The ship was riding easily at anchor off the coast of Hispaniola, the evening waves gently rocking the vessel. Sounds from the crew’s merry making filtered down below into Cathern’s cabin. Flutes, stringed instruments and some small drums enjoined to make jaunty tunes. The crew was dancing, stomping, and singing bawdy tunes to the music. Cathern was on her bed toying with a small, filigreed silver cross on a chain. Thoughts of God or the Virgin were not on her mind though. Jazelle sat quietly at the desk working on her assignments, occasionally peeking at her owner. Without looking at the dark slave girl Cathern spoke, “Jazelle, you have been working hard at your lessons for hours. Take a break. Go sing for the crew and have some fun.” Jazelle smiled and got up from her study books. “Is there anything I can get for you first Mistress? Some tea or perhaps some of the fruit that was collected from shore earlier?” Cathern kept rubbing the cross between her fingers and declined anything else. The slave turned cabin girl curtsied and departed wondering what was on her owner’s mind.
Cathern’s fingers kept tracing along the crucifix. Sometimes she held it up into the dim light from the lamps to see it glitter a little. She wondered if it was sinful to think of someone other than the Savior while looking at the cross. Not that she was overly religious preferring to keep most priests at a distance. Her chosen life was contrary to normal order of things in Europe and anything different was often viewed with suspicion. Of course she still prayed and tried to be a good Catholic but there was much she secretly disagreed with. Maybe she was hell bound or a heretic for her thoughts. She was careful to keep most of her views to herself. The One True Church often enforced its will in unspeakable ways. God didn’t seem to mind though as the Church’s power was, if not at its peak, still exceedingly powerful. No, her thoughts were not on the Blessed Mother or Jesus. They were instead on a Scotsman.
A loud cheer rang out as Jazelle started singing. The voice was a bit muffled to Cathern’s ears but no other person on the ship had a voice like Jazelle’s. What a bargain that slave was. Even if Cathern freed the slave that very night instead of a couple years hence, the few doubloons paid were exceedingly well spent. Cathern put the cross around her neck then stood up and went to look at herself in a mirror surrounded with a real Grinling Gibbons produced frame. If it was fit for King Charles II, it was good enough for Cathern.
Cathern opened her blouse to the see cross against her skin, the bottom of the cross resting just above her cleavage. Turning this way and that, Cathern examined how it looked on her pale skin. Slipping the cross off her neck Cathern lay down on her bed again. He was very good to her. Why was something of a mystery, not quite admitting to herself or believing that anyone would actually want her in that way. Cathern could exude confidence and inspire men to great deeds. Swinging across to an enemy deck and hacking at people with a cutlass was as natural as anything to her. However, when it came to more intimate things she was terribly insecure and unsure of herself. Her mother’s voice echoed in her head, “No man of quality will ever want you if you keep behaving this way. You need to stop indulging your Father and remember your proper place in the world. You are not a boy and you are not a sailor so stop pretending to be one.” Cathern kissed the cross, hung it up from a nail over her bed then blew out the lamp. In the darkness Cathern quietly spoke to her Mum now dead several years, “You are right about one thing mother, I am not a boy.”