Freedom Pioneers : "Expeditions" [Ch5iii]

CHAPTER FIVE Continues …..

She stared at him, her face agog at his declaration. He acted first before the element of surprise had worn off, he moved to kneel by her chair and slide his hands into hers.
‘I love you Rhiannan and I want to marry you if you will have me.’
‘Love …? Marry …? Me …? How?’

Astonishment was an understatement and she took refuge in the thought they would have to wait until they landed and found her mother and asked her how it was to be done, only once had she understood marriage and that was when one of the maids blushing and giggling had told them she was marrying the gardener’s nephew. She left the next day and they never saw her again. She did know it was something that happened with a minister in a church for the family had gone once and returned with flower petals all through their clothing. Cookie had been so happy about it. Rhiannan didn’t understand any of it.

‘We are miles out at sea and there is not a minister in sight!’ she finally pointed out as if to correct him however he just beamed wider.
‘There is, however, a ship’s captain and when at sea he holds the power of, amongst other things, a minister of the church.’

She stared at him and slowly the ulterior motive, he had hinted at when he promoted Maloney to ship’s captain in his stead, became fully recognizable. As captain Michael could marry but not get married himself. So now Maloney could officiate such a ceremony and it would be a legal binding.

Did she want that though? Was being a man’s wife and thus his responsibility, property even; would that be exactly what she wanted? She knew marriage was for life, never to be single again unless from death, and even then it could mean the rest of her life be a worrisome existence of survival however she could manage it. At church there had been married couples. Old people crotchety and annoyed by each other; the women complaining of feeling considered nothing more than their husband’s chattel, the husbands complaining of the weight of the burden of their wives nagging and pecking like hens in a coop. There had been widows hiding in their widow shacks waiting for death to take them too. There was even a woman that people had been ashamed of to have in their kirk. Rhiannan realised her mother could have been a woman like that.

Before that very conversation she had never even considered the prospect, even the merest dream of such an opportunity. There had never been much talk of it in the kitchens; the girls there resolved to never marry least they lost their positions. And who would they marry? The men in the family’s employ? Relatives met at Hogmanay? Other servants of the family’s guests and therefore be taken miles from those they know?

Many, like Rhiannan, had no other family but those they worked with and so no one to assist financially with weddings and the like. In her time with Mrs Johnson there had been many wedding cakes. Tiers of beautiful whiteness with delicate embroidering that had her cross eyed for the concentration of the fine piped icing. Mrs Johnson loved to get a wedding order. Not only for the cake; her reputation for the finest decorated cake was the best in London; but also for the sweetmeats and matching treats, hundreds and hundreds. A wedding for Mrs Johnson was a dream come true; but for Rhiannan it was a back breaking nightmare that made her eyes and her head ache and her hands cramp up painfully for hours.

It was all very well for the rich; marriage for them, as Mrs Johnson would gossip, was a necessity like a business contract. Marriage however for the poor could mean a worse of existence for the woman would no longer be able to go out to work. If she was clever she could create work; take in washing, sewing, make foods, sell eggs, even be a wet-nurse; but if not, one servant’s pay was not nearly enough for two or more to live on. And usually the man would be away so much, doing his job in the big house, that the woman would be completely miserable.

But Michael was no servant. He was a man of property; true it was a floating property with high risk of sinking in any large enough squall, but he was able to make money with it, possibly buy more to cover his investment. If he were shrewd, he would be able to look after her very well. But would that be enough? Would sitting pretty in a parlour, amusing herself however a lady may, even having her own servants to command, would that be enough for her? No she did not need a luxurious living; and this voyage, where she was one moment running about islands and the next idle more than not, was giving her good insight that no, she would not be content unless she was active; gainfully and productively active.

But it was more whether they could withstand the disappointments of life as well as the gladness of it. Would his care for her diminish with the novelty of new love? Would she be really enough to keep him attentive? The one thing she had picked up on was a comment by the crew. One man was being teased for having a girl in every port. She was realising there were a lot of ports all over the world. Did Michael too have a girl in each one of them?

And then there were the nights where she lay cold and feeling so lonely she wished she could get to sleep and never wake up. But the memory of feeling warmth behind her around her, security while she slept curled on her side in whatever bed she’d been allocated. A small part of her mind had been busy trying to catch that fleeting memory and make sense of it and she knew that feeling of warmth and security most while she slept was linked to that memory.

