We stopped abruptly, Nathan swung his head to the left, and his greasy hair fanned out and fell over his eyes. His hand trembled as he brushed it on to his shoulders. “May I cut it?” My heart sped up, no! He wouldn’t dare! Never! Nathan stepped aside meekly and let Him take over. My eyes narrowed, he looked at me, playing stupid of course. His hand found its place on my hip as the music picked up again.
“What are you doing?” I demanded as we flew around the dance floor. I spun in to his chest and went of my way to elbow him.
“Unnecessary, Cheshire.” He clucked, dipping me to the final notes dripping out of the horn.
“Christian, if you please!” I said, through a smile, maintaining my cool composure.
“You’ll always be Cheshire to me.” He said, clearly just looking to get a rise out of me, I wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction. He laughed quietly at the frustrated look on my face. “You look beautiful, who managed you into a dress. If I recall correctly I could never get you into a gown. It took brute force, no?” I smiled, I had the perfect line:
“Well darling, one thing you must understand about me is it’s not whose forcing me into the dress; it’s who’s taking me out of it at the end of the night.” I caught him completely off guard; I took his hand off my hip and strode off the dance floor. Nathan followed me as I made a beeline for the terrace. I looked out over the terrace; I was once again trapped in this wasteland. As I rested I briefly drifted back to my adventures on the Mandarin.
“Who is he?” Nathan asked, wrapping a shawl around my shoulders. A pompous, arrogant jerk, the man I….
“No one, at least no one important.”
“Not more important than me?”
“If he was I’d be marrying him and not you” I reassured him. He sighed and I heard his footsteps retreat into the ballroom. I bent down and took my stiff satin slippers off my swollen feet. I stood back up and closed my eyes, I suddenly felt completely at peace. I leant back and let myself sink into the warm body behind me.
“Tell me again how madly in love with Nathan you are.” I sucked forwards and turned around, there he was; standing there looking smug as ever.
“Leave.” I demanded, my heartbeat soaring.
“You’re coming with me.” He whispered
I walked into my room, my gown violently sweeping across the floor. I had left Teagan after he suggested we run away together, he said I wasn’t safe. As if he ever looked out for anyone but number one. I grabbed my robe off the back of the chair by the fire and walked into my closet. I changed out of my god-awful gown and put on a pair of linen shorts Nathan had brought back from Zanzibar. I fingered the golden embroidery as I pondered my vast selections of tunics. A large thud shook me out of fashion show mode and I poked my head out of the closet. A fire had been lit and my copy of Kabbraj: A Journey of Faith was lying on the ground next to its place on my bedside table. I don’t know if you are familiar with the Kabbraj, if not, then you must know it is a very dense book.
“I see you haven’t changed at all.” I felt a cross feeling rumble in my gut. He was so bland in his efforts to insult me that the simplicity almost hurt more than the insult itself. “You are coming with me.” He said bluntly. I crossed my arms and shook my head.
“I am not, I am engaged to a perfect man and I have a perfect house and we will have a perfect life. As far as I’m concerned a Mandarin is just a small orange!” I said, my blood had begun to boil and the argument had not even reached its climax yet.
“Oh, well excuse me for interrupting your childish fantasy! You and your perfect fiancé and your perfect house and your perfect life are nothing Cheshire! Nothing!” He yelled, he flexed the muscles in his chin and furrowed his brow.
“No! You are nothing! You and your low life scum bag friends, you go from port to port drinking and stealing! And then when I need you most you send your invalid deck swabber to save me!” I clenched my fists, Teagan’s eyes became cloudy and his posture changed from cool and in control to flustered and angry, Teagan never got flustered.
“If you remembered the whole story, Cheshire, love; I came as soon as I could.” I scoffed “And besides, you weren’t exactly unhappy to see me.” He finished smugly; he had regained control of the situation, and managed to bring up my undeniable lust for him. It was lust; I refused to believe it was love. I was in love with Nathan, plain and simple.
“It was the adrenaline rush!” I yelled back
“You didn’t know what adrenaline was before I found you, you were a spoiled, obnoxious, rebellious lady in waiting who had never even walked off the path in the garden!” he yelled.
“Well at least I’m not some low life peasant farm boy with the family name Tulliver!” I yelled, I knew I had struck a nerve when he raised his hand and brought it down swiftly upon my cheek. I yelped and grabbed my cheek. The wild stinging brought tears to my eyes. My knees buckled and I fell; through squinted eyes I saw Teagan walk into out of view. I staggered onto my feet and walked over to the mirror, a purple blotch was beginning to form along my cheekbone. In the mirror I saw Teagan emerge from my closet with a tapestry bag, and my new tartan coat. I looked at him and he turned away; I hoped he was sick to his stomach looking at the bruise.
