Still in progress, and I'm probably going to rewrite this anyway. Still, I've got 10,000 words that need critiquing. So I'll start with this. It's about 3,500 long.
Hesitation had been there from the beginning. Hesitation, fear, and a little pang of guilt, in addition to the rush of emotion and pure danger. For a girl who preferred to sit her days out on the shores of the Atlantic, she was currently a fiery, feisty one. No one was home – not even her older sister, which was something of a miracle. Anne never went out if she could help it, unless it was to see a boy, or maybe one of her friends. But even that was seldom, as of late. Mother was in town taking coffee with Mrs. MacDonnel and her two grown nieces. According to most of the men, they were the prettiest girls on the island. It was quite the compliment to be giving, despite the fact that the island wasn’t very large to begin with. Still, it was big enough for the gentlemen to know exactly what girls they would pick out of the lot of them all if given the chance – and so far, none of the gentlemen had been so lucky.
Sophia tried to put all of that out of her mind and concentrate on what she was doing. Wash wouldn’t be coming back anytime soon. He was out fixing up the boat with father. That kind of job would take them both all day, and maybe even into the night. Father was so particular. Sophia remembered once when she had to go out and help repair a leak that had sprung. What a disaster it had turned out to be…
She caught herself trailing off again and chastised herself for it. With no more thought, she grabbed the leather bound book from the stand and made off with it the same way she had come, back to the safe confines of her locked room. Sophia had decided that a lockable room was one of a girl’s most prized possessions in the entire universe. A girl’s locked room became a safe haven in even the most frightening storms – those were usually the ones that blew up no matter what the cloud cover outside looked like. And at the same time, the room was her friend, a companion she could confide in and feel welcomed by. It was never going to leave her. Her bed would be in the exact same spot it had always been at the end of the day. And now, with Wash’s journal in hand, Sophia could read it to her heart’s content without getting caught. She relished the idea with a devious smile so unnatural for such an innocent face.
“Sophia!” a muffled cry came from downstairs, and all at once the girl forced her guilty hands underneath the blankets of her bed, as if she had already been found out. Mother was home. So early? How long had it been, anyway? Sophia was unsure.
“Sophia! Come down here this instant!” Sophia nodded as if her mother were standing in the doorway. She haphazardly shoved the journal underneath her mattress, running to the door to unlock it. Sophia always carried the key on her person – and with a door that locked from both the inside and out, it was very important that she be the only one who ever got to touch it. Sophia could’ve only imagined the tragedy that would befall her if someone else got hold of the key. In reality, the only person she could’ve seen using it was Anne. Wash would never – not even if he found out that his sister had stolen his journal to read it behind his back when he wasn’t around. Mother certainly wouldn’t use it against her, and neither would father; however, the girl could be sure of the penalty waiting for her on the other side of the door, should she ever choose to lock them out.
Martin wasn’t even in the same county anymore, so he didn’t count. Still, Sophia was relatively sure he, too, would be more than willing to lock her up in her room and conveniently misplace her precious key.
Mother was unloading dry goods and other sundry parcels from a cloth bag onto the counter. It looked almost as if she had done some shopping, which was strange, considering Sophia was under the impression that Mother was going for tea. However, it was entirely possible that Mother had picked up a few necessary items after her soiree had ended. Afternoons were excellent times to stop by the market and run a few errands, after all.
“What did you want?”
“Where’s your sister?” Mother didn’t even look up to say hello or that she was back. It was obvious, wasn’t it, that she was home? All routine. All except Anne not being home, that was.
“I don’t know. She left shortly after you did and didn’t give much explanation to where she was going. I didn’t ask.” Mother didn’t skip a beat as she placed the goods where they belonged in the kitchen. Sophia had given exactly the answer she had been expecting. This was nothing new, not really. If Anne wasn’t being difficult at home, then naturally she had to have been causing problems on some other part of the island.
“She’ll be home when she reckons it time to come home then, won’t she?” Mother wondered aloud with a wink to Sophia. “You taking care of yourself?”
“Yes, of course, Mother.”
“Not getting into any trouble, now? Not sneaking around, taking Wash’s things, have you?” Sophia flushed. She prayed her mother didn’t see the shame rising up in her cheeks while she moved her hands to wring themselves behind her back. Mother didn’t know. How could she know? She was gone. She couldn’t have even seen inside Wash’s room, could she? There was simply no way.
“Ahhh, of course I’ve been good! Mother, really!” Sophia tried hard not to stammer, and it must’ve worked. Mother seemed to believe it; she laughed softly, as if the idea was not only absurd but also quite the last thing on her mind. She wiped away a drop of sweat with a strand of hair.
“That’s my Sophia. Now back up to your room. I’ll call you for supper, hear?” Sophia nodded with a breathy sigh. She felt her lungs contract with more air than ever before, heaving relief. So her mother was just joking. She really had no idea that Sophia had stolen what she did.
Retreating to her room, Sophia decided that “stolen” was far too strong a word. She’d simply borrowed it. She had every intention to give the journal back to its proper owner when she was finished using it. It wasn’t at all stealing.
