Okay, this is my first historical fiction attempt. Please let me know what you think. Not sure when I will post again and the only reason I am posting this without more written (I only have 4 chapters completed) is because it has been so long since I posted and people are begging for something!
Manhassets Bay, New York
May 14, 1893
Twenty year old Camila Underwood always said that saltwater ran in her veins. The smell of the sea was the first thing she smelled in the morning and the last thing she smelled at night. The sound of waves was her lullaby that put her to sleep. And she didn’t feel right if there was not sand in between her toes. The sea was her life and a love that she felt deep in the marrow of her bones.
Growing up in the coastal town of Manhassets Bay, New York, her father had been the keeper of the lighthouse for more than twenty years, and his father had served fifty years before that. Camila would spend hours walking the beach or on the catwalk around the lantern room of the lighthouse, watching ships pass by in the daylight, as they stayed away from the cliffs and rocks that guarded the shore. At night, the lantern would revolve sending a beacon of light into the night sky warning the sailors that danger was close to the coast.
Watching the boats go by, Camila would often dream about their destination and the people that were on board. Were they taking goods to far away places or were they bringing spices, tea and other needed imports? Was this the first journey for the passengers on board traveling to Europe, the Caribbean or other destinations or were they finally coming home after a long trip abroad? Did the ship hold sailors who decided to live a life on the ocean or were they a crew of pirates who also wanted a life at sea?
Daydreaming was what Camila’s mother called it. She wanted her daughter to get her head out of the clouds. Annabella knew Camila would soon learn all about the real world and life when she married within the next year, if she had anything to say about the situation and everyone knew that Annabella Underwood was someone accustomed to getting her way.
This marriage was something that Annabella had been manipulating since Camila’s birth. She made sure that her husband’s prominence in the community as the light keeper gave her the placement into the right social circles. Even though financially they were not as well off as some of their friends, the position did have its advantages. Before Camila could walk and talk, she had spent hours playing with young Franklin Jacobson, the only son of Thomas Jacobson, the owner of the largest shipping company in the state. While their mothers gossiped and shared tea, the two children would spend their days, first playing under the watchful eyes of nannies. Then as children they would spend hours frolicking on the beach, graduating to exploring the caves by the cliffs as teenagers, and Edward Underwood always welcomed the pair in the lighthouse. Over the years Camila and Franklin became best friends. After a while, everyone in town was use to seeing them together, for where one went the other was close behind.
Camila had been raised from a small child to be the perfect wife for her husband, and although she didn’t know it yet, her father had been approached by Franklin for Camila’s hand. Franklin was a good fellow and would provide well for Camila, which was all her parents ever dreamed about. Annabella figured that once they were married, Franklin would help rein in her daughter’s wandering mind.
Gone would be the days of walking the beach and staring out into the ocean. She would need to keep a good house for her husband to come home to every night and bare children to carry on the family name. Annabella had decided that Franklin should ask her soon, so that plans could be made for an August wedding.
Annabella watched her daughter carelessly stroll the shore, she knew it would take hours for Camila to become presentable. Dinner guests would be arriving this evening and although Bonnie, the cook, had everything under control, Annabella was determined her daughter would not look like a windblown sea muffit tonight. It will take extra time to straighten her unruly curls without the wind adding to the knots and twists. “Camila! It’s time to come in.”
Camila turned at her mother’s call, waved her hand and put the shell she had just gathered into her unused hat along with the others she found today. More unique shells for her vast collection. Climbing up the path towards the house, Camila dreamed of the ship she just watch sail by, white masts billowed like clouds moving the ship across the horizon quickly. Carrying the passengers far away. Camila longed to be on the boat with them sailing the seas with the wind in her face and the dolphins jumping at the side of the ship. ‘Maybe one day,’ Camila thought as she turned towards the house and her mother’s call.
“My goodness child, you look a fright!” Annabella said as Camila approached on the slatted wood walkway leading to the back garden of their house from the beach. “Your hair is a mess and your face is red from the sun. Where is your hat?”
