Paid to the Pirate by Una Rohr
I don’t remember my life before the accident, but surely, I was a lady.
With sharp cheekbones, an hourglass figure, and wild curls cascading down my back, I possessed all the marks of a highborn girl.
If my hair had been miserably knotted and my skin sunburnt to a crisp when they found me on the beach two years ago, well, that was only to be expected after tumbling ashore like… rubbish, I thought, cheeks pinking at the memory.
I might not understand the state of my overly-callused hands when I’d awoken, and my occasional manner of selecting a rather indelicateword in times of frustration, but a reasonable explanation must exist. I was in possession of a lady’s education, after all, and my grace and intelligence were inarguably an asset in helping the Penninghams run the inn. I knew exactly how to pour tea and charm any well-bred patron passing through our door -- though sadly, none of whom ever recognized me.
That wasn’t surprising; we were but a tiny settlement, after all.
“She’s part o’ the merfolk,” I heard Connor whisper to William before I exited the kitchens, carrying Mrs. Penningham’s latest concoction -- mini cakes, iced in bright greens and blues to welcome spring with a May Day festival, a tradition the governor brought from his Swedish homeland.
“A selkie,” William agreed, voice full of wonder.
I bit back a smile and pressed myself against the wall, listening. Since no one in our small town knew from whence I came, the mystery gave rise to ever more magical origins. Sometimes they’d even say I was a handmaiden of Aphrodite herself.
“Aye, those freckles across her nose came from long days in the sun with the other sea-folk, luring men to their deaths with their sweet voices,” William said, as wistfully as if he wished such a fatal demise upon himself.
Self-consciously, I turned my head to my shoulder. I would have covered my nose if my hands weren’t full of the sweet tray. Each morning, I steadfastly powdered my face, but after a long day helping Mr. and Mrs. Penningham serve guests, those vulgar specks stubbornly shone through.
“I’ve heard her sing many a night. She might have lost her tail, but she didn’t lose her voice,” Connor agreed.
I straightened my spine. I was a talented singer. Most nights the men begged and cajoled me to entertain them as they drank. Sometimes it was a bawdy tavern ballad that colored my cheeks just to think upon; other times I sang a melancholic sea shanty which -- if I really gave it my heart -- brought tears to the eyes of even the hardest man.
Perhaps Daniel could be persuaded by this tale of my lethal siren voice, I thought, wryly. Perhaps then he’d stop pestering me to marry him.
Unlikely, as he’d been enamored ever since he found me on the beach.
Bare as a babe, I thought, cringing at my incident state. Thank God he was a gentleman. Not to mention, ostentatiously coming up in the world.
I could do worse for a husband.
When I heard the front door to the inn swing shut, indicating William and Connor had left, I shimmied out into the main dining area and deposited the tray of sweets onto one of the wooden tables by the window. Thinking over the boys’ musings of my past, I absent-mindedly caressed the necklace dangling nearly to my breasts.
Only one piece of evidence remained from my life before the sea spit me out onto the beach -- a golden locket engraved with the name Charlotte on the back.
But, save a strange smear of dirt along the locket’s edge, the inside was as bereft as my memory.