“Port Royal,” Adrian said, immediately. “What! Not Charles Town,” Edward asked.
The Pink House, the oldest stone building in Charleston, South Carolina (formerly Charles Town), was built of Bermudian limestone around the late 17th century. (Photo by Brian Stansberry) England’s King Charles II granted the Province of Carolina in 1663 to eight of his friends who were loyal to him while he was in exile and England was a de facto republic led by Oliver Cromwell. Charles Town, named for the king, was founded in 1670. Several shiploads of settlers arrived from Bermuda and Barbados, many with enslaved Africans and indentured servants. The settlers declared war on the Cusabo people and, initially, allied with the Westo, a tribe that traded in enslaved native Americans. Charles Town slave traders broke the monopoly of the Royal African Company. Almost half of the slaves brought to the United States arrived in Charles Town. In 2018, the city formally apologized for its role in the slave trade.
Death sometimes frees the living.
Adrian exulted at knowing his destination. A furrowing uncrossed itself on his brow, and a tightness left his throat. Less disturbed by dreams of his unreconciled past, he moved forward toward his freedom, which is knowledge without fear.
Knowledge without fear. The prospect of absolute freedom keeps slipping away like a wave crashing on a beach and returning to the sea. The tide of human courage ebbs and rises. To be afraid, from time to time, is to be alive. Adrian never would be forever free. But for now, after saying goodbye to Robert and Yusef, he sailed confidently on a sea of knowing. The captain’s mind stayed clear of doubt and speculation as the Good Hope neared Port Royal. He intended to do whatever he had to do to ensure that Orelia would shine light and warmth in his life. He would do whatever he had to do to bask in her beauty. His certainty steered him ahead.
In Jamaica, Orelia still cried tears for Yusef. Her life had returned to the daily mundane task of survival. Buccaneers sought her sexual favors. When rebuffed, they offered her huge bags of gold and silver coins along with handfuls of precious stones. When she rejected them again, she managed to distance herself from the aura of sex so that no man ever tried to force her. Orelia was not judgmental of women who bartered their bodies for food, shelter and, sometimes, a little taste of luxury; there were many who did on this island devoted to privateers. Her refusals did not hinge on protecting her virtue – she figured she already owned her body and, therefore, her virtue – but rather on protecting her small isle of peace of mind.
Orelia lived simply. Since becoming a woman, the orphan who had lost her parents to death, had stopped looking to the buccaneer port’s few gracious homes for a helping hand. She had built her house herself and cultivated a vegetable plot around it with seeds she had gathered herself. Orange yams fattened underground and white yucca lilies sprouted above the loamy soil. On either side of the door, a young mango and star apple tree would provide shade someday. A row of conch shells fronted her home, which looked out at the sea through laces of coconut palm fronds. Scattered among bursts of foliage, guavas, prickle pears, bananas and sapadillos offered their lusciousness to her. She traded soft guava jellies and hard coconut sweets for snapper, sucking fish, lobster and crab. She did not fish herself, a fear of the sea ate at her.
Orelia’s pain snatched her out of the humdrum rhythm of her life. The comfort she had taken in Adrian’s arms seemed like a slow waltz in a dream. She thought of no man but Yusef and, of him, she thought constantly. She saw him everywhere she looked – in the clothes in which she dressed herself, in her hands as she kneaded bread, in the fish she prepared for dinner. She missed frolicking on that pinnacle of being happily in love. Now, she dwelt in the bowels of anguish. She recalled Yusef saying, “You haven’t yet fallen from the heights of happiness, crashed and suffered the pain.” She had told him that she had, but never had she felt so broken. Stooped by abandonment, she felt untouchable. Not able to imagine her future, she stayed locked in her past by longing for it. Orelia lived a measured existence to the pace of a funeral march.
As more and more time passed, she realized that Yusef probably would not come back to her. Still, she hoped that he might, hoped that he would. A bird brushing against the house or a thump in the front room would bring her to her feet and summon hope to the fore. A quick scrutiny would turn up a lost tropic bird gliding back to the sea or an untied door swinging in the breeze. Orelia’s spirits would sink even farther from where they had been holding at a steady low.
That morning when Orelia heard a knock at the door, she jumped because she received few visitors, and she had heard that a ship had been approaching Port Royal. She burst into the front room, where the door had been opened for the day and stared at Adrian. Her face dropped for an instant at her disappointment, but she, politely, lifted the corners of her mouth and, then, curled them in worry. Adrian’s anxious visage stopped her movement. She shivered inside. Did he bring news of Yusef?
