The sun was high in the sky when I opened my eyes. I felt the heat burning the back of my neck, the red blush noticeable on my arms. I should have been enjoying my surroundings, the palm trees, white sand, and the sound of birds chirping. I thought of the pink bikini I’d packed, the sunbathing, and the memories we would create. I banished them just as quickly as I sat motionless staring out at the deep blue sea. I always loved the sea, the peace, and the tranquillity it brought. I hadn’t planned on it being the last thing I would see, though. Yesterday was the best day of my life. The perfect wedding, white and luxurious just as we’d planned it. I truly believed that my life was just beginning when we boarded Charles’ yacht with friends and family for our wedding reception. It was everything I’d ever imagined, the sun, the sea, the laughter, the champagne. My lips tilted into a smile as I remembered dancing on the deck, soft, romantic music filling the air and night lanterns setting the tone. I thought of the smiles and memorable moments our photographer captured. I’d never see them now.
How quickly perfection can fade. Just one moment is all it takes and for me, that moment decided to freeze. I was locked inside the trauma. I tried pinching myself awake, convinced I was trapped in a nightmare, suffering from wedding nerves. It happened so many times over the past week, night terrors, screams, sweat dripping, and heart racing, all ending with me bolting upright, at home, in my bed. It didn’t happen this time and as my eyes took in the tattered remains of my Armani wedding dress, I knew this was a nightmare I wasn’t escaping from.
No one ever tells you what happens when a body dies. They don’t tell you about what happens next. I heard death had a distinctive smell, but the putrid rotting that was filling my nostrils was something I could never have prepared myself for. I knew I needed to move, to cover the body, something, but I was paralyzed. I sat holding Charles’ hand. It was so cold now, but I couldn’t move. I couldn’t leave his side. Till death do us part…. the words played on repeat inside my mind, and besides, I promised I would wake him as soon as the rescue party arrived. He was so tired from the swimming and he tried to stay awake. He really did, but sleep took him. I don’t know when death arrived, one minute his chest was heaving in and out, a wheezing sound filling the night. It gave me comfort. I knew he was still with me. I don’t know when I passed out, I just know I did and when I woke there was silence. I tried to wake him, I shook his limp body trying to wake him. But I knew deep down he had lost the battle, so I sat there, holding his hand, praying that I was wrong and he would come back to me. I wouldn’t let my vows go, I wouldn’t.
The sun was getting hotter and I knew my skin was burning, but I didn’t care. We picked the perfect honeymoon location, a small tropical island, secluded, and private. It was just what we needed, two weeks of married bliss wrapped up in our own little bubble. No one would be looking for us, no one. I curled up against Charles and wept. There was nothing for me to do now but wait for death to come and take me too.
My eyes fluttered open. I’d fallen asleep. My legs were sore and aching. I needed to move, to find shade. I looked out to sea once more. My vision was blurred and I knew the sun was starting to get to me. I blinked forcing my focus as a ship came into view. A large schooner was there. I shook my head. I was imagining things. This was the fifth time I had imagined a ship, although nothing like this. Then I saw them, four little boats heading to the shore. I closed my eyes and opened them slowly. It was still there, the ship, and the boats were getting closer. My heart rate increased. The rescue party was here; they were coming to get us.
“Charles, Charles, they’re here, they’re coming, we’re being rescued.”
“Charles,” the word evaporated on the wind and my body crumpled as sobs took over. He wasn’t going to wake up. He wasn’t going to be rescued. I glanced back to the sea and the boats that were getting closer.
“It’s only me,” I whispered.
I kissed Charles on the head, my tears flowing down his face, and I forced myself to move. My body was stiff and didn’t want to cooperate, but I knew I had to be ready to leave my nightmare and begin a new one, life as a widow.
The boats arrived quicker than I thought they would and as I watched, hidden behind the trees, I realized this wasn’t my rescue party. They weren’t looking for me. No, they were here for something else and it had nothing to do with being tourists.
Rough looking bearded men stepped onto the beach. I gasped as I watched numerous sets of strong legs clad in torn trousers step onto the sand. They all had thick long arms and were armed with weapons. Grizzled stubble and lips twisted into sneers and grimaces finished their appearance. I was grateful they didn’t see me. I crept further behind the line of palm trees. It wasn’t a great hiding place, but it was better than nothing. I watched them scan the beach.
“Fucking hell John, what happened here?” “Looks like we missed one hell of a party,” one of them yelled.
I watched them walk towards the scattered wreckage washed up on the shore, stop and then start rummaging through it.
