Category Archives: The Physician and the Siren

The Seven Sisters

The Seven Sisters, constellation

Image Courtesy of Pinterest. Click Image for source info.

England is fading away into the dawn as the Physician and the Captain flee England. For more of this story, read here.

Isaac stands at the stern, hands braced on the rail against the pitch and roll of the Channel’s current; England fades to a rolling line, then slips away under the gray sea like Atlantis. He wonders if it is lost to him now, and his daughter with it. The crew is watchful, but not active, as dawn breaks. He and his Captain are the only passengers on this ship.

“Dr. Lowe? Isaac?” her low voice and her touch on his arm are simultaneous.

He answers without turning.

“I didn’t know you knew my name. We never discussed it… before.”

“I saw it sewn into your satchel when you were brought aboard the Siren,” she explains, joining him. “I thought it best we maintained some distance at the time.”

Her careworn hands alongside his on the rail kindle a fire under his skin that the sea air does nothing to cool.

“If I am to be Isaac,” he asks, “who are you to be?”

Motion in the lines and rigging tugs at the ship. The crew calls. Isaac watches her body shift with the vessel’s heaving even as his overcompensates.

“Rose O’Leary Marquez de Navarra.”  Her eyes meet his, gray and steady. “You may call me Rose.”

“Rose, then.” He falls silent, watching her watch the water. Across the back of her neck a cluster of small stars are tattooed onto her skin just below her now close-cropped hair.

“It’s true, then,” he muses, “all pirates are tattooed like the Painted Prince.”

Her hand flies up to cover the constellation.

“It is the Pleiades. The—“

“The Seven Sisters,” he finishes. “I know the story.”

“One for each of us, and I the only one not gone to Heaven, nor likely to go. And our brother now years gone, as well.”

This week, we’d like you to write a piece in which a tattoo figures prominently. Fiction or creative non-fiction. There is a lot to think about: why someone would get one, what they chose, when they got it, what message does the tattoo(s) send? You will have 300 words with which to play.

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The Physician’s Escape

Just after the Physician discovers the Captain in the Earl’s study. For a more complete version, read here.

“We have to leave immediately,” he says urgently.

Morgan, little more than a boy and newly hired as his valet, rubs sleep from his eyes even as he pulls on his outer clothes.

“Saddle Calyx and pack the saddlebag for a three-day journey,” Isaac says, his mind racing towards escape.

“Sir, am I to accompany?” Morgan yawns, dressed and trailing Isaac.

“No, Morgan, and you are to tell no one of my departure. You will wake up tomorrow as surprised as anyone by my absence.”

“Of course, Sir,” the young man replies, disappearing into his master’s rooms as Isaac nudges open the door to Sirena’s.

Her bed is empty, and he races down to the ground floor, finding the door to Felicity’s morning room open.

The sight of her, kneeling next to the Captain, her sleep-tousled curls tinted violet in the bluish light, stops his heart. Will she see her own pale skin and Titian hair reflected back in the skeletal and grimy features of the woman who sleeps on her aunt’s settee?

“Sirena,” he whispers, voice breaking softly.

“Papa,” she replies without turning, “she’s very dirty, and her hair. Did she have lice?”

He cannot help a small laugh. She is so young yet. Of course she doesn’t see.

“Where did you hear about lice?” he asks, crouching next to her.

“Miss Miller said if I wouldn’t wash and comb my hair like a civilized child, I should get lice and be forced to shave it all off with your straight razor,” Sirena says earnestly.

“Miss Miller is right in all things,” he assures her. “Now, back to bed.”

Sirena kisses him. The jig is up. Morgan may lie for him, but he cannot ask his daughter to do the same. Felicity will know before breakfast that he had a dirty red-headed woman in the morning room in the wee hours of the night. There is no more time to lose.

“Who is she, Papa?” Sirena asks from the doorway. Her small face looks tenderly back at the Captain. She doesn’t know, he reminds himself.

“No one, Sprite,” he says. “Good night.”

As her door closes above, Morgan appears.

“Calyx is saddled, Sir.”

“Back to your bed, Morgan. You’re a good lad.”

“Sir,” the boy nods, practically asleep on his feet.

“Captain,” he says in her ear, having no other name for her. She doesn’t stir.

“Captain!” he insists. She makes a soft sound in her throat but doesn’t wake.

