His Saving Grace

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Chapter XII

Beth and I were sitting in a small room that the captain rented at the inn. The inn was surprisingly quaint, considering the exterior looked like a run-down bar. The two of us were completely silent. The captain and Fig had left to take care of certain matters, and they had locked the door behind them. It felt like a test, and I wasn’t willing to fail it.

When I stood up, Beth flinched, before turning her face in embarrassment. I could read her so easily, and she knew this. But she was still trying to ignore me. Why?

I carefully made my way towards the bed, and I laid myself down slowly on my front. My wounds hurt from opening yesterday, but at least I wasn’t bleeding out. Sir Graham had tended to my wounds, but though he had been worried for me to go anywhere, he hadn’t been able to hide his excitement to get off the boat too

I found myself soothed by the comfort of the bed. Without the captain’s presence looming over me, my body was finally able to relax. Beth didn’t join me, instead sitting rigidly in the chair. She didn’t even budge.

“Beth?” I murmured. “What’s wrong?” Silence. I knew she had heard me, yet there was nothing from her side. I turned my face to look at where she had been sitting, but she was standing up. Slowly, she made her way towards me, and she stood in front of me at the bed.

“Move over.” She tried to smile, but it was strained. I immediately moved back over to allow her to rest too. The bed was small, but it was larger than what we had had in our cottage.

I faced her, but Beth stayed facing up, staring at the ceiling instead. We laid there in silence. I could almost feel the silence weighing down on me, but Beth had a blank expression on her face. She looked like a statue.

“Grace?” Beth whispered. She still wouldn’t look my way. “Do you hate me?” I didn’t respond. Did I? It had been my choice to step up, so it had been my fault. But Beth haunted me in my nightmares. She simply watched as I fell deep into the ocean, and I drowned while looking up at her impassive face. It made it difficult to look at her too.

“No.” I admitted. I had some fears that were hiding deep down, but I could never hate Beth. Beth was my savior.

“Grace, I’m so afraid.” She murmured, reaching out to take my hand in hers. She turned to face me too. “I want to be the Beth I used to be. I want to be strong and say that we should run away. But I’m so scared.”

I had no words. I could only squeeze her hand back. She was crying. My hero, Beth, was curled up with my hand in hers, and she was crying.

“Every decision I make hurts you. All I want is to go back to when we were safe and happy. Why didn’t they help us? Why didn’t the admiral stop the pirates?” She whispered.

“Because by the time General Taylor sends for the admiral to be punished, he’ll already be gone. Better to live elsewhere than be killed by a pirate.” I said. I had thought about it for a long time too, but the answer was eventually rather simple. The admiral had placed his bets on the pirates, not himself.

She went silent as she thought about this. I stayed silent because I had nothing else to say. Neither of us mentioned escape. It felt like it was too late. Escape meant nothing. We had nowhere to go, no home to return to. It seemed I had been wrong about the bright look in Beth’s eyes. There was no escape on her mind. She was just as afraid as I was.

Fear seemed to be the only constant. Every second I was near the captain, I was tense in fear, but at the same time, I wanted him to smile. As long as I could make him smile, I would smile too.

Even when Sir Graham had nursed me back to this state of health, the captain was always there, I could feel it. When Sir Graham left the room, I could hear his low murmurs with the captain outside, and when I went to sleep, I could almost always feel a presence looming over me. He seemed worried for my health. It must be guilt for ripping my back open.

“Fig hates me now.” Beth blurted out. She had turned on her side, and she squeezed my hand as she finally faced me. Her face was so close to mine that I could almost feel the emotions she was feeling. Her eyes were so sad, but her brows were pinched, filled with uncertainty.

“He’s always on guard, and he treats me like he treats everyone else. But I don’t know why it bothers me so much.” As she spoke, her eyes began to fill with tears. I froze, uncertain of what to do. I wanted to wrap my arms around her, but at the same time, I couldn’t move beyond squeezing her hand back. My entire being was yelling that she didn’t deserve that comfort.

