Ginny lay sprawled on the floor, half-way under her bed. She reached for her elusive footwear, covered in a nest of dust bunnies, but otherwise intact, when her phone rang.
Startled, she bumped her head. Squirming to reach into her back pocket, she retrieved it. “Hi Ritz, I’m a little busy. Can I call you right back?”
“No. This is important.”
Still stretched out under the bed, she said, “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing. Would you consider changing plans for tomorrow? The Pirate Days festival is this weekend. I’d like to check it out. This could be life changing for you. What do you say?”
“I’m under the bed grabbing my hiking boots, as we speak.”
“We can still do that another time. It’s just one weekend. It would be good for you. Please?”
“I’ll think about it, but no promises. See you in the morning?”
“Yes, I’ll be there around eight-thirty.”
Ginny contemplated going to the festival instead of the previously planned and long awaited hike in the woods. She remained in favor of the hike. Choosing between a raucous festival full of pirates or a quiet stroll in the woods was no choice at all. Yet, it somehow left her unsettled.
When she went to bed, sleep did not come. Instead, she tossed and turned and later gazed outside into the blackness of night. The lonely and sleepless hours lingered on.
At seven ten, a beam of sunlight glared through the window. She grumbled.
Accepting defeat, Virginia LeAnn McCarthy, certified recluse and incessant insomniac, headed to the kitchen for coffee, struggling to get her day started.
The vigorous hike required energy she lacked after her sleepless night, but the hike would be worth it for the view of changing colors on the rolling hillsides in rural Massachusetts.
Finished with her first cup of French roast, Ginny was still in the kitchen when Rita bound through the front door. Dressed like a wench from the eighteenth century, she carried a large bag with remnants of lace hanging over the sides. It was obvious Rita’s aspirations were not for a strenuous hike in the woods.
“What are you up to, Ritzy?” The squint in Ginny’s eyes revealed her suspicions. “If the contents of that bag should have anything to do with me, the answer is no.”
“Oh, come on, it’s Pirate Days. Did you see the sloops in the bay? They came in when I walked by. I got to see them with the sails up.”
Rita’s face beamed with energy. “I heard pirates will kidnap people, take them on board their ship and set sail. Then the Royal Navy ship will go after them. A gun battle will ensue to rescue the hostages.”
Rita’s voice rose an octave as she offered the bribe. “They’re giving away dinner-for-two coupons at Cap’n Jack’s restaurant.” She continued in her normal tone, “They’re only selecting people with the best costumes.”
Rita saw the look of skepticism on Ginny’s face and frowned. “Don’t be that way. It’s good to be around other people. You need human contact. You look pale.”
“I don’t look pale, and I don’t need to be around other people. I mean it, Ritz, I don’t want to go. It’s so—not me. However, what I’d like to do is get ready for the hike we planned.”
Rita cleared her throat before breaking the news. “The trail to Lester Rock is closed for the festival.”
“That’s it, I’m staying home.” Ginny threw her arms up in defeat and plopped down on a chair.
“Come on, please? Like I said last night, it could be life changing. Let’s go for a little while? We can get some food, and have a look around. Wear what you have on. It’ll be fine.”
Ginny waved her hand over her attire. “Ritzy, I’m dressed in fuzzy yellow jammies with ice cream cones all over them, and a purple sweatshirt.”
Rita cracked a smile. “Ok, then change into whatever you want. I’ll wait.”
Ginny gave a long and dramatic sigh. “Fine, I’ll go, but not for all day, and I’m not wearing a ridiculous costume. Deal?”
“Of course. Anything you want. We don’t even have to enjoy ourselves.”
Ginny huffed and headed back to her bedroom to get dressed.
Rita called from the living room as she waited. “Before we go, I want to say thank you. I know this kind of thing is hard for you. You’re the best.”
Ginny emerged dressed in jeans, a long sleeve t-shirt, a blue hoodie, and neon green sneakers.
Rita nodded. “Nice look. Those sneakers make you stand out.”
Ginny gave another huff. She grabbed her wallet and the house key on the bright-pink keyring, stuffing them both in the pocket of her hoodie. “Ready. Let’s get this over with.”
Sprawled on the lawns at the marina, pop-up tents with food and crafts stood everywhere. Swashbuckling, sword fighting, and anything related to pirates in one form or another surrounded the grounds.
