Eve awoke the next morning to the sound of gulls shrieking far above. The footsteps out on deck were slow and heavy; the crew had only just got up. Not long after, Eve, who was still dozing, was jolted out of her sleep by the rattling of the anchor as it was hauled back up. The ship lurched forward, being propelled through the water by the strong, constant wind that had sprung up overnight. The conditions couldn't have been more perfect for sailing. Not that Eve could really tell.
Being stuck down below deck was beginning to take its toll on her. It was one thing to be cooped up all day and all night, but it was another matter entirely when you had the vast expanse of the eastern ocean all around you, its waters teeming with exotic fish and its salty skies so fresh and so liberating. The hold in which she hid was, however, decidedly not liberating. There might as well have been thick iron bars between the walls.
The day passed without event, Eve wasting away the hours by wistfully thinking of Will. She imagined finding him again, imagined the look of elated surprise on his face when he saw her running over to him.
She had heard a lot about the east, and none of the conflicting stories and facts gelled together. Her picture of it, therefore, was an incongruous mess of exotic images. She found herself drifting off to the far east several hours past midday, her infuriating boredom fuelling her imaginings.
The boat came to a slow halt on the calm turquoise sea, pulling up next to a charming, rickety jetty. It was made of a weird type of wood, hard and yet beautiful, with long shoots of yellowing bamboo holding the structure together. Ahead of them lay a vast, impenetrable jungle, its floor a mess of tangled green roots and vines. Eve hopped out and ran to the shade of the thick green canopy, through which barely a speck of light could squeeze.
Moving from tree to tree, she stared in awe at the beautiful scene before her. Shining blue dragonflies darted around the jungle, flitting from one brilliant flower to the next. The place was alive with colour and movement, and everything held a foreign beauty like nothing she had ever seen. She reached out to touch a flower in full bloom, its petals so large and bursting with joyful colours. It was wet.
That was when it started raining. It came light at first, and then, with an almighty clap of thunder, the heavens opened. A droplet of water landed square on Eve's upturned face.
She blinked and shuddered. Groaning, Eve rolled over and sat up. Possibly the most infuriating thing about being trapped down here was the lack of knowledge. She didn't even know what time it was, for goodness sake.
The frustration was brimming over now, and she ran her fingers through her wild locks. Was she going to spend a whole two months like this? She grasped tightly, each firm fist filled with a bundle of hair, and pulled. The pain was excruciating, but it was oddly soothing. It let all of her frustration out.
When she could bare no more, Eve left herself alone. Turning her palms up, she looked down half guiltily at the hundreds of hairs that had been ripped out and now lay on her hands. She shook them all off before lying back down, feeling slightly better.
Eventually, after days, the day was over. The chain of the anchor once again rattled as it plunged down to the sea bed, and the footsteps were once again heavy as the tired crew trudged back to their chambers. A silent half an hour later, and Eve slipped up and onto the deck. Finally, freedom.
She leant over the railings, staring down at the shimmering black waves below, and caught the sight of the silver slither of a fish leaping out into the air. The splash was tiny, but it sent a ripple far and wide across the sea, which had turned still in the still night air.
The rigging in front of her swung around invitingly, and without so much as a glance up, Eve started to climb. She reached the crow's nest in no time, hauling herself over the brim and settling down. The view from up there was spectacularly different from the one at sea level. Even in the darkness she could see for miles around, aided by the near full moon and a host of stars. There wasn't much to see though, just waves, waves, and more waves.
Still, she sat up there for a while. It reminded her of sitting atop the roller coaster with Will, commanding a fantastic view beneath the bright night sky.
Eventually, however, the time came to leave. She took her time on the way down, making sure that she had sure footing before moving an inch. The rigging flowed beneath her as she moved, so it paid to be cautious. It was a relief when her feet finally connected with the floor, and she took a moment to gather her breath and her wits before going back inside.
She tiptoed into the pantry and again took as much as she thought she could get away with, and then a little more. The food wasn't great, but it certainly tasted that way after a whole day without a meal. Even the stale biscuits seemed to melt in her mouth, though in reality they were harder than rocks, and probably less tasteful too.
On as full a stomach as she could hope for as a stowaway, Eve made to leave the pantry for her hiding place, when movement caught her eye. In the doorway ahead of her stood a tall, stooped shadow.
He was bumbling his way inside, apparently half asleep. Still, when he cast his eyes up and noticed the slender figure of a sixteen year old girl, he grasped that something was amiss.
His voice was silenced by, well, by himself. Eve was stating him in the eyes, which by now had glazed over to gray, the pupils tiny black pinpricks. He shuffled on past Eve, muttering to himself.
"Just a dream, Jon, just a dream."
A close call. It was all very well convincing him that he had seen nothing, but had he got a few more syllables out... Eve didn't like to think what might have happened.
Or... Did she?
They had been sailing for two days now, and at full speed too. If she happened to be happened upon, then what would the result be? The men weren't savages, they wouldn't do anything amiss, and they were too far out to turn back. Besides, the wind made that impossible. She'd be made to work, yes, but she'd rather work in the open and absorb all the sights the sea had to offer than be cooped up below all day.
One more day, she decided, just one more day, and she would come forward. What was the worst that could happen?
As it turned out, there was no need to come forward.
Morning came, and with it came the now familiar sounds. The anchor was raised, feet stamped to the kitchen and the out on deck, and the general noises from sailing the ship started up. Only this time, people were in the kitchen for far longer than they should have been.
Eve could hear their voices above her, muffled though they were, and what they were saying didn't bode well.
"...Hell, at this rate we won't have enough food to take us past Africa!"
