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                  Voepel, Mechelle. For Every Storm a Rainbow. A novel based on the film "For Every Storm a Rainbow." New York: Random House, 2009.

~*~


Her heart is pounding in her chest and she's trying to hold back tears as she runs across the dunes. She left without her shoes and stockings, and the sand is warm between her toes. She always heads to the sea when she needs to hide away from her family; when she just needs time to herself to think.

She wonders how she could have been so stupid, but the flash of dark, laughing eyes and the saucy swaying of hips is enough of an answer. She knew it was wrong of her to kiss a girl, to lie with a girl, and she can only pray for forgiveness from God that she succumbed to such sweet temptations.

She flings herself down into the sand, ignoring the further mess she is making of her already crumpled skirts and for a moment, wonders what her mother is going to say when she returns. But then she chokes back a sob as it dawns on her that she can't go back home again. The news of her sins has surely reached her father's forge by now, and she has brought disgrace on the entire family. It is surely better for her to never return and pray that in a few years, the rumors will have died down or that her family is able to move away without the stigma of having a daughter like her hanging over them.

Wiping her sleeve across suspiciously damp eyes, she turns her attention away from what has been done to what she must now do. A flicker of something in the corner of her eye distracts her, and she gasps aloud when she turns and sees white sails silhouetted against the afternoon sun.

The ship had arrived yesterday, and had been the talk of the town. She had seen herself the tall woman striding down Main Street, followed by a handful of black men, as she had placed orders at various stores throughout the town. Despite their proximity to the sea, a ship was a rare sight for the small town, and their presence, coupled with the strange accent of the woman, had prompted rumors to fly thick and fast.

Her favorite is that the ship is a pirate's vessel, although her father had laughed it off when she had brought it up at dinner the previous night. Pirates, he had pointed out, were not likely to place orders through a lady, nor pay for goods in gold coin.

Today, it doesn't matter what type of ship it is, only that it is most likely the best way for her to get away from this place. It is a way to run away from this erupting scandal, to leave her past behind. But with nothing of value to her name, she knows that no captain will take her on board as a passenger. She is reluctant to do so, but stowing away is her only option.

Her chance comes when the crew starts to pile goods up on the beach. Her first idea is that she tries to blend in with them, carrying bags and boxes, but her skirts would give her away instantly. Instead, she spots barrels off to the side, waiting to be refilled with water and when no one is in sight, moves it closer to the pile. Not without some difficulty, she manages to curl her body inside it and waits for crew members to transfer it onto the ship. The short journey in the rowboat and then into the hold is rough and uncomfortable, and there is one heart-stopping moment when one of the men carrying her loses his grip momentarily and she fears she will crash to the floor.

She doesn't know how long she remains in the barrel, but after the sounds of movement around her hiding place fade away, she cautiously pushes the top off. When there are no shouts and cries, she rises, overturning the barrel and her cramped body falls to the deck. She is able to crawl behind stacked crates, and when her body obeys her once again, starts to explore her surroundings a little more.

Deep in the bowels of the ship, light is scarce and the wooden floor is slightly damp underneath her. She finds a supply of ships' biscuits, and not without some guilt, nibbles on them as infrequently as she can manage. There are no visible cups or mugs, and she is already guilt stricken enough to avoid rifling through the rest of the goods stored with her to find one, so she cups her hands together to bring water to her mouth.

With no way to see the sun, she has no idea how long she has been down there before she is found. She is half asleep when she hears the exclamation and is grabbed from both sides and pushed up through the ship.

It is day when she is found. She is brought up on deck where the light blinds her and the sunshine is refreshingly warm on her shoulders. The voices of the crew who found her explain where she came from to someone with the same strange accent as the woman who had placed the orders in town. She squints, but all she can see is someone towering over her, firmly taking her arm and leading her to the captain.

Her eyesight is returning as she is pushed roughly through the door leading to the captain's quarters. She immediately notices the large windows which brighten the room, while her nose is assaulted by the sweet smell of burning incense. She cannot imagine a more startling juxtaposition to the conditions in the hold.

Any further observations are prevented by a figure rising from a desk, and turning to face them.

"Well, LJ, what do we have here?"

She tries to bite back a gasp, failing somewhat. Never would she have imagined the captain to be a woman.

A beautiful woman at that.

And as she steps further into the light, it becomes apparent she is barely a woman at all, hardly out of girlhood herself.

