The Seventh Hour(3)By: Tracey Ward
“Do you understand what I’m saying?” I ask hesitantly.
My heart is in my throat, hoping I’ve been heard. Praying he’ll say the words for me that I’m terrified to voice. “What am I saying?”
“You’re saying that you want lemon custard for dessert.”
I don’t laugh. I don’t do anything but stare and sink, fall and flounder as my hopes dash against the front of the ship that neatly slices through the water. I drop my words unspoken into the sea where they’re cut in two, the severed pieces sinking in a swirl of white water. Garbled and irredeemable.
I turn ahead to the horizon. To the waning sun. The clouds roll over it, fading its brilliant pink hues and yoke yellow glow until they’re all but washed away. Dulled and dimmed to ghostly remembrances of what they should be. It’s distant, slipping farther from our bow every minute. We’re deep in the Seventh hour, creeping into the cold of the Eighth, and if we’re not very careful we’ll go too far. We slowed to stay out of the storms but now they’re brewing behind us too. The rolling sky of the horizon ahead and the crackling brightness of the clouds behind make me uneasy, and my maudlin mood shifts even deeper down inside me.
“Never mind,” I mutter numbly.
I’m not sure he’s heard me. The wind might have taken my words and sent them west into the night where no one will find them. Where they’re meaningless, unheard and lost in the darkness, and I feel my chest tighten at the thought. At the truth.
We fall into a silence that the world doesn’t join. The wind keeps on howling in my ears, the chop of the ship through the water crashes at my feet. I can feel the vibration of the engines under my hands on the bowsprit, eternal and relentless. How they keep up all day, every day year after year makes my mind ache to try and understand. The sheer monotony of it is more numbing than the icy spray on the soles of my feet.
“You need to come down from there,” Gav warns me gently.
“If Father sees you—“
“He probably already has.”
“You’re probably right.”
He leaves me be for a moment longer, letting the decision be mine. It’s not, though. It’s not mine and it’s not his. Nothing ever is.
“I’m coming down,” I finally surrender reluctantly.
I spin deftly, swinging my leg up and over the large wooden beam until I’m sitting on it sideways. My hair is blinding me, whipping in my face with the force of the ship driving relentlessly forward. I can’t see what I’m doing but I don’t care. I was agile enough to get out here, I’m agile enough to get back.
I slide toward the ship, Gav’s eyes on me as I go. The boat rises and falls gently against the waves making each movement dangerous. Throwing me off balance with every lunge.
“Liv, be careful,” Gav murmurs, his voice anxious.
“Talking to me while I’m concentrating isn’t exactly smart, Gav.”
“Alright, but just—mmm.”
I grin as he bites his tongue, his eyes heavy on me while I make my way slowly back toward safety. I’m nearly there. Just a few more inches…
My mother’s panicked shout cuts through my brain like a hot knife through fresh butter. It startles me, severing my concentration.
I feel my right hand slip first, then my left loses its tenuous grip on the smooth beam. I begin to topple sideways.
There’s nothing to grab onto.
“No!” she screams.
My last coherent thought as I fall is that my mother has got to stop screaming.
My last frantic, terror laden thought is that I’m actually going to die.
And it’s going to hurt.
The Posher ships are passing. It’s a sure sign that the night is coming. As if the dark rolling in on the horizon wasn’t signal enough.
They’re late this year. They’re practically in the Eighth hour, somewhere I’ve never seen them. Standing on the high ridge on the outside of our mountain I can see the clouds colliding with them, closing in on them. They must have been sailing slow to avoid them, but it’s pushing their ships into the darkness, into the night where more storms are brewing.