"You know what? I have had it. I've had it with this life, this world, with everything. " She mumbled to herself, as she stormed into the one-third living room, one-third kitchen and one-third dining area of her pocket-sized trash heap of an apartment.
With a huff of indignation, she threw her purse on the old second hand split pea green couch an old friend had found at a yard sale for her. In less than five seconds, she walked from one end of her apartment to the other, while her hair swung around her face in an angry black mass.
She huffed and puffed some more, before throwing herself face down on her tiny twin sized bed, fully dressed. "Ah... What a day!" A harsh groan sank into her pale pink silk pillow, from pent-up emotions and a huge measure of too many frustrations. After a minute of self-pity, she climbed out of bed and changed out of her ugly tan polyester work dress into a comfortable pair of black stretchy denim jeans, with her favorite cotton t-shirt, which had been her favorite for years. The shirt was an old, slightly faded Ozzy Osbourne concert tee. It was black, white and proclaimed 'We sold our soul for Rock & Roll'.
The relief she felt when the offending dress had been cast aside was tremendous. The dress was tight and represented a job she hated. Against her own wishes, she worked as a junior secretary in one of the hundreds of unimportant business in computer sales.
Her boss was a sexist pig and made all the girls wear these horrible dresses to keep them in line or so he said. The dresses were too tight, to short and ugly as old dried up hay. Her boss thought they were tasteful and kept his male customers coming back for more.
With more than a small collection of aggression she pulled on a pair of black lace up combat boots, that her friends always said were only good for one thing, if she were to use them to stomp poop and that was if they wanted to be nice about it. Great friends, hum?
Almost sadly, she wondered through her apartment past a table with peeled plain brown paint around her TV, which had blown up last week. She grabbed her purse from beside the old faded lavender chair that looked as if it might fall apart at any moment and snagged her keys from the unsightly pink plastic key holder by the door, before she let herself out, locking the door behind her more from habit than the thought of actually owning something worth stealing.
Today had been almost the worst day of Melanie's life, hell it had been the worst couple of days. It had been bad, but she had seen worse in her young life. Monday, her boss had yelled at her for being two minutes late. Tuesday, she had left her purse at home and ran out of gas on the way home from work, forcing her to walk two miles to the nearest gas station, in high heels no less. Wednesday, nothing had wanted to go right, from spilling coffee all over her and having to have her work dress dry-cleaned, to breaking the heel off her last pair of high heels. Then last night she had the date from hell.
A guy from work, Bernie had been hounding her to go out with him for a month, so finally she broke down and said she would go. He was a sweet guy and he wasn't bad to look at. He was a great co-worker, easy to work with. Bernie even seemed rather sensitive. But then appearances can be very deceiving. Their date had been an excruciating nightmare.
Bernie picked her up at seven, opened her car door for her and acted like the perfect gentleman all through dinner. Next, they went to the movies and as soon as the lights went down, Melanie felt hands all over her. She was shocked and more than a little upset, but nicely asked Bernie to remove his hands.
Without the least bit of morality, he made it quite clear he had taken her out, bought her dinner and took her to a movie, so it was her responsibility to put out. Then to worsen the situation, he pulled the old "put out" or "get out" and she had walked home, in the pouring rain, with no cab in sight.
"Sorry good for nothing..." Melanie hissed. "Why he believed I was nothing better than a strumpet was, I'll never know. But I'm sure not making that mistake again. The nerve of that man, 'I bought you dinner, now put out.' The audacity of some people, I swear."
Then that very morning, life had taken yet another plunge on the down side. On the way to work a man had ran a red light and plowed into the side of her. Her car was totaled, the insurance company was not paying for damages, because the man's insurance had been canceled two days before and after all that, she was two hours late for work. A very nice and understanding cop dropped her off at work. It was getting close to lunchtime and she was sure her boss would be in a bad mood again. Shaking with tension and nerves already way to jittery, she rushed in to explain what had happened that morning to him.
Being the oh so wonderful man she knew he was, he listened patiently and nodded a few times before saying. "Women drivers. Baby, you should have been watching what you were doing, then the accident would never have happened and you wouldn't have been late for work."
