“Not another one,” Penelope sighed, placing the damaged book on the table in front of her. “If you’re looking for poetry, I’m afraid we’ve no more in stock,” she called, coming to her feet.

“I’m not looking for a book,” a young boy stated, coming to a halt in front of her table. He placed a large box on the table. “I was instructed to deliver this to Miss Penelope Moorland.”

Penelope looked at the box and then back at the boy. “I’m Miss Penelope Moorland.”

He smiled widely. “Then this is for you.”

“Might I know who sent it?”

His smile faltered. “I’m not allowed to say, Miss. He told me to deliver the box and then give you a small message after you’ve opened it.”

“Oh. Very well then.” While puzzled at the boy’s instructions, it was Valentine’s Day and suitors loved to surprise the objects of their affections. Penelope untied the ribbon and lifted the lid off the box. Nestled on a black fur was an intricately detailed doll. She gasped and glanced at the dolls on the shelf beside her. For a moment, she allowed herself to hope the doll was a gift from Caleb. Blinking back the tears threatening to fall, she lifted the doll out of the box and placed it on the table.
Easily half a meter in height, the doll was dressed like a tinkerer. It had a leather apron filled with tools, goggles perched on its head, and smudge marks on its cheeks. There was something clasped in its hands.

Penelope tried to pull the hands apart but they refused to move. She glanced back in the box and saw a small key.

“It’s a beautiful doll, Miss,” the boy offered.

“That it is.” She held up the key. “It’s clockwork. Would you like to see?”

He nodded.

She turned the doll around, inserted the key into the slot on the back, and turned it to the left. The doll slowly lifted its left arm, revealing the item in its hand. Nestled in the palm of the right hand was a vivid red heart. With trembling fingers she picked up the heart to read the inscription.

It will always be yours.

She gasped. Was it truly possible? Was the doll from Caleb?

“Who sent this?”

“He was adamant I not reveal his identity,” the boy said, fidgeting slightly.

Penelope studied the boy, noting the crimson and gold uniform and the cephalopod insignia. “You serve aboard the H.M.A. Kraken?”

He nodded.

Her mind whirled. Caleb was the main engineer aboard the Kraken. She allowed hope to flourish.

“I’m to give you a message now, Miss.”

“Oh, yes,” she gave the boy her full attention.

“We sail at a dawn.”

“That’s the message?”

“Yes, Miss.” His task complete, the boy turned on his heel and walked out.

Penelope sank into her chair and studied the heart in her hand. Should she seize the chance to follow her heart and join Caleb aboard the Kraken?

She glanced around the store and worried her bottom lip between her teeth. What about her family? Could she leave them? Her father depended on her so. And the little ones…would they ever understand?

About the Author

“I love the beauty and imagination present in Steampunk. It appeals the writer and artist in me. I incorporate my love of steampunk into everything I do, especially in homeschooling my children.”