“Cheshire” he began “I’ve packed your things, I hope you understand the need to pack light. I’m not bringing anything.” He paused and took a step towards me “I packed you pants, a shirt, my favorite pair of underwear and shoes. I still have some of your things on the Mandy.” I turned around to face him
“Why? Why now?” I begged, he pulled my new coat off his arm and walked towards me. He slung the warm fabric loosely over my shoulders and fastened the buttons.
“Anything else?” he asked. I glanced at my mounds of jewelry. Priceless diamonds and rubies, emeralds and pearls, all of them gifts from Nathan.
“No, I’ll be back soon anyway.” I said confidently, surely Teagan was exaggerating.
Teagan and I slunk behind a tree; I was short of breath and almost doubled over with a stitch. I leaned against the tree and took a deep breath. Teagan pulled my hat down over my eyes and scooped me up like a rag doll. We set off, presumably for the docks where the Mandarin was docked.
“Aye, Teagan, another ‘n?” said a scraggly, old voice hooted, it was familiar though. “ey, wait a minute. At’s ‘er innit, Cheshire, Ey, boys Cheshire’s back!” I opened my eyes and lifted my head slightly. Ernie the invalid was sitting on the side of the boat, a beer stein in each hand. One by one the crew peered over the side of the Mandarin. They exchanged looks and whispers.
Teagan set me down and I walked forwards a few steps with Teagan right behind me, we boarded the ship and I greeted the crew: my savior, Invalid Ernie, Sam and Sal the twins with a penchant for all the pyro; Talon, a former medicine man, Petey a plain ol’ drunk, but an all around damn hand, Barnacle the technician, Gordon and Sheppard the two oldest members of the crew, Manny an immigrant from who knows where, Willie the youngest and my best friend, he had grown into such a……and then there was Skee, the three legged African dog named for the high pitched ‘skeeeee’ noise he made instead of barking.
Teagan rested his hand on my stomach; he was always dominant, but especially in front of the crew, and, I imagine especially since Willie had grown up. Teagan led me past the crew and down to the captain’s quarters, the ship had become remarkably run down since my departure. I walked straight to the closet and pulled down a shirt “If you insist I stay here, then you must know that will be sharing your clothing.” Teagan stood behind me and stared at me as I discarded my tartan. I slipped into his shirt and buttoned it up to the point of decency. Teagan pulled my hair down from its party knot; he re-fastened it loosely with a leather cord.
A gunshot rang out, and soon after there was yelling and the thundering of feet.
“Stay.” Teagan commanded, he grabbed a pistol from a peg on the wall and ran out of the room. In a rush of excitement I ran after him. On the deck it was mayhem, I dove behind a barrel, as a hail of bullets came my way.
“Cease fire!” an all too familiar voice bellowed, as the crewmen ran pell mell around me to set sail I looked at the dock. The ramp was just about swallowed by the dark sea and Petey was resting a saw against the railing. Nathan was standing there with his acquaintances, looking hopelessly confused.
“Is this what you want?” I looked away, Teagan standing leisurely at the helm and was staring intently, pretending his future happiness depended on whether or not I stayed. I looked back at Nathan and took a deep breath.
“Nathan.” He nodded
“You drowned then?”
“Christian, darling, when you love someone as much as I love you, you are willing to let them go so that they will be happy.” A tear slid down my cheek as the ship lurched away. “I love you, and will be with you always.”
“Come in?” I entered slowly; Teagan was lounging on his bed, eating a slab of meat. He set the plate on the floor and motioned for me to come over to him. I walked over, and sat on the floor, eyeing what was left of his dinner. “Hungry?” I nodded vigorously; I picked up his plate and began shoveling food in my mouth as fast as possible. “Cheshire?” Teagan whispered, I looked up “did, are you and Nathan…?”
“No, never.” I said quickly “I’ll always be yours.” I assured him.
“Kiss me,” he sat up and put his hand out “love?” I sat down next to him and leant in. I let him kiss me slowly, his lips expertly maneuvered over all of my exposed skin. He brought the both of us down and proceeded to dominate. He began to nip at my lip; I gave in and opened my mouth. He willingly deepened the kiss, his hands began to wander, but like a policeman on patrol they were strong and in control. Slowly we both undressed and we both became sticky and hot. I pushed away and looked at him, his fingers lingering on my skin. And then he pounced, kissing furiously, to which I simply had to oblige. I opened my legs and he hastily entered. Our kissing set the rhythm of the rest of the symphony, fast and deep. I began to gasp, my breath coming shorter and quicker, the building sensation was finally too much to bear and I released. Shortly after, Teagan’s rhythm became erratic and clumsy and he released as well. He fell down, but caught himself with his elbows. He kissed me again and flicked his sweaty hair out of his eyes. His hand traced my face carefully, as though I might break if he pressed too hard.