Adrian had been rehearsing a myriad of scenarios for this unpredictable moment. But Orelia had not rushed into his arms; she had not shouted his name; she had not thanked God that he had darkened her doorway. She merely stared at him. He had expected her to be shocked, but he had prayed that she would be happy. Her face showed no glint of joy. As she shaped her mouth into a provocative “o” to utter her fiance’s name, Adrian thwarted it. He saved face by answering her question before she asked it.
“I found Yusef,” he said.
Orelia’s heart fluttered. What did he mean? Did Adrian bring good or bad news? Why had he come alone?
“Please, Adrian, come in,” she said, still rooted to her place.
She did not extend her hand. Adrian thought that to be so near her and not be able to touch her was excruciating. He trembled. Orelia motioned for him to sit on the delicately needle-pointed cushion of a logwood chair. After he sat, she took a seat on the room’s other chair near enough to hear his breathing. She did not offer him a cool drink because she thirsted for news of Yusef.
“Is he all right?” she asked, breathlessly.
What could he say at this time when Orelia clearly was praying to hear “yes”. He did not have the heart to give her a cold hardened “no”, but neither could he lie to her. So, he said nothing and wore his misgivings on his face.
“What is it,” she begged. “What ails you so?”
“We met under extraordinary circumstances,” he said, reaching for his non-existent moustache. “It was unexpected and . . . and . . .”
“And strange. Disconcerting.”
“What was? Adrian, what happened,” she asked in a frenzy, each of his intimations bringing her closer and closer to the edge of her seat.
“What made it extraordinary,” she asked, at the verge of tipping forward.
No longer able to hold it back, Adrian poured out the news.
“We fought each other,” he ended. “My brother, Yusef, the slave merchant, and I, the self-appointed liberator. But it was someone else’s bullet that struck him down.”
“Oh, no,” Orelia tapped her chest with her right hand and fell back into her chair, which gave out a small creak. She had taken the news like a physical blow.
“He betrayed me,” Adrian said through clenched teeth. “And all he could say was, ‘I’m sorry you found me,’ and I was sorry, too.”
He looked into the deep brown eyes of Orelia’s mother. He said, “I’m sorry to have had to tell you.”
At this audacity, Orelia snapped to attention, her back straight and tall, ready to fight.
“What do you mean you had to tell me? What gives you the right? You’ve never felt the kind of love I have for Yusef.”
“Yes, I have.”
She saw a broad shadow fall across his face, and she knew that he had and that he had lost it, too. His pain silenced her. Tears rolled down her face.
“I love him,” she choked out. “I can’t help it. I do.”
“I know. I know,” Adrian said, his voice soft.
The first of her tears dropped on her peach blouse, which smelled of sea breeze from being dried outside. The scent drunkened Adrian. It drew up memories of his happiest moments at sea when he felt a wild abandon. Years later, he would say that Orelia’s perfume made him fall in love with her.
Adrian left his chair for Orelia’s side. He stood beside her, longing to stroke her hair, which she wore in a loose bun, more and more wisps escaping into unruly seductive tendrils. A fount of willpower held him back. He stood by her side should she need him. Orelia’s pain was so profound that it welled up inside her like a storm before she could release it, before she could reach out to him.
She looked up at Adrian. She saw his yearning for her and his struggle in his liquid green eyes. She thanked him for his restrained desire with a hint of a weak smile. She stopped crying and reached for his right hand. She asked him if he was hungry, she could make him something to eat and drink. She could not return his intensity – she had no room for it at this time – but she was grateful for his compassion.
“I am hungry,” Adrian answered.
“I haven’t had anything to eat either. I’ll start building a fire.”
“I’ll do it for you,” Adrian offered.
“No, thank you. I need to do something to keep my mind busy.”
She gave his hand a squeeze, dropped it and walked outside. Adrian was filled with the magic of Orelia’s sensual and comfortable home, which seduced him.
Orelia had not thrown herself at him, but she had taken him in as a friend whom she needed and who needed her. Friendship would be longer lasting. She harbored no grand passion for Adrian that would fizzle out like flat champagne. No, they stood surefooted on solid ground at the start of a long, slow dance. Adrian had hoped for something immediate and tingly. Instead, he got a firm grip from his sweetheart. In a flash, he saw what he had to do to win her heart. He had to prove himself to be her friend; he had to leave the sea. He had to relinquish one mistress for another.
