Mmm, you can really tell this is a first draft with this installment. It’s glaring and makes me grit my teeth, but where’s the learning if you can’t see the messes, right? I never promised it would be a great first draft! (Is there such a beast?)
Sharna’s transition should be visible, not an off-hand backstory. But, no matter how many times I tried to write the necessary chapter, it wouldn’t come out of me.
So, I did what writers do. I wrote what I had, shook my fist, and whispered, “I’ll fix it in the edits.”
Being in the belly of the ship was like being in an attic. Jackie could forget the heaving gray water and the never-ending sky, but not her protesting stomach. She could almost imagine she was seven again hiding from her mother. Except, now she was hiding from Hugo.
“You’ll have to face him eventually,” said Sharna. “Why not pay up and get it over with?”
“I don’t owe him money. He owes me, actually.”
“Then why are you sneaking around like a thief?” Sharna guffawed at her own joke and slapped her thigh. She grinned at Jackie. “Get it?”
“Mm, yes. Hilarious. I’m sneaking around because every time he sees me, he insists on playing again. The man’s appetite for cards is insatiable, and he’s going to keep losing until he owes me so much that he gets ashamed or angry, and then we won’t be friends!” She took a deep breath to recover the long one she’d just lost.
Sharna shrugged. “Don’t play for money, then. Play for fun! Or let him win.”
Was she serious?
Uh, yeah. Thanks, grandma. This is why we don’t invite you to play, you know.”
“Are you sure that’s why you’re hiding in here? I’ve noticed how he laughs at your awful jokes.”
Jackie scowled. “Why are you hiding in here? Shouldn’t you be on deck practicing yelling at sailors?” She regretted the jab as soon as the words left her lips. Sharna had a new glow, and it wasn’t from the sea air. Now, she deflated at Jackie’s teasing.
“I didn’t mean to do it,” said Sharna.
Jackie didn’t laugh, even though she wanted to every time she remembered the incident.
Melody the Mage was an act that required an almost constant level of stress and outrage to work, but work it did. Sharna used the facade as a distraction from her anxieties. The entitlement of a conservative, stuck-up Mage allowed Sharna to unleash her power.
Nex, one of the crew hired for the excursion, had made the mistake of bumping into her while running to secure the bitter end of a loose rope. She had fallen hard on her ass, and Melody had commanded him to ‘get the hell off the boat’.
Birdie had had to rewrite his contract to convince him to board again after finding himself marching against his will down the loading ramp. Secrecy was part of the project, and they didn’t need a disgruntled squib jawing around the docks about a Mage abusing hard-working men.
“It’s because I was tired,” Sharna explained.
Jackie nodded. “Uh-huh. I’m sure Nex understands that.” She tried to keep a straight face.
“He said he wasn’t mad once I apologized.”
“I know. I’m sure he meant it, too.” She hid a smile behind a fan of cards, then peeked at Sharna over the edges with wide, innocent eyes. “Remember that displeasure tomorrow when we anchor. You’re going to need it.”
Sharna chewed her lip and then stood to stretch. “I’m going to go yell at things on deck.”
Jackie thought that was a brilliant idea. Since her arm and ribs had healed, she’d taken up many of her old habits. The ship was a great place to practice sneaking, climbing, and pilfering. Hugo saw what she was doing, but never interfered, and he did laugh at her dumb jokes. But, she had a goal no amount of flirting would change. She decided she’d stay right where she was until tomorrow morning when she planned to change her life forever.
(Thanks for reading!)