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I opened my eyes strangling a gasp as I sat up I covered my heart with my hands. I took a couple of deep breaths as I looked around the crow’s nest. I swallowed hard standing slowly. I glanced at how the moonlight glistened against my pale skin. I steadied myself by wrapping my fingers around the weathered wood letting out a slow breath. There was nothing more beautiful than seeing the stars and moon dancing across the blackness of night and water.
“Good morning, Josephine,” a familiar voice said softly above me. I glanced up at the young man. I didn’t like how he tangled his legs around the ropes to remain steady as he looked out in the darkness with his spyglass.
“Good evening, Alastair.” I breathed turning my back to him. I fear that he would fall. Each night when I woke it was much the same, he was always there, and always waiting. I peered over the edge at the deck sparsely occupied by the night crew.
“You are up later than usual.” He said disengaging himself from the ropes. He snapped the spyglass closed and jumped into the crow’s nest next to me.
“I guess I am dreaming again.” I muttered pressing my palm against my heart wishing I could feel it pounding.
There was some I leaned forward looking over the edge at the commotion beneath us. I let out a frustrated breath as I stepped back from the edge. I glanced at Alastair standing next to me but peering over the edge of the crow’s nest. I was tempted to reach out to him fearing he would lean to far. I had to remind myself he was no longer a boy.
“It seems the Cap’n is dreaming again too.” He muttered letting out a slow breath. “I look forward to this time of night.” He said softly looking at me with a sincere smile.
“Alastair I shouldn’t be here.” I frowned at him with frustration. He was truly happy I was there I could see it in his dark eyes as he looked up at the moon. He muttered a word of thanks before looking at me. I had watched him grow from a boy under the care of my brother to the man that stood before me. I came the first time to comfort his fears and loneliness. Now looking at the man he had become frightened me. His tender gaze should be directed toward a woman of flesh and bone, not me. I did not like the way he looked at me with a tenderness that should belong to another. “Don’t do this.” I breathed as he reached forward. I dropped my head as his fingertips came close to my face, but he could only touch air and space.
He let out a slow breath, “Just once,” he whispered. “I would like to touch you.”
“You can’t.” I looking at him furiously.
He dropped his hand to his side and gave a nod as his shoulders hunched forward slightly. “You are my only friend Josephine.” his words were barely above a whisper.
“Alastair, that is not true.” I clinched my fists in frustration. I knew he had friends, but at night he was alone on purpose because of me. I looked at him trying to suppress my frustration, but he knew I was angry, I could see it in his eyes before he turned from me.
“I’m sorry.” he muttered.
I let out a breath as I looked at him. I had never met a more handsome man in all my life, and it shamed me, that I could no longer look at him as that timid ship’s boy of ten years ago. “Please don’t.” I looked at how the moonlight shown through his shirt and how his body was perfect masculinity. I turned my back quickly to him fighting the urge to hold him.
I could not stop thinking of how the moonlight shimmered sliver streaks in his dark brown hair, or how perfectly he was built. He had seen so much in his youth, so much more than I could possibly imagine, and it wasn’t fair that I kept coming to him.
“Are you upset Josephine?” He said softly as he moved next to me gripping the edge of the banister.
I turned looking into his eyes. Another startling thing about him was his eyes, dark with a hint of green, but it was clear his eyes belonged to that of an old soul. The moonlight put silver streaks in his dark brown hair, and his face and body were youthful, but his eyes belonged to an old soul.
“I am not upset Alastair,” my voice broke into a thousand pieces with my heart.
“Do you miss life?” he looked at me with uncertainty.
“I miss several things.” I looked down at the dress he had bought me with his first wages. The moment I touched it the beautiful blue and silver dress faded to gray and white. Though it was still very beautiful even faded and it fit as if it were made for me.
“Would you like a new dress, Josephine?” he said softly.
I shook my head quickly. “No.”
He gave a reluctant nod. “In two days we’ll be at port, the Cap’n gave me leave. My family lives there, Josephine.” He looked away from me nervously and I wasn’t sure if he was nervous because he was going or because he was telling me.
“You should see your family.” I said softly and gently set my hand on his shoulder. It was strange how I could feel his warmth but it was then that I remembered how cold I was, and how I ached to be warm again. He did not look as he reached back timidly bringing his fingertips against the back of my hand.
“Why can I touch you when I don’t look?” He whispered as his hand covered mine.