Melanie had held her breath, trying her best to hold back her temper. Then the incredible man had dropped the bomb. The bottom line was that she was late and he believed it was her fault, so she was fired.
"Women drivers my butt." Melanie mumbled, as she stumbled down the street toward the near by bar and grill, now car-less and in need of a strong drink, she caught quite a few strange looks from people on the street around her.
Huffing, puffing and cursing quite a bit under her breath she walked down the street, until she reached the corner and had to stop for the red light at the crosswalk. Traffic didn't seem as bad as it usually was on a Friday night, but she waited patiently anyway. With endless time to spare, now that she had no job to go along with her already developed no life, she glanced up and smiled at the sky. For once she could see all the stars shinning down on her brightly, which was a rarity in the city. A grin slid across her face as she spotted the North Star and for one moment pretended she was a child again and made a wish.
"I wish I could meet a man like the ones I have read about in books, a true southern gentleman, a Lord or a Duke." She laughed, then mumbled, "Maybe a sexy pirate."
Despite the odds and bad luck she just wanted to meet a decent guy, who was sweet and sensitive, yet who was wild and daring. All she wanted was to be able to look at a man who wasn't sex starved and half-crazed. Knowing there sure weren't any men left in the world like that, she shook her head. All the good men must have died along with the pirate era. But wouldn't it be great to actually meet a man like that.
As her mind kept wondering around that, she stepped into the street thinking plenty of time had went by, so the light must have changed by then. Melanie heard someone yell her name and she turned to look and saw the headlights bearing down on her. There wasn't time to think, to act or to even move, so she just closed her eyes.
All she could see was a bright blinding white light, and> then there was nothing.
Melanie regained conciseness to the sound of birds lovingly chirping away and the crisp leaves rustling above her head. With a groan she opened her eyes and looked around, to find herself in a small barren dirt field. Huge green trees surrounded the field. It was no longer night, but day and if the height of the sun meant anything, it was probably around midday.
Melanie heaved herself to her feet and wiped dirt off her back, then picked leaves out of her hair. Checking carefully with a steady gaze down at herself, she couldn't find a scratch or bruise on her body. Cautiously she wondered through the palace of trees and found what appeared to be a deserted dirt road. There wasn't much of a choice, just north or south, so she picked a direction and started trudging on. What ever had happened to her she knew she wasn't in the city any more and saying she was in the country was a major understatement. It was more like she was in the back of beyond.
The only thing she remembered was leaving her apartment, then stopping at the crosswalk and making her silly little wish. After that, everything was a blur. There was no use worrying over it now though, so she kept walking.
On either side of the road were woods, which just gave the impression the forest was getting thicker the longer she walked. She marched on for hours, with the sun beating down on her mercilessly. She was hot, tired and worried. She hadn't seen another living soul since she had woken alone and it was starting to upset her badly. Usually she was a loner, but at the moment seeing another person wouldn't hurt.
Feeling like you were the last person on Earth had a way of doing that to a person. After what felt like an eternity, Melanie heard something coming down the road behind her. Her heart gave a little leap of joy and she turned around, with a huge smile plastered on her face. Her mouth fell open in utter amazement at what she saw before her.
Coming toward her was an old-fashioned horse drawn carriage and a full one at that, with a closed in box for the actual carriage. It was black and red, with gold fixtures and was drawn by four matching black Arabian horses, which were absolutely breathtaking.
Melanie waved franticly trying to get the black driver's attention. The older gentleman flew closer and closer, but didn't seem to pay her the least bit of attention. Not only did it look as if he was of a mind to not stop, but he seemed to gain speed by the second. Leaning toward urgency rather more than good sense, she stood in the middle of the road and waved as they came even closer toward her position.
The driver began to yell at the top of his lungs and pumped his fists in the air. "Move woman, get out of the road or I'm gonna run ya down. I can't be stoppin now. There some folks ah chasin us."
Melanie leaped out of the road to plop on her butt in a batch of dusty weeds at the side. A woman's blond, golden head popped out of the little square window and she mouthed the words, "I'm sorry," silently as the carriage flew by.
