Ray slowly rolled from the hammock
so that she didn't wake the Captain. It was hard to tell the
time and it was even harder for her to admit to herself that
last night was the best night of sleep she had since she had
been on the ship. Even though there were days that she was
exhausted from all of her duties, she still hadn't slept well.
The slightest sound would wake her and Nick's snoring would
send her back to sleep.
Sneaking back to the galley she found Nick cleaning after
the first meal. "I missed the first meal?" Ray pulled
a piece of bacon from the tray.
"Aye, you did. Sleep well?"
Nick questioned her.
Ray noted the tone in Nick's voice;
it was usually reserved for her when he was perturbed at her.
"I didn't mean to," Ray stuttered back not wanting
to upset him anymore. Walking towards him she laid one of
her hands on his arm. "I couldn't tell what time it was."
"Help me clean up after you have eaten something and
we'll get ready for the day. I need to start on the Captain's
"Yes sir," Ray's mouth
had now awaken and met up with the rest of her body. Nick's
eye narrowed at her. Grabbing the soapy rag, he tossed it
in her face.
Ray sputtered, and yelled at him.
"What's all the commotion in my galley?" Kevin entered
Ray turned to look at him in horror,
"He hit me with that dirty rag."
Kevin suppressed the smile. It seemed the little one had some
anger going on already this morning. His eyes shifted to Nick
seeking a silent explanation.
Nick shrugged and smiled.
"You were late serving the
morning meal and he had to cook and serve. Nick should have
done much worse to you. Now, where is my meal?" Kevin
sat down at the huge galley table. Ray's mouth hung open as
she stared at Kevin and Nick's laughter filled the air. Kevin
was smiling at her.
"Close your mouth boy, you
got what you deserved. Now, my breakfast, I won't ask again.
We need to discuss a few things so neither of you disappear
while I eat."
Nick frowned, beyond last night
he couldn't think of anything he had done to get yelled at.
When Kevin spoke in the manner that he was now, it was an
indication that he was displeased but not overly upset.
Ray sulked around the kitchen as
she prepared a simple meal of eggs for him, along with what
was left of the morning meal.
Most Captains would balk, but not
Kevin. He would not waste food stores. His food was plated
and set in front of him. Grabbing his fork, he waved it in
the air, "Sit, both of you."
Ray sat down hard, causing the chair
to thump back. Nick sat down even harder and groaned loudly
as he stuffed his hands in his pockets and waited.
Kevin shook his head and rolled his
eyes. "You two are very much alike." Kevin ate a
forkful of eggs. "So much alike that there are going
to be some changes." He watched both of them perk up
a bit. "Nick, you are almost a man and have learned much,
Nick groaned loudly as he looked at Kevin.
Kevin set his fork down, "I
said you were a man. Do you have to whine like a child?"
"I wasn't whining," came out of Nick in a whiney
Ray laughed aloud and covered her mouth.
Kevin turned and winked at her as Nick pouted at her. "I
wasn't whining," Nick boomed.
"Fine Nickolas you weren't whining, now back to what
I was saying. Ray, you can read, but do you know mathematics?"
Ray was nervous on the inside, he
knew she had the ability to read, which was very uncommon
for a woman that came from a lower station.
"Ray?" Kevin asked again as his eyebrows formed
Nick was nervous; he was sweating as he sat in the chair.
"Yes Captain, I can."
"Good, now after Brian enlightened me last night, there
will be some changes in your duties, both of you."
"I get Quartermaster?" Nick was animated as he practically
jumped out of the chair.
Kevin closed his eyes and shook his head, "No you get
to play keeper when I'm not."
Nick stopped "Huh?"
"Pardon me?" Ray looked at Kevin.
Kevin thought about the angle he
would take with this ever since he had spoken to Brian last
night. He had wanted to be nice about this and hoped that
Ray would be interested but he could tell that this was not
going to be the case. "After the evening meal, you both
will be spending time with me
"I did that already," Nick spit out quickly and
full of anger.
