The Voyage Across The Sea
By Anonymous, East Stroudsburg, PA
Author's note: My teacher inspired me to write this for a school assignment, and I liked the way it came out, so... Show full author's note »
DefianceI walked slowly onto the enormous ship. My eyes wandered, taking in every significant detail. Never before had I been onto anything so magnificent. Mother pulled a strand of my hair, “Let’s go! Do you want to get left behind child?” She ushered me to move faster, but I was determined to bask in the glory of the vessel.
My names Ashley and I’m 16 years old. Not exactly a child, yet not fully an adult. What a tumulus and agitating time this was for me. There were days I hated being treated as a child, and there were times I hated being treated like an adult. Today was one of those days where I disliked being treated as though I could not walk on my own two feet.
“Mother!” I snapped impatiently. “Must you do that?” I rubbed the back of my head, where the pain was beginning to dull. My mothers brown eyes filled with exasperation, “If you walked faster then you spoke, you’d be on the ship all ready.” Mama was a petulant woman. Since she found we were going on this voyage, little things set her off. My twin brother, Matthew, laughed in response. “She’s right you know. You talk far too much.”
Glowering at the both of them, I moved quickly through the ship. Mother walked behind me, sighing. “Where’s our cabin? I was certain we were lucky enough to get one.” Children, women, men and even grandparents were all walking through the halls. Everyone spoke of a “new land” and “new opportunities.” It was crowded and hot, and I wanted to be up on deck. Hauling my little bag behind me, I struggled to keep my composure. But the sweat was trickling down my back, and Matthew was seriously asking for a good pop in the nose.
“FINALLY!” My brother shouted. We plopped our stuff down onto the little cots, and decided to let Mother rest. She already seemed sick. Closing the door quietly, I slipped off my bonnet, and shook out my hair. It was finally growing long again, but I couldn’t stand the curls that claimed my head. “I’m going to go get something to eat. I’ll meet you here later, okay?” Matt studied me for a moment, and then went on his way.
I, for one, was more interested in the possibility of meeting someone new, and the incredible voyage ahead. Walking up the stairs to the deck of the ship, I realized there weren’t too many people. Some were couples, lounging in the sun; while others were simply watching the gulls fly overhead and praying quietly to the Lord. I inhaled and smiled at the sound and smells of summer. The sweet salty air and comforting breeze left me with a feeling of complete bliss. The gulls flew in circles, like vultures. They called out many times, stealing bits of food left on the floor of the ship. The ship had already started moving, and I watched as many passengers came out of their cabins to wave good bye to their old land, friends and family.
My throat tightened and I came to the realization that as happy as I was, I would surely miss the comforting feeling of home. Suddenly, I felt very sad. I took one last glance at my birth place, and shook away the tears that threatened to overflow. This was a new time, a new era. I would be able to live as I chose. I smiled at the thought, my spirits renewed.
I leaned over the balcony of the ship, straining my neck to catch the white, blue waves that pounded against the ships side. The water shone brightly, and the breeze carried the mist to my face, causing me to laugh in delight. But as I was so caught up in the excitement of the sail, I failed to notice the two young boy’s rough housing behind me. It seems as though, I did not see one trip, and fall in my direction. It was as though my life went in slow motion, as I cried out in shocked, and my body tumbled over the balcony.
A warm, strong hand grabbed my wrists so tightly, I was certain it was bruised. My heart was racing, and my brain was going a million miles per hour. Before I could blink, I was back on the deck. Far from the balcony. A young man, seemingly a little older then I stared down at me. His grey eyes were full of concern, but also a bit of… Annoyance? I couldn’t quite be sure. His blonde hair blew feverishly from the breeze that had grown stronger.
My lips were dry, like cotton, and I turned slowly to see my audience. A mother was hugging the boy that had knocked into me, while she glared ferociously at her other child. The boys couldn’t be older then 5 years old, and I was glad they were all right, even though my very life could have been over. Several women from the church back home stared at me, eyes wide. I shut mine tightly, knowing full well the news of the craziest thing Ashley’s done this time, would reach my Mother by supper time. I sighed, perfect.
