Chapter 3: Apology

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Hailie pulled the makeshift sled filled with the food she'd managed to find behind her with one hand. It was made from branches she had latched together with vines. She had two chickens tied together by their legs slung over her should in the other hand. She had lost track of time. The sun was setting. Hailie didn't think she had been gone that long. Faith must be worried.

She stopped and gazed out at sea. When she was younger she would spend hours in the evening looking and hoping to see one of the mermaids that her father used to talk so much about. Those brave and courageous merfolk who fought sea monsters bigger, scarier and fiercer than he'd ever thought possible and they'd always win no matter how unlikely it seemed that they would. He'd told them about how they'd saved him and all the adventures he'd had with these people and all the places he'd visited underwater. He had said that if she waited long enough then she would see them one day. She'd always dreamed of being able to meet these wonderful people and see those places that had more colour than a flower garden when all the flowers were in full bloom. She shook her head. She was no longer a child. She knew mermaids weren't real yet she still found herself looking for them out of habit.

She saw a figure running up to her out of the corner of her eye. Eli. She could tell by the dark, loose, red shirt that seemed to flap in the wind like a sail and the hair that flew around his head and face. She stopped herself from dropping the cigarette onto the sand and burying it. He would find out eventually. She stood and waited on him to meet her. He stopped right in front of her.

"What are you doing?" he asked. His eyes looked relieved. She couldn't figure out why. The pearl in his necklace was black again and the two outer ones were white. She was positive now her eyes hadn't been deceiving her. They really were changing colour but she swallowed her questions.

Hailie held out the chickens to him. "Peace offerings. You said you were tired of the taste of fish." She pointed to the stuff on the sled. "Gordon said he loves mangoes so I got plenty of those. I also roasted some breadfruits, they should be able to last for a while since no one likes hardtack, and some oranges since I heard scurvy was a big problem on ships, and some bananas and cherries." There weren't many things close to the water so she'd had to go further into the trees.

"I was talking about the cigarette in your mouth," he said. He must not have expected to see that. Most women didn't smoke and she was still a teenaged girl, at least she thought she was, she found it very easy to lose track of time. She wasn't planning to stop smoking anytime soon so he would just have to get used to it.

She blew out some smoke through her nose, turning her head towards the trees so it didn't go into his face. "For the same reason you drink, keeps away the hunger."

"That's why I told you to eat earlier. You have so much things on the sled. There's no reason for you to be smoking." He took the chickens from her hand. He was standing further away than he usually would. She took it out of her mouth and held it between her fingers.

"Hunger is why I started smoking, tobacco is cheaper than food. Now I just like to." She dropped it to the ground and crushed it beneath her shoe into the sand. This was why she never smoked in front of people. "You can lie all you want but I know the food on the ship is almost gone and that only the kids have been eating. The rest of you have been surviving off rum, I can smell it on your breaths, and just by the way you look and act. I know what starving people look like no matter how hard they try to hide it. That is why I have gathered all of this and also to apologise. I let my anger get the better of me."

"A simple apology would have been fine. We were worried when you didn't come back. It's almost dark." He took the vine she was using to pull the sled from her. She couldn't read the expression on his face so she gave up. It didn't matter anyway. She wasn't planning to stay with them for very long, just until she got Benji back. After that she would be on her own again and she could focus on making a plan to accomplish her own goals. They had been on hold for far too long.

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