Ruby Revenge


Dusk fell fast and hard that evening. The earth was still bathed in a fresh coat of rain, the faintest rumble of thunder was still lingering in the distance, and the thick storm clouds still hovered intimidatingly above, cloaking those below in darkness.

Concealed in welcomed shadows, two lone figures huddled close at the foot of a looming brick wall, masking them from any eyes that would pry. Their heads were bent together as though in a deep sadness, but only one of the two was crying.

"Will you write to me?" the young girl, no older than seventeen years, inquired of her companion, a handsome male of twenty-six.

"I promise," he crooned, brushing away the tears that clung to her smooth, pale cheeks.

Her sapphire eyes searched his face, so dear to her in all its ruggedness from years spent sailing the seas, the harsh wind biting at his face. She reached a soft hand up, brushing a lock of his sandy hair back from eyes of a deep brown. At the corners of those eyes were the crows feet he had gathered from squinting so many years into the sun glinting off of the ocean waves. She wondered when she would ever see his face again.

Her ruby lips trembled with suppressed emotion in her miserable attempt to not burst into tears. She took a step forward, burying her face into his rough shirt, and took a deep steadying breath, inhaling the familiar scent of tobacco and the salty sea air.

"Why do you have to go?" she murmured into the material, words muffled.

He gave a heavy sigh, placing her at arms length in order to look her in the eye. "Harriet, you know why I have to go. My ship holds cargo that needs delivered. I can't very well deprive people of their supplies just because you want me to stay." He gave her a small chuck under the chin, but she just sniffed miserably.

"But when will I see you again, William?"

"Soon," he assured her, but she only looked at him disbelievingly. "I promise. And while I'm away, you will tend to your embroidery, and attend dances and be with your friends like every other young girl."

She sighed and lowered her eyes, a few more tears making their escape down her cheeks.

"Here," William said, grasping for anything to make her stop that crying. He reached into his pocket and withdrew a lace-trimmed, white handkerchief. "Dry your eyes."

He handed her the handkerchief and she took it with a sniff, staring at it for a moment. Then she raised her eyes to his. "... For me?" she squeaked.

He blinked at her, and then nodded slowly. "Yes... so that you can use it when I'm not here to dry those pretty green eyes of yours."

"But... my eyes are blue.."

"Look, darling. I really have to go."

"But.. wait! Who's S.D.P?" Harriet asked, pointing at the pink initials embroidered into the corner of the handkerchief.

"My mother. Harriet, I have to leave."

"But-" William kissed her swiftly but firmly on the lips, before she could say anything more.

"Good bye, Harriet." He flung his bag over his shoulder, gave her a wink, then turned and left quickly.

"Wait...!" Harriet called after him, but his footsteps were already fading from her earshot. "Good bye," she whispered to herself as the clouds opened up and spilled their rain onto her, the drops from the sky mingling with the ones that fell from her eyes.

But no letters from him ever came.

Harriet wrote him every day and sealed each one with a ruby kiss, but as he had forgotten to tell her where he was going, she could not send the letters to him. All she could do was store them in the desk at her bedside and pray for the day when she could give them to him in person.

But that day never came.

Six months went by without any word at all from her beloeved William. Nor was there any word from him when her parents both took ill and within the passing of a week died, leaving her alone in the world at only seventeen-years-old.

Not yet being of legal age, Harriet was handed over to her aunt for temporary guardianship until her eighteenth birthday, at which point she would be able to decide her own path.

She fought hard, recalling days spent with her aunt as a child and the cruelty with which her cousins treated her. They were all grown and moved on now, but her aunt and uncle were no better than their children had been. But in the end, she lost the fight and was sentenced to spending the next 4 months in the care of her aunt.

The night before she was to leave, Harriet sat at her desk for the last time.

"Dear William," she wrote. "This will be the last letter I write to you, for in the morning I depart to live with my Aunt Gertrude until I am of legal age. I had hoped that you would return and marry me as you had promised, but that does not appear as though that will happen. Four months is not so long, though, and once I am eighteen I am free to do as I please. I trust that we will be reunited then. But until that day,

Farewell, William."

