30 A Friendly Face In An Unlikely Place
As soon as she could move, Jemima made a run for it. Her head still woozy, she sat up, trying to stand, but stumbling as her eyes adjusted, trying to focus on her surroundings and a possible escape.
"Woah! Take it easy, sit down!" Said a voice and Jemima felt herself being pushed down into the bed again.
Protesting, she tried to shove the figure away but her arms were weak and waved uselessly in front of her.
Jemima calmed, not recognising the voice as either Rackham or the Madame. But it wasn't anyone else she knew either.
Her eyes adjusted and blinked, focusing on the slowly visible girl in front of her.
"Who... Who are you?" She breathed, her voice gravelly.
"My name is Alice Greeves." The girl said, smiling.
She had a kind, round face with bobbed brown hair and chestnut eyes that portrayed so much innocence. But Jemima could only imagine how much corruption they had seen.
"I'm Jemima Thatch."
"A pleasure. Although, that's probably not quite the word to describe this situation." She bit her lip.
"What's happening, where am I?" Jemima knew the answer but just hoped she was wrong.
"La Sirena Encantadora (the enchanting siren)." Alice told her, standing. "The most popular brothel in Havana in case you were wondering."
"Fuck." Jemima winced, head in hands.
"I'm guessing you're one of the bought whores?"
"They never are." She sighed.
"You sound like this happens a lot."
She nodded mournfully.
"It's my job to take care of the new girls. They wake up just like you on that bed, ready to be dressed for your new life."
"Why couldn't you just do it when I was asleep?" Jemima asked, dreading the though of leaving her pirate apparel for the dress of a whore.
"It's tradition for the girls to choose their ribbons."
Jemima raised her head, turning to see Alice step towards her with a box. She opened it, revealing thin satin ribbons of various colours. It was now that Jemima noticed Alice's lilac ribbon, tied around her neck. For something so dainty and pretty, that ribbon looked damned sinister.
Tentatively, Jemima chose her ribbon. It was red, a deep red of the blood of her enemies that dripped from her blade, the colour of the sky in morning as the seas reckoned for a storm, the colour that burst onto her cheeks every time she remembered Thomas.
"What was that?" Alice asked, just as she finished tying the ribbon to her neck.
"Oh, nothing. I... I just thought of someone."
"And who is this someone?"
"Someone who I hope is doing better than me." She sighed.
"What happened?" Alice sat down beside her.
"We were betrayed by Rackham. I was sold here, the quatermaster was sold into slavery in Kingston, and the other three were marooned. God, I hope they're alright."
"And one of these unlucky souls, you care for them, is that true?"
"I do, aye." Jemima couldn't deny it. She wouldn't admit anymore than that though. She cared for him, and maybe he cared about her, but that was all it could be. He had a girl back home that she could never replace.
"Then you've got to get back to him."
"What?" Jemima sat up, head tilted as Alice stood and began to pace, plotting.
"For all the girls that came here, none have been like you. You're not blubbering on your knees or screaming to let you go, you've actually got some wits about you."
"Well, I try."
"And," Alice lowered her voice, "your knife, on your wrist. No one knew it was there. This could get us out of here."
"I came here willingly, trying to make a living for myself and my father. He owns a sugar plantation, but pays his men and avoids the slave trade at all costs. He's a good man, but he struggles to pay for our house. So I left to work here. He didn't have to pay for me any more and he gained money from my work. I haven't seen him in five years."
As Alice bowed her head, Jemima could recognise her age. She only looked eighteen, only a few years younger than Jemima.
"Then you've got to get back to him." Jemima stood.
"We'll have to dress you as one of us." She said, pulling out a red dress to match her ribbon from the wardrobe, set in the corner of the small dressing room. "But, something with sleeves."
Jemima stripped down from her pirate outfit, reluctantly, and pulled on the red dress. As Alice laced up the corset and the sleeves, Jemima stood before the mirror and wrinkled her nose. Skirts did not suit her. The neckline of the dress cut very low, showing off her excessive cleavage, threatening to burst out if Alice tugged any tighter.
"Those sleeves should hide your blade." She said, stepping back.
"You want me to kill someone?" Jemima raised an eyebrow.
"If the occasion calls for it." She gave a wicked grin and Jemima found a smile for herself.