shouldn't be here.
My heart pounded inside my tiny chest so loud that the vibration beat against my ears. Everything around me felt muffled and too tight, like I wasn't where I was supposed to be. Which, in a sense, was correct.
I cowered into the darkened corner, hoping if I shrank away, he wouldn't say anything, wouldn't expose me to the rest of the crew. But instead of leaving me be, the crate I had been hiding behind was ripped away, the sound of the squealing wood against the bottom of the deck creating a sound so piercing I had to cover my ears to stand it. I wasn't like that for long however, because in the next moment, the man before me had caught my thin wrist with his bulging hand and was dragging me away from my corner.
Tears sprang into my eyes. I knew I wasn't supposed to be here. I knew I shouldn't have come. But I had already lost one parent, I didn't want to loose another one too. The burly man dragged me upright and looked warily over me. My body shook with fear as he seized me up. I didn't know what was going to happen, all I knew was that I never should have left my bed three days ago.
In the dull lighting of the hold I could only see the size of the man before me. He was tall, towering over my small 4'9” body. He was large, width wise, with a round belly probably from the amount of booze he'd consumed over the years. He wore a somewhat loose fitted white shirt over his portly stomach, and thin cargo pants. His face was too dim in the lighting, and I couldn't make out his features. All I could see was that his lips, dark and protruding, held a nasty snarl that kept me planted where I stood.
The hold suddenly felt too damp, too dark. I had been stowed away inside the spacious room for almost three days now and I was holding up pretty well. I knew my father's trip wouldn't last too long, and I knew once they were docked, I would emerge and show my father that I could make it on the voyage. Show him that I was capable of being out on the open seas. However in this moment I knew I was wrong. Dead wrong.
The crew mate grabbed a hold of my arm again and dragged me through the opening on the far left corner. Through the porthole, we came onto the level where the crew slept. I could see small pallets made on the floor: Some made, while others were just thrown around without a care in the world. I couldn't tell if anyone else was in the room however, because in the next moment I was being pushed through yet another porthole.
On the deck I was met with a nearly set sun and a sky full of thin clouds. I closed my eyes and breathed in my first breath of fresh air in three days. My fluttering heart began to slow down, to an almost normal pace, until I was pushed forward.
I lost my footing and tripped over my feet. The cool wood of the deck was damp beneath my fingers. I coughed to catch my breath, which had been taken away in the abrupt fall.
I could feel other eyes on me now, could hear the mumbling of voices along with the sea breeze that passed over me. "What is that doing here?" "Oh shit, what are we going to do?" "How did she get on here?" The questions kept coming as I cowered on the floor of the deck. I was tired and sore from being dragged around. All I wanted was to go home.
"What is going on here? Come on, make a hole. I SAID MAKE A HO-" The voice I would recognize anywhere sounded in my ears.
let out a breath. I began to stand upon my own two feet, until I saw
the look on my father's face.
My father was an intimidating man. No matter how big or small you were, he could terrify anyone. Besides me. Growing up I recall the frightened faces I would see on bystanders faces as we strolled by. But I could never understand that. To me my dad's gray's eyes would light up at my sight. His thin lips would turn up in a smile, and he would no longer look like he was ready to kill. This was the kind of exterior I imagined to see now. But oh, how I was wrong.
Now I stared up at the tall man before me. His usual light gray eyes were as hard as steel, his lips turned down into a nasty grimace. His thick arms were crossed over his large chest while his posture meant all business. I was scared.
"Get up." I moved on command, my near white hair sliding over my shoulders onto my back. I could feel myself trembling, unable to stop. I knew I should have been prepared for something like this to happen. But I wasn't. "Explain why you're here Levy. Now."
I had this speech prepared. Knew what I was going to say and had practiced this for weeks. But I thought it would have been under different circumstances. I thought we'd be safely on land before I'd have to explain myself. My mouth felt dry, the salt soaked air choking me. "I-"
No other words came out. I was in trouble.
One of the dirty crew mates made a nasty face in my direction. "You know what this means, don't you? No wonder we've been having such nasty luck the past-" But the skinny man wouldn't finish. Because at that moment my father shot him a look that made him shut right up.
I needed to speak, I needed to explain myself. "Dad, I- I didn't want you to leave me alone with Ms. Dalce. I know I should have asked but I just thought-" A hard hand connected with my cheek and I cried out from the pain.
"You stupid, insolent child." My father's words were short and clipped. "It happens tonight. At midnight." And then he left. Left without another word. Left without any goodbye.
At midnight, the crew was wide awake. The ship rocked gently back and forth on the calm sea, while the missing sun sent a chill throughout the air. My heart beat rapidly against my chest, while I forced myself not to vomit.
Since my brief encounter with my father, I had forcibly spent my time tied to one of the ship's masts. My legs were bound together in one set of ropes while my middle was wrapped with another against the pole. The thin cargo pants I had stolen from the neighbor's kid a week ago were thoroughly soaked with sea water.
I was cold and sore, but oddly wide awake. The full moon was centered above my head now, and I knew the time had come.
I had heard stories of this before, tales adults would tell their daughters in order to keep them safe. I always thought it was a superstition however. I never thought my father would believe in such a hoax.
But he did. They all did. The fact that having a women on board their ship was enough to send any sailor off the deep end. It didn't matter if I was barely sixteen. In their eyes I was the devil, a danger to them all, the end of everything they held dear.
My father didn't show up. When the rest of the crew came out from their floor, I didn't see him. When the one who caught me earlier that day unbound me from the mast but kept my legs and arms tied, he wasn't to be seen. And when I was set down in front of a plank that was held off towards the dark abyss below us, I knew he wasn't going to come.
I screamed. I screamed out his name and tried to run towards his cabin. Yell at him and grab him. Ask him why he would do this to his only daughter. His only family left. But nothing changed. His door never opened, and his crew gathered around me. Blocking me from venturing anywhere but the darkness.
My heart hurt, it beat that hard. I turned to face my fate. My legs and arms were bound loosely. Tight enough to prevent much movement, but loose enough to let me take baby steps towards the open sea.
The night was quiet except the small lapping sounds of the waves on the water. My feet brought me closer and closer to the edge, and strangely enough, I suddenly felt calm. My heart rate slowed with each baby step I took. I breathed in and out slowly, my head feeling open and clear for the first time in a while.
Once at the end I took one final look back towards the crew. To me, they all looked the same. Too dirty, too mean. I knew they were all someone's family, but I hated them. Hated them all. And behind all of them, where a tiny light shown in the darkness, I could see him. The same sun-kissed face I knew since birth. Who gave me my near white hair and gray eyes. Who kissed my scrapes whenever I fell down. Who I thought would love me no matter what.
And I finally realized that was all a lie. It was always his ship over me. His crew over his family. And maybe that was why my mother took her own life. Because she couldn't take it anymore. Our eyes met and for a split second, I could see the regret form in his eyes. See the sadness and realization of what he just did. And before their was any chance he could make this right, I did the only thing that might truly hurt him.