James had never truly fallen in love until he set sail with her. The Voice, James’s family boat, as in his name, James Matthew Voice. She was the smallest boat on the lake at twelve feet high and seven long, but with the tallest attitude; a fiery spirit that made every sailor desire her despite the fact that she was built in 1821, which was fourteen years ago, and had leaks in her bow. As a child, he would watch his father spin her in beautiful spirals around the sparkling waters, but he never suspected he would ever sail her himself until he meandered, half-asleep, down the wooden staircase to the kitchen on his seventeenth birthday.
“But he can’t,” He heard a female voice protest and snapped awake when he recognized his mother’s sound.
“We’re afraid you’re right. We can’t accept a child like James at our school. We’re sorry,” Said an unfamiliar voice as a door closed.
James, hiding behind the entryway to the kitchen, could hear his mother weep. He was afraid and confused when he approached her. In the midst of signing a greeting to her with his hand, he understood what the conversation was about. His mother had told him that she had been trying to get him into college, but no school could accept him because he was mute. There was no place in the world for a boy who could not speak. With this realization, James curled his small arms around his mother’s shaking shoulders.
“You can’t go to school,” she said, and he signed her an acknowledgement to the subject with his hands, assuring her that he knew that already before she spoke again: “But there’s something you can do without having to speak.”
In his wool pajamas, James was woken up at the crack of dawn by his mother. She had laid out canvas clothing and boat shoes for him, and he put them on quickly, confused as to why he had them. She took him to the dock, and pushed him away from the safety of his family’s pier and onto the Voice alone.
He tried to figure out how to sail her, and by experimenting with lines, discovered that different ropes make the boat react in certain ways. He tried to turn in a spiral downwind the way his father did and knocked her over; the next time he tried to turn her too fast, she got frustrated and struck him in the chest with her boom. The Voice was feisty, stronger than he was, and not afraid to teach him a lesson or two about sailing with her. She loathed the way he handled her.
Drenched in water several times over, James did not give up. He learned how to turn upwind with her without making her stop moving, and was determined to learn how to turn downwind, too. He never thought that the wind would be so important for anything. Wind, something that never made noise except when it would occasionally cause an object to topple or flail about, was what sailors needed to survive. Having thought that he needed to be able to speak to make a difference in the world, James realized that he was wrong. He was determined to be an artist, with the gales his medium- a dancer to the rhythm of the wind in her sails.
So, eventually, he did. Summer came and went; Winter turned to Spring, and Spring was a time for sailing. Every day, if he could, James took the Voice out and sailed with her around the lake, turning in spirals more beautiful than his fathers’ ever were. James had always wanted to surpass him in sailing before he had died of Tuberculosis last year. He had taken his time with her, and though she hit him daily, and sometimes even knocked him over her dulling hull a year prior, she openly had found a new appreciation for him. She would embrace him in her c***pit when he would make a turn, hold him on his course when the gales were high, and keep him mostly dry in the tight canvas clothes that he had outgrown half a year ago. Their love was like the wind: silent, so that no one could hear it, but strong enough so that they both could feel it. It blew in her sails every time he soared across the shining waves with her.
Every night, he would dream about sailing the Voice. She, the boat that he had mastered awaited him every morning, and like a child on Christmas Eve, he could hardly hold in his anxiety every night before a day of sailing.
A sharp movement interrupted his dreaming.
“James, wake up,” The familiar sound of his mother made him snap awake, “I have some news for you.”
Blurry, his eyes opened and adjusted to the half-shadowed figure standing before him, feeling too fatigued to sign anything to her.
“We’re moving houses tomorrow morning. Don’t worry; we won’t be going far,” She assured. James was not worried about being far from his home. His only concern was about sailing. He lifted his hand to sign, but she interrupted him with words: “The waters we are going to live by are much better to sail on than the lake we live on now. I arranged transportation for her; don’t worry,” She smiled for the first time since she first pushed him away from the pier and onto the Voice.
The new territory for the Voice was an adventure, and for him, terrifying. She sped across the uncharted waters like an unmanned chariot, and he, trying to control her after he felt confident on his old lake, was filled with the fear of the unknown.
After his first day on the water, his clothing was as drenched as it was a year ago. She had not meant to harm him, and had, as usual, tried to keep him dry, but struggled in the new, vast waters. After bailing her water out, he stepped up the frail, wooden stairs of his new home to bathe the ocean’s dirt off of him.
Something wasn’t right. The house, fully furnished and already moved into from his old home, was empty. Sensing this, James sped into the kitchen. A pale man in a black suit was searching the house with a cane, holding an expensive-looking hat in his bony hand.
“I was looking for you. You’re Claire Voice’s son, right?” The man greeted James dipped his hat.
James tried to sign something back when he heard his mother’s name, quickly realizing that the man did not understand him when he saw the expression on his face.
“Son, why can’t you say anything? Claire’s in the hospital. I had to come get you because you’re apparently the only family she has. Can’t you hear me?”
Without a signing back, James, still covered in water, rushed out the fragile door and closed it behind him, breaking it into two, flimsy pieces. The man, waving his hat and calling for James to wait, did not bother to chase after him. He knew it was no use.
A red sun shone over pink clouds and turned the sky the color of blood. James knew it was dangerous to sail in a morning with a red sky, but he had no other choice. The only way to the hospital was by sea, for he did not have a horse and it was too far away to run.
He did not hesitate when he boarded the Voice and only checked her to make sure she was ready once before pushing off the dock. The waves capped with white and almost knocked her over with every small movement. He was on his toes, careful not to let her fall. A gale blew against her sails and made her fly faster. The water calmed slightly and the sky darkened as the two of them shared a beautiful moment. Seabirds circled her, silhouettes beneath the red sky, and, feeling like she had wings herself, she flew across the open water with James’s love, which carried her everywhere she went. He soared with her, two birds creating a dance to the wind’s song.
Thunder struck and blinded James; he felt himself roll forward before he could even see what was happening. A stone, jutting out from beneath the Voice, had caught her and broken her in two, sending her mast down and bending it over the rock. Her mast was shaped like a question mark he didn’t want to answer. She was in pieces, and so was he, though he did not realize it. The jagged edge of the stone protruded from his heart. His blood, in a small stream, dripped over her chipped, off-white hull. He had always given her everything he had, and then, he gave her the last of it.
As his breathing stopped, he saw the man in the suit from his house earlier leaning against the jagged rock and twirling his dark cane. Then, the man vanished, and so did James’s life.
Though, throughout his life, which was cut short, James had never spoken, he had the Voice, even until his last moment. His words were the wind, his shouts were gales, and she would soar across the waters, carried by them. He said everything best without ever saying anything at all, and his silence was the wind in her sails.