Between crates smelling of saffron, gunpowder and whiskey was a pearl in the hold, a pearl of a love smuggled between them like rifles to Tunisia. Stowed away by a sailor friend for a handful of crowns, half their fortune invested in a new world and life from the docks of Liverpool to New York City.
Winds buffeted the ship and in the cries from the decks above, the pitch and roll of the hold and in the bruises the crates left on their shoulders they knew the shape of the storm as it tore the vessel to shreds and took them under. He did not make it to the surface and as she floated in the cold, cold water she felt him somewhere far below. No doubt he now sat to the dealer’s left in a game of poker with Davey Jones.
The sun rose in the calm morning like a blasphemy as she clung to a piece of timber and she was rescued by a passing ship two feverish and salty days later. To die of thirst surrounded by water was not to be her fate and she never even feared the sharks that prudence told her passed through the water just below her feet. Given water and wool blankets, she shivered on this new deck without even the strength to cry. All that remained of him, of that other ship, of their love and of that pearl was a splinter from the plank that she’d clung to, trapped in the sleeve of her dress. She kept it close as the new ship bound for Halifax neared land. Surrounded by fishermen and sympathy she drifted past the docks and into the town, taking a room near the harbor and walking in the new dusk to a place between buildings on the edge of town.
There in the spring earth she buried the splinter like a skinny coffin, speaking his eulogy in tears that fell into the makeshift grave in place of flowers or a handful of dirt.
There were no pearls in New World. There were no pearls ever again.
Image Credit: Engraving by Gustav Dore