I sat on my bed, staring around at the rest of the room. It almost looked like the parlor we had been in only instead of everything being trimmed in gold, this room had so much blue it was like being in the sky; the walls were covered in sapphire cloth, the bed shrouded in a cobalt comforter, the wooden floor trapped under a blue carpet, even the quill awaiting letter writing was blue.
Lydia had followed me to my room and sat in the desk chair across from me, staring in confusion at the tea cup in her hand.
“What’s the matter?” I asked.
She set the cup and its saucer on the desk with a sigh. “Mama used to tell me that there is no crisis too large or too terrible that tea couldn’t fix.” She laughed with a shake of her head. “Until now, I’ve always believed that to be true.”
I smiled sadly. “We will find him, Lydia. I swear it.”
“How?” she demanded, whipping around in the chair to face me. “Tell me, Beth, what is Carter’s plan? To dine on tea and crumpets until a stroke of good luck befalls us? Because if that is what we’re waiting for, I can assure it will not happen.”
“I’m sure he has something more—"
“Did you not hear him before we walked in? He expects Lawrence to come waltzing in here, right into his arms!”
I let out a breath and fell back on the bed, staring up at the blue canopy. “To be perfectly honest with you, I absolutely no idea what Carter is going to do. I thought I knew him pretty well, but now…”
“Now he is the sort of man that kills a fisherman for no foreseeable reason,” she finished.
I bit my lip and nodded, feeling my eyes start to burn. Even when I’d thought I was losing my mind, even when I was in danger of losing my life, I was never truly worried because I trusted that Carter would be there to protect me. But after this morning… “Lydia, I’m scared of him,” I whispered. “I pretend not to be when I’m around him, but the look he’s had on his face lately…I don’t know who this man is.”
I heard Lydia’s skirts rustle as she came closer, throwing herself on her back beside me, staring at the same fabric sky. “Beth…”
“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t complain. Lord knows you’ve been through a lot worse than an angry pirate,” I said, trying to laugh.
She squeezed my hand reassuringly, not responding right away. Several seconds went by before she said, “When Lawrence…after Lawrence, Stone was the only one that seemed to understand what I had gone through. Which I suppose is strange since he is a man and couldn’t possibly know what it feels like. All the same, he knew. And he cared about me,” she said. “Not about my soiled reputation or the amount of scandal that would arise if others found out or anything of that sort. He cared about me. He saw me.”
“Please, do not ask,” she said. “I cannot even think of a man without picturing—" She choked off, turning her face away from me.
“I’m sorry, I wasn’t trying—"
“I know,” she whispered, turning back and smiling shakily, tears in her eyes. “I know.”
We went back to gazing at the canopy in silence, both of us lost in our own thoughts. Eventually, I whispered, “We will find him, Lydia.”
She didn’t respond and I didn’t push it. I knew she heard me, but after everything she’d been through, I could hardly blame her for not believing me.
The door clicked open and both Lydia and I sat straight up. My mother stood there, her head peeking around the delicate wood. “That lady—Brooke?—said this was your room. I thought I could—"
“Go back to your room, Mom,” I said, lying back down and ignoring Lydia’s surprised look.
“Lizzie, I just wanted to—"
“Well, I don’t.”
“There was something I thought I should say to the both of you,” Lydia said softly.
I glared at her but she didn’t care.
“Of course.” Mom came in, closing the door softly behind her and sitting on the bed.
I stood immediately and moved to the other side of the room. The emotions concerning my mother’s presence were conflicting. I was happy to see her because no matter how independent I liked to think I was, I still felt more comfortable having my mom with me. But, at the same time, when was the last time Mom had ever been there for me?
“I’ve been thinking,” Lydia started. “If you’d like your mother to remain with us, she’s going to have to become useful.”
“Excuse me?” Mom said, offended.
I turned my head toward Lydia, confused. “What do you mean?”
“It seems to me that the captain’s tolerance for guests in his crew has lowered significantly since your arrival, Beth. I fear if Madam Jennifer doesn’t begin to serve some sort of purpose, Carter will see no reason to keep her around.”