They stood on a cobblestone walk-way in front of the marina, looking at two giant replicas of eighteenth century sloops.
The first, a single-masted ship, had a black flag with a yellow skull and crossbones flying above the crow’s nest. The other, a three-masted ship, flew the flag of the HMS Warwick from the Royal Navy of England.
Rita said, “Can you imagine setting sail in one of those things? How did they know where they were going, or if they could get there?”
Ginny shrugged. “I would imagine a lot of them got lost and never made it to where they intended. You want to take the tour? I’m curious what they look like on the inside.”
Rita quickly accepted the invitation. “Which one do you want to go through?”
Ginny studied her options. “The smaller one.”
“You got it. Let’s go.”
A chaotic and crowded tour bumped the two women through an elbow-to-elbow mass of humanity. They moved through cramped spaces as a pirate spewed information about the ship and pirate life. He herded everyone at a snail’s pace through the upper and lower decks.
The two women got separated when Ginny hesitated about going below deck. The crush of the crowd prevented her from turning back. With no choice but to move on, the air thickened and grew hot as she descended the stairs.
Ginny’s anxiety rose by the minute. She worked her way through the length of the ship, moving toward the exit. A small makeshift gift shop blocked her escape, creating a moment of panic. Then she saw Rita buying a gold coin and grabbed her hand. They squeezed their way back up into the fresh air.
By the time they reached the gangplank to exit the ship, Ginny’s nerves vibrated with tension. “This festival has grown into such a big event. It’s still early and already crowded. I think I’d like to sit for a while.”
Rita glanced around and spotted the food booths. “I need food. Do you mind if I grab something to eat while you take a minute? How about you? Are you hungry?”
“Maybe some food would do me good. Anything is fine, thanks. I’ll be on the bench by the tree.”
She headed to an area near the edge of the festival. Relieved to be in the fresh air and away from the crowd, her level of anxiety fell.
While waiting for Rita’s return, she marveled at the people dressed in costumes milling about the festival. Ginny was never comfortable in public, let alone, dressed up in a costume. It reminded her of the horrors of Halloween. The ghosts didn’t bother her. Having to dress like one was another matter.
Rita approached the bench carrying cardboard ships with toothpicks for masts and napkins for sails. She got into character by trying out the lingo. “Here ya go, me matey! I’ve got peg legs and fruity booty.”
“What’re peg legs?” Ginny asked.
“Corn dogs,” Rita replied.
“And fruity booty?”
“Good grief. Give me strength,” Ginny said.
They were sorting their food when a pirate snuck up from behind and leapt toward them. “Aha, now I’ve caught ye!” He exclaimed.
Rita giggled while Ginny tried making herself invisible by tucking deeper into her fruity booty.
“Let me introduce myself. I’m the great-great-great-great-grandson of Cap’n One Ear, the pirate. Tomorrow night, I’ll be telling tales of his adventures in that circle of benches. We’d all appreciate your presence. It’ll be excitin and fun.” The pirate gestured to another quiet corner of the lawn, shaded by a lovely maple tree, adorned with bright red leaves.
Rita squirmed, finding it difficult to hide her interest in the handsome pirate. And not so much for his tales of the sea.
“Yes, of course we’ll be there.” She looked down at the program in her hand. “Looks like it’s the last thing at the festival.”
“You’re correct, dear lass. We have lots in store for those who decide to make the journey.” The pirate winked at Rita and walked away.
She gave Ginny an expectant look. “Well, will you come back?”
“Do I have a choice?”
“Ok. I’ve made it this far. As long as I don’t have to go on another ship tour. I had fun seeing the inside, but I could have done without the crowd. I had no idea there would be that many people.”
They spent the rest of the day snooping through booths, watching sword fights and playing carnival games.
Ginny overcame some of her reluctance, having more fun than expected. The rest of the day passed quickly.
“Well, Miss Ritzy, I’m beat, but I had a good time. You’re right, I should get out more. Thanks for pushing me into coming.”
Rita grinned. “I love it when you say I’m right. It doesn’t happen that often. I’m glad you had fun.” She gave her friend a big hug. “We can do that hike next weekend. The leaves should be even better by then. I’ll walk you home, then I’d like to get back to my place. A hot shower and some tasty leftovers are in my future.”
