Marin of the Sea

The strength of the ocean lives on inside of me. Tight-laced panels around my waist will never drain the saltwater from my veins, nor will high-heels ever rid me of my sea legs. I refuse to buckle under any pressure. I refuse to bow my head and meekly wash their linens. Instead, I will wash them with a scowl.
Hetti often scorned me, "you have not the slightest idea of how many young ladies would do anything to be in your shoes!" I lifted my skirt to take a look at the narrow, leather shoes that were cutting circulation to my toes.
"These shoes? Tell those young ladies that they can have ‘em!" I would say before kicking them off and running out the back door.
Hetti was my lady-in-waiting, of sorts, although it sometimes felt as if I were hers. The Duke trusted her to mould me into a proper lady. He planned to one day marry me off to another nobleman, in an effort to strengthen political ties.
"I am not a lady!" I would scream while stomping my flat, square booted feet against the floor. Hetti had to start hiding the scissors from me around this time; my hair had gone past my shoulders, and I detested both the feeling and look of it.
On rare occasions, I would find enough enjoyment in one of the daily lessons that I was willing to put my antics on hold. Horseback riding was one of these times; I even tolerated side-saddle—how absolutely ridiculous of a concept! How many times had the Duke peered from his chambers, filled with hope upon seeing his young captive girl finally behaving like a lady? I must have dashed that bit of hope very quickly the day I took off to the trees.
The instructor caught up to me within moments, as I had expected him to. Within the same breath, he was condemning my actions then correcting my rein grip. He knew I wasn't trying to run away, not really. Where would I go?
I had taught myself to draw during my time on land, and I was getting quite good. In the early hours, while Hetti grabbed kindling to boil water for tea, I would visit the skeleton of the fire from the night before. It wasn't ‘ladylike' to get one's fingers filthy, so I put my handkerchief to use, folding the bit of charcoal between the white cloth and buried it deep in my pocket for later.
Oftentimes—more often than I'd like to admit—I found myself drawing the Duke's son. The boy who spared me. I referred to him as the Shadow's Echo, for every glance we shared brought me back to that dark, dark day. He filled me with so much hatred that it made me sick. Sometimes I think that hate was all that kept me going.
The likeness was impressive. The sorrow in his gaze, his careless stance. After a while, I realized I need to draw him older, for he would be almost 19 now unless he really was just the echo of an old shadow.

One time, when I was ten, I went into town with Hetti to pick up some fresh produce. We had just turned a corner when a boy my age collided against the basket I held at my side, knocking apples and cucumbers to the dusty stone path below.
"Sorry!" He said, chuckling at our impact. He scrambled to gather the fruits that were quickly rolling away from our feet.
I was ill-tempered then, much more so than now, and, in my mind, he had given me the perfect excuse to act out. I leapt on him and pinned him to the ground, then pounded my fists into his gut. His father had to tear me off. The boy walked away with a bloody nose and a few bruised ribs. I walked away with a steady stream of tears rolling down my red-hot cheeks and a heavy sense of guilt.
The next day, I snuck into town to find the kid. I crawled under the gates to get out, leaving my dress covered in dirt and my hair in disarray. It didn't take long to find him—he was at the same corner that we had collided the day before. Upon sight of me, he started running, but I grabbed him by the elbow and pulled him into the alleyway between the bakery and the chandler.
"I'm sorry for punching you," I blurted out before he could make a break for it. He looked at me with careful eyes, although one had swelled up into a purple mass, which likely added to the quizzical expression. The fear he felt was evident, but he also trusted that I was being genuine for the time being.
He had sandy blond hair that reminded me of Shadow's Echo. Perhaps that was why I had gone mad the day before. Unlike him, this boy had stunning blue eyes, the colour of the sea just below the surface, when you're about to emerge for a long breath of fresh, salty air.
"Are you alright?" A tear has escaped me as we sat there.
"I'm fine," I responded quickly, wiping the tear away.
"And I really am sorry," I reiterated, after a few moments of silence.
He put a hand on my shoulder and smiled kindly before responding, "I know. Apology accepted!"
I then got a devilish idea that I knew I couldn't pursue on my own.
"Hey, do you want to help me with something?"
"Well, I suppose so, but I don't even know your name yet!"
I hesitated a moment. My name had been changed since arriving. The Duke thought a new name would help me leave the past behind, but I was proud of the name my father had given me. It was all I had left of him. It was all I had left of myself.
"My name is Marin," I told him. He smirked and spit on his hand, then held it out for me to take.
"I'm Aylwin," he said. I spit on my own hand and took his with a firm grip. While we shook, I stared deep into his ocean blue eyes that reminded me so much of who I was.
. Aylwin was the son of the best baker in town. His grandparents had started the business after growing tired of being asked for their rye recipe. They lived comfortably above the bakery. His father was surprised to see us together, to say the least, but he offered us both a slice of bread and cheese, then went back to baking.
It took some convincing, but before too long, I was sitting on a stool in his bedroom, watching dark brown locks of hair fall to the floor around me. Aylwin passed me a pair of breeches and a plain white shirt to change into. I looked like a perfect little boy, just like Aylwin, and it was the first time I had felt like myself since being brought into the Duke's manor.
"What do you want to do with this dress?" Aylwin had asked.
"Do you have a sister?" I questioned back.
"Yes," he replied slowly.
"The give it to her!" I exclaimed joyfully before running back down through the bakery and out the front door. Aylwin ran out shortly after and tried to catch up. We spent the afternoon near the river, trying to catch frogs and building a tiny village made of sticks and rocks.
I was almost shooed away upon returning to the manor. The maids had not recognized me. When they did, they were horrified. My skin was scrubbed raw in the bathtub, but they also fixed my hair, leaving it even shorter. I was stuck practising embroidery in my room for a week straight after that. I almost didn't mind though because I had gotten my fill of freedom to last me for a while, and I had made a best friend.