It was stormy outside, the dark blue waves slammed repeatedly against the hull of the ship and we rocked with it like faithful lovers. I got up and waved the tiny vial of smelling salts under my nose, fighting off the saltiness flooding my mouth and the nauseous simmering in my belly. I looked over at my sisters, sitting in the darkness, their blue – green eyes shimmering in the poor light; eyes that matched the sea on a good day.
Tonight was my turn to walk around and I stretched my legs and leaned against the barrels that shielded us from the sailors. It’s been four days since we stowed away in the hold of this ship. Every night, the man in charge of the hold would walk down here and shake about the barrels containing liquids to be sure of non – leaking barrels and faithful crewmen. We would huddle in the dark and not make a single sound for the fear of “walking the plank” was the beginning of wisdom. The very thought of hiding here while the goods were being examined just inches away from my sisters and I scared and excited all the bones in me at the same time. My father had said that women are not allowed on boats because of the myths of drowning and bad weather, but this was our only choice. We had to leave our home lest we be sold or given as gifts to the representatives of the warring nations. I rubbed my arms slowly and sniffed the salty air.
I turned to my sisters and nodded at Grace, she rose to her feet and I took her place beside Diana who instantly leaned against me. Grace had started to pace, stopping once to unplug the barrel of milk we had been living off of to pour in cups for us. This was how we managed so far, sipping milk and chewing Figs and dried raisins from other barrels. As we sipped the warm milk, a couple of voices tumbled down the stairs and echoed around the hold.
Grace hurried back to our stoop, her eyes wide and her knuckles white. Diana closed her eyes and clasped her hands in prayer. I on the other hand, reached for the little knife I strapped to my thigh; its edges sharpened to a sliver.
“Listen to me” I whispered to them, the milk forgotten “if today is the day we are found, we will go down fighting. Grace, you know how to fight; all those lessons won’t be wasted.”
“But Isis” Diana said, her lower lip trapped between her teeth ” I can’t swim.”
The voices edged closer and then the footsteps stopped right in front of us.
“This barrel is leaking” A voice came “I believe it’s leaking. It’s lighter than normal”
“Why?” Hands came around the brim of the barrel and wiggled it. a sound of approval followed.
“It is lighter, probably half empty ” the second voice gave, he tapped the side of the barrel and hummed “Let’s call down the crew and try to gain an explanation. The captain should hear no word of this.”
The footsteps and the voices made their way up and out of the hold. Grace sagged against the curved wall in relief but I sat tense, trying to fashion what scene might be playing out above deck. My heart echoed in my chest. It seemed so loud that I felt my entire body was throbbing along with it.
The scuffle of feet drummed the stairs, vibrating off the walls and causing my now abandoned milk to ripple and that manly sailor scent flooded my nose.
“Here it be, boys, now which one of you be pilfering off this here milk.” A gruff voice ordered to the now silent hold.
A pair of hands came around the brim of the exact barrel shielding us. Instinctively, I shoved Grace and Diane behind me, gulping the last of my milk and forcing steel into my spine.
It seemed like forever before those hands shifted that barrel and allowed my eyes to adjust to the light.
“A filly” the now embodied voice gave, “someone grab her!!”
Hands shifted the remaining barrels while a young man reached for me. A flash of silver came after and the man stumbled back, cradling his bleeding hand.
“There’s three of them!!” He cried and the men flooded our tiny corner. I caught Diana and Grace fighting back from the corner of my eyes and a flame of pride filled my chest and I began swiping blindly. The smell of blood thick in the air, a savage growl from my chest.
A scream from Diana and I lost my footing, falling headfirst into the nearest man, my knife deflowering his Virgin chest.
Then an explosion went off behind my eyes, something had been struck on my head and with failing everything, I crumpled to the ground.