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The Island

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Endless Day

Cecily’s eyes remained shut even as she became aware of the pitter-patter of feet shuffling on the deck above her. Her brain thumped against her skull and delicate fingers wanted to push at her temples to release the pressure but they couldn’t.

Her eyes flew open upon realizing, alas! the ship navigated steadily. Releasing the encrusted sigh trapped deep within her lungs, her gaze nailed itself to the ceiling, zoning between it and thoughts of the prior deadly evening.

The comfortable quietness of the room took hold of her and she knew to be alone. Her mind insisted her body rise but her limbs refused to respond. The failed attempt to move confused her and even in the darkness of the chamber, her eyes strained.

Have I given up? Almost, she concluded. Even when one is not religious, so many deaths take a toll on the spirit.

Her arms dangled limply at the sides of the small cot and her chest chose to anchor itself to the thin mattress. A lone tear rolled out of the corner of her eye tickling the skin until it reached her ear. Soon after, the rest followed. For a while, they poured but she made no sound. She was empty, a soulless shell, and distant memory, of who she used to be.

“A sty of wild hogs, we were last evening.”

Cecily’s chest jerked. “I beg your pardon?” wiping her face, she turned her head towards the unfamiliar voice.

In a bed tucked at the corner, there was a plump gentlewoman breastfeeding what looked to be a one-year-old child. Cecily recognized her to be the Lady she had seen the night before desperately cradling the infant back and forth in fear.

“Hogs, in a pen,” she said a little louder. The woman’s voice had a nasal tone to it but there was a sweet air about her when she smiled.

Cecily noted, that although she had seen her around the vessel, they had yet to properly meet. With much effort, she pushed her upper body forward and it bent at the waist to take a better look at them.

“Cecily Morgan.”

“Agnes Smart–stop fussing child!” The woman’s sights briefly traveled from Cecily’s green eyes to the angelic face with the rosy cheeks on her lap. She adjusted the boy so he would stop moving and could suck on her now uncovered nipple. “This is my Thomas,” the smile she gave was weak. “They have stale bread and apples upstairs if hungry. Many are half-rotten but edible.”

She brought a hand to her stomach at the mention of food, but the thought of rotten apples and stale bread wasn’t appealing. “Thank thee, Mistress Smart.” The words were swift and she stood to sit closer to the mother and her baby.

Cecily noticed the wooden floorboards were still soaking wet from the prior evening but most of the debris had been scrubbed away. The smell was still pungent, similar to a carcass but with hints of mold and rotting wood as well.

“Call me Agnes, child. The sea does not favor ye whether poor nor the wealthy. Cash nor title serves us much in this unforsaken ship. We all came of free will as this voyage was favored by Queen Elizabeth herself, was it not? Master Scott, my husband, hopes a new position in government, and the acres promised, favor us with family we left behind.” Her eyes looked empty. “—We lost three more last night.” Her eyes focused on the flickering candle. “God rest their spirits.”

Cecily gulped and goosebumps formed at her skin reminded of the floating woman at her feet.

“I-I did see one ... at my feet.” Terrified she shook her head but forced a smile at the child who stared at her with bright blue curiosity. She reached over and gently pressed his stubby fingers.

Agnes gave her a disheartening look. Cecily knew she understood the unspoken words between them.

“After all the tribulations and trials, do thou question why you agreed to be here?”

Cecily was clear as to why her friend and now Mistress Smart, would ask such a question. Quickly she shook her head, “No Mistress.” She refused to do such a thing trusting the pain they lived daily, temporary.

Wiping her hand on the skirt of her blue dress, Agnes cooly observed her. “You don’t speak much, do you, girl?”

“I think what needs to be said should be said. That’s that.” In truth, Cecily rather not chat much as her ideas usually brought confrontation and resistance.

“I assume thou are making some handsome husband happy with yer ways,” the mistress’s voiced matter-of-factly.

“I am not married, nor I plan on a husband. Like my father, I am a woman of science. A healer and chose to be part of this colony to own an establishment.”

Agnes was taken aback by the unexpected words. “Are thou?” she chuckled lightly. “Is yer father with you?”

Cecily shook her head.

“Think this ship is frightening? Wait until we are on land if we ever make it. Thou will soon realize taking a husband is the proper thing to do.” Agnes lowered her voice, “There are savages living on land. Did thou know this? Who will protect, or help till the land thou will be given? Five-hundred acres for a girl your age and by herself? Hmph! unheard of,” she huffed.

At that moment, Cecily knew she did not wish to speak to the woman about her affairs, nor discuss the fact that even though there were ninety-eight men left on board, being paired to one of them, was not her intention.

