Like a Shadow Into Darkness

One would never think that a man like Will Turner would have any admirers. He might be easy on the eyes, but he was nothing but an apprentice to a lazy blacksmith—what sane girl would choose him over a wealthy gentleman of the elite?

And it didn’t take a scholar to see that he had fallen, hopelessly, for the daughter of the Governor: Elizabeth Swann, a beautiful girl with golden-brown locks—men tripped over each other in their haste to catch a glimpse of her—so I suppose it was only natural he had fallen in love with her, just as everyone else had. She was sensitive, compassionate, and even stubborn, in her own charming way. I came up the stairs one day at sunrise to put away some garments which I had mended, and saw her standing by her bedroom window, clutching the long chain of a necklace hidden in the neckline of her dress. The breeze caressed her hair gently, blowing wisps of it into disarray, and the sun shone kindly onto her porcelain skin. She was perfection embodied, and it was in this moment that I discovered I hated her. The slight, hesitant smiles, the raising of a perfectly manicured eyebrow, the way she held a teacup, all served to feed my jealousy. What was I, or anyone else, in comparison with this wondrous siren? I despaired, and every morning afterwards I found it that much harder to rise from my cold, hard pallet.

Several weeks later, in the dead of the night, there was a dreadful attack on the city by pirates: the legendary Black Pearl had docked! I had run out into the streets in a panic, armed only with a kitchen knife, only to see my beloved run past me crying out, ‘Elizabeth! Elizabeth!’ She had been taken; at the same moment I felt both sadness, for what Will must be going through, and a wicked sort of hope, that she might be gone forever. But such a wish could never be fulfilled. . . . I got away safely, and hid in the abandoned smithy. The next morning I found that Will was gone as well, and I did not see either of them for well nigh on four days and four nights.

Some part of the British navy had been despatched to find the lady, and they returned in a fortnight with not only Elizabeth and Will but also a single pirate, who was to be hanged in the gallows.

When the governor and his daughter arrived at the manor, all of the servants began to bustle about, consumed by nervous energy. I was furiously scrubbing at a particularly nasty bloodstain on the wall Elizabeth’s bedroom, which had been left untended for days, when a maid approached me, bubbling over with excitement. ‘Have you heard the news?’ she asked.

‘News? What news?’ I said dully, rubbing the spot even harder than before with renewed vigour.

‘Why, it’s Elizabeth—she has agreed to give her hand in marriage to Commodore Norrington! Isn’t that wonderful?’ The maid continued talking happily, bustling about the room and smiling to herself.

‘Yes, wonderful,’ I echoed, her words resounding through my head and lifting up my spirit. I wanted to throw down the rag and dance with joy. What news could have made me happier? I was floating upwards like a soap bubble towards the heavens.

But bubbles do not last for long; they are so fragile. My own shattered into a million fragments and dissipated into nothingness during the execution ceremony of Captain Jack Sparrow. I saw the whole dread event unfold before my very eyes: Will dashing in to save the pirate, then running to Elizabeth and saying words that I thought would cause my heart to break. I escaped from it all, pushing and shoving my way out of the multitude, to find haven in a high place overlooking the sea.

It should have ended there! The torment should have ceased—and by the gods, I should have sought a different refuge—but more was to come. No sooner had I wiped away my sudden tears than I heard more shouts and saw redcoats pursuing Sparrow to the edge of the cliff. He stepped—tripped, rather—off the edge and disappeared. A heated debate followed, which I lost interest in; then, glancing back, I saw the Commodore tell my beloved to treat Elizabeth with much care and devotion. I stood agape in shock and fear. He was . . . relinquishing her? Breaking off the engagement? How—how dare he?! Fool! I screamed madly, but the shout only bounced off the walls of my mind, then quieted.

Then he and the redcoats departed, and only Will, Elizabeth, and the governor were left. Even he, who I thought would never live to see the day when his daughter wed a commoner, gave them his blessing! The two leaned forwards, into an embrace, and . . .

It was all too much for me. I fled once more.