“Are you all right?” The boy’s voice was deep, gruff. If I hadn’t seen his face, I would have been positive a much older man had saved me. I opened my mouth to speak, “Ye- Yes. I’m all right. Thank you sir, you’ve saved my life…” I quickly stopped talking, for my voice was strained from fright, and I grew embarrassed from sounding like a little girl. The breeze shook my curls around my face, and my dress around my ankles. The young man frowned, “Sir? One would address my father in such a manner, but you may call me Daniel.” I swallowed hard, and looked up to see the sun retreat behind an on ominous pair of clouds. Ignoring the crowd that had begun to pray out loud, Daniel’s distaste deepened, “What were you doing there? You do understand we’ve barely begun our journey to the new land, and you’ve almost killed yourself. You’re certainly not an infant, so you must’ve known better…” His voice trailed off as he shook his head.
I felt a trickle of anger shimmer down my spine. “Who do you think you are? My father?” I spat vigorously. The weather seemed to agree with my mood; the sky was growing dark, and the Captain had advised everyone to return to the safety of their cabins. Thunder began to rumble, like a dog growling viciously at a stranger. Ignoring the signs of an approaching storm, Daniel scowled. “I just saved your life because you were too stupid, “he hissed the word, “To realize how very near you were to death. And you have the audacity to speak me in such a tone?” He eyes met mine, “And lower your voice. You very nearly gave that old woman a stroke!” My jaw dropped, “You saved my life, yes! And for that, I thank you.” I gathered my dress hotly, and turned to leave, “But you had no right to talk to me like I’m some sort of fool!” The shame burned, hot and radiant across my face. Still, I stood unwieldy. “And my voice is lowered!” I snapped. I proceeded to stomp very un-lady like, back to my cabin. When I rounded the corner, I stopped short in front of the stairs. My temper had begun to subside, and I realized that I had over reacted. Typical Ashley. This was no surprise, for there had been too many accounts where I had taken things far too personally, and said harsh words I’ve been unable to take back.
I thought about Mother, and how she told me this was a new beginning for not just us, but everyone. We would start new churches, new colonies. (Not that I was seemingly thrilled by more churches. That meant more Sundays where sleeping in failed to be an option.) We would be, according to our Reverend, recreating our houses, building everything from scratch. If there were others living in the new land, and surely, there would be, it was our job to show them God’s light, to teach them of the powers of the Lord. We literally would be rebuilding our lives from scratch. No one knew us there, and we didn’t know anyone either. We were to discover who we were as human beings on this enormous green planet we called home. I sighed, “I really don’t want to apologize.” I jumped though, at the sound of thunder echoing my aggravation.
This time, the weather ceased to be silent. Thunder roared, and the wind began to shriek. Gone were the warmth of the sun, and the laid back attempts of the summer breeze. I swallowed my pride, and tip toed to the corner of the wall, just so I could see if Daniel had stood there. I mean, honestly who did that arrogant boy think he was?! But he was transient, wanting to get away quicker then I did. I could feel my anger return as quickly as it had gone. Rain trickled, icy and cold, on my flushed skin. What a way to start this voyage, I thought with disdain.
I walked as silently as I could into my cabin, but there was no need. Mother sat; making a blanket with needles and yarn, and Matt was reading a book, something I hadn’t seen him do in a long time. They both turned their heads, and Mother frowned, “Where were you? You’re not blind, I’m sure you saw the storm.”
“Yes Mama, but I … Had an encounter with another one of the passengers.”
Mothers eyebrows rose, and my brother put his book down, “YOU had an encounter with someone?”
I sighed and walked over to Mothers cot, laying down and covering my face with the blanket that smelled of salt and felt like itchy cotton. I immediately threw it off, and frowned. “I was leaning over the balcony too closely—“
Mother gasped loudly, “WHAT?”
I almost smiled, so she hasn’t heard yet. I guess gossip fails to travel as fast as I assumed.
“I’m fine Mama, nothing happened. I mean nothing exactly. I just wanted a better look. I’ve never seen anything like this before.” I tried meekly to defend my idiotic actions.
“Well yes Ashley, none of us have ever seen anything like this, but we’re certainly not willing to commit suicide in the process!” Mother snapped her eyes full of irritation.
I winced, but she was right. I should have been more careful. “But Mama, this young man saved me. He was quite rude about it though. We got into a slight argument. Mama, he talked to me like I was his younger sibling!” I felt heated all over retelling the story.