"Big Syl and Ice were goin' down in the hold and they found we got a stowaway, Captain," says the one called LJ, gripping her arm tightly.

The captain looks at her critically. "And does this stowaway have a name?"

She wonders for a moment if she does have a name anymore, or if that's something else she's left behind with her past. But the captain is waiting and she finds herself desperately wanting to answer the captain, to please her.

"Diana," she blurts out, her voice cracking slightly. "Diana Taurasi."

There is a slight smirk on the captain's face and Diana finds her eyes tracing the contours of her mouth. "Well, Diana, Diana Taurasi," she says. "Do you know what pirates do to stowaways?"

"You're a pirate?" Diana exclaims, her eyes widening, although with amazement rather than fear.

The captain looks more amused than anything else, nodding at LJ to release Diana's arm. Diana rubs at it absently. "Captain Sue Bird, of the pirate ship Storm at your service," she says, with a mock shallow bow. She looks at Diana thoughtfully.

"Taurasi... you must be the smith's daughter from our last stop. I presume that your presence on my ship means that there was indeed some degree of substance to those rumors regarding yourself and the inn-keeper's daughter." Her lips twitch with amusement. "Something about a stable, I do believe?"

Diana flushes a bright red, but Captain Bird has already turned to move towards a small seating area in the corner of the cabin. "Take a seat, Miss Taurasi," she says. "LJ, you are welcome to join us; however, I will not keep you from your other duties, which I trust will include reminding Big Syl and Ice of the rules we follow on this vessel."

"You'll be alright alone, Sue?" LJ queries, and Captain Bird laughs.

"I will pretend that I didn't hear that, as not to be insulted," she says.

Diana watches LJ leave the captain's quarters, trying not to stare at just how tall she was, before moving towards the captain. She hesitates as she looks at the patterned upholstery of the settee, imagining just how filthy her dress must be and the mess she would leave there. "I would prefer to stand," she says quietly.

Captain Bird looks up at her, initially frowning, but that look quickly changes to understanding and she rises from her chair. "Oh, of course, you must not have bathed in days," she exclaims, and Diana keeps her head bowed, although that focuses her gaze on her bare and grimy feet instead.

Captain Bird moves past her to ring a small bell, which is quickly answered. Diana glances up as the door opens, noticing several pairs of eyes trying to look past their captain to gawk at her. Captain Bird smoothly moves herself between them and Diana, cutting off their viewing opportunities. "Could you bring a tub of warm water and some rags up immediately," she requests, before pausing and glancing back at Diana once more, sizing her up. "And ask Penny if she doesn't mind parting with one of her dresses if I promise a replacement when we reach Philadelphia."

She closes the door and smiles at Diana. "Come now, and let us get you out of that dress," she says. "The water will be up soon, and then we can wash you off and get you in some fresh clothing and I'm sure you'll feel much better after that."

Diana has never had a problem with shyness before in her life, but right now, she can't even raise her head to look the captain in the eye. "I can't pay you for this," she mumbles, waiting for Captain Bird to ring her small bell again to have Diana thrown overboard. "I don't have any money."

"I rather suspected that, based on the rumors in the town about how you'd left without even your shoes and given the fact that you had stowed away, rather than attempting to negotiate a fare for your passage," Captain Bird remarks dryly. "We shall continue this discussion at a later point, but let me reassure you that coin is not necessarily the only method of payment I will accept."

She moves behind Diana, trying to undo the lacing on her bodice. But too much water and damp has them knotted tightly, and she quickly loses patience. "Stay very still, Miss Taurasi," she says and Diana tries not to shiver at the warm breath tickling the back of her neck. She is vaguely aware of the captain reaching for something, and then there is the sound of fabric tearing and cool air hitting her back. She turns in time to see Captain Bird holster a small, shiny dagger as she clutches her dress to her chest as to stop it falling down.

"Diana," she blurts and the captain looks momentarily perplexed. "You can call me Diana."

"If I am to call you Diana, then you must call me Sue," Captain Bird replies easily, holding up a finger to shush her as Diana tries to protest. "Ah, no. You will find we try not to stand too much on formality here. This ship is a team... a family in many ways. I'm not merely extending a courtesy to you and you alone."

Captain Bird... Sue smiles at her, before turning to answer a rapping on the door and Diana feels her heart beat faster at the sight. When Sue smiles, she can't even remember the name of the girl who got her in this trouble in the first place.