Then she signed the letter, sealed it with a ruby kiss, and tucked it with the others into the small bag of belongings she would be taking with her to her aunt's.

The morning found her on the cliff's edge for the last time as she stood gazing out over the vast sea, the waves crashing upon the rocks far below her and the wind tossing her thick, black locks about her pale face. For once, her cheeks were dry, and her heavy heart was simply empty.

"Come along, Harriet!" her Aunt Gertrude called impatiently from the carriage waiting outside of the only place where Harriet had ever known love.

She didn't hear her aunt's beckoning, or she chose to ignore it, as she held her fisted hand suspended over the edge of the cliff.

"Good bye, William," she said in a cold voice that he would never have recognized as belonging to the sweet young girl he'd left behind. "I won't be needing this anymore." Then she uncurled her fingers and released into the wind the very handkerchief that he had given to her.

Her eyes were devoid of tears as she turned and walked to the carriage and her impatient aunt.

The only saltwater she needed now was the sea itself.

And so for four months, Harriet endured the treatment that her aunt and uncle put her through, forbidding her to do anything on her own, but instead always dragging her off to fancy parties to which only the wealthiest were invited.

"After all," her aunt told Harriet repeatedly. "You're almost eighteen. If you don't marry soon, people will start to look upon you as an old maid. And you don't want that, do you? And you certainly don't want to be poorly matched. I mean, look at what happened with that William of yours. A poor match indeed and now where is he? No doubt off with some other girl. No, no.. the best matches will be at these parties. Only the wealthiest are invited, you know."

Harriet could only nod in agreement. So she went to her aunt's parties and danced with the men her aunt directed, and when she wasn't there, Harriet locked herself into her room and only came out when she absolutely had to. No one noticed how her already pale skin grew whiter, and how thin she was becoming, and how distant she was from everyone. They only talked of how pretty she was, and how well she danced, and how she would make a fine wife one day.

It was around this time that stories of a ghost captain began making their way around town. No one had seen this "pirate's" face as they called him and people doubted that he actually existed, but men continued to have their ships raided in the dead of the night. Some had even encountered the ghost captain, but it was always when there was no light with which to see his face. Captain Harry was his name, said those who had spoken to this supposed ghost. No one knew what he wanted. But it was apparent he was looking for something. Or someone.

It was finally the day before Harriet's eighteenth birthday. She was seated at the vanity in her room at her aunt's, combing her silky black locks before bed.

There was a knock on the door. "Harriet," her aunt began, coming in before Harriet could even respond to the knock. "I just wanted to speak to you briefly before you went to bed."

Harriet watched her aunt mutely in the mirror, never pausing in the routine movement of combing her hair.

"As you know, tomorrow is your eighteen birthday and that means that your time here is up. Therefore you are free to do as you like," her aunt continued, unaware that she was echoing the very words that Harriet had written in her last letter. "But I just wanted to let you know that whatever you choose to do - be back by six. I invited Mrs. Cunningham and her son Edward to dinner."

Harriet stared at her aunt's reflection, hands paused mid-comb. Then very slowly she nodded and resumed the motion. "Of course, Aunt Gertrude."

"And if you go out tomorrow, be careful. There's strange things going on, talk of a man parading around as a ghost.."

Harriet continued combing her hair, expression remaining blank. "Of course, Aunt Gertrude."

"Anyway, goodnight, Harriet. Don't forget to blow out the candle."

Harriet watched her aunt leave, then laid down the comb carefully, picking up the candle by her bed. "Goodnight, Aunt Gertrude."

There was a terrible fire in the household that very night. No one could be sure what caused the fire, as by the time morning came, the flames had reduced the house to ashes.

There were no survivors.