Camila pulled the offending piece of clothing out from behind her back, careful not to dislodge her shells hidden within. She could not stand the confines of the bonnet she was forced to wear to keep her skin white as a dove. She would rather feel the wind in her hair and the sun on her face. “The tie broke and I could not keep it from flying off in the wind.”
“Really now! This is the third ribbon this week!” Annabella looked doubtful at her daughter’s excuse and quickly turned on her heels and headed back into the house, “well, aren’t you coming?”
“Yes mother.” Camila looked back one more time trying to see the ship before it sailed into the horizon, wishing yet again to be sailing off with it. Maybe she could talk Franklin into taking her to the shipyard or even the docks and let her see one of his father’s ships up close. Yes, she would ask him tonight after dinner.
Going quietly into the house, Camila did not want to wake her father. Edward Underwood would sleep several hours during the day, after his morning duties were completed at the lighthouse, so that he would be ready for his nightly chores. Camila’s mother wanted the perfect daughter, one that would marry well and she could be proud of, but Edward doted on Camila, allowing her to do things that Annabella would never dream of her daughter doing. By the time she was fourteen, Camila knew how the lighthouse worked and had done just about all the duties her father did during the mornings and even the nights, just like a son would have done.
When she could not sleep, she would often sneak out to the lighthouse and stay with her father for hours at a time, making sure the oil was filled, the wicks were trimmed, the panes were clean and clear and the vents were adjusted to the correct levels. While Annabella worried about a proper daughter, Edward considered Camila his light and loved to watch her enthusiasm with his work shine off her face like the beam he would send out to the ships in the night.
Normally being the keeper was passed from father to son, just like it had been for Edward and his father. Camila’s inquisitive nature for the lighthouse and the work of the keeper was in her blood. A woman could not be the keeper, but if one could Camila would gladly fall into that role.
“Our guests will be here in a few hours and you need to look your best tonight.” Annabella said vaguely, not wanting to hint to her daughter that Franklin could be asking for her hand tonight. “I laid out your lavender dress. I love the way it looks on you. But, you need to get the wind out of your hair.” Camila unconsciously reached up and tried to secure her unruly curls and knew her mother was speaking the truth about her messy state.
“I’m sorry mother, I will be ready.” Camilla said as she headed towards the steps.
“I’ll have Bonnie get your bath ready.” Bonnie had been with the family since before Camila was born. She was the cook and maid and would help Camila with dressing when needed. Camila grew up going to Bonnie when she needed someone to listen. Bonnie gave sound advice and loved Camila like her own daughter, or more specific granddaughter since the woman was older than Annabella.
By the time Camila entered her room, Bonnie was already there getting her bath ready. The tub was placed by the unused fireplace, out of habit for the cooler months. When Camila gave Bonnie a knowing look, she just said, “I heard her call you,” then she laughed, “although I would love to read minds.” Thinking a moment and catching the look of amazement on Camila’s face, the older woman added, “although I can read your face better than anyone so I always know exactly what is on your mind.”
“I know Miss Bonnie, but you always surprise me when you do it so well.” Camila took her shells out of her hat and put them in the jar at her dressing table with the others. Later she would draw them and wonder where they came from, deep in the ocean or some far away coast. But now, she needed to get a bath and get ready for tonight. Bonnie’s talking pulled her away from her daydreaming.
“Tonight is going to be a special night, we want you looking grand.” Bonnie came to stand behind Camila and helped her with the buttons on the back of her dress.
“Why is tonight so special? It is just the Jacobson’s and the Moore’s coming over.” Camila climbed into the large metal tub and sank below the warm water.
Bonnie handed her the soap and moved to help her wash her hair, “You know your mother, she lives for these dinner parties.”
