July 21st 1849, Mr. Reid observed the state of the ice; he says it’s most likely frozen up along the bodies of water we must traverse before reaching whalers. When everyone was more or less drifting in uneasy sleep in the tents we’d erected for the night, I pulled Glass from my waist pack, calculating the distance. Engrossed in holographs, I didn’t notice when Captain Crozier leaned toward me.
“What is it?”
My sight blurred, detaching from mental link control was sometimes difficult as the separation between the AI and my consciousness felt seamless when connected. “Calculations made on temperature, density of new ice forming combined with logical reason.” I lowered Glass from my face. “Glass says there is a ninety-nine percent chance that conditions mirror the winter of 1832.”
“The year Ross was forced to overwinter...” he let the sentence hang, knowing he need not finish. A note of curiosity came into his hushed voice. “That thing has a name?” He gazed at the shades dangling from the tips of my fingers. “All things do. Really unoriginal, though they contain no glass per se.”
He released a soft exhalation of white breath from his lips, within arm’s length, leaning against my rucksack. Our bodies touched beneath the ragged blanket spread over us. I shifted upward, realizing I was sliding under.
“Do you miss your world?”
“Sometimes.” I had begun to change inside, the part of me that was so fiercely desperate to return home had lessened over the years. At a loss, I remained unable to pinpoint exactly when this had began. Glass had barely warmed, the head of a pin-size computer brain descended into stasis.
“I have seen the expression on your face. You sadden with these objects from your world; do they not increase your yearning to return?”
“Aye - erm, yes.” Embarrassed with my slip, my face felt heated, further proof I’d been around too many Englishmen; I was starting to speak like them.
“Do you miss it now?” His arms spread, self conscious to the last, I realized I was starting to lean on him. “No.” Then, I blinked at myself, wondering why. “Strangely not at all.” It was almost impossible to move away, there was nothing but bodies all around and someone’s back near my folded knee.
“And Metcalf?” He was strangely insistent.
“I loved him.” I whispered, biting my lip in the gloom, tasting salt, blood and grit. “Loved the peace he gave me.” Part of me could never forget he had caused Aldrovandi’s death. Whether inadvertently or through his lingering jealousy over our friendship, he had brought it about. The more he pursued me, the more I pushed him away. In the end, I had felt we were too different. I tried explaining it to him, a few sentences of when and how I had finally come to the realization that Jonathan and I were not meant to be. Then, before the silence could become too unnerving, I asked the question deep down I’d always feared and longed to hear the answer to. “And Sophia Cracroft?”
He went still for the longest time and I had the sense it was out of great thought not displeasure with me. At last, he shifted; a touch on my arm questioning. He wanted to know if I would follow. Silently, I found his hand and lightly squeezed in assurance. Crozier seemed to take it as the acquiescence it was for we crawled out of the tent together, striding along at an easy pace farther from the shelter, walls of crystallized water forming natural buffers against the wind. The sound of the ice was a sonorous groan of twilight music to my sensitive hearing as his quiet voice soon joined the cacophony of sound.
He told me more than books knew, he explained his reasoning, his faith in God and prayer that she was the one, prayer he had been taught would answer yes for everything. He spoke of his jealousy toward his best friend James Ross, how he had watched seethingly as Sophia tried over and over again to seduce Ross from his fiancé. But, each time the Scotsman had rebuffed her gently, though leaving no room for further encouragement, Sophia would return to mild flirtations with himself and subtly entice Ross closer.
I noticed the remnants of awe and joy he still spoke of those days in Hobart, the wistfulness in his tone as he spoke of her. Though, I hid it well, I felt pain hearing it, knowing in some way he carried a torch for her even after everything she had done. Why it bothered me to hear of his longing for her, was something that escaped me. - Canon divergence-
Why did it hurt?
Then, in the sea of my confusion, something clicked. I…I was…
Then, in the sea of my confusion, something clicked. I…I was…
“Stop.” The word came from my cold lips though I was barely conscious of forming the desire to speak. “I don’t want to hear about her ever again.” I walked a few steps ahead. He said no more, not following either.
