Several weeks had passed since Thomas’ apprenticeship came to an end. With the cooling of the ocean down in the southern hemisphere, the crew laid course for northern waters. England to be exact. During a particularly windless day the Peregrine Dragon found herself offshore the Bermuda islands. Her Majesty, the Pirate Queen, sat in a rowboat, fishing pole in hand.
“Arrgh!,” Jules cleared her throat. “Maybe while we’re up there we can pay a visit to those pitiful excuses for pirates up in Penzance Bay.”
Tommy sat silently beside her, putting a worm on her hook.
“My, Thomas, we are certainly quiet today. Care to speak your mind?”
Tommy smiled. “I was wondering how someone of your reputation could possibly be squeamish about a worm.”
“And that thought is responsible for your moodiness all day?” Jules was good at picking up on things. It was one of her strengths. “Now out with it! What is really going on inside that head of yours?”
Tommy’s smile quickly turned somber. There was something else. Something that weighed heavy on both his mind and his heart. But how could he explain it to her? Staring down at his hands, he forced out the words he wanted to say: “I’m thinking of leaving the band.”
Jules glared hard at Tommy, out of the corners of her eyes. “Sounds to me like the girls have been trying to domesticate you, again.” She plopped her now baited hook into the water. “Women are wicked, Thomas. I should know, having been one most my life.”
“And what, dare I ask, were you when you weren’t a woman?”
“A pirate of course!”
The two burst out laughing. Then it was Jules’ turn to change the pace.
“Seriously, Thomas, do you really want to leave?”
Tommy sighed. He didn’t want to answer, but he knew that she’d get it out of him one way or another. He sighed again. “I’ve been thinking–and please don’t take this the wrong way, I mean, you’ve done so much for me and the girls and this has nothing to do with you, personally…”
“Thomas, you’re babbling.”
Tommy grinned, uncomfortably. “Yeah, I guess I am. It’s just that, here I am doing something my parents told me was wrong to do. In the beginning I really had no choice, but now, I’m no longer obligated.”
“I understand,” said Jules, placing her hand on Tommy’s shoulder, “but I really wish you had told me this sooner. I would have never apprenticed you if I had known you weren’t comfortable with it.”
She patted his shoulder. “What’s passed is past, Thomas. Now tell me, what do you plan to do when you become a former pirate?”
Tommy leaned back as best he could and rested his feet on the edge of the rowboat, carefully. For though he was greatly relieved to have gotten such a weight off his chest, and to have it well received by his mentor, he did not want to, literally, dampen the moment. “I think I’ll settle down in a small village. One not too far from the ocean so I’ll always have a reminder you and the others.”
“That is a sweet sentiment, Thomas, but what of the girls? You will take them with you?”
“Actually, I thought they’d be better off staying here with you. You are, after all, the Pirate Queen.”
“Uh, no, no, no. No! As I have confessed to many a mug of ale, those two do not have what it takes to be pirates. Besides, they do seem quite fond of you. I believe there will be much protesting if you leave them behind.”
Tommy was sure there would be, and he was certain that said protesting wouldn’t be limited to just Kimberly and Katherine. Before he could offer a smart response, though, the boat began to rock violently as Queen Jules scrambled for a tighter grip on her fishing pole.