Prologue: One Day Ashore
It has been over two centuries. Over two centuries since her death. As I thought about that and the long years now behind me without her, I felt myself emptier. Even more alone and lost as I had kept on sailing these never ending seas guiding the lost souls to the other side. And all that I had done during these also never ending years was carrying the memory of the woman I once loved in my mind. The woman I still loved. My wife, Elizabeth…
Her death had been expected as she grew old and I stayed young. I had accepted this little fact back in the time when we had both stood under the Caribbean sun on the shores of that very same island I was standing many years after, remembering the past with a heavy heart. Well not exactly that because I was heartless, Elizabeth having it in her possession both figuratively and practically.
The chest containing my still beating heart of mine was never found, even till this day I did not know where it was. Since Elizabeth had become nothing but a clear memory in my mind my heart had vanished with her, the loss of her starting to seem even harder with both gone. And what made my sorrow and pain even greater was the fact that everything around me continued changing, as I and my grief stayed the same.
As the empty space in my chest started to feel even more hollow and the emptiness started to burn due the power of my sadness by the years, I became to realize that it would never leave me alone. I would always bear the pain of losing my only love and it would haunt me till the end of this world if it ever came. And simply that made my forever existence like hell. Worse than it already was as the captain of the Flying Dutchman.
I leant against the rail and stared to the distance like always in thoughts. If I was honest I didn't even think much, just the same old depressing thoughts of living forever with my pain and lonesome till the seas of this earth would hopefully come to an end someday. Always arriving to the conclusion that they probably wouldn't. Two centuries, tens of thousands of days and millions of seconds later I was still here. And now my days had reached to the 21st century.
I sighed ever so deeply. How long would this forever last? I had been wondering that often during the last extremely long years. And losing Elizabeth to the death which was banned for me didn't make this burden any easier to bear. That's why I always kept sighing and staring at the sea, thinking as little as possible but still too much of Elizabeth. Elizabeth…
She had died for natural causes as I had always hoped for her to have a long healthy life. But eventually as the day of her passing came quicker than I had been prepared, it had hit me more harder than I had ever thought. I couldn't have imagined how hard it actually would've been to let her go, but I only realized the greatness of the loss not until it came. As sudden as the years had now gone by she was gone as fast. And now I still couldn't accept her death being normal. It was impossible for me as I couldn't die myself. And now I only had my memories, which instead of being well cherished and happy were only gloomy and full of the pain of loss, poisoning them. Elizabeth…
"Captain!" a familiar voice called behind me and I gasped, turning slightly to the direction of the man coming toward me.
"The sun is nearly out. Soon we're good to go on shore", my father continued as he walked next to me to the railing of the Dutchman.
I only nodded and turned my empty stare back to the horizon, which truly was getting brighter and brighter by the minutes as the silhouette of the sun started to materialize for the eyes to see. I felt my father's gaze on me as he examined my grim, expressionless face. He also glanced at the starting sunrise then swinging his arm toward the waters.
"So, what is the captain's order? Where to on this peculiar day of freedom from the ocean?" he asked me as turned back toward me smiling. I didn't move a muscle to react. Only stared forward, finally speaking.
"I don't care. You can go wherever you men like. I give you the right to choose the heading", I heard myself say simply. My father's brows rose.
"You're not planning on returning to Port Royal?" he asked.
"Why would I? There is nothing for me any longer. Haven't been for centuries."
"But this is the first time for ten years for us to be able to stand on land, boy! You shouldn't throw this opportunity away so easily!"
"I've had enough of the days on land. Even before becoming the captain of this ship."
There was a silence before we spoke again. I glanced at my father who stared at me examining once again. I sighed.
"She is gone. She has been for years now…" I said then, depressed as an answer to my father's quiet question in his eyes. He had that familiar unbelievable expression on his face as he shook his head.
"Yes William, Elizabeth's dead. Has been for many decades as you said. That is exactly why I do not understand why you should stay in the ship on this very day. The only day you are able to leave! Will, you cannot have her back, yes, but you should not continue on mourning over her natural passing. She is gone, but you are not."
"That is the exact reason why", I answered but didn't let my eyes move from the waterline far away. "I cannot face the city where she once lived as I know I cannot ever follow her to where she is. Elizabeth isn't coming back that much I know. But that very thought makes me ache as if my heart would still be beating in my chest..."
"So you are not coming on the shore then?"
"No." The word was hard and definite. No, I would not see the shores of my most beloved memories with Elizabeth in them. I had learned to value myself that much not to increase my suffering even more than what it was.
With that my father started to walk away, filling my orders until I heard him turn just before going down to the main deck.
"You know, grieving over her won't change a thing. She and the boy will always stay dead no matter how much you miss and love them, Will. It is the rule on this world. But that is the exact reason you should let go of the past. Holding onto her and your love will only cause more harm than good as we have the eternity here on this ship. That alone could easily turn anyone insane with no any extra load."
Then he was gone. I heard him and realized the truth in his words. But just couldn't come together to do as he told me.
It was too hard for me to let go, as Elizabeth had been the only good thing in my life. And our son, William Jr. He had been everything to me. But of course also he had had to go, as I couldn't have done nothing to stop the fate from happening. But his death had come even more abruptly than Elizabeth's and had driven me nearly over the edge. From that day I had been certain of not being able to love or being happy ever again as long as this cold, alone, cruel fate of seeing everyone I love die would be bestowed over me.
Then the sun rose and there was the familiar green flash of light as the red sheds started to brighten the old night sky. I sighed once more. Seeing the sun rise once again did not give me any kind of happiness any more.
I only gave up to the reality and straightened, turning away and left the sun rising behind my back as slowly walked toward the stairs and saw my crew running around the deck preparing the ship to sail. There was excitement on their face of course. My men waited this day more eagerly than I clearly, as they had a lot of reason to be happy about it. Ten years on the Dutchman were somewhat dull and meaningless by the time without the possibilities to dock anywhere. But them and I were all bound to the ship. And this day should've been the prize we all thirsted, more than any treasure still lying in these waters. But to me it was none of it.
I lazily glanced around my men as they were on their duties, nodding to me as I passed. I answered, walking my way through the deck, going around it. Until eventually the ship started to move and with another sigh I gave up once more and returned to the back of the ship, going to the helm taking it from my father.
"Port Royal then?" he asked and I gave him a brief glance, until sighed with a sad half smile.
