Tabitha took a deep breath of ocean air as she watched the day dwindling away on the watery horizon. Her expression was peaceful, the golden light of the sunset igniting in her hair like fiery tongues of sunlight. The loose white blouse she wore whipped around her waist where it had come untucked from her tight brown trousers, catching the light and hinting at her form beneath it. There were very few crew members on the deck, so she just let it be. Sailing had been easy going, and her usually hot temper was set aside for the time being. Sure, she'd snapped at the first little imp who had moved some of the cargo to reach something in the back, but it had been a mild scolding. He had quickly put the crates and bags back in order and had a look in his eye like he would never make that mistake again. Which was good, because he wouldn't get off so easy next time if Tabitha caught him.
Things had been so good out on the water. There hadn't been any real incidents and the weather had been beautiful, beyond anything that she or anyone else on the crew could have hoped or asked for. But it had been more than the weather. It had been the movement of the sea, rocking her to sleep in her bunk every night. It was the moisture hanging in the hair, the creek of Pathfinder's lumber, the far distances stretching out on all sides. On top of it all, Captain Aubrey had kept every promise he'd made and she didn't live in constant worry about the men onboard with her. The crew had been exceedingly polite, going so far as calling her “Lady.” It scratched her nerves at first—she wasn't no Queen like the other two—but seeing the reactions of the other women she took her temper down a notch. They accepted it well enough but she was still a bit hesitant. Even bunking with the lieutenant had gone relatively smooth. Not that she really gave a damn—she'd lived out with the rest of the crew, hanging a hammock and sharing large quarters. Tabitha was generally comfortable taking her clothes off in front of strangers, even without Aubrey's policy. Her Green had always helped her keep a wide barrier between her and the other men on the ships. But she'd retained a bit of modesty, having to share the bunkhouse with Joshua. He seemed like a decent guy and was polite enough, so she at least turned around and gave fair warning.
In fact, the only bad part of being on this ship came up when she tried to clean something. Apparently it wasn't the Quartermaster's place to swab the deck or help the cook clean up in the gallery. She had been cleaning the officer's bunkhouse incessantly to cope with the change, but that wasn't going to tide her over for long. Despite the denial of her natural habit of cleaning everything, she was getting used to the place. It was a weird kind of settling that she felt every night when she was laying down to sleep.
So she basked in the fading daylight. There would be food down in the officer's mini gallery (as she'd called the space) soon, but she didn't want to leave the rail right now. She listened to the sound of people working behind her, the water lapping at Pathfinder's hull, the wind humming in her ears. Releasing a contented sigh, her thoughts suddenly turned back to home, to the stony beaches of Chaillot, to her mother. When had she seen her last? Tabitha hardly knew, and the sudden ache of homesickness rankled her a bit. Where was Samantha? How was she doing? Would their sailing adventures ever take them into port in Chaillot? Would she even be there if they did? Her life had been so crazy that she'd barely stopped to think of her mother longer than in passing thought. Thirteen years, she realized. She must look so different. Hell's fire, she looked nothing like she did way back when. At nineteen she'd been a fiery little beauty of a thing, and though she still looked mighty fine she wasn't the same witch. Oh, but she could see it now—the once gentle lines in her mother's face would be so much deeper now, her hair a fire beneath a veil of silver mists, and all those years collecting in her warm eyes. It made Tabitha ache and she fought the gentle pull of tears in her eyes as she forgot about the ship around her and focused on the glittering ocean.