The carriage was quickly out of sight, yet Melanie continued to stare in the direction motionless, where it had disappeared. She sighed in aspiration, knowing her only form of help had refused to even stop. A loud groan whooshed from her chest as she once again pulled herself from the ground and wiped her clothing off. Then slowly she restarted her journey in the same direction that the carriage had taken.
Yet now she was filled with hope of finding a town and real people in it. The road looked endless to Melanie and she thought of just giving up and just falling down somewhere to sleep off her misery and disappointment. Her legs ached and her stomach was growling, while at the same time she wondered when she had eaten last. On her way home from that awful job she had been fired from she had eating lunch and she hadn't found the time to eat again since then. So, how long ago was that? Maybe twenty-four hours?
Through sheer determination she forced herself to keep going, picking up one leg after the other. No matter how bad things got she wasn't a quitter and she refused to let the situation get the better of her. But wouldn't a lot of people want to give up in this situation. Not only not knowing where she was, but also having to push themselves through a walk that might be never ending.
Then she heard the unmistakable sound of approaching horses' hooves as they pounded on the hard packed dirt ground. With a wide grateful smile on her face, she turned around, then wished she hadn't of wasted her time. Two big men where riding toward her and they didn't look very friendly. She glanced at the woods behind her but knew she would never make it, so she stood her ground, looking confident, yet trembling in her combat boots.
The two men jerked their horses to a stop in front of her> and glared down at her. In an instant she easily pegged them as sailors, disgusting ones that hadn't seen neither bath nor a hairbrush in their lives. The scent of their bodies pounded down on her in nauseating waves, which sent her stomach rebelling.
They had tattoos from shoulder to ankle from what she could> tell. They looked like they had slept in their clothes for a month and they both reeked of dried up fish. One of the men smiled down at her, showing off the hole where he was missing his two front teeth, before he spit chewing tobacco on the ground a few inches from Melanie's feet. "Looky here Georgey. We done found> us a stray woman."
The man who must have been Georgey, grinned wickedly at Melanie, while looking her over provocatively, making her stomach roll even more. "This gives me the perfect idea Bo. The blond lady is probably a long way ahead of us by now. Why don't we take Cap'n this one instead?"
"Cap'n said he wanted the other one. I don't think he will like this much and I don't wanta get on the Devil Lorgan's bad side if you know what I mean."
The first man said. "If we go back empty handed he ain't goin be happy either. If we bring him her, then at least we got him a woman. One woman is as good as another." as he watched her closely and she knew if she tried to run he would be on her in a second.
"Well if Cap'n ain't happy, then I'm goin to say this was all your idea and I didn't like it none." Bo mumbled pitifully and Melanie almost felt sorry for him, except the fact remained that, they were sitting there discussing kidnapping her.
Georgey reached down and grabbed Melanie. Running on pure instinct, she kicked him and scratched her nails down his arm, making him howl in outrage. Refusing to let her win their struggle, he reached back and slapped her as hard as he could, knocking her backwards. Next, he pulled her up in front of him on his saddle and turned the horse around. Then, he tied her hands to his saddle horn and took off, with a complaining Bo right on his heels.
The half-wild horse reared up and joggled them both in the saddle, before settling back down enough for them to move. Georgey aimed them in the opposite direction, where she had been walking from all day, drawing a groan from Melanie. Between the smell of the two men, the horses and the rocking> motion as they road on, Melanie's stomach gave in and she hurled up what little bit was left in the deepest pits of her stomach.
"Dang girl, give a man some warnin. If you need to do that again, let me know and I'll stop for Christ sake." Georgey growled at her.
After and hour and a half of hard traveling, plus having to stop twice so Melanie could empty out her now hollow stomach, they arrived in a small seaside town. The smell of salt and fish combined in the air making it thick, almost choking her.
It was pitch dark by then and she was beyond exhausted. Through half opened eyes she could barely make out tiny, strange lights in passing windows. The clump, clump of the horses' hooves changed to a heaver sound as if they were walking across huge flat stones.