She did not need a husband’s protection. Since a very young age, her uncle taught her to use firearms. Cecily expertly knew how to use a musket and a caliver and she had brought both she owned with her. She also asked Margaret to purchase a few firearms herself. Even though she had never pulled a trigger, Cecily would teach her.

Growing up motherless and an only child, had the outcome of an unusual childhood. Especially for a young lady in society. When adding the requirement of her father’s need for an assistant when visiting the ill, it produced an independent girl who learned to love the craft and dreamed of an occupation. Not marriage.

“Is this not why we’ve taken such a risk in the first place? Is it not change what has brought us here? The unhappiness to be under the rule of greedy kings and queens and their laws? High taxation? Aren’t we in the search for freedom?”

Agnes gave the young woman a blank stare and her demeanor changed. The soft, blond curls around her shoulders shook as her head moved in disagreement. “Thou will still need a husband, foolish girl. We are to be the first colony of settlers in the Americas. Aside from religion, our duty is to beget offspring.”

Without an answer, Cecily blinked her large eyes in perplexity. Am I to be judged and treated with disrespect here as well? What would she think if she knew I am not religious ... Cecily believed in the Christian god but wasn’t one to attend church. It went without saying, she believed in science, not miracles.

Her mind scattered around her brain to find a way to change the subject, “Did the other ship withstand the storm?”

The Mistresse lowered her tired gaze to look at the face of her sleeping boy. Gently she caressed the mahogany locks coated in sweat off his forehead. When she looked back at Cecily, her blue eyes were misted with tears, yet still held pity for her, “Not good–we lost the Pinnace.”

Early on, they’d lost their flyboat off the coast of Portugal. Cecily grimaced, how ironic to lose a ship called the Pinnacle.

“That is why we are low on supplies and food,” Agnes continued. “With only this ship left, making it to land seems improbable.”

“But we had provisions to last us a year!” The uneasiness returned to the pit of her gut.

“And now, we barely have a thirty-day supply. The weather is worse than predicted. If we do not find our way soon, we will perish.”

And yet she chooses the limited time we might have left to judge me about choices that are properly mine.

“I think I will get myself an apple after all.”

“Good idea, girl. There’s fresh-water on the table there, close to the stairs. I will respectfully say, the smell coming off you, is not that of a lady.”

Cecily stood and turned embarrassed, “Um, thank you, Mistress. Please, if I may be excused, I have an apple and a loaf of bread waiting upstairs.”

“Go right ahead, child.” Agnes leaned sideways on the bed away from Cecily to rest with her son.

Blushing, Cecily muttered under her breath and walked over to her bed. It goes without saying I will wash before eating.

Stepping atop the mattress, she grabbed the saddleback, leather bag that carried her possessions. Pulling a carefully folded piece of linen cloth and ground sage mixed with salt crystals inside a glass bottle, she placed them on the bed. Then, gingerly unwrapped a polished bronze, handheld mirror, and hopped off the cot.

She immediately looked over at Agnes, who softly snored, before walking to where the water was placed inside a large silver vase. Emptying some of its contents into a matching silver plate, Cecily stripped down to her undergarments and proceeded to wash her hands, arms, and face along with as much as she could of her hair.

“Cecily! Are thou awake?” came Margaret’s loud whisper from the top of the stairs.

Concerned, Cecily glimpsed over at the mistress, neither she nor her son stirred. “Hush! I’m making myself proper,” she yelled-whispered back.

“Does thou have plans to take all morning and part of the afternoon?”

“I’ll climb up as soon as I’m finished, now hush! Someone sleeps.”

Only a minute passed before Margaret spoke again. “It’s beautiful out Cecily. Finally, our Lord made the sun, shine upon us!”

Cecily kept quiet and continued polishing her teeth. The feelings of relief were comparable to lifting a one hundred pound beast off her shoulders and she acknowledged clean teeth and sunshiny skies, could do wonders for feeble souls.

Footsteps coming down the stairs caught her attention.

“I’m sweating from head to toes and love it,” Margaret said in a manner she believed to be quiet. “It feels scandalous!” she continued in an even lower voice. “So improper.”

Cecily smiled and shook her head imagining Margaret smiled to herself at that moment. She knew her to be less courageous than she portrayed to be to others. Cecily sensed it would soon catch up to Margaret and one day, someone might test her.

“On my way! I’m on my way! Please wait upstairs.”

Margaret did not reply but her steps echoed heavily back up the wooden stairway.