“Someone saved you?” My brother asked, “Wow. Now why would anyone do that?”
I chucked a pillow at him, but it missed. “Idiot…”
After telling Mama the story, she seemed to be convinced she knew of the young man I spoke of. “What was his name? Was he your age?”
I shook my head, “No, but… He seemed vaguely familiar. I think I might’ve seen him around town. His name was Daniel. He had bright hair, like the sun. It was almost white, and he had grey eyes Mama.”
My brother began to laugh loudly and rudely, much to my annoyance. “What in the hell is so funny?”
Shaking her head, Mama spoke with a sly smile on her face, “Ashley. You recognized him because he’s the Reverends eldest son. Daniel Williams.”
I almost choked, “DANIEL WILLIAMS?” How could I have forgotten? Religion was an enormous part of our lives, though I found church to be boring most of the time, it was something we attended almost everyday back home. The Reverend was famous where we lived, adored by the hundreds of citizens. His 2 sons were all respected and admired for their religious outlooks on life.
Little Nathaniel was about 10 years old and Daniel was about 18. “How could you have forgotten? Women swoon over him, as though he’s God himself.” Mama seemed thoughtful though, her matchmaking getting way out of hand, “He IS admirably looking. He’s certainly a young man I can see you wanting to be with though.”
I stared at Mother. “What? I have, I can assure you, absolutely no intention of being with that… Moron.” Mama said, “Right. That’s what they all say, dear child. Well, at least you’re okay. I’ll have to thank him for that later tonight.”
Despite the pouring rain, the supper bell rang. The ship was small, but there was an area where we were permitted to dine. I sighed, “I think I’ll wait here.” Mama shook her head, “Oh no. You’re coming to supper like we all are. We have to value our family traditions and that includes having supper together every evening...” There was no use in arguing. I ordered my brother out, and quickly changed to a more appropriate dress. I simply left my hair down, frowning as Mama, Matt and I walked down to the dining area.
The moment we walked in, everyone began to stare. Women began to whisper, little children pointed, and I noticed Reverend Williams, with Daniel sitting at the biggest table. I frowned when Daniels eyes reached mine. Daniel however, smiled. Once we all took our seats, the Reverend stood up, and began to speak. Matt leaned to me, and said, “Daniels staring at you.” I kicked his leg from underneath the table. “ARE YOU MAD?” He snapped acidly. “SHHH!” Mama glared. “It’s embarrassing enough people are speaking so rudely about you and that Daniel, I don’t need them saying how insurgent you are.” I slumped in my seat and crossed my arms, making sure I looked as miserable as possible.
The candles lit all around the room cast eerie shadows against the ships wall. I could hear the waves against the vessel, thunder clapping overhead. The Reverend stood up, smiling at his sons. He lifted his hands in the air, and began to speak.
“Now, as we all know, we are all children of God. We are all here for a reason. We are on a voyage to this new land; one must understand there probably are other people there. Other’s who’ve never even heard of God.” Some people began to murmur underneath their breathe. I rolled my eyes at my brother, and he gave a tentative smile. As if he agreed, but didn’t want anyone to know. “Give me a break...” I muttered. I knew this would be a vapid speech.
The Reverend waited a moment, and took a deep breathe. “I’ve heard rumors. Heard stories….” He shook his head, and reached up to touch the enormous cross that hung from his neck. “That this heathens are worshipers of what they believe to be numerous Gods. Animals. Devils…” He whispered the last word, and thunder roared, the waves shaking the boat.
Everyone gasped, and began shouting different things.
“THE DEVIL? Who ARE these people?”
“What? My children cannot see something like that!”
“Dear Mother of God!”
I buried my face in my hands and groaned. As much as religion was a part of our daily lives, I personally rebelled against it. It was too contradicting. The Bible says one thing, and then they do another. Nothing’s ever right in the eyes of the Bible. No human is perfect, but that’s almost what they’re asking for. It was one of the many reason’s the people on the ship, who I’ve known ever since I was a baby, talked so much about me and what a defiance I was to God. Not long before the voyage, one woman claimed if I didn’t change my ways, it was almost certain the Devil would get a hold of me, and I would forever be condemned to eternal damnation. The town was a scourge, certain to bring one’s reputation down the toilet.
