This is me
Chapter 7: Going West
Timeline: Chapter 7, The evening after.
Last night, Chago had watched Myira’s quiet, angel-like sleep, asking himself if this night, with everything it entailed, had been real or only the weirdest dream possible. If this strange, but lovely young woman, whose head was finally laying in his lap, and whose eyes had been sparkling a mute, fearful and wounded adoration confessed only through the effects of liquour was real.
Being flirty and mischievous was in his nature, but he couldn’t have guessed a few hours ago how this night would turn and how this pony-tailed fairy clung on him. He hadn’t liked being claimed by any woman before, if the one he would have wanted many years ago had chosen another; nevertheless Myira had warmed his heart, and looking at her made him consider the situation more carefully, until he arrived to the conclusion that nothing was impossible anymore.
No matter how... short the previous night was, and how bitter the sobering-up tea, he had given it to her early in the morning, waiting patiently for her to drink it, despite the grimaces. This was the lesson against getting drunk - not a boring lecture, not even the hangover she deserved, but a bitter "morning-after" tea and not being exempted of the fencing lesson. People had to fight sometimes when not in the best health conditions either, and this was a good lesson. Their smiles between the strokes and the parrying were, however, more nervous than the previous mornings...
Her gleaming gaze was matching the depth of his, and somewhere in his mind, at each stroke, an angel or a demon was whispering that he shouldn’t fall prey to any woman, but the murmur sounded from farther and farther away. Chago wondered and couldn’t understand yet how he got into this situation, but if it happened, then this strange and beautiful girl was surely much better than anything else the destiny could have chosen for him. It had taken one night of meditation, with her head on his shoulder or on his lap, in order to understand that he cared for her more than he would have thought initially.
After the eventful lunch discussion with Ivan, he couldn't focus on his work anymore, thinking about Myira. And with each thought, he was looking forward, with fear and delight at the same time, to the date they had tonight. Yes, this was already a date, and for this, they had canceled the second fencing demonstration of the day.
Chago had never understood women, or most likely he didn’t even bother to. His concern had been to guess, one moment or two before, the men’s thoughts and wherefrom an attack might come. This was the important part in his trade, as he wasn’t a mere dagger in the dark, he was a fighter, a sword-for-hire. Well, he had tried to figure up why Luisa had chosen the viscount and acted how she had, but in vain. A few years later, once when he visited Pepita again and she had started nagging at him, her style, that he should get a wife, settle down and start a family of his own besides spoiling his nephews and niece, he had asked her why a girl would have done it, and he didn’t like the realistic answer received from his sister.
But this was exactly connected to the following worries. Surely Myira was not like Luisa; she wouldn't reject him for a rich man, for security and a name. But she might reject a blade for hire, exactly for how blooded his hands were. And... if not, would it last? Wouldn't another twist of fate separate them?
Miyra stood outside the sailors’ berth nervously. She wore a red dress with a large black cloak, and let her hair be free from the usual ponytail. In the split second of hesitation she was in her old room again, trying to decide whether to run from the marriage she was being forced into. She imagined the two possabilities, running over and over in her mind.
But this time, she'd been the one doing the promising. And here she stood, sober now, and not regretting a thing. But now she was having second thoughts. It was like standing before a rickety bridge. Decide to walk across it into the unknown, or stay with what you knew.
Now all she could do was hope he hadn't forgotten.
How could he forget that they had agreed to meet under the full moon? He was thinking about the ring, and the hummingbird, and wondering if these would be discussed again. Which woman would give a man a ring instead of waiting to receive his?
When he saw her, he smiled widely, admiring her dress, which highlighted more her unusual beauty.
"Hello, my dear! How I wish we were now at a ball, somewhere in a port, to dance together until midnight!" he told her. "You are so elegant now, while I am my usual self after a work day."
She shook her head. "I don't care about that. I just wanted you to see me for who I am." She didn't mention the real reason. He'd find out about it later.
"Chago, about last night-" There were so many things she wanted to say. About last night, I meant it. About last night, did you mean it? The only question she didn't need to ask was About last night, what happened, because she remembered all of it. The slurring, thinking Chago was sacks and sitting on coils of rope. "-I hope I didn't offend you by mentioning the ring. I never meant to suggest I wanted you to commit yourself. I thought it would be a good moment but I don't think you understood, because I was too out of my head to explain it properly. It's not a ring meant to be worn on a finger, but rather around the neck. It has done for many generations. It's a token of... affection." She wasn't sure how he would react to 'love'. If he thought she was any less in love with him now she was sober, he was wrong, she thought. She just hoped he hadn't changed his mind... or made it up, for the worse.
Chago’s smile didn’t change at all.