Women were forbidden aboard buccaneer ships because they are of a different spirit, potent, and, so, threatening to men. Besides, Orelia never would go to the sea that had swallowed her father in a hurricane. The sea’s wildness terrified her.
Adrian gave up the sea with complete and utter love. His feet would walk on unshakable ground, lulling him into the belief that his next step would land on terra firma. It would be tricky living on land, where there are no signs, no warnings, no omens. Still, Adrian knew that he had to stay with Orelia and woo her with his lasting presence. It was a tremendous sacrifice for a tremendous love.
Orelia left the house through the back door to get wood from a neat, triangular pile. Adrian followed her but stayed in the shadows. Orelia, deeply absorbed in her whirling thoughts and feelings, barely noticed him.
Adrian thought, “Whatever it takes, I’ll do, to become as dear to her as she is to me.”
So, he stood still and listened to her grieving silence, while Orelia tried to keep a semblance of normality by making the morning meal. To the sea captain who was keeping company with a woman, there was nothing normal about the morning. As Orelia lit the fire’s kindling, Adrian went back into the house and returned minutes later with his violin in hand. Orelia, so intent on studying Adrian’s face when he stood in her doorway, had not noticed the crimson swaddling in his hands. Adrian reclaimed his darkened spot and commenced to play a Welsh farewell song. Orelia had never heard it before, but she felt its meaning. As she nudged the logs nearer the kindling’s sparks, she began to cry again. She forgot Adrian, aware only of his music. He was happy that he could touch her in this way.
Adrian was in love, surely and till his death. He longed to be near the person who aroused all his senses. Love carried him up high to his Parnassus, where caring for Orelia was his art and the air was thin. By the time Orelia served him breakfast, he was almost too heady to eat. The aroma of the fried snapper, black tea and cassava bread, which she had baked when night was still upon her, gnawed a hole in his stomach, aching to be filled with the food of his love. It was eight in the morning. The day had begun for everyone but the night crawlers, who had caroused all hours of the night creeping into dawn.
“Eating your food is like tasting a bit of heaven,” Adrian said, as they sat at a rectangular table in the front room and out of the sun, whose heat was starting to pound the earth.
“Thank you,” Orelia said, mechanically. She kept eating on her side of the table.
After they finished their meal, Adrian picked up his violin again. He played a soft purring waltz and, again, Orelia found refuge in his music. When he was done with the quiet, introspective piece, he moved into a lively bouree in quick duple time. At first, Orelia stayed sequestered in her dark closet of grief. But the strains of this happy dance alighted on her ears like fairies. Without thought, her feet began to keep time. When she heard her percussion accompaniment, the tight muscles in her neck and back relaxed, and she smiled widely. She looked up at Adrian and smiled again. His heart skipped a beat. He finished playing. Both of them were bright with music in their hearts.
“I’m leaving the sea,” he told her.
“What,” she said, surprised. “What brought this on?”
“It’s time for me to make another life for myself,” he said.
“Tired of the demands the sea makes on you?”
Because he loved it, he did not think of the sea as making demands.
“The sea is like a woman,” he said. “Possessive.”
“I see. To what will you devote your life?”
“I don’t know,” he said, looking at his devotion. “Must I devote it to any one thing? What about just living?”
“Living,” she repeated. “Right now, that seems barely possible to me. It hurts so much to be alive.”
At these searing words, Adrian cringed. Orelia’s pain ran so deep, it suffused itself into her every move and thought. He shuddered to think of her never getting over it, never letting herself love again.
“I know. Sometimes, it does,” he said, consolingly. “There is a love which never abandons us and which makes life worth living, and that is God’s love.”
With her tears, Orelia agreed with him.
“I needed the reminder,” she said, while sniffling.
“I think I needed it, too,” he said. I guess we all do from time to time.”
He told her about being spirited, kidnapped, as a boy from the dirty street in London, where he lived. He told her about standing barefooted, half naked, on an auction block in America. He told her about his shame, his beginnings as a man.
Orelia told him about finding, claiming, her mother’s body washed ashore. She told him about her shame, her beginnings as a woman.
