Chapter 28

 

 

Sometime in the middle of the night, Ginny did return to her cabin. Gideon, who looked worn out from their card game, needed to get more rest than she. His work was much harder. So, finally relenting, she returned, hoping to find Nathaniel asleep. Instead, she found him absent, which suited her just fine.

 

Early the next morning, shortly before the sun would rise above the horizon, a terrible scream broke the calm. Ginny sat bolt upright, trying to get her bearings. The screams continued, the kind that spoke of fear.

 

Ginny got out of bed and put on her clothes in record time. As she ran down the hall, she caught Nathaniel, half naked leaving Megan's room. The sight was enough to stop her in her tracks, despite the continued screaming.

 

“What the hell?” she asked, as the man turned and found himself good and caught.

 

Taking on an authoritative tone, Nathaniel said, “Not now.”

 

Putting her feelings aside, and glad to do so, both Ginny and Nathaniel headed toward the screaming. By the time they reached Tilly's door, there was a small crowd. Gideon was already there, his arm around Tilly, calming her down.

 

Nathaniel looked at his first in command and asked, “What is it?”

 

Gideon spied Corliss behind Nathaniel and whispered, “'Tis the boy, sir.”

 

Ginny heard his words, but didn't comprehend them immediately. When she finally realized what had happened, she pushed past Nathaniel into the small room, going to Noddy's bunk. There he lay, peaceful in repose, not moving. Sitting next to him on the bunk, she felt his skin. A thickness came over her, mostly in her throat, at the coldness.

 

Time seemed to slow down for Ginny. She heard Nathaniel asking what happened. She heard Tilly soft mewling cries. But all she saw was Noddy's face. The paleness reminded her of an angel.

 

As a medical professional, she knew that children with Down's Syndrome rarely lived past their early teens, when not treated for other ailments related to their condition. She could be rational, knowing that Noddy had had a good life thanks to Tilly. But in the end, she wanted to scream out at the injustice of his passing.

 

Caressing his face one final time, Ginny could barely breath past the lump in her throat. Crying wasn't an option, not yet. She had work to do. Putting on her coat of professionalism, Ginny turned just in time to see Spencer make his way into the small cabin. He had a bag with him, but Ginny merely shook her head.

 

Spencer called to a couple of crew members to help carry the body to the surgery, where he could prepare him for the burial. Ginny was pulled away, but not before finally speaking up.

 

Swallowing back the tears she wanted to shed, she said, “Tilly should have a moment with him. She should be able to say goodbye.”

 

Spencer scrunched his face. “It would be cruel, Corliss. She will have time to mourn.”

 

Grabbing Spencer's arm, she said with more force than usual, “Tilly was his mother. She needs to say goodbye. Don't cross me on this, Spencer.”

 

Searching her eyes, he nodded and walked from the room. Ginny came forward and took Tilly in her arms. Walking her slowly back, Ginny whispered, “Do you want to be alone for a moment?”

 

Tilly looked up at her and shook her head.

 

“Do you want to say goodbye,” Ginny asked, voice cracking with the effort.

 

Nodding, Tilly sat at the edge of the bed, just as Ginny had, and took one of Noddy's hands. Holding it to her cheek, the tears fell freely onto the boy. Leaning down, Ginny saw Tilly kiss his cheek and whisper something so quietly that no one could hear. When done, she replaced the hand on Noddy's chest and walked out of the room, not looking back.

 

Ginny called the men forward to deliver the body to the surgery. As she walked out of the cabin herself, she saw Nathaniel watching her. There would be time later to confront him, but now wasn't the time. She had to get to the surgery and help Spencer with the body. Then she had to find a quiet place to be alone. After so many adventures, after so many goodbyes, Ginny realized that she was facing the worst goodbye of all. And she didn't know if she would ever get past it.

 

********

 

Later that afternoon, most of the crew stood on the deck, listening to Frank McCarthy eulogize a boy he'd barely known. No one spoke, as if the ability to do so had been taken away with Noddy. It would take weeks before most of the crew realized what the boy had been to the Victory Sound. Most of what he did, many didn't even realize. Mostly, he brought a ray of sunshine and love. He was an all-consuming happiness, never angry, bitter or defeated. He would be missed sorely.

 

But, it was 1775 and people died all the time. The crew would be accustomed to losing loved ones to simple things, though at the time they did not seem so simple. To Ginny, knowing what humanity would be capable of doing, it was a damn shame. People would be sad, but life would go on. And maybe that was how it should be.

 

Ginny stood holding Tilly, whose tears had dried as she stood stoically watching the proceedings. Ginny could only imagine her pain. Although she hadn't given birth to Noddy, she had provided for him for many years. To Tilly, Noddy was her one chance at motherhood.

 

When the body was finally committed to the sea, Ginny felt Tilly stiffen slightly, then go slack as though her spirit left her. Before anything could be said, Tilly turned and walked away, back to the cabin she'd shared with her son, to mourn in solitude.

