Chapter 18: Smooth Sailing (Part 1 of 2)

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“Why do you think the captain’s so angry with you, Miss Ana?” Henry asks through the cell door’s iron bars.

Because I bedded him.

No, I can’t say that. “I don’t know.” I shake my head. “Is he still vexed?”

The boy shrugs his shoulders. “Not sure. He’s not very talkative at the moment. He did put Jonas – that’s the slave’s name, it turns out – to the test in the galley, but then again, you’re still in here.”

My eyes widen at the news. Sitting on the edge of the lone bench, I scoot closer to the door. “And? Did the man succeed? Is he good enough to stay on as ship’s cook?”

Henry smiles. “Is he? That good-for-nothing Benito didn’t even compare. Aye, miss. I’d say he’ll do a fine job.”

I sigh. Not only was I right about the man, but Cade ended up taking my suggestion in keeping him on the crew. However, as the lad just said, I’m still sitting in the brig being punished like an insolent child.

Although he keeps me company as long as he can, Henry has to eventually leave to attend to his duties. Once he’s gone, all I have to entertain me is an occasional glance at the men who pass by on their way between the cargo hold and topside. If they’re loud enough, I can also hear some of their raucous banter.

Eventually, the ship quiets down. It’s only been a few hours, but I’m already so bored and lonely that I can tell it’s going to be a long night. Good thing I took a nap at midday because – from the numbness of my rear end – I doubt I’ll be getting much sleep on this makeshift cot tonight. I’m also famished, and as a tell-tale line of sailors appears in the hallway, my mouth begins watering, as well.

Thankfully, after he's served supper to all of the men, Jonas also brings me a bowl of food. The space between the bars is just big enough for me to take it.

Sitting back on the bench, I smile and thank him. Instead of leaving, however, he sits on the floor on the other side of the cell. I wait, thinking that maybe he wants to talk, but he mimes the act of eating with his hands. I'm not sure if we share a common, spoken language, but I certainly understand his message.

Taking a spoonful of beans, I smell the familiar aroma of bacon before the food hits my mouth. Jonas has managed to combine just the right ingredients and spices in a way that makes this otherwise mundane staple something extraordinary.

This, coupled with my hunger, make me temporarily abandon any lady-like decorum for the first few bites. When the new cook begins to sing a mournful melody in a beautiful tenor, though, I slow down accordingly.

The words of the song don't sound Dutch, even to my foreign ears. Instead, I assume Jonas is using his native tongue and is singing of his homeland or loved ones left behind.

It's only when he finishes that I notice we're not alone. A slow clap diverts my attention to the dark hallway. Captain Kicade must have been standing in the shadows for goodness how long.

Stepping forward, he addresses the cook who has now sprung to his feet. "May I have a moment with Miss Ana?"

The old African nods, confirming that either he knows some English or at least when he needs to make himself scarce. He gives me a quick wave before leaving.

The captain stands by the door, leaning his forearm against the bars. He stares at me silently and I do my best to ignore him until he speaks. “I hate to see you in here, Ana.”

Then you shouldn’t have put me in the brig. I bite my lip. I won’t give him the satisfaction of a reply.

“I’m sure you’re mad at me, and you have every right to be,” he continues. “I humiliated you in front of the entire crew. For that, I would like to say I am truly sorry.”

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