Sophia wondered if there was anything in the Bible that said she couldn’t borrow without the owner knowing. She figured that if God could get inside peoples’ heads without them giving Him permission, then maybe – just maybe – it would be okay for her to see what her brother was thinking. Especially since he so seldom talked to them to tell them exactly what was on his mind. Her brother was forever a mystery, and Sophia had finally decided to solve it.
She knew some things about him. For example, she knew that Wash most definitely was not his real name. Wash’s real name was William Daniel Copper. Everyone called him Wash. That was because, when he was still in grade school, the school mistress had taken everyone down to the water’s edge for a lesson on oceans, and all the students got to play in the sand. Sophia remembered the incident vividly, even though she had been almost too young to remember it at the time. Despite her youth, the girl could see the image of a gigantic wave overtaking her young older brother and – so he said, later – nearly sweeping him out to sea. William had screamed, but in reality, there was no way he was going to be taken by the ocean.
He’d fallen into a shallow hole that the older children had dug, and he wasn’t going anywhere. He climbed out of that hole soaked from head to toe, and when someone snickered that he’d gotten quite a wash down there, the nickname stuck irrevocably. Wash. Wash. Yes, the other students decided, that sounded like a particularly fitting name. At first, he despised it. Eventually, though, he grew to actually enjoy it. It was almost like a kind of status symbol, being associated with the ocean in an island community that depended on the ocean for its livelihood. Wash was the one the ocean tried to take, and yet he managed to get away – even though it was through none of his own effort.
No one but Sophia teased him about the origin of his nickname anymore, and even when she did it, all he could do was smile and laugh at her as if to say, “Silly kid sister. It doesn’t bother me anymore.” She wasn’t really sure if it did or not, but she took his word for it.
Still, that was nearly all she knew. Sophia readily admitted that it wasn’t much. Holding this worn leather book in her hands, now, she felt empowered. Sophia had tried to keep a journal of her life, but it had never worked She would either doodle in the margin or start a story in the middle, maybe a poem. Even now, she had notebooks full of some of each, and she kept filling them. Her thoughts, her life spilled onto the page in a different way. It was her record, just taken differently.
Until she realized that Wash was keeping a journal of his own, though, Sophia had thought she was the only one in her family who even considered the written word. Neither of her other siblings cared for it. Her mother was too oral to write, and father wasn’t even verbal enough. Sophia thought maybe he was just telepathic or something of the sort, the way he was always looking at mother and she determined every last hint of meaning from one of his glances.
The leather book had no lock on it. It simply had a string tie, kept up in a bow, that held the book closed when it wasn’t in use. She felt the rough leathery cover with her first two fingers, relishing the texture, drinking it in. She would open it soon, very soon. There was time enough for that. She had until supper, when the men would return home and the family would come together for the evening meal. That was all the time in the world, at least for today. It was enough time for her to get a good idea of the things her brother might write.
Anticipating nothing, preparing her self for the world, Sophia turned back the leathery cover, clutching tightly the binding in her hands. She was about to dive into a book the likes of which she’d never read before. Usually, Sophia kept her nose in fiction. This was something far more powerful than fiction, though. This was nonfiction. This was a life. This was her brother’s life.
Sophia took a look at the first date and giggled. It was the same as the day she found out her brother was writing at all, and this very first thing confirmed something she’d thought about her brother for the longest time: he couldn’t keep secrets very well. Anyone who was observant could tell that he was keeping something in his room, something that he had decided he would have to attend to almost every day if he could stand it.
So there were only a week’s worth of entries, then – that was, so long as he wrote in it every day. It was August 24, now. Yes, that was right….
I found this blank book by the boathouse last night after helping Father with the fish. I couldn’t help but take it – it looked dirty and unwanted anyway. Someone just had to have left it there. There was no name in the cover like most notebooks we used for school. I have made it my first effort to ink my own in the cover of this one, so that just in case anyone finds this – which they shall not – they will at least know not to claim it as their own, if they have any kind of conscience.
It leaves me wondering what to write in here, though. It’s taking me so long to come up with something. I feel silly, writing about what to write. I shall sleep on it, then. I shall dream my favorite dream – wandering the mainland, from place to place, going anywhere my feet might take me. My feet or chance, I suppose. Chance has just as much say as I do, if not more. And God. My feet, chance, and God, and that’s all I need.
That sounds right.
Today was uneventful again. My twin sister is insufferable as ever. She won’t do chores around the house, and she certainly refuses to come down to the harbor and help Father and I. I wonder what she’ll be good for. I wonder, even more than that, what she wants out of life. What she could possibly want out of a life here. There’s nothing on this island. If she wanted her freedom, she should’ve taken it by now. Aunt Cassandra lives in the city near Martin. She would probably take Anne in.
Although I suppose that means that I should’ve taken my freedom by now, too, since I want to get out of here almost as bad as she does. As bad as she seems like she does. I can see it in her eyes like I feel it in my heart: she wishes to be free.
