The Art of Awakening (Shore Leave, Day 2 Morning)
Edina yawned, arching her back as fingers and toes stretched her extremities to their furthest. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d actually slept in; her habit of “beating the clock” was an old one, born of the years spent cowering at the sound of father’s heavy footfalls stopping outside her door. The grim history was only doomed to repeat itself through her marriage to Andres, another decade spent ensnared within the insidious cycle.
China Doll had been a random choice, the first boat to get her off New Melbourne before her husband conjured she’d high tailed it. How could she know that after all this time she’d still be aboard? With friends who looked out for her, and now had come to include her among the crew? As she lay here in the dark of a room she’d kept for over a year, Edina could still marvel at her good fortune.
Though sometimes her motivation for an early awakening came in the form of old nightmares, the hauntings were steadily becoming ever more scarce. This new life she’d discovered was filled with purpose. Though she wasn’t a die hard black dog like Cal or Abby, Edina had soon conjured that a going concern like China Doll could provide plenty of work, even for a dirtsider like herself. All she had to do was keep her eyes open and her hands at the ready. Soon enough, a regular crew berth would offer itself up…in her case, the galley.
Joe Hooker’s departure was bittersweet, a farewell to a much loved shipmate gone to a better life. Though he’d been outwardly kind to all of the crew, it wasn’t until Edina volunteered for galley duty that she began to understand the man’s personal demons. Her inventory of the pantry had unearthed no less than three bottles of rotgut whiskey, all hidden by a practiced hand. Under any other circumstance, their presence alone would’ve told a disturbing tale. It was the etchings…crude knife scrapes in both the glass and labels of each bottle…that painted a stark picture of the daily torment in which the cook was trapped. He’d carved out a single word, again and again.
Brokenhearted over her discovery, Edina was loathe to simply throw them out with the trash. Nor could she bring herself to share the find with any of the crew, even though she held certain that Captain and Yuri must’ve been aware of his struggle. Alana, too, for that matter. But Abby’s love for Joe was that of a child, a sweetness she saw no good in tarnishing. And so, she kept them, hidden once more in the recesses of the pantry. Into each bottle she’d tucked a note, her own wishes for his healing. With luck, she’d find a place to set them free. Edina pondered this, the power of her words wrapped in a vessel of his pain. Perhaps she should ask Sister Lyen about what might be fitting…
She heard water rushing through the pipes. A few seconds later, the change in its’ tone told her that hot water was now flowing into the lav, a sure sign that one of her shipmates was grabbing an early shower. No bother; she had a good twenty-five minutes before her wakeup. And her bunk was awfully comfortable this morning. As she found herself doing more frequently these days, Edina thought of Yuri.
Though uncertain if tonight’s outing at the museum gala could be called ‘a date,’ she nonetheless found a personal delight at the prospect. They’d both come aboard within a day of each other, the battered woman and the shipwrecked survivor. While all of the crew had taken them in without hesitation, the two damaged souls had found mutual recognition and respect, developing a closeness born of both loss and a need for a patient kindness. Through happenstance and shared purpose during some of China Doll’s darker adventures their bond had deepened, regardless of efforts on both their parts to foster an easy familiarity. Despite her caution, Edina’s feelings were triggered through the most innocuous events. A smile shared, the twinkle of mirth in his eyes, a simple touch…all could now inject a sort of giddy pleasure that she hadn’t allowed herself for many a year. She’d watched him find his place, settling comfortably as Cal’s first mate, and getting the job done without harshness or disrespect toward those he’d command, especially the women. After years spent under the cruel mercies of her father and husband, Edina was well aware of the red flags. In Yuri, she’d found none.
Tonight, they’d be dancing in each other’s arms. She had no idea of the outcome, but lying here in her bunk, Edina found herself ready to throw caution to the wind.