Once on deck, the golden strands of sunlight glared in Cecily’s eyes and she shielded them with one hand. Margaret threw herself at her and tightly embraced her tall figure.

“Cecily, aren’t thou thrilled to be alive?! I am. Mistress Marie and two men passed away last night,” she said close to Cecily’s ear before looping an arm through hers and nudging Cecily to move forward.

The dark circles under Margaret’s brown eyes aged her and the scarlet hair resembled a wild forest fire. She wore it loose and it blew every which way in the breeze. “Master Fredrick hit his head when one of the waves rocked the ship. He fell and drowned! Also, Master Thompson—the milliner, not the chandler.”

The fact Margaret knew the names of everyone on the ship boggled Cecily. It was also a clear separation of their characters. They were so different, yet loved one another as sisters.

“I’m not sure I know who they are, Margaret.”

Margaret squinted. “How can thou not? We’ve been in this vessel for a month and a half,” her look showed disapproval. “Cecily, how fortunate I came with thee. I don’t know how thou would manage without me,” she laughed handing her a hard piece of bread she took out of one of her pockets.

“Thank thee, yes. Surely fortunate ... I’d be hiding under my bed,” Cecily teasingly rolled her eyes and peered down at her friend with a shake of the head. “Were they, were they—thrown offboard yet?” She picked at one of the loaf’s moldy corners and tossed it over the beautifully carved veranda and into the ocean.

“No.” Margaret tightened the white shawl around her neck with one hand and made the sign of the cross with the other. “The priest will gather us here before sunset. Then it will be done.”

Cecily had no tears left to shed. It had been a grueling journey and she believed she’d shed the last few left inside her, earlier.

The strong winds loosened and tossed her hair out of the tight bun atop her head. Long tendrils of chestnut struck her face and the smell of salt, dug itself deep within her skull every time she took a breath. It was a scent Cecily learned to love yet also hate. The beauty of the deep-blue ocean and the sunset’s amalgam of orange, purple, and rose, a contradiction of the reality they lived.

Half staffed eyes, dulled by expressions of profound sadness surrounded her. Dispirited, Cecily looked beyond the somber faces and held on to Margaret’s arm with extreme force. The priest prayed and her friend quietly cried. For a long moment, she noted Margaret held them back although her lips quivered. However, they now dropped from her chin like rain.

I should not be feeling like this, I’m a woman of medicine. A person of science but, how are we to stand much more of this? Cecily sought answers that were not available to her.

She counted the masts for the umpteen time; One—two—three ... As many as the number of people who perished the night before.

Before leaving, Cecily knew there would be risks. Her father warned her so. But she had not expected so many limp, lifeless bodies in such a short span.

She’d expected to help if anyone fell ill but much of her concoctions were used early for headaches, stomach aches, or fever ... However, most of the people who perished drowned. Others hit their heads while the ship violently rocked back and forth and never woke. For those matters, there was no antidote.

Her breath came out in shallow spurts and Cecily felt her heartbeat in her throat. Striving to distract herself when one of the cadavers splashed as it made contact with the water’s surface, Cecily brought her eyes up to trace the ship’s prominent, squared stern.

One—her breath quickened.

TwoInstantly, her mouth salivated and she felt the need to swallow back down the apple she’d ingested earlier.

ThreeA cold chill ran her body.

“Amen.” The people surrounding her chorused but Cecily vaguely heard them.

Three more shipmates, gone and I could do nothing about it.

“Our Father who art in heaven ...” the crowd began in unison.

Cecily leaned towards Margaret. “I’m heading to bed.”


Cecily shook her head sternly. “I don’t feel well. I’m dying from exhaustion. If I don’t wake in the morning, know I love thou. Know, your friendship meant the world to me, and—make me a promise?”

“Cecily! Do not speak such words!” Margaret’s eyes filled with fresh tears. “I won’t allow thou to sleep!”

“Promise me!” she insisted. “Say thou will promise.”

Margaret lowered her eyes and nodded, “I Promise.”

“If I don’t wake, swear thyself will fight for both of us. Survive in the new world and make a great teacher—make it alive for the pair of us.”

“Cecilyare thou ill? Cecily?!”

Cecily’s eyes rolled into her skull and the sound of Margaret’s voice grew distant. Instead, Cecily could hear the waves lapping gently underneath the ship’s hull. It was lovely. As if her mum sang a cradlesong while tucking her in bed years ago when she was small enough to fit on her lap.

Was I three, or four? she smiled.

Her mother had the voice of an angel and eyes the color of precious emerald stones. As Cecily slipped out of consciousness, her mother did not let her fall. Her arms welcoming and gently held and carried her off to bed.

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