"I really don't
" Ray interrupted Nick.
"Yes Nickolas you did that already. Do you remember the
last journey that I had you chart to Barbados?"
Nick face flamed red at the reminder. "It was an accident."
"An accident that would have sent us to Spain,"
Kevin chuckled as he ate. "The intention here is for
Ray to learn and you to brush up on your skills and that is
all. Nick you are a natural and I would like Ray to learn
as much as possible."
"From you?" Ray hissed.
Kevin was now amused; the boy had
fire and passion that ran deep. "Yes from me. But also
from Brian, A.J., Howie, and the rest of the crew. Shamus
will be helping out in here to lighten the load and you will
be a little more available to do what I want you to do."
Ray's head swam; the words jumped around in her head. Instead
of distancing herself from Kevin and his commanders, she was
being thrown right in with them. "Where did you get the
idea that I needed to learn more? I know how to read and do
mathematics. I don't need to study"
Now Kevin needed a few minutes to
think. Another piece of the puzzle fell into place. This boy
was not from the docks. Before he had stated that he had worked
in the palace with his uncle. It was plausible but he doubted
it. "Brian thinks that my problem is that I have no children.
I've always wanted children, even after Isabella died. Then
I found Nick, Nick has grown up. I need another son."
"Shit," flew out of Nick's
mouth. He hadn't heard Kevin bring Isabella up to anyone outside
of their circle for a very long time. Ray must be invoking
some type of paternal instinct in Kevin. This had been what
Brian wanted to tell him last night but he couldn't. Nick's
stomach rolled with the ship as he thought about what would
happen if Kevin found out Ray was a woman and that he had
helped. There would be nothing paternal about how Kevin would
Ray stood up and slammed the chair under the table. "I
am not your son, nor will I ever be. It's time you knew the
"Please Ray," Kevin nodded.
Ray's gaze fell on Nick. His face was ashen and he indeed
was afraid, now was not the time to confess the truth of her
gender to Kevin.
Kevin looked at Nick and caught the look on his face. There
was something going on between the two and Nick was confirming
it as he nervously licked his lips.
"I know mathematics, reading,
and I can keep books. I didn't want to hide it from you but
I was afraid of you." Ray let tears slide down her face
for effect, even though they were as false as the words she
had just spoke. Yes she could do all of these skills but only
because it was expected of her by Edmund. She had to have
a full account of everything in the kitchen. For years she
had found her own ways to keep track of things in an unconventional
manner until Edmund finally sat her down and began to teach
her. Someday she would thank the old curmudgeon for doing
it. Not many women were educated and she was thankful that
she was. Thinking she had talked her way out of the situation,
she looked at Nick, anger was written all over his face.
Nick wanted to stop her but he couldn't
without having Kevin get suspicious. Ray was now telling another
lie. It was becoming lie upon lie to bail herself out and
there would be no way to backtrack on them to support any
of them. How were they going to keep all the stories straight?
He hoped and prayed that she wasn't lying about being schooled
because if she was, Kevin would make her life a living hell.
There were times that Kevin would forsake insubordination
and attitude for camaraderie with his direct friends. He didn't
think Ray was included in the direct friends circle.
"In that case, it should be
easy for you." Kevin pushed the plate towards her. "Clean
up this galley and get on deck for lesson one. The book learning
will wait until the evenings then. Just you and I. Right now,
you're going to learn to be a sailor, one with scruples who
doesn't lie and deceive to get on board a ship without signing
any articles. One who doesn't take advantage of my friends."
The entire time he spoke his words Kevin became angrier and
angrier. The little waif had been deceiving them all along.
It wasn't like he hadn't known it. It was bothering him more
that the boy had confirmed it without one ounce of remorse.
"I'll correct that chit's attitude," Kevin mumbled
as he walked up the galley stairs, his boots pounding into
the steps. He headed right for the Quarterdeck, where Brian
and A.J. were standing and shouting orders to the crew below.