Beth went through stages of her fever. At first, I had thought she was getting better. Then, the fits started, and she woke up screaming and thrashing. After those calmed down, her fever calmed down too. But it wasn’t over. The hallucinations began. She assaulted me, shrieking, crying, scratching, begging. Her nails had made their mark on my face, along with other scratches. Finally, she got better. It had taken eight days.
The reason it had taken so long was that there weren’t many resources on the ship itself. No constant supply of fresh water, no fresh fruits and vegetables, no fresh food in general.
The boy who was always by our side was called Fig. He had flaming red hair that shone in the sunlight and stood up to attention at all times. I had gotten to know him better, as he had never left our side. He was a kind boy, one who never lost his perky attitude despite the difficulties at sea. Fig smiled a lot, and he made sure the room wasn’t too silent while Beth was unconscious.
Despite the chambers belonging to the captain, the terrifying captain himself never showed up. Beth had the large bed to herself, and I slept every once in a while, on the floor, due to exhaustion. Fig always seemed to be awake, but I was almost certain he matched his sleeping schedule to mine. Still, I couldn’t be certain.
While helping Beth, I was an anxious bundle of exhaustion and worry. When she finally woke up and recognized me, I cried my heart out, holding her hand to remind myself that I hadn’t lost her to the fever. She wasn’t awake for long before she slept properly this time, but when she woke up again, I was by her side.
Beth was completely dazed, unsure of what the past few days had held for her, but she returned to looking fierce. I gave her what was commonly known as ‘grog’, a mixture of rum and water, which was the freshest source of water available. The rum killed the bacteria in the water that went stale quickly, so it was the closest option. She had no choice but to drink, gagging at the strange flavor, and I knew exactly how that felt as I had firsthand experienced that a few days back too.
Fig ran off to inform the captain that Beth was awake, and the moment he left, Beth turned to me, a wild, desperate look in her eyes. She no longer looked so strong, more so afraid than anything. I could completely relate, as that was all I had been feeling for the past few days, but her fear came from a different reason. She was afraid of the pirates.
“We need to escape, Grace.” She spoke softly, her eyes darting towards the open doors of the chamber. “The captain promised that no harm would come to me, but he had me tied to the mast as punishment. They’re dangerous, and they won’t keep their word. They’re savages.” She grabbed me by the shoulders, her nails biting into my shoulders, and I winced, unable to pull away.
“How?” I whispered. I was afraid for her. There was a mad glint in her eyes, one that came from a mix of fear and anger, and never before had I seen her so emotional. Her hands were trembling as she gripped my shoulders.
“I don’t know.” She looked ashamed of her answer, and for that, I tried to assure her. She looked withdrawn, and my heart physically ached as I looked at my fierce friend reduced to pitying herself.
“Don’t worry. We’ll find a way.” I found confidence in my voice, as to appease her, and slowly, she looked up at me and tried to smile. It was a tiny smile that didn’t make her look any happier, as the worry was still clear on her face, but she brought back a minute bit of confidence to herself.
Silence enveloped us as we waited for the captain to show up, but I couldn’t strike up conversation with Beth because she looked too deep in thought. As the maid that I was, I waited by my mistress’ side, patient and silent.
As soon as the door was flung open, I knew it was the captain. I didn’t even have to look, but I could already envision the captain walking in, his dark eyes surveying the chamber. When I glanced over at him, I realized his eyes were glued on me, raking up and down my body, and a smirk graced his lips as my eyes met his. A blush scattered over my cheeks, and I looked away. Fig, at the captain’s right, grinned at me knowingly before smoothing down his emotions to a poker face.
Beth had straightened her spine once more, holding that confident look in her eyes, and this was the Beth I had always known, never the petrified child-like figure I had just witnessed. Perhaps I didn’t know her as well as I would have thought.
As I peeked up at the two standing a respectful distance from us, I realized that the captain truly was large in frame and beautifully proportioned, and such a thought made me blush more than I had over the past five years. He was powerfully muscular, and that was only emphasized by his standing next to Fig. Despite Fig being taller than both Beth and I, he was comparatively shorter and smaller in frame than the captain. My rather shocking thoughts were interrupted as the captain spoke.
“Are you better, Lady Elizabeth?” The captain had his diplomatic tone, the one he’d used when we had been at our cottage. Sadness seeped into my thoughts at the thought of our old home, but I shoved it away. I had already mourned. Beth had hostility in her eyes, while the captain surveyed her with cool eyes, and lightning crackled between the two.