They stopped in front of an old brick building, that might have been grey, but with the lateness of the hour looked coal black. The building had a wooden sign over the tall front door that proclaimed itself, 'White St. Inn.'
Georgey climbed off his horse, beside his friend Bo and carried her inside the long building. Just barely through her clouded mind, Melanie heard low mumbled voices, and then felt the blissfulness of a soft bed underneath her aching body.
With an arm that felt more like lead, than flesh and bone, she reached out, with her eyes still tightly closed and simply said, "Food."
Georgey pulled her hand away and said, "Don't worry missy. I'll send a servant into feed and change ya. But don't ya go gettin no ideas; I'm goin leave one ah my men guardin ya door. So don't even think about tryin to get outta here."
A small hand on her shoulder and a tiny voice woke her some time later. "Ma'am, I've brought you some food." Melanie blinked and looked up at the very young woman standing in front of her. The girl couldn't be more than fourteen or fifteen for goodness sake. There were laws against this sort of thing. Melanie thought weakly. "Do you work here or do your parents own this place?"
As Melanie sat up, the girl handed her a tray filled with strange pasty looking food, but Melanie didn't care, she felt like she was starving. "My master and mistress own the Inn. I work for them."
Throat closed and eyes watering, Melanie chocked on a piece of hard crunchy bread. "Master? Mistress? How old are you?"
The girl rung her hands, and then lit an extra candle. "I'm fifteen Ma'am."
She smiled sweetly, "I'm a bonded servant. My father sold me, as a worker to the Inn for three years to help out our family."
Bonded servant, a slave? What in the world? Melanie thought, then seeing the candle she asked, "Power out?"
By the tiny candle's light Melanie could just catch the girl's expression as she flushed pink in confusion, "Power out, what ever do you mean?"
Melanie laid her tray on a near by table, picked up a candle of her own and started a total search of the walls for a light switch. After searching every inch of the room, she found not one anywhere and started muttering to herself further confusing the poor girl who stood by watching her.
Melanie climbed back in the small bed and took her tray from the table. Her mind wondered over all the possibilities that could explain her circumstances as she absentmindedly started back eating, while the girl walked around the room, checking everything to make sure of Melanie's comfort.
"I hear you are planning on marrying our local Captain Lorgan."
Melanie chuckled sarcastically, "Yeah that is what I keep hearing too. Oh... what is the name of this town?"
The girl handed a huge white night gown, made in a strange design, which would easily cover her from her chin to well past her toes and answered, while her hands busily moved.
"You can wear this for tonight. Captain Lorgan left word that he would send clothes for your wedding tomorrow. The name of the town is New Bedford and.... ah... If you don't mind me asking Ma'am, what is your name? No one seems to want to say."
Melanie grinned back at the shy girl and said, "I'm Melanie Wilson. What about you, what is your name?"
Once again as if it were more habit than conscious thought, the girl blushed, "I'm Lilly, Lilly Parker."
"Lilly, that is a very pretty name. So Lilly, do you mind telling me everything you know about this Captain Lorgan?"
Melanie patted the side of the bed next to her, but the other girl would not sit until Melanie pulled her down beside her. "You haven't met Captain Lorgan yet?"
Melanie shook her head and the girl nodded in understanding, "So this is an arranged marriage then. I didn't think a man like that would have to go through an arranged marriage. I'm sure tons of women throw themselves at his feet where ever he goes."
Melanie shrugged. "I have no clue. What is he like? I know he is a sea captain and some of the men that work for him could use a very good bath with lots of soap, but that is as far as my Captain Lorgan knowledge stretches."
Lilly giggled, then blushed from what little Melanie could see in the candlelight, "Some people believe that Captain Lorgan is a pirate and from what I have overheard from conversations, people call him the Devil Lorgan. I could see him being a pirate and a feared one, one that little girls would dream of growing up and marrying. He is dark and dangerous, with a temper I've heard no one wants to stoke."
"And," Melanie asked, intrigued now, "I hear an and coming Lilly."
Lilly grinned, "And he is absolutely the most beautiful man I have ever seen. He has long hair, as bright and as shinny as the sun and gorgeous blue-green eyes with gold flecks in them. He is a superb piece of male flesh."