"Port Royal then", I repeated, turning the helm and with no other word directed the Dutchman on the right course toward the said port.
Maybe I did not want to return there, but somehow I had found myself back at the Caribbean and now the nearest port to make dock was Port Royal, probably still not that surprisingly. My somewhat bittersweet memories could've affected my inner thoughts about our routes and so I once again sighed to myself. Alright, I guess I had to see that place someday. But that didn't mean I had to go there myself.
With the great speed of the Dutchman it didn't take more than few hours for us to arrive to Port Royal. Well, it didn't bear that name any longer as during the decades the name had been changed. And the place was no longer a single small port but now in the 21st century it had grown into a huge city as many other once familiar small ports and places from the past time. Nothing was like it was before, as I had had the chance to notice more than many times.
I stared gloomily at the big rock wall which still was guarding the city, as it once had in the 18th century. There it was. The city of my memories just behind that rock... And I had to face something I had sworn to leave behind and out of my mind for good in any meaning of the word.
But then as I turned the helm once more to take the ship on the left rounding the rock, I was frozen to my spot when suddenly the sweetest and most beautiful singing voice I had ever heard carried into my ears from the coast by the warm wind, accompanied by soft tunes of a piano.
"….. Seems like it was yesterday, when I saw your face,
you told me how proud you were, but I walked away.
If only I knew, it what I know today…. .."
I felt myself go tense as I listened to the voice, singing all the time more loudly as my ship came nearer of the city's dock. The words were in English, as I could eventually understand the words sung by that smooth voice of a female and if my heart would've been still intact, it probably would've stopped beating. My mind went completely blank from any thoughts for the first time for decades. Ever since that moment I had been haunted by the memory of my late wife and son. But not now.
Now as the Dutchman moved slowly closer to the coast, my eyes automatically moved toward the direction of the sound trying to locate the one person the voice belonged as did all the others of my crew, also fascinated by the beautiful voice. And it didn't take long as my eyes found her, a tiny figure of a female sitting on a chair far away from the ship before many other people also sitting, watching her perform.
They were sitting on a some kind of wide raft, only that it didn't move and that it had walls, railings to prevent anyone falling into the clear water and roof on top of it, small pillars holding it up above the heads of the listeners. Behind the audience was a broad empty space, as behind it there were many long tables. But my eyes did not examine the raft more closely than a glance as they directed on the one singing. After a moment of examining she seemed to be very young, as I heard the words fly toward the ship so full of emotion.
"…I would hold you in my arms,
I would take the pain away,
thank you for all you've done,
forgive all your mistakes,
there's nothing I wouldn't do,
to hear your voice again,
sometimes I wanna call you,
but I know you won't be there
Ooo-oh I'm sorry for, blaming you,
for everything I just couldn't do.
And I've hurt myself, by hurting you….."
She sang those words so emotionally, so beautifully with her clear, perfect voice that it grasped my thoughts and my whole existence into their world that instant as she always opened her mouth to start to sing a new sentence of that as beautiful but sorrowful song. I was like under a spell, in a trance I couldn't have woken up even if I'd tried. Her voice affected us all as we would've been listening a siren singing, putting us under its control. But her voice was so… Amazing.
As the Dutchman eventually stopped as I didn't try to move it anymore and as the wind died in its sails it stopping a bit far away from the floating platform the concert was held, I was able to see the young woman singing more clearly. And now I saw her being very young. But she was… beautiful.
She was now singing her eyes shut, her face full of emotion which only proved how skillful she was to interpret the lyrics so vividly, but I knew a little after that those eyes now hidden from my gaze were brown. Bright brown looking under her long lashes. But when they were open I truly could see a pair of warm and lively eyes watching over her audience a sweet smile visiting on her lips rarely as the song was indeed sad. She had a slightly tanned skin, which told me she was a native of this town and it was highlighted by the crimson dress she was wearing.
"…. Some days I feel broken inside, but I won't admit,
sometimes I just wanna hide, cause it's you I miss,
It is so hard to say goodbye, when it comes to this…."
Her long loose hair came down her shoulders as light curls, making her hair look a little wavy time to time. Her lips were small but painted same deep red as the long earrings hanging from her ears. She sat her hands on her lap, until she hold them up, moving them sometimes as the emotion took over as she sang, her voice rising high up on the octaves only making the song more touching and deep.
Her sometimes so high voice made chills go down my back as I eventually noticed myself starting to smile, something I hadn't done for an eternity, and closed my eyes. Only starting to let that angelic voice fill my mind, listening the words she sang with pleasure. I had never heard anything like that. It filled me with… warmth. And joy even the words were sad.
With no own will at all I noticed myself walking down on the main deck, joining the crewmen as all of us stared to the platform. I leaned on the rail as closed my eyes again even bigger smile covering my lips as the tune smoothed my senses. I didn't even notice my father stepping once again beside me.
"Beautiful, ain't it? To think that such god blessed voice can belong to a human…" my father's voice said and I blinked my eyes open for surprise to look at him, until returned then back to the girl. I smiled.
" ...Would you tell me I was wrong,
would you help me understand,
are you looking down upon me,
are you proud of who I am?
There's nothing I wouldn't do,
to have just one more chance,
to look into your eyes, and see you looking back.
Oooh-oh I'm sorry for, blaming you,
for everything I just couldn't do.
And I've hurt myself… Ooooh!..."
She kept on singing, and now the song reached its more intense part, her body swaying more by the emotions showing on her face. It was mesmerizing to watch. She was young, but still she was able to describe the pain and the feelings of the song so well with only her voice and just sitting there, her eyes sometimes pressed closed as she wrinkled her forehead.
She was really skilled. Very, and I do not exaggerate. I felt like hearing her voice would've… brought me back to life so to speak. She made all my gloom vanish and those once painful thoughts became nothing, as if they didn't exist any longer. I did not understand how that could be, but part of me didn't even care. I was drown into the song and was very contend about it. It healed me, made me feel better than I had felt for years. It was wonderful…
"… If I had just one more day,
I would tell you how much that I've missed you
since you've been away,
ooooh, it's dangerous,
it's so out of line,
to try and turn back time!..."
But then as an instant the song was over and as we watched her open her eyes final time, reflecting the same pain and sadness as the person in the song felt, all of our hearts leaped by her so true expression as she sang the last phrases, with the deepest emotion ever during the song.