Both admitted that becoming involved with Yusef and Sarah lessened their feelings of unworthiness, but as the relationships progressed only served to deepen them. Adrian let Orelia go on about Yusef and the dreams they had shared so happily. She told him more than she had ever told anyone, and Adrian knew it. He was touched; a few tears collected in his eyes, making them glassy.
“It’s letting go of the dreams that makes Yusef’s death even more difficult for me,” she said, her eyes full again.
“I know, Orelia. But believe me, you will dream again.”
“I want to believe you, but it’s hard,” she said, her voice cracking at the end of her sentence before she broke into sobs.
Adrian reached out and held one of her arms stretched out on the table. When she finished crying the tide of tears, she took his other hand.
“Thank you,” she said.
“No, thank you, Orelia, for confiding in me.”
Too close. She broke away and took their plates outside to wash. He followed her from a distance and watched her work.
She said, “Now that you’re leaving the Good Hope, where will you be going?”
“I’m not going anywhere,” he answered. “I’m staying in Port Royal.”
“Oh,” the exclamation of delight escaped her. “Where will you be living?”
“I don’t know. I hadn’t gotten that far. Do you have any suggestions?”
Orelia felt the same twinge Adrian felt when he said “suggestions” and hoped for an invitation. She wanted him to stay, but she pushed her desire to the side. It was too soon. She had no room. She hurt too much.
“There is a boarding house on the beach where you can get a place to lay your head. But you might find it wise to lay it on your shoes so that they won’t be stolen. It’s not that it’s dangerous, but neither would I call it safe. This is, after all, Port Royal.
“They don’t serve meals. You’re welcome to come here to eat,” she offered, timidly.
“Are you certain it wouldn’t be too much trouble,” he asked, out of consideration for her.
“No,” she answered, quickly. “I have enough for two, and I would love the company.”
“Well, then, I shall,” Adrian said, nearly overcome with emotion but succeeding in not showing it. He was dazed by the prospect of seeing her every day. “You’re very kind.”
“And grateful for you,” she said, blushing with embarrassment at her frankness.
It was time to leave, Adrian knew. He had accomplished the foremost task of starting to wrest Orelia’s trust for his own sake.
Once outside of Orelia’s charged presence, Adrian contemplated the business before him. He had to tell his men – his friends – that his lust for a new future was making him leave them. He predicted that Edward would be happy and Trevor would be hurt. He would find that he had miscalculated the effect of his news.
“Why are you doing this to us,” Trevor asked, his eyes beseeching Adrian, who sat on the other side of his bed.
“It’s not easy for me either, Trevor,” Adrian said.
“Then, why are you doing it? Why are you taking such a drastic step?” he pleaded.
“Because I have no choice. I love Orelia and am willing to change my life for her.”
“You and Yusef. Both so brave and sacrificing for your love and, in this case, the same woman. I can’t make sense of it,” he said, bitterly. “Has Orelia accepted your unwavering love?”
“She doesn’t know.”
“She doesn’t know?”
“When do you plan to tell her?”
“When I know she loves me, too.”
“Well, if that isn’t the most trusting thing I’ve ever heard. You’re giving up the sea in the hope that your decision will win this woman. What if it doesn’t?”
Trevor squeezed shut his eyes so that his cheeks rose higher, his nostrils flared and his mouth widened in a grimace.
“Adrian, how I’ll miss you,” he said, and opened his eyes. “We’ve known each other so long. When we met, we were young and confused about our lives. In the past few years, I’ve felt us become more accepting of our questions and ourselves. I suppose it’s selfish to think that we could be together for the rest of our lives. You’ve become a model for me of who I could be. I don’t know what I’m going to do without you. I truly don’t. Robert is dead, and Yusef is also gone. Maybe it’s time for me to leave as well.”
“I don’t know, Trevor,” Adrian said. “You’ll have to make that decision for yourself. I wish you would be happy for me.”
“We’ve always been honest with each other. I wish you happiness, Adrian, I do. But I also wish that your hopes would not upset my own life and force me to scrutinize it.”
“Port Royal would be a good place to think things out.”
“It would be. I don’t know what I’m going to do, Adrian. At least, out here, I know that the sea would never leave me.”
Neither man said anything for a while. Then, Trevor asked, “Have you told anyone else yet?”
“No. I wanted to let you know first.”
“Edward will be surprised.”
“He’ll be happy. Edward’s been salivating over my position ever since.”
