The Girl from the Sea – Chapter 2 (if you missed the first installment click here)
Frankie felt bad for lying to her mother, but there was no way on Earth that she was spending the holidays with Sissy. She was going to have to leave as soon as possible without telling anyone. She put the fish in the sink in a resigned manner. She would have to pretend to go along with Ma’s plan until she could formulate an escape route. She trailed upstairs and slumped on her bed. She was always a constant disappointment to her mother: she wasn’t dainty or elegant or interested in baking or sewing; she hated dresses and hair ribbons.
Being a girl just wasn’t very practical – her dresses got caught on things and her ribbons always fell out of her hair. And what’s more, she always got into trouble when the dress got dirty, or worse, ripped. She had grown up in a houseful of boys with two older brothers and two younger and her in the middle. They treated her no differently to each other, so she had learned to fish, climb trees, row a boat and how to fight back when the playing turned rough.
Ma had laid her dress out on the bed for her and she kicked it to the stone floor with disgust. She didn’t want to wait for her father to come home because there’d be hell to pay from him. He always took Ma’s side – it wasn’t fair! The boys got away with murder.
The sun was still high in the afternoon sky and she couldn’t bear the thought of being inside, in a dress and in trouble for the rest of the day. Frankie crept out of her window as she had often done, slid along the top of the porch and down on to the side wall away from the kitchen. She ducked alongside the wall until she was well away from the house and ran into the forest – she was back by the river in a matter of minutes, and immediately felt the cool flowing water sooth her nerves.
She followed the tow-path down to the village, past the green and on to the harbour. She slumped down on the end of the jetty with her feet swinging, not quite touching the water. It was her favourite place to sit and think, watching the silver flashes of the fish coming and going with the tide. There was always something going on down on the quayside.
Half a dozen taverns spilled out into the harbour and the boats that came and went made sure they had plenty of custom. Shopkeepers yelled out their latest bargains. Children played their games along the wall or sat with a bit of stale bread on a line trying to catch tiddlers. Women gossiped while they did their shopping. She sat there watching other peoples’ lives and wondered whether there was more.
All the women seemed to do all day was shopping, gossiping, washing and shouting at their children. That was not for her – she longed to follow Anthony and Lucas out on the fishing boats, battling with the tempests and wrestling with the sea monsters that inhabited the deep. She longed to see some of the other ports that they visited – far off cities with gleaming spires and enticing smells. They were gone for anything up to a week at a time, fishing, trading and travelling. It fired her already over-active imagination. Her older brothers fed her their stories and she swallowed them hook, line and sinker.
The sun was dipping below the horizon and she shivered slightly in the cooling evening breeze. It was time to head back and face the music. Her punishment couldn’t be any worse than staying with her aunt for the summer. She saw her brothers’ boat moored against the far end of the quay and thought she would take them with her for support – safety in numbers. There was nobody on board “The Hawk” when she got there. The day’s trappings had been stowed away, the catch sold at the market and her brothers – probably enjoying their earnings at the tavern. Frankie tutted at their stupidity in wasting their money in a tavern. Father would probably join them before tea as well.
She stood on the deck of the boat and felt a sense of calm float over her. She breathed in the smell of salty ropes and fishing lines. The tanginess made her eyes water, but there was something alluring about the sea. She climbed on to the prow of the boat and imagined that she was on the high seas, plunging through forty foot waves, with dragon headed monsters swimming alongside, escaping from tentacled creatures reaching out to drag their boat under the crashing waves.
“Ahoy, Frank! What monsters are there with you today?” shouted Anthony. She started out of her reverie and turned to find her two brothers grinning at her. They made fun of her fanciful notions of what life at sea was like. Their reality was quite boring and mostly arm-aching hard word. In her eyes they were explorers or pirates, wrestling with giant squid and a cut-throat crew – probably at the same time!
Her response to their teasing was always the same: “How am I ever to know what life at sea is like, unless you take me with you?” They just chucked her under the chin and patted her on the back and thought she was still living in her dream world. The idea of a girl going to sea – they were bad luck on a boat to start with and they’d never be able to cope with it.
“Where have you two been? At the pub I suppose. Get off me – you stink!”
“Oo tetchy today are we?” Lucas teased and grabbed her hat and dangled it over the water. Frankie knew how to deal with her brothers and didn’t rise to the bait. “Well, it’s no fun if you don’t play,” Lucas huffed and gave her hat back. She stuffed her hair back underneath.
“What’s up fish face?” Anthony asked. “Ma?” He knew her so well. “Don’t let her get to you. She’ll calm down in a day or so.”
Frankie sat on a bucket, looking glum and didn’t comment. She couldn’t pour her heart out to her favourite brothers because they would worm her plans out of her too, and then not let her go. She would be under constant surveillance. She had confessed once to having a desire to sleep out under the stars one night and they had followed her and crept up on her in the darkness terrifying the living daylights out of her. She had never wanted to sleep out again.
“Well, we’re going home for tea now. Come home when you’re in a better mood.” Anthony wrapped his long jacket around her shoulders to take the sting out of his words. Frankie hugged it to her for warmth. She was enjoying brooding. Her plan was not formulating as easily as she had hoped…she needed money, transport, a place to stay – running away from home was not going to be easy.