“Come back to me Clement Barbeaux,” were the words that rung through his head as the shoreline faded from view.
They were her words, his Felicity. Words that were whispered in his ear after she kissed him and held him close. The words hung around his neck as if it were a necklace, refusing to fade as her arms refused to let him go. He was going out to sea and was not given a date to return, only told, “when the waters are safe.”
Clement was “selected,” as were the rest of the male occupants of Canso older than sixteen, to board the ship Enlightened and defend the Atlantic waters from the increased presence of pirates. Ships from England filled with supplies to further support colonization of the New World were being pillaged. News of the horrors these pirates inflicted on the boarded vessels were discouraging merchants and settlers, so an order was set out to end piracy in the colonies.
Felicity did not want him to go. She asked him to run away with her to another town or live in the woods as the natives do. Clement going out to sea would be the death of them both, she feared. If she lost him she lost herself. She didn’t know how long she could hold her sanity for his return.
“I will, my dear. Don’t you ever fear that. I will,” he kissed her lips in return and moved away from her.
The words she whispered began to fade as the ocean was all he saw for days and weeks. Manning his post with a distracted stare as the sun rose and fell, thinking of when he would see her again. Jumping to action when black flags were spotted in the distance and the canons roared. Crunching of wood as metal tore through the ships echoed as they defended themselves, barely surviving victorious with heavy casualties.
Clement was one of the lucky. He lived through the battle and the tepid celebration as the inexperienced crew mended its heavy wounds. Half the men’s blood were spilled on their first battle and the pirate ship which they defeated was carrying next to nothing. It wasn’t until the next day that they realized it was merely a scout ship, but by then it was too late.
Upon sunrise the second pirate ship nearly on them. The crew of the Enlightened was panicked and frightened, unsure how they would survive another onslaught. Barely a fight was given and they were boarded and captured. Clement heard Felicity’s voice again as the pirate captain gave his captives a choice.
“Two options are left to you, join my crew and keep your lives or see how long you can swim with one arm.”
They all accepted their new roles on the pirate ship and Clement’s stay away from Felicity would not yet be done but as long as he was alive he could still return to her, how ever daunting the task seemed.
Felicity felt the weight as the days passed as well. Maintaining her dedication to Clement she stared out at the ocean beyond the docks daily. She squinted and hoped to see his ship returning to port and bringing her love back. Imagining how she would run into his arms and never let him go again gave her enough strength to make it to the next day, no matter how often she felt deep down that it would be the same as the one before.
Further away the pirate ship sailed from Felicity. The weather changed from a blustery cool bite to a warm, choking smother. Along the way were half a dozen battles, each a victory for Clement’s new purpose in life. As long as the pirate ship won then he would continue on in his desire to return home. If they were defeated and he was captured he would be killed and displayed as an example, no matter if his actions were done by choice or force.
When the ship sailed into port in an exotic town Clement saw his opportunity. The town was bustling with people and many ships with flags from all over. If he could escape the crew and hide until they had left he could wait to find a ship heading back home.
He waited until darkness when the pirates were full on rum and women. Clement slipped down the streets and into the trees among the strange sounds and wildlife that he had never experienced before. The whooping and creaking from the darkness sent shivers down his spine and he wondered which would be worse, the pirate ship or whatever was out there in the night. He held strong and tested his fate, keeping himself awake until dawn.
Fate was finally on his side as the pirate ship sailed away without him on board. As the ship faded into the distance Clement made his way back into the town and offered work where he could see it needed. He became useful enough until a ship with a flag he recognized came to port. The flag he remembered seeing stop in at his home years before his journey started and he thought he might find his way back.
Clement was welcomed aboard and the ship made its way and he could once again hear Felicity’s voice asking him to come back to her. He spoke out into the wind that he was on his way and hoped his words would carry to her. A night spent on the ship would prove his words spoken too soon.
Upon morning a fear so deep would sink into Clement’s stomach that he could not help but lose its contents. The black flags that were descending on his new hope were too familiar and the distance from any shoreline too far to see to even know which way to swim. His ship was boarded and his crew taken hostage. The same offer was made to each of the new crew as was made to the crew of the Enlightened.
When the captain laid eyes on Clement he laughed a deep and hearty laugh. Clement tensed as he felt the closing seconds of his life rapidly approaching. The captain shook his head and gave Clement no further words, leaving him with no task and no harm. The pirate ship took the contents it wanted and sailed on, Clement on board and never more unsure of his fate. But as darkness fell he finally learned it.
Three members of the crew, one he recognized from the Enlightened and his own home had forcefully gathered Clement and brought him to the port side of the ship where the captain met them.
“A pirate doesn’t desert his ship. But a pirate does not spill the blood of another pirate on his ship either. If you want to go so bad that you would be a coward, then you can go.”
With this the captain let out a hearty laugh again and the three men took Clement onto a small boat and rowed it into the darkness. The moon was high and a few hundred feet ahead there was a small island. So small that you could see each tip in the moonlight as the boat approached it. The boat pulled up on a sandbar and the three men shoved Clement out before shoving off again back into the water, all laughing as they rowed back.
Clement called out to them. He begged and pleaded. He knew this tiny island in the middle of nowhere would be his death. Felicity’s voice faded again. The wind would not hear him or carry his pleas. He was silenced by the open sea as the pirate ship faded into the night.
He fell there in the sand and sat through the night. As the sun rose the next day he hung his head and said a prayer. There would be no return to his home and no reuniting with his love. He would whither and die on this cay alone with nobody and nothing to sustain him. In his last moments he thought of his Felicity and his lost possibilities. He should have run away with her, anywhere. He had his love and his life and it is all that he needed. He could have been happy anywhere under any circumstance as long as he had her. But now he was left with nothing but sand and trees and the rest of his life to regret.