“He tries to hide it, but he is jealous of you. He wants whatever you have because you have it. He has always wanted to be captain, But I’m not certain he’ll be elected. Who would you have take your place if it were up to you, Adrian?”
“It’s not up to me.”
“You can endorse someone.”
“That wouldn’t be right. I’d have no business backing anyone in an election whose outcome will not affect me.”
“I suppose you’re right. Edward probably will win.”
“I don’t want to be part of a ship that Edward leads.”
“He already is a leader.”
“Yes, but his selfish qualities are balanced by you.”
“A new quartermaster would have to be elected. Maybe he would provide the catalyst to Edward’s more severe characteristics.”
“I can’t think of anyone who has a strong enough personality to do that,” Trevor said.
“Sometimes power transforms people.”
“I don’t know if I’ll stay here to await a possible metamorphosis. Oh, Adrian. What are you doing,” he asked, mournfully. “You’re ripping out the very riveting of the Good Hope. Who knows how our beloved ship will hold together again.”
Adrian sighed and said, “I have to go, Trevor.”
“When will you leave?”
With both arms, Adrian encircled Trevor like a father wishing his son well in his solo journey through life. Trevor’s small body shuddered inside Adrian’s embrace in a paroxysm of grief.
Adrian, sodden with sadness after Trevor’s afternoon visit, sought out Edward. When the captain appeared in his doorway with slumped shoulders, Edward sensed that he would be receiving unsettling news and he tensed up into one huge cramp. Adrian came in but remained standing as he told Edward the news of his departure and the meaning behind it. The quartermaster’s mind raced as he thought of ways to connive Adrian into staying. He, more than anyone else on the Good Hope, needed Adrian as his rival. His competition with Adrian heightened his emotional life.
First, he appealed on behalf of the mission. Adrian rebutted:
“You, yourself, said that the men were tiring of it.”
“I know I did. But they have enough commitment in them for one last liberation of a slave ship,” he tried to tempt him.
Adrian’s mind wandered to the high seas. But he pulled it back before the quartermaster could take another breath.
“No,” the captain said. “I leave tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow! Captain Adrian Graff! We need more time than a few hours to say goodbye. You’ve been a major part of the men’s lives. You can’t just casually walk away.”
“There’s nothing casual about my decision, Edward,” Adrian said, brusquely.
“Then, stay, at least, another day. Let us give you a grand farewell, a feast, a fitting end to your career as a buccaneer.”
As Edward pleaded, something snapped in his satanic, labyrinthine mind. Such evil was being unleashed as had never been seen on the Good Hope.
“I told Orelia – “
“That you couldn’t bear to be away from her any longer than a day?”
“No. You know I can’t talk so freely with her yet. I told her I’d be at her house for dinner tomorrow.”
“Adrian. Five years on the sea. Why, that must be equal to thirty on land. After all the battles we’ve fought together, how can you refuse us one last night? Have you even told anyone else about this?”
“Yes. I told Trevor.”
Edward thought: “Of course, he told his favorite.”
However, Edward said: So, only Trevor and I know. The rest of the crew still has to be told. Please, don’t run off the second after we all learn the news.”
“You make me sound like an ogre.”
“You will be if you don’t grant us tomorrow.”
Adrian studied the closed door. He wished himself on the other side of it.
“I must say, Edward. I’m surprised at your pleas for me to stay on,” the captain said, a hint of suspicion in his voice.
“Adrian,” Edward said, standing up and placing his right hand on the captain’s left shoulder.
“I love you like the brother I never had.”
Edward was lying to Adrian but not in the aspect of love. His love for Adrian was not unlike his love for his brother, which is where the untruth lay for Edward had had a brother in his native Wales named Peter. His older brother had been pale, slight and sweet, opposite in looks and temperament to him. Edward had suffered deep stabs of envy for Peter’s pure heart.
“Edward,” their mother called him.
“Angel,” she called Peter, as she stroked his thin blonde hair with puffy, aged hands.
Although a young woman, the omnipresent wet, dreary climate and nights alone away from her seafaring husband had weathered her prematurely.
Peter shined with goodness, while Edward bristled with misery and, already at ten, anger at the world. Edward pretended to love the suffering and downtrodden, but his mother, who had nourished him into life, recognized the subterfuge.
“Angel,” she kept calling Peter.