Reverend Williams continued to talk, and reassure everyone that we would change those strangers’ awful ways and make them see the Lord. We would describe how awful Hell was and the terrible and horrifying ways of Satan, and after that, they would be begging to let God into their lives
. I frowned when I heard this, and shook my head. What if these people were perfectly happy with their lives? Perfectly fine with the way how they chose to live. Who were we to change that? But now, even Mama and Matt were nodding in agreement, saying, “Thank you Lord.” Finally, the food began to arrive, and everyone said thanks, and began to eat.
I looked up and saw Daniel walk away from his table, and start towards mine. His father seemed just as shocked as I. I swallowed hard, and moved my food around my plate. Everyone had begun to eat, greedily taking in the elaborate meals cooked on our tiny vessel. Daniel moved closer now, his gray eyes gleaming from the millions of candles scattered throughout the ship. Go away. Go away. GO AWAY.
But of course he didn’t. With my luck, even if some sort of religious interference happened to stop every minute of time, it wouldn’t stop Daniel Williams from walking to my table, politely speaking with my Mother and Matthew. Mama’s eyes lit up, “Oh Daniel! I’ve been meaning to thank you. My daughter can be quite obnoxious sometimes, so I thank you for being there and saving her life.” Daniel beamed, “It was no problem at all Ms. I can assure you, she was in good hands.”
Good hands? No problem? That’s not what he was saying when he pulled me off the balcony. And obnoxious? Honestly Mother, could she be anymore humiliating?
Daniel then patted Mama’s shoulder comforting, and sat next to me as though we’ve been friends for years. What nerve.
“Good evening Ashley.” Ignoring him, I twirled a piece of my hair, looking around the ship.
“I just realized tonight you’re the infamous daughter of Anna.” He spoke softly, so Mama wouldn’t hear.
“I should have known after the way you spoke to me this afternoon." I frowned at him, but Daniel ignored me, "My father prays for your family constantly.”
My eyes flickered to his face, a smooth mask. A light smile playing his lips.
“I'm sure they do, “I said sarcastically.
Daniel sighed, almost looking annoyed, "He believes if he prays enough for you, you’ll stop rebelling against our religion and start behaving more like Heidi.”
“Heidi?” I scoffed, “You must be insane. That woman will be the death of me”
“Haven't you accomplished that feat on your own? Well, almost.” Daniel smiled
I ignored that, “Heidi is so straitlaced.”
Daniel threw his back and howled with laughter, “You’re certainly not afraid to speak your mind.”
I scoffed, “Get real Daniel.”
“Now what if I was good friends with Heidi and I told her?”
I shrugged hotly, “I’ll tell her to her pug-nosed face how much I despise her.”
Daniel stared at me, his grey eyes boring into my own. I sighed, and stared at his father.
“Look. Here’s a little caveat for yaw. Don’t talk to me anymore and don’t act like we’re friends, because we’re NOT.”
“Maybe I want to speak with you. It’s possible.” His eyes once again, were burning lasers through my convoluted mind.
“Possible? You would say possible. As incredibly interesting as this conversation is going Daniel, I’ve got more important things to do.”
I turned to Mama and Matt. “I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m not feeling very well, so I’m going to bed without supper.” I rose abruptly, “Good night.” And before Mother could utter a single word, I got up and left the dining wall, walking quickly back to my cabin, leaving Daniel, Mama, and Matt to the Pastors repetitive praying.
“Heidi? He must be joking.” I said to myself angrily. Unlike me, Heidi is the adored poster child for how the Christian teenager should act. She was constantly looking picture perfect and constantly patting my head, telling me that God always forgives. As though I was some sort of abomination. She was one of the people I wanted to punch more then my brother. But that too, wasn’t very lady like, or what a good Christian would do.
“Ashley.” Oh. My. God. I sighed and shut my eyes, willing myself all the strength in the world not to turn around. “Ashley, listen please." Daniel's was voice soft, and he appeared to me very seriously. “I’m sorry for how I behaved earlier today. It wasn’t polite, and it was rude.”
