Jamaica, 1694

            We call ourselves the Gang of Five.  If you've been to Port Royal, chances are you've heard of us.  If you haven't...

            Little Morgan spots one coming out of the Admiral's Arms.  No pirate worth his salt would set foot in that dump, but Bones watches him a good while before giving me the nod.  I step onto the street:  tiny steps under a yellow dress.  Fifty feet away, something doesn't feel right.  It could be the way he's stumbling around, something in how he's dressed, or maybe it's nerves, but a second later Bones sees it too and calls it off.

            I cross in the shadow of a Blue Mahoe, and sit on the steps of the old Sea Farer.  I know I'm not alone, but it sure feels like it.  I'm supposed to look calm and distracted, like I'm waiting for my husband to come out of the loo, but it's hard not to notice he's looking.  He's not supposed to look.  And he's not just looking, he's inspecting.  The parasol crunches under my hands as I unclench my jaw.

            As casually as I can, I look up; there's no mistaking it, he's stumbling toward me.  I put up my parasol, the sign for help, and close my eyes...

 

            I don't remember the earthquake.  They say the ground opened up and swallowed men alive.  They say the sand turned to water and entire buildings sank like stones.  They say god brought down the mountains, and sent a hundred foot wave to finish the survivors.  Maybe it's best I don't remember…

            I sorta remember when Teach found me.  I was hiding under my bed, in that little room my mom used to rent.  He says I looked like I hadn't eaten for a month before he came along.  That's probably true.

            The other boys didn't want me.  They said it was hard enough getting' by as it was, and that girls were bad luck, anyways.  Teach said he'd feed me out of his shares, that the bad luck was only for ships at sea, and that he was the damn leader, anyways.

            In the beginning, I sat and stared, mostly.  Some days I ate, some days I used the outhouse, but it was a while before I woke up.  I remember, one day, suddenly noticing how dirty everything was, that I was surrounded by filth.  It was overwhelming.  So, I grabbed the broom that had been strictly decorative to that point, and started cleaning.  Bones was the only one there at the time.  He’s always so cool, so in control.  But seeing me clean that day – I'll never forget the look on his face.

            A week later I was talking again.  It was dinner, and Jack O' said, “Pass the salt, Girlie.”

I told him, “The name's Anne, not Girlie.”

Everyone went quite, mouths open, utensils still.  It was a good minute before Little Morgan snorted, and said, “The way you lay about, it should be Queen Anne.”  Everyone laughed, and the name stuck.

            I didn't speak much at first:  it was like I couldn't find words.  But I helped out however I could, and even learned to cook.  I wasn't great, as Little Morgan pointed out, often, but everyone started treating me like part of the gang.

            Then Jack O' kissed me.  I was doing dishes and he just planted one on me.  It wasn't romantic or nothin', but it was my first.  Nobody thought anything of it, 'till Teach found out.  The way he reacted, it was like Jack O'...

            A week after the kiss, and the fight, Teach gave me another first - my first dress.  It was big, blue, and beautiful.  And I loved it.  Whenever I put it on, I really did feel like a queen.  Queen Anne:  the ruler of the Caribbean.

            If I could, I’d have worn it everyday.  But, it was my only dress, and I knew I needed at least one, for special occasions.  What those occasions were, I had no idea, but when I tried explaining it to Teach, he just laughed.

“Don't worry about it,” he said.  “You need the practice.” 

“Practice at what?”

“Being a beautiful woman.”

            That still makes me blush, even knowing what he meant.

            A month later I had three dresses, two pairs of shoes, a parasol, and a date with TeachThe date was the only part that made me nervous.  I pictured dining with the governor, making a grand entrance at a formal ball.  I pictured rose petals and carriage rides and everything else from the storybooks my mother used to read.  I worried:  what if I used the wrong utensil, what if I didn't laugh at his jokes, what if...

            We left just before dusk, and had a picnic on the hill.  We talked about growing up, and watched the sun set.  It wasn't the governor’s mansion, but it was nice.  When we were finished, we walked hand in hand by the docks.  I remember how the stars reflected in the water.  I was looking across the ocean, thinking about our infinite future, when he said, “Annie (?)”

            “Yes, Teach?”

            “Do you see how all these men are looking at you?”

            I suddenly forgot how to speak again.

            “You're becoming more beautiful by the day.”

            It was only then, that I realized how I'd longed to hear those words.  “Oh, Teach --”

            “We can use that...”

            I don't remember much after that.  I just remember waiting for him to finish speaking and running off into the night.

 

            I smell rum.  The stranger swaggers over, more sure-footed than just a minute ago.  “I don't think you be needin' that at this hour, girlie.”

            I dip the parasol to cover my face.

            “Oh, you're shy.  Is that it?”  He delicately brushes away the thin silk layer between us.  By his smile, I know I'm in trouble.  “How 'bout we go for a walk?”

            “No, I'm, uh --”

            Smiling, he reaches into his coat.  I’d bet my life, he’s reaching for a dagger.

            “Oh, there you are, honey,” says a slightly out of breath Teach.

            This is new...  “Oh, darling, there you are.”  I try to put on a convincing show of marital bliss, but the stranger isn’t buying it.  I lean in and plant a kiss, right on Teach's lips.

            Maybe this wasn’t the plan, but he kisses back.  He slips his tongue in and massages mine.  His hand slides behind me, and my body bends to him.

            Splash.

            Something hot and sticky splatters on my face.  Whatever it is, it's on my dress and in my hair.  I want to check, but Teach is still kissing me.  I open an eye, just a little, and Jack's standing over the stranger, a glint of crimson dripping off his bat.  He swings it down again, and again, for good measure.

            I pull away, and Jack’s holding up a fat coin purse and, sure enough, a dagger.

            Teach brushes my face with his fingertips, and leans to my lips again.

            “Time to run, lover,” I say, and run off into the night.  Only this time, I know he'll follow.