Ginny smiled. “I’m intending to be back in my ice cream cone pjs and purple sweatshirt at warp speed. After that, I’ll check the fridge for my own leftovers and turn in early. I didn’t sleep a wink last night.”
After a quiet evening alone in her apartment, Ginny went to bed. Due to no rest the previous night, she fell into a deep sleep and remained in that state until morning. To be clear, she slept deep, but not dreamless.
A strange feeling followed her when she woke. Trying to shake it off, she made coffee and went about her morning routine.
After a shower and breakfast, Ginny considered giving the festival another chance. She had fun yesterday. Picking up her phone, she called her best friend. “Hey Ritz, I’ve been thinking about going back to the festival. What do you say we try on those costumes together?”
Ginny squinted as Rita squealed in her ear.
“Are you kidding me?”
“No, I’m not kidding. Dinner-for-two at Cap’n Jack’s sounds good to me. Makes getting kidnapped worthwhile.” Ginny chuckled. “We can get dressed here.”
“You got it. I’m on my way.”
As usual, Rita let herself in with the spare key she kept for Ginny, just in case.
“Hey, girl, I hope you’re ready to be transformed. I brought all kinds of options.” Rita knew how to snatch an opportunity. Ginny’s willingness to dress up might be a once in a lifetime event, and Rita wasn’t about to let her back out now.
“I knew yesterday would change your mind,” Rita’s attitude was absolutely sassy.
Ginny waved her in, setting aside a glass of water she’d been drinking.
“Yes, I’m fortifying myself for the conversion, but don’t get too carried away. I want to ease into this.” She stopped, a look of concern crossed her face.
“What is it, Gin? I promise I won’t make you do anything crazy.” Rita tried to tamp down any second thoughts.
“No, it’s not that. I had a dream last night. It left me with a weird feeling. I’ve been trying to shake it off since I got up.”
“Anything I need to worry about? It sounds serious.”
“I don’t think so, only a pirate dream. We can talk later.”
Rita had brought a bag when she came in. Ginny eyed the copious amounts of skirt material falling from it. Her friend held up a dress with a dangerously low-cut neckline and corset.
Rita’s full figure, equipped with curves and humps in all the right places, could easily work with that outfit, but Ginny came from a different mold.
“Maybe I should be a pirate,” Ginny said in a hushed tone.
“Nonsense. I brought a push-up bra with inserts. We’ll have your cleavage popping in no time.” She held up a size DD bra and squishy, silicone-filled boob inserts.
Ginny’s skin flushed to her hairline. Her introverted tendencies resurfaced. “You said nothing crazy. I don’t feel comfortable going that far. My jeans and hoodie will be just fine. I’m not ready to have my life changed yet.” Her expression matched that of a wild animal cornered in a closet.
“Ok, ok, calm down. I have some other stuff you can look at. I didn’t mean to scare you.”
Rita rummaged around in the bag that resembled a bottomless magician’s hat.
“Here’s a puffy shirt with ruffles, and black pants. This wide belt and red vest rounds it off.” She held up an array of clothing that looked like something a pirate would wear.
Turning down the freak-o-meter, Ginny tilted her head as she mulled it over. “Ok, I’ll wear that.”
“Great, here, put this boot on.” Rita held out a four-inch black platform boot.
“What’s that for?”
“So you can strap this on the other foot with one of your flats.” Rita produced a contraption that strapped to a shoe with clips. A peg protruded from the bottom. “You need a peg-leg if you’re going to be a pirate.”
“I’ll break my neck with that thing.”
“No, you won’t. Try it on. You can practice walking around here before we go to the festival.”
She handed the boot and peg-leg to Ginny. “Now go find your flats.”
The search through her closet produced one dusty sneaker, three socks that didn’t match, an empty box, and a pair of flats she hadn’t worn since she moved in. Grabbing one, she strapped the peg-leg to it. Then put Rita’s boot on the other foot.
“Ritzy, what size shoe do you wear? This is too big.”
“We could stuff some toilet paper in the toe.”
“No, it’s fine. I think I can make it work.” She stood up and walked around with surprising ease.
“Wow, this isn’t bad, but I’m bringing my sneakers, in case I get tired.”
“Fair enough. Now let’s finish getting dressed and go see if we can get kidnapped.”