“Angel. Angel. Angel,” sounded, resounded and, eventually, pounded in Edward’s ears as he tried to sleep at night. He hated the endearment and the endeared one, hated him as much as he loved him. Evil welled up in him until it spilled over in dribs and drabs. He spread falsehoods about Peter among their friends. He tried to malign him with stories nobody believed about his secret greed and bad tempter, and he took care never to lift a hand to him.
Their mother had cautioned them about playing at the cliffs near their house. To this warning, neither boy paid any heed. They often frolicked up high at their favorite spot, all gray and secluded, flirting with danger. Such tranquility cloaked the place that Edward felt no malice there toward Peter. They gave each other treasures of secrets in their private kingdom, where they both felt free.
Then, one day, veiled in gauzy mist, misfortune visited their perfect world and cursed them both. The brothers scampered happy and content, confident that nothing could touch them. They ran in circles, faster and faster, more alive than ever, when Peter slipped on a rock and fell over the side of the cliff.
“Peter,” Edward screamed. “Peter!”
He ran to the precipice and peered down into an alien world at his brother who looked like the carefree boy of a moment ago, except for his head. His brains had splattered onto the boulders whose jagged edges had jutted into his young, delicate body. A palette of scarlet blood on his forehead trickled down past his open eyes, both sides of his nose and into his mouth.
“Peter!” Edward’s screams issued from the pit of his stomach and caught up his entire body.
He scrunched up his eyes. His chin touched his chest, and his shoulders grazed his ears as his upper arms squeezed his sides. His knees were bent slightly, his left leg turned inwards.
“Mammy. Mammy,” Edward cried as he tore home.
Once there, he swung open the door and stood still, panting. His body rattled as he breathed irregularly with fear and exhaustion. His clenched fists rested on his unsteady legs.
“What is it, Edward? What is it?” his mother prodded. She bent over and placed her face opposite his.
“P- P- Pe-,” was all he could sputter, along with some spittle, which sprayed in her eyes. But she was so intent on hearing what he had to say that she did not notice and blinked it away.
She placed her hands on his shoulders and asked, terrified, “Peter?”
Edward inhaled a long, shrill scream and exhaled sobs of grief. He shook his head yes.
“Where is Peter,” she asked.
“The cliffs,” he managed, between sniffles.
She whished past Edward, sodden with distress, and ran to neighbors, rapping on their doors.
“My son. My son. At the cliffs. The cliffs,” she shouted, not stopping to explain what was painfully clear.
Edward carried himself inside the house and into the bed he shared with Peter. Under the blue, knobby wool blanket trimmed with faded purple satin, he cried in smothering darkness to the familiar scent of Peter.
Young Peter was buried with prayer to reckon his stainless soul with God and with song to lift it away.
“My angel,” his mother whispered at the service. “Gone so soon back home.”
For weeks afterward, Edward did not talk. He did not laugh. He did not smile. Yet, his severe reaction did not stop villagers from saying that he had killed his brother. His muteness even seemed to encourage the accusation of murder. The others reasoned that Edward was horrified by his evil deed. Their mother did not believe one word of the gossip. She knew that Edward had been jealous of Peter, but she also understood his deep love and need for him. She realized that Peter’s death would affect Edward profoundly.
The mother and son household took on a hard-luck aura. Although Edward left a space for his brother in their bed, he was ostracized by the other children, whose worried parents had ordered them not to play with the village Cain. He spent most of his time by his mother’s side, and she clung to him – her only living child. He would lull her to sleep with his sweet soprano, which matured into a velvety bass. Sometimes, as she drifted off, she called him angel, mistaking him for Peter.
Edward was all his mother had in the world. Her sailor husband visited once a year, sometimes less frequently. By the time he returned to find his older child gone, Edward had appropriated Peter’s place as the cherished one. The boys’ father accommodated himself rather effortlessly to his loss. He soon went back to the sea, visiting just one more time after that.
Edward and his mother cared for each other until her death. He was eighteen and full of rancor for his village’s condemnation. He closed up the house, which no one wanted because of its sorry past, and he left Wales, pledging never to come back. He headed to Paris, where he sang for a living, and he left the memory of his brother buried behind him. When he spoke “never” to Adrian in “I love you like the brother I never had,” he believed his own lie just as he had begun to believe that he had killed a boy named Peter.
“Allow us to celebrate your happiness with you,” Edward said. He spoke as cordially as a gentleman asking a lady to dance.