"… I'm sorry for blaming you,
for everything, I just couldn't do,
and I've hurt myself…
By hurting you…"
There was a short silence after she stopped as every listener stared at her in awe. I noticed even from far away that her singing had been so touching that it had made some of the audience cry, but even the ones not crying had a soft, truly touched expression on their faces. And I felt the same. The melody and those painful words she sang had touched me deeply, and I had thought that song reflecting my own feelings perfectly. Like it would've been written by myself. I let out a gloomy laugh for this thought.
Once again if I would've had my heart, it would've now beat quickly in my chest as I also stared at that young woman whose eyes were now turned down, until huge applause rose and the people sitting in front of her now stood up, smiling as they clapped. I saw her smile too thankfully as she also stood up, holding her hem as she bowed lightly. Another smile rose imperceptibly on my face and I heard my crewmen also whistle and clap for her performance.
"That truly warmed the old sailor's heart!" one of the men shouted. My father nodded.
"Aye. Like listening angel singing", he said. I grinned as he directed a look at me.
"You look happy, William. There hasn't been such a smile on your face ever since Elizabeth died…"
My head snapped suddenly toward my father and I wrinkled my forehead.
"That's not true", I said. My father nodded, now giving me a bit sneaky smile.
"Yes it is. I have not seen you smile at anyone as happily besides Elizabeth."
I didn't bother to answer but only lifted my brows as turned my eyes back to the platform. I saw the girl to come down the small stage as the rest of the people started to walk toward the empty space behind the benches they had sat on. Music started playing. My father then leaned closer to me.
"Well William, does it now sound such a bad idea to go on land?" he asked. I didn't listen his words properly as only answered without a doubt.
"No, it doesn't…"
My men and I were now walking along the modern day street, which had really changed from the times of over 200 years ago. There were those modern transports, called cars if I remembered properly, parked at the both sides of the streets and they passed us in both ways. The ground we walked on wasn't only dirt and rock anymore, but everything had been covered with cement, and our boots made very loud claps as we proceeded forward, toward this huge new building which I presumed to be a concert hall by its luxurious appearance with the view to the wide sea. There were a lot of people gathered around the clearing next to the hall and there was music coming from there too. I examined the crowd and my brow rose for curiosity. What was happening there?
"And off we are!" one of my men exclaimed and made a wave with his hand as he and a couple others joined him crossing the street. There they were. Drinking and spending their salaries like always after the ten years on the Dutchman. I shook my head for amusement.
"Indeed I've been waiting to have some rum ever since the first night after the last day on land ten years ago!" another of my men said in turn smirking. "It's only too bad that the world has to keep on changing! It is not easy anymore for a pirate to go and spent their fortune without a care in the world as everything is so hard to get these days! Imagine with horror where we are ten years from now?" he continued and a few others agreed with him with laughs.
I gave them a random brow-lifting. Well time had to pass sometimes, and we who had to live to see it just had to accept it. Or did we?
Eventually all of them scattered into their own destinations but my father still stayed, seeing me look at the clearing. We had stopped right next to the entrance.
"You wonder what's going on there, Will?" he asked looking at me again in turn. I nodded, not answering his gaze though. Then I noticed my father to catch something with his eyes and his finger pointed at it.
"It says it's a Tango Festival", he then said and I was snapped out of my thoughts.
"What?" I asked. I saw him point at some kind of advertisement, standing on its own two wide legs and on it there were indeed a poster attached to it.
"Tango Festival, Will. That's what going on there right now", my father answered. My brows rose again as I read the paper.
"I wonder what that's about…" I said, more to myself musing. I had never heard of this peculiar word and I tried to grasp its meaning. Had I ever heard it before? No, I guess I hadn't. I still anyway came on shore once in ten years so even I thought of knowing at least something about the world we lived in today, still I was always left leaps behind in common civilization. Like my men said, everything changed very fast in the modern world.
"Then let's go have a look!" my father continued then, starting to walk past me toward the crowd. I let out a laugh.
"Aren't you in a hurry to spent your salary too, sailor?" I asked, once again lifting a brow. My father grinned at me back and nodded his head toward the clearing.
"Son, I have started to think that a bottle of rum is too overrated on this only day on land for such a long time. We should eventually start to enjoy it a bit more!"
I shook my head but followed my father as he joined the crowd. As we now stood behind a few men and women talking with each other, we saw that there were some young children dancing in middle of the clearing, performing to those many people who stood there watching smiles on their lips. It was a pair dance, but I think I hadn't seen anything like that before. I did not know what that dance was, but my father seemed to have an idea.
"Could that be tango, I wonder?" he said, also to himself while followed those children around eight to ten dance together.
I didn't even notice it but watching them made a smile creep on my face also as they looked so adorable trying to dance so seriously according the practiced steps. But as they were indeed only kids their dancing went a little wrong from time to time.
"So it was a dance then. I have never seen it before though", my father continued now glancing at my smiling face questionably.
But then the children's performance ended and making a greeting to the audience they bowed and curtsied, as everybody laughed and started clapping their hands together. The children then smiled and our attention was now directed to a man who came to the small stage put at the opposite side of the clearing in front of the concert hall.
"Now, let's give a huge applause to our youngest but the most talented students of Caribbean Dance Academy!" that man exclaimed and moved his hand to point at the children who once more bowed before walked away from the clearing. Then the man looked over at the audience.
"But now after seeing such adorable performance from these young professionals here, let's have some senior power in our program, shall we? " he asked sarcastically and grinned the crowd laughing.
"Just in these minutes one of our most successful students shall come and perform his tango for you, with his as excellent partner... Even though his partner hasn't been dancing under our school's roof as long as him, she has still showed great potential from the first day she started and together they are going to give you a mind blowing five minutes full of action and technically challenged dancing..." he continued.
"As all of you know, tango is a dance very popular between couples and it is referred as a very intense and passionate dance of love. And that is exactly what you are able to see next as the most talented young couple of our school now shall perform their program bursting with indeed intense feelings, and with they have also entered the Championships this year. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Mr. Javier Montoya and Miss. Portia Juaréz!"
Applause rang in the air as now I saw indeed a young man walking toward the clearing beside his partner, holding her left hand in his but his right placed behind her back. They stopped smiling and bowed, before the young woman then separated from him, leaving him stand alone facing us. The man closed his eyes, as his partner walked behind him, waiting. It was very quiet as all the people waited the couple to start.
