Hey Guys and Gals, I've completed this story for submission in a contest and will probably only look it over carefully once more before submitting it. But like always, my goal isn't really just a good story, but it's impact. Please, I'd like to know what you think of it. If you spot some grammar issues, please let me know! But not in the comment section, I ask you shoot me an email :D
If you wondering about the title it's some of the words from Chris Tomlin's song, I will Follow.
The wind whirled and tugged at her hair; tangling itself up in her skirts flipping them away and back as it raced away. The skirts’ dull green color with a white apron on top blew like an invisible tide with the ebb and flow of breeze. It framed her petite body and complimented her dark sparkling eyes and open innocent face. A salty breeze wrinkled her nose and clung to her face, but its’ smell went unnoticed by the silent watcher. “Oh Hannah, why must he go to sea?” she said forlornly. The surroundings echoed her words. The rocky jetty she stood perched on hung over the roaring water. It’s base reaching down to the sand and waves. The black rocks stood stained green with algae, coloring it like the grassy hill that stood behind it.The lush hill stood empty and deserted in the dreary weather.
“Because, Miss Lizzy we must eat and he must work. Simple as that.”
“Don’t call me that” she said with a hard edge in her voice.
“Call you what my dear?” the older woman said and shivered in the breeze. “It’s not right to stand out here in the weather, you’ll catch your death of cold if I don’t miss my guess.” Her purple dress contained an ample figure and the white muff cap blown to her neck did nothing to cover her salt and pepper curls.
“Don’t call my Lizzy. That is what Papa called me. And he’s out in the weather. Should he be inside Hannah? Is he going to catch his death of cold?”
“Oh tut tut Elizabeth Gale” the older woman clucked. “Your father will not catch his death of cold, not if that great warm seaman’s coat your mum made him still holds the heat. And last I checked it did. Now do come inside. Tisn’t right to stand out here in just your dress and apron! I can’t imagine what your mother’d say if she knew you was out here in this gale soaking like a wet cat….”
“Hannah, she knows and she sent you out here. Don’t deny it, I know it’s true. She’s just as worried as I am but at least I don’t pretend to hide it. Something’s wrong out there..I can feel it.”
She spoke softly but passion laced the words.
“Is it wrong to be worried about my only father somewhere at sea, and to worry about his safety? Should I not worry about it and just let him drown, without a soul in the world caring? Is that what I should do Hannah?”
“I shouldn’t wonder you’re so overwrought. You’re needing some hot tea and that’ll make you right as ra-- “
“I am not overwrought.”
“Yes deary, of course you’re not overwrought. I only meant. That some tea--”
“You meant I was overwrought. You can say it. Mother thinks so too. At least I have you two to worry about me. If you had your way no one would worry about father.”
“Oh you know that’s not so Liz—Elizabeth. We do worry but some of us have the decency to worry inside, out of sight of the neighbors and gawkers! And for shame! Talking to your elders this way, why your father would whip you for sure if he heard you speaking to your maid, dear Hannah that way! All I do is work day in and day out at the house for your poor mother wearing my hands to a frazzle! And here you are raising your voice to me. All I mean is goodness to you and see how it’s repaid. Wouldn’t do for you to catch a cold. Now for goodness sake child! Come inside now and get warm. I’ll fix you a nice cup of melted chocol—“
“No Hannah” Elizabeth said gently, “I’m not going to go inside. I’m not a child. I believe I have the strength to stand in the weather a few hours for my father. Now please, don’t try to convince me otherwise. It will just make us both madder than—“
She paused looking up at the grey drizzle hitting the rocky outcropping.
“Wet hens, and we’re quite wet already!” Elizabeth’s forced laugh was soft and swept away by the wind, but she hoped her maid believed its’ forced levity.
“Oh, well then, if sense won’t bid ye to come inside then perhaps some warm wraps will keep you from dying of cold yet. I’ll just go and fetch them myself.”
“Thank you Hannah” came the warm reply, “I wish—I wish I could know you longer.”
“What are you saying now?” Came the confused retort from the elderly maid.
“Why deary, you will know me longer. Hehe! Why if you believe all that philosophizing and thinking you do then we’ve know each other longer even now!” She laughed surprised at her own cleverness, twasn’t often she matched tit for tat with Lizzy.
“You’re quite right Hannah. Now don’t keep the young Miss Gale waiting. You’ll have purgatory to pay for it.” She gave a stern look then winked and the nurse laughed at her attempt of sharpness.
“I won’t! No miss I won’t keep you waiting, heaven help me!”
She scurried off into the gloom clutching her billowing skirt in one hand. Her other futilely trying to keep the rain from wetting her hair.
Hannah’s saying came unbidden to mind, “wet hair is bad luck in a dry house, bound to bring a leaky roof!” Elizabeth smiled sadly. All the years of wearing things properly and primly, always wearing a bonnet in the sun, what was it for now?
“Oh come quickly death. Do not delay.” She said the words loudly, as if trying to force them onto the forces of nature.
Her head was quickly becoming soaked in the wet breeze and light rain shower as was the rest of her body. But she knew the nurse would never return in time. Why wait? After all, once you were dead why would it matter if you died with a coat or without one?
Slowly she picked her way down the face of the rocks. A small worn trail slick with slime led to the bottom of the outcropping. The waves beat upon the jetty’s base with fury unabated in the face of her simple course. Only a thin sand strip separated her from the raging water as she neared the bottom. Looking up she saw the black mass standing like a towering lighthouse without a light.