“I know it is a token of affection. You could offend me only if you rejected the hummingbird brooch, because you are as delicate as a hummingbird and it’s only fair that you have it, as it is also a token of my affection to you,” he answered. “And if you say it’s meant to be worn around my neck, then it is up to you to put it there,” he lowered his head playfully, longing for her touch.
She couldn't refuse it again. "I never meant to offend, I just..." She slipped the chain over his head, and sighed. "Then I'll accept it, but I may not always wear it. I would not want to damage something so pretty and so valuable."
"This is fully understandable. It's yours to hold and to keep, and to wear it only when on shore leave or at special occasions," he replied softly. "Maybe we can get our first shore leave together, when we arrive to the Old West..."
This only if your sincerity won't spoil everything tonight, and won't make her hate you! he had a more realistic thought.
At that moment, his eyes were burning brightly, and his smile got to be tenderer.
“As for committing myself to you – I had thought a lot last night, while watching your sleep. I do care a lot for you, and if the destiny made us for each other, he will allow us to remain together for a lifetime. It is true that we will never know until we try… and that we might be each other’s healing. it. Maybe there is a difference in what each of us two understands love means,” he tried to explain his thoughts. “I wouldn’t call it love until I see it lasts, but it doesn’t mean that I’m shying away from you. I want to protect you, to help you, to see you happy and flourishing… Irrespectively what is it and how much the destiny allows it to last, we are truly blessed to have experienced it and to have found each other. And maybe we are lucky and it lasts a lifetime, but for this we’d have, a bit later, to take some decisions,” he added.
"I...I see." It wasn't how she'd been expecting him to react, but she tried to move the conversation in a different direction. "What exactly did I say last night? I remember about the later part of the evening, but when we first met..." It hurt too much to consider that he might not ever love her. But it hurt even more that he might try, for her. She knew how it felt to be the one trying to love another. And she wouldn't have wished it on Chago nor anyone else.
He saw she was slightly disappointed, but he couldn't guess that she had misunderstood his words into something else, so he assumed it was because she hadn't heard those sweet words so many men were charming innocent girls with only to break their hearts later. No, he was not simply trying to charm her; he loved her deeper than most men pretended to- it was a sincere love mixed with respect; he didn't want to take advantage of her in any way - not by deceiving her and not by making promises that something else than his own will might make them impossible to keep.
He couldn't fathom that she thought he was just trying to love her. It had already happened, without trying. If he didn't love her, why was he seeking her company with any opportunity possible, beyond the relationship between two crewmates or between a teacher and his student? Why had he always tried to protect her, why did he worry for her, why had he kept her last night on the deck just to make sure that the one who got her drunk didn't meet his purpose? Of course he loved her... But, as he told her, there might be different kinds of love, and the part he was still shying of was commitment. This was the "trying" part coming to. He loved her, she loved him; this was clear and had no "trying" in it. He had already said it. Courting her as properly as she deserved, this was what he intended to respectfully ask her tonight. But from this point... could he know from now if it was meant to last, or to wither away like Luisa's love? This was where trying came in. Seeing how they were together as a couple, if they fought irreconciliably, if they butted heads or not... This was love, in his opinion, what remained afterwards, not the butterflies he was feeling now, at the beginning of a relationship.
"You said lots of things, and so did I. I tried to convince you that you aren't how you think you are. You can make all your dreams come true, nothing should hold you back - and I can be by your side to help you flourish, if you want this and if the destiny allows us to remain together. You also said that you have a secret; I have one too. But now, that we are in love with each other - just that it took me a little longer than you to realize it - I have to tell you my secret, to see if you accept me as I am, with my dark past, before asking for your permission to court you properly. Yes, I am respectfully asking you, but I would like you to postpone your final answer until you learn more about me tonight."
He started without saying that he was actually a mercenary, but this would come after the first explanation:
“I have been thinking so much about you lately! But I can’t call anybody my own, only because I can’t offer a woman anything: a home, a future, safety. If there is to be a forever for me, I would love it to be with you. It isn’t impossible. There is no other woman than you in my heart, in my thoughts, or in any port waiting for me; but I have to remain realistic. First of all, both of us are pirates now. This does come with risks. One day my hand might tremble or bad luck might get me betrayed and I’d end with the same fate my many victims had. So much for being waited somewhere by a woman! Or a mermaid might claim me for the only eternity a human is to know. Is it worth for you or any girl in this world to wait for me when I’d never return?”
This was valid for both his situations, as a mercenary – which he couldn’t be anymore from now on anyway – and as a pirate – which he would remain only if Myira wanted him to.
"That is life. And if having you forever meant tying you down... I know that would not be you. If you loving me was at the price of not being you, then I would rather... you be free. To be yourself." She took his hand. A small smile. "And the same fate may betray either of us, for I have no intention of waiting in port while you're off having all the fun, believe me." Another smile. "We'll just have to enjoy the time we have together, or I swear I will drag you back from whatever afterlife there may be just to make sure you had a good time."
