Chapter 16: Letter of Marque

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A fortnight ago, I forcibly left the only home I've ever known. Ten days ago, I patched up most of the pirate crew responsible for my predicament. A week ago, I also saved the life of their captain. Four days ago, I escaped a near-rape only to be washed overboard. Two days ago, I woke in the arms of the man who consequently saved my life.

Today, I am preparing for my death.

Needless to say, I am conflicted about the situation. On the one hand, I'm barely a woman. I should have many more years ahead of me. On the other, if it hadn't been for me stepping into Luciana's role just weeks ago, I wouldn't have experienced all of the new and exciting things that I did.

My adventures with Captain Kincade and his men overshadow everything I've ever done before. Even if I somehow live and go back home to Panama, my life will never compare. Maybe it's better if things end now.

At least the court that sentenced me to the gallows also provided a local priest. The tall, thin man in a simple black robe arrives in my cell an hour before sunrise to settle my soul and administer last rites.

He sits on a small stool he's brought, introduces himself in Dutch, and opens his Bible. He rattles off the usual In nomine Patris et fillii et Spiritus Sancti benediction and I get on my knees in preparation for Confession.

When he pauses at the part where I'm to repent for my sins, I take a deep breath, bow my head, and begin.

"Heavenly Father, my last confession was about three weeks ago, but since that time, I have committed more mortal sins than I thought possible. I've failed to go to Mass, I have pretended to be someone I'm not, I've had un-pure thoughts,  I've wished grave harm to another, and . . . uhm . . .  I have lain with a man. While I haven't committed murder myself, I was in close cooperation with someone who did so to save my own life. I ask for your forgiveness. Amen."

I look up, but the priest is still listening intently. Perhaps he's used to hearing much more serious - and thereby lengthy - confessions and doesn't think I'm finished yet. Since this is really all I can think of at the moment, I decide to just talk. Moving closer to my confessor, I take his wrinkly hands in mine and look him in the eye.

"I need you help, Father. I think I am in love with a man and perhaps he feels the same way about me, but I've been deceiving him. Now, I'm not sure if he cares for who I really am, or just the girl I'm pretending to be." I recall my dream from two nights ago. "He's sentenced to die on the gallows along with me today, so in the greater scheme of things, it may not even matter. I just don't know if I should tell him the truth while I still have one, last chance, or if I should just let him go to his grave believing a lie."

Apart from stretching his lips into a thin line, the priest remains emotionless. He then delivers what sounds to be a scripted monologue reserved for the end of repentance, and I catch references to the Pater noster and Ave Maria.

It turns out that the dear Father's knowledge of English is just about as good as my Dutch. Meaning, it's nonexistent. Perhaps I should have tried with my native tongue, but I doubt I would have fared better.

Once again, it seems I'm left to my own devices.

The subsequent administration of the Eucharist is straight-forward. The priest says the usual Latin incantations and I follow along. He pulls a white handkerchief out of his pocket and presents me with the Sacramental bread.

We sing the beautiful Ave Verum Corpus together before he motions to the jailer that we've finished.

I think that only the priest is leaving, but the burly man who opens the cell door signals for me to exit, as well.

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