Penultimate – the last but one
This is the penultimate post in my experiment with writing an entire first draft in public.
I read on the twitters today that whistling in a theater is considered good luck because sailors were often employed as stagehands. They whistled to communicate, and their whistles kept the actors safe from poorly-handled sets. If/When I edit this draft, I’m definitely adding that to The Rags details!
Hugo squinted up at the Stalk hanging from the sky. “Where’s your other half?”
Jackie wiped her hands on her hips. “Good to see you too, Hugo.”
He climbed out of the hatch and spread his hands as if approaching a wild animal. “Now, you know I’m glad to see you, Jackie. But, coming back without your partner smells funny.”
“You trusted me enough to lose money to my cards. Next thing you’ll be asking me to empty my pockets!”
“Well, now that you mention it —”
She cocked an eyebrow at the bouncer. “We really going to do this?”
He stepped forward to gingerly punch her shoulder. “Ah, I’m only teasing you. Welcome back! Seriously, though. Where’s the Mage?”
Jackie relaxed and smiled up at him. His forehead was sunburnt, and he smelled like alcohol. “Pour me a drink, let me sit down, and I’ll tell you the whole story. Wanna play cards?”
The belowdecks were cramped, but tidy. They got cozy around a table, and Hugo dealt cards and gin before Jackie explained everything. Well, most everything.
She pulled out a pinch of seeds the color of their drinks from her breast pocket. “Birdie can go straight to Diddle or sell herself. Either way, she’s got a fortune, even if it wasn’t quite the kind of income we were expecting. Once she gets her cut, I’m out. I’ve got a few promises to keep.” She tapped the table, and Hugo slid her a card.
“You really going to sail around the world with Lily Quee? She’s a helluva dinner companion, Jackie. I spent time with her a few evenings, and while she’s entertaining, I can’t imagine sharing time on the sea.” He gestured at the tiny quarters.
“Are you trying to talk me out of my happily ever after?” Jackie was already nervous about balancing her relationship with Ty and the new job. She hoped by buying out Lily’s contract, he’d be grateful enough to allow a delay on their planned voyage. She didn’t relish telling him she couldn’t leave yet. Lily’s act was valuable; he could just as easily leave Jackie behind.
Hugo grinned. “Nah. Just trying to get you to consider alternatives.”
Jackie swallowed the last of her gin. With clenched teeth, she dropped her winning hand on the table. “You ever learn to beat me at cards, and I’ll consider you for a promotion.”
(See you next week for the FINAL installment!)