Keeping Company and Another Coincidence

Something very odd happened today. Well, not very odd, compared to being kidnapped by pirates, making friends with one of the pirates, then being rescued by a living legend and his famous dirigible crew. But still odd.

Jack (I should not call him by such a familiar name, as if we have known each other for a long time, but it is so difficult to think of him as anything other than a war hero and public figure whom everyone knows and calls familiarly) allowed me to keep him company for part of his shift as he piloted the ship for a while. The quartermaster (which means navigator, more or less), Henderson, showed me around the Grand Tourbillion yesterday, though he didn't seem terribly happy about it. Despite him, I enjoyed myself, but shall tell about the ship some other time.

Anyway, Jack kept glancing at me from the corner of his eye as he steered the ship. I thought I might be bothering him, though he had granted me permission to join him, so I stepped back and kept my adoring gazes to a minimum, but he continued to look over at me now and then. I became self-conscious and tried to discreetly wipe my face lest there was some sort of smudge or something, and I smoothed my hair, but could find nothing wrong. Finally I asked him, "Is anything the matter, sir?"

He looked hard at me for a moment. I felt my knees weaken and my heart pound, though he seemed only to be studying me as a scientist would study a specimen. "No," he murmured. "It is only... you remind me of someone. I cannot put my finger on who, though." He frowned at me a second more, then turned his attention to the sky again.

On a whim, I stepped a little closer and asked lightly, "Was her name Alice? My friend's mother, on the train" (I had told him the entire story of my journey once I was settled in his cabin the first night) "said I reminded her of... Are you well, sir?" I asked, noting how he had suddenly gone pale, and how his hands were gripping the spokes of the wheel so tightly his knuckles were white.

"Alice?" he asked in a whisper. "Alice who?"

"She did not say. And I know of no one by that name, though apparently I look very like her. Mr. Kynton said so as well. Did you know her too, sir?" I asked, wondering how on earth a couple who lived and worked on a train would know anyone connected to Jack Winters.

He said nothing, but seemed very focused on the sky ahead of us. He didn't speak for such a long time that I was about to introduce a new subject when he finally asked, "You are sure she did not say another name than Alice?" he asked. "Mrs. Kynton, I mean?"

"No sir, I am sure it was Alice."

Still he frowned, and his grip on the wheel was tense. "You are an orphan, you say?"

I nodded. "My parents were killed in the Defender's Pride crash nearly eighteen years ago." It was the biggest and worst airship crash in all of history; one had only to mention its name and people shuddered, and those who were old enough had a story to tell of where they were when they heard about it. In a last effort to crush our spirits toward the end of the war, the Britannian government sent men to sabotage the ship, which was practically the pride of all Amerigo, brand-new and in perfect condition, having only taken three flights before its destruction. It was the biggest passenger airship ever built, at that time. The saboteurs lost their lives in the effort, along with hundreds of passengers and crew members, as well as those in the civilian homes and businesses on which they crashed.

"It was a miracle I was saved," I went on. "This is a remnant of the crash," I said, and showed him my locket. "It was scorched in the very fire of the Pride. I believe that my mother's last act in life was to tear it from her neck and thrust it into my cradle, though Miss P___ thinks that the young police officer who rescued me must have taken it from my mother to save something of my family for me." I opened the locket, and leaned up on my toes to show him.

For a moment, I was thinking only of how lovely it was to be so near him, and have all his attention focused on me. But soon I realized how pale he had gone once more. "This is your mother and father?" he asked in a low voice.

"Yes, sir," I said uncertainly. He took the locket from me and I had to strain up on my tip toes, he was pulling so at the chain. "Sir?" I asked, and the strain must have come through in my voice, since he let me go.

"What are your parents' names?" he asked abruptly.

"John and Mary Greenwater."

For some reason, he didn't look as though he believed me. "I see," he murmured. "Thank you, Miss Greenwater. You may go." As I left, I heard him call for Henderson, the quartermaster.

Why would he not believe me about my parents? The tale I told him was the same story Miss P___ told me, which was related to her by the constable who brought me to the orphanage the day after that terrible nighttime crash. I would dearly love to believe that this Alice the Kyntons and Jack Winters know is a relative of mine, but Mrs. Kynton said she had been dead for a long time. And how would they know the same person, the Kyntons and Captain Winters, living such different lives?

No, it is merely a very strange coincidence, all of it. I must put it from my mind. I must not let my hopes get too high and my fantasies run away with me. I am in the real world now, and must take reality as it comes.

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