Chloe Helton | Historical Fiction

The Red Pearl: Chapter 27

 Chapter 27

Jasper looked a bit overwhelmed at the news. Not that he wasn’t glad to see the war end - and with it, the blockade of the harbor - but we would be roaring busy tonight, and our numerous guests would no doubt get even more uproariously drunk than usual. Considering the crowd on a regular night, I could not comprehend how much worse they would be when celebrating an unbelievable, world-altering victory. “I heard some of the guests talking about it this morning,” he said. On some mornings we received a paper delivery, and although Jasper and I rarely read the deliveries ourselves, we usually gleaned the more salacious news from our guests who picked up the newspapers and chatted about it over breakfast. “They asked if we’ll serve tea with breakfast instead of coffee now that the blockade is null.”

I considered this. “I can’t even imagine how things will change.” It would probably be much easier to get goods such as tea and sugar and rum with the port back open, but it was unclear whether the British would continue to trade with us now that we’d severed our ties and chased them off the continent. We might have to find other sources for such luxuries. And money - what would we use for money? It was all so hazy and uncertain.

“Well,” Jasper said, “tonight, we’ll just celebrate.” He grinned, a crooked, boyish grin that the war had wiped away, a grin that was back now, however tentative our future was.

That afternoon, while we scrambled to prepare for the night’s crowd, Jasper pulled me aside. “I have something to show you,” he said, and led me to the study.

I suspected he’d explain something about the accounts, but instead he reached into a desk drawer and pulled out a new pistol. “Something wrong with your current one?” As far as I knew, it worked fine, and Jasper wasn’t one for frivolous purchases.

“No,” he said. “It’s yours. That knife hasn’t done you much good, has it?”

I didn’t have any defense for the knife, not when that gun shimmered in his hand. He handed it to me, unloaded, and pulled a magazine out of the same drawer.

After turning the gun over in my hands for a moment, I looked him square in the eye. “You know I have no clue how to use this?”

He grinned, that crooked smile that today’s news had just unearthed. “I’ll show you.” There wasn’t time today for a thorough lesson, but he explained the basics: measuring and pouring the powder, pressing it down with the ramrod, adding the bullet, fixing the striking pad, and so on. “Someday soon we’ll take a day trip to the woods and you can shoot at some trees.”

The way he said it, it was almost as if it was a toy or a new hobby, but I knew the reason for this gift. He wanted me to feel safe.

“Maybe it won’t be much help,” he said, “but I’d feel bare without mine, and I thought you would appreciate it.”

“No, it helps,” I said, keeping the barrel carefully trained on the ground, even though it was unloaded, as I practiced my grip. “It helps a lot, actually.”

“Good.” He grinned mischievously. “Now you won’t keep stealing the kitchen knives.”

I nudged him playfully, then with another glance at the weapon in my hand I shrugged happily and said, “Thank you.” It was my most honest expression of gratitude in a long time.

As I placed the gun back into the drawer, planning to return later to find a method of keeping it on my person, he said, “One rule, though. Even if you don’t think it’s loaded, never aim it at something you love.”

I picked the gun back up and raised it a little, as if intending to point it at him, and laughed as he made a face at me. “All right, we should get back to work. I hope you bought extra cream today; we’ll need to make more flip than usual for tonight’s crowd.”

I hadn’t thought about that, to be honest, but I always bought extra, so we should have enough for tonight even if I had to return to Betty tomorrow for more. She’d be thrilled to see me a second day in a row.

Stowing the gun into the drawer, I followed Jasper out of the study to resume the day’s work, my heart swelling with gratitude.