IT WAS a week before I saw Bellamy again; the pub always died down when the sailors were out on the seas, only the few local drunks tripping in some nights for a pint or two, barely dropping more than two coins for all the trouble the barmaids had of putting up with them. They left puddles of vomit on the cobblestones outside, spilled wine and ale along the bar for us to wipe up, and more unmentionable fluids spilled into booths. None of the sailors could be bothered to so much as wipe their own beards after messily drinking into the long hours of the night.
On the other nights, the girls could take it easy, relaxing by the open fire pit in the center of the pub, warming their hands and gossiping fiercely about local events and dramas over tea warmed in the embers of the kitchen fire. Tonight, the main topic was the rash of robberies in town, and of the stolen jewels the mayor had spoken of at the town meeting the previous evening, scaring the housewives and some of their daughters into staying home, valuables locked up tight in chests and drawers.
Alice chuckled heartily, her bosom shaking against her loosely tied corset, showing more than a tad of those same fleshy mounds to any who cared to look, the neckline plunging to the bare point above indecent. She took in most of the tips on nights the sailors came in to drink away the sorrows of being at sea, and I secretly despised her. "Stolen jewels, is nothing sacred in this world? Leave your door open,they'll come right in to take the very clothing off your back!" She fanned herself, as if the very idea shook her to her core with lewd imaginings.
She, of course, knew nothing of being in danger from robbers or the lewd touch of a man, as living with her over protective, and rich, father kept her out of the world. All Alice knew was the looks from the younger sailors, money simply for hauling drinks, and occasionally cavorting with the stable boys behind her fathers back, with more than one scare of a bastard child resulting from it. She had never known a man to be cruel, or the meat of a palm smacking her face at a overcooked meal, a late breakfast, a single wrong word. She only knew the sweeter parts of men, as she offered them what they wanted of her with little qualms, getting their gentle sides in the bedrooms she tumbled through.
Susannah, the daughter of the barkeep, kept her silence, but the looks she shot at Alice spoke volumes; Alice was prone to talking without bothering to think on it, and some of the things that came from her lips were purely ignorant. Such as her previous sentence, which spoke of one who had sturdy doors to sleep behind at night, and warm silken sheets to cover herself, courtesy of her father's money.
"Maybe some of us know better than to be... out at night," I said, taking a sip of my drink, and not looking at Alice. Far be it me to shame her for her choices, she was a grown woman, but sleeping with boys so young would only cause her misery in the end, when a too young father left her with his bastard, and her life of joyfully doing as she chose became a humdrum housewife's, minus a husband to care for her. Girls like Alice always came to bad ends in the long run, and it was a sad sight to see repeated among ones circle of friends.
Alice looked offended at this, but didn't say anything, stirring her tea with her small finger, a pout on her full lips. That may work with daddy dear and her paramours from the stables, but I was having none of it: I preened, slightly, at my small victory against her, and sipped my tea innocently.
THE MOON shone down on me as I walked home, the girls ahead whispering excitedly, the words drifting back to me on the night air of men, the bedroom rites, and of the time Bernita saw Andrew Cooger bathing in the miller's pond. The harlots, I thought sourly, pulling my collar closer around my neck, no imagined man or ghost able to shake me this night.
The hand that grabbed my wrist made a cry rip from my lips, anyway, shaking me. I twisted, breaking the loose grasp, going into a defensive position, hands up to protect my face.
Laughter made me blink, the rich baritone of a man: Bellamy... his face split by a wide grin, a days' beard stubble darkening his jaw. "I never took you as one to be afearin' ghosties in the night, lass."
I blinked, suddenly furious. "P...pig! How dare you! Filthy pig!"
He only laughed in my face at my insults, and I wanted to either punch him or kiss him in that moment. His face was inches from mine, eyes a sparkling blue, deep and bottomless as the sea herself.
What an odd thought.
He finally stepped back, a shaft of moonlight glinting off his silver coats buttons, making all too clear the fact he wore no shirt. I'd never seen a man's torso bared before, and I was quite shocked to see brown buds like the ones on my own chest, the skin smooth and tanned, a line of thin hairs along his belly.
For a moment, I pictured kissing that line; I felt my cheeks heat up.
"...you best be careful in the night, lass. Not everything on the loose is as kind as me." He tipped a nod, putting a hat I hadn't noticed before back on his brown curls of hair, and stalking off into the night, towards the cemetery. I wondered if he was living there for the time being, as the inn was full this week, and the barn room in the Cavannaugh's farm was still being repainted.
"...nothing is as kind as me," I murmured, without really knowing why.
I turned on my heel, and walked on wards determinedly, ignoring the pointed looks Susannah shot me from her place in the group, eyes wide at seeing me with a man. I glanced back only once, seeing what I thought to be eyes glinting near a tombstone on the Widow's Hill: I squinted, and saw they were really the silvery buttons of Bellamy's coat, winking in the moonlight as it hung from a low tree branch, Bellamy himself doing stretches in the graveyard path, his skin gleaming in the moon glow like a fallen sun.
With heated cheeks, I blinked, and stalked on, not looking back once until I reached my own doorstep. Only then did I glance behind me to the cemetery on the hill, but the moon had hidden herself away behind a cloud, and nothing glimmered in the stillness.