“Are you trying to imply,” Mom said, “that I’m some sort of expendable—"
I sat up. “You are. Lydia’s right.” I met Lydia’s blue eyes. “What could we do to fix that?”
“I am not sure,” she said reluctantly. “But it is something we ought to start thinking about.”
“Well, can’t I just do what you two do?” Mom asked, looking at me hopefully.
“I do not think so,” Lydia said, going to the door. “Our only reason for being kept around is certain pirate’s affections toward us. Seeing as you are terrified of each and every pirate you’ve seen thus far, I do not believe you will be gaining any of their affections any time soon.”
“Wait, where are you going?” I said when she opened the door and stepped over the threshold.
She gave me a sad smile, the only kind of smile she was capable giving lately, but her eyes held just a hint of that old teasing glint. “I fear I must be going. But perhaps talk it over with your mother and I am certain you will devise an excellent plan.” And then she left.
Mom looked at me expectantly from where she sat and when I didn’t say anything, she prodded, “Well, are you gonna talk to me or just ignore the rest of the time we’re in the place?”
I couldn’t do this, not now, not ever. I stood up and went in the direction of the door. “Oh, I’m sorry, do you not like being ignored?”
“Elizabeth, I understand yo—"
“No, Mom, you don’t. You don’t understand anything. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna go find my frien—“
My brows furrowed and I peered down the hall to see William come running toward me. He slid to a stop in front of me, slightly out of breath and eyes wide. “William?”
“Where is Lydia?” he gasped.
“S-she just left,” I stuttered. “Why? What’s going on?”
“Get her. Now.” He took off running back down the corridor.
“No time. The stables. Go!” He vanished around a corner, his footsteps sounding incredibly loud in the open space.
I met Mom’s eyes and saw the same alarm in her that I felt. Putting aside our argument, I asked, “Do you know how to get back to your room?”
She jumped up. “Yes, I think I can—"
“Go back there and don’t come out until I come back.”
“Wait!” I turned to leave but she grabbed my arm. “Where are you going?”
“Where William told me to.”
I tried to go but she halted me again. “But wait, I can—"
She jerked in surprise at my harsh tone but thankfully did as I said and ran down the hall in the direction William had gone. I turned in the opposite direction, knowing Lydia couldn’t have gotten far.
Sure enough, I found her actually coming back the corridor in the direction of my room, her face wrinkled in confusion. “Beth?” she said. “Is everything all right? I thought I heard shouting from your ro—"
“It was William. He said I had to find you and get you to the stables.”
Her brows rose and she immediately lifted the skirts of the wedding dress she was still wearing, hurrying down the hallway. “Why? What’s happened?”
“I don’t know.”
We ran, both of us struggling to breathe under the weight of our dresses, out into the cool evening, the setting sun blinding us. Lydia held up her hand as we tried to find our way and she veered left.
Somehow, even though I’d never been here before, I knew the stables were not that way. I grabbed her arm and pulled her in the other direction.
We got to the stable, tripping on a bridle that had just been thrown on the ground. Either the staff hadn’t had time to clean this part of the estate yet, or something really terrible had happened.
The sound of panicked shouting drew us through doorways of wooden beams into the horses’ stalls. Every member of the crew was there, converged around something on the ground, all of them clearly concerned, others starting to lose it as the stared down at whatever was there.
“What is it?” Lydia asked above the pandemonium. “What’s happened?”
Carter’s head shot up above the crowd of men and his eyes locked on Lydia then me. “What are you doing here?” he demanded.
“We were asked to come,” I said.
“I thought Lydia would like to be here,” William spoke up.
A muscle ticked in Carter’s jaw. “That was not your pl—"
“In any case, I am here now,” she said, starting to push her way through the men.
“No, Lydia, you really will not—"
I saw her eyes land on the figure on the ground and her hand slapped to her mouth, trapping a scream from escaping, the sound like that of a tortured animal, a terrible screech that seemed to ricochet through her from the very depth of her soul.
“What?” I said, panic seizing me as I shoved me way to her side. I followed her gaze and felt my own jaw unhinge and heart plummet to my feet.