He smiled, letting his big, copper-tanned hand catch softly her marble-white little one. They made a nice contrast. Their life stories too...
"Maybe we are meant to remain together... maybe this love will grow strong roots and it will last. We have to give it a chance... and yes, I think it has two strong elements why it could last: the fact that we will be together, not you waiting in a port, and we can defend each other and protect each other better,: he said, thinking more that he can protect her, of course, "and the fact that both of us are able and willing to fight for our love. You have my deep respect and admiration too for what you told me last night, that if there was no love, you preferred to give away a life of wealth, in order to search your freedom."
He had promised her the truth about him, and here he was.
“There was a girl across the seas, many years ago, who had promised me all her love, and then married a noble man chosen by her family. I was in her brother’s service and I should have been among the guards supposed to attend the wedding which was taking her from me. Since then, there was no other love for me, until you found your way into my heart… by the tip of the sword,” he laughed, as indeed their fencing lessons had brought them closer and had helped them know each other better. “I couldn’t do what was expected from me, so I asked to be sent back to my homeland. This was why I crossed the sea back to the Old West… but after a shipwreck, a ship from Britannia saved me and this transformed the Merovingian Army lieutenant into a sailor. You have bravely done everything she wouldn’t have. I think I would have started loving you when learning it, even if I wouldn’t have been already in love with you for a while,” he whispered.
Chago was feeling weird and he couldn’t believe himself that he told somebody, and especially another woman, about Luisa. She must have children as old as Pepita’s middle ones already, but thinking about her still hurt him… until now. Maybe it was true, the new love was healing the memory of the past one. But Myira had to hear everything. As she was playing with his hand, making him feel the warmth of her touch in all the fibers of his body, he had difficulty to focus on finding his words, but he had to:
"I am no more the man I used to be, but my past is not bright at all. I have killed in my youth, and I am not talking about the men, usual targets of any war. I have killed innocent women, children and priests, and the fact that I was in the army, young officer, following orders doesn’t make me less guilty. I had to live with the burden of my sin until it got the absolution during a pilgrimage. I couldn't do it anymore... and this is why I am not in the army anymore. Afterwards… I told you about Luisa and what happened next. That burnt my heart. I want you and I’d be happy to know that you are mine, but I am not sure how much of my heart can get reborn like a Phoenix bird from its own ashes. This is the man you love, with his past and with his insecurities, but his burnt heart belongs to you... and your touch might heal it. This is what I have and what I can offer you, knowing that no other woman would receive more. I can and I will offer you fidelity, protection, understanding, together with my whole heart, if you allow me to court you.”
Yes, he had said it all. He sought her eyes in anguish. Would she, so young and so innocent, understand? Would she accept him? Her black hair, let loose, was gleaming under the moonlight, and to Chago it seemed almost an eternity until her voice was heard, soft and hesitating:
"You know what my answer would be. Will be. But I... Am not entirely like you think." She already knew her answer would be yes, but she couldn't lead him on if he didn't know. "Is there somewhere... Private we can go?" She knew it must have sounded indecent, so she ammended herself: "It is rather hard to describe... And I do not think you would believe me if I simply told you."
He was somehow relieved at hearing her answer. And if now she seemed ready to tell him her secret too, he wanted to know. No, he didn’t misinterpret her words. After these days of training and discussions he had arrived to know her enough to be sure that such an innocent being wouldn’t have come with an indecent proposal. (Or, at least, not when sober.) It could have been, instead, an apparently scandalous one which hid actually the most blessed reasons in the world, but nothing indecent.
“I think I believe you anyway, but the most private place would be, now that nobody had angered our captain, the brig.”
This was where he had told Mei-Xiu that he was a mercenary sent after her. The empty little room was good for confessions to be kept between four eyes. He could imagine anything – as a mercenary, there were lots of strange stories he had heard – however he tried to breathe deeply and empty his mind of any possibly untrue suppositions.
She'd led him down to the brig, watching the shadows for anyone who might have been trying to spy. Satisfied no one had followed them, she backed into a corner and swept her hair out of the way to show him. There was a reason she'd chose a dress with a lower back than was deemed "safe". Her pale back was interrupted by red lines, angry swirls, running across her back. They were paler around her neck, almost unnoticeable, but further down her back and they were thicker, bold red lines. "I'm Tainted." She whispered.
Chago was born in the Old West; he knew what it meant, and what implications her confession had. The society didn’t like tainted people, and it was most likely that the offspring of a tainted woman would also be tainted, assuming she could have a child. There was also the possibility for the tainted person to develop severe health conditions any time.
If Myira expected him to run away from her, in disgust, she was wrong. One of his hands, making its way to her nape, behind the hair locks in the colour of charcoal, caressed both her hair and her neck. As he drew closer, instead of any other answer, his lips touched in a tender kiss some of the paler scars above her shoulderblades.
