Eva listened quietly to her father's steady snoring, counting the seconds between the snorts to gauge how asleep he really was. It was her fifteenth birthday, and her father had gifted her by forgetting it completely. She slowly stood up and groped her way to her closet. Two days earlier, she had packed for her escape. She had been planning for this day since she turned seven. Her dreams of being a pirate and living on the high seas had grown more and more exciting and elaborate, and today, she was going to make that dream come true. She slowly crawled down the stairs and felt her way to the closet, past the kitchen. A stench of rotting food crept out of the filthy kitchen and surrounded Eve. She covered her nose and continued until she found the smooth, round doorknob to the closet. She opened it, pulled out a small knapsack, and headed out the door.
As a child, she remembered the ocean. Large, blue waves gaping as if it were yawning sleepily, and swallowing part of the beach. She remembered the salty smell, and the sound of the seagulls' cry. I don't remember the sea being very far away. I think I could walk there. Honestly, she had not planned how she was going to get to the beach. She thought about riding the mule her father owned, using it as kind of a seeing-eye-equine. It was a far better idea than walking. She felt her way to the corral, hearing the mule, Shasta, trot over to meet her. The creature snorted a greeting.
"Lay," Eve whispered. She heard the mule heave its body onto the ground. Eve slowly felt her way to Shasta and sat on his back. She grabbed his stubby, scratchy mane and uttered the command to stand. She squeezed her legs against his side making him walk forward. She turned her face to the winds and directed her mule towards the salty smell. She felt him pick his way through the shrubs and thick brambles she once remembered seeing as a child. Something made Eve's heart nearly freeze.
"Eve? Where are you?"
Eve instantly pressed her legs against Shasta's sides, making him trot, and then gallop away from her father's voice as it grew more frantic, almost sounding worried. She ignored it the best she could and soon, it faded and was nowhere to be heard. She had done it. She had made it past the first obstacle. Once she was certain that her father was nowhere near her, she let Shasta slow back to a walk. She let her legs stretch as far down as they could go. She felt the tickle of the plants branches on her toes, and the scratchy caress of the brambles on her legs. Before long, the sun was warming her back, giving the suggestion that she had ridden for about six hours. Eve couldn't tell how far the mule carried her, but by the time she could hear the ocean, the sun was warming her face, suggesting that a few more hours had past. She was getting sore from Shasta's bumpy gait. Although it was bumpy, it was predictable; Eve knew he wouldn't do anything unexpected, and she was grateful for it. He was what you would call a "push-button" mule- a cannon could go off in front of him and he wouldn't even bat an eye lash. As they neared the ocean, Eve could hear shouts. All of the sounds and smells were overwhelming. Rum, wine, alcohol, limes, lemons, oranges, raw and cured meats, salt, sweat, and other such smells all blended into one perfume. It smelled like something a rich woman would wear on a fancy occasion, a kind of smell where you didn't know whether or not it smelled good and had to keep whiffing to figure it out. Men working on the docks were shouting obscenities, telling jokes, or grunting while they worked. From the sound and smell of everything, they were stocking up to go on a journey. It was a perfect opportunity to sneak on board; they'd be at sea for at least a month, and her father would have long forgotten all about her by that time.
Eve stopped the mule by muttering a soft, "whoa," and slid off of his back. She searched the ground for a long enough stick, and when she found it, made her way to the docks. She'd tap the ground in front of her to make sure she wouldn't run into anything or anyone, and was happy that no one seemed to notice her. She listened for the ship names. She wanted one that had a bad reputation which would make the chances of being captured and sent home more unlikely. The Wight's Wind, The Raven's Curse, The Lone Wolf, all other ships were there. But they weren't notorious, nor infamous enough- Eve had never heard of them, which meant they were definitely unknown. Then she passed the one. The Infernal Demon. From what she could remember, the ship had blood red sails, a black hull, and a blood thirsty crew to match. Perfect, Eve thought with a grin. She made her way towards the supplies. She inconspicuously whiffed each crate to figure out what was inside. She listened to some of the men. One voice in particular brought a smile to her face. The man sounded older, like he could've been her father. He dropped the g in 'ing,' the f in 'of,' signs he was from Ireland. He was singing a sea shanty.
"Farewell and adieu to you, my fair Spanish ladies. Farewell and adieu to you, you ladies of Spain," he grunted as he lifted something heavy, "For we've received orders for to sail to old England; but we hope very soon we shall see you again."
He continued singing, but the words were indistinguishable as he climbed on board and went below deck. There was no one nearby, and Eve took it as an opportunity to hide. She picked a barrel that smelled of apples, and dumped it into the sea. She clambered inside and closed the lid.
"We'll rant and we'll roar like true British sailor," His voice emerged from nowhere, "We'll rant and we'll roar across the salt seas, until we strike soundings in the channel of old England. From Ushant to Scilly is thirty-five leagues. Farewell and adieu to you, my fair Spanish ladies…" The man's voice trailed off to a hum of the bittersweet melody. The barrel lurched and jostled Eve as the man lifted it. "Oi! Edward! What's in this barrel?" he shouted.
"Apples!" Another man replied.
"Too light for apples," the shanty singing man grumbled to himself. The barrel swayed to his steps, and was set down surprisingly gently. Eve was relieved that he didn't drop her or carry her too roughly. Perhaps he was making sure not to bruise the apples.
Safely on the ship, Eve resigned herself to listening to the hustle and bustle of everything. There were all sorts of people on board the ship, all of them men, of course. Eve could feel them walking through the wood of the barrel. Many stepped rather heavily, and she wondered whether they walked that way because of muscle or a swollen liver. The latter seemed much more likely. Her stomach grumbled softly, reminding her that she hadn't eaten since the day before. She took half a loaf of bread from her knapsack. She nibbled on it, listening to the men jest and joke with one another. They laughed at a joke Eve didn't hear, and the same man who carried her on board started up a sea shanty, something he seemed to enjoy.
