She glides across the creaking wood, unbothered by the gentle swaying of the ship. Not that she would notice if she were rocking. She doesn’t notice much these days, lost in her own mind.
She wishes her thoughts weren’t so clear. She wishes her mind would grow numb and wither as her heart had before it collapsed in her chest. It had left a heavy broken carcass behind, and she knows it wouldn’t be quite so heavy if she couldn’t think. If her mind was just as broken, maybe she wouldn’t notice the weight at all.
Nevertheless, she is all too aware of her unseen, untouchable wound. But even that terrible pain won’t rid her of her restlessness. Too many years doing so much on her feet, working till she couldn’t. Now, when she actually wants to rest, to sink into that comforting darkness, she can’t. She is stuck between feeling too much and too little. Left to chase after phantoms.
Not that she ever has to look too far. Her ghosts always seem to find her first, and not at the best times. No of course they don’t appear when she wants them, why would they? Why should something go right for once? Why should she be able to take her piece of peace and settle down? Why should she get any peace when her husband —
She winces, fingers twitching at her sides. She blinks, and notices she’s stopped next to that old piano her husband had loved. She reaches out and slides her fingers across the off-white and grey keys. How many times had they played together? How many times had she sat here, her cheek to his shoulder, and simply listened to him play? How many times had he lulled her to sleep with his music? How many times had she watched those calloused fingers press so gently against the keys?
How long had it been since she had played? How long had this creature of wood and wire gone unloved? Did it miss her husband too, in it’s own, silent way?
She sits down. Listening to the gentle lapping of the water, swaying with the ship she and her husband had once called more than just her home. But it was just her now. Just her, and the phantom memories of her husband.
She places her hands on the keys. Just resting her fingers along the smooth black and white keys, not yet pressing down enough to make the old instrument sing. She wasn’t sure yet if she wanted it to sing. She wasn’t sure what would happen if she broke her solitude of silence.
She pressed down. As the first sound rang out, rattling her ears and filling the silence, something loosened in her chest. Maybe it was just a numb echo, her chest was so hollow now, but she couldn’t ignore the tingling in her fingers. The urge to play, to make this creature her husband had loved and filled with memories, sing for her once again. She had always been weak to her impulses.
She pressed more keys, diving, without really thinking about it, into the familiar tune of an old sea-shanty with ease. She didn’t know how many times she’d played this song, but she had been alone then too. Her husband never played the song with her, sure he’d sometimes sing and dance about like a drunken fool, but he had never played this song. He always said it was the one song he could never seem to figure out how to play right. He would tell her she played it best.
It wasn’t a very long song, but you could replay the tune to make it last longer without any trouble. She did so, as she always did when she played the shanty. Always wanting to draw out the song that made her husband, and the crew, so happy.
She worried about the crew. The loss of her husband had hit them all hard too. He had been their friend, their confidant, their Captain. She knew the first mate was willing and able to step up, once they set back out. David was always ready to handle a situation, he would make a fine Captain, the crew respected him enough, and he’d been her husband’s best friend. He deserved the position.
However, he had asked her what she had wanted to do. The ship was her home first, he’d said. Thankfully he hadn’t offered her the title as Captain, she wasn’t sure how she would have reacted.
That’s a lie. She probably would have screamed and punched David. He didn’t deserve her anger or anguish, never mind another bloody nose. Least of all from her. Not with how kind and understanding he’d been. He’d been the first to accept her, the one to push her husband into marrying her. The first to tell her and console her. She didn’t know where she’d be without David. Probably floating down to Davy Jones Locker.
She kept playing, thinking of what she could do next. Of what she wanted for her future. She had so much of her life left, bleak though the future seemed without her beloved. But the more she thought about David and the crew, and the ship, something began to beat in her chest as she leapt from one song to the next. Music poured out like the ebb and flow of the tide. Her ribcage felt just a little less empty, and her heart, though it ached so, stirred with life once again. She felt herself smile, just a little, and the warmth that spread through her limbs, though tinged with bittersweet phantom touches, filled her with a vigor she had not felt in so long.
She played, laughing and weeping with the memory of her husband. And somewhere between a wedding song and a funeral march, she decided she would play the old instrument a little more. After all, it had been so loyal to her and her husband, the least she could do was make sure it didn’t feel as lonely as she. Maybe she’d play for the crew again, it had been so long. Or maybe she and the old piano could be lonely together, hidden away in this dark corner of their home?
Nah. The crew — her family, needed her out on deck. At least she could make sure they cared for her home as well as they had under her husbands rule. Besides, it would be fun watching David sweat under her watchful eye.