“Ah hell,” I heard another voice coming from my left. “There’s nothing here, just wreckage, must’ve been a fine vessel, though.”
They inspected the broken pieces of our yacht that had washed ashore. I was hidden, they couldn’t see me. I was safe. They walked up and down the beach checking through the remains, picking up bits and pieces and putting them in their pockets.
“Look here, look what I’ve found,” another voice shouted.
I peeped around the tree. One of the men was bent over Charles holding up his grandfather’s gold watch.
“It’s solid gold and look here, a solid gold ring to go with it”
His grin stretched from ear to ear and I snapped. That was my Charles, how dare they.
“Get your hands off him,” I screamed, charging out from behind the trees, toward eight, big burly men staring at me. “You leave him alone do you hear me?”
My tears fell as I raced over to where Charles lay. So, pale and still. I started shaking him. “Baby it’s me, you can wake up now. We’ve been rescued.”
He didn’t move. I kept shaking, and shaking, and shaking, but it wasn’t working.
“Come on now missy, he ain’t gonna wake, he’s gone.”
I heard the voice over my head but I wasn’t listening. My mind was blank. My body was stiff. My hands gripped the collar of Charles shirt as I shook him. He wouldn’t wake. He couldn’t wake. He really had left me. The realization hit me and everything went blank. Nothing worked and nothing was real anymore. Grief took over.
“Come on missy, we’ll take you to the ship. The captain will know what to do.”
I felt hands lift me but I didn’t care. I didn’t care about anything now. Let them take me. Let them do what they like. My life was over.
My eyes opened. My head was pounding and my vision was blurred. I blinked a few times.
“What happened?” My voice was croaky and my throat hurt. I tried to sit up but I was dizzy. I blinked again as my eyes adjusted and I took in my surroundings. I was in a dark wooden room. It was small, dark, and it smelled of damp and sea water. I looked down to find I was in a small bunk bed. The horrible smell was coming from the old woolen blanket that was thrown over me. I threw it to the floor and swung my legs over the side of the bed. My body swayed as I tried to gain my footing. There was a mirror on the far wall. My mind was running in circles. What had happened? Memories of the beach, Charles’ cold, lifeless body, and men.
“Oh fuck, those men. What had they done to me?”
As the reality of my situation dawned I realized the swaying motion wasn’t me. The whole room was moving. I was moving. I was on their ship. I was at sea…. again.
I made my way across to the mirror and braced myself for what I was about to see. I took a deep breath and lifted my head shocked at what was looking back at me. My beautiful dark curls were now matted and a dark red color. I moved it away from my forehead. There was a large gash in my hairline. That was where the blood covering my face must have come from. It was still weeping, but nothing much. I wiped it away with the back of my hand relieved that it didn’t reappear instantly. I knew the cut needed stitches but it was probably too late for that now. The skin was knitting back together. I sighed as peered at the woman reflected in the mirror. My face was unrecognizable. Gone was the beautiful makeup, gone was the stunning bride that greeted me yesterday morning. Instead, I found myself looking into black, desolate eyes. My normal green sparkling eyes had faded, filled with grief. My tanned skin now looked grayish and completed the look of utter bewilderment. I didn’t look like me. I looked…lost.
I noticed a glass of water reflected in the mirror and realized that my throat was on fire. I gulped it down in one but it wasn’t enough. My body was craving more, it needed more. I looked around, I was going to have to leave this room. I was nervous. I didn’t know why. These were my rescuers, the people who had saved me. They were going to help me.
More like captors, my mind screamed as I placed my hand on the door knob. Easing it open, I peered out onto the deck. It was quiet and the moon was high in the sky. Had I slept all day? I examined my surroundings, taking in the ship that had saved me. I could hear the sails flapping and rustling, the mast creaking as the breeze pushed through the sails. The deck was dark, the only light coming from a cabin at the far end. I let my eyes adjust to the darkness while I surveyed everything, and then I saw it. Like a demon, risen high on the mast, the thing of nightmares, of destruction. A large black flag bearing a skull and crossbones. I hadn’t been rescued at all. I had been captured by pirates and I realized in that moment that my life really had ended on the beach with Charles.
Wait a minute, pirates don’t exist, do they? This isn’t real, it can’t be.
I froze, my hand against the wooden door. My body began to shake and my feet felt stuck to the floor. I had no idea what was happening, why I was here, or who these people were.
You have to move, get off this ship.