Holding his gaze with my own, I smiled grimly, "You're forgiven. I get enough of your father and the all mighty Heidi trying to preach to me. No offense to you or anything, but as religious as everyone here is, that's not me, nor will it ever be." I expected him to say I was bewitched, or Satan's spawn. Or to start screaming and telling me how I could ever talk badly about the Lord and about everything our town was and why we left on this journey to begin with.
But Daniel did something that shocked me to my very core. This was rare because nothing ever shocked me. Ever. "I agree with you.”
“Hmm.” I turned the knob of my door, and suddenly stopped, “Wait. I beg your pardon? You agree?”
“I’m not going to preach to you, or tell you you're wrong, or any of the sorts... You're bold and not afraid to tell the world what you truly believe in. And that to me is what this journey is about. Maybe for the others, it's religious tolerance, and that's fine." Daniel grinned, his eyes gleaming mysteriously, "To each his own, correct?" There were absolutely no words that could have described the utter shock I felt towards this young man. One minute he saved my life, then he yelled at me, THEN he tried to meet my family, and now he's AGREEING with me? I was certain the salty air and sea water had gotten to Daniel.
I frowned, something I realized, I had been doing a lot since I got onto this vessel. "I'm sorry but have you gone mad? Clearly this sort of voyage was not meant for one as delusional as yourself. You're the most insane young man I've ever had the misfortune to encounter." Daniel threw his head back and laughed. "It's sad such an observant, outspoken young lady is so blind."
Now I laughed. "Excuse me? BLIND?"
"Yes. You only see me with your eyes; this is why you've never really seen me for who I REALLY am. And after saving your life, I do believe it is my duty to show you."
"Explain me to then, why you're so crazy!"
Daniel sighed, as if the explanation was something my brother could have guessed. "I've heard rumors about you. You don't necessarily believe in what my Father preaches, and when I heard, I was shocked. Almost everyone believed him, so why not this belligerent women?"
"I enjoy keeping a mask.” He continued, his eyes staring at something I wasn’t seeing.” Keeping what I firmly believe, a secret. I like to keep people guessing, and not knowing why I act this way today and another way tomorrow."
I nodded, "That's how you're acting now.”
Daniel crossed his arms over his chest, “I am sorry about yelling at you though. I wasn’t having a good morning, and it wasn’t correct to take it out on you.” When I said nothing, Daniel continued, “I am interested, however, as to why you don’t believe in my Fathers preaching’s. I thought I was the only one before now.”
I shrugged, “Daniel, you’re so interesting I can hardly stand it, but I REALLY need to be going to sleep now…”
And then it hit me. Harder then the realization of this epic journey. Daniel didn’t believe his Father. He didn’t fall for the religious garbage either. I couldn’t believe it. The Reverends son failed to agree with the religious hoax I had rebelled against since I understood it? Unbelievable. This man was my hero, no doubt about it.
“You… You don’t believe in what your Father preaches?”
Daniels eyebrows shot up, “No. I don’t. Why would I?”
I almost shrieked, “Ohm, yes it does Daniel! Everyone on this vessel respects you BECAUSE of your affiliation with the Bible.” I wrinkled my nose at the word, “Don’t you understand if anyone figured this out, you’d be in the same boat as I?”
“Aren’t we already?” He chided.
Rolling my eyes, I snapped my fingers, “Be mature Daniel. Honestly, why don’t you believe in your fathers’ word?”
“Because it doesn’t seem right. I’m going on this journey to figure out who I am as a man, what I want in life, who I want in my life. Not to preach to others about something I don’t even know is real or not. That’s almost a sure way to lead you to absolutely nowhere,” he said, shaking his head in apparent disgust.
“Why did you not come talk to me about this before? In town?”
“Why not now? Is it not a good a time as any?”
He got me there. “I suppose,” I murmured, and then smiled at him. He returned the smile, “You believe it to be garbage as well?”
I laughed, “Something of the sort, yes. It’s my own personal opinion though. Don’t take it to heart, I wouldn’t want one as respected as yourself, to be goaded into disagreeing with your father based on my thoughts.”
Looking amused, Daniel raised an eyebrow. “YOU influence ME? Don’t be confused child, I’m older then you. Therefore my actions influence thee.”
I scoffed, “Older? Daniel you’re a year or two ahead of me. You’re far from being the influencer here.”