Adrian hesitated before responding. He noticed the tail of a rat scurrying through a crack in the wall. He looked up and, reluctantly, consented to spend one more night on the ship.
Edward tried to rouse enthusiasm for the evening.
“We’ll feast on seafood prepared with sauces inspired by Paris, paradisal fruit used for puddings and cashew wine aged with loving care by local vintners. You’ll play your violin, and I’ll sing.”
“You’ll sing!” Adrian exclaimed. “I’ve never heard you sing, but I’ve heard much about it from those who had heard you in France. I’d love to hear you sing. You can count on me to be there. Thank you, Edward.”
“It’s my pleasure.”
Adrian left the quartermaster to his scheming.
Edward thought, “Adrian forced me into this. He brought it on himself.”
He bared his huge teeth into a bloodcurdling grin and laughed. Love and envy commingled into a cloud of doom. Edward did not have the strength of character to control himself. Nevertheless, swept away on a wave of emotion, his actions maintained their careful, controlling quality. He undertook supervision of the banquet preparations, which had to begin immediately.
“He thinks he’s so high and mighty,” Edward thought. “But even the mighty fall.”
Outside Edward’s cabin and on the upper deck, the remaining crew members crowded round Adrian to hear his announcement. The news shocked them. Another loss. A great loss. Their love for Adrian had never lessened. Even Franz, who neither had nor wanted any friends, was saddened by the impending change. The men seemed to release a collective sigh. Everyone but Franz sank into a contemplative haze. They thought about their abandoned lives on land and, some, about the women they had left behind. The unsettledness unnerved the ship.
The men’s anxiety lit the fires of creativity as they prepared for the festivities. Sparks flew as imaginations kindled ideas for choosing dishes and sprucing up the ship and themselves for the evening. The crew anticipated and opened the affair with butterflies in their stomachs.
The banquet table on the upper deck was a delight to the eye. Covered with an immaculate white cloth, silver platters of roasted pig-like peccary, also called warree, graced it. They shared a place with fillet of hawksbill turtle swimming in lemon thyme sauce, crab dusted with cayenne pepper, lobster boiled in ale, and a mess of hot, spicy catfish, snapper and sucking fish. Crystal bowls tempted with its offerings of sweet, ripened mangos, guavas and bananas. Plum compotes rested next to custard sauce. The libations flowed freely, smooth choice whiskey taken from slavers, and rum and cashew wine acquired from islanders.
The aroma was not of any one drink or dish but the essence of them all. The ship smelled full and rich and heavy with love.
“Edward, what a sumptuous table! I’m more than satisfied, even before eating. Everything smells and looks wonderful. Thank you very much,” Adrian said.
Edward nearly salivated as he foresaw the night’s occurrences, but he hid his true thoughts under a well-meaning smile.
“Thank you, Adrian.”
The two men embraced, and all seemed right with the world. They pulled away from each other, and Adrian reached for his instrument. As he unwrapped it from the crimson velvet, Edward assumed his performing stance with his chest out and shoulders back. The singer wore royal blue and Adrian smashing red. Adrian played a drawling French song from Provence which draped its nostalgic notes around Edward, who had made his reputation singing it. The musicians’ tear-glossed eyes looked out at their audience – Adrian at the men he loved and Edward at the men he wanted to love him. Many of the buccaneers cried as drink dribbled down their chins. Memories and hopes provided bittersweet fare, and the sailors partook of it like gourmands. The feast pricked the zenith of intensity. Yet, the murderous climax was still to come. The quartermaster wed himself to song with the gusto of a man about to accomplish a godlike deed of either giving life or taking it away, while Adrian and his well-wishers watched the sun go down on his illustrious career.
The moon rose full and luscious on the Good Hope’s enduring night. During one of their breaks, Edward gave Adrian a Spanish miquelet-lock pistol with a handle of mother of pearl. The chiseled iron scrollwork glistened in the orb’s light.
“Isn’t it handsome?” Edward said, as the dazzled Adrian fondled its beauty.
Adrian’s inspection pointed the gun barrel at Trevor, who was sipping a whiskey while gazing at the moon. The pistol’s worn gunlock snapped. The loaded gun went off half-cocked.
Seeing the way the world turns, it is no surprise that the Good Hope got a bass for a captain and Trevor did not have to fret over it anymore.