Chapter 7 ~ Sick
Dabria was had just turned twelve when Justin arrived to pick her up from her parent’s, but she was as bouncy as the eleven year old from the year before. It was a scary thought, but what made it worse was her excitement over Evyn and Emalia’s wedding. It wasn’t long before Justin was desperate for anything that would get Dabria’s mind off of the wedding. He had thought joining in on one of his lessons with Maath would provide the perfect distraction, but now he found himself wishing she was back on her wedding kick and leaving his lesson alone.
“So then, firing the bow guns would slow a ship down, but firing the stern-chasers might speed it up?” Dabria clarified.
Maath nodded with a grin. “You got it!”
Justin shook his head exasperated. The three of them and Salena were seated in the Great Cabin. Justin hadn’t changed much about the room since he took over for Tommy. Dabria and Salena where sitting comfortably on the bed, while Justin sat in his desk chair, and Maath had pulled the green chair up to the desk.
They were supposed to be working on strategies by using The Guardian Star’s advantages, but Dabria stopped them so often to ask what Maath called ‘insightful’ questions that Justin considered the entire lesson a waste. What made it worse was that Dabria was catching on much more quickly than Justin ever had and Justin was sure Maath was aware of that fact. Maath’s laughter brought him back out of his thoughts.
“That’s very impressive, Dabria. What do you think, Justin?”
“What?” Justin asked, having completely missed the conversation.
Maath laughed again. “Maybe you should hire Dabria on, Captain.”
Justin growled, but it was drowned out by Dabria’s shriek of delight. He couldn’t wait till she grew out of that shrieking stage. He figured it had to happen eventually.
“Bad luck,” Justin stated firmly.
“Maybe to our captains,” Maath replied.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Justin asked sharply.
Maath only shrugged, while Dabria and Salena looked on very interested.
“I think that’s all for today. Lesson’s over,” Maath declared, moving his chair back against the wall.
“You mean we had one?” Justin muttered.
Maath turned around. “Come on, girls. I know Namid promised you could steer after we were done.”
Salena hopped up, but Dabria didn’t move. “Go ahead and take your turn, Salena. I’ll be right there.”
Salena looked at her friend hesitantly, but at Dabria’s nod took off after Maath, who was already heading out. Justin noticed all this while he kept himself busy with the imaginary work of rearranging his desk, putting things back exactly as they started.
“You’re mad at me,” Dabria started without preamble.
Justin turned to face her surprised. “No, I’m not,” he denied.
Dabria shook her pixie head. “Yes, you are. Why?” She paused, before asking in a vulnerable voice, “Did I do something wrong?”
Justin sighed. “What makes you think I’m mad, Dabria?”
“’Cause you are. I can tell, but I don’t understand why. Did I say something wrong to Maath?”
Justin shook his head no. “You heard him. He was very impressed.”
Dabria stamped her foot frustrated. “Then what is going on? I can’t fix it if I don’t understand!”
“Why do you need to fix it?” Justin asked, curious now.
Dabria looked at him oddly. “Because I messed up, so I have to make it right.”
“I never said you messed up,” Justin pointed out.
Dabria tilted her head and looked confused. “But I made you mad. I must have done something.”
Justin sighed. ~ How can this twelve year old kid get me so mixed up? ~ “I’m not mad at you, Dabria. I just planned on spending more time on the strategies instead of basic ship facts.”
“Oh,” Dabria thought for a few moments. “Okay, I’ll make sure not to ask so many beginner questions next time.” Dabria shot him a proud smile and exited the room quickly.
~ Next time? ~
Two days later, Justin had had some very solid lessons and felt he was making major progress. This was probably due to the fact Debria and Salena had not been back to a lesson yet. Maath told him once they dropped off Dabria and Salena he would lead a mission, attacking a pirate ship, with relatively little guidance from Maath and Namid. Justin was anxious to start and couldn’t wait to drop the two girls off.
He looked around the ship and spotted Salena at the rail. He frowned, thinking back over the last two days. Come to think of it, Dabria had not only missed the lessons, he hadn’t seen her at all. He wondered where she was and what she was doing that she had managed to stay out of his sight for two full days. He left his position on the quarterdeck and made his way over to the lone girl.