Then the music started and the man's eyes shot open, his partner's hand now sliding on his chest from behind. The atmosphere had turned anticipating as the man now placed his hand on the woman's and with slow movement, turned her to face himself, and with a blink of an eye bent her down so that her right leg took support from his back. And then I realized who that young woman was and I felt my eyes widen. It was that same girl from earlier!
Next I just stared in awe as that girl I recognized then performed that indeed technically challenged but skillful dance with that man, her partner. Portia, was that her name? Portia Juaréz… I followed as they moved with those sometimes slower and fluent movements and sometimes more faster and intense steps. Sometimes Portia's partner spinning her around but sometimes he twisted her into bendings, even swinging her a couple of times so that Portia's legs kicked the air until he span her around to the other side and she knelt down, being soon again pulled up by her partner and the dance continued. I watched awestruck their dancing, and had to admit that this dance, tango, really was intense and passionate dance to watch as for example the way that Portia was pressed against her partner the whole time they danced in a normal waltz position but a bit different.
Both of their expressions were mostly very intense too as their faces were also pressed close to each other, leaning each other's foreheads from time to time and as the man led Portia like there wouldn't have been anyone else than them in the clearing. Their movements were so natural, but still I couldn't but note the seductive charge between them, as he often lifted up Portia's leg to turn her or for example dropped her into another bending to the sides or away from himself. There also was a moment that he suddenly grabbed Portia from her waist and then lifted her up, only to swung her body lightly around his shoulders to catch her from the others side, making the audience abuzz. Portia wrapped her free hand behind his neck and she was once again bent down sideways her legs in the air, until he lifted her up as fast after that one slow moment and then she was span again before the next steps and another bending to the side.
Watching her dance with that man was something I had never seen either. It was so out of ordinary, so amazing so… well okay… very alluring… But not in a cheap way. Even Portia was wearing now red dress with low neckline, bare back and her long hem had a placket, which all revealed her slim dancer's body and her long legs especially during the bendings, it seemed to be part of the idea. And honestly I didn't mind at all. She was so good.
Even I didn't know this dance and hadn't seen it before, I could tell Portia was very skilled in dancing too. Because her and her partner's performance was everything the man who had introduces them had said. Full of emotion and it told a story about unpredictable, burning love. She looked so beautiful….
I then shook my head. What was I thinking? Yes Portia was beautiful but… She wasn't Elizabeth… What was going on in my mind? I sighed then, shaking my head again, but after returning to look at the dance once more, couldn't stop the smile spread on my lips again.
Portia's partner then pulled a hairpin out of her hair and that tight bun on her neck came loose and her long hair flew back as she was thrown forward by her partner. Then she stopped on her tracks and with one sharp move, turned to look at him then extending her arm him placing his hand on hers and pulled her back to himself, made her spin the final time until then when she stopped in front of him, he pushed his arms under hers and she was dropped into a split and there was another abuzz in the air as next Portia was pulled up with one move.
And finally her partner turned her around with a throw, caught her but instead of setting her down he threw her higher once more holding her, until Portia finally wrapped her now left leg around his back and the dance stopped as she was dropped into yet another bending, her hands around her partner's neck and her right leg straight up leaning against his shoulder, who had also bent down close to her, his right leg too stretched backwards. Then the dance stopped. And I was in a same daze as everyone else staring at their extraordinary final stance.
Portia and her partner stayed there pressed close to each other, breathing heavily as eventually after a moment of amazed silence the audience let out a loud applause. Even louder than before and I saw Portia and her partner smile widely and he helped her straighten up, before both of them turned to face the clapping audience taking the same kind of position as when they had arrived and bowed. People were whistling and throwing roses on the clearing as I watched Portia with wide eyes and felt another even wider smile spread on my face. I had enjoyed the performance very much. Tango was very interesting dance to watch…
My father saw me smiling to myself and I do not know what kind of expression I had on my face, as he then turned to me smiling too somewhat hinting.
"What has made you so happy, Will?" he asked then lifting his brows. I instead lifted mine.
"Is it the girl you are smiling at so widely?" he continued. "She is beautiful you know…"
"What?" I said and gave him another brow-lifting. "What no! No, I wasn't… I mean I am not…."
My father gave me a knowing stare as I stuttered for surprise. I hadn't been prepared for his question but I didn't have to say anything as he then spoke for me.
"Yes, I know she isn't Elizabeth…" he started and there probably was a quick gloom on my face as the mention of her name made me feel depressed once again. "…But you should try to get over her as I have said, William. Go. Talk to her!"
My father pointed at Portia who was still bowing to her audience as the man who had represented them came back on the stage, starting to talk about Portia and her partner, about how amazing they had been and so on. He was right…
"Will?" my father called and I came back from my thoughts with a sharp head whipping, lifting a brow. "Go on and talk to her."
"No. I won't. What's the point to do that if this would be the only time to meet her in years?" I just said back, sending Portia's figure a gloomy gaze. My father cocked an eyebrow and shrugged indifferently.
"That is exactly why you should talk to her. She'll be the first and only woman for you to speak to in those ten years, so I'll say it is very worth it. And what do you know if it will turn out much better than you think?" he answered now also looking at Portia who was now on the ground, gathering the flowers thrown on the ground.
I let out unnoticeable sigh which made my father grin and he placed a hand on my shoulder.
"Just go. Help her with those flowers. She seems to drown in them…" he then said and giving me a hinting smile once more and then just left, leaving me gaping a bit alone.
I didn't know what to do. I just stared for a moment after my father who eventually vanished in the crowd. And then I didn't find any other solution than to turn to look at Portia. She was still gathering the roses together, her arms already filled with them. I wrinkled my brows and let out another sigh. What was I going to do exactly?
But I didn't have to decide anything as totally imperceptibly I then found myself walking toward her, like my body wouldn't have been under my own control and saw myself grabbing one rose from the ground. Portia didn't see me as her head was turned to the other direction, but then the big also red Gardenia flower, which hold her loose hair back on the left side of her head, fell down and next I just lifted it, totally casually as if not thinking.
"Are you Portia?" came out from my mouth before I noticed and I mentally slapped myself. What was I doing? I wasn't going to talk to… Portia…
But it was too late now as Portia's head snapped immediately toward me and she looked up at my face surprised, dazed for a moment until flashed me a friendly smile. That same beautiful smile I already had seen earlier this morning from the distance but seeing it so close directed to me made me go into lock. She narrowed her eyes.