No. I didn’t assume or feel uncertainty. A greater part of me knew and had known for a long time. Maybe it shouldn’t be, but it was. “I want to be with you. Not just tomorrow or next week. For real.” Even as I said it, fear remained tart on my tongue, bitter like a snowflake. I’m scared. Scared of the approaching tomorrow, of the many tomorrows that I might face alone; I started to turn around, striding past him.
To this moment, I’m uncertain as to what he said. A mitten closed around my upper arm, effectively halting my tracks. It might’ve been ‘stop’ or ‘wait’ or ‘Catherine.’
As I write this, I’m still not entirely certain what transpired in a few poorly constructed sentences and mumbled Tá mo chroí istigh ionat . He sits beside me now, slouching, his head resting against my shoulder, his hand in mine.
The memory of cherry brandy with old Mrs. Rae was still sharp in Sophia’s mind. A more delicate, sweet-natured woman couldn’t be found this side of the main, she was sure. The days before blurred into a flurry of preparations. Word had come from a whaler, Ross’s Expedition was thought to have picked up a band of men found drifting in a curious lifeboat, that didn't look like a ship's boat at all. Aunt Jane threw herself into planning an elaborate celebration for Uncle John’s return.
On the day when the ships were seen in the distance, they had gathered with the Orkney women on the docks. Aunt Jane outshone all the rest, choosing a pale blue ensemble to match her eyes; Aunt Jane always said her husband adored that color. For herself, Sophia had chosen pale pink, her bonnet done in tasteful pastel shades. Palpable support emanated from the gathered women, alike in their plain dresses and worn bonnets.
Sophia watched as the first boat docked, familiar faces bore barely a trace to their younger counterparts from the memories in her mind. Captain Crozier was first, turning back to offer his hand to a stranger - a young woman dressed in man’s clothing, helping the girl up. Sophia ran her gaze over the stranger’s form, noting the pair of sailor trousers tucked into thigh-high boots, a white blousy shirt over which an unusual low-cut black vest form-fitted the loose clothing to her body. As the stranger straightened, she caught Sophia’s eye, silver eyes flashed amusement and daringly the stranger looked her up and down, leering. How dare-!
“Where is he?” Aunt Jane fretted quietly, searching the haggard faces of the men filling the second and third boats consecutively. “Perhaps he stayed aboard the ship, resting?” Sophia offered soothingly, avoiding looking in that other’s direction.
As the second boat came up to the quay, she caught movement from the corner of her eye. She knew whom it was; decidedly keeping her face averted. A fine drizzling rain spattered the earth from a pewter sky as bareheaded Francis Crozier walked slowly across. His exile into the barren lands had effected a saddened of countenance man, much wearied of life yet as she finally forced her face to turn and acknowledge him, she was surprised to see his hair was a darker color than remembered, still white-streaked from the temples but of greater quantity than memory served. Aunt Jane at last ceased her futile search, turning questioning eyes to the silent man.
“My dear, good woman.” Francis said quietly; she was sure something was wrong. That look...that look in his eyes. Pity swam there. Vaguely disgusted, Sophia glanced again at the young woman whom walked away from the others, her lips trembling as she stepped beside the captain, her hand clutching like a child might at his sleeve. Their differences in height were great, so great as to be almost ridiculous. Who was this woman? Why did she clutch onto him so improperly?
What connexion might she have with Francis?
Sophia noticed he didn’t respond immediately to the young woman.
Aunt Jane didn’t see anything above his face. “Speak...!”
He did though it appeared to pain him greatly doing so. “Your husband is dead. I am terribly sorry for your loss.”
Sophia steeled herself, her outer facade maintaining composure. She felt her companion stiffen beside her. “But, they said, my husband had been among those rescued! Franklin and his men...” Though, Jane’s face had lost the animation from before, she had the fortitude to never shed a tear.
Francis looked away uncomfortably, “a mistake.” He seemed aware then of the young woman at his side, slowly drawing her closer. The stranger’s silvery eyes swam with tears they would never show.
Many thanks to the http://www.irishgaelictranslator.com/articles/vocabulary/love-terms-of-endearment/