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Becca Gets Her Sea Legs,
Part 3

by Neale Sourna


Atlantic Ocean, Ireland; 1680s

“It’s not fair,” Becca moaned between gulps, of drinking a watered wine concoction, and promptly vomited, again. Aidan wiped her face, and then she fell back into his bunk, and watched as his hammock, which, though pulled to one side, swayed with the rocking of his ship. This new world of his would not be still.

“Utterly not fair.”

“Your new husband, who you jilted your wedding night, pretending to be sick, so you’d not have to accommodate him, as per your full wifely duties, and then dashing away to me and sea, I think he’d say it was your just desserts, skittish girline.”

“I doubt he’d say ‘skittish,’ perhaps something starting with an ‘s’ and ‘l.’ And don’t say ‘desser‑’.” And she hastily draped herself over the edge, and nothing came. A wholly unattractive way to spend one’s time with one’s new lover.

“More?” He proffered the drink and she shook her disheveled head and groaned with pathetic intensity, as he laid her back and stroked her face and arms and legs with a cool, damp sponge. “You’ll get your sea legs, yet, my lady.”

“Becca. We’ve slept together.” He frowned in that attractive way of his, then smiled in remembrance of a small hunting lodge, and her enwrapped in his best great cloak beside him. “Not to mention me in your bed here and you there in that sling which makes me more ill at each pendulum’s swing of your bottom. And me arriving, still wearing my lovely wedding kit, prepared to consummate, but after one sweet kiss, I befoul your clothes.”

“They’ve been befouled by worse. I’m afraid our moody lady, the sea, is more problematic when one is fully in her embrace, than when watching from steady shore.”

“I’ve sailed before. In our sailboat as a child, and I made the Crossing to the Continent.”

“Which means you remained close to shore, not farther out in the deep swells.”

“Don’t say ‘swel—’…m.” She shut her mouth tight and refused to be sick and stared above her and did not see him tilt his head to watch her in her obstinate concentration to regain her superiority as mistress of her own body. Finally, she looked at him. “What? What is it?”

“I’m glad you’re here, though not glad that you are ill.” She half sat up to answer, but decided better of it and settled back, again gazing with fixed determination. “What exactly are you staring at?”

“It’s stationary, that spot, right there, where the wood swirls, oh, not a good word. Now, if I could just get my insides to cease sloshing about, and as still as that, I’d be fine.”

He chuckled, kissed her with soft lips, and put his hand on her belly and she felt his warmth through her sheer shift, since her corset stays were across the room somewhere; the constrictive thing had nearly killed her with all her sick heaving … another wrong word, “heaving.”

So she let all words go, except “warm” and “Aidan,” who’d been so tender helping her out of her stays.

Now that was a thing she could never say to her mother, that a pirate had helped her out of her corset. Then she stilled her mind, feeling all would be worth it; coerced marriage, flight, even regurgitating everything save her heart, which was already gone, to this man with the warm hand. And she slept.

* * * *

When Becca awoke, a sturdy boy of about eight, and holding a small rat terrier dog, was staring at her.

“Well, hullo, and who‑?” He dashed off on bare feet. She lay still and assayed herself; she felt better, and tentatively sat up, then tentatively put feet to wooden floor. There were returning heavy footfalls, and then Aidan..

“Well?”

“I’d not test it with any smells that might….”

“Be a trigger?”

“Yes.”

“I’ll have the boy attend yah. You can wear these things here, since you came without nay trousseau of belongings.”

“Ha-ha.”

The shy boy returned with hot water and his perky little dog, then left, leaving her to listen to the sounds of men working the ship; and its boards creaking in sighs, as if breathing, and then she washed herself, her shift, and stockings, and slipped into Aidan’s linen shirt and wrapper, both smelling deliciously of him. The boy brought more water, but soon she was sobbing incessantly, and he brought Aidan.

“Yah ill, again? The boy says you’re crying.”

“No. Yes. It’s utterly stupid, except….”

“ ‘Except’?”

“I can’t wash my hair; bending over ….”

“Reminds yah of ‘bending over the sick basin,’ aye?”

“ ‘Aye.’ My stomach’s sore. I look a fright. And I haven’t a lady’s maid. And I’m pathetically babbling, like a fool.”

“No. Like a fine lady, who’s risked all and hasn’t been able to enjoy it. I-I used to wash my wife’s hair. May I wash yours, then?”

She couldn’t answer, as his offer seemed more intimate than his caring for her in sickness, nevertheless, he sat her down and laid her head back. And, afterward, he dried her hair in the breeze from the open port, after which they shared a meal of soup, bread, cheese, and wine, until their gazes seized upon the other; and bold Becca slipped off Aidan’s wrapper, and he bolted his door and followed her to bed.

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