This story is by Lucrisha and was part of our 2016 Winter Writing Contest. You can find all the Winter Writing Contest stories here.
Wren tried ignoring the complaints coming from across the room. The girls here were always complaining.
“I’m nearly done,” wren said, not bothering to pinch the candle’s flame.
The complaints grew until the door to their room crashed open.
“Girls, the night’s for sleeping not conversing,” Lady Marigold’s voice cut across the room. Her eyes found Wren, who still held her mending in hand. “Wren, straining to see in this light will give you wrinkles, put that away.”
“How will I find a place for you if you ruin your appearance, think of your future.”
Those last four words kept Wren from sleep. She could feel the walls of her life closing around her.
Lady Marigold’s promise to every ill, and dying parent was that their daughters would be well placed in the world for a price. That was the promise she made Wren’s dying mother. Wren knew then, and now that it was a lie. There was no happy future for her here. The realization sparked a fear in Wren sending her flying from Lady Marigold’s.
From outside the orphanage, Wren could hear the sounds of the ocean. She ran in the direction of the sound. seeing a ship she stopped. Catching her breath she watched the waves slap at the hull. A man stumbled down the narrow wooden plank onto the pier, stepping out of site. As he disappeared Wren stepped closer. It was raining and she was cold. Knowing she shouldn’t, she boarded the ship finding a dry hidden corner.
“Show a leg,” Wren heard the gruff voice above her “Get up.”
It took several blinks to realize she had fallen asleep on the ship.
“What’d you find, William,” said the second voice. The second man reached around the one called William. Grabbing her arm he hauled her into the open. Grunts of surprise met her sudden, forced appearance on the deck.
“Leland you’ve had it this time. Someone better grab the captain.”
“There’s no need to get your captain! I’ll leave, I’m sorry, I was looking for a place to get out of the rain an—” Wren stopped. The men were laughing at her.
Moving past them she could see that land was no longer visible. She searched the horizon. She was sweating. Looking from the sea to the sky she was shocked to see there was no sign of last night’s rain, and the midmorning sun was beating down on her. She turned at the sound of boots stomping across the deck.
We’ve found us a bit of fish food Captain,” the man who had forced her into the open said.
“Why are you on my ship?” the captain said, ignoring the comment. walking past his crew to towered over her.
“I was cold. I—”
“You couldn’t find a place warmer than my ship?”
Wren hung her head, “No.”
“You’ll work or you’ll swim.”
She nodded. He wasn’t asking her to choose he was giving an order.
“Don’t just stand there, get her a holystone. She’ll scour the decks. Leland, you’ll keep her in line. That’ll suit you for leaving your post, and letting her aboard. The rest of you will leave her be,” he ordered before leaving.
Confused about the turn her morning had taken she watched him go.
“We best get going on the decks,” the man, Leland, said. Putting her to work. Talking as they went. She learned the ship was called The Gwendolyn, Eldon was her captain, but the Quartermaster Blake was the real person in charge. Blake had been injured forcing them to come ashore.
“Captain’s ordered Blake to stay abed for a spell. Bit of luck for ya. You’ll have time to earn your keep before trouble comes looking for you,” he said. Wren shrugged working silently.
After a tasteless meal, Leland started her back to work. It didn’t matter that she was ignorant about life at sea. He had no a problem teaching her what she needed to know, in order to keep busy.
Days went by, with her living alongside these pirates. Captain Eldon kept his distance, and the Quartermaster Blake had yet to show himself. She should have been killed, or worse. Instead, she found herself working odd jobs around the ship, as the men slapped her back declaring she’d found her sea legs. She was trapped, yet she was free. Their reluctant and growing acceptance of her making her happy that she had run.
Down on the deck, a shadow fell over her.
“Come with me,” Wren stopped what she was doing, at the sound of a woman’s voice. She had thought herself to be the only woman aboard and was too shocked by the discovery of another to question the order.
“Tell me true who’s home looking for you,” the woman asked.
“No one,” Wren said, looking around taking in their location.
“The look of ya tells me you’ve had a bed somewhere.”
“Are you sure we should be in the quartermaster’s rooms?” Wren asked.
“I’d say she wouldn’t mind,” The woman laughed.
Gasping Wren understood immediately, “Blake,” she said, sitting up a little straighter.
“The one and only,” Blake gave a flourish of her hand. “Now, it’ll be awhile before we can get ya home, you’ll keep doing your share until then.”
“I’m not going back,” wren said.
Blake considered her, “Where would you have us drop you then.”
“I’m staying aboard,” she said, confirming to herself, and Blake her desire to stay and explore the world sailing aboard The Gwendolyn.
“Are you opposed to eating rats? Stay aboard long enough, and you’ll find out. The Gwendolyn’s not the place for you.”
It was possible that she had taken in too much sun, or drank too much of the rum they served in place of water, but the idea of being hungry enough to eat rats held more appeal than going back to Lady Marigold’s. More likely it was not the sun or the rum, but the fact that she was free, and though the crew of the Gwendolyn had yet to call her friend, she felt that one day they would. Freedom and friends were two things she never had at Lady Marigold’s.
“This is where I want to be. Bilge rats or no, I’m staying.”
The captain stepped into the room and said, “Blake’s right, you’ll need to be going when we make land.” She jerked around with the realization he had been listening.
“I have nowhere to go, I’m staying,” She said, lifting her chin, and meeting each of their eyes.
“That’s for us to say lass, and we say you’re not.”
Wren frowned, She had gained some knowledge of ship and sea but had nothing to offer them in order to persuade them to keep her on. There was time maybe to make them reconsider. “I’m staying,” she said again. Standing she walked from the room before they could tell her otherwise.
She brought her problem to the men a few nights later. They were sympathetic but had nothing to offer as a solution.
“I’ve no family who’d miss me. why shouldn’t I stay?”
“A ship’s no home for an orphan girl,” Leland said, everyone nodded their agreement.
“I wouldn’t be an orphan if I had a home on the Gwendolyn. Besides, I wasn’t always an orphan.”
“And, we weren’t always pirates and thieves. What differences does it make what any of us used to be?”
She realized it would take the crew to win the captain. “Are you up for a bit of sport once we make land?” she ask, eyes gleaming. If they could become pirates so could she.
There was a lightness in her chest the day they made landfall. With a full tan and a rotten stench from her months at sea, she couldn’t wait to see Lady Marigold face over her ruined appearance. She burst through the doors of Lady Marigolds flanked by Leland and his brother William.
“Wren,” Lady Marigold said jumping back.
“You failed to uphold the promises made to my mother so I’m taking back what she paid you before her passing,” Wren said conversationally.
“No,” she said bravely, but wren could see her shaking.
“You’ll give me what’s mine, plus everything else you have, and my new friends won’t shoot you,” Wren said, with a wicked smile.
Moments later Wren and the brothers laughed and ran through the streets towards The Gwendolyn, with their loot in hand.
“Captain, we’ve found us a new recruit,” William shouted, as he and Leland hoisted her up carrying her aboard the Gwendolyn. She dropped the loot at Captain Eldon’s feet. He threw his head back laughing. Blake smiled giving her welcoming nod.
she could see the orphanage from where she stood high on The Gwendolyn. The house where she had lived with her parents not far from it. Each representing different times in her life. She was weightless flying free, as she sailed off to meet her future.