He was almost beside her before she realized he had approached. She gave a startled gasp when she saw him and quickly dropped into a curtsy, lowering her eyes to look at the deck. Justin’s frown deepened.
“Salena, does Dabria make you act the lowly servant or does she treat you more as a friend?” He questioned.
“It would depended, Captain Falcon. When we are alone I am always her friend, but in the company of others, I am merely the maid,” Salena replied, her voice low and soft.
Justin had lived the life of the lowly street rat too long not to let the sight of the cowering girl affect him. “Salena, please lift your face. I won’t hurt you.”
Slowly, the girl’s eyes rose though they never quite reached his.
“It’s a start. Look, if Debria doesn’t require you to act like a servant with her than I won’t either. Deal?” Justin asked.
Salena’s eyes grew bigger and this time they did meet his. “You really mean that, Captain Falcon?”
Justin shrugged. It wasn’t that big of a deal, but she was acting like he’d handed her a diamond tiara or something. “Sure, act how you want on the ship and speak freely too. All right?”
“Yes. Yes, Captain Falcon, and thank you,” she replied, her face glowing.
Justin had to wonder at the simple act of telling her to be herself. He question what would have happened to all the other girls he had known on the street had someone told them the same thing. They probably would have laughed and not dared. Justin shook his head to clear his thoughts and looked again at the girl standing in front of him.
She was taller than Dabria and had darker skin. Her hair was brown and her eyes looked like the new delicacy chocolate. She also had a small build, though it was still larger than Dabria, but that was no surprise, since Dabria had spent most of her life sick.
“Salena, where is Dabria?” Justin asked curiously.
Immediately, Salena’s head ducked back down. Justin sighed, this was getting frustrating and he really didn’t feel like playing fifty questions. Was Dabria okay?
“Salena, I’m not going to hurt you if that’s what you’re worried about. I just need to know if Dabria is okay,” Justin tried to ask in a gentler voice.
“I do not believe that you would hurt me, Captain Falcon. But I do not wish to betray Dabria’s trust either,” Salena replied in a tone that said she was sorry, but neither was she budging.
“Fine,” Justin muttered. “Is she at least okay?”
Salena shrugged. “She is doing as she wishes.”
“Which had better not mean any damage to my ship or herself,” Justin clarified.
“I will let you know if anything changes,” Salena replied dutifully.
“Yeah, okay,” Justin replied. “I’ll see you later, Salena.”
“Yes, Captain Falcon,” Salena smiled.
Justin shook his head and walked away wondering again what the little pixie was up too.
He found out the following day when, just after the noon meal, a terrified Salena came running up to him. He looked at her in surprise and then turned back to the three crewmembers.
“See that it is taken care of right away.”
“Aye, aye, Captain,” the men said before heading down the stairs to the main deck.
Justin turned to Salena and said automatically, “Take a deep breath, Salena.”
The girl followed his instructions and then began a rapid fire report. “Dabria’s sick. I told her she was pushing herself to hard, but she said she wasn’t. And she wouldn’t listen to me, ‘cause she wants to prove she can, and now she is sick and I haven’t seen her this bad in a while, and I’m not sure what to do, since we are on this ship, and I could really use some help.”
“Um, sure,” Justin managed looking at her blankly. He sorted though her confusing monologue and was able to come up with the words ‘Dabria,’ ‘sick,’ ‘bad.’ “Wait, she is sick like her weird sickness sick?”
“How did this happen? You really need to tell me what she has been doing for the past three days, Salena,” Justin commanded.
Salena looked at the ground, but Justin could hear her voice clearly, “She has been studying really hard and so she hasn’t been eating and she’s been really worried so I think that helped to set it off. I told her she should take it easy and it wasn’t that important, but she just wouldn’t listen. She can be so stubborn!”
“Studying what and worried about what?” Justin asked as confused as before.
Salena’s chocolate eyes finally rose to his. “She’s been studying ship facts. She was worried she would disappoint you again and she didn’t want that to happen.”
Justin looked at her in shock. “What?”
Salena spoke slowly as if trying to come up with the right words. “You mean a lot to her. You take time out of every year to come get us and take us to her sister and she thought if she learned ship stuff maybe she could somehow repay you. She didn’t want you to get upset again and she didn’t know what else to do.”