“Papa your dead, I know you are. Why did you have to go to sea again? Why papa…? I know you’re gone, I can feel it in my bones. I’ve known for days but they won’t listen.”
She choked on the words and shuddered. She would have never expected it to end like this. Always before she had known it was just fear, fear of the unknown. But this time it was so real, it was real. Somewhere in the water her father’s body lay floating face down, or ripped into bloody shards by sharks who didn’t care the identity of the carcass. The thought violated her sense of right and wrong and sorrow and despair turned to anger.
“Why did you allow it!” she said shouting with her might into the wind.
Church was a must at the Gale household. You did not miss a Sunday unless death’s door was your bed, and only then. She had even wondered if perhaps there was something there to be found, a truth in the weathered black bound calfskin bible—until Papa’s last voyage.
“I nearly believed you truly cared! Now I see the truth, you don’t care, he’s dead and—I’m—I’m.”
The words wouldn’t come as she jumped lightly off the last of the rocky path and onto the hard packed sand. Already as she strode forward the waves beat at her ankles like monsters reaching for her. She would give herself soon enough, it wasn’t quite time. Not time yet… That’s what mother had told her when she asked why Papa wasn’t back. “It’s not time for him to be back. It could be a few more days yet before I’d worry.” The words were convincing enough but Elizabeth knew her mother was worried. The lines around her eyes and circles beneath them belied her statement. Her mother was strong, something she wasn’t.
She strode out deeper into the waves. Their crushing embrace reached up to her waste and threatened to carry to her shoulders. You’re so eager aren’t you. You don’t care about who you hurt. But at least you’re not hiding something. You know what your meaning in life is to take and to kill. I don’t. On the outside I look like the others but they don’t fear like I do. I don’t understand how to stop. The fear is only gone when Papa is here and he’s gone forever, I just know it.
“I’m ready, you can take me now!” She said screaming at the water.
Wave after wave hit her waist threatening to pull her down but still she stayed upright.
“I’m here for you, but I won’t go without a fight. My father never would!” She imagined him slowly releasing his hold on a board floating in the ocean, hypothermia setting in.
Even the waves fail in their job to deliver me from the fear.
She strode out deeper into the water up to her chest, her light frame was easily picked up and carried in the wave, first into the shallow water. But she knew it would only be a matter of time before it truly pulled her under and out. After all, she was born at the sea. She knew its tricks. With a few more steps she was back in the deep water
A wave drew near growing white and frothy on the top while receding at the base. She knew.
It’s time. I have no one to help me, even if I wanted to stop I couldn’t.
Like a barrel rolling downhill the wave picked up speed cresting as it reached her position poised to grab her in its deadly caress to erase her existence like snuffing a candle.
She looked up into the mouth of the wave in defiance. You can only have me because I let you. She knew it wasn’t really true, but she needed to try to believe it. As it neared, from the corner of her eye she saw it, a ship, it’s midnight blue flag flying high on the mast, a sight familiar to her eyes. They surveyed the rigging and mast-- no flag symbolizing a death hung.
Papa—he’s..home—alive. I was wrong.
The wave over took her small frame picking it up one second then throwing her under water, like a bull first impaling a helpless matador then trampling him under foot. Her body was thrust into the watery vice and the air in her lungs quickly squeezed out in her lungs. A silent scream echoed from her mouth into the watery grave as the tide pulled her back into the water. God help me.
She tried to cry out, even though she knew it was hopeless but blackness overtook her vision. And replacing her vision an overwhelming sorrow permeated her mind.
With a start she jerked upright in the sand.
“Wh-?” she managed then collapsed back on the sand exhausted.
Her lungs sucked in the air groping for its life giving sustenance. Quickly she patted her hands over her prone body,
“I’m—“ gulp for air. “Alive! Oh God I’m alive!” She rejoiced and tears poured down her face as the sobs wracked her body. For the second time that day tears poured down her face, but this time in joy. She blinked rapidly trying to clear her watery vision. She should be dead. Who had saved her? She whipped her head around, but no off duty sailor stood smiling or fretting maid wringing out a wet dress. She was too far from the water to have had the waves do the job. At best they would have left her in the shallows. She lay on the sand strip near where she had first entered the water. Finally she spied some hint of her rescuer, large footprints trekked up to where she lay in the sand. Obviously her rescuer had made the prints. The water and sand quickly began filling them in. Trembling she forced herself into a sitting position and looked for their source. They led straight out of the water to her. She inhaled sharply and gasped, dumbfounded. Her rescue…. from Him. He had heard her call out. Someone who had walked right out of the ocean, or at least hadn’t walked up on the sand. Words echoed in her mind from a voice not hers but with strangely familiar words.
I look unto the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord. The Maker of heaven and earth.
The warm voiced caressed her and gave her strength. He who had saved her, what did they call Him sometimes? The Savior of the world. Her lips moved in a silent thanks to her savior. As she opened her eyes again after a moment of basking in the warmth of the voice a new thought shot into her mind:Papa!! With a squeal of joy she lurched unsteadily to her feet and started up the rocky out cropping. It seemed so much faster on the way up, her steps were unsteady as her tired legs protested the journey, but filled with joy. Reaching the top she forced herself into a run. She had to see Papa to tell him! But first, she had a stop to make. Perhaps—the church did hold something after all for her. And Hannah? Well, she would have to find out whether wet hair, always brought leaky roofs.