A parade of crewmembers traipses in, and Diana almost takes a step back at their scrutiny. The first pair carefully carries a tub in, their arm muscles rippling as they lower it down onto the middle of the floor. They are followed by another pair, one who dumps a pile of rags next to the tub, whereas the other gently lays a dark red dress over the back of chair. It takes Diana a second before she recognizes the last one as the woman who had placed all the orders in town, although now she was dressed as the rest of the crew was, in a loose shirt and pants. She shoos the other three out, before turning to Sue.

"Shanna neglected to say just why you were so interested in my wardrobe," she says, a grin spreading across her face. "I was thinking of replacing this one anyway next time I saw Swin, so this just makes my decision a little easier."

"I appreciate it, thank you, Penny," Sue says, laughing, before she pauses, looking thoughtful. "Do you have some time to spare?"

Penny shrugs. "As much time as I usually have," she replies. "Is there something you need me for?"

"Perhaps you could assist Miss Taurasi should she requires any help during her bathing?" Sue suggests. "I have some things I need to attend to, and I am reluctant to leave her here alone."

Penny looks across at Diana and then back at Sue, nodding. "Of course," she says. "Just be warned that Caroline was looking for you earlier and no one else will do for her."

"I consider myself warned," says Sue with a grin, before slipping out of the door. Diana just watches her go, before Penny turns her attention to Diana, smiling and stripping her out of her now-torn dress with devastating efficiency.

"Let's get you cleaned up quickly," says Penny, dipping a rag into the water. "It's not too cold today, but you'll soon start feel a little chill if you stand around without any clothes on for too long." She pulls Diana closer to the water, and wipes the dirt off her face. Penny's touch is gentle and motherly, but Diana still shies away.

"I can wash myself," she says, a little defensively. Penny doesn't seem to take an offense at Diana's tone and just grins in response. She has a pretty smile, although Diana immediately notes that it is not as pretty as Sue's.

"At least let me help you with your hair," replies Penny, eyeing Diana's long, tangled tresses. Diana had tried to pin her hair back up again when she had been hiding in the hold, but in the dark and without a mirror or brush, it had been less than successful.

Diana agrees, pulling out the pins, not without some discomfort and leaning over the tub. She yelps a couple of times when Penny pulls at particularly knotted locks. Penny says that she's sorry, but she doesn't sound particularly apologetic, although Diana admits that it might be because of her strange accent.

"Where are you from?" Diana blurts out, her curiosity overwhelming her.

Penny laughs, squeezing the excess water out of Diana's hair and starting to rub it dry. "I come from a small island in the South Atlantic Ocean that you've probably never heard of," she says. "A place called St. Helena, populated by drunks and ne'er do wells. I got out of there as soon as I could, and then spent a few years in Cape Colony, before I ended up with this merry band of miscreants."

"And LJ is from the same place?"

"You can't tell from the accent?" asks Penny, chuckling. "Yes, LJ and I come from the same island, and we took the same path to reach here."

"Where is here?" asks Diana, as Penny finishes with her hair and steps back. She leans forwards over the water, looking up curiously at Penny. "I mean, I know I'm on a pirate ship. But where is it going?"

"Our next stop is Philadelphia," says Penny. "Which is where I presume we will be parting ways."

"Oh," says Diana softly.

"We have a number of friends in the area," Penny continues, misinterpreting Diana's reply. "Sue won't just throw you out in the cold. She may be a pirate – we all may have turned to piracy – but she's a fair leader and tries to do her best by people. There are a number of souls onboard, LJ and myself included, who would no longer be alive had it not been for Sue and the Storm. Truth be told, she has a bit of a hero complex, a most unusual thing in a pirate, I admit, but Sue is not exactly your standard pirate."

Diana has paused in her washing and is just staring at Penny, fascinated as she allows Penny's words and their strange accent to wash over her. Penny spots her just kneeling there, and tosses another rag at her.

"Get on with your washing," she says sternly. "Else I'll come back and do it for you. You don't want Sue to come back and find you all naked in her cabin still."

Diana ducks her head back over the tub once more, although more to hide the blush that floods her cheeks at a sudden uncontrolled thought of both herself and Sue naked in this cabin. She reaches for another rag, splashing around until the water grows cooler and has a noticeably brown tint to it. She shivers slightly, and Penny notices, frowning and making an annoyed sound in the back of her throat.

"I did warn you," she says as she moves to help Diana dry herself, her actions quick and rough. "I'll not have you catch your death of cold on my watch." She reaches for the gown she had brought in with her and helps Diana into it, before pushing her to sit down and reaches for a brush.