But our conversation was cut short, for I noticed that everyone began to leave the dining hall, and return to their cabins. Once again, everyone stared at Daniel and me, probably assuming I was up to no good. Reverend Williams raised his arms in delight at Daniel, but when his eyes caught me, he quickly set them down, his frown so deep, I was sure it was permanent.
“Daniel.” Reverend Williams turned and forced a smile at me, “Ashley.”
If his smile was forced, mine was sure to be that of the devils. “Reverend.”
“Would you give my son and me a moment of privacy?”
I gave him my most endearing smile, “Why of course Reverend Williams!” And stepped about 3 feet away from them.
“What’re you doing here, with Ashley, of all people?” Reverend Williams hissed in a heinous tone.
I pretended not to listen. Pretended to be searching for Mama and Matthew, wherever they might be.
I could hear Daniels distaste when he answered, “Only speaking Father. What is it you want?” He asked in abrupt rudeness.
If Reverend Williams noticed, he failed to let on. “Finish your conversation and finish it quickly. I’ll not associate myself with such a disgrace to our community and neither should you.” He then walked away, leaving Daniel and I alone, while the rest of the civilians marched back to their rooms.
I turned back around and smiled sadly, “I’m sorry your Father feels that way. Even if you and I agree that what he preaches is something false, I told you not to speak with me.”
Figures. The one person who agrees with my sense of this religious insanity, and it had to be Daniel Williams. Why me? I thought disdainfully.
Daniel frowned, “You’re joking. Just because my close minded Father fails to approve does not mean I won’t continue to speak to you. I’m interested to hear what else you have to say, what else you believe to be true and false. I’m a grown man, and I’ll not have my Father order me around as though I were Nathaniel’s age.”
His rebellion to stand up for he believed in and to speak to someone as ordinary as myself had me beaming with happiness. I now had someone who I could speak to, who’d understand.
“You’re brilliant Daniel Williams. For saving my life and forbidding you to be dragged and chained in the cells they call religion.”
His smile was certainly one that I could easily compare to the gleaming sun, “I’ll meet you on the deck, in the late afternoon. Everyone will have gone back to their cabins, as they now.” He pointed out.
I looked around and realized no one was in the halls anymore. Daniel and I had unknowingly drifted to the end of the hall, where the splattering rain and rhythm tic crash of the waves were a beautifully composed song.
Mama suddenly stuck her head out of the door, looking left and then looking right in our direction. “Ah! Daniel, good evening boy. If you and my daughter are done talking, may you please let her be excused back to her bedroom? I fear it’s getting late. Maybe you ought to return to your cabin as well.”
I blushed deeply; I mean honestly, did she HAVE to do that? Treat me like a child?
But Daniel didn’t seem to notice, “We’re finished speaking Miss—“
“Call me Anna, dear. Please.”
Daniel coughed, “Anna… I shall say goodnight then.”
Mama nodded, smiled at us, and closed the door.
I heaved an enormous sigh, “She’s so humiliating sometimes, and I swear it.”
Daniel laughed, “We’ll talk more tomorrow. Remember, the deck at sunset.”
The boat teetered nervously from side to side, causing me to grip the walls for some sort of support. “Ye- yes. Tomorrow, understood. Good night Daniel.”
He took hold of my hand without uttering a single word, and walked me slowly to my cabin. The waves must’ve been pushing the vessel hard, for I was certain I almost crushed Daniels hand at one point. His hard, calloused, hand, warm in my own, almost felt… Nice.
“Thank you, it wasn’t necessary though.” I murmured, hoping he didn’t noticed how slowly I released my hand from his.
Daniel didn’t seem to have caught on, and his fingers lingered on my own. “I do believe it was.” He grinned. “And now I bid you farewell. Sweet dreams.” He said politely, opened the door for me, and then walked away.
I smiled and quickly got ready for bed. Mama and Matt had fallen asleep rather quickly, thank goodness. I didn’t want to be questioned so late at night. Crawling into my cot, and heaving the enormous blanket over my body, I could feel sleep attaching it’s deep, plummeting aurora over me. My eyelids began to droop and I took the sudden blackness with gratitude. I was exhausted. Maybe this wouldn’t be such a bad voyage after all, I thought happily.