In celebration of actually having a turning point, I give thee portion of chapter eighteen (as it is now):
Mady opened her eyes to pitch darkness. She blinked, several times, trying to clear her eyesight. For a moment, she wondered if she’d gone blind.
No, no, she wasn’t blind. She moved her right hand, where the knuckles were bloodied, in front of her face. She couldn’t quite see it, but Mady could make out the shape. With her left hand, she reached out into the darkness and felt the brush of rough cloth underneath her. Wool, perhaps. The cloth soon turned into something hard, yet yielding. Moving subtly.
She listened carefully for a moment. Yes, that was breathing she heard. Only a foot or so away. Her eyes adjusted to the dark and Mady made out a thin, weak light coming from above this space. Was it was a cellar? A room? A cell?
Then Mady became aware of movement. It was rhythmic: a sway one way, then a sway back. A rise and then a slight dip.
She made herself lie still and take stock of the movements. It couldn’t be a carriage. And surely, nightmares didn’t include such regularity of movements outside of one’s control. The place rose and dipped again. It brought to mind the small punt Miles rowed she and Alex in on the creek behind Banner’s Edge.
That was it. Mady was certain; she was on a ship. By the darkness, she’d guess a cargo hold. The crack of visible light was just that: a crack of sunlight through a loose plank on deck.
So they weren’t that far below decks. From the bobbing of the vessel, Mady was willing to bet that it was still at anchor. The ship would have been much more chaotic if on open seas.
Mady tried to roll over and groaned. Oh, her head hurt. And her belly didn’t feel much better, being tight and uncomfortable.
She remembered a kerchief being placed over her mouth and her legs kicking away, trying to outpace two men who were twice her size.
Mady managed to lift herself into sitting. Oh, lord, her head ached and pounded. She no longer had gloves on and her knuckles felt raw. She balled her right hand into a fist. She winced as her muscles stretched, then tightened over knuckles and joints.
Her neck was tight. Her temples seemed to twitch inwards and outwards, more painful by the second. If Alex’s headaches from their childhood—from her accident—were anything like this, then Mady could understand her occasional foul moods.
Now that she was sitting up, Mady kneeled down on her hands and knees and hesitantly reached a hand out to explore that breathing person near her again. She prayed that it was Laura. If they were in a strange ship hold together, it was better than being in this place alone.
Her finger tips hit something. Mady stroked for a few moments. Her fingers pressed against cloth. Soft cloth. Muslin. Laura had been wearing muslin. Her hand passed over something rougher in texture. She rubbed the material between her fingers for several minutes before realizing that it was lace. Laura’s cuffs had been trimmed in lace.
Jabbing fingers into Laura’s arm, her hand was able to make out the hardness of skin over bone. Mady kept poking her stepsister. Tears threatened. She let them fall. No one could see her in the dark.