I don’t know what woke me but my eyes flew open. I sat up in my little square bed and looked around my room. Nothing seemed out of place. My little sisters, Tabitha and Judith, were soundly asleep on either side of me. That’s when I heard a light thump and a muttered curse coming from the other side of the thin wall and knew Patrick was up and moving. I didn’t think he would be going so quickly. As quietly and gently as I could, I crawled over Tabitha and went to the wall and listened. I heard Patrick rummaging around and knew he was getting his sea bag ready. I hurriedly got out of my long dressing gown and started pulling on a pair of Patrick’s old brown breeches. For days now, Patrick had been secretive and keeping late hours. He would spend all his time at the dock, watching one boat in particular on the Thames, a large thing made out of the shiniest dark wood I have seen. It was a pretty boat.
My dear older brother thought he was missing out on life, at least that is what he told his friends, and I suspect he dreams about a life on the sea. So if I was right, and I am pretty sure that I am, he wants to go off and join a crew of rough neck privateers. Everyone has at least heard the stories of treasure, sword fighting, perilous danger, exotic women and foreign lands, and Patrick always loved a good pirate book. I just got done tightly winding a strip of cloth around my chest to keep my breasts concealed, not that they were that obvious anyway, when I heard the window scraping open on the other side of the wall. I pulled on the dingey white shirt and laced it up and put on the plain green waistcoat. It’s a good thing I planned ahead and already had my hair pinned up, I tied a white kerchief around my head and looked out the window just in time to see Patrick climbing down the trellis. I already had a bag packed with Patrick’s old clothes and a few of my things so I slung it on my shoulder. I tucked one of our kitchen knives in my belt and went over to the bed and kissed the girls on the forehead. I left a note on the tiny desk in the corner for our parents. I then went over to the little fireplace and rubbed some ash on my hands, face, and hair, so I’d look like a street urchin. I went back over to the window and opened it. It was a crazy thing I was doing, but I wasn’t letting Patrick go off alone to a dangerous place.
I managed to not fall down as I descended the trellis, a feat in itself, and right as my bare feet hit the cold dirt ground I looked over to see Patrick round the corner. I jogged after him, he was already some feet in front of me, so it wasn’t hard to keep behind and follow Patrick from a distance. We took a twisting and turning path way, every few blocks we would turn then turn again, then go a long time going straight before we would turn once more. It was slightly confusing since it only took ten minutes to get to the docks normally. After walking for thirty minutes we came to a seedy looking house. There was a tall black man at the door who did not look happy to be up at this hour. His head was bald and he was dressed in a white long sleeved shirt with dark trousers, he had clunky looking shoes on his feet, but everything he wore was of expensive materials. Patrick joined a small group of boys and men that were going up to the door, so I quickly moved to stand at the back.
When one of the group walked up to the man at the door, the black man looked at him. “ Who is to answer the Siren’s Call?”
“The gold will do the talking,” the man answered.
This seemed to please the man at the door and he let the man pass. The next two men in line answered the same, but when the third went up the answer was different. “Mahogany will laugh away.”
It was very odd.
I felt a nervous lump building up in my throat. I didn’t know the phrase to get in.The men went up one by one and gave different answers and when Patrick was up, his voice cracked. “ Rubies will sing silently.”
I was at first completely flummoxed. That’s when I noticed something. The first man at the door had blond hair and the one who said something about mahogany was a brunette. Patrick and I have the same rust colored hair, it could be that was the secret. I have heard of pirates being brilliant about making secret codes. I should really be thankful that Mum always got us pirate books when we were younger. The blond man in front of me answered the same as the man who had first been at the door. Oh I really hope I’m right, Lord knows what they’d do to me if I said the wrong thing.
The tall man looked me up and down. It was almost like he could see through my disguise. “Who is to answer the Siren’s Call?”
The nervous lump in my throat was stuck there solidly. I was hoping my hunch was right. So I just repeated what my brother had said, in a whisper. “ Rubies will sing silently.”
He nodded and let me pass.
Well, alright then.
Once inside I almost choked on the smoke that was hanging in the air. It took my eyes a second before they adjusted to the hazy inside and I saw Patrick sitting off in a corner by himself. So I took to the table that was closest to me that had an empty space. I started to nervously fidget in my seat, picking at my sleeve when I looked sideways at my table companions and the man next to me was looking at me sharply.
He looked to be a few years older than me, he was clean looking with shaggy dark brown hair, light eyes and scruffy cheeks. “ ‘Ave we met?”
I looked down and cleared my throat. “ I don’t think so.”
“ Hmmm, cuz you look mightee familiah,” he said. “ You live round Piccadilly?”
“No, over by the butchers,” I said, taking a glance at him.
That seemed to be alright with him because he extended his hand to me. “ Richard Dorling.”
“Ga-” I almost said my real name, I cleared my throat and put my hand in his. “ Guy. Guy Sharpe.”
“Nicely met, Guy,” Mr. Dorling smiled at me.
I smiled back a little more at ease. Besides Mr. Dorling and myself there were two other men and a younger boy who barely looked like he was fifteen. There was maybe twenty-five men all together gathered in the small room. The black man from outside had come in and he was talking to a tall well-muscled man in the corner with light hair. A door to the side opened up and a very pretty girl dressed from head to toe in black came in with a tray of drinks. She had the palest and smoothest skin of anyone I’ve seen. She couldn’t have been much older then me. She was tall with long black hair and wore a completely black corset and full black skirt with gray piping. She had a black velvet choker around her neck that had a purple stone set in it.
The material and cut of her outfit screamed with money. She couldn’t be a mere serving girl unless she was, ahem, the master’s favorite girl, which she might just be. Now, now Gail, mustn’t judge a girl by her looks. As she went around and gave each man a drink, they stared at her ample bosoms and tiny waist in the corset. If that had been me I wouldn’t be able to take all that staring with grace, I would have been blushing from my hair to my heels. She somehow managed to and even smiled and made small talk with the men. When one pinched her bottom she even laughed and lightly scolded him. I would have blooded that man’s nose. After she put a drink in front of everyone at my table, she gave me a long look and winked at me when she served mine to me. She glided over to the table next to ours, gave them their drinks then she went up and started chatting with the tall man from outside. The black man took the tray from her, which I found kind of odd.
The tall man with light hair turned and addressed the room. “ Alright, you lot, listen up!”
The room went quiet as the serving girl then came up next to him and smiled. “ Now that I am done serving you, I hope that you will serve me well.”
The man who had pinched her piped up. “ I’ll serve you all night long!”
“Quiet, you dog!” the black man from the door shouted. That made the room silent.
“ Now, then if we’re done with that, I expect the utmost loyalty from you. I do not tolerate insolent behavior.” She folded her arms across her chest.
Mr. Dorling cleared his throat. “ If ya don’t mind Miss, we’re ‘ear to meet wiv the Cap’n’.”
“That you are sir, and we’ll be getting to that shortly.” She smiled kindly at Mr. Dorling.
That set everyone to murmuring. An older gentleman raised a hand. “ So then who are you? The captain’s whore?”
The serving girl cut that man a severe look. “I am no whore.”
“Then who are you?” The man who had first went through the door asked.
“ I AM the Captain.” The girl turned to face everyone. “ I am the Black Pearl.”