“Had he fought like a man, he would not have had to hang like a dog!” Three-quarters of a century later, Annie Bonney still fumed at her deceased boyfriend, Captain ‘Calico’ Jack, for cowering in the hull while the British Navy captured the Vanity, then hung all of her crew.
Annie was celebrating her ninety-fifth birthday with Mary Read, her longtime lover and fellow female pirate of the high seas. A rare bird, indeed. Much water had flowed under the proverbial bridge since Annie and Mary had pleaded their bellies, narrowly escaping the same fate as their shipmates.
That was Negril, Jamaica, 1720. Annie and Mary had stood side by side under the notorious skull-and-crossed-daggers flag, remorselessly killing the attacking sailors. Nary one of the reputedly ruthless male pirates aboard fought beside them. They hid behind the metaphorical skirts of the two ferocious female fighters, who in fact, wore pants.
Annie remembered the battle like it was yesterday. She and Mary – alone – with the smell of the gunpowder and shrieks of death. Cantankerously, she pulled her crocheted shawl around her bony shoulders. “Jack was all swagger and no balls to back it up,” she muttered.
“Avast!” Mary demanded. “Forget that ridiculous strutting cock of a captain.” To her, Jack was unworthy as Annie’s lover. Mary hadn’t mourned his execution.
Her hand trembled as she poured another splash of rum into Annie’s ruby-red hibiscus tea, spilling an equal amount. “This will calm your vexed nerves.” She sighed with the effort and sank back into her chair.
Mary had long accepted Annie’s futile anger at Jack – and her senility. But she didn’t share either. Sharp as broken crystal, she’d never trusted or even liked men. Although dressing the part of a man was preferable to living like a woman – thwarted ambition; no hope of adventure.
Annie and Mary fell in love at first sight when Mary was captured by the Vanity. The two saw the passion in each other’s eyes and became inseparable as the ship cut a bloody swath across the turquoise calm of the Caribbean.
Mary still couldn’t believe their luck. When the Vanity was overtaken, they were both pregnant. Accomplished gamblers, they played their fortuitous hand wisely to win their lives and freedom, the only ones that got out alive. For once, being a woman had been a blessing.
They found an idyllic cottage by the sea and raised two feisty girls. Now they were grandmothers to two granddaughters and great grandmothers to two more girls. Mary and Annie regaled them with pirate lore and sang sea shanties to them, imparting a past that was fast receding as the girls ascended into a new world.
The two old women rocked silently, looking out at the sea from their shaded veranda. The fat calico cat that Annie had insisted on naming Jack lapped up the sweet liquor that dripped onto the floor. Mary mustered energy enough to kick the scourge – once – for her great love, Annie.