The tomato splattered across my face—ow.
“Patrick!” I fumed, wiping tomato juice off my cheek, “You’re supposed to be throwing them into the water, not at my face.”
Patrick whirled around from across the boat— it was more of a canoe, really—and had the audacity to actually wink at me. Considering the fact that I hadn’t seen him since we were children, he hadn’t changed a bit.
“Ah, but the color does wonders for your complexion.”
I gave the pirate a gesture that showed exactly what I thought of his opinion and turned back to my own crate.
“Wouldn’t it just be easier to toss the whole crate in? Why do we have to throw the food overboard individually?” I asked, tossing a particularly heavy sack of apples into the sea.
“Ariel, this may be your first experience with mutiny, but it is, in fact, my seventh. And I have learned that when one throws an entire crate into the ocean, one loses all the food.” He tossed another tomato into the waves for emphasis. “However, if you toss over just enough to keep your boat afloat, you will find yourself with plenty of food left to last days on the open ocean. It’s a delicate balance, really. Very mathematical.”
“How will we know when we’ve gotten rid of enough?”
“When we stop sinking.”
“But we aren’t—” I was cut off by the feeling of water around my toes, and I looked down to find the boat was indeed filling up with water. The hem of my gown had already soaked up a fair amount. I could still see Patrick’s ship sailing toward the horizon, full of traitorous pirates, my family’s fortune, and a dozen different tools that would have come in handy for dishing water out of a sinking lifeboat.
Panicking, I began using my hands to scoop up as much water as possible. For good measure, I splashed a handful in Patrick’s face. He merely grinned.
“What kind of pirate are you anyway?” I asked, and Patrick laughed.
“Oh, I’m an absolutely terrible pirate—even worse captain—but, you see, I’m a rich pirate. And that, Ariel,” he leaned forward and flicked my nose with a finger, “will get you everywhere.”
“It got me stuck here with you.” I replied, glancing once more at the ship, now disappearing from view. I tried very hard not to think about all the riches that were hidden beneath its deck.
“Yes, about that—terribly sorry for sacking your estate. I figured since we used to be such good friends, you wouldn’t mind. But just think, if we hadn’t looted your Daddy, we would have never been reunited.”
“Is that supposed to make me feel better?” I put a half empty crate of apples aside and picked out a sack of potatoes. Patrick snorted.
“Think of it as a chance to rekindle our beautiful friendship.”
“I’m sorry, did you say this was your eighth mutiny?”
“You know, I could throw you overboard and save myself twice as much food.” Patrick grumbled, and I crossed my arms with a smile,
“But then you wouldn’t get your ransom money.”
Patrick stilled, tomato in hand. I watched his eyes trace me up and down with suspicion.
“Wasn’t that your plan?” I continued, pleased to have the high ground. “Your crew left you stranded and took the money, but you’ll compensate by holding me ransom. As I recall, that’s how our last “friendship” turned out—”
“No, I know exactly what game you’re playing here, Patrick. You kidnapped me as insurance, so when your crew inevitably betrayed you—”
“I am a pirate, Ariel. If you expected decency, then you truly know nothing about life out at sea. Now, if you would please stop throwing all our rations overboard…” his voice trailed off as he motioned to the sack of potatoes I had dangling halfway over the edge of the boat. I glanced down and opened my mouth to protest, but the boat was indeed staying afloat. We were no longer taking on water.
I heard a click and looked up to find the barrel of a pistol staring me down.
“I thought the crew took all your weapons?” I asked, feeling my heart beat against my chest. I had expected Patrick to be more or less the same boy I knew from our childhood.
It suddenly dawned on me that I was stranded on a lifeboat with a pirate who had nothing to lose.
But if Patrick thought he could control me, he had another thing coming. I reached under the skirt of my gown and pulled out the pistol I had swiped from the pirate who had thrown me into the miniscule boat when the crew took control of the ship. If I wasn’t mistaken, he was Patrick’s second in command.
Patrick’s smile broadened as I raised my pistol to meet his. I must have swallowed some sea water, because I could have sworn I saw awe in his eyes.
“It seems there is more to you than meets the eye. I wonder, where did a merchant’s daughter learn to hold a gun?”
“I’ve learned how to do many things.” I shot back, hoping it sounded vague and mysterious.
“You know,” Patrick said, cocking his head to the side, “perhaps we have more to gain from working together—we could start a new crew of our own.”
“And what’s in it for me?”
“My darling Ariel, I don’t think either of us is in the position to bargain.” Patrick lowered his pistol and I searched for trickery in his face—there was none. He held out his hand across the short distance between us, and I let a few seconds pass before setting my own gun down. Another few before I shook his hand.
“It’s a deal.”
“Oh, and Ariel?” Patrick gave me the world’s most innocent smile. “You’ve got a bit of tomato on your nose.”