Diana's never worn a dress like this before, and can't help but stroke it, the fabric smooth under her fingers. Penny had obviously noticed the admiring look on Diana's face and was telling her about the gown's history as she deals with Diana's hair. Diana is still distracted by her new dress and only hears maybe half of what Penny is saying; about how the dressmaker, an old friend of Sue's, has a store in Philadelphia and perhaps if Diana is able to sew, she could perhaps apprentice with her.

"...and as you can see, her work is remarkable. In fact..." Penny pauses as the door to the cabin swings open and Sue steps across the threshold, followed by another woman. Diana wonders if there are any men at all onboard, but doesn't want to ask.
"Sue, as always, your timing is impeccable," says Penny, gently pushing Diana's shoulder to make her stand up. "All done."

"And for once, I believe you actually mean that in a non-ironic sense," says Sue, giving Diana a quick once over. Diana looks away under her scrutiny, and is momentarily distracted as she catches sight of herself in a looking glass. She almost doesn't recognize herself. Penny had pulled back the hair surrounding Diana's face, leaving the rest cascading over her shoulders. The borrowed dress dips lower in the chest than she is used to, gaping slightly despite Penny lacing the bodice as tight as it would go, and it makes her feel more like a grown-up. "You do good work."

"Don't I always?" asks Penny, pouting.

Sue laughs. "You do, but this isn't your usual canvas. Yes, I know that was a bad pun," she adds as both Penny and the woman behind her groan.

Diana doesn't get it.

"Diana, this our ship's surgeon," says Sue, as the other woman steps forwards. "She's going to take a quick look at you."

"Katherine Smith," the surgeon introduces herself in clipped tones. "Doc or Katie is fine."

Diana has never had a medical examination before, but it is not as uncomfortable as she fears. Katie doesn't say much to her after an initial grilling regarding her childhood health and Diana finds her concentration fading away.

It doesn't help that after a short conversation by the door with Penny, Sue takes a seat across from her. A slight frown mars her features as she studies a chart in front of her, and she absently bites at her bottom lip when reaching for a ruler. Diana is unable to stop staring at her; not even looking away when Sue glances up and catches the intense gaze focused on her. She shoots Diana a quick, reassuring smile, before returning to her work and Diana can't explain the warm feeling swelling in her chest.

The word love jumps unbidden into her head, and she tries to ignore it. She can measure her acquaintance with Sue in minutes and seconds; she should not be entertaining any thoughts of love.

Katie pulls Sue off to one side when she's done and they talk together in low undertones. Diana glances across, and notices them both looking at her at one point. The frown is still on Sue's face, and Diana finds herself wanting to kiss it away.

She ducks away, trying not to blush at the thought and startles when Sue places a soft hand on her shoulder. Sue's steps, even on the lurching wooden deck, are light and barely audible, and Diana, whose own gait always loudly announces her own arrival, briefly wonders how she does it.

"So, what's the verdict?" Diana asks lightly, trying not to let Sue realize how her close proximity is affecting her.

"You're a little underfed, which I think you probably already recognize yourself," replies Sue. "We'll take dinner in here tonight, rather than making you the center of attention in the galley. Penny's sorting that out now, so it shouldn't be long. Other than that, Katie says you're in excellent health."

She takes a seat opposite Diana and leans forwards. "Now perhaps it is time to discuss your presence on my ship," she says. Her tone is still friendly, but Diana is acutely aware of how she has shifted from Sue to Captain Bird and she just gulps.

"I'd like to stay," Diana blurts out, and Sue narrows her eyes. "On the ship. I'd like to stay on the ship, if you'd have me."

"Have you ever sailed before?" Sue demands.

"Well, no," admits Diana, wincing. "But I could learn, surely? You must have others onboard who had never sailed before they joined the crew."

"A few, but they are usually much younger than you, or like Katie, have other skills," replies Sue. "What can you add to my crew?"

Diana hesitates, knowing that she doesn't really have any skills to offer onboard a ship. "Whatever you need," she says. "I'm willing to learn anything. I surely cannot be too old to start. How old were you when you first began to learn to sail?"

Sue laughs, leaning back in her seat. "I was six," she says, watching Diana's eyes widen in surprise. "But, I will admit, that is not the norm. Most tend to take to the seas when they are about fourteen or so."

"I can learn," says Diana stubbornly.

