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A Salt & Storm Story
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Format:ebook (Digital original) $1.99 $2.99 CAD
This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around September 8, 2015. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.
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Three years before I lost my hand, I lost my heart to Alice.
We were both fifteen. We'd grown up in Fairhaven, along the rocky tidal pools of the Massachusetts coast, on opposite sides of town. Opposite in all ways: She was the daughter of the most accomplished captain in our town's history. My mother was a washerwoman.
The day we met, the wind was at crosses with itself. Bits of dust swirled up from the streets and stung our eyes. Down at the docks, a sail that had been put aside for repairs suddenly burst into the air and flew away, flapping and folding on itself. The shipwrights called off their work for the day, and my master sent me home. I didn't often have holidays. I pictured going back to our cottage—where my mother would surely put me to stirring her stinking, sweating pots of underdrawers—and picked up my fishing pole instead.
Fairhaven had a little beach just north of town. In a few weeks, children would descend on it, thick as flies, but summer had only just begun. The wind had teeth, and the beach would be empty.
I saw her boat first. Too high out of the water and stuck sideways in mud. Fanlike black handprints dotted the hull. The sail snapped like a whip in the wind. She was in the water next to the boat, her pale skirts floating around her like clouds of silt. She had on a bonnet, a big, ugly thing that made her face look like it was down a well. The sleeves of her dress, from the points of her elbows to the tips of her fingers, were painted black with the sludge of the cove.
I watched her for a moment, and when she finally saw me, she let out a noise—part surprise, part relief.
"You!" she said, happy, as if she'd been expecting me. "Come give me a push!"
I stood with my pole over my shoulder, thinking about all the things I'd heard my mother mutter about rich folk.
"Yoo-hoo!" She lifted her arm over her head and waved. The wind caught her bonnet, and she clutched at it. "I need a push!"
I just watched her.
"Gust out of nowhere! Give me a hand."
"What happened?" I called back.
"Wind, I said!"
"It's too windy to sail." I was enjoying being unhelpful.
"Oh, wind I haven't got a problem with." She laughed and kicked the hull. "Just mud. Are you going to help me, or shall I start swimming home?"
She knew and I knew I wasn't going to abandon her. If word got back to Fairhaven I'd left Captain Gray's daughter in the muck, it would mean bad things for my mother. I dropped my pole on the ground, shucked off my jacket, kicked free my boots, and waded out to her.
"Step back," I said, and she shook her head. With that bonnet on, I thought, she might knock herself out.
"You'll never get it out on your own. Here, I'll take the port side. Ready?" She wiped her hands down the front of her dress and braced herself against the hull. "All right now, push!"
I threw my weight forward. Beside me, I could hear her breathing hard. The boat shuddered but didn't move. In another minute, I thought, she would send me to walk back, dripping, to town to fetch the towboat. The idea made me grit my teeth, and I shoved so hard the whole thing came loose with a little pop, quick enough that I went right along with it, facefirst into the water.
I came up coughing, spitting out mud, listening to her laughter.
"Fancy a swim?" she asked. All I could see in the shadows of the bonnet was her grin, white and smooth as a shell. The water streaming down my face did nothing to cool my burning cheeks, and I turned around, sloshing and slapping as I waded away.
"Oh, wait, don't go!"
A tug on my sleeve and more laughter.
"I didn't mean it," she said. "Here: I'll sail you back home. Grab hold of the boat, and I'll fetch your things."
She moved quickly in the water, too quick for me to tell her I'd rather she sail her pretty boat right off a cliff. But by the time she'd gathered up my jacket and knotted the laces of my boots over her shoulder and carried my fishing pole back to me, carefully lifted high over the water, I'd changed my mind. Wet feet and cold wind.
I held the boat for her so she could haul herself in, and then pushed and kicked off the mud, scrabbling over the edge as we drifted away from the shore. I'd grown up inside boats, but they had all been wooden skeletons or rotting corpses—boats yet to be born, boats already dead. I felt as useful as a third arm as she stepped around me, one hand on the tiller, the other pulling in the sheet, the rope connected to the sail.
She was right: The wind hardly troubled her. The little boat rocked and bucked, but she worked at it like a spirited pony. I kept watching her hands. The ladies of Fairhaven wore gloves to keep their fingers as white as whalebone. This girl had the rough skin and broken nails of a sailor.
"Know how to sail a little boat like this?" she asked.
"I've built little boats like this."
- On Sale
- Sep 8, 2015
- Page Count
- 32 pages
- Little, Brown Books for Young Readers