When we made berth along the river, I snuck back to the engine room and gathered my things. It was time. I couldn’t go on like this anymore, not with so much weighing on me. With a sad glance toward the engine that I’d put so much blood and sweat into, I hoisted my pack and set off toward the bridge.
Everyone else was off, doing whatever assigned chore the captain had set them on. Only she remained, standing on the deck, hands clasped behind her back as she stared out over the water. My toe caught on a raised board and I hissed in a breath, breaking the fragile quiet.
“Lolita Seleste, I wondered how long it would take before you came.”
Maybe it was the stupid pain in my stubbed toe, but I really didn’t understand her words. “Ma’am?”
“You’re leaving. I’ve known for a while.”
Oh. “It’s not forever. At least, not if you’ll take me back when I’m ready.”
She still hadn’t turned around, but her fingers flexed as if trying to hold onto something–something that wasn’t there. “It has to do with whatever you found when I sent you on shore leave with Lolita Cindy, doesn’t it?”
“How did you…” I winced at the admission.
Her sigh was heavy and full of the kind of disappointment I’d never hoped to hear again after I left home. “There are a great many things that happen on this ship, Lolita. Few occur without my knowledge. And of course we’ll be happy to have you back, whether as a permanent member of the crew or not.”
There was no way in the world she knew how much it meant to me to have a place I could come back to, one where I was welcome, appreciated even. “Thank you, ma’am.”
Finally, she spun on her heel, her eyes meeting mine. The glimmer of tears there made me stop breathing. “I always knew our paths would only travel together for a time, Seleste. It is my sincere hope that they cross again.” She nodded toward the corridor. “Safe journeys.”
A strange part of me wanted to hug her–an urge I’d never had in regard to our stoic captain, but she wasn’t my captain anymore. I nodded at the dismissal. “To you as well, ma’am.”
And then I strode down the corridor, past my beloved engine room, and departed the airship Steamed.
I love this blog so very much, and it was with great difficulty that I spoke to Suzanne about my need to pull back from posting. I’m at the point where I’m stretching myself too thin, and since I write more than steampunk, it was getting harder and harder for me to keep my posts here even remotely interesting and still stick with the genre.
So, I’m moving from regular Lolita status to guest/fill-in Lolita. That means I will be back, and maybe I’ll even manage to keep up the silly little story I’ve been building into the beginning of my posts, but I won’t be here every other week anymore.
I do hope if I’ve entertained you that you’ll check out my published work. Badlands is out now, and the sequel (Clockwork Mafia) comes out in April. I’m also still (periodically) hanging out on Twitter and Facebook, and my e-mail “door” is always open.
Again, a huge thank you to Suzanne for having me. Another to all of you for tolerating and upon occasion even liking some of my ramblings. Safe journeys to each and every one of you, no matter where life is taking you 🙂