Alex wiped the damp away from the year-clock on the wall of her cabin. February 14th. And it’s almost midnight. Fuck Valentines Day. They should be able to make port tomorrow, for supplies. The work clothes stuck to her, she needed to peel off the heavy gloves before flicking on the oil lamp.

Light warmed the copper room, a converted cell from the ships policing days. It showed her visitor in full light. Looks like I’m not spending tonight alone. The cap took a strict rule about vermin, and it was about the only rule that Alex didn’t follow. The rat trotted over, ignoring the sway of the boat, and perched on its hind legs. Clever little bastard. She hadn’t given it food more than a couple of times. The rat took the corner of bread that Alex offered. It snatched it with its front paws and manoeuvred to its mouth. After Alex had watched, she offered her hand and the rat climbed up. Time for a drink.

Like THE ARC, Alex’s room was an organised chaos. When Alex picked up the bottle after a storm day, she rarely remembered where she put it down. I fell asleep last night. Sure enough, a half empty bottle of absinthe was underneath the pillow. She sat down at the makeshift bed and popped the cork. Her visitor recoiled with the smell. I guess you don’t want any. It curled up in her lap, and she decapitated a pen. Here’s to you James. As the kick of home-made absinthe hit her throat she began writing.

James,


Spending Valentines Day alone called for a drink. James was getting better at distilling absinthe; it had a raw earth taste that the city bars rarely sunk to. He removed the characteristic red velvet jacket, and pumped from the still into a crystal glass. It was the perfect size and weight, a decent gift from another redjacket politician with a penchant for green. Revolving the gold laced globe, James imagined his finger as THE ARC, and tracked it along its route Eastwards.

James was always taught how a bourgeois wouldn’t be seen fraternizing with a lower class citizen, especially a cargo steamer. He despised everything that he was. Running away from the stuffy upbringing and chasing political equality had pushed him harder into politics, and shaped him like a silhouette of his father. I’m not the same.

As his thoughts boiled away they reduced to a single one. He thought of the protest funding he had supplied; the way that a strictly professional relationship grew to more than that. He thought of her working on THE ARC. His mind thrashed away once more with thoughts with the danger of life at sea, flashes of pirates and storms. A woody stoke of absinthe hit the back of his throat and stopped his mind, flattening it to calm. His sandtime rang; it was midnight. Alex would make final port in a few days. He strode over to the typer. I drink to you.

My dear Alex,