“You’re his prisoner.” I pointed out. She flinched. Her eyes began to fill with disbelief. “You tried to escape, and you betrayed his trust. Of course he’s on guard.” I was almost certain her grip on my hand loosened. She took a deep breath, and the tears disappeared from her eyes. As she opened her eyes again, there was this fire that returned. I would have been happy for her if that anger didn’t seem directed at me.

“What do you mean? He’s the one who liked me first. It’s his own fault for letting his guard down.” There it was. She had always known how Fig felt for her, and she’d used it against him. Yet still, she expected him to show the same affection because she was the same person. The hypocrisy seemed only evident to me. There was bitterness growing in my chest, and it dug its nail into my heart.

“Why should he care for someone who’s not on his side? Why should he care for someone who’d betray his trust in a heartbeat?” This time, she snatched her hand away from mine. These words felt wrong in my mouth because I would never speak against my Beth. But at the same time, I felt so numb. What was wrong with pointing out the truth?

The main reason Beth was struggling on this ship was that she’d always gotten what she wanted. No one spoke badly of her, and she was so widely loved that she couldn’t fathom anyone not doing as she liked. Fig had clearly liked Beth from the start, and she had accepted these one-sided feelings as obvious. She had imagined that no matter what she did, he’d keep the same feelings. But Fig wasn’t like the nobles in high society. He had nothing to gain from keeping up pretenses because in reality, his feelings had been broken the moment she pointed his gun at him.

“How dare you, Grace.” She sounded genuinely angry. Perhaps I was supposed to be scared. Yet there was nothing. Her wrath could be nothing compared to the captain’s. “I’ve never treated you poorly in my life, but this is how you throw it back at me? What happened to you?”

This felt like my cue to apologize. In any other situation, I would have. I truly had imagined speaking to Beth for days, and no part of me had imagined this possibility. I tried to form the words in my head, but it felt blank. No part of me was ready to give an apology. No part of me wanted to apologize. How was it that when Beth spoke the truth, I had to pay for her words? Yet when I spoke the truth to her, she pointed her finger back at me? The simmering darkness began to rear its ugly head, and it felt like it took over my mouth because I had no control over the words that escaped my lips.

“You should have left me there on the island. You could have let me go.” She jolted up immediately, staring at me in shock. Her eyes were wide, and her mouth hung open. She didn’t speak, simply staring at me, and her mouth moved without making any noise. I might as well have slapped her across the face. I was shocked too, but I couldn’t back down now. The pain within me wasn’t appeased yet. She wanted an apology instead of Beth’s excuses.

Who knows what could have happened to me if Beth had left me on the island. Perhaps I would have been killed by the pirates left behind. Perhaps I would have run straight to the admiral to ask for help. Perhaps I could have lived a quiet life alone until the day I died. But would anything there be worse than this life?

“I saved your life!” Finally, Beth spoke. No, she yelled. She was practically shaking in indignation, and there was that fire in her eyes as she glared right at me. Now, it seemed like she had no apologies for me left in her. “The admiral didn’t even come to save us, and I used my title to protect you. Again!”

That was what hit me hard. Again. She was right. Beth was my savior. My fists clenched at my side as I realized I could do nothing. I owed everything to Beth. I belonged to her. Of course she could choose my fate. I was her servant.

“Right.” The bitterness spread down my throat, and before I knew it, the words were out of my mouth. “I was wrong to believe you thought of me as your friend. I’m but a servant.” It took every ounce of restraint in me to stop myself from sarcastically bowing at her.

She stared at me in indignation. Her face was a strange mix of anger and confusion, and her knuckles turned white as she clenched her dress tightly.

“Grace,” She called out to me uncertainly. Her eyes still held anger in them, and she was waiting for someone to apologize. But she wouldn’t, and we both knew it. I would have to be the one to reach out first, and I’d apologize, and she’d forgive me. It was different this time, though. I didn’t have anything left in me.

Instead, I forced my arms to move, and I pushed my body to flip over. I faced my back to her, and I closed my eyes. The darkness behind my lids suited me.

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