Chapter 15: The Hempen Jig

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The sun begins to rise on a new day and the streets gradually fill with the signs of everyday life. The citizens of Willemstad open their shutters, the bakers put bread into their ovens, and the farmers arrange produce on display in their market stalls.

We can't stop to enjoy any of this.

The soldiers march us through town in chains. Stray dogs bark when we pass by. The locals stare, probably wondering about our offenses.

Our offenses.

It finally begins to dawn on me that cavorting with a ship full of pirates may not have been the fun-filled adventure I've made it out to be. No one here may even care that I'm being held against my will. I've just been caught with the Pirate King himself. That's probably good enough to earn the gallows.

"Schiet op!" one of the soldiers yells, presumably telling me to hurry.

I follow his orders, ultimately arriving at the gate of a stone fort by the water. I'm familiar with Portobelo's similar military establishment, but this one pales in comparison. It's much smaller, obviously reflecting the town's lesser status.

After they lead us inside, the soldiers separate us. To my shock, I'm locked in a cell already containing several other women. Before I realize it, Cade's gone and I don't see where they've taken him.

I crouch by the iron bars and wait.

An older woman in dirty clothes and unkempt hair sits in the corner. She rocks back and forth, while muttering something to herself. Three younger women, perhaps just a few years older than me, stand huddled together. Unlike the old woman's, their clothes are both clean and stylish.

They sneak glances at me and giggle. I look down at myself and realize why.

I've become accustomed to wearing men's clothing among my pirate companions. For the last few weeks, I've even worn the same outfit: trousers, loose white shirt, and heavy boots. Over this time, I've been covered in both blood and sand, and whatever other grime I've come in contact with. Occasionally, I took a dip – whether voluntary or involuntary - that somewhat cleaned my garments. However, I'm still smelly, wrinkled and dirty. I'm surprised anyone can even tell that I'm a girl.

Being in the company of other women, I now see how inappropriate I actually look.

Suddenly, I yearn for a proper bath – with scented, hot water – and a colorful, fluffy dress. I want to run a brush through my matted hair and I'd like dainty shoes that fit my feet properly.

A fat, gray rat runs across the hard, dirt floor and I remember that my attire is the least of my worries. I'm not only locked in a jail cell, but I also really miss Ginger. And Henry. And even Mister Smythe!

I begin to cry. At first, the tears flow slowly from my eyes and down my cheeks. I try to hold them back, but it's no use. Pulling my knees up, I bend my head and cover my face with my arms as I sob uncontrollably.

I only look up when I hear the jiggling of the jailer's keys. He unlocks the door and signals to the three young women. They happily follow him out and one of them even blows me a kiss as she leaves.

After some time, the man returns. He's to come into the cell to forcibly remove the strange, old woman. She puts up a good fight, even biting him on the arm. Nevertheless, he drags her away.

Now I'm alone.

I have no more tears, so I sit in the dirt and hope I'm next.

Just as a nearby bell tolls eleven, the jailer reappears. As before, he's silent and expressionless. Opening the cell door, he nods for me to stand. Unlike with the other women, however, he binds my hands again in chains.

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