"Mama…" She whispered, beginning to whimper softly as I pulled her into my arms. She curled against my chest, shivering and shaking, like a scared kitten.
"Where is your Mama?" I asked, fearful of the answer that I already knew.
"A man came…he took her. They held me back so I couldn't go to her and she couldn't get to me. Please take me to her, I didn't do anything wrong…Mama was crying and I heard the gun."
DeFranco, gun…my mind was spinning at the thought of Sophia dead. I swayed on my feet, sinking down to the ground, the child still in my arms, quivering. "Shh, you did nothing wrong, Adrienne."
She looked up at me, her eyes a reflection of my own, "Then, why did they take her? Did Mama do something?"
I fought the urge to say yes, yes, she loved me and that was her only mistake. But instead, I tried to smile reassuringly, "No, darling, your Mama did nothing wrong. She was an angel."
Tears spilled from her eyes at the world angel, "I want my Mama."
"I know, shh." I pushed a few away with my thumbs, wishing I could do more. All I could do was protect her now after her mother had been ripped away. By that bastard…I would have his blood on my hands before I died, I swore silently. She was still shaking.
"Shh, baby." I whispered, "Shh, child." I didn't know any sweet words to comfort her. What could I possibly say? I was a stranger to her, a strange man that had brought danger and hurt to her world. Thank God, she was too distraught now to fight me, to question me, to…think. I frowned at the thought and stood. I had to get her back to the ship. I could think on the ship, settle everything out and send men in search of DeFranco.
Sophia…dead. I closed my eyes against the sight of her mangled body and stood up, my child in my arms. We walked out of the house. It would be the last time she saw it.
Adrienne: Eight Years Old
"Mama." I woke up, whispering her name over and over again. I looked around, desperately searching for the warmth and love I had once known. I saw nothing, but wooden walls. I sat up, pushing a blanket off of my legs and looking frightened around the cabin. Where was I?
"MAMA!" I screamed, running to the door only to find that it was locked. I pounded my small fists on the door. "MAMA!" Could no one hear me? Couldn't she hear me? Where was she? Where was I?
The door clicked open and I stumbled backwards, afraid at who would enter. It was not the man that my mother had called Christopher, instead a large dark man with a concerned look on his face. He was three times my height, with wide shoulders and a baldhead. I shrank back, my heart pounding in my chest.
He kneeled down to be almost level with me, "Adrienne? That's your name, isn't it? Adrienne, don't worry, child, I won't hurt you."
"Do you promise?" I asked.
"I promise, child. Do not be afraid. The Captain will be back soon." His voice was booming, yet soft, strangely comforting. His eyes were dark, but softened as they gazed at me. I had no idea what he was seeing, besides a dark little girl in a dirty white dress, with a yellow ribbon falling from a black braid.
"Captain?" I asked, confused. I felt my nose wrinkling.
"Captain Andrews." He offered, as if I should know this name more than the last.
Nose still wrinkled.
"The man…" I muttered, "Why did he take me here? Where am I?"
"On the Sophia's Love," He answered automatically.
My mama's name, I winced, feeling sick again. "My mama is Sophia, why did he take me? I want to go to my Mama, the men took her and I'm scared and I'm…" I realized what I just said. I had admitted being scared, "I'm not scared." I sniffed, suddenly, as if trying to prove it to myself.
He tilted his head at me as if judging my character.
I tilted my chin in the air, "I'm a Machado, we don't get scared." I explained seriously.
He nodded, "Ah. Adrienne Machado."
"Adrienne Cristal Sophia Machado." I recited and he broke out in a white smile, rows of beautiful teeth gleaming at me.
I smiled meekly, almost feeling better with my last name supporting me. Machado…an undeniable force that held me up when I was scared. I looked at the ebony man in front of me, "Como te llamas?" I asked, slipping into Spanish.
He understood with a nod, "Jeremy."
"Truly, my little Senorita. Truly."
"Do you know Spanish?" I questioned him with a suspicious glint in my eyes. He saw it…
"Un poco." He grinned again. "Are you hungry?"
"Si." I pressed a hand to my stomach. "Si."
"Come here then, I will find you something to eat." He held out a giant hand to me and I took it without fear, something about this man told me that I would be safe and he led me out to the deck of the ship…Sophia's Love.