A New Broom...

OOC: Joint post between Blitzen and Sail.

IC:Bucket and cleaning supplies in hand, Serena used what Vas called “The Captain’s Key to let herself into the staterooms, two were down, there were still… her shoulders slumped. “So many doors.” The lock on this one was a bit sticky, but a couple of times trying it and jiggling the handle it finally opened.

At the first awkward testing of the door handle, Kate’s hand found the pistol secreted in the folds of her skirt. Caution soon gave way to curiosity. The rattling of hr doorknob was not the handiwork of one who wished a stealthy entry. Nor was it, she thought, evidence of an assailant’s forced entry. She kept a light touch on the weapon as the handle finally relented. “Come in?” the widow called as the door flew open.

Serena hadn’t expected to hear a voice from inside the stateroom, let alone see-- well, she could barely see in the room at all. The only light source came from electric candles which flickered and made macabre shadows against the walls. It barely lit the face of the woman in the center of the room, the veil over her eyes preventing Serena from detecting any kind of emotion the woman would be displaying. In the center of the room, draped in the thickest black velvet was a long table or box, large enough to contain a full person.

“Sorry! Crew Chief said I was supposed to clean out all of the staterooms --” she said, clutching the bucket protectively in front of her. “He didn’t say -- “ She covered her mouth with her free hand. “You’re the widow? And you’re cold - sitting shivering, and we’re not supposed to bother you?” She asked with raised eyebrows.

The widow lifted her veil. This must be their newest card, the ten of spades. Dorian couldn’t supply much of a history, but the tale had begun in blood which hadn’t seemed to tarnish this girl’s shockingly pretty features. “No bother,” she offered a wan smile. “I am starving for distractions. Mein nom…my name,” she corrected herself, “is Yeva.” She eyed the cleaning supplies that threatened their escape from the child’s grasp. “I have tried to keep the room clean for my husband,” she offered a gesture toward the draped casket. “But if you need to clean, I can…..stretch my legs?”

Serena chewed the inside of her lip, as she took in the surroundings. “Serena.” She said quickly, eyeing behind her. Instinctively her broken hand was brought beneath her chin. “Please don’t tell the crew chief,” she pleaded talking swiftly and all in one breath, “he said under no circumstance was anyone to disturb you, I swear I didn’t know, please, please, please don’t tell him, if you want your room swabbed or to stretch your legs I can clean it from top to bottom and if you were hungry for distractions, I don’t know if that’s what they were called but there’s a ton of food the engineer cooked and even if it burns your mouth like the wrong side of a cigarette I’m sure it’s still good, I can get it for you, just please - don’t say I was here, please.” Her widened eyes darted suddenly to the coffin in the room, maybe the crew chief wasn’t the only one she should be afraid 0f; Her voice dropped to a whisper. “Is that really your husband in there?”

Someone else who wasn’t enthralled with the mohawked kid...a positive breath of fresh air. “I won’t tell him a thing,” she smiled reassuringly. “Serena. That is my husband, Micah. I remain with him, watching over him until his burial. It’s a custom of his...my...religion. Shimera,” she said in a voice devoid of emotion. “But maybe I could….help you clean? Would that be alright...if we tell no one?”

“Help?” Serena eyes shifted, quickly trying to discern what kind of trap this might be, if she’d end up in a box like Micah. Then again, as long as Yeva wouldn’t tell Vas, Serena would accept any fate. The pigtailed teen nodded emphatically, checking the hallway one more time before letting the door close behind her with a click of the lock. “When my father died on the ship, he was spaced, I think that’s the custom of his religion, or at least of Richelle/, she’s the captain after him. I like your tradition, except it’s so dark in here that you must want to sleep all the time.” She offered the broom to the woman in the dark clothes, sweeping was probably the most passenger-like part of cleaning because it could be done standing up. She tentatively ran a hand over the soft velvet cloth, gentle enough to not touch the box below it.

Yeva/Kate nodded. “It is a strain on my eyes,” she agreed. “Your mechanic was kind, and brought me a reading lamp. Shimera,” she explained, “is the practice of watching over the dead until burial. Normally, that would be a single night. Micah wanted to lie on New Kasmir...so this is many days longer than usual. The other practice you mentioned is called Shiva. ” She set to work with the broom, carefully sweeping around the coffin as she moved out from the cabin’s back end. “After burial, friends and relatives sit with me for seven nights.” Again, her tone revealed a decided lack of enthusiasm for yet another dogmatic observance. The widow swatted the air before her face as if to discourage an annoying fly. Her expression brightened. “You are new to the Lunar Veil?” she asked the teenager. “Do you like?”

