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Becca in the Woods,
Part 1

by Neale Sourna


Cornwall, England UK; 1680s

Becca’d been on her way to her betrothal, or rather she’d escaped from crowded, maddening London, back to her stormy, Atlantic tossed Cornwall coast;,three hundred miles further west than most London courtiers would ever venture.

The whole world was in mad upheaval! Pirates raided coasts. Neighbor killed neighbor, for God and Right. Their Catholic king’d run away and his daughter, with her Dutch Protestant husband, now ruled; as Becca’s healthy loveliness and strong family name remained besieged by an earl, whose grown heir had died, and now he wanted another, by her.

Unlucky Becca.

She’d lost two babes; both to fever, then lost her beloved, gentle husband in the king’s senseless wars and now this earl, older than her father, had reached out his covetous hands, to make her his countess, in payment for her father’s impending bankruptcy.

Both men had kept a vigilant eye upon her, until the indomitable earl had thrown an “intimate” party of great size, in relief of signed promises between THEM, about her.

They’d blinked, whilst toasting each other’s great fortune, and she’d run.

* * * *

Running straight here wasn’t a great idea, except not one of her family’d been home from court in ten years. Besides, she’d gone to the modest hunting lodge in the dense, pine scented forest overlooking the lovely, tempestuous sea.

Her lady’s maid had been bubbling like champagne to soon be living in a castle; so Becca’d come alone, her nearest neighbor a hermit in a hovel several miles away, said to have been an Anglican priest, who’d fallen in love and love had shattered him for all human company.

“If a man can be a hermit, so can I.” But the cottage was long unused and without food, so she’d gone out. “Men hunt. I can hunt and, oh, goodly sized mushroo—.”

“Don’t!”

She froze, startled. This goodly sized man was clearly no hermit, as he was dressed like a fighting sailor; an officer of a lucrative privateer vessel, perhaps, by his fine cloak.

“Wh-Who are you?” His bright gaze was rather rude, his brighter smile impertinent, which is to be expected of an Irishman.

“Someone who knows those mushrooms you’re about to harvest are poisonous.”

“Says who?”

“Says God, who created them.”

“Oh. Who—?”

“Am I? A man seeking natural beauty in nature, and finding it.” She blushed, despite herself; then frowned at his weakness to his charm. “Actually, I’m a pirate.” Her eyes grew large, and then she recovered her court matron’s worldly decorum, until he said, “And yah must be the runaway lady.”

“Wh-What?”

“You. Clearly. Fair. Of Cornwall. A good man’s widow and a foolish man’s daughter, who a less than great nobleman wishes to wed, bed, and bear his progeny.” Her eyes flitted side to side, as if cornered. “No one’s here for you, yet, darlin’. I talked up a groom at your parent’s home, when I espied the frantic activity there in search of yah. They’re a few miles off, as you’re here, with me.”

“I’m not with you.”

He stepped forward, and she back. “To answer yah, I’m Aidan.” She was about to say, “Who cares,” and other things along those lines to the smug Irishman, when it abruptly downpoured and rumbling lighting struck near with great violence, and so he grabbed her and ran to her cabin lodge, the only solid shelter for miles.

* * * *

“Well, sir, I’d offer you tea and cakes, but the servants haven’t stocked the larder lately.”

He smiled, rather smugly she thought, with a charming crooked turn of his lips, as he put down his travel pack and pulled from it, an imported wine—a good one, cheese, bread, and even a French roasted chicken.

“Perhaps, Lady Becca, since you’ve provided shelter from the storm, I can provide the meal? And we can be friends?” Her stomach made an unladylike rumble.

“Are you Catholic, Irishman?”

“Ah. Religious differences. I’m a man and you a woman; we need no more opportunity for war than that. Or are yah not hungry enough?” He gave her a generous amount of wine in an engraved silver travel cup, then fired the hearth to burn away the damp, as they at their meal.

It was pleasant here, alone with him, and the rain.

“So, Aidan the pirate, whose engraved silver hawk is this that you’ve stolen?”

“Not ‘stolen.’ A gift. From a fine lady with fine, strong thighs for long nights of bedridin‑.”

“Don’t be insulting and coarse.”

“You asked. Why’d yah run from such a fine betrothal?”

“I-I don’t want to speak of it. Did a lady truly gift you this silver?”

“Yes. ‘Truly’.” There was a long, self-conscious silence, which hid a strong mutual recognition and attraction. “I-I see why your bridegroom-to-be has fallen all over himself to have yah.”

“Really? And should I care what a pirate sees or says?”

“Yes. A pirate’s a rogue, who sees what others are too self-conscious to admit; he seizes what servants must carefully tend and fear to take; he says that although a certain woman’s nose is a bit crooked, she is a heart stopper.”

“My nose is NOT crooked!”

“Oh, I didn’t mean you. You don’t stop my heart.”

“Humph.”

“You make it pound, like a war drum.” And when Becca gazed in his eyes for signs of deceit, Aidan had none.

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