She was laying, pinned, eyes near-blinded by blood, throat hoarse from screaming. Smoke was billowing up into the air, blotting out the stars. A small, smiling figure was moving away from her slowly, as if savoring each step.
“Pip!” She begged, “Please Pip! Don’t leave me here to die alone!”
At those words he laughed, then turned and skipped away.
Star woke thrashing, her arms reaching out into warm, humid air.
“Now now,” Said a bright voice, “It was only a dream, Misses.” A pair of gentle, pudgy hands took hold of Star’s own and lowered them, “You don’t want to hurt yourself now, not when you’re healing-up so nicely.”
“Water…” Star’s voice was a croak, it seemed like it always was since that terrible night.
“Of course, miss, of course.” The nurse bustled away and returned with a pitcher and a glass. She helped Star to sit-up, giving her the glass. Star sipped the water and let herself start to relax: She was safe and at-sea, returning home.
Home, she thought, Thank all that is Holy, I’m going home.
Not that the three weeks she had spent in the hospital had been unpleasant. Everyone was extremely kind, taking the best care of her they could, being encouraging, and, most importantly, ensuring an endless supply of overly-dispensed laudanum. Since she was a lady she was not expected to be able to handle even the slightest amount of pain or discomfort.
In fact, as she passed over the empty glass of water, Nurse was supplying her first dose ofof the morning. Nurse was sweet, but she was busy busy busy and far to full of cheer generally for Star’s taste.
“Now Missus, after breakfast we’ll have to get you up on your feet. You’ve been spending too much time in that wheeled-chair and a nice stroll around the decks will do you some good. Captain says we’ll put into Port Babbage this evening, won’t it be nice to be in your own home again?” She paused and stared at Star, clearly waiting for an answer.
“Of course,” Star said, dutifully, “You know how anxious I’ve been to get home.”
The sun was setting and staining the sky dark red when the ship was guided into port. Star lifted her small bag in one hand and leaned heavily on her cane to take the pressure off her bad leg. She made her way carefully down the gangplank, Nurse tittering behind her. Star had sent no letters ahead announcing her return, wishing to avoid the pitiful glances she expected most would give her. She knew she could trust Jed and Kaylee to understand the silence when they got a look at her, so she simply wished to make her way to the Gangplank without anyone recognizing her.
“Miss? Do you know him?” Nurse asked, her voice unusually hushed as she touched Star on the shoulder.
Star turned to look in the direction Nurse indicated and felt her heart do a hard thump-thump as, for a moment, she thought she saw…but no, this top-hatted figure was quite different. She could see a curtain of lank hair just touching his shoulders, and, though she had only seen him once or twice before leaving, she recognized him just the same. In the dim light she could just see the thin smile that crossed his mouth as he lifted a hand and tipped his hat toward her. She stopped and let him approach.
“Loosestrife,” Her voice was icy.
“Me-thinks the walk home would be easier on you, fair-one, if you had an arm to lean on.” He extended his elbow.
She tilted her head slightly, considering.
“Miss?” Nurse sounded anxious.
“Go Back to the ship, Nurse,” Star said, tucking her arm into Mr. Loosestrife’s, “This gentleman and I have business to discuss.”
((right-o, ladies and gentles, I am return-ed. Forgive me if I’m a little slow getting back on the RP-horse, it’s been a long vacation!))