“I don’t know, Alastair.” I slowly pulled my hand from his touch and stepped away from him. “Are you upset?”
He made a snorting sound as he faced me crossing his arms. “I want to be with you.” He muttered.
If I could I was certain I would have flushed at his boldness. It was rare that he would confess such things, unless he was drunk, and he didn’t seem that way. I leaned forward searching the deck for something to distract him with. I didn’t know what to do. I felt a jumble of anxious feelings as he stepped closer to me.
“Josephine, if I die, can I be with you?” he said softly as he gripped the bannister of the crow’s nest.
I put myself quickly between him and the ledge. I pressed my hands against his chest and I watched as the crystals forming on his shirt around my touch. Feeling his warmth and being so close I felt things that I thought were impossible to feel. I wanted to be kissed. I had never kissed a man before I died. It wasn’t something I would have thought of, because it wasn’t the proper thing a Lady should do.
“Don’t say things like that.” I managed but I was breathless. I pulled my hands away before I could hurt him and held them against my heart. “Please don’t say that, Alastair.”
“Could I then?” he leaned forward slightly. I felt his breath against my face, it was so warm and I felt myself trembling aching for a kiss. “Since I can’t touch you, and you can touch me, would you kiss me?”
I looked up at him in dread and despair. “No.” I wheezed quickly putting distance between us.
“I don’t want to leave when we get to port.” He whispered looking at me with worry.
“Alastair every man needs to get off this godforsaken ship.” I muttered as I paced two steps within the restricted area.
“Josephine, you never get off the ship.” He said softly his eyes reflected the moonlight.
I dropped my head as I let out a slow breath. “You know I can’t.”
“Will you be here when I come back?” He whispered.
I looked at him with uncertainty. I wrapped my arms around myself fighting the feeling of loneliness I would face while he was ashore. “I’ll always be here.” I said softly. "it's my curse."
“Are you here for me, Josephine?” He scratched the back of his head nervously. “I’m sorry for asking.” he turned his back to me.
“I do stay for you Alastair.” I admitted. I looked forward to being with him. I hated when I dreamed though. I remembered too much of what it was like when I was alive. I remembered the pain. “I miss the shore.” I muttered as I looked out across the smooth surface of the water. A perfect marriage of sky and sea.
He stepped closer to me. I could hear his breath more than felt it. I closed my eyes imagining what it would feel like if he could put his arms around me. I hurt knowing that I probably cared for him more than I should. I inhaled slowly savoring his closeness, and his heat. I could tell he was trying to hold me and I imagined what it would be like.
“Your are the most beautiful woman I have ever seen, Josephine,” he breathed softly into my ear. “I don’t want—”
I turned quickly and looked into his eyes. My palms were pressed against his chest, and he shivered. I grimaced as I pulled my hands away quickly, but the ice that remained hurt him. “Alistair,” I gasped bringing my hands to my chest and clutching them tightly together. “I’m sorry.”
He reached forward to take my hands but there was nothing but vapor. “I want to kiss you, Josephine,” he snarled in frustration as he put a distance between us.
I shook my head as I fought to remain. I didn’t want to hide from him. He was the only one I revealed myself to, besides my brother. Everyone else was terrified of old wive’s tales and ghost stories. I didn’t want the crew abandoning ship or my brother.
“Why doesn’t Cap’n leave?”
I shook my head. “He doesn’t want to leave me alone.” I muttered as I looked down at the night crew.
“Josephine, I don’t want to leave you alone.” He said in a hurtful tone.
“Your family is in the next port, you have to see your family Alastair.” I looked at him wanting to be able to cry. He did not understand what it felt like to be left behind. I knew he had four sisters, and a younger brother, but he never talked about them to me, it was only when he would sleep that I would hear them mentioned.
“What if I come back and you’re gone?” He said breathlessly.
“Alastair, you can’t feel like this for me.” I turned my back and snared the rope. I quickly climbed out of the crow’s next and began my assent. He was close behind me but far enough that I didn’t feel overwhelmed. Together we sat on the highest point of the ship looking across the night.
“I’m sorry.” He breathed after a long silence. “I shouldn’t have said that either.”
“No, you shouldn’t have.” I replied wrapping my arms around my knees as I balanced on the beam. I looked out fighting how I felt. I had always been lonely, I was used to being lonely, I hated it, but I was used to it. Now, I craved to be held, and no one on this godforsaken ship could.