I ordered lookouts posted at all corners of the Airstreak and asked my pilot to zig-zag slowly over the Sands of Araby, ignoring her sympathetic glance. I went into my day cabin, sinking into the plush sofa, and propped my boots up on the coffee table. My steward glided in silently; the only staff who could enter my quarters unbidden. He tugged my boots off with a compassionate glance that I wanted to slap right off his face. I hated the way he pampered me, as if I was an invalid. On the other hand, after the last sand storm when I had stood on deck for 21 exhausting hours, he had undressed me tenderly, rubbed me with warm Turkish towels, put my feet into a steaming basin of hot water, and slipped a clean nightshirt over my head. Being in navigational hell for an entire day called for coddling. Longing for my long-lost sweetheart was no one’s business but my own, yet somehow my entire crew seemed privy to it.

Although my intention was to stay alert as long as we were above Araby, I awoke to the tinkling of the aft lookout ringing the signal bells: strange sail on the horizon. I raced into the cockpit, not bothering with shoes. Eagerly I peered through the spyglass the pilot handed me. The billowing silk of the strange vessel was midnight blue, barely visible in the dawn sky, but I knew it well.

“Summon me when they’re within grappling range.” I ordered a signal broadcasted: prepare to be boarded. The signal came flying back: negative, request permission to come aboard. Then the sudden jolt, the sound of grappling hooks latching onto our side as our two ships were coupled together.

“Damn him!” I cried. “I will meet him alone,” I said. With racing heart I descended down to the gondola. Through the frosted glass appeared the handsome visage of my lover, my enemy, my valuable hostage, and the scourge of the Imperial Airways. The glass pane slid open. “Captain Wright,” he said, with a charming smile. “What a pleasure to see you again.” He wore the dashing costume of the privateer: a red brocade sash about his waist, a huge curled feather in his tricorne hat. In the service even our hair was regulated, tightly clubbed and powdered, and there was something decadent about the long, loose hair cascading freely down his shoulders. He had grown a tiny, wicked-looking goatee, and his moss-green eyes twinkled as ever. I wanted to slap his insolent face for all the heartache he had put me through.

“You are wanted on nine continents, you scoundrel. If I turned you in, the bounty would make me rich beyond my wildest dreams. They might hang you for desertion, and I wouldn’t be the least bit sorry.”

“They can hang me tomorrow. Let us dine together and enjoy today. I brought your favorite sweet. You cannot find them for love or money, except on the black market.” He held out his hand, and I automatically extended mine to meet it. He slid a small pouch into my palm, and folded my fingers around it, and then his fingers were around mine, and it was only a matter of closing a gap of a few inches before my head rested on his shoulder, and his hand stroked my hair. I wanted clap the irons on his wrists; I had worn them on my belt since the day he had fled. But my heart defied all reason, and I found myself leading him not to the brig, but to my cabin, leading him by the hand, which still clasped my fingers wrapped around the silk bag of candied rose petals.

About the Author

Rachel Klingberg is a writer and nineteenth-centurist who lives in New York City.