From the Journal of Arin Cromwell

My deep blue eyes scanned over the people at the market as I strolled past. Not too fast, so that I would draw attention to myself, yet not so slow that it might look to a shop owner that I was interested in purchasing something either. I watched as strangers kissed hello on the cheek, as toddlers were reined into submission by a parent, and as shop owners boasted of the virtues of the products they had for sale to anyone who would listen. With my hood up, it was easy to hide the smirk on my face as I slipped past them. It was all just a little too familiar and one of the many reasons why I knew getting out of this town would be the best choice I ever made.

Finally at the doc I turned looking once again at the town I was leaving. I lingered to see if I would feel anything besides contempt for these people. I didn’t. So when it came to my turn to board the ship I offered my hand and the coin within it gladly. It had taken me well over a year to save up for this journey, and I don’t regret a single moment of the hard work. I was finally free of this place and off to my new adventure. That was until I heard someone yelling out my name.

“Arin!! Arin!! I’m sorry! You don’t have to do this!”

I scowled. He was making a scene. Everyone was looking to see where I was. For a moment my cheeks flushed with anger. I forced it down. I was giving him too much credit, to think that he could make me angry. No that ship, much like the one I was currently on, had sailed. So instead I lowered my hood with a warm smile. I waved as the ship pulled away from the doc my red hair falling in lava like locks, the curls dancing in the wind, framing my face.

I saw him drop to his knees and burry his head in his hands. It would have almost been dramatic if not for the 50 or so other people all around him. In fact once he dropped to his knee, he all but disappeared into the crowd. Once I could no longer see him I stopped waving and found a quiet place on the deck of the ship to sit and collect myself.

I did not have much coin left, and so I knew I would have to be frugal with it. However I was accustomed to that. So, I thought to myself why not splurge a little and get myself a nice tall glass of ale. The more I considered this, the happier I felt about it so I stood – not much of a grand statement in my small 5 foot 4 frame – but somehow I felt taller than my small frame conveyed. I half expected the floor boards of the ship to creek as I walked from my spot at the front of the ship’s bow to a few decks below. Being a bar maid, I knew where to find the flow of the ale. Assuredly, it was in the underbelly of the ship.

My assumption was confirmed when only a floor below decks I could hear the pouring of the corked ale keg into the glasses of thirsty consumers. I approached the bar and slapped down my coin with confidence.

“As big of a glass as you got” I told the lady behind the makeshift counter. Actually all it was were a few emptied crates that had been turned upside down and then propped up by a few additional crates turned on their sides. I shook my head a little watching the large men play chicken with the hazardous looking counter top as they leaned against it, as though it were a solid oak bar.

Tearing my gaze from the disaster waiting to happen to the counter top, my eyes found the bar maid again. Apparently, my statement amused her; I could see her looking at my thin yet athletic frame with skepticism as she sized me up.

“Are you sure there doll? This stuff aint piss water, ya know.”

I smiled. Two good things have come from being a bar maid. One was, I’ve learned how to hold my ale (and liquor for that matter) and the second is I have seen the disasters of what happens when you don’t say “when” soon enough.

“I’m good.” I reassured her.

She shook her head a little and smiled at me handing me a rather large glass – admittedly larger than I thought I would receive for my small amount of coin – and then returned to her other patrons. I took a few drinks – she was right, this stuff really had a kick to it – and headed back to my spot on the deck of the ship.

I leaned back in the chair resting my large glass of ale on my thigh as I scanned the calm waters taking me from my past to my future. Someday, I surmised, I might miss my brother but right now I was just glad to be rid of him and his horrid opinions of me.
I come by being a bar maid honestly; it was a family business. I was the bar maid, by brother was the one who made the wines, liquor’s and ales and my father was the one who ran the bar. That was until last year when our pub “The Irishman’s Daughter” (named after me) was involved in a horrible incident.

