The stranger was different from Lucy's usual clientele. He left the bed with more fleas than he brought to it, for one. But what struck her most, as she tugged her bodice back into place, and turned her petticoat so that the ragged hem was to the back, were his eyes.
Since arriving on the shoes of Tortuga, one of 1000 whores or so the town often boasted, she'd had men look at her with lust, with hatred, with hunger, with derision, with puppy-like adoration, and even with pity. But there was a need in the depths of the stranger's eyes that had caught her breath in her throat and her hawking of her wares from her designated corner of the Saracen's Head falter. Just for a moment, and not so anyone had noticed. But as he'd stepped through the throng towards her, and she'd first caught sight of that look, she'd forgot the part she was meant to play.
They didn't speak as she'd led him up the stairs. His eyes said all he didn't, and she didn't want to break whatever spell he was under that had brought him to her bed. He hadn't been rough, but then, he hadn't been gentle either. His hands had slid over her shoulders as he drew her close to him, and she remembered the calluses and the lack of crusted dirt beneath his nails. She was tall for a woman, and slight, which cost her custom as sailors and the like gravitated towards Bess and Cally and Black Meg, with their bosoms spilling over their too-tight bodices. He'd taken the pins from her hair, and she'd only winced once as his rough fingers caught on the dirty light brown curls. She hadn't meant to, but she'd sighed as he'd grasped her slim hips, spreading her thighs with his knee as a sailor's hornpipe played out in the street.
He'd had her quickly, but with surprising skill. She'd enjoyed herself a littlemore than she was used to, but it was over quickly and they'd lain together atop the soiled sheet as the music and screaming from the busy streets below drifted up through the open windows. Moonlight travelled in a perfect square along the floor, as he dozed and she knew she should turn him out so she could go back down and see about earning enough for her gin and her breakfast, but he seemed so much younger as he slept. The beginnings of a beard darkened his jaw, and she felt the sting along her neck where it had been rubbed raw.
When he did wake, it wasn't by degrees but all at once and he half bolted out of bed, his hand coming to rest on his hip where a sword would have been, if he carried one. She'd flinched, expecting a blow. What she hadn't expected was the kiss. He'd never kissed her, not the first time. The second was slower, and better, and it was her short blunt nails that left marks on his shoulders where they were bared by the open neck of his once fine but now grey with dirt lawn shirt.
She'd closed her eyes, imagining they were anywhere but the ramshackle room she shared with two other girls above a tannery, the stench of rotted meat vying with sweat and sour wine for her attention. She tried to pretend it was her he needed as he moved inside her, and that it was her name and not another's he whispered in her ear like a prayer when he finished.
The copper coins he pressed into her palm before he left were warm. She wondered if she'd see him again. Hoped she wouldn't, because he did not seem a man fitted to such a place. She kept a weather eye out, as the nights wore on. But he never came back to her bed.
And Lucy hoped "Elizabeth", whoever she might be, had known whole what she had cast off for her to find broken.