 

Ginny let her go, giving her the space she needed to adjust to this new reality. As she turned to watch Tilly leave, her eyes came upon Megan, whose eyes were red from crying. When Megan made eye contact with Ginny, her red eyes grew bigger. Did she know that Ginny knew? As far as Ginny was concerned, she didn't care, at least not at that moment.

 

Walking past the crowd on deck, Ginny went in the direction of her own cabin. When Nathaniel stepped in front of her, Ginny's eyes closed, trying to block out the confrontation. Swallowing her pain, she looked at him, waiting for him to make the first move.

 

“We need to talk,” was his brilliant response.

 

“Yes,” was all she gave him back, but then turned and walked away. Now she knew she couldn't go back to the cabin without having an argument. Instead, she went to the surgery. She couldn't hide forever, but at least she could avoid the inevitable for a little while.

 

Sitting on the chair that Spencer often occupied, Ginny let herself cry. She hated herself for doing it, since she'd made the agreement with herself not to get too involved. If she fell in love, even with a young boy, she was opening herself up to pain. Hadn't she spent half of the last adventure depressed over Colby? She was going to take the easy path, no love, just great sex. And she'd had that for a while, with Nathaniel, but now that bastard had ruined it.

 

Her tears subsided for a moment as she considered that he hadn't been the one to ruin it. The story had wanted him to fall in love and she wasn't going to let that happen, so it brought someone else on board to ensure it. Would he have loved her if she'd let him? Maybe not, since Ginny was who she was, and nothing could change who she was inside.

 

Leaning heavily on her hand against Spencer's table, Ginny was all too aware of just how pathetic her life was. How many people could claim that they managed to screw up the contrived? Of course, hadn't she been doing just that in her real life? Every man had something wrong with them. Not just something wrong, but a deal breaker that would prevent her from living her happily ever after. She wasn't naïve enough to think that she'd given up her Prince Charming, but maybe her whole attitude had kept the right man from finding her.

 

Before she could wax philosophical about her lamentable life, Spencer walked in. They had worked together to prepare Noddy for burial, but they hadn't spoken, as if they knew that words were unnecessary. Anything said would have opened a torrent of emotion that neither was prepared to deal with.

 

Ginny looked at him with swollen, red eyes and tried to smile. Though it was more likely a sneer, Spencer came forward and lifted her from her seat and hugged her. It was just what Ginny needed, some human contact and compassion. She wouldn't accept it from Nathaniel, not after discovering his whereabouts the night before. Gideon would be busy trying to keep the boat on its course. Thankfully, she had Spencer. The tears started again and in moments, Spencer was drenched.

 

After a few minutes, Ginny had exhausted her pain and pulled away. Immediately, Spencer handed her a handkerchief to wipe her face. Taking a deep breath, Ginny looked up at Spencer, wanting to see that everything would be alright. His look of concern was for her, not for the situation, and that was reassuring.

 

“Will you be well, Corliss?”

 

She nodded slowly, taking her seat once again. She needed to tell him about Nathaniel. Ginny needed the burden to be shared, not wanting to carry it alone.

 

“Before I got to Noddy's room this morning, I found Nathaniel leaving Megan's room.”

 

His eyes widened. “What?” he hissed.

 

“Sorry, Spencer. I didn't mean to lay that on you.”

 

“Is that why you were crying?” he asked, clearly confused, figuring her pain was over Noddy.

 

“Cry over Nathaniel? Hell, no. It's just something I'm going to have to deal with, and I don't want to. No, my tears are solely for Noddy and Tilly.”

 

She looked down at her hands and asked, “What am I going to do? I don't think I can handle this right now, you know.”

 

Before she could look up, Spencer once again grabbed her from the chair and pulled her to him. His arms went around her and his lips came down on hers. At first the kiss was gentle, but it didn't take long before he became passionate. Ginny just stood there, allowing the kiss, but not really believing what was going on.

 

When Spencer pulled away, he stared into her eyes and said, “You have no idea how long I have wanted to do that.”

 

“Wha...?”

 

His hand caressed her cheek gently. “You need to end it with Webster. Right now. And do not concern yourself with the future. I vow to take care of you.”

 

Ginny's mouth gaped open and close like a fish. Where in the hell did that come from, she wondered as he released her. Spencer was in love with her... since when? They had been friends and there was an abysmal number of choices for romance on board the ship, but he'd never indicated he'd felt anything like this.

 

“Go on now. The sooner you tell him, the better for both of you. If he treats you dishonorably, I shall call him out, savior or not.”

 

Nodding her head dumbly, Ginny walked out of the surgery. As she made her way back to her cabin, some of the numbness wore off and she was able to think. Spencer was not hard on the eyes, and he was incredibly compassionate. Could she feel something more? If she'd learned anything from her last adventure, it was that the best relationships came from friendship first.

 

A smile crept on her lips as she thought back to his kiss. It had been a good kiss, which probably meant that the rest would be good as well. Despite the awful day, Ginny knew it would be alright. That was what Noddy had left her with, his legacy. That despite everything else, there was always something to be happy about.