Her mother had once told her that there was only people in the world. They weren’t good or bad, right or wrong. They were just people. She always wanted to believe her. But that’s a hard thing to do.
It wasn’t that she thought the world was a bad place. It wasn’t. She looked at the sapphire sea, the rainbow fish and the vast reefs, the topaz skies and the tiny, perfectly formed islands, and her stomach lurched. She was but a blip in the grand scheme of things. So how did it find her? This demonic hatred? This mal-informed distrust?
Niko would complain she was spoilt. She wasn’t. Nudge complained she was lazy. She wasn’t. Her mother complained she was sullen and angsty. She wasn’t that either. She was scared. A scared little girl who didn’t know her own purpose.
That was something else her mother told her. Everyone has a purpose. If you didn’t believe that, then you were either stupid, or lost. Tetra wasn’t stupid. She wasn’t lost. She was lonely and confused. What was the difference? She wasn’t sure. But there definitely was one.
* * * *
Tetra peeked round the door. The deck was deserted. Perfect. Quietly, she slipped out of the door, shutting is softly behind her. Negotiating the familiar area of the deck, Tetra stepped over all the lose boards.
Nearing the rail, Tetra peeled off her nightie and pulled on her play tunic. The fabric was light and unlikely to weigh her down. Besides, the island was only a mile away. How hard could it be? She pulled herself up onto the rail and shimmied along until she drew level with the anchor chain. Holding tightly to the rail with one hand, she stretched across the gap and grasped for the chain. Her fingers closed around the cold metal and she let go of the rail. She swung out across the black sea, it’s dead calm unnerving her. The chain clinked and jangled. Below the water, Tetra knew that it would be as clear as a bell. Would the sound get through he hull and wake the crew?
Wrapping herself around the chain, Tetra caught her breath. Her heart beat heavily in her chest. She was afraid the noise of it would wake someone up.
It didn’t. Sliding down into the water, Tetra relished the cool darkness. It blanketed her, filled her ears and washed away her problems. The shore wasn’t far away. She began to swim.
It didn’t take long for her to reach the sandy beach. She was a strong swimmer and the waves carried her a great deal of the way. The island was tiny. She could see the other side from where she stood now. It wouldn’t be difficult to find her here. But it didn’t matter. She wasn’t here to stay. She was here for a boat. And, as luck would have it, a small vessel was pulled up onto the sand not three feet from where she stood.
Moving closer, Tetra began to untie the mooring rope. The seaweed made a perfect line just in front of the boat, showing the level of the last tide. Tetra estimated that the next would reach that little hill over there.
The rope came lose and Tetra grinned this was her ticket out of here. She began to push the little boat out into the surf. Once up to her waist in the water, Tetra clambered into the boat and scrabbled round in the hull, searching for the oars. Ah, hiding under the bench. Locking them into the shafts, she sat down on the plank that served as a seat and began to row. The oars made soft splashing sounds as they hit the invisible water. Tetra knew where she was heading. She was going to Windfall. She could be totally anonymous there, working in a shop or cafe of some description. Whatever.
“Tetra Medaria Sontandra, what the HELL do you think you are doing? “
A circle of lamp light spilled onto the waves, illuminating the little boat as it bobbed up and down on the waves. Tetra gritted her teeth and continued to row. The worst that could happen would be galley duty. Maybe even deck work. Cleaning the side of the ship was quite a popular punishment, but there were too many opportunities for her to escape again if she was given that as her retribution for ‘abandonment of your ship, your crew, your duties and your mother’. It was worth it, just to see how far she could get.
“Don’t you dare young lady. Stay right there! I said stay there!”
Tetra ignored her. Her heart sank as she heard the splash of her mother diving into the waves. She wouldn’t even make it away from the ship at this rate. She gritted her teeth and rowed harder.
“Tetra…… stop…… Tetra please…… oh my- Tetra!”
She heard the screams. The splashing, the snapping of teeth and the ripping of flesh. She couldn’t see them, but she knew they were there. Sharks. There was lots of shouting up on deck. The pounding of footsteps woke the night as the crew roared orders to one another. All lamps came swinging overboard at the sound of the screams. The water was lit up by the merry glow.
The sea was red. The sharks were in a frenzy, snapping, biting and rolling their eyes. Gulls, woken by the din and by the smell of a fresh meal, swooped and wheeled overhead, clacking their beaks with excitement. Small brave fish darted to the surface, stealing anything they could before being eaten by the frenzied sharks. There was no sign of her mother.
* * * *