“Does it hurt?” he asked her in a whisper. “Tell me more about it. I am willing to learn. If saying it is difficult for you, I can hold you in my arms and give you courage this way,” he continued, reaching for her.
"Sometimes." She let her hair fall back over her shoulders. "I have... things to ease it. It was not as worse as when my mother found out she was tainted. She felt like she'd commited a sin, felt dirty, worse than dirt. And when she knew she was pregnant only three days later, she feared for my health, almost didn't want to have me because I would be tainted. But they told her that she would not be able to have children once the illness progressed. And when I was born... Well." She shrugged.
He held her close to his chest.
“Well, you are here, with me; we were meant to meet and fall in love when none of us expected to find such a wonderful feeling. This is everything I know. The fact that you are Tainted doesn’t lessen my feelings for you. By contrary, there is a reason more to want to protect you, to take care of you. And if you try to remind me what the society says… it says far too many things. My mother was Native, another reason of social contempt. And still my father loved her and married her. This is where my copperish tan and something in the shape of my eyes come from. Many men like him had Native mistresses whom they never married, but my father did. Behind the Tainted scars, you are the sane Myira. I fell in love with your personality, with your inner beauty, more than with the outside one. Even if your grace and those soulful eyes have contributed a lot, too,” he said, seeking to meet her gaze.
She let out an audible sigh, then turned around and pressed her lips to his, not caring about how improper her it was or how long her Mother would have shrieked at her for not behaving how a lady should.
I am not a lady. She remembered. I am a pirate.
Chago was pleasantly surprised by her boldness when he felt her lips on his, first as lightly as a flying wing, then, instinctively, pressed a little heavier, though still delicately. The brief moment their lips got sealed to each other felt almost as if it held an entire lifetime and still too little at the same time. They weren't as soft as in the legends - both of them had worked, one in the rigging, the other in the kittling's nest, so their lips were burnt by the sun and the wind, and they kept somehow the saltiness of the breeze. Nevertheless, their touch was mesmerizing, almost stopping the next heartbeat due to the nice surprise, and he wished it to last forever, together with that swelling sensation in his chest.
He caught her in a tender hug, while thirsty lips were seeking her mouth in answer in a kiss full of all his suppressed emotions, but still soft and not invading. Once the kiss broken, his hot lips lingered a short while on her eyes and temples, as if he wanted to take away all her bad thoughts and worries. It had taken a while to have the gates of their hearts overflow of love. They had admitted it to each other, he had received the permission to court her... this was what love was. And if the destiny wanted it, it might last and heal his heart of the past burns.
"Well, once we have left the past behind us, I think it is time to think to present and future," he said, still holding her in his arms. "And about the present... I might find answers to my own puzzling questions in your eyes. But we are two now, a couple, and my life phylosophy of taking each day as it comes might be less suitable for two than for one," he said. "I haven't been a pirate... until now. I have been a mercenary, and when I arrived aboard, I was on a mission. A mission I can't comply, therefore I am not a mercenary anymore and I can never return to Seaport, where an employer had lied to me on purpose, knowing that I wouldn't have accepted the mission if I knew the truth. I accepted it how it sounded, I took the advance payment, then, here, I discovered the lie. I had been sent to bring back a kidnapped lady, probably a slave of the pirates, to a worrying father. In truth, she had run away by her own will, and the man who wanted her was not a father, was an enemy intending to kill her. I don't harm women and children, so I am on her side now. You could befriend Mei-Xiu, actually... She is so lonely and I guess she'd need more a friend like you than one like me."
Clearly, he was rambling. He wanted to say something else, like; "I am and I will remain a pirate as long as you do it too. If you have other plans for the Old West, I am with you anyway, no matter what you decide." But he couldn't find the right words to express himself properly, he was too lost in love. A feeling he had thought forgotten for more than eight years, and never to be his again.
"Chago?" She gripped his hands. "Shut up and kiss me again."
He wanted to tease her a little, but he couldn’t. Her mermaid call was stronger than his willpower, and he was glad to obey.
All the emotions of the latest days overcame him. There would be a “tomorrow” to address their worries, their dreams, their hopes for a common future. Hopefully, there would be a life ahead of them, to spend it together and to understand what they couldn’t yet. The budding, confuse love was growing in the amalgam of emotions generated by all the latest days’ revelations. It was catching roots in their hearts. He was not alone anymore….
And neither was Miyra. There was no more thinking of just herself.
He kissed her desperately, as if that fusion of two mouths, of two souls, held the answer to all his doubts. And with Myira’s warm body stuck against his chest, he realized that if both of them were willing to accept exactly what the other was able to give, then it was more likely they either got burnt together, or healed together.