“Some things.” The teen admitted while running a polishing cloth over the dresser. “Some of the people seem very nice. Mistuh Doctah Adluh talks fancy and made sure my heart rate wasn’t too fast and he set my hand, plus he has a chair he says is the safest place on the ship. This ship is nothing, nothing like the Skyhook, so it’s a lot to get used to. We didn’t take any passengers, for one thing. Do you like being a passenger?”

Yeva/Kate smiled. “No,” she admitted, “but that is no one’s fault. Well,” she allowed a mischievous eye roll as her foot nudged the coffin. “His fault, perhaps,” she chuckled. “People have been kind. Sister Lyen has taken time to sit here so that I can bathe and eat. Doktor and mechanic have played cards with me...and I am getting books. Still,” she continued as the broom offered accompaniment, “I wish I could take more time...with people...even dogs.”

“I could ask the Crew Chief if I could watch Micah for a bit. I used to watch people on the Skyhook, and since he’s dead he wouldn’t be any trouble. Gil and his sister take care of the drogs in the cargo bay - they could probably introduce you, because otherwise I heard they’re tetchy. The drogs, not Gil and his sister. Haven’t met them yet, but Gil’s around my age.” With the dresser sufficiently polished, she retrieved the dustpan to hold for the widow. “Who killed him? Your husband, I mean?”

The broom landed even strokes as a small pile of dust grew. “His heart,” the widow replied. “It failed.” She swept in silence, allowing a suitable lull to build in the conversation before asking, “So, you were from...Skyhook? With your father? Was that his boat?”

“It was his boat.” Serena applied matter-of-fact, emphasizing the was. “Now Richelle’s the Captain. I wasn’t born on it or anything. I lived planetside with my mother but my father and the Skyhook came for me when I was six. She was a Sampan class, not like a Firefly. Long and big and just for cargo, no dressed up state rooms like this.” She waved a bandaged hand for emphasis. “Just the Captain’s quarters and a crew bay, and here I already have my own room with a lock on the inside. You were from somewhere fancy like the doc? Does everyone on New Kasmir talk like you?”

The widow shook her head. “I know nothing of New Kasmir except it is cold. Micah’s company….ter-ra-formed, and he and his brother took much land as part of payment. I was born in a mining camp...lived there until time of war. We had to flee when soldiers came,” she said. “Can I tell you something? You will not share with anyone?”

Serena nodded and crossed her heart in an over-embellished motion, moving in closer. “Promise. You keep my secret, I’ll keep yours.”

Yeva took a breath to steel herself. “War is...how you say...in-dis-crim-in-ate? Suffering is for everyone in war, not just soldiers. My family had no money. The cost of passage on a boat was high.” Her voice fell to a whisper. “I could see...in the captain’s eyes...what he wanted. And I gave it.” She paused, her features darkening. “My father learned of this when we made Beaum0nde. He cast me out as whore. And whore I became...for a short time. Is how I met Micah.” She folded her arms, as reflective eyes fell upon the casket. “He was not a kind man,” Yeva observed, “but he made me family. That means something...yes?”

Serena took in what the woman was saying. “Being with the Captain didn’t make you a whore. Being with the captain is an honor because they don’t just choose anyone, that’s what the Skyhook Captain said.” she soothed knowingly. “And if Micah wasn’t a kind man, it’s good that he’s in the box. Even after he’s dead he’s making you sit here and be unhappy. I don’t so much know that’s what family is supposed to be. If it is? We should be glad we don’t have one.”

“Religion made me a whore,” Yeva replied. “Religion cast me out. Now, it is religion that compels me. Not for much longer,” she whispered. “Once he is buried I go my own way. I’m thinking I’d like to stay on.” She scooped up the dust, and shook it into the trash bag Serena had brought. “Or find another boat. Go , and go, and go again...never stop.” She smiled at the romantic vision, before glancing somewhat sheepishly toward the girl. “That must remain secret. If Micah’s brother ever found out…”

“I won’t tell a soul.” Serena promised. “And I hope you do -- stay on. The ship is old, and it smells and at first I wanted nothing more than to get to New Kasmir and find a way back to the Skyhook, but here, I have a room, with a lock on the inside, and most people have been good.” Leo the snake and the Crew Chief, who breaks your fingers one moment and is disturbingly nice the next being the exceptions. “So me too,” she tried her best to imitate Yeva’s speech. “I’m thinking I’d like to stay on.”

Yeva smiled at the unintended impersonation. The girl has an ear for accents and dialects she thought before responding. “Then we should be good deckhands together. What should we clean next?”

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