“And this made her sick?” Justin asked, still trying to form a clear picture and feeling worse himself by the second.
“When Dabria is very worried or panicked it induces an attack. Once her condition flares up, there’s no stopping it, at least not with medication. The doctors were never able to decide exactly what condition she has, only that it is a very real threat. But we do know she needs to calm down and have the panic or stress reduced immediately or there is the possibility she will die. Kiliki was always the one who would take care of her and bring her out of it. I don’t know exactly what to do though.”
“Maath! Namid!” Justin suddenly called out then turned back to Salena. “You said she wanted to repay me, that she thought that learning ship terms would make me happy. Would it help if I talked to her?”
“I don’t know, a familiar voice helps, but I’ve been talking to her and she hasn’t really calmed down yet. It would probably help if we could just get her fever down first,” Salena said thoughtfully.
“What is it, Captain?” Namid asked as he and Maath appeared from behind Justin.
“You didn’t burn down the ship. What is the emergency?” Maath added.
Justin turned around to face them. “Dabria is very sick. Salena says she has a fever and is in one of her attacks. Can you think of what we should do?”
Maath looked at Naimd, who took over immediately. “Maath, call Cook. Tell him we need cool water and some strips of cloth. I don’t know what kind of problem Dabria has, but some of his tonic couldn’t hurt.”
Maath nodded and turned away to yell for a ship hand, while Namid looked at Salena. “Let’s go down to your cabin and see what we can do, okay?”
Salena nodded and the three of them proceeded to the cabin. Justin cringed as he entered the small room. It held two beds one above the other, a small table, a chair, a swinging lamp, and just enough room for the two girls’ trunks. Right now, the room reeked of sickness. Justin left the door open.
Namid went to the bedside and Justin held Salena back from the bed so Namid had room to work. Namid gently felt her head and then pulled the single cover off of her. He talked softly the whole time, but his only response was a low groaning. He frowned and turned to Salena.
“The captain and I will leave the room. I need you to undress Dabria and then put this cover back over her, okay?”
Salena nodded and made her way to the bed. She turned back. “I will call you when I am done.”
Justin and Namid nodded and left, closing the door behind them. Justin immediately turned to Namid and demanded answers.
Naimd shook his ahead. “It’s not good news, Captain. She is very sick with a high fever. She doesn’t have any other symptoms that I could see, so I’m not sure as to the cause, but we need to get her cooled down fast.”
Justin quickly explained what Salena had told him. He paused only once to accept the cloths from a ship hand. He was finishing up when Maath arrived with the water and a small bottle he carried far away from his body.
“Well?” Maath asked.
Justin let Namid fill him in as he turned back to the door thoughtfully. How had she gotten so sick so fast? Was he really the cause? It hurt to think that the little girl with the pixie face had made herself sick trying to please him by doing something as simple as learning ship facts. He had to speak to her and make her understand that wasn’t necessary. His mind hit an ocean wall when he suddenly realized if anything happened to Dabria, Kiliki would have his head and then some. He was just about to knock when the door opened.
“She is decent again,” Salena said softly, allowing them to enter.
Namid went to work, giving Dabria some of the tonic and wrapping her neck, wrists, and forehead in damp cloths. He explained to Salena how to do it and when each one should be changed. After he was sure she was comfortable, he stepped back and looked at Justin.
“Nothing to do now but wait.”
“I hate waiting,” Justin replied, looking down at the sleeping child.
He had never felt so bad about someone being sick as he did right then. And it was not just knowing Kiliki was going to kill him, but that he had helped to cause this. He had grown to care for the little pixie and her friend as he had taken them across the ocean two times a year. He marveled for a second at the realization that he cared for Dabria like a little sister. He had never had one before, never wanted one either, but he was glad to know that in a small way he too had a family. Now, he just had to make sure he didn’t lose her.
Justin had Salena give him regular updates over the next day and a half as he went about the ship and when he could get away he would sit by Dabria’s side himself to make sure she was as comfortable as possible. He talked about what was going on around the ship, so she wouldn’t feel she had missed anything. Salena had said that a familiar voice helped. Justin wasn’t positive he fell into that category, after all he only saw her for two trips out of the year and the occasional times he would stop at Tommy’s when she was there. But whatever the case, she seemed to relax when he talked, so he figured it was worth it.