“Yes. No thanks to you.” As usual, she was blunt. “You swore that no harm would come upon me. You lied.” She spoke angrily, unable to hide her raging emotions. Lady Elizabeth had never been a diplomat, and her emotions were currently written on her face.
“You’re alive and healthy, Lady Elizabeth. I see no issue with your safety.” The captain replied smoothly, and an indignant glare flashed across Beth’s face. Her dainty hands clenched into fists, and I could already imagine what she was about to do. Unfortunately, I was too late to stop her. She ripped the covers off her relatively naked body and jumped out of the bed. Clearly, she meant to approach the captain to speak to him face to face, but I let out a surprised squeal, stopping her in her tracks.
“Beth!” I protested, grabbing the covers to at least try to cover her. She wore only a corset and undergarments, yet she hadn’t realized as she had jumped out of the bed. Even she let out a surprised shriek before she scrambled back towards the bed as she realized. Her face had changed into a scarlet shade of humiliation, and she could barely make out any words.
She took deep breaths, trying to calm herself as she grimaced in embarrassment. After making sure she was safely tucked in, I sat back down on the stool next to her bed, glancing up at the two men. Fig’s face had turned the same color as his hair, and he looked uncertain as to where to look. However, the captain’s expression hadn’t changed at all, his cool façade still remained on his face.
“Apologies.” Her voice shook as her blush sank into oblivion and her confidence tried to make its way back up. Still, shame had her clutching the blanket to her chest. “I wasn’t quite aware that I was dressed like a harlot.”
“You haven’t quite got the body of one.” The captain said mockingly, and her blush returned. A smile burst across Fig’s face, despite his initial embarrassment, but I smiled for a different reason. The captain believed he had embarrassed Beth, but she thought differently from most men.
For the captain, perhaps a harlot’s body was more desirable, but for ladies like Elizabeth, having a curvaceous body was frowned upon. According to the upper class ladies, only harlots and the lower class would need to have enticing bodies to attract men, while the richer ladies needed simply their reputation and homeliness.
Beth had grown like most upper class ladies, despite living far away from their civilization. She had a slender body and long limbs but was relatively flat in the bosom and backside regions. Still, she was extremely pale, as having paler skin equated not having to work outside and being a lady of the house.
“That is not for you to comment on.” She snapped. “In fact, you just complimented me, so don’t be so proud of yourself.” She said haughtily, turning her nose up in distaste.
There was a short break of silence, only for it to be interrupted by the captain once more.
“Lady Elizabeth, we have a room prepared for you to reside in. Fig here,” He gestured to the red-faced boy. “Will be your guard.”
“Alright. I am in need of some clothing, however.” She replied. For that, the captain neared the bed to grab the baby pink dress that I had left there to dry. He tossed it to her, and she took it. As the captain and Fig both stared at her, she glared back. “Well, turn around at least. A lady deserves some privacy.”
Fig looked adorable, I couldn’t help but think, as he turned a notch redder, while the captain gave her a bored look. Still, both of them turned around. As soon as they both looked the other way, I stood and helped Beth out of bed to get the dress on her.
First, I tightened her corset, making sure the silk ribbons and buttons were completely done up at the back, before I pulled the dress on her. The baby pink silk dress was puffed at the hips, flaring outwards with the shape of her corset, and the inverted shape made her look slimmer. As soon as I was done, Beth cleared her throat delicately, and slowly, the two turned to face us once more.
“Fig, take Lady Elizabeth to her room.” The captain instructed, but his eyes weren’t on the red-haired youth. They were glued on me.
“Grace, let us go.” She instructed, as she strutted after Fig who turned to open the door for us. She walked towards the door with her head held high, and I trailed after her, keeping my eyes glued to the floor. The captain’s presence in general made me anxious, and I couldn’t bring myself to look up. We passed by the stationary captain, but as soon as Beth left the room first, the captain stopped me.
He strided over and grabbed me by the waist, pulling me back into an embrace.
“Grace,” He said, emphasizing my name. “Stays here with me.” Beth spun around and openly stared right at us in shock. My cheeks were burning, as his scent enveloped my thoughts, and I couldn’t bring myself to speak. With that, he slammed the door shut in her face.