“Yes,” Camila sank below the water to get her hair wet for Bonnie, “but they were just over two weeks ago for dinner. The same thing will happen, after dinner, father will go and light the lantern, mother will retire with the women to the sitting room and father will return and play cards with the men in the den.”
Bonnie had a knowing smile on her face, “And what will you and young mister Franklin do?”
“Franklin? Well...” Camila loved Franklin, it was just that she knew Franklin loved her differently. She felt bad that she didn’t love him the same way. She wanted to and hoped that one day, maybe she would. But right now, for her, Franklin was more like her brother than a beau like everyone expected. “He will want to take a stroll in the garden and maybe even go to the catwalk with me.”
“And what will you talk about?”
“Different things, the sea, the ships, gossip in town...”
“The future? Do you ever wonder what your life will be like in five or ten years?”
“No. Not really. I know that Franklin will always be a part of my life.” Camila could not imagine her life without Franklin. He had always been a constant and the time he was away at college, she truly missed him. When he returned a year ago she was so excited to see him again that she agreed to let him court her. At that point she thought maybe, just maybe, she might love him like he loved her. But now, now she knew she loved him as her best friend, not like she imagined it would feel to fall in love. She didn’t have the nerve to tell him yet and hoped one of their feelings for the other would change. She didn’t want to break his heart.
Bonnie could tell that Camila was deep in thought, when she finished washing her hair, she slipped out of the room to give her some privacy.
A few hours later, as the guests arrived, Camila came down the stairs, her hair was swept up into a coiffure with a few wisps of curls at her neck and temples. Her lavender gown accentuated her slim waist and sleek form, then flowed out in satin layers cascading around her skirt. The gown was trimmed in deep purple ribbons and silk violets at the bodice and cap sleeves. Her lilac satin slippers barely peeked out from under all the layers of satin.
She was always happy to see Franklin, and his parents had always been kind to her. But the Moore’s were her mother’s friends and despite trying to be nice, Camila always thought she needed to be on guard. Martha was the biggest gossip in town. Always into everyones business and always relished in having a new tidbit that no one else seemed to know. Camila often wondered how much was real and how much the busy body made up.
Floating down the stairs with as much grace and dignity a lady could exhibit, Camila caught the look on Franklin’s face and the twinkle in his eye which showed how happy he was to see her. He could not take his eyes off of her and again the pang of heartache that Camila always felt when he looked at her that way resurfaced. She just hoped that one day she could love him as much as he loved her, but still she only felt admiration, friendship and companionship towards Franklin.
“You look lovely darling.” Franklin greeted Camila at the bottom of the stairs, he leaned in and whispered, “might I get a few moments alone with you tonight? Maybe stroll in the gardens or on the bluff?”
Camila placed her hand on Franklin’s arm and smiled, “That would be wonderful.” And she meant it with all of her heart. Even though she did not have romantic feelings for Franklin, she did love him, in a different way, a special love that Camila considered was just for them.
“Good evening Camila,” Martha Moore greeted her, then raised an eyebrow and asked, “when can we expect an announcement?”
“Now Martha, let the young folks enjoy the courting. They are only young once.” Simon Moore was a saint among men, Camila thought. Anyone who could live thirty plus years with Martha and be able to diffuse her gossiping questions, he had to be a saint or sent from God Almighty, one or the other. And bless Franklin, who just patted Camila’s hand that was resting on his arm when he felt her body stiffen at the question.
Edward, who had been lighting the lantern in the lighthouse since it was dusk, entered the room and said, “I’m not ready to loose my little girl.”
“Now Edward!” Annabella sounded exasperated, like she had had this conversation with him several times. “There is a time for a little girl to grow up and leave her mother and father. You never know when that time will come.”
“Well,” interrupted Suzanna Jacobson, Franklin’s mother who doted on her only son, “we look forward to having another daughter in the family when the time is right.”
“Speaking of daughters,” asked Annabella, “how is Marie?” Marie was Franklin’s older sister who married Baron when she met him on a tour of Europe. They had fallen madly in love and when she returned to America, he followed to ask her father for her hand in marriage. Gregory said that he could not live without her. Smiling as she remembered the story, Camila thought it was all so romantic.