Lilly turned bright red and looked down at her hands, "I'm sorry. I shouldn't be talking in such a way. You must think me the worst form of life, talking about> your betrothed in such a way."
Melanie patted her arm. "No Lilly, I don't think that. In fact, you have helped me out a lot. At least I know what to expect now, that's something I guess."
Lilly stood up and made her way to the door. "I'll leave you now. You'll need your rest for your meeting with Captain Lorgan tomorrow morning."
Melanie waved to her retreating back, "Night Lilly."
"Good night Melanie,"
As she walked out of the room, probably thinking what an odd creature Melanie was.
* * * *
Across town in a small brick house, Captain Nero Lorgan sat> behind his desk in his comfy study. With fire bursting forth from his eyes he looked from Georgey to Bo, who had just arrived to tell of their success.
"You are back so you must have captured Miss Grant and dropped her at the Inn for the night as you were ordered to do."
Bo looked at Georgey pointedly and Georgey tried to explain. "Her driver was to smart and to fast. We couldn't keep up with them. So no we didn't get ahold of Miss Grant."
Nero sat up in his chair and slightly leaned over the desk to glare at the two men. "Let me get this straight, you let her driver whisk her away, without continuing the chase? Then instead you come back here empty handed?"
Georgey shifted uncomfortably in his chair and Bo shot him an evil look, making him sputter, "No Cap'n, we didn't continue the chase, but we didn't come back empty handed either."
Bo shrunk down in his chair, as the captain was sure hatred> was sure to have written across his face. "It was his fault Cap'n. He said it would be okay, but I didn't> like it none and I told him so."
Nero held up a hand to silence Bo. "What do you mean> you didn't come back empty handed?"
Georgey squeaked as Nero's hand shot out swiftly and> grabbed the front of his shirt in a tight grasp. "Well you see Cap'n, we was chasen after Miss Grant, until we almost ran over this woman in the middle of the road. I figured there won't no way we could catch Miss Grant and you said you needed a wife. Then here was this little purdy thing looking lost and frightened. I just thought one woman is as good as another."
Nero groaned and released Georgey, "Ok so where is this woman now?"
Georgey sat up in his chair, with a grin. "We done went and left her at the Inn like you told us. We got her a room and fed her."
Georgey looked down at his hands for a moment, not being able to take more of Nero's angry stare. "She looked like she could use a little meat on her bones. We told the Innkeeper everything you told us too and made sure they knew the girl was to stay put for the time being."
Nero ran a hand over his rough stubbly chin. "Ok, you two messed up quite badly. So I'll have to see what I can do. I'll go see the girl you found tomorrow and see if I can fix this mess, the two of you have gotten me into. You will both go with me to apologize to this woman, and then you see that you get out of there as soon as humanly possible. You aren't known for making mistakes Georgey, so I'll fix this one. However, there had better not, ever, be any more mistakes again. Do you both understand?"
"Yes Cap'n," They said together in respect.
"Good... Now do either of you think I can pay her off? Or is there something else you think I could do to keep her from going to the authorities, other than kill her? I really don't need murder hanging over my head as well as kidnapping."
Georgey folded a leg over his knee and tapped it thoughtfully. "Well Cap'n, them little dressy things you were gonna give Miss Grant might help. This woman was wearin some of the strangest men's britches I ever saw and this little top, which couldn't be more than a corset without strings. Even her boots looked like small men's farm boots. God awful things too."
Obviously, Georgey had never seen a t-shirt before nor was he used to seeing a woman walk around with out loads of clothes covering their bodies.
Nero nodded, "Anything else?"
Georgey looked at Bo and shrugged, before looking back to Nero. "Well Cap'n if you want my honest opinion, I think you might want to take a good look at that little bird. If I won't married, I might go chasen after her myself. She sure is somethin nice to look at."
Nero faked a smile, "I'll keep that in mind. If that is it, I'll see you 'gentlemen' in the> morning."
Moreover, he made sure his meaning was known and they couldn't mistake themselves for anything close to gentlemen.