Old Stories – Susan Starlight (section one)

Okay, I lied in my last post.  I had to do a lot more than just fix spelling errors.  There were grammar problems.  Incomplete words.  Pure carelessness.  It truly was a shipwreck.  Hopefully I haven’t damaged the 15-year-old style too much by my rather horrified editing efforts.  Also, there’s a lot more written than I thought there was.  May just post the first two sections or so, starts rambling on a bit.  Pirate attacks and so on.  Nothing particularly exciting.

Okay, here’s section one.

Sally glanced ruefully down the long table at the brush and comb set she had absent-mindedly taken from the famous department store she’d exited minutes before.  She had set them down on a bargain price table just outside the doors and hoped they wouldn’t be noticed.  She pawed around amongst varied trash and treasure, trying to look the part of an innocent bystander looking for something to untangle her hair with.  She did not want to be caught with the imported, ridiculously expensive grooming set from the gaudiest shop in the city.

Her hand brushed against a cold hard object, and she gripped it with her nimble fingers.  It dug lightly into her skin, edges sharp and sure.  Curious, she plucked it out from underneath a holy, dirty silk dress and a moth-eaten cardigan.  It was a lovely sash pin shaped as a sixteen-point star, forged of common silver and set with an inexpensive glass jewel.  However attractive the workmanship, the pin was cheap, a mass-produced item.  But Sally spotted the tell-tale chip in the top two points and the little crack in the jewel, right in the centre.  She would recognise this pin anywhere, and held it up to her eyes in disbelief, just to confirm that she was not terribly mistaken.  It was hers, taken from her almost two years ago only to end up in a discount dump.

Technically, she thought furtively, it was still hers.  Unlike the brushes, she was fine with taking it back.  Eyes slyly taking in the milling crowds to make sure no one was watching, Sally casually let the brooch fall into her pocket.

It was at that moment that Jonny Cross-eyes came striding towards her, eyes glinting in annoyance.  ‘Do you know what time it is?’ he demanded when he drew level with her.

Sally fluttered her long lashes, mimicking the many ladies who flirted with sailor strangers in the market plaza, light purple lip paint sparkling in the waning sun.  ‘Now Jonny, you know I don’t read the sun nor a watch, and neither do you.  What makes you so sure I is late?’

Jonny scowled, the jagged scar across his bad eye darkening.  ‘The wizard man says it be well past three,’ he said, face softening as he patted her arm affectionately, ‘we don’t argue with clients.’

Sally reluctantly performed one final eye-sweep of the whole pile of rubbish on the discount table.  Not a brush but those unintentionally lifted from the department store in sight.  Her hair was cursed to be a seagull’s nest for another three months or so.  She did, however, see a security guard making his rounds of the market, stopping to chat with middle-aged medics and old ladies having trouble finding their recommended skin lotion.

Laughing gleefully, she swung around and hurried off towards the docks, still free.  Jonny shook his aching head, marvelling at her energy before he saw the guard himself, now speaking sternly to a group of young boys on scooters who had been causing a ruckus down in the food court.  He leapt after her and whispered angrily in her ear as they ran, noting the slight bulge in her pocket.  ‘You’ve been stealing again, haven’t you?  After the number of times you’ve been caught, too!” he exclaimed, sweat flying off him, panting heavily.  ‘You is far too much trouble.  Honestly don’t know why we keep you on the crew.’

Sally’s blue eyes danced mischievously, earning her a suspicious eye jab.  ‘Hmm, maybe cause I swim and you don’t?’

Neither their captain nor their client were very pleased with Sally’s lateness.  The captain gave her a stern lecture about punctuality and politeness, while their young client frowned deeply at her, making her fidget under his stare.  After the long-winded speech, she was ordered to swab the deck alone for a week.  The only good thing about this was that it excused her from the sweltering kitchen and Cook’s begging, wanting to know her thoughts and ideas about how to serve passable dishes with their limited supplies.  The rest of the crew was not at all pleased with the arrangement – they had grown to enjoy the exotic flair Sally added to their nourishing, but otherwise plain, food.

The client’s cold blue eyes seized Sally up, looking her up and down slowly, taking in everything from her messy blonde hair to her unpolished boots.  His face creased even more, and he spoke in a quiet, mocking voice.  ‘If you insist on having silly, pretty little girls on board, it is my thought their tasks should be limited to cooking and cleaning.  Females, I’ve heard, are not suited to sailing.’

Sally’s face burned with embarrassment at his harsh, untrue words, clenching her hands at her sides.  Jonny rested his big hand lightly on her shoulder in a calming motion.  “Actually, Sir,’ the captain said, unwilling to let a paying customer criticise any member of his crew.  That was his job.  ‘Sally is our very best swimmer, and a tolerable, hardworking sailor.  There is hardly a man more suited to sailing than she.’

‘Whatever you say,’ the client dismissed carelessly, eyes meeting Sally’s.  ‘You know what, pretty girl?  If your sailing skills are as admirable as your punctuality, you really ought to meet my partner.  You’ll get along just fine.’

Angry that he was clearly making fun of her, Sally noticed that he said “partner” with slight disdain, and resolved to tell the partner this when she met the person.  They would put this man, swathed in his black cloak, in his place.  The cloak was enormous; she can hardly see any of him but his eyes.

The client whipped around to take refuge in his cabin, but stopped suddenly.  ‘Hey, pretty girl!’

Sally stood up straighter, prepared now for any remark he might throw her way.  None came her way.  Instead, he tossed a wrapped box over his shoulder to a now astonished Sally, who let the wrappings fall away to find the expensive brushes she had so reluctantly left behind in the market.

‘Oh, shut up!’ she yelled at the rest of the crew, who sniggered behind their hands at the entertaining relationship already building between their new client and their Sally.

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4 thoughts on “Old Stories – Susan Starlight (section one)

    • Thanks 🙂 The story is definitely from then, though had to do heaps and heaps of tidying up. As in, almost unprecedented amounts of tidying. If you want to see just how terrible it original was, look up the same title on Elfwood. I won’t put the link … too embarrassing.

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