Chloe Helton | Historical Fiction

The Red Pearl: Chapter 21

Chapter 21

It was with some anxiety that I stepped into The Pig’s Head about a week later, and that was unusual. Sam and I had met a handful of times now, often sporadically, and the only reservations I’d had before were concerning the walk back home, where I would face darkness alone, and that was only until he started escorting me home. It was quite improper to walk the streets with a man who wasn’t my husband, but in darkness nobody recognized me, and Sam always dropped me off halfway down the street so Jasper wouldn’t see.

Sam was taking the last sip of a glass of brandy when I sat across the table from him. He had a pamphlet in his hand - perhaps he was rereading Common Sense, as he often did, or the local paper. When I sat down, though, I noticed that it was The Patriot’s Gazette - the same publication that, weeks ago, my article had been printed under a different name.

Sam nodded at me. “I thought something of yours might be in here,” he said, holding up the paper, “but it appears not.”

“Well, you wouldn’t know it if you saw it. Look for the name Nathaniel Robinson.”

He nodded. “Makes sense. I should have figured it would be a penname.”

“Well, I don’t have anything new, anyway. I think that article was my moment of glory.”

He smiled. If we were still seventeen, he would have said Every moment you breathe is glory, Lucy, because to him my very existence had been glorious. Instead, he said, “Perhaps. It’s like that for some of us, I think.”

I drummed my fingers against the table for a moment. The information was nothing more than usual, but the words stuck in my throat like never before. We should drain the poison from the water. I was thinking of my home, where Tories plotted, and how the Daughters would think it poison.

“So,” he said, “any news?”

I looked down at my hands. My throat was suddenly dry. “Can I get a glass first?”

“Sure.” He rose to approach the bar, but I reached out a hand. Unexpectedly, I actually touched him - my hand brushed against his hip, and he stopped. For a moment, we were both frozen.

“Not cider,” I said, swallowing quickly. “I’m no lady. Give me wine, at least.”

He smirked. “I don’t know if they have wine here. But I can certainly get beer.”

That was good enough. He returned a few moments later with a glass, and a refill of his own, and I gulped down a sip of the beer. It tasted like piss, of course, but I didn’t mind so much. “A few ships coming in the next few weeks. I don’t know how much is in each ship, but I can give you the names.” I had jotted them down on a slip of paper ripped out of my journal, and I pulled it out of my pocket to present to him.

He looked over it for a minute. “Good,” he said. “This will help.”

Usually there was more. I repeated what the men had said, or we talked about other things. Today, I just wanted to go home. “I’m afraid I have a headache,” I lied. “So I must get back.”

He nodded. Perhaps he knew the headache was farce, but he understood. “Shall I walk you home?”

When I’d arrived not a quarter-hour before, it had still been light. I figured I was safe. “No, I’ll be alright, thank you.”

I scurried off, still reeling from our brief touch, and still jittery about collecting dangerous secrets.