Justin looked at the form beside him in surprise. “Hello, Pixie, you’re awake.”
“Uh, huh.” Her tongue ran over her chapped lips. “Water … please.”
Justin nodded and stood quickly from the chair he had pulled to her bunk side. He took the two steps to the table and poured a small glass of water they had been keeping handy. Returning, he sat back down. “Do you need help?”
Dabria nodded slowly. Her eyes were barely open. Justin took one arm and tucked it behind her body, easily lifting the girl to a semi-sitting position. He held her there as he handed her the glass. She put her small hands over his and drank slowly. She had drunk half when she indicated she didn’t want anymore.
He gently lowered her down, put the glass back on the table, and turned to look at her. “I guess you want me to go get Salena for you, right? She’s taking a nap in my cabin right now, but she’ll want to know you are awake.”
Debria shook head slightly then groaned. “Ow. No, let her sleep. She probably needs it.”
“Oh, well, um, do you need anything else?” Justin asked, suddenly at a complete loss as to what else he should do.
“If it is okay, can you talk to me more?” Dabria asked without actually looking at him.
“Um, sure,” Justin came back and sat down. He had been talking to her for almost two days, but now he couldn’t think of a thing to say.
“Have you been here the whole time?” she asked, her eyes closed again.
“Not the whole time,” Justin hedged.
“But you’ve been here a lot. I listened to your voice and it reminded me of Kiliki talking to me. I couldn’t always understand and it cut in and out, like Kiliki’s did when I got really sick last time, but I somehow knew it was you,” Debria said softly. “What did you talk about?”
“Just stuff that was happening on the ship. I figured you wouldn’t want to miss out.”
That earned him a ghostly smile.
“I told you about some new strategies,” he continued, trying to get another one, but instead she winced. Justin frowned. “What is it? Are you in pain?”
“No, I’m sorry about…” she couldn’t say anything else, because her voice caught as she coughed.
“Please, don’t apologize anymore, Pixie. It’s me who should apologize. I’m the reason you got sick. I never meant for you to make yourself sick trying to study. You’re a really great learner and you should be proud of that, not upset you’re slowing me down,” Justin shook his head, frustrated at not being able to fully put into words what he wanted to say. “I mean, I guess, I’m sorry you felt you had to prove yourself and I know you’re happy I come to get you every year and I like to do it, so don’t feel bad, please?”
Dabria laughed softly. “Okay.”
Justin sighed. “Good. You’ve kinda become a little sis to me, Pixie.”
Dabria smiled. “Pixie? Is that my new nickname?”
“You like it?” Justin asked self-consciously.
Dabria nodded and Justin smiled. “Good, cause you’re stuck with it.” Which only made Dabria laugh again.
“No way. End of discussion,” Justin stated firmly.
“But…” Salena tried again.
“Salena, we are not discussing this. She watches us come into port every time, it will not kill her once to miss it, in fact, just the opposite. She will be carried up when we are ready to disembark and placed in the carriage and then directly into a bed at Tommy’s. End of discussion. Now, do you want to give her the good news or shall I?” Justin asked.
“Oh no. This one is all you,” Salena stated and took off in the opposite direction of the cabin.
“What happened to the quiet agreeable girl?” Justin muttered as he headed for the cabin.
He knocked and entered at the quiet bidding of the girl inside. He opened the door and stepped inside to see Dabria sitting up on the bed and looking at him sweetly.
“No,” was the first word out of his mouth.
Dabria’s face fell. “But I’m better!”
“Yeah, better enough to be carried off the ship and right into a bed at your sister’s house. I’m not taking any chances,” Justin said firmly.
“Oh, I’ll protect you,” Dabria waved her hand in the air.
“Your sister killing me is only half the worry, Pixie. You are still too weak and you know it,” Justin explained.
“Am not,” was the stubborn reply.
“Stand up,” Justin said in a ‘prove it’ voice.
Dabria grimaced and glanced at the floor. “Um…”
“Yeah, not a chance. I’ll come get you when we dock. Promise,” Justin said, giving her a smile and heading out.
Before he closed the door though, he heard her mutter, “Who died and made you big brother?”
Justin laughed softly.