"It was Friday morn when we set sail, and we were not so far from the land, when our captain, he spied a mermaid so fair, with a comb and a glass in her hand," then the other men joined in, "Oh, the ocean waves do roll, and the stormy winds do blow. We old sailors are skipping at the top, while the landlubbers lie down below, below, below, oh the landlubbers lie down below."
Eve closed her eyes and listened. The choir of men was comforting, soothing, and before long, she found herself drifting to sleep, despite the awkward, limited space of the barrel.
The next morning, at least she thought it was morning, Eve's back and legs ached unbearably. She was awkwardly twisted, a result of her nighttime struggle to get comfortable. Somehow, the lid to the barrel had been popped off, and she prayed that no one had found her out. She stretched out, gripping the edge of the barrel. She listened and found silence. I guess they all left. I wonder where I am. Eve inhaled deeply to find a hint. The air was filled with the aroma of food, the tastiest of which was salted meat. She groped her way around the barrels until she found one that was lidless. The felt around for something tasty. There was a wedge of waxy cheese, tough meat and a bottle there, almost as though someone left it out, but that was unlikely. She slumped to the ground and gobbled down the food, listening for anyone who may intrude and find her. She finished half before she heard someone come in. She felt the warmth of light; she assumed the man was carrying a torch, though a lantern seemed more reasonable in a wooden structure. Luckily, the man was on the other side of the barrels and Eve was out of his sight. She later discovered, when he left, that there was only one way into and out of the area she was in. Barrels rounded off the area, creating a safe haven for Eve. She thanked her lucky stars she was in a safe place.
Eve found out that she was next to the kitchen, and using it, she could tell the time of day, the different people and sailors, and she was even getting to know individuals. She learned all sorts of names, sea shanties, words, everything from hiding behind barrels. The chef's name was Mitch, and the sea shanty singing man was named Jim. She had a special fondness for Jim. He always seemed to be laughing and singing, even when everyone else seemed to be angry or upset, or just plain exhausted. He always brought laughing to the dinner table, and Eve was happy every time she heard him. Mitch was another one she was growing fond of. He made delicious food every day, and he would yell at anyone who didn't belong in the kitchen. He was funny, and would sing songs in foreign languages. He wouldn't sing shanties, though; he sang things that belonged in a symphony or opera. Using the men aboard the ship, Eve fell into a schedule, which was needed to maintain her sanity. In the mornings, men would enter in silence, save but a few who were early risers. This was when the stowaway hid and tried to sleep, which was nearly impossible. The men would come in and out for a few hours, and then Eve would be left in the galley with Mitch, who would often doze off and snore; she would crawl out of her barrel and lay on the wood floor. She'd feel the occasional visitor enter the galley for a swig of rum, or a slice of lime. She knew the sun was beginning to retreat when all the men came back to the galley for a meal, this time, chatting, laughing, jesting, everything that men in a social situation would do. Eve would hide in her barrel again and listen softly. She'd listen for Mitch or for Jim, and would listen to them, half wishing she could join their conversations. Once the men trickled out of the galley, Eve knew it was well past sun down. The galley soon fell silent, and not a soul was there, not even the cook. Eve would then search for food. Honestly, Eve loved it. She relished in the simplicity of being alone and feeling safe, safer than she felt in her own home. She prayed that nothing would change.
Eve didn't keep track of how long she was aboard the Demon, but she didn't care. She was always full, and relatively safe, and warm on the sunny days. She gave up, eventually, on sleeping in the barrel, and moved to sleep in a corner. It was a lot colder, but it caused less strain on Eve's back and neck, which was nice. She didn't stay secret for long in this corner. She woke one morning to hear Jim's soft humming. She thought she was dreaming, since it was entirely impossible for her to be found, but she knew she was only lying to herself. She slowly opened her eyes to the blackness that she lived in, and she heard a small chuckle.
"Finally, you're awake," Jim's accent seemed thicker up close, "I brought ye some breakfast."
Eve didn't reply. Maybe if I ignore him, he'll go away.
"I've known ye were on this ship for quite some time."
"Ye need to put some weight on if ye want to be mistaken for apples."
Oh. "What do you want with me." Eve made sure her voice was unwelcoming. She sat up.
"I came to give ye food and welcome you aboard the Demon. Mitch and I have been workin' hard to keep ye a secret. Ye see, women aren't allowed."
That was a fact that Eve failed to gather. What will they do when I'm found out? There have been rumors of women being raped and then left on an island to die… She could feel the color run from her face.
Jim laughed. "Oh, ye don't have to worry. The men on board are too drunk or stupid to notice you here."
Eve simply nodded, not being able to shake the sudden anxiety that gripped her stomach.
"Mitch and I will give ye a meal in the morning and at night, and we'll take shifts checking up on you, so no one comes near."
Eve grew nervous. "Why?"
"I don't want to see ye get hurt." Jim sounded serious, which was strange, especially for him. He stood, "I got to get to work. Can I have your name?"
"That's a beautiful name, young lassie. The food is where you've been findin' it. I'll be back soon."
Eve nodded, mumbling a goodbye. She felt unsure of what to make of the situation. She kept track of Jim's footsteps, as he left. Once she was sure he was gone, she groped her way to the barrel where she found the food, just as Jim said. So he was the one leaving me food all this time. I wonder what he wants. As Eve ate in her corner, she wondered how things would turn out now that two men knew about her.