An Apple Slice short story by Apple | Content Warnings
Gia still clutched the wooden chest, but she stepped away from the edge of the ship, following Captain Hailstorm toward the rowboat Calder had prepared for them.
When they reached him, Gia tugged loose the scarf he’d loaned her. “You probably want this back,” she said quietly, staring at her feet.
Gia’s head popped up. He was smiling at her. Not the bright, lopsided grin he usually gave her when she was up to no good but one that felt like a question she wasn’t sure how to answer.
Her gaze slid from Calder to Amelia at the helm to Lulu in the crow’s nest. Why weren’t they demanding their things back? Or the lily?
Why did none of them look like they hated her?
Gia flinched as Calder crouched in front of her, but he only righted the scarf on her neck once again. “You and the captain come back safe, stowaway,” he told her. “And your mother, too,” he added gently. “I hope she’s okay.”
Gia clenched her jaw. She’d done enough crying and didn’t want to start again. Instead of speaking, she nodded.
Pete cleared his throat.
To be honest, Gia had been trying to avoid looking at him. Maybe the others weren’t angry with her, but Pete had dreaded mermaids even before Gia had tricked him.
Pete scrubbed a hand over his beard, exhaling a long sigh. “I’m sorry, kid. This whole misunderstanding is my fault. I should have gotten the story straight before telling you all that—”
“Why is everybody catering to her?” a man yelled, throwing his hat to the floor. He drew his sword and pointed it at Gia. “She’s far enough from the water now. Let’s just take the lily and toss her head overboard.”
The man’s blond hair had been yanked out of its ponytail when he threw his hat, leaving the strands frazzled in all directions, but Gia didn’t need to see his face to recognize him.
This crewmember had made it his personal mission to “teach” Gia how to be a pirate. For his first lesson, Gia had caught him snooping through her hammock for something to steal. His other lessons were just as useless. Gia was positive he had been the one to scream during their fight with the lily’s protector, much like how he was screaming now.
Only this time, he might be right.
Gia froze as she realized she was surrounded now—by pirates that had every reason to do exactly what he was recommending.
Calder rose to his full height.
Then he stepped between Gia and the blade.
Pete stepped in front of Calder, and Hailstorm’s sword rested its point against the back of the man’s neck.
A small light shone in Gia’s eyes. She brought a hand up to shield them and spotted Lulu with a fist full of daggers raised and glinting in the sun.
“It looks like he’s outvoted, Captain,” Amelia said, approaching through the crowd.
“So it does,” Hailstorm said. She pressed the edge of her sword into his skin. “Get off my ship. Now.”
“Captain, it’s freezing here!” the man yelled, his voice warbled with panic. “You can’t just ditch me in a rowboat!”
“You’re right,” Hailstorm said, rearing her sword in an arc that would end with his head rolling across the deck. “I should show you mercy.” She glanced briefly at Gia and then said to Calder, “Get her situated in the boat to go ashore. I’ll be there shortly.”
Gia wasn’t a baby. She could tell when she was being sheltered. Still, she’d never heard someone beg for their life before. Mermaids usually convinced people into the water willingly. Or simply killed them too fast for there to be much of a struggle. And either way, humans could hardly make a sound beneath the sea.
As the man pleaded with the captain and Calder turned Gia toward himself, covering her ears with his hands, Gia thought that just this once, she might not mind being coddled.
But with her ears covered, her heart seemed to beat even louder. So loudly, she couldn’t seem to ignore its rising rhythm.
“Maybe…” Gia said, turning around to find Hailstorm with her blade paused mid-strike. “Maybe dumping him in a rowboat would be alright?”
The man looked at Gia in shock from where he lay on the ground, clutching the captain’s boot.
Hailstorm raised a brow.
“It’s possible that he knows too much,” Amelia pointed out. “He’s a loose cannon. And he threatened a child.”
“I didn’t mean it,” the man said. “I was just trying to scare her into giving us the lily!” His eyes darted from face to face, seeking support and finding only Gia. “I’m sorry, really!”
Hailstorm ignored him, her attention on Gia alone. “Are you certain? You want him spared?”
With a sigh, the captain sheathed her sword. “Take him to the brig.”
Two pirates came forward, lifting the man from the ground and dragging him below deck.
Calder hefted Gia over the side of the Ruby and into a rowboat. “See you soon.”
Lulu raised a hand to wave goodbye from the crow’s nest, only to remember the daggers between her fingers and switch to wave with her other hand instead.
Pete and Amelia settled beside Calder, waving as well.
Then the captain cut between them. She climbed into the boat and readied the oars as they were lowered into the water.
Gia forced herself to stare ahead—at the ice and the snow and the Winter Folk and maybe, maybe, her mother.
Although she told herself not to hope for anything, she couldn’t seem to squash her feelings completely. Nothing had gone as she’d expected today—even her own actions surprised her—so perhaps it wouldn’t be too much to think her mother could still be alive.
She met the captain’s gaze on accident and quickly turned away. “I don’t want to hear it,” Gia mumbled. Hailstorm’s talk of joy had wreaked havoc on Gia’s plans enough already.
Hailstorm simply kept rowing. “I didn’t say anything.”
“I still don’t trust you.”
1 thought on “Ocean’s Favor, Part IV”
O my goodness so good. I definitely can’t wait for the nxt episode. If only I had connections. 🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣. Love this story.