8 - Confliction

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The days passed in an excruciating pace, as Nora continued to be locked in James's cabin. Since the first day, she hadn't been up on deck once. Somebody came and gave her food now and then. The only other company she had was James at nights as he came down to study his maps or write in his ledger. During the nights, she slept in the bed and James in an hammock by the windows. Though she was grateful for not having to share beds with him, Nora still wondered what game he was playing. Why he was in some ways being a gentlemen. Pirates weren't gentlemen. Of course he behaved as a pirate as well, with his foul tongue and brute ways.  But now and then a ray of kindness made its way through his hard exterior and it was a constant surprise to Nora. It puzzled her and occupied her mind. She was thankful for that though, as she feared that she might go crazy in the cabin with nothing to do. As more days went by without much happening at all, even James wasn't a distraction any more. They hardly spoke and all he did in the cabin was sleep and study his maps. Nora, who was used to keeping her hands busy all day, waking up early and going to bed late, needed something to do. And even though she feared the crew up on deck, her restlessness made the fear seem distant and ignorable.

"Please take me with you", Nora begged one morning as James was getting ready to go up on deck. Not being aware that she was even awake, James quickly turned towards her. His eyebrows were raised and he looked very surprised.

"You want to come up on deck?" The confusion in his voice was hard to miss, but Nora stood her ground, nodding.

"Yes, please! I am going insane down here. I need something to do. Anything!" Nora got up from the bed, looking at James with her best puppy dog eyes, hoping that he would let her follow. As she spoke his expression turned from confusion to smugness. A sly smile spread across his face.

"Anything, huh?" Nora didn't understand the sudden change of mood and stared at him, now the confusion covering her face instead.

"Well, yes. I can mend clothes, or help wash the deck, cook, anything. I just need something to do." James's smile stayed put on his face as he scratched his chin, giving Nora chills all over her body.

"You know, when a woman says that she'll do anything, a man usually interprets that as if he can have his way with her." The smile on his face grew bigger and Nora blushed profusely. Taking a few steps towards her, he leaned forward until he was so close that their noses almost touched. "But I thought you said you weren't that type of girl." This time James whispered, and his warm breath blew over Nora's face. His words coloured her cheeks more red for every minute that passed and she felt her heart rate starting to quicken. James's proximity drove her mad and she found it hard to concentrate. He was yet to put on a shirt, which meant that his toned chest were mere inches away, making Nora's finger ache to touch it. James laughed softly, causing Nora to snap out of her trance. She blinked a few times before pushing him away from her.

"I am not!" She hissed, taking a step to the side to increase the distance between them. "That was not what I meant and you know it!" James continued to laugh, only this time louder, before he turned and walked to put on his shirt.

"Relax, love. I was only teasing." Nora rolled her eyes, mesmerised by the fact that he could be so utterly annoying. She continued to watch him as he put on his belt, containing all his weapons. Doubting that he would actually let her follow, she sighed and sat down on the bed. Perhaps it would be another day of counting seagulls from the window. Not that there were many seagulls this far out at sea.

"You coming?" James suddenly said, his hand on the door, his head turned to look at her. Nora gaped, staring at him in disbelief, but got up and almost ran to the door before he could change his mind.

The fresh air hit her face as soon as she took the last step up on deck. The crew was already in movement, some of them were up in the sails, climbing rope ladders and checking that everything was in its right place, while others were running around on deck doing God knows what. As she walked towards the upper deck, to the rodder, with James guiding her, Nora could feel the stares of the pirates. But this time there were considerably less filthy comments, much to her appreciation. Well up on upper deck, Nora looked around after something to do, but all that was up there was the rodder. Giving James a confused look, she was met with a smile.

"Come on then", James said, gesturing towards the rodder. "I'll show you how to sail a ship." Nora was frozen solid for a few seconds, before walking up to the rodder and placing her shaky hands on two of the knobs.

"Alright", James said, his lips a little too close to her ear. "You need to have your hand steady and hold on tight, otherwise it will spin and we'll be thrown off corse. Then, you'll look at this compass-", James held his hand in front of her, showing her a black compass. "We're going north right now, which means that this arrow needs to point straight forward when you hold it like I'm doing. It the arrow moves, you have to turn the rodder in order to turn the boat. Do you understand?" Nora nodded, intensely focused on the small red arrow on the compass, her hands gripping the knobs of the rodder hard. The wind blew her hair backwards and made her dress swirl around her feet. But it didn't matter. The fresh air, the freedom of being outside instead of in the cabin, it was intoxicating. She was even able to ignore how close James was standing, which would've made her nervous otherwise. Looking out at the sea, she could even ignore the pirates down on deck, and if she closed her eyes, she could pretend that she was on her own ship, sailing the seas, living an adventure that she chose. Her inner peace was temporary though, as James soon stepped away from her and started walking down the stairs.

"Where are you going?" Nora called out. James gave her a glance and a sly smile, but didn't stop.

"You wanted something to do, now you've got it. I won't babysit you, love." Nora stared at James in panic. How could he possibly think that she could managed this on her own? She'd only been doing it for a few minutes. Silently cursing the very existence of James Haddock, she gripped the rodder harder and started at the compass James had left on the rail. For a second she wondered if she should just let go, let the ship go off corse and prolong the journey. But Nora feared the wrath of the pirates. She hadn't forgotten the fight she had witnessed. No amount of rebellion was worth getting exposed to that anger and bloodlust. Besides, she might be locked in the cabin again. And if Nora was being honest, she'd rather spend time around the pirate crew than sitting alone with her thoughts in the cabin. In someways her thoughts were more dangerous than the pirates could ever be.

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