Simpler Days

Amy Van Dyke

My throat is hoarse. I have screamed at the sea for hours. My universe has become the interior of this meager launch. I have by peculiar happenstance an ample supply of water, a small portion of rum, 2 loaves of drying bread, 1 coconut and a heavy piece of cloth. This was, I have surmised, the private place of some less than social sailor. These provisions have provided me with my greatest fear- that I shall survive.

I still cannot recall the full evening that led to my new residence. Part of me fantasizes that my ship went down in a violent storm. Yet my mind returns again and again with numbing clarity to my tragedy.

We were to greet the new world together. Pressures for marriage became too much for us to continue so near our families ˆ our world really. Even the concept of a 'New World' held such romantic imagery that many of our friends were planning this same journey. I pray that God will grant them a better passage.

We were to dock at Plymouth in spring, another week or so. Lodging had been arranged through promises of work as seamstresses and as we were marriageable women.  By late summer our next journey was to have begun. The Carolinas were our destination. We were to join a group of women who had set up residence in the deep wood. Having found the local people fair and kind. Most importantly unencumbered by the Church.

I do not personally believe Our Savior held any animosity towards women. The Church most definitely does. Were they to know the numbers of women who had found our way surely the Inquisition would once again seek us out.

My Celeste was to have been my rock. For all that we considered ourselves equals I will admit she was my spiritual husband. Her character was of such strength that I often let her take on more of the world's necessities than was fair. Once we were free of the influence of the Church and its minions we had planned to wed. God would surely not deny the joining of two souls in love. Surely.

The days heat has left quickly and I wrap the cloth around myself. I am grateful I am still wearing my winter dress. Its suffocating layers now a comfort to the chill. A silly thing really, Celeste and I would talk for hours about what 'makes' a woman. I would tease her that she preferred women in dresses only because she liked to take them off. It was so easy to tease her, knowing that for each of us there had been no one else. Our love was so comfortable.


It seems even more ridiculous that she is now lost to me because of a dress. She was showing me the breeches she had made herself. She looked so dashing and beyond all consideration of thin walls we began to make love. The New World was so far away and I had not touched her in weeks. Forgive me my love.

I know that they took her from me, she fought. There was cursing and shouting. I saw her fall to the deck. It was only then that I saw the smoke that filled the room. I did not hear the shot in all the shouting. I knew by how she fell that my love was gone, I ran.

Gathering up the impossible hem of this dress and jumping into this very launch. I cut the ropes and held on for the dizzying drop to the ocean. I could hear the shouting on deck. Torches were brought as they tried to find me in the blackness. Slowly the ship pulled away while I heard them screaming to 'Kill the witch.'

I lay in the bottom of the boat and cried.  For all that instinct had bid me live I wanted to die. My love was gone. My life was over.

It was thus that morning found me. I write these words atop some awful poetry I am sure the sailor thought very impressive. Whoever he might have been, I am thankful to him.

While the emptiness of my soul begs to die, I refuse. The dawn and the sea have brought me to the New World. I am hoping since the ship was but a week out of port I may be near the Carolinas. If not I shall get there. I will make Celeste proud. Those men may thank their God I am not a true witch, for my anger alone would see them burn.

The sea delivers me to the beach with such directness that I know I am meant to arrive. The sand stops the boat and I move into the shallow water. The boat is less willing to arrive than I am and remains steadfast in the sand. I pull and pull and it will not move. I steady myself against it, as my skirt grows heavier still with water. Soon I am crying again, sobbing with my forehead against the boat. My eyes shaded from the brightness from the beach.

I am too tired to be startled by the hand that rests itself on my shoulder. I raise my head and focus directly on blue eyes. Something is said, I don't quite follow but the hand motions me to shore. As I make my way I watch the figure easily pull the boat through the sand and onto the shore. I sit uneasily in the sand. My mind is too tired to care that I may be in danger. I looked up again into wonderfully blue eyes then fainted. Not a habit I am proud of but I felt very safe suddenly to allow myself the luxury.

I awoke of all places on horseback. I came to my sense slowly. Hearing the ocean now somewhat distant. I could feel my rescuer behind me and was comforted and confused to find it a woman. Her chest gentle on my back, her arms holding me safely against her. It felt so safe my thoughts returned to Celeste and I began to cry again. The sobbing overtook me and I recall hearing soft reassurances, in English. I lean into her embrace. The horse stops and I feel her get off and pull me into her arms. I know only that I say 'Celeste' repeatedly as my rage and sorrow control me. Her arms are tender and strong about me.


The pain once again grows weary and retreats. I again come to myself in the arms of this woman. I sigh as blue eyes smile at me. "Better?" She asks so simply. I place my hand on her arm, which is still about me.

"Yes" I answer quietly. 'I don't know why but yes.'

The smile that lights her features stills my breath and comforts me as much as her arms. In that smile alone I know she is a good woman. Making no more to release her hold on me she offers her hand.

"Megan Geoffrey" she states. "Meg" Offers it easily. I take her and my eyes are drawn to the simple contact of flesh.

"Brandywine Porter, Brandy.' She smiles at what I know is an unusual name but says nothing. I have often been annoyed that my father chose to pass my mother's labor by drinking that particular beverage; so that when I arrived it rivaled his heart for favorite things in the world. But when she smiled at it, accepting it willingly, I think I enjoyed it truly for the first time.

"Brandy", she repeats as if testing the weight of it.

I could find nothing intelligent to say. I was so tired, my heart ached for Celeste and a new ache had begun. Guilt. I felt such peace with this stranger. Shaking my head to clear it I realized I was frightfully tired, too tired for anything to make sense.

"Where are we going?" I ventured.

"Home." She was definitely not one to waste words. Yet home sounded like a very good idea.



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