“She’s doing well. I just received a letter from her yesterday. She and Gregory have settled into his estate in Britain, and informed us that we will be grandparents in just a few months.”
“Well,” Martha said as she raised her eyebrows, “they didn’t waste any time starting a family. Weren’t they just married a few months ago?”
Everyone knew that no matter what the facts were, the rumor that would leave tonight would be that Marie and Gregory had to get married, even though they had actually been married for over a year. “No,” Suzanna replied quickly, wanting to stop any rumor before it began, “they have been married for almost two years. Remember, they toured America before he returned to England. She remained with us while he took care of the remodeling of the estate, and sent for her six months ago so she can take over the remodeling and decorate. We actually plan to sail over when the baby’s born.”
“Really?” Edward asked, “does that mean that Franklin will be taking over soon?”
“Not quite yet,” Thomas Jacobson replied, “but for a month or two while we are overseas, I trust Franklin to take care of the business.” Thomas clapped his son on the back letting him know that he trusted him, but this would be a test to see how well he handled himself and the business.
“When will you leave?” Annabella asked.
“In a month, just enough time to pack and to make sure Franklin knows everything possible for the business.”
With thoughts of their ship sailing in a month’s time, so were Annabella’s thoughts of a summer wedding. There was no way Suzanna would dare miss Franklin’s wedding. Her next thought was, maybe an Autumn or Spring wedding would have to do.
Dinner was a wonderful event. It always was in the Underwood home. Bonnie had outdone herself with clam chowder, baked lobster and roasted pheasant. But during the entire meal, Camila worried about what Martha would be saying to her friends tomorrow. Her posture remained perfect, worrying Martha might say, ‘Camila slouched the entire meal!’ She ate small bites, terrified Martha would comment that, ‘Camila ate like a cow!’ She tried not to make too much eye contact with anyone, especially Franklin, in fear that Martha would gossip, ‘Camila could not keep her eyes off him! She was practically throwing herself at the man!’ ******
When Franklin finally escorted her outside to the bluff, Camila settled and felt like she could relax. Franklin always made her feel comfortable. Even as a child, when her mother would make her spend all day sitting straight and sewing or practicing her piano, as soon as Franklin would show up, she was allowed to run and play with him and always felt at home in his presence.
“I’m so happy you asked me out here. I have been dying to ask you something.” Camila said as she placed her hand in the crook of Franklin’s arm.
“Really? Because I came out here to ask you something.”
Overhead the light from the lighthouse cast its bright light over the cliffs and rocks that guarded the shore. Camila looked out towards sea and in the distance spotted a ship, “Clipper,” she said and pointed, continuing the game she and Franklin started as children, naming the types of ships they spotted together. Each type of ship had a different point value, and although Camila did not know it, Franklin often let ships go by when they were younger giving her a better chance. Now, she beat him outright of her own accord, and he didn’t mind.
“I was wondering, well really I want to ask you a favor,” Camila began, “I really want to go on board one of your boats. I thought maybe if I came to the dock, you might escort me on board and give me a tour.”
“Cam, you know how bad that turned out the last time we went on board. I don’t think father has recovered from that experience.”
Camila laughed, “Franklin! We were fifteen! Surly he has forgotten.”
Franklin turned to face her, loving the ways her chocolate brown eyes sparkled when she laughed, “My darling, I don’t think he will ever recover! You were almost knocked overboard when that crate swung on board, but of course no one would have known it since you were dressed like a ship’s mate in those tattered clothes and your hair pulled up in a hat.” They both laughed now at the childhood memory they shared.
“Well, I wanted to sail the high seas! It was the only way, if you remember, that we could think to run off on an adventure together. Plus, I did have a good protector! You were there and you also gave me the clothes I was wearing!”
“Something my backside still regrets!”
