Chapter no 41


The seabirds calling out over the water woke me from the deepest sleep I could remember.

I opened one eye, and the window in West’s quarters came into view, only one of its shutters closed. Outside, the gray morning was cloaked in fog, the cool mist creeping into the cabin. I rolled over, and West was sleeping beside me, his face softer than I’d ever seen it. He still smelled like saltwater, and I brushed an unruly strand of hair back from his forehead before I pressed my lips to his cheek.

The air was cold as I slipped out from under the quilt and walked to the window. I stood before the view of the silver water, eerie and calm before the warmth of sunlight touched it. West didn’t open his eyes as I pulled my clothes on, his breaths still deep and long.

His face was only half-lit in the pale light, and he looked so peaceful in that moment. So untouched.

I stepped with bare feet across the room and opened the door slowly, slipping out into the breezeway. The deck was empty except for Auster sitting at the prow beside a line of perched seabirds, as if he were one of them. I stopped midstride, looking back at West’s closed door, and a knowing smile spread on Auster’s face as he dragged the blade of his knife down the piece of wood in his hand, but he didn’t look up. He would pretend, the way everyone pretended not to know West and Willa were brother and sister. The same way they didn’t draw any attention to him and Paj. And in that moment, I felt more a part of the crew than I had guiding them through the Snare.

My face flushed again as I leaned against the mast and pulled my boots on.

Auster jumped down, coming to meet me. “Where are you going?”

I untied the ladder, and it unrolled against the hull with a slap. “There’s one more thing I have to do before we shove off.” I swung one leg over and climbed down, jumping onto the dock when I reached the bottom.

The fog was so thick that I couldn’t even see the ships in the bays, their masts emerging from the white mist here and there and then disappearing as it rolled in. I pulled my scarf up over my mouth, still smiling beneath it as I passed under the harbor’s archway. I would replay the night over and over, drowning in the memory of the way West looked in the candlelight. The way his bare skin felt against mine.

The village was quiet, with empty streets snaking between the cluttered buildings, and my footsteps were the only sound as I walked. It would be another hour before the sun was in the sky, burning the fog off the land, but its light was already beginning to bleed into the dark.

Three chimneys with billowing smoke appeared ahead, and I climbed the steep hill that led up to the tavern. As I passed, my reflection in the window made me stop, turning back to the bubbled glass. I pushed my hood back and stared into my own face, my hands raising to press against my pink cheeks.

I looked even more like her than I did when I was at Saint’s post. The cut of bone in my face and the deepest shade of red in my hair. It almost glowed in the mist, spilling out from the buttoned collar of my jacket and falling down over my chest.

A flash of blue lit behind the window, and I stilled, my eyes focusing beyond my reflection. I pressed one hand to the glass, the burn already lighting behind my eyes.

On the other side of the window, Saint sat at a table before a white teapot. He looked up at me, the look on his face stricken, as if he could see her too.


I pushed open the door and stepped inside, where the fire in the hearth was blazing, filling the room with a dry heat that crept inside my jacket and

warmed me. The collar of Saint’s coat was unfolded up around his jaw, hiding half his face, and I pulled the chair beside him out from the table, taking a seat.

“I didn’t see your ship in the harbor,” I said, realizing suddenly that the feeling bubbling up inside me wasn’t anger. I was happy to see him, though I wasn’t sure why.

A woman shuffled in with another cup and set it down before me with three sugar cubes nestled on the rim of the little plate.

“May I?” I looked at the teapot, and he hesitated before he nodded. “What are you doing here, Saint?”

He watched me fill my cup, the light coming through the window brightening his crystal blue eyes. “I came to see if you did what I thought you would do.”

I glared at him, gritting my teeth. “You can’t take credit for this. Not this time.”

“That’s not what I meant.”

“Then what did you mean?” I lifted the cup to my lips, and its fragrant steam hit my face, the smell of bergamot and lavender filling my nose.

“You’re going to get yourself killed, Fable,” he ground out as he leaned on the table, looking at me. “Just like she did.”

The tea burned in my mouth as I sipped, and I set it down, folding my shaking hands into my lap. I was glad in that moment that he didn’t say her name. I knew she was dead. I’d felt it in my bones when we rowed away from the Lark. But on my father’s lips, it became a different kind of truth.

I sniffed. The only thing worse than the pain that had carved a home inside me was knowing that he could see it.

“You don’t have anything to prove, Fay. Go back to Ceros and—”

“You think I’m doing this because I’m trying to prove something? I’m doing this because I have nothing else.” The words were bitter, because they weren’t entirely true. The Marigold and West were also what I wanted. But hopes like that were too sacred to speak aloud to a man like Saint.

“You don’t understand anything.”

“Then explain it. Tell me!” I shouted, my voice echoing in the empty room. “I know you don’t know how to love me. I know you’re not built for

it. But I thought you loved her. She would have hated you for leaving me on that rock. She would have cursed you.” A cry slipped from my chest, but I kept myself from slamming my fists into the table.

He stared into his tea, his body rigid. “I swore to your mother that I would keep you safe. There is nowhere more dangerous in this world for you than being with me.”

My fingers coiled around each other in my lap, and I turned to the window, unable to keep the tears from falling. I’d always wanted to hear him say he loved me. I’d wanted to hear the words so many times. But in that moment, I was suddenly frightened he would. I was terrified to know how badly they would hurt me. “You were wrong. About so many things. But most of all, you were wrong about me.” I breathed.

“What does that mean?”

“You said I wasn’t made for this world.” I spit his words back at him, the ones that had echoed over and over in my mind since the day he left me.

He smiled just enough for the wrinkles to appear around his eyes. “And I meant it.”

“How can you say that?” I glowered at him. “I’m here. I made it off Jeval. I found my own crew. did that.”

“You don’t know him.”

I bristled, realizing he was talking about West. “He’s not who you think he is.”

My jaw clenched, and I swallowed, uneasy. Because that wasn’t like Saint. There was a heavy truth to his voice that I didn’t want to hear.

He looked up then, his eyes meeting mine, and I thought I could see the glimmer of tears in them. “You were made for a far better world than this one, Fable,” he rasped. “I was young. I hadn’t learned the rules yet when Isolde came asking me to take her onto my crew.” The words turned to a whisper. “I loved her with a love that broke me.”

He brushed the tear from the corner of his eye, dropping his gaze back down to the table. I didn’t think about it before I reached across the knotted wood and covered his hand with mine. I knew what he meant because I’d seen it. Everyone had. Isolde was the wind and sea and sky of Saint’s world.

She was the pattern of stars that he navigated by, the sum of all directions on his compass. And he was lost without her.

We sat there in the silence, watching the village come to life outside the window, and in the time it took us to finish our tea, everything felt like it did back then. The smell of mullein smoke on my father’s coat. The clink of glasses with a fire at our backs. And as the sun rose, so did the unspoken goodbye between us.

When we got back to Ceros, West would repay his debt and the

Marigold would be ours.

I set my chin on my hand, twisting my fingers into my hair, and I looked at his face, memorizing every wrinkle. Every silver streak through his mustache. The way his eyes matched the blue of his coat so perfectly. I tucked the picture into my heart, no matter how badly it would make it ache.

The chair scraped over the stone floor as I stood, and I leaned down, kissing him on the top of his head. I wound my arms around his shoulders for the length of a breath, and two tears slipped down his rough cheeks, disappearing into his beard.

When I opened the door, I didn’t look back. Because I knew I would never see my father again.

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