"And why do you suppose I am?" she asked half joking and lifted her left brow. I blinked a couple of times until then smiled too as it just came out so naturally.
"I heard it. Your introduction earlier", I answered. Portia's mouth was slightly open as she then nodded her head and then let out a sigh, shrugging.
"Well I guess it can't be helped. I can't lie to you then, even I do not like to tell my name to strange unfamiliar men…" she said back tilting her head but then I saw her smile amused, before she then stood up with her flowers and looked at me. "So yes, I am Portia. But may I ask what you intend to do with my name then, mister…"
She then turned her head to the side a bit, looking at me questionably. I gasped but then smiled again offering her my hand.
"William. William Turner ", I said giving her my whole name. She nodded briskly and with a smile shook my hand. Then I glanced at my left palm and extended it to her, grinning.
"And the reason I wanted to know your name, was that I wanted to give you this…" I said and gave her the rose I'd picked, she glancing at it with a brow-lifting. But she smiled genuinely and took it as I shrugged a bit with apologetic face.
"It isn't actually mine", I continued then. "I picked it up from the ground earlier. I just wanted to give you something to thank you for your splendid performance."
Portia smelled the flower briefly before turning her even more amused eyes back on me and she let out a laugh.
"And you spoiled this gentlemanly act by telling me that because….?" she said questionably, laughing a bit more after seeing my expression whatever it turned out to be. I lifted my brows.
"Well…" I started, now glancing once more at my hand and with another smile now pulled out the flower which had dropped from her hair. "I did pick this up too and wanted to give it to you personally. Maybe this kind of token of my admiration will work…"
I gave her the Gardenia flower and Portia looked even more surprised as her hand automatically flew on the side of her neck where it had been earlier. She then let out a sigh and taking it back, shook her head a bit with amused smile, until gave me short honest stare into eyes.
"Thank you, Will. Both of them are very beautiful…" she said then, her smile widening into close breathtaking as her gaze then moved away from mine and she let out a breath, straightening herself.
I felt warmness flicker in my chest as she used the short version of my name so casually, but then my brows wrinkled as her face froze a bit when she next gave a bit old fashioned clothes of mine a second look, letting her eyes examine me from head to toe and there was awkward smile spreading on my lips. Well yes, maybe I didn't look the most modern around here and should try to update myself every so often while coming to shore next time… Coming to shore? Who has said that I would ever do that? Well, me. At the moment it was me.
"You know…" Portia then spoke, eventually looking back to me with a smile on her face, glancing around a bit. "It really makes me happy that you had the courtesy to come and give this by yourself. Others here seem to think that it is totally acceptable to make me run around to collect these flowers after such exhausting performance…"
I laughed with her noting her sarcasm, but she then put some of her hair behind her ear and gave me a serious smile. "No really, I am really happy that you had the courage to come and talk to me. Now I know I have one true fan in here…"
I froze for a moment as I looked into her laughing eyes but then smiled.
"Hey, Portia, are you coming or what?!" someone's voice then shouted from far away and as I bent to look behind Portia I saw her partner a bit distance away waving a question on his face, until it turned into a slight apologetic grimace as he saw me. I saw him give me another small grimace of regret as Portia turned and shouted back.
"Yea, just a second!" she shouted, turning back to me. But then Javier answered.
"Or two!" he exclaimed then with completely different sarcastic voice. Portia cocked an eyebrow sighing and closed her eyes smiling. I felt small sting of disappointment as I figured Portia would now leave and I instead would be left here. Alone. And then I wouldn't see her ever again…
"Well, it was very nice to meet you Will Turner. Oh, sorry, I meant William…" Portia said then, letting out a breath of laugh and gave me now her hand in turn into a shake with a warm smile.
There was something in her eyes which called out to me but I couldn't figure what it was. But I only shook her hand, holding it a bit longer than meant as looked deeply into her eyes.
"Will is fine…" I heard myself say. Portia answered my stare as dazed for a moment until made a slight shook of her head and smiled.
"Goodbye then, Will…"
As she then turned around after giving me the final look into eyes and started to walk away, my hand suddenly jerked forward and I grabbed her hand gently.
"Wait!" I said, maybe a bit too emphasized and made her turn toward me a question in her brown eyes. I gaped for a slight moment until took a hesitant step closer, pulling her around while met her gaze.
"Could I talk to you a bit longer?" I heard myself ask, very stupid if you thought about it. But the words came naturally out and I smiled at her honestly. "I mean…"
I sighed then, taking a serious expression on my face. "I'll be in this town only today and won't return until after a very long time… So, could I ask you to spend some time with me? I can get you a bouquet of those if it makes you convinced of my honest intentions..."
I glanced briefly down at the roses in her arms with amused smile. What the hell was I saying to her?
But even I figured Portia must've thought of me being too forward and maybe even a bit stupid, she then only laughed for my gawky joke and made that same breathtakingly beautiful smile as slowly freed her fingers from my grasp, all the time possessing my eyes in hers.
"Pretty bold move…" she said then sarcastically, but then just let out a breath. "I'd like that very much, Will…" she then continued making another weaker, but warmer smile and then nodded her head toward the concert hall.
"Just wait here. I have a two hour break before the next performance and I'll be here right after I go tell Javier I have to reject his offer for dinner…"
Portia rolled her eyes slightly amused as she then gave me the third smile, before finally turned away and left me standing there, now staring at her back as it too vanished in the crowd.
My inner rejoiced! Or did it? But even so I realized I hadn't felt this light and free from all the guilt and sadness for such a long time that I had indeed forgot what it felt to be simply normal. Happy. Because no matter what I would've tried to tell myself, I had to admit that that young woman, that girl I had just met and talked only five minutes, already made my world a better place to live on. And it relieved me so much that I couldn't wait to see Portia approaching me through the mass of people.
"So Will you're a captain of a ship?" Portia asked me, leaning her head against her knee as directed her questionable and a bit skeptical eyes at me. I tilted my head until nodded.
"And that ship is called The Flying Dutchman?" she continued, sounding even more hesitant.
