I am not supposed to be writing this, you guys! And yet. And yet.
Sailor was thinking about being a princess, the sun pooled like treacle on the tip of her nose and the tops of her knees. She wouldn’t be a wussy princess. She’d fight with swords in wars and all the warriors would want to kiss her — but she’d be the kind of princess who’d laugh at them and challenge them to duels. She’d have dresses and servants to do her hair, and they’d eat chicken every day. Hot and greasy, with their fingers.
Sailor’s mother was a princess, according to Captain Patch. An exotic princess from across the Eastern oceans, with hair like black silk and Sailor’s almond eyes. When she was little, she’d asked her father for the story almost every night. This was before she got too big for her hammock in the captain’s quarters and white-haired old Fig had built her tiny cabin with its single precious shelf. Patch would pull her onto his knee and she’d burrow into his familiar smell of oil and rum and sweat, and he’d tell her how her mother had worn wooden sandals and green stone combs in her hair, and how her grandfather had been a great warlord in a helmet topped with enormous metal horns.
“Where is she now?” Sailor would ask when he was finished, and the Captain would laugh and kiss the top of her head, his braided beard rough against her forehead.
“In her palace,” he’d say. “Thinking of us and missing the sea.”
Sailor would touch the bells in his beard. “Why doesn’t she come back?”
“Look around,” he’d say. “Is this any place for a princess?”
Sailor would agree that it wasn’t, but she never understood why. And although she’d heard the story a million times, she could never shake the feeling that it just wasn’t real. That she couldn’t have actually had a mother, or at least not one who was out there in the world, a person, brushing her hair and eating peas. That she’d sprung fully-formed from somewhere — or hatched, like an egg — and although people surrounded her, none of them belonged to her.