“You stay put, Eddy, you understand? No matter what you might hear, you stay hidden in this spot until we return. Do you hear me, Eddy?”
I shook my head and clutched at the soft fabric of his coat. “No, father, please don’t leave me. You won’t come back!”
I dropped his arm in horror as my father’s face morphed into the grinning visage of Captain Jericho. “You’re a big girl, Eddy, it’s time for you to let go of daddy now.”
My mouth fell open in a piercing scream, and slowly I became aware of Jacer shaking me awake.
“Edwina, please stop screaming. What can I do to make it better?”
I pushed myself away from him and made a calculated effort to steady my breathing. What a terrible dream! I had the same nightmare practically every time I closed my eyes, why had it suddenly changed? Why Jericho’s face of all people?
The blatant concern in Jacer’s voice is what ultimately calmed me down. I studied the lines of concern etched into his face just as surely as he was looking over mine. There was something different in the way he was assessing me, some warmth emanating from within.
“I’m fine, Jacer,” I said, running my fingertips along the smooth skin of his jaw that felt so much like my own. “I just had a little nightmare that’s all. I only wish our dear Captain would have refrained from making an appearance.”
Jacer shifted uncomfortably and struggled to maintain eye contact with me. Things just kept getting curiouser and curiouser.
“I tried to keep to myself but I couldn’t refrain from noticing the captain and Aster spending time alone together during the night. He gave her a flying lesson and he even…well he kissed her cheek and I’m positive that is a courting ritual in most cultures.”
My chest tightened uncomfortably at his words and I put my face in my hands. I had heard stories from the other women my age of having their hearts broken by men and being betrayed by their own friends but had no personal experience in the matter. I hadn’t many “friends” to speak of and I didn’t often let men get close enough to have any emotional effect on me, whether positive or negative. This just sort of snuck up on me, and I didn’t like it one bit.
A sob escaped my mouth and startled me so much that I started to laugh.
“It’s true that emotions are new to me, but even I don’t believe that was an appropriate response,” said Jacer in alarm.
I looked up at him with a smile and wiped away the tears that had fallen. “I’m sorry, Jacer. It’s just that every now and then I get a silly notion that I can lead a regular life. As if I can meet a man, fall in love, get married and raise babies. But then something always happens to bring me back to the reality that I can’t. I mean, I have a family to put back together, a war to wage, and…several scientific discoveries yet to be made. What sort man would want a woman with so much on her plate? No decent, respectable man, of course. Hell, not even a pirate. I am curious, though, why you felt the need to tell me.”
“It seems as though I am constantly aware of situations that will cause you not only physical harm, but emotional as well. It has been apparent to me for some time that you have romantic feelings towards Captain Jericho.”
I felt myself blush straight down to my toes and looked away. “More often than not, Jacer, romantic feelings are completely useless. I’m putting a lid on the part of me that is romantically concerned with Jericho.”
Jacer grabbed my shoulders softly and forced me to look at him. “Everything I’ve felt since I’ve been awake, even the emotions that don’t feel good, I can tell that they matter. They are the essence of what makes one human, and that’s something we should both cherish.”
The smile on his face, the very human smile, was so contagious that soon we were both laughing. “Thank you, Jacer.” I threw my arms around his neck and was relieved to feel him return my hug.
“You are welcome. Now get dressed so that we can all have breakfast together.”
As much as I dreaded sitting at a table with Aster and Jericho together, I threw on the most ravishing dress I could find and actually took the time to work some magic with my hair and a little rouge. Making my way to the Captain’s table I noticed Jericho’s eyes light up as he stood upon my arrival.
“Well now, it seems that a night of well-mannered frivolity does you incredible justice, Miss Edwina,” he said, gesturing for me to have a seat.
“Thank you, Captain, I’m surprised I was able to erase the dark circles under my eyes considering how badly I slept.”
“Why didn’t you sleep well?” asked Aster, pouring me a cup of tea.
“You know I’m not sure, I think maybe because I wasn’t expecting the Heliopause to be in flight last night.”
Aster almost dropped the kettle in her hands, and her eyes grew wide as she met mine. “Eddy, I--”
I held a hand up to silence her. “You and I are practically sisters, united by a common loss. I’ve given you a home, and every courtesy that society deems you unworthy of because I find you to be worthy. All I have ever asked is that you give me the same courtesies in return, and that you respect my feelings—no matter how silly you apparently find them to be. Tell me honestly, am I asking too much?”
“Of course not, Eddy, I am sorry.” Aster looked thoroughly chastened. “I’ll try my best to stay out of it from now on.”
“Oh no, I’m sending that ship out to sea. It’s not a good ride for either one of us,” I said winking, and taking a sip of my tea.
Aster blushed and buried herself in her own cup. Jericho was looking at us both in complete confusion, which for some reason was causing Jacer a great deal of amusement. It was good to know that his smile wasn’t a temporary thing.
“Right, well if we’re all done with this intensely cryptic conversation, I’d like to make an announcement,” said Jericho, shaking his head. “The worst of the damage has been repaired but I don’t want to be completely airborne yet without the Heliopause looking her absolute best so I’m going to visit a friend of mine who helped me upgrade her. He lives in Luxor and that’s a good day’s travel from here. Am I right in presuming that you three are interested in accompanying me?”