Six months have already passed since William and Thomas sailed. Why haven’t I heard from them? Catherine knew her brother hoped to find the truth quickly, but she’d not yet received a single letter, and stared out the window with a bitter taste in her mouth.
“The tea tastes poor to you as well?” her mother asked from across the table.
“Oh, I hadn’t noticed. I can buy some more today.” Catherine watched as a wagon drove by outside, pulled by a Clydesdale horse. When it passed, the town green, empty in the morning hours, once more filled the window frame. “Is there anything else we need?”
“Yes, but we can’t afford much.” After another sip, and a sour puss expression, her mother stood from the small table in the corner of the kitchen and retrieved a list, handing it to Catherine. “Can we sell anything else?”
Catherine glanced around the room. Faded wallpaper gave evidence to where artwork once hung on the walls. The shelves over the basin were barren save for one cooking pot and a white layer of dust. “Nothing from here.”
“Sell your father’s clothes,” her mother whispered reverently.
“But—” Catherine frowned. They had already sold his watch, his compass and his books.
“Don’t argue with me, I beg of you.” Her mother’s voice shook though her body stiffened, her hands clenching at her sides.
“Very well. I’ll pack them this morning.” After finishing her tea and washing up, Catherine climbed up into the attic. The roof was pitched so that she had to hunch over and walk in the center. The only light streamed through a small window that reminded her of a porthole on a ship.
Her father’s trunk sat beneath the window; she knelt before it and eased open the lid. The smell of the sea—salt and mustiness—wafted around her, but she welcomed it. The clothes smelled like her father, and just sitting before the large wooden sea chest brought a smile to her face. She could almost feel his arms around her—his hugs after a long journey at sea always made her feel as though their large colonial was a home once more.
His pea coat was the first item she pulled out of the chest. Navy blue and wool, it matched just about every coat worn by every other sailor save for one detail: a line of stitching on the left breast where the fabric was repaired after an accident at sea. She trailed her fingers over the thread sutures that held the wool together. He never revealed the nature of the accident but said this was his lucky coat after that, and that it would keep him safe. I wonder if he wore this the day he died.