This was one of those times where I could see the righting on the wall, but was powerless to do anything but watch it unfold. Had I known then the exact nature of the disastrous outcome I was dreading – awe hell, even if I had — I don’t think there would have been anything I could do to stop it. Anyway, I was serving a table full of hunters, who were celebrating a decent kill and who were all looking very much like a pack of Vikings. Already Leary of the group, I brought the two large picture of ale that was requested with a wary eye on them. I have encountered men like this countless times before. I know the type. Obnoxious, ballsy, abrasive, and rude all rolled up into one. I had set the two large pictures down without event, grateful as I turned on my heel – or started to – when a large burly hand closed over mine.

“Hey little lady, not so fast, I think there is something else I need to order” He laughed, looking to his pack of nincompoops for support. They all cheered and one or two slammed down empty mugs of ale in encouragement. That move, more than anything caught the attention of my father. To this day, I wish he had not have turned his eye to me. Things would be so different.
Wrenching my hand from him I said;

“Oh I’m sorry I think you have our menu confused with the one the whore house down street has to offer.” I looked at him pointedly as I finished my sentiments saying “NO ONE here offers those services.”

When he did not release his grip my free hand flew into the top of my thigh boot pulling out my blade. On my last birthday my father had a sheath sewn into my favorite pair of boots. I wore them with pride knowing that it was an extravagance he rarely afforded.

Before I could blink however, his affore mentioned nincompoop-ed friend was at my back, he grabbed my wrist and bent it back – (slender as it was it was not hard for him to do), and then bent me over the side of the table, holding my cheek against wood grain.
My father who was now at the table himself; took a swing at the man who was the instigator, that was when his friend –(who was holding the knife he had taken from my hand) – stabbed him in the chest. I watched in horror as the light slowly left my father’s eyes.

I ignored everyone else in the bar at that moment and sank to my knees holding my father’s head delicately in my lap. My brother rushed to my side; yelling at me about how idiotic I was to have pulled my weapon, but I did not hear him. All my focus was on my father. I did not even notice as the Vikings stormed out for fear of the local law enforcement that was already alerted and headed our way.

I hardly recall his funeral. It was a blur of “I’m so sorry for your loss”, and “If you need anything let me know” mixed in was a few whispers of “Well I guess Arthur will be taking over the bar.” I had stepped aside when I could not take it anymore stopping near a set of tall bushes when I heard it. The worst sentence ever uttered from anyone’s mouth ever, aimed at me.

“You think Arthur will change the name of the bar now? Seams wrong to keep it named after the person who got him killed, don’t you think?”

I opened my mouth several times to yell, to cry, to scream….but nothing came out. All the words that would not come from my mouth seemed to spill down my face as my eyes blurred with a thousand unshed tears since the incident only days before.

I thought I left for the bar right away but I must have been frozen where I stood for longer than I thought because by the time I reached “The Irishman’s Daughter” it was dark, my brother Arthur was there. I rushed over to him attempting to put my arms around him and tell him of the horrible things that were said, when he cut me off not allowing me to touch him. He glared into my face his own an unrecognizable contortment of grief, anger and even a bit of rage as he said to me;

“Why the hell did you pull that damned knife? What were you thinking Arin?!”

I froze. New tears formed and fell in a hurry from my already swollen eyes. So…not only did the town consider me responsible for my father’s death, but my brother did as well.

Sleep did not come that night or not for many nights later. I felt awkward and out of place as I schlepped drinks night after night in “The Irishman’s Daughter’s Pub” Eyes followed me everywhere I went for weeks. Finally I could not stand it anymore. I started counting the small amount of saved tips over the last year and a half and headed for the doc’s.

To my brother I had become almost just as much of a ghost as our father had. He never spoke to me except when necessary, he never said thank you for the meals I served him before opening and after closing. The spare few times he did look at me, his eyes were dead, as though he was seeing right though me.

It did surprise me to see him at the doc’s as the ship left. But he had his chance. I needed a change. I could no longer remain the girl who got her father killed in the very pub he named after her. My heart could not bear the weight of that responsibility.

I lifted the ale to my lips taking a long drink sighing gratefully as it dulled my senses a little. Yes, boarding this ship was the right choice. I no longer had to live in the nightmare that had become my life. Before I could stop myself I whispered into the glass “I love you father” and took another large drink looking to the horizon. My deep blue eyes matched that of the water before me.

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