"Have you ever done any sort of physical labor?" Sue demands. "Or did you spend your days when not wooing the inn-keeper's daughter inside keeping house? Perhaps there's a husband you're running away from as well."

Diana gapes. "What?" she exclaims. "No, there's no husband. I'm not married, I've never been married nor did I ever want to marry." She realizes a little belatedly that she is perhaps denying her lack of marriage a little too vehemently. "And while I did help out my mother in the house, I also spent time with my father, working as an apprentice to him in his forge."

Sue looks thoughtful for a moment. "Well, it may not be a useful skill on a ship, but it is experience in something," she admits. "You at least know how to get your hands dirty, which I will admit, was something I was worried about."

Any rebuttal Diana may have had was forestalled by a light knocking on the door, and Sue calling for the person to enter.

Penny flashes a comforting smile at Diana as she steps inside, immediately moving out of the way for the women trailing her. They're carrying large plates of food, and Diana's stomach immediately reminds her how hungry she is. LJ is the last one to enter the cabin, having to duck as she passes under the door frame, and turns to mutter something to Penny.

The table in the middle of the room is quickly set up, and Diana quickly realizes that both Penny and LJ are joining her and Sue for dinner. She's a little apprehensive about LJ, who seems to be ignoring her as she moves to take a seat.

Sue sits at the head of the table, and Diana hesitates for a moment, not knowing if there was a specific seating arrangement she should be following. Penny takes pity on her, nodding to the empty chair on Sue's left as she seats herself other side of LJ.

The start of the meal is not unlike the hundreds she has shared with her family back home. Plates are passed around from person to person, as everyone serves herself. Diana isn't sure she recognizes half of what she puts on her plate, but she is too hungry to care.

"Take it slow," Penny warns her, before Diana has even taken her first mouthful. "You need to let your body become accustomed to eating again."

Diana frowns, but nibbles on her bread, rather than obeying her initial instinct to wolf it down.

"It's from experience," Penny explains, taking a long drink. "LJ and I were shipwrecked for four days and only had enough food for two. After we were rescued and had eaten our fill, we then became violently ill and could only stomach broth and cider for the next day or two."

"It was not a pretty sight, and I know I'd rather not see another repeat of it," Sue comments, grimacing. "But ultimately it was a small price to pay to gain two such dedicated crew members. Although speaking of gaining crew members, Penny, Miss Taurasi here has declared that she wishes to join our crew."

"Has she indeed?" Penny's gaze is almost as critical as Sue's as she looks over at Diana. "Is there any specific role she can fulfill?"

"No, but she's willing to learn anything," says Sue. Diana is staring at her dinner plate, poking awkwardly at the food with her fork. "Which is why I'm bringing up the subject with you now, as her education would fall under your jurisdiction and supervision."

"Well, I say if she's truly willing to try and learn, then I should be willing to teach," says Penny simply, and Diana glances up, hope in her eyes. "We're what, three, four days out of Philadelphia? That's plenty enough time for me to see if she'll be worth training, and enough for Diana to see if she really wants to continue. Who knows? After spending a day under me, she may be crying out to make landfall!"

"Then that's settled," says Sue firmly. "I trust that's acceptable to you, Diana?"

"Of course," Diana exclaims. "I won't let you down. Either of you."

"Where's she going to sleep?" Diana is surprised as LJ speaks for the first time, and glances across at the tall woman, who is just staring across at the table at her.

"Down in with the rest of the crew, I would presume," Sue replies, shrugging. "I can't see where else there's room for her."

LJ sighs. "She can bunk in with Penny, and I'll make myself scarce for the next few nights," she says. "It's probably best to ease her in gently, considering some of them down there. There's already been some grumbling about how well you're treating a stowaway, and I think some of them would see her as easy prey."

Sue groans. "Yes, I'm sure there are some who would have rather seen me shackle her in irons in the brig, or maroon her on the nearest spit of land," she says bitterly. "God forbid that I should show some compassion and try to act like a decent human being. Penny, does this work for you too? I realize I'm throwing you into the deep rather, with Diana here, but trust me, it's a sign of my confidence in you and your abilities."

Penny is looking at Diana rather intently, and Diana wonders, not without a little fear, if Penny is going to leave Diana at the mercy of the rest of the crew.

She just asks Diana one question. "You don't snore, do you?"




Rides in the Whirlwind and Directs the Storm, Chapter 3
Part 2
Table of Contents

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