Life must go on, even when slitting the wrists or stepping off the bluff to crash upon the jagged rocks far below seems so tempting. I yet worked at the household of the governor. There was much talk of the upcoming wedding. Elizabeth laughed gaily at a joke a servant had told until I ordered her, severely, to sit still so I could make her measurements for the wedding dress. That was the hardest garment I had ever sewed: every stitch, every jab of the needle was like a dagger thrust into my heart. It was not a gown made with affection by a devoted servant, it was my own hatred made corporeal.

It was beautiful, and Elizabeth said she loved it, and hugged me. Tears of joy were shining in her eyes. The moment I could leave, I did, retreating to my small chamber. I flung myself onto my pallet, upon which I wept for the rest of the night. The ceremony would take place in a week.

The day of the wedding dawned clear and bright, just as I knew it would. Elizabeth, for she was a kind and generous girl, had invited every one of the servants. Little did she know how cruel a favour she had done me, I thought.

Again, yet again, I could only watch as Elizabeth approached the altar, radiant as a white-clad goddess, and the ceremony began. It seemed as if I would always be nothing but an onlooker in William and Elizabeth Turner’s happy little paradise. Will stood by her, and my breath caught in my throat as I gazed upon him. He was so . . . those deep, dark eyes, watching everyone and everything intently, the sound of his voice as he spoke to the Governor, his profile in the smithy as I watched him practise his swordplay from a darkened alcove . . . I could not find the words, but my desire for him was as strong as it had ever been. Whomever he was, whatever he did, I would never stop loving him. Even when—

Then Elizabeth gave a little gasp, and clutched the hand of her husband-to-be—’I—I can’t breathe,’ she whispered, and I thought she was jesting. The same thing had occurred during the event at the gallows less than a moon ago, due to an over-tight corset; this must be no different. It was a joke, I thought irritably, but it was not very appropriate, and no one else seemed to find it amusing either.

But instead of smiling or laughing, she collapsed onto the floor of the altar. Folk began to scream and cry. I caught a glimpse of her through the gathering crowd: she was deathly pale. Did she yet breathe? I suddenly remembered seeing my mistress lying on her bed one night, clutching her chest as if she were suffocating, gasping like a fish out of water. Before I reached to her side, she had recovered. She reassured me that it was nothing but a fainting spell, and it only happened once in a while, that she would be better soon. I gazed back at the scene at the altar, knowing that this time, it was worse, far worse. Had she been sick all this time? And when had it all started?

Will was stroking her hand and whispering, as if his very soul depended on it, ‘Please, Elizabeth, please, please . . . please wake up, love . . .’ He bent over her and placed a kiss upon her brow, still pleading with her to arise. The angel in white stretched her wings and flew, but Elizabeth Swann’s body remained, still and lifeless, like some alabaster statue unmarred by mortal life.

They buried her a week later. The governor spent no small sum of money on her gravestone; it was the finest that could be had. Will lingered after the cemetery; I saw him leaning to touch the tombstone with numb fingers through the pouring rain. It fell for many days afterward; nothing and no one could keep dry and warm in such weather. We all felt as if a light had gone out in the city, even I, who had most wanted her gone.

I stopped by the smithy on an errand, and there met the man I had loved for so long. But he had changed; I saw dark circles under his eyes. His hair was not tied back but rather hung loose down to his shoulders. He no longer walked with vigour—Will kept his eyes downcast and did not move with the same irrepressible energy he had always seemed to possess.

‘I am Eloise—the governor sent me—he says you have a rapier finished for him whose blade needed tempering,’ I said softly. My heart pounded; I clutched the bindings of my dress to keep my hands from shaking.

‘Ah . . . yes,’ said Will. He turned and retrieved the sword from its holding on a wall panel, handing it to me. ‘Take care, now. It’s quite heavy.’

‘I’ve got it,’ I told him, carefully placing the blade in the sheath he extended. He smiled weakly at me with shadowed eyes that spoke of despair, and I knew he did not even see me. But I have not come through hell to give up so easily.

 

Tomorrow, I thought. Tomorrow, I shall come back on another errand and you shall know my name. Tomorrow, perhaps you will have forgotten a little more of her. Perhaps one day the shadow upon your heart will depart, and then . . . and then . . .

A smile stretched across my lips as I stepped out into the bitter rain. The sun would come out again. I knew it would. And I would wait for it, I would wait forever.

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