Since the moment the Earl and Lieutenant Jennings left them in the Earl’s former governess’s room, he has been reacting on instinct. They were left alone, but not for long. The guests had gone down to dinner, keeping the household occupied, but he had been sure that Felicity would note his absence. His decisions to trade the gray and reeking linen shirt and filthy trousers on her body for a woolen dress stolen from the Earl’s housekeeper, to carry her down and out through the servant’s entry to the Earl’s home, and now to flee London weigh heavily as he thinks of Sirena.

It is a difficult ride to the Thames. Far easier, he finds, to book passage to France on the turning tide.

As the ship groans and heaves away, the Captain’s eyes finally flutter open. There is a flicker of hope and recognition in their depths and he realizes that he has, as much as he can, already brought her home.

You must begin your story with the words “We had to leave immediately” and end it with “And then we realized we were already home.”

The middle part is up to you.

I’ve taken some liberties with the opening and closing lines, but I think they retain the original intent.

The Earl’s Curiosity

Some eight years after the Physician’s dismissal. This story, in its third installment, now has a page.

He catches sight of Sirena’s hair in the mirror, scarlet in the corona of candle light around her, as she opens the door to his study.

“Papa?” she says, stepping into the room. Her cotton nightgown is short on her bony shins. She persists in growing up, despite his hopes to the contrary.

“It’s late, Sprite. What is it?” he says, smiling at her in the looking glass while he arranges his cravat.

“Will you tell me at breakfast what the Countess wore?”

“If you confess the whereabouts of Miss Miller’s best hat, of course,” he replies casually, rewarded by an indignant flush on his daughter’s face.

“It’s an awful hat! She should thank me for—“

Sirena realizes her mistake, but not quickly enough. She sets her candle down on his desk.

“The hat is under Hodge’s armoire, Papa,” she offers contritely.

He cannot help but laugh, though it slices at his heart. Her serious expression smells of salt air and sun-baked canvas.

“I will ask Hodge to return it to Miss Miller in the morning, along with a sincere letter of apology from the thief.”

“Yes, Papa,” she says quietly.

He checks himself in the glass to be sure he won’t embarrass his sister at the Countess’s party.

“Now, tell me I look well enough to dine with your Aunt Felicity, and kiss me goodnight before you take yourself back to bed.”

As he leans down, Sirena stretches up to fold his cravat into place. She kisses his cheek and retrieves her candle.

“Sirena?” he calls as she goes, “Be sure to put the candle out.”

He collects his sister from her favorite sitting room. The carriage ride seems extraneous to him, given that the distance is easily walkable, but Felicity rules the household with a fashionably iron-clad fist, and arriving on foot would not be proper.

The Countess, Felicity’s oldest friend and Society’s most notorious hostess, is upon them immediately. She whisks Felicity off to a card table looking for a fourth, but not before greeting him with mischief in her eyes.

“The Earl has a curiosity in his library. After your years in the Indies, Isaac, I’ve no doubt you’ll find it very interesting.”

He dodges the crush. The heat of candles and bodies is overwhelming. In the corridor he can hear the Earl’s baritone like cannon fire from the library.

“Jennings, you’re a scoundrel!”

Standing on the Turkey carpet before the Earl’s merry fire is a filthy young man in sailor’s clothes, shackled and shorn like a traitor at the block. Though the sailor stares at the floor, there is steel in his posture.

“Issac!” the Earl booms at him. “Come in and have a look at what Jennings caught on his last run.”

He crosses the room, his soul crackling, as Jennings forces the young man to raise his face.

The pulse in his ears drowns out every sound but his own unsteady breathing. The close-cropped red hair, the pale skin. The fathoms-deep eyes, dull now and withdrawn, but still the same color as the English Channel. Not a young man at all.

Recognition kindles in those stormy eyes; her face, pink from the fire’s proximity, blanches. A fine sweat breaks out on her brow and her knees buckle.

He lunges forward to catch her. She is slight in his arms, captivity has stripped her of her toned muscles and rude health. She is all bones and sinew and fatigue now.

“What the devil, Jennings?” the Earl demands.

Jennings looks on, baffled into silence. It is he who speaks instead, laying her down on the sofa.

“She is in need of a physician.”

The most frequent advice I come across for amateur writers is, “Write what you know.”

“What you know” doesn’t necessarily always mean “your comfort zone.” For this week, take what you know out of your comfort zone. Try a new genre, a new time period, a geography you’ve only dreamed of, fantasy or historical instead of contemporary fiction, try the male POV if you usually write women. Or vice versa.

Switch it up. See where it takes you.

I am responsible for this week’s prompt. My stretch? London in the Regency. Society with a capital S.