She closed her eyes and felt the echo feeling of an arm across her, its mate under her ear, her back truly warm for the first time in her life. It gave a quickening in her belly that opened her eyes in surprise. She knew for certain it had been a man behind her holding her as she slept and the peace came from that. Immediately she remembered the way she had woken on the island the morning the ship had gone. It had been Michael behind her, his arms under and over her in the same way, his belly warming her back, his knees behind hers. But even then it had kindled a fleeting memory of sleeping like that before. Had it been Michael? She knew it had never been Grant, although similar feelings had been kindled when she’d ridden before him on his horse. Had it been George? Possibly, although he had been so much bigger than her.

But one thing presented itself as the most wonderful desire of all was that she longed to have that security return. Perhaps marrying Michael would provide her with someone to repeat that blissful feeling, to hold her and keep her warm every night, who would be with her for the rest of her life, that same someone could carry her conversations, could care for her ailments, and to be someone to always be there and keep her company. And in return she could care for him, see to his ailments, carry his conversations and attend to all his needs. Was that the truth of love? Was that the essence of marriage? Her eyes found his.

He was still looking at her, his face not that far from hers, waiting ever so patiently for her response. He had watched her face as her mind raced in thoughts. He had sprung this upon her and he knew he needed to give her the time for her mind to process it. He could see them flashing through her eyes as she stared off into the middle distance somewhere over his right shoulder, and when she closed her slightly pink lids with their amazing long lashes, he watched the play of her brow furrowing and her busy eyeballs beneath the fine skin, framed in the perfect arcs of her golden lashes laying on her cheeks.

Finally she opened her eyes. He felt her body stiffen when she did so and then relax as she looked into his eyes, seemingly for the first time. There was an unfathomable draw that they felt, as if caught on the tide and happiness, more than happiness, sheer delight to be sucked into the depths of each other’s amazing eyes. She had seen the sea look like his eyes, sandy green yet at the same time crystal blue with flecks of brown and glints of shimmering sunlight. It may have been the draw of his eyes; it may have been the desire to really never be alone again but her face warmed into a special smile and he caught his breath realising she was about to accept him.

‘Very well then.’ She replied and he lifted his chin and let his breath came out in a whoop that he’d heard the Native American Indians and the men of the wild Wild West give.

Then he was on his feet drawing her up to seemingly soar into his arms, him catching her when she was an arm’s length again above his shoulders. Rhiannan first looked stunned, her hands on his shoulders for balance, and then laughed as he smiled up at her, turning circles that seemed dangerous on the rolling seas with the deck raising and falling under his feet.

‘I take it she said yes?’ Maloney asked standing with the crew around them, all of them grinning ear to grubby, and in one case missing, ear.

‘Yes.’ Michael beamed at them and turned back to smile up at her also. ‘Maloney your services will definitely be required.’ he ordered, to the laughter of the crew, then slowly slid her down the front of him but stopped himself when he would have kissed her, much to the disappointment of the men. But they’ll get sight of the wedding kiss and no more.

Freedom Pioneers : "Expeditions" [Ch5iii]

adgray

Frankston, Australia

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Artist's Description

For my NaNoWriMo challenge

One Part of a three part novel.
A spin off from my Daintree Daughter’s Book

Chapter 5 Continued
Chapter 5 starts – here
Chapter 5 continues – here
Expeditions begins – here
Ch4
Ch6

Beware: this is a realistic Adult book & not a pretty tale like my poetry

It tells of the fight to become free and happy, with the leading characters first facing the trials of the ugly side of life, and the shackles of their pasts dragging at them as they carve their own standard of living.

Who knew what really happens in the mystical Tropical Islands of South America? Who knows what went on the the dens of iniquity encouraged by the tropical heat and scantily clad people.
Back in the mid 1800s there was still a strong pull for Piracy if for nothing else than the immoral indulgences and the black market trade the world over.

I do wish to apologise if this fictitious re-enactment offends anyone – my intention was to put my leading characters through extraordinary experiences, not offend.

So all that aside I hope you can enjoy the story! ☼

Artwork Comments

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  • adgray
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