“Trends change, rumors fly through new skies but I'm right where you left me”
Ed walked up to the dock where he knew the dinghy was waiting, the bag with his things held over his shoulder, excitement thrumming under his veins. Stede should be here waiting for him to arrive. He grinned at the idea of him and Stede running off together with nobody, not even the annoying British navy officers, to stop them or get in the way. This was only the beginning for them, he thought as he approached the dock where Stede should be waiting for him.
Stede wasn’t on the dock. Or the beach around the dock.
His heart stopped. Ed called out Stedes name a few times out of instinct. He was nearby, surely. Maybe waiting in the trees by the clearing to hide in case somebody else found the dock and boat before Ed arrived. He looked around for the other man, squinting his eyes in the darkness of the night for a hint of his light-colored hair or pale shirt through the brush.
He walked up and down the dock and nearby beach a few times looking for him and yell-whispering his name. He wasn’t there either.
Stede was coming, of course. He was on his way. Perhaps the man tasked with waking him up and escorting him was late, or fell asleep, or Stede was getting held up packing his things and tidying his space (Stede couldn’t just leave a space that wasn’t his own messy), or they got a bit lost on the way. Ed ignored the rising panic he felt growing behind his chest. Stede was on his way. He’d appear through the trees any moment now. It was dark and the dock was a bit far from the boarding room, and you had to walk through the woods to get there, after all. He sat on the edge of the dock, staring out at the ocean waters he’s spent so much of his life on, and waited for his arrival.
“Cross-legged in the dim light, they say, ‘what a sad sight’”
Why wasn’t Stede here yet?
It had been enough time—the man was supposed to wake him over more than an hour and a half ago. Ed had already paced the dock and the beach, sat on the edge, looked around again, paced some more, and eventually settled to lay down on the weakened, creaky wood after his legs and back grew tired, staring up at the dim clouds enlightened by the pale moonlight. And he waited. Just like that, looking up towards the cloud-covered stars with one hand behind his hair to cushion his head against the harsh planks. Watching as the clouds blew across the sky, only faint shapes wisping along as the time passed.
Another hour. No sign of Stede. The sky had begun to gradually lighten—he could see hints of a slightly fainter shade of blue through the gaps in the clouds.
Stede should be here by now. Ed’s everything filled with worry. He felt it in his head, chest, lungs, in the ache in his heart—that, previously, was felt as love for Stede just one day prior on this beach. Now the feeling was primarily of worry.
Stede wouldn’t just not show up. Something must have happened. Must’ve. Why else wouldn’t he be here, hours later than their designated time? He must have got caught by the British officers on his way out. Or maybe the man double crossed him and never woke Stede, instead warning the officials of their plan and Ed’s escape. Or something happened on the way, in the woods: Stede was hurt or in some sort of danger. The sky had become another shade lighter, while Ed’s head was being continuously darkened with more dread as he lay there within his thoughts. He felt his calloused hands run down his face, attempting to shake off some of the anxiety, the feeling of his bare-but-slightly-prickly face a foreign sensation to him.
He felt as if he should go and find Stede. If he was in some sort of danger, he had to help him. He couldn’t just leave him in trouble and alone. His heart raced. The other part of Ed told him he needed to stay. If Stede managed to reach the dock and was injured or in trouble but Ed was gone, Ed wouldn't be able to forgive himself for leaving. He felt rooted to his spot regardless. He couldn’t bring himself to get up and leave. After all, Stede was expecting him to be here waiting for him. He had to be here for his partner.
The sky eventually became painted entirely of shades of purples and pinks. That would mean good sailing for him and Stede, as all they had was a small boat not meant for very far travel. He had moved from his position on the lying dock not long ago, opting now to sit cross-legged on the end instead and watch the changing colors of the sky over the never-ending water.
“I, I swear you could hear a hair pin drop, right when I felt the moment stop”
Stede wasn’t coming. It had been an hour again, maybe longer. Ed wasn’t sure. The realization hit Ed way harder than it should. He knew, after the first hour or two he knew the chances of Stede showing up were getting lower and lower the longer he waited. Deep down, the whole night he knew. He had that feeling far down that maybe Stede just wasn’t coming and he ignored it. He shouldn’t be so surprised by this revelation but he felt his heart drop anyways. He kept telling himself how Stede doesn’t do stuff like this. How he wouldn’t.
But he did. He ditched Ed, up and left and isn’t coming back. Maybe he opted to stay at the wayward pirate academy, deciding that he’d rather stay and work for the crown to stay out of legal trouble instead of running away and starting a new life. Their new life, together.
Despite the new brightness of a cool seaside morning, he felt the silence of the night still. It was too early for the birds to have awoken, the only noise he could pick out being the faint splashing of the waves against the sandy beach. He couldn’t tell if it was truly the quiet of the morning, or his own head blocking out the sounds of everything but his mind.
Time felt like it had slowed as Ed had come to his realization. Stede chose not to come. To leave him here. Ed began to feel the weight of the thin morning air and his heart felt tight. It had been hours. Stede wasn’t going to show up at the dock.
“Everybody moved on—I, I stayed there. Dust collected on my pinned-up hair, they expected me to find somewhere. Some perspective, but I sat and stared right where you left me”
Ed ran his fingers along his head, feeling the bumpy, wavy hair underneath. He felt as if he couldn’t move. Couldn’t get up. Couldn’t do anything other than sit there, in that spot, and stare out at the ever gradually lightening sky. It was nearly full sunrise now. The pale pink of the sky became more saturated and brighter as the time passed and the clouds blew by. Stede had left him there. He was trying to accept this fact as he looked out past the water.
“I’m sure that you’ve got a wife out there, kids and Christmas”
Ed didn’t want to think about the other option of what Stede could have done or where he could have gone.
He knew Stedes old home wasn’t far from here. The same home where his wife resided—the elusive ‘Mary’ that Ed had mentioned on a few occasions—as well as where his wealth resided. His children. A place he could go back and return to live a nice life. A good life, better than some poorly thought out plan of escaping to goddamned China. A place where neither of them knew anybody, had no money, and didn’t even speak the language for fucks sake. Of course Stede would go back to his home. He had a family, a nice house, land, and money. Why stay with Ed? A poor, dirty pirate, no ties other than the loose ones held with his crew, and a man on top of that. He can’t blame Stede, truly. But he does.
He felt resentment begin to grow. He didn’t mean for it to, his thoughts got the best of him. But it was just that this always happens. People leave. They never stay. Ed—no, Blackbeard—is just a stop on people's radar, a place they stay for a bit and have some fun until they decide they’ve got