“Poor Franklin,” Camila said teasingly. “Afraid Daddy will still take the strap to you?”
“No. But, I have a better idea.” Franklin took both of of Camila’s hands in his. He loved watching the wind whip at her hair like it did when they were children, he wished she had not pulled it up tonight. Suddenly he had a desire to run his fingers through her hair. “When we were young we always dreamed of running off and being pirates together on the sea. You know how I feel about you Cam. I have always loved you.”
Camila suddenly felt her heart drop, she put her hand to Franklin’s lips trying to stop him from the words she was sure were to follow. “Franklin, please don’t.” She was sure that Franklin saw the disappointment in her face. He was almost as good at reading her expression as Bonnie was.
Franklin took her hand and kissed it, then gripped it in his strong, sturdy hand. “I love you Cam, and I know you love me, but you are not in love with me. I have known that for a long time. I just hope that in time you will grow to love me as I love you.”
“I want that too...” Camila was stopped by Franklin now putting his finger over her soft plump lips. He wanted to kiss her, but he knew now was not the time, he had something more important to do.
“I will make you happy. I will worship you and love you and treasure you like you should be treated. Cam, I know you don’t have those feelings for me, but I do think that in time you could. I also think that we would be very happy together. Please make me that happiest man on the eastern shore and let me show you what you mean to me. Marry me and take a chance on us.”
Camila didn’t know what to say. She was glad they had walked up to the bench that overlooked the beach. Feeling her knees go weak, she suddenly without warning sat down on the bench and took a deep breath of the salt air she loved so much. Franklin dropped to his knee in front of her and held out a ring box. The ring was a beautiful emerald surrounded by diamonds.
“If you don’t want to answer me tonight, you don’t have to. But please promise me you will think about it. Think about how happy we can be together.”
Camila didn’t know what to do. She just nodded and said, “I’ll think about it.” Seeing the hurt on Franklin’s face she said, “Franklin, I do love you. Just not that way. If I was to say yes right now, without fully considering everything, would you really want to be married to someone that doesn’t love you the same way?”
“If it is you, yes, I could live with that.” Franklin said matter-of-factly without thinking.
“But you deserve so much more.” Camila said and then added, “but I will think about it and pray about it.”
“I would like to announce it before Mother and Father go to Europe. Do you think you can decide by then?”
Camila nodded her head.
“No matter what,” Franklin said looking at her eyes sparkling with unshed tears showing him how hard of a decision this would be for her, “the ring is yours. I bought it with your hand in mind and could never imagine it on someone else’s finger.” Franklin closed the ring box and placed it in her hand, “When I see it on your finger, I will know.”
Camila reached up and touched Franklin’s cheek, she leaned in and brushed her lips on his other cheek, “Thank you for giving me time to consider your proposal.” She prayed that she would not hurt him.
Daniel Theroux stepped out of his cabin for a breath of fresh air. He desperately needed to clear the thoughts from his mind. In a matter of days, he had lost everything. With enough money in his pocket for a ticket to Europe and a little spending money, Daniel bought a ticket moments before the boat left the dock. Carrying only the clothes on his back and the money in his pockets, he knew he would need to start over when he docked and right now, that was all he wanted in life. To start over.
Turning the corner as he stepped on the deck, he inhaled the fresh salt water and relished in the crisp clean air. It was now dark and he was sure he lost the men his father had hired to follow him. Suddenly, he felt someone behind him and before he could turn around something sharp hit him on the back of his head. Darkness enveloped him as he collapsed down to the deck.
Moments or hours later, Daniel was unsure in his foggy mind, he woke up when his body hit cold water. With his head barely above the water, Daniel floated in the vast sea. Did he fall or was he thrown overboard? Daniel did not know. All he knew now was the boat he had boarded only hours ago was now in the horizon and cold water surrounded him as far as the eye could see. His head throbbed and his eyelids were heavy. His last thought before passing out was, “God, help me.”