Lost At Sea
1587 Somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean
The stench of piss, vomit, and excrement, mixed with ocean water only helped to make her feel sicker. The ship rocked mercilessly when the ruthless waves clashed atop the deck and engulfed it of seawater. It made the pit of her stomach rise. Her cheeks engorged and her mouth filled with bile she could not swallow.
Missing the bucket on her lap, throwup splooshed to the floor swirling with the rising water at their feet, along with everyone else’s discharge. The woman shakily standing next to her, Margaret, retched while a tall, thin man pissed himself in fear.
“Master Henry! Could thou have the decency to move three feet away while yer piss yourself?!” Margaret asked annoyed. Her large maroon eyes looked dark and deep in her pale, thinned face. She could barely keep herself alive but she was going to let her thoughts be known if it was the last thing she did.
“Ugh,” he groaned in pain and noisily burped, before moving elsewhere.
“Disgusting,” she said looking back at Cecily, then covered her mouth and spewed all over herself.
Margaret’s mane was plastered against her head and scattered chunks of everything that floated on the bottom deck were entangled between the redhead’s hair earlier when she tripped and fell before settling on the bed next to her childhood friend.
“That man is going to make a terrible gunsmith,” Margaret couldn’t stop herself from saying.
Cecily did not question why she said that. Margaret had never sounded like a proper lady before and this was not going to be the time for her to begin.
The swaying caused Cecily to puke once more in the almost full, metal pail she held between her tired arms. She noted her companion looked green in the face and had lost at least a stone; just like she had, as all the dresses they had brought with them fit a few sizes too big now.
“Lord, please have mercy and let us find land soon. May your grace-”
“See those Lords praying with the protestant priest?” Margaret said pointing with her eyes, “A few days ago I saw them shamelessly ogling a few of the gentlewomen. Hypocrites.”
There was scorn in her voice. Largely because of the circumstance, they were in and not that it was part of her friend’s character.
Cecily’s verdigris-colored eyes gave the petite woman a side glance. Although not religious, she thought it inappropriate to criticize the praying Lords at such a defining moment. However, she knew Margaret to fancy one of the men in question and was certain she was releasing sentiments of anger held in her heart.
She also knew her good friend constantly provided everyone; whether they asked for it or not, with an earful of sass and opinions. Even at a moment where the grip of death choked and smothered the small strands of hope they had left.
“Lucky for them, I’m not here to judge,” she continued, smoothing a hand over her forehead. “Cecily, thou must converse with me, or I shall faint from dizziness.”
Under different circumstances, Cecily would have laughed at her spoiled ways but she was too ill and weak to lift her head. She understood Margaret could not stop chattering when nervous and she was too exhausted to stop her.
Margaret pleaded, “Cecily?” The smallness of her voice barely heard beyond the crashing of waves against the ship’s starboard.
“I-I cannot, Margaret.” With unsteady fingers, she contained long strands of wet hair under the stiff, embroidered hood hanging atop her head. Her creamy skin ghostly, due to frequently having to stay confined in her chamber for most of the voyage. It was either too rainy, too windy, or too stormy to walk about the upper deck on most days.
Cecily pinched her nose, the putrid fetor was unbearable and seemingly the worst of it all. A concoction of the vilest of odors she would not wish upon the devil himself. The flatulence and dung malodor emaciated her soul. Cecily knew she would remember it and that moment, until the day she lay moribund on her deathbed. Never to be erased by time or illness.
“Bleechh-” Margaret heaved, then continued speaking as if it had not happened. “If I am to die, it won’t be quietly Ce.” The puke trickled down the side of her mouth and she wiped at it with the back of her hand. There was no use to look or act properly at that point. “Each time my head pounds, I question why I paid good silver to come on this voyage in the first place.”
Maybe her childhood friend did not remember the reasons why she’d come, but she did. For opportunity and to be part of the first settlement in the Americas. For a better life and although savages, to learn about healing plants from the natives.
Back home, she was an apprentice Apothecary by trade thanks to her father. Yet not one Master wished for their Mistress to be treated of illnesses by a woman back in England. Even the fathers of unmarried Mistresses did not approve of a woman healer.
Being part of this new settlement meant, when any of the one-hundred and thirty-three nobles left, fell ill, they would have no other option but to treat their ailings with her. That, if they didn’t all die before they found land.
“I shan’t Cecily, I shan’t live like this. I covet my mum’s warm bosom.” She began to cry and rested her head on her companion’s shoulder.
Margaret, who was a recent widow, looked younger than her twenty-three years of age as she wept for her mother. She left against her parent’s will, but after the death of her former husband; a much older man she did not love, her mother began pushing her to marry again.
The man left her childless but wealthy, and having enough of her mother, she refused to fall under her mother’s law and scrutinizing eye once more. Offering a large sum of benefits left in her name, it was agreed for her to the voyage and luckily with her, Cecily.
Cecily wrapped a weak arm around her and softly hummed a lullaby.
Where are you, Lorde? Where? When twenty of us have passed and thrown overboard for fish to feast on? Perhaps they’d passed, to allow for the rest of us to survive? She wondered.
With remarkable amounts of water coming inside the vessel and spoiling most of the belongings they had left, it was challenging to understand what was happening. If they stayed trapped beneath any longer, in their own filth, the ship would turn into their coffin.
To travel that far and perish, was not an option. Cecily swallowed a thick lump and closed her eyes. Squeezing Margaret to her, she cradled her body as if she were a small child.
“Thank you,” Margaret whispered. “You’re most gracious.”
But that display of support was not all for her friend. It was for herself too. She needed the warmth close to her quivering body. She needed to hold on to something and believe it would all be well. She must know the group of brave men, women, and children; who solely looked to survive another storm, would make it to the New World and settle.
Unlike the last group of soldiers, they’d sent before them.
“Do you think we will survive?” Margaret’s voice cracked and Cecily’s heart broke.
“Hmm-hmm,” she nodded.
Not making it to the newly incorporated Cittie of Ralegh, Virginia, had never crossed her mind. Especially, because it would be overseen by Governor John White, who was not only traveling with them but accompanied by his wife, daughter, and son in law. Cecily understood, he would not have allowed them to voyage if he thought they would die.
The ship moved about, but not as violently as before. Cecily's empty stomach was grateful for this as it could take no more of the horrid pain. Exhausted, she fell asleep with her head upon Margaret’s. Her still damp but filthy brown strands covered half her face. The rain pattered and seeped through the wood ceiling boards and the crashing waves were more of a lullaby, enveloping everyone under the darkness of profound slumber.
Cecily opened her eyes at the feeling of something floating near her ankles. A woman’s lifeless body bobbed in the water around her ankles and tapped her leg.
Cecily shrieked, “Aieeeee!” her heart raced and she jerked her foot away, panicked. Lifting them from the floor, she folded them below her.
Twenty women are left! Or is it eighteen? Her mind blurred and she could not remember.
Broken, her face crumpled and she sobbed while Margaret slept on her shoulder unaware of one more defeat. Looking around she noticed most folks were kipped away. One of the older ladies cradled her child rocking its body back and forth unaware and absent.
Cecily perceived the sea would soon calm. She could hear the crew of seamen on deck scattering and cleaning the mess it left behind.
A few aye-aye-sirs in the distance along with faraway shouts from the sailors resonated from different parts of the ship.
The odor jostled her nose. It was unbearable but the fatigue was stronger. Resigning to whatever Neptune might devise for them next, she surrendered to Hypnos, the Greek god of sleep, conceding for him to take over her mind rest.