words from the heart ...

by Harriet Clifford

My 17th Century Captain


Island, Thee

Chapter 1


Dark frothy waves crash, thrashing in a wild frenzy against two bare shorelines. Budding daylight shines dull upon these two neighboring islands, Hatteras and Ocracoke. Pale cream sand peppers the air as Atlantic’s winds swirl and lash over each island’s shoreline as if in command of the fate of all that dare stand upon their edges. 

The tiny drop of green bending to the storm’s far reaching fingers yields to an almost ninety degree angle. The tiny pool of water nearby hints of either’s minute existence. And yet this sole yapin bush holds tall and strong against nature’s harsh rule: survival-of-the-fittest. 

Dark heavy material whips and flaps around white petticoats. Arms wrap tightly around a small frame. Corn blonde strands peeking out from under a fraying cap whip wild against an oval face. 

All the while a hazy form of another mirroring these same movements hugs a lime windbreaker as similar corn blonde strands poke out from under a fuchsia ball cap also flapping in a frenzie fades in and out, unbeknownst to either. 

So focused is the form that wears the fraying cape, that she stands unmoving, insignificant, and mimsical against the breadth of Hatteras’ bare inlet shore. A whip of swirling sand darts across her path as if a forbidding. A warning of what’s soon to come. She jumps with a jerk backward. Pain jolts up fit pale legs hidden beneath thick skirts and white petticoats. 

Legs near buckle beneath me. Teeth a chatter as jaw clenches. The ache through cheek bones is for sure. And the chill from Ana's brewing anger seeps through coat, dress and winter petticoats. But I watch still. I stare. My weary eyes bore down at the blackening gray sky and darkening green waters meeting. Blenden into what must be hell’s doorway. 

My senses are filled with Santa Ana's far reaching bite. She seeming to freeze the speck o` hope that lay still, upon my soul. The ache of me eyes strains yet further as they search for even the slightest shadow of a sail, or rigging, or bow emerging through hell's doorway. And this emptiness blankets the hollow confines where sits heart's now wanton wishes. 

Sudden loud soundless gusts ring hollow to my ears. I feel as if a sack full of rotten potatoes as the speck of hope and heart’s desires are abandoned by such brute blasts. 

“Captain Robert Enoch Knight.” I say into angry salty gusts. “Why’d ye na’ come ta` bid farewell at least?”

The hurt is sharp. Like a pin poking an overstretched pig’s intestines that’s about to burst. He’d vanished. Gone. Left without even one last bountiful kiss upon my still ravished starving lips. My rest has been fitful at best nights since. My weepy eyes now dry burn from tears they cannot shed. 

Those unruly coal-black curls slippin out from under your worn captain’s hat. Broad shoulders rippling with weary muscle beneath a filthy ivory shirt. And that crimson sash, hugging a lean waist, its silky material shiny even under the dim light inside my tavern, would grab any maiden’s heart lassoing it with grave uncertainty. 

 Your gray eyes that peered so fiercely at my own. Their unwavering glare. Their stare a challenge, a dare even, with their silent request forcing me to look away. My heart near stopped dead as a hunter’s arrow pierces its prey’s chest that moment.

But perhaps I’d be mistaken.

Another of Santa Ana’s gusts pushes, forcing me to take a step back. She is close, this storm. Closer than I’d dare ponder. My heart’s ache had screamed so. So that I failed to notice my frigid fingertips and the drippin rains from my hat’s edges.

My fingers throb as they wrap themselves around a collar in a vain attempt to stop more of Santa Ana's blasts from slippin in. Oh, how befitting for the world to match my frozen soul, I think. I shield my eyes as I turn, their drying scratch stinging from her growing gusts. And yet I find my feet moving as a mule's moves homeward without being guided or prodded. 

The island’s deadening silence treks behind as if piggybacking, heavy upon my back. The mile walk lingers as if it were ten. And my thoughts ring loud. I, an unwed lass, thought an old-maid at twenty plus two, and the sole owner of a tavern. A menfolk’s tavern. Aunt Ottilie had owned her. And with the men folk not knowin. So must I too.

Soon the haze of a building and porch materializes just up ahead. I skip over a hole ridden step that leads to her porch with surprised glee. Sand trails behind the path of my steps. And my two sand laden shoes smack worn wood with a purpose. 

I am home. 

For I, Sylvia Roset Becham, need na` another soul on this earth to take care o' her. And ye, Charles Douglas Becham III, had made that clear the day you took my ma and brothers, purposely leavin without but a hint of a sound.

But I knowd.

I knowd the reason for such betrayal. Ma knowd it. I knowd it. And most of all, so did ye. Such unfaithfulness had cut ye to the core. Leaving such a reminder behind seemed the only choice. 

So the reason is clear. Whilst na` at thee tender age of nine. But at twenty plus three years onward I see. 

“I forgive ye, a one Mr. Charles Douglas Becham thee third.” I say as I step through the entrance of my own, though very humble abode, and whisper as I dinna` want myself to hear as I head for the back room, “And Captain Robert Enoch Knight, is ye forgiveness in me path as well…?” 


{ continue on to chapter 2 - Over the Bonner Bridge }

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