My body refused to listen. My mind screamed at me to move again and my body came to life. I peered out of the gap in the door once more. The deck looked empty and everything was quiet. I eased myself through the door, pulling it behind me as softly as I could. Not soft enough though because it creaked loudly. Before I could move there was a man in front of me. I swallowed hard as my eyes travelled the length of him. He was tall. Long legs made their way up to a thick middle and strong chest with hair sticking out above the top of his t-shirt. My eyes moved higher and I was greeted with a crooked grin and dark eyes.
“Ah you’re awake, Captain’s waiting to see you, lassie.”
“I…I..” My voice failed me and I started coughing. My throat was burning and I needed water.
“Come on lass, let’s get you to the captain and sort you out with some water. You sound like you could do with some and there’s no telling how long you were out there on that beach.”
Without waiting for me to reply, he clasped his hand around my arm and led me towards the other side of the boat. We stopped in front of a large door and he started banging.
“The lady’s awake captain. Should I bring her in?”
“Aye do Jacobs,” came a voice from behind the door.
My stomach heaved and my legs began to shake as panic took over my body.
“Don’t worry, lass. He doesn’t bite, our captain. He’s quite the ladies’ man, really.”
My captor laughed as he shoved me through the door, shutting it behind me. The force of his push coupled with the fact that my legs weren’t functioning properly landed me face first down on the floor. I raised my head and found myself looking at dark brown boots. A hand was thrust in front of my face followed by a smooth masculine voice.
“Here miss, let me help you to your feet, not gotten your sea legs yet I see.”
I took the large hand and allowed him to help me to my feet and over to a small couch in the center of the room. It was soft and welcoming and I felt my body sink into it. I looked around, taking in my surroundings. I was in a small cabin. There was a wooden desk in front of me, bookshelves to the right, a small round window to the left, and wood everywhere.
“Some water miss?”
His voice brought me out of my daze and I offered my thanks as I took the glass and downed the cool liquid in one. “More,” I said holding out the empty glass.
The fog in my mind started to clear ever so slightly. I was obviously dehydrated. I glanced up at this so-called captain. He wasn’t old, probably mid 30’s with dark hair and a beard. He was well built with muscular arms and shoulders. He wouldn’t be easy to escape from, not in my condition anyway. I felt my shoulders slump. What was the point in even thinking about escaping when I was at sea and god knows where? The shock of it all was taking its toll on me and my body started shaking again. I couldn’t help it, pictures of my wedding, Charles with his piercing blue eyes, our vows, dancing, laughter, and then his cold lifeless body. My throat closed, my breathing heavy as I tried to gain control. I couldn’t do this, not now. I couldn’t fall apart when I didn’t know where I was. I had to concentrate on my escape. I would have plenty of time to fall apart later.
“Miss, your water.”
I took the glass; my hands were shaking. I felt the cool water slip down my throat as I took another long drink. I needed to pull myself together. I lifted my head and looked into the eyes of the man in front of me. He looked confused, his hand gripping his chin as he stared back at me.
“You’re shaking, let me get you a blanket. First time at sea I take it?” he said as he draped a woolen blanket over my shoulders. “Jacobs said you were in a terrible state on the beach, never seen such a good performance before.”
“Performance?” What was he on about?
“Yes, it’s okay miss, there’re no cameras in here. This cabin is off limits. You can drop the act now. Although, I must say I am impressed. Where did they find you? We weren’t expecting it, but that’s the thing with reality shows isn’t it. The producers said there’d be surprises thrown in when we least expected them. That’s why we’re all in character all the time. Except in here though, this is the only room without cameras. The boys only went to the beach to check it out for a scavenger hunt planned for later in the week, the producers must have thought it would be a good way to surprise us. I must say, it worked out really well. Your acting skills are fantastic. Where did you study?”
I had absolutely no idea what this man was going on about. His words swirled around in my brain making no sense at all. Acting, cameras, reality show. This was utter nonsense. What about my Charles? My head was throbbing. Nothing made sense anymore. I couldn’t control the panic that took over. I couldn’t catch my breath, Charles’ face was all I could see. His lifeless blue eyes staring up at me.
“Charles, what did you do with him?” I managed to splutter.
The captain looked at me confused. “Who’s Charles?”
Those two words were all it took for my world to crumble once more. Charles was my everything, my world, and these men, these savages had picked over his body like he was a bounty they were claiming. My Charles lying there on the beach, waiting for me to wake him. I promised I would as soon as I saw the rescue boats. I promised.
I couldn’t hold back the sobs that spilled from my shaking body. My ears started to ring and my vision was blurred. I felt myself slipping away.
“Get a doctor.”
The sound reverberated in my ears as darkness filled the space around me and I let myself go.
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