"Maybe there are rats on board, that would explain it."
The captain's gruff voice rose above all the rest, commanding people to listen.
"Jon, Nick, go down into the hold and look for rats. The rest of you, get to work, and if I find out that someone's been taking more than their fair share..."
Eve sat bolt upright. She was going to be caught. She had wanted to be caught, had resolved to reveal herself only last night, but... Now that the time had come, she suddenly felt a lot less sure about the plan. There was bound to be a punishment, and she couldn't bear being shouted at.
Sure enough, the two men came down into the hold and soon came across her, huddled up in a corner. Nick was shocked, Jon even more so; his dreams were coming true before his eyes.
They didn't know what to say, only stood there for a few seconds staring. Nick ran back up to fetch the captain, leaving Jon to scoop his jaw back off the floor. All the while Eve was shrinking back into her corner, terrified.
"You." The captain had arrived, leaping down the stairs with fire in his eyes. He was pointing at Eve with a blackened and crooked finger, and his mouth curled into a loathing snarl. "Get up."
She stood up at once, not wanting to anger him any further. She tried to speak, but nothing came out.
"What the hell do you think you are doing?! This is my ship, and it is against the law to board without permission! Not to mention all the stealing you've been doing. What do you have to say for yourself?"
He raised an eyebrow and waited while Eve fumbled with apologetic phrases in her head. It took a while.
"I'm sorry, sir. I had to leave London, had to go east. This was the only way."
He looked her up and down. "Ah, one of them are you? By all means, I should take you back, but lost time is lost business. I don't mind your lot anyway, as long as you don't get up to anything fishy. No, we'll head onwards, I'll find a way to make you useful."
"Thank you so much sir! You have no idea how much this means to me!"
The captain tried to hold back a smile. It wasn't in his nature to show much emotion, especially to little girls. "Yes, well you should count yourself lucky. Most people would have shipped you straight off to the board." He nodded at Jon. "Take care of the girl, see that she makes herself useful."
There was an awkward silence while Jon collected his thoughts, but when he finally started to give orders his tone was commanding.
"Wake up at six each morning, breakfast in the kitchen at ten past, then up on deck by half past. Understood?" He didn't even wait for her to answer before continuing. "To start with I want you cleaning. That means scrubbing the decks, making beds, washing clothes. Here." He flung her a wet cloth and handed over a bucket of soapy water. "Get going. I'll be checking up on you, so don't think you can shirk your duties."
Jon hurried off before Eve could even offer a timid nod of understanding, and so she sighed and got to work. Though it was tiring, the job was a welcome break from sitting around all day, and she attacked it with alacrity. The work could have been more interesting, but she honestly didn't care. Anything to take her mind off that excruciating boredom.
It was another hour or so before she moved up to the deck. This was the first time that she had seen the ship alive with activity, and she had her work cut out avoiding the crew, who were rushing back and forth constantly. The hustle and bustle was exhilarating, and she felt full of energy. A couple of crew members looked curiously down at her as they passed, but most of the more experienced hands didn't even spare her a glance; they'd dealt with stowaways before.
One of the younger ones, a lad of about eighteen years, approached her just before mid-day.
"You must be the stowaway. I'm Lewis, nice to meet you." He held out his hand.
Eve shook it, replying in a quiet voice, "I'm Eve. You know, you're the first person who's spoken to me, I mean, without giving me orders or anything."
"Really? That's a shame, I'll introduce you to the other guys later. They're nice people, just... A little intimidating at first."
Eve laughed. "A little? You think?"
"Alright, very. This is only my third voyage, I'm still not entirely comfortable around the bigger ones. You know, the ones who look like they could crush you like they would an ant?"
"I've seen a few. Don't you get all self-pitying though, think what it must be like for me!"
"Yeah, it must be hard, a girl of only... How old are you?"
"A girl of only sixteen, on a boat of burly men. Not to mention that you've just been caught stowing away with us. How did that come about, anyway?"
"I'm a witch. Figured that the best way to travel east was stowing away, and it's worked, hasn't it?"
"I guess so, even if you did get caught. And... Forgive me for sounding a bit stupid, but I've never seen a witch before. What exactly can you do?"
"You don't want to find out," said Eve, wriggling her fingers, "Trust me."
Lewis smiled. "Try me."
Eve stood on tiptoes to stare into his eyes, which were a beautiful shade of turquoise. She found herself lost in them before she knew what had hit her, drowning in their depths.
"Is something supposed to be happening?" Asked Lewis, snapping her out of her reverie.
"Yes, just... Just let me concentrate." Eve replied, flustered.
She got on her tiptoes again, staring once more into those turquoise eyes, but this time she held her focus. Still nothing happened. Pushing harder and harder with her mind, Eve finally felt the resistance break, but Lewis's eyes remained almost completely unchanged. There were specks of that familiar gray dotting their depths, but not the full coverage that she had come to expect.
His movements, too, were unusual. His body shook as he juddered downwards and clasped the cloth. There was something wooden about him. And the effort! Eve was exhausted after just a few seconds, and snapped the link between them, gasping for air.
Lewis looked up. "Impressive. But I thought that witches could do more. I mean, why burn anyone for a few seconds of control?"
"I can usually hold it for longer than that," replied Eve, panting, "Two, three minutes maybe, I've never fully tested it. But you, you were so hard to move!"
"Strong minded." He said, sticking his tongue out at her.
"Yeah, right." Said Eve, "Anyway, you've left me exhausted. Want to go grab lunch?"
"Sure. I'm guessing you'll have no trouble finding the kitchens!"
Eve smiled a guilty smile. "However did you guess?