But she doesn’t realize the responsibilities we have here, first. I must pay my debts here before I can be allowed to go. Father needs me, now more than ever, and I will continue to remain here until he no longer requires my assistance.
Besides, maybe then Sophia will be old enough to help him.
That was probably my best joke yet today.
Sophie took offense to his final remark. She was capable of helping, even now! What, she was only a handful of years younger than he. Two, three, it didn’t matter. Just because Wash was out of school gave him no reason to be looking down on those who were still required to go.
Sophie ceased fuming very shortly thereafter. She closed her eyes and smiled, knowing that somehow she had to be partaking in some kind of carnal sin, the likes of which might get her punished severely, were she ever caught. This was far more interesting than anything she’d read of some made-up character. This was Wash. This was real. It was like living a story – the absolute dream of any booklover, and especially of a booklover like Sophia.
No foreign lands, no exotic peoples. No fantastic feats of daring-do.
She rather agreed with his assessment of Anne. Sophia had spent many a late night awake in her bed, wondering what kind of person Anne would be when she grew up. Surely not a housewife, unless she married some rich city man. Surely not a schoolteacher, either, because Anne couldn’t stand to be in the classroom any more than the rest of them – and usually even less. Not an artist, either, Sophia knew, because Anne took every opportunity she could to make fun of her “silly poetry” and “silly pictures.” The words didn’t hurt, but Sophia wished that at the very least Anne would just keep her commentary to herself, thank-you-very-much.
So far it had all really proven one thing to her, though – that Wash was, above all else, human. Human in every sense of the word. He had thoughts. He had feelings. He even got irritated! It was enough to make Sophia giggle all over again. She could barely imagine Wash raising his voice. This was like some kind of treat for her and her alone.
I’m having an okay time down at the docks these days. I sit around, watching the ships come in and out of the bay, and I have time to think to myself while waiting for Father to come back in. He’s usually only out there by himself for an hour before coming back in to get me, so it’s not as if I have all the time in the world, but it’s enough.
Just this morning, I sat there, feet dangling over the edge of the wood into the water. It was cool and clean, refreshing. Anne doesn’t like the ocean water – she thinks it’s full of fish guts and rusty boat parts, but she just doesn’t understand. Sophia understands, I think. Sophia knows that the water is something to be embraced, not something that we can just reject – as if we even had the choice. We were born here. Fate has given us the mandate to take on the water. For now, anyway.
I know there’s something more important out there for me, just not yet. I can taste it. I can smell it on the salty sea air, just like this morning. I got to watch John O’Reily and his boys take in the Saint Teresa, which was certainly a sight. It’s such a large boat that he really needs all six of his sons helping him at the same time just to make sure he doesn’t crash into the docks, or another boat. I got to my feet and walked over to see if they needed any help, but by the time I was even within calling distance, they were already finished and tying it up.
“Wash!” Duncan called out to me, “what are you doing here? Shouldn’t you be out on the water?”
“Father wants his alone time,” I explained. Duncan grinned. Everyone knew that my Father took an hour on the water every day – not to fish, but to… relax. Contemplate. Sleep. None of us were really ever sure what he did out there alone, but whatever it was, he did it for an hour each and every day in the morning. Then he would go out alone for five minutes at night after all the fish were in and cleaned, and everything else was in order, just to make sure.
“He always do this?”
“Since I’ve gone out on the water with him. Before that, I wouldn’t know, but I guess so. He seemed pretty adamant about doing it the very first time, so I just guess he’s always done it, all the way back.” Duncan scratched his head. He didn’t seem to have an answer, and he didn’t seem to be interested in offering one. Instead, he changed the subject.
“How long you been on the water anyway?”
“Two weeks. It’s still kind of new, being on the boats instead of just watching them on the shore, or working on them. I don’t know if this kind of work is for me or not. It’s all still pretty new.” At this, Duncan’s smile turned into a scoff for but a moment before morphing back into a huge, toothy grin. He slapped me on the shoulder and admonished me.
“You’ll get used to it just fine, Wash. It’s your duty to be out there, just like your father’s and your grandfather’s. You were born to the water just like me, and you’ll die on the water just like me. Probably even just like your gran’pa did. Wouldn’t that be something?” He spoke about it like it was an honorable way to die. String up and choked to death by a sail rope in the middle of a storm, I’d say, isn’t very honorable. In fact, I’d wager that it’s one of the stupidest ways to die, but I’d never tell Father that. Even though I never got to meet Grandfather, and even though I’m sure he was every bit a competent seaman, there are smarter things than going out in a storm with no help whatsoever on a boat far too large for one man to handle.
The conversation with Duncan ended there, and that’s about when Father came back to get me and start the day, but I still couldn’t stop thinking about Grandfather. I’m going to say it here, and then I’m going to do my best to forget about it altogether, but if I ever make such a stupid mistake as going out alone like that, I hope I die too as a strong lesson to myself and everyone around me.
What a rube.