2. Jupiter's Return (Page 3)

After Antenor left with the remnants of her bacon and eggs, Hataru attempted to return to the adventure novel she’d borrowed from one of the many bookshelves. Back home, she had often depended on such tales to help her escape into fantasy worlds when her day to day life grew boring and dull; the quests for glory, heroic battles, beguiling knights, and damsels in distress ─ they had always had the ability to lift her spirits, but now these things reminded her much too much of the life she was living now, forcing her to relive vivid memories of the attack. The gunshots in the corridor echoed in her ears. The splintering of the wooden door made her skin crawl. And the whimpers of her dear friend Gilda ─ Oh, Gilda! I hope you’re alright! she thought for the billionth time, feeling helpless.

Irritated, the princess shut the book and returned it to its place on the shelf. Not in the mood to watch clouds changing shape out the window or to take the time to draw another bath, she studied the room’s many peculiar objects, wondering if they could give her any insight to the character of her self-proclaimed guardian, Captain Levi Spry. The books themselves spanned various genres, from non-fiction “How-To’s” to classic fiction to newer, more popular titles that she owned in her own personal library at home. On the wall above the desk hung an ornately framed portrait depicting a man wearing the same hat and crimson jacket as the captain, but the man in the painting was older with white-streaked raven black hair, two deep hazel eyes, and ─ as far as she could tell ─ both of his hands.

“And yet they have the same chin,” the princess muttered.

Beneath the portrait hung a simpler, glassless frame, displaying a child's drawing of three stick figures ─ the tallest drawn in red and the shortest in grey, but the third figure, sketched in black, was curiously scribbled over with firm, intentional lines as if done in a fury. Below that, the desk whispered physical hints of faded wrath-filled emotions in the multiple series of parallel scratches hidden beneath fine ink pens and a large calendar crammed with peculiar dates.

“Cedric’s Birthday ─ Gift: FOOD; Nosa’s Passing ─ Comfort Antenor?” she read aloud as she flipped through the pages. “What in the world? What kind of a pirate keeps records like this?”

Sighing, she turned away from the desk and continued to peruse the shelves like a lost soul searching for the gateway to the next life. Her eyes widened, settling on an unexpectedly commonplace box and a stack of flat, black disks the size of dinner plates, some encased in paper jackets. “How unthinkable…”

Lifting the box by its handle, like those found on luggage cases, Hataru gently set it on the desk. Blowing away a light layer of dust, she clicked the box open to confirm her suspicions ─ the captain owned a record player. Hungrily, the princess snatched up the disks, flipping through them with vigor and scanning the album covers for any titles or images of interest. Classical Symphony, Soul, Country Swing, Rhythm and Blues ─ the selection of music was as vast as the captain’s book collection, and the young woman could not suppress her squeal of delight when she came across a record featuring the snapshot of a vivacious woman posing with a fiddle.

“Lin Stirling's Jazz Dance Electric Violin: Limited Edition!” she screeched, hugging the record to her chest, “I can’t believe it! Even I couldn’t get my hands on one of these!”

Glancing to the left at the portable gramophone, Hataru smiled mischieviously, and in the blink of an eye, the reedy surge of notes encompassed the princess. She breathed them in with deep gulps, allowing the jaunty tune to roll over her body in bodacious waves.

And then, she began to dance.

The End

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