection, however, it was not her bracelet but a poorly knotted replica. What was the meaning of this?
Bracelet in hand, Marina studied the knots and smelled the tarred strings. She knew she wouldn’t be able to sleep with this thing in her quarters, so she got back up, pulled her boots on and headed back out to Quarterdeck to throw it into the sea.
“Can’t sleep, Cap?” Joanna’s voice came from behind her.
Instinctively, she pulled her arm back in and turned around. This was the second time today she felt like she’d been caught red-handed.
“I could ask you the same, Jo. This isn’t your watch.”
Joanna stepped into the faint light from the lantern. She cleared her throat, swallowed and looked like she was going to be sick, then she pulled her hand out of her pocket and held it out to show Marina the bracelet she had tied her hopes and feelings into all those months ago.
“I’ve tried to show you this so many times. Tried to find the right words to ask.” She sighed and scratched her head. “You know I’m not one to mince my words, but this isn’t easy for me. Did you put this in my bed?”
“I did,” Marina confessed, feeling just as sick now as Joanna looked. “I made it as a gift for you. It was kindly meant, Jo, but I understand why you didn’t want it. I’m sorry. It wasn’t right.”
“No, Cap. Marina. It’s only been a few moons, really, but in my heart, I feel like we’ve always sailed together. Like it’s always been you and me, back to back, facing sea monsters and fighting rival pirates. I knew you when I first saw you and I knew I had to get on this ship.”
Marina pulled the bracelet she’d been about to toss overboard out and held it out for Joanna to see.
“Yeah, I’m not very good with crafts, but I made it for you,” Jo said. I wanted to give you one so we had a pair, but it took me forever to make something that even resembles yours. And then…”
“Then your interest faded.”
“My interest?” Marina felt like she was missing something. “What do you mean?”
Joanna blushed – she actually blushed – and Marina felt a peculiar sense of pride. “I thought you liked me, as in really liked me, and I thought… It was silly, I know, but… I thought we had started something…”
Marina felt like she’d found the North Star in a sky of darkness. She stepped closer to Jo and took her hands. “No, I’m the one who’s been silly. I’ve worked so hard on convincing myself you wouldn’t want me. That I had to learn how to keep it strictly professional between us so as not to repulse you-“
She wasn’t sure who had kissed whom first, but it was morning by the time they tied their bracelets around each other’s wrists. With the woman she loved wrapped up in her arms, their fingers perfectly intertwined, Marina fell asleep smiling at the thought of all the uncharted territory they would explore together.
© 2023 Linn Rhinehart
Did you like the Cap’s attempt to write a sweet romance? Whether it’s a yes, a no or a meh, we invite ye to unleash your own storytelling skills this season. Your story or poem must be related to pirates, of course, and no more than 5,000 words long. We will share our favourites on the website and, who knows, your story could become the stuff of legend aboard the Resilience. Or maybe get a spot in our next Libertalia Tales series.
Send your tale to firstname.lastname@example.org before the end of the month and watch this space…