By Elizabeth Nicklis
The wind, the rain, the water, it was all the same. The pilgrims had been seeing the same landscape for the last two weeks: the rolling waves, the occasional blue sky, the clouds, the boat, and the people. There were more than 100 people on board, and it was very crowded. They had all been excited and ready to leave so they could live according to their own beliefs without a king to boss them around. It was a brilliant dream, but many were getting pretty tired of the boat and were growing anxious and grouchy. Two people had already died—one drowned, the other got sick—and everyone was getting restless.
Stephanie was very tired of the boat. The closest person to her age was Olivia, who was only nine. Stephanie was eleven, one of the oldest children on the ship. She had dark brown hair worn in braids and a pretty pink and blue calico dress. She was cheerful and had rosy cheeks and a voice like a lark.
The captain walked by. He, too, seemed to feel the toll of this journey.
“Captain,” Stephanie said. “How much longer to shore, may I ask?”
“A good while. A storm’s brewing,” he said in a gruff, gravely voice.
Another storm, Stephanie thought. Great.
Stephanie noticed that the boat had begun to rock and the sun was hidden from view by dark, ominous clouds. The waves were big and choppy. The whole scene was scary and promised death. The rain began to fall and people rushed to get under the cabin's protection.
However, Stephanie stayed on deck to see the stunning storm. The waves crashed onto the deck, soaking her skirts. The rain came in torrents. Thunder boomed and lightening flashed in great shows of light. The boat rocked violently side to side, the boards screaming. A yell went up followed by a splash and commotion. A rope was thrown into the sea. Stephanie watched with horror as a man was pulled up wheezing, shivering, and dripping wet.
“Oh my,” she said softly.
A towel was placed on the shoulders of the man and he was brought to the cabin. The boy next to Stephanie suddenly fell over the railing and tumbled into the sea. Stephanie gulped and made her way to the waiting comfort of safety. The storm was over as quickly as it begun and people filed out of the cabin in rows.
Three more weeks went by. Week after week of everything being the same. But then, Stephanie heard it, a thin wail spread across the boat. A wail of life. Men, women, and children rushed around a young woman. She looked tired. She had deep circles under her eyes and her skin was pale, but she was smiling proudly and her eyes shone. A bearded man, whom Stephanie recognized from around the boat, was kneeling next to her holding out a bundle. If Stephanie had any doubt of what was in there, it dissipated when a tiny pink face peeped out from under the wraps. The baby gurgled and cried.
Stephanie approached the mat where the boy lay. His blue eyes sparkled when he looked at her and he smiled adoringly at her glowing face.
“He likes you,” the mother whispered, smiling.
“What is his name, ma’am?” Stephanie asked.
“His name is Oceanus, for he was born on the sea,” the mother said. “And what might yours be?”
“My name is Stephanie,” she said shyly, blushing.
“What a beautiful name for a beautiful girl.”
Stephanie’s cheeks flushed again. She slowly backed away from the crowded area. She went to her cabin and sat smiling until sleep arrived.
As the days went by, more and more sickness overtook more and more people. They were little more than seventy-five people still alive. Hope was needed, and badly. One woman threw herself off the boat in a crazed state. Stephanie’s family had perished tragically and they all were resting under the water. Stephanie was grieved and lonely. Then the call went up,
“Land! Land ho!”
Those that remained excitedly gathered around the deck to view land. The idea that the horrible journey was over was bright in people’s minds. A majestic, dark mound rose out of the mist, but then…they went through it. The boat just simply cut through the huge cloud and all hope was dashed. People, even more discouraged than before, solemnly walked back under cover.
Is There Enough?
The food rations were smaller and smaller. Survivors could only have meager meals two times a day. Stephanie stared at her plate. Dinner consisted of dried fruit, some corn, and dirty, unfiltered water. Her stomach growled more and more often. Rumors spread that there wasn’t enough food for everyone and that sacrifices had to be made. And on top of that, people were getting angrier. Their leaders had promised land. Where was it? The brilliant sea voyage on shining blue waters, happy people, enough food for a feast every day? The ribs showed on the animals and nobody smiled, laughed, or joked anymore. Stephanie was lonely, hungry, and alone.
Home at Last
“Land ho!” the booming voice sounded again.
Three months after they left, the pilgrims had finally reached their destination. Preparations were made and people gathered their things in celebration. Everyone crowded against one another to see land, and this time they were sure it wasn’t a cloud. The trees, rocks, hills, and flowers were definitely real. The waters glistened and the sand sparkled in the sun. Women cried and children shouted.
The long journey was over!
Well, not quite. They had to sail for two more weeks to get past the large, spiky rocks. In December, they finally docked in Plymouth.
Plymouth Rock marks the spot, Stephanie thought.
People poured out onto the hot sand, weeping and praying. The minister gathered everyone ‘round to join together in an earnest prayer to God for delivering them safely. Little did they know that in one year, they’d host the first Thanksgiving for the Native Americans who helped them through hard times.
But all Stephanie cared about now was that she was home. She was finally home at last.
Elizabeth Nicklis is a homeschooled 11-year-old who is crazy about writing. She hopes to some day make more money than her Uncle Daniel. Also read her first Thanksgiving tale, "A Tragically Hopeful Thanksgiving."