No one could come up with a reasonable explanation for the fire as everyone said the family was very careful with their candles, always making sure that none were left burning without someone there to watch it, but in the end people just accepted that it was a candle left forgotten throughout the night. Even those who knew the family and argued how highly unlikely that was eventually gave in to agreeing that it had been an accident.

Everyone instantly agreed on how much of a shame it was, though.

"That poot Harriet," they said. "She was so young. She had such potential to do something really great." Like marrying a wealthy man and bearing him six or seven strong sons.

But as more time went by, the tragedy of the fire was pushed from people's minds with the uprising of the scandals of the invisible Captain Harry.

People became afraid to leave their homes after dark; for fear that Captain Harry would come for them next. No one knew what the stealthy criminal was looking for, but they knew well enough that they did not want to get in his way, ghost or no ghost.

Word spread fast among sailors, as the invisible captain seemed to be targeting ships, and it wasn't very long at all before the word got to a certain first mate sailing the seas late in the night.

William was seated in the captain's cabin, pouring over the chart laid out across the mahogany desk and jotting down notes.

"William." One of his companion sailors poked his head into the room. "What are you doing in here?"

"Charting down the course. Captain's orders." He sent his friend a grin before returning to his work.

"Ah," his friend strode over and took an uninvited seat upon the ege of the desk. "The guys have been asking around, so now it's your turn - what do you think of the whole Captain Harry tale?"

William look up and shook his head. "Thomas, Thomas, Thomas...I would think that you of all people would have enough common sense to know that that is all those are. Tales. Myths, legends; stories told to entertain the drunken sailors and to frighten the young ones."

"So you don't think the stories are true, then?"

"No, I most definitely do not," William assured him in that over-confident voice of his, once more bending over his work.

"You'd better beware, Will," Thomas said with a laugh, getting to his feet. "That cockiness won't save you when Captain Harry comes for you next."

"Well, if I see him, I'll be sure to tell him you give him your greetings. Now get lost. I have work to do."

Thomas laughed again. "Night, Will," he bid, before leaving.

William spent the next few minutes engrossed in his work, when the doorknob suddenly clicked and turned.

"Thomas, I said I had w-" William stopped short upon looking up. The figure standing in the doorway, silhouetted against the moonlight, was not Thomas at all. Or anyone else William knew on the ship, judging by the lack of height, wide-brimmed hat, and thick, knee-length coat that concealed the figure's seemingly small form.

"Who are you?" William demanded. "You are not allowed in here. This is the Captain's quarters."

"Well then, I'm in just the right place," said the figure in a light voice.

"Who are you?" William repeated. "Step into the light."

The figure didn't hesitate to obey, and William soon realized why when he saw the hat tipped forward to conceal half the stranger's face, the other half masked in shadows.

"Show yourself," William ordered.

The stranger raised a hand slowly, then lifted the hat away from their face.

William narrowed his eyes, frowning. "Do I... know you?" he asked slowly. He was sure he knew that face.

The stranger smiled in a way that was anything but friendly, then completely removed the hat.

Thick black locks tumbled down, falling about the pale face of the stranger.

William stared, but still could not place the face. Then his eyes widened. "Harriet?"

She shook the hair from her face and fixed him with her sapphire eyes. "Hello, William," she said cooly.

"I.. I thought.. I heard you'd died," he stammered.

"Well, it was considerate of you to come to my funeral. Just as it was considerate of you to come to my parents funeral. And it was almost as considerate as all those letters you wrote to me, and all the promises you kept."

William stared. He'd never known Harriet to have a temper. Now that he was witnessing it, he was wishing he hadn't. "I meant to write - I honestly did," he said, hoping she'd believe him.

"Save it for someone who cares, William." It was then that she raised her arm, revealing the pistol clasped firmly in her hand.

"Harriet-" William squeaked, eyes going huge.

"Harriet died, Will. Whatever you have to say to her, you can tell her yourself."

Then she pulled the trigger.

William was found the next morning, cold and lifeless, with a ruby kiss on his forehead and a stack of old letters on his chest. Each one was signed with a flourishing Harry.