I only nodded again knowing what she was thinking. Well she must've finally thought of me being a madman now after I had decided to be honest with her as this was the first and last day for us to see each other and told her about me being the captain of a cursed ghost ship. But oh no, that hadn't sounded crazy at all even in my own head. Oh boy…
Portia lifted her brow and let her leg fall down, her now leaning against it with her arm.
"So this Flying Dutchman… Isn't it kinda like a… um… a ghost ship, Will?" she continued, now lifting also her left brow and I still only nodded making a bit tense smile.
"Yes, I guess that's how the tales describe my ship", I answered, wrinkling my forehead and gave her a smile. Portia stared at me, but then blinked lifting now both her brows again at the same time and straightened herself looking away.
"Alright well… That's one heck of a job you've got there…" Portia commented and looked at the sea.
She had changed her outfit for her next performance and was now sitting next to me in a dark violet dress, with a long hem also but which had another long, revealing placket her left leg being mostly bare as she rested it on the right, tapping it absentmindedly. I turned my gaze modestly away quickly until stole a glance at her feet and saw she wore a pair of shoes with quite long heels in them. I hadn't noticed before but she probably had worn those earlier too and I couldn't help but lift my brows. How did she dance in those or even walked? Well, I had never understood women's clothing in any era. Especially corsets…
I then uttered a laugh to myself and Portia gave me a questionable look.
"What's so funny?" she asked, leaning closer her loose hair hitting accidentally against my face while swayed in the wind. She apologized. "Did your poker face finally fail? Because what you just told me was… Well, normally when a girl asks a guy what he does he usually answers something more down-to-earth professions as, a banker or a chef or a businessman, instead of telling of being the captain of the cursed pirate ship…"
"I know, it sounds crazy", I admitted leaning forward on my knees smiling a bit gloomily, then directing amused smile to Portia's direction. "I just wanted to be honest to you. I don't except you to believe me and I reckon you'll run away from me soon enough…"
I let out a low chuckle. I felt Portia's eyes examine me, but as I finally turned to look at her she was sitting her eyes now closed, smiling to herself and started to shake her head slowly.
"No it's not crazy Will. It's just a bit… unreal…" she answered after a moment of thinking, now giving me a playful smile turning more toward me. "And besides, why would I run away from you now when you're getting so interesting? A dark, handsome stranger with a mysterious past talking about cursed pirate ship… What more would I need not to be interested? I mean, there's no men like you around here nowadays, honestly…"
Portia's tone had been sarcastic but I saw something serious in her eyes as she spoke. I laughed and looked into her eyes again, grinning and lifted my brows.
"Do you find me good-looking, Miss?" I asked teasingly, leaning closer as straightened my back to stare at Portia. She then cocked an eyebrow and after doing an examining search around my face, smiled brightly but as teasingly.
"Yes captain Turner, I do find you more acceptable than many other guys I hang around", she answered now giving me a final grin before turned to look forward. I tilted my head, continuing the game.
"And do you Miss. Juaréz spend a lot time with these strange men if you find me more bearable to handle?" I asked again, and got a new brow-lifting from Portia.
"Your flirting is sweet and I appreciate your interest, captain Turner, but if that was supposed to be very settle you did fail noticeably", she said uttering a low laugh. I laughed at her always sarcastic hint in her words and smirked.
Portia was nice, very fun and easygoing person to spend time with. We had been sitting at that spot next the sea over an hour now, but even to someone like me who spent only one day on land in ten years and to who that hour would've felt too short, now it was the opposite. In that hour with Portia I felt like been living here for years with her, as I had talked with her about various things and had learned more about her. I felt like I knew her. Like she had been in my life for as long as I could remember, and not only that single previous hour.
She told me she lived on her own, supporting herself with singing and dance performances which were arranged by her dance school, the one which had been responsible for this Festival too. Talking with her was so easy, so free that our conversation contained all the aspects possible. We had become friends instantly and now there had not been anything we couldn't have shared with each other. Except the fact that I hadn't told her completely everything about myself. About my curse.
She knew the Flying Dutchman to be cursed, but she didn't know it was exactly me who was the one cursed. And I didn't know would she believe it, even if she at the moment felt like being the closest person to me who understood me more than myself. That's why I next fell into a small silence.
Then after Portia had kept on looking at me a wondering expression on her face, she then started to talk, her voice soft with emotion.
"Why can't you come back here for ten years, Will?" she asked then, me meeting her eyes. They were serious, even her voice was casual. I was surprised by this but then made a small smirk.
"Do you believe me then?" I asked half serious. Portia shook her head answering my smile.
"I am not saying I do. Let's just keep up the game a while and chat", she said then turning more serious again, looking at me with wondering eyes. "Why is it Will?" she asked again, coming a little closer. "Why cannot you step on land for ten years after tonight?"
I answered Portia's serene gaze for a moment until closed my eyes sighing. I turned my face away as spoke.
"As you know my ship is under a curse", I said. "But that is a little incorrect, because the only person who truly is cursed is me. I am the captain of the Dutchman and it is my responsibility to guide the lost souls at sea forward from this world. My crew is to be free after 100 years of service on the ship, and technically they aren't bound to the Dutchman the same way as I am. I can free them from their contract any time I want, but myself I cannot be separated from the ship as long as the world exists…"
I silenced for a moment as I too now turned my gaze to the clear open sea, Portia's eyes fixated on me. I sighed, now pointing at my chest.
"My heart is bound to the Dutchman as long as somebody else would be there to take my place. But that is unlikely to happen as long my heart continues beating in the chest it was placed over 200 years ago… " I continued, revealing my still reddish scar on my chest. I saw Portia's eyes drop on it, examining it with quizzical expression. She was confused I could tell. Doubting. But I still continued.
"And by somebody else taking my place as the captain, would mean that I would have to die. That person should replace my heart with his and put it in the chest, becoming immortal like I am. As it is said… The Dutchman must…."
"…always have a captain…" Portia then concluded the sentence in my mind for my surprise and I looked at her questionably.
Portia's eyes weren't looking at me but they had dropped staring at our hands leaning on the marble stair we were sitting on next to each other. Then her wondering but somewhat thoughtful eyes moved back up to look at the scar on my chest still visible under the collar of my shirt. She wrinkled her brows slightly and her mouth was about to open as if she was going to say something.
"Portia?" I asked a bit worried and put my hand on hers automatically, that way making her look at me into eyes. I wrinkled my brows now. "Are you alright?"
Portia stared at me for a moment gaping, until she then sighed deeply shaking her head.
"Yes, of course I am!" she said cheerfully but her faced dropped and she then directed another thoughtful but at the same time a little sad look back at our hands, mine still holding hers. "But hypothetically if all that is true then… I am not to see you again before ten years have passed…" she then said, nearly as a whisper to herself.
I was surprised. She would… miss me?
Then suddenly the same man from earlier announced Portia's new performance to start. Both of us glanced up toward the clearing and Portia smiled, looking at me before stood up.
"I'll be soon back, okay?" she said widening her smile. But then before she left she stopped herself, giving me another a bit unsure look over her shoulder.
"Just… don't disappear, alright? We still have till sundown, don't we?" she said, now with more gentler voice before gave me a little downcast smile and then finally started walking toward the clearing, getting applause as she passed the audience.
She then met Javier along the way and I watched them bow, and then start to dance like once before. I became thoughtful and couldn't help but feel sad myself. Yes, after this day I wouldn't be able to be with Portia for years. And as that thought affected clearly on her so did it have an effect on me.
So in that fashion went a couple of hours. After that second dance, Portia returned to me and we picked up the conversation where it had left off. Well not from the exact subject of my curse, but we talked once more about many different things, laughing and enjoying the company of each other, me feeling that anxiety growing all the time inside my chest as I started to be more and more aware of the passing time and the closing in moment of separation. Until came Portia's third and the last performance for the day.
She had once more changed her gown, into black one this time and her hair she had tightened into another bun. I gave her a approving smile as she one final time sat next to me, looking rather anxious herself as she didn't meet my gaze so directly in every moment, which I was kind of sorry. I wanted to look into her eyes. Just one more time before…
Both of us kept on glancing the all the time more at the view of the setting sun behind us as it started to dye the clouds into different shades of red and orange. It was around seven in the evening.
I heard Portia utter a sigh. I gave her a look and saw she was thinking something as she looked so troubled. But after a moment she then took a deep breath and turned toward me, smiling that very same breathtakingly beautiful smile as she now took my hand into hers.
"Will, I… I hope this doesn't sound too forward but… If you're going to just vanish after this evening for the next ten years without me being able to see you then… I'd like to spend these final moments with you if that's alright?" she said, now smiling at me only happily with no signs of that earlier anxiety and sadness on her face as she met my gaze. I saw honesty and warmth in them. She tilted her head.
"I am not saying I will forget you after this evening, as I never will but… I will miss you. So if you're saying you're not coming back for a long time, then I want you to remember me as a person you know of more than a couple of hours of chit chat. I know there isn't much time left and you might want to do something else as this is your only day on land… But if you'd like, we can go for a coffee or something after the final dance is over and get to know each other a bit better. What do you say? Do you… want to go with me?"
I listened as Portia spoke, seeing her now glance down often a bit embarrassed, but now she lifted her eyes again our gazes locking into each other for a long time. She smiled at me, a bit differently than before and I just stared in awe of her words. Until felt myself grip her hand before a same kind of happy smile spread on my lips.
"Yes", I said gently, smiling widely while answered her gaze without breaking it. "I wouldn't want to do nothing more than that. I… will also miss you a lot. More than you can imagine, Portia."
Portia's smile brightened and after a quick moment of slight hesitation she then leant forward, placing a light kiss on my cheek. Something exploded in my chest and I just tensed up for a moment, until that light touch made me smirk. Portia now stood up, meeting my eyes with her own brightened irises.
"Great! Then meet me at that street next to the concert hall in an hour. I shall be out after I get changed after the performance", Portia answered. I nodded.
Then Portia stared at me a brief moment and giggled, making me confused as she then wiped my cheek still laughing.
"Sorry. Lipstick", she explained letting out the last giggle, me nodding then in understanding.
"I'll meet you then", I answered.
We exchanged glances and a warm smile appearing on both of our lips. Portia then waved her hand at me and left, my keen eyes following her once more as she took her place on the clearing next to her dancing partner. I sighed.
Would it really take me ten years to see her dance again? Or was I ready to go through the same pain and loss as I had with Elizabeth? I mean, Portia was too mortal and also she would die, me being able to come and see her only every ten years before she would eventually pass away. Was I prepared to lose her too some day?
Then I just sighed and smiled to myself, following Portia´s dancing figure with my eyes. Yes, I think I knew the answer for that…
After that next hour I was standing on the street next to the concert hall as Portia had asked me to. Somehow even I knew that these last three to four hours were the last of us being together, somehow it still didn't bother me anymore as I waited. I just smiled, noticing myself glance toward the concert hall often eagerly as waited the one familiar figure walk out of its doors. A little more than an hour had passed since the moment I had last spoken to her, but I believed her to come. I wanted her to come.
I glanced over at the sea. The sun was still high enough for us having the time to talk and go have that coffee. I smiled again as turned my eyes back to the doors, looking around absentmindedly. I saw no one on the street except myself and it was extremely quiet. I waited still for twenty minutes until I started to wonder a bit. Where was she?
But then a sound of a door opening got my attention and I saw Javier walk out of the concert hall's main doors with a couple of other dancers of the festival. But I didn't see Portia. I then rushed to him, surprising him apparently by the look on his face.
"Do you happen to know where Portia is?" I asked him politely, smiling at him. Javier stared at me a fraction of a second until there was a recognition seen in his eyes and satisfied grin spread on his face as he answered my gaze his eyebrows rising.
"Oh, Portia had a little difficulties with her dress and she was really sorry about not coming to see you in time, but she should be out soon", Javier answered nodding toward the hall. "But that girl is coming out from the backdoor, so you can go wait for her there. She is the last one still inside so these doors were locked right after we got out…"
I noticed the hint in Javier's voice and saw him and his and Portia's friends give me approving looks as they laughed to themselves. I got a little uncomfortable, but only nodded to Javier.
"Thank you", I said starting to walk away after nodding to them all. I heard Javier's voice shout after me amused.
"It would be good for you to know that she likes when men take the lead!" he exclaimed sarcastically and I heard some giggling behind my back.
I gave them a quick glance but only shook my head. Great, Portia and I were a common subject of gossips now…
I went past the concert hall, walking toward its other side to find the place where the backdoor was. And I supposed it was located in an alley as after a while I saw the hall to end and there was a small street turning behind it. A small smile came back to my face as I now quickened my steps, making my way to the alley.
But then in middle of the way I heard a loud shout coming from there and I froze. I recognized the voice being Portia's. And it was colored by panic.
"Help! Somebody help me please!"
I froze until started to run. Portia didn't scream anymore but I could now hear some crashing noises and thuds coming from the same direction and in a flash I was at the beginning of the alley. And what I saw would've made my heart stop beating for shock and fear if it were still intact in my chest.
Portia was trapped against the wall, three men holding her still and not letting her to escape as she tried to fight against them as one of them tried to grip her clothes. They were holding her mouth shut, but I saw her struggle furiously against the men, quickly being able to kick the one holding her from the shoulders and he staggered back against the two others, Portia falling down until she then glanced over at them, quickly trying to get up but one of the men grabbed her hair and she let out a cry. My eyes widened and without a hesitation I ran again toward Portia.
"Portia!" I shouted my voice filled with panic myself as I then met her gaze. She was so far away from me.
"Will!?" I heard her call out to me in fear, but then as she was trying to get to me the man pulled her back still holding her hair.
"You come right here bitch!" he exclaimed, trying to get a hold of Portia. But I saw her take something out of her bag which was luckily lying just next to her and next I saw as she lifted it and sprayed something on the man's face.
He let out a shout of pain and threw his hands on his eyes, letting Portia go and immediately she staggered up, now running toward me.
"Bitch!" the man shouted even louder. Portia glanced behind her as I sped toward her, but she still seemed to be so far away. The men were shouting to each other and in middle of it I could make out some phrases;
"What are we going to do, she's getting away!" one said.
"She saw us! She saw us and she can reveal us to the cops!"
"We can't let her get away!"
I extended my arms to take a hold of Portia, but then a loud sound of a gunshot broke the air and I was frozen to my spot.
Portia was staring at me as also stopped on her tracks, her eyes wide until her head turned down to look at the red spot growing on her stomach. She wrinkled in pain, and then in a quick moment coughed out some blood and fell down, right before me. I stared at her in shock.
"Portia!" I shouted, crouching in a flash and took her in my arms. She was twitching in pain, and she struggled to breath.
My eyes shot up briefly to the three men, the one holding the gun standing before the others and the rest, who all now stared at me and Portia in horror then ran off, the one who had shot Portia fleeting last trembling, dropping the weapon. My eyes fell instantly back to Portia who stared at me, trying to speak her right hand squeezing my shirt. I shook my head.
"William…" she whispered.
"No, don't speak. It'll make it worse", I said trying to sound serious, but my voice was clouded by fear.
I looked at the wound. Her now once white dress was soaked with blood and making a grimace I took off my jacket, wrapping it into a bundle and pressed it against her wound. She uttered a pained groan and twisted, me making another face as I smoothed her forehead trying to grasp her eyes.
"Portia! Portia listen, you must look into my eyes, alright?" I said. "Don't give up! Just breathe and look into my eyes!"
Our gazes met and I felt a sting in my chest. No matter what I said to her it didn't erase that look I saw in her eyes. She was dying, but I bit my teeth together and clang to the last remains of hope there was. I could save her. I could!
"Will…" Portia whispered then, giving me now all pain free, serious gaze and it froze me to my spot. I knew that look. And it made my inner rip into pieces.
But I only answered her look frowning stubbornly. She took a hasty breath, closed her eyes, until returned their as serious look back into my own.
"I am sorry. I am so sorry, William…" she continued then, her body laying now completely still in my arms as if she would've given up but she tried to give me a smile. "Forgive me… I have to leave you… so early before the…the next ten years are up…"
I shook my head, my fingers smoothing her hair. I met her wandering eyes.
"No. Portia, no", I said pleading with hard voice, as if me commanding her would've saved her from death.
She stared at me, swept her fingers over my cheek lightly and struggled hard to say something, coughing, until after her final attempt of grasping air then I felt her go limb. And as I was still staring into her eyes I saw, how they became suddenly empty. Portia's eyelids closed halfway, the life escaping from those brown irises and her head slumped against me. And I could just watch.
I stared at her for a moment, a minute, until I took in a harsh breath and closed my eyes. No. NO she couldn't be dead! Not her too, not so early!
I let my gaze sweep over her features, as if trying to find something that told me otherwise from what I already knew, but uttering a bitter sigh I lifted my blood covered fingers, closing her eyes.
Portia's earlier scream must've alerted some other people as I now heard footsteps behind me. There were some horrified murmurs around me as there indeed were people now walking toward us, putting hands on their mouths in horror as they saw Portia's dead body in my lap. But I only stared at Portia, not caring at those observing pairs of eyes.
Once more I smoothed her hair, gripping my right hand's fingers into a fist. I couldn't protect anyone! Not the way I was, and the pain realizing that was too great to bear. I couldn't even save Portia's soul as she had not died in the sea, being able to become part of my crew if she would've wanted. And now she was somewhere my power, my curse, couldn't find her and bring her back.
I glanced at the sky. It's dark red glow told me it was two hours away from the green flash, my signal to return.
I let out a frustrated breath and closed my eyes. Until then I felt Portia's body become suddenly warm again. Wrinkling my brows I looked down at her face doubting, and indeed saw it regain its color a little by little. I was filled with confusion. What was happening?
I then followed awestruck as the blood, covering her dress and my jacket and hands disappeared, partly being absorbed back into Portia's body through the wound.
My eyes widened once more, but now for surprise as I now saw a strange mark appearing on her neck, it glowed red and the air around us started to whirl, that red shimmer eventually surrounding both of us. And as I happened to glance down at her chest I thought I saw a long scar covering it. Right above the heart.
I took in a quick breath and wrinkled my forehead. What the hell was going on? Why did Portia have… same kind of scar as I did?
People around us were also gasping for their breath as they watched that scene going on in front of them. I only stared at Portia, who now looked completely fine. But just as I leant lower to touch her cheek, she then blinked her eyelids and slowly opened her eyes, then meeting my gaze in awe. But I wasn't looking into those warm brown ones of Portia anymore. Back at me stared light blue, pained irises. I blinked and let out a breath.
"Portia?" came out from my mouth questionable.
But then in a second Portia's eyes widened in turn and I didn't hear her answer, as suddenly everything was surrounded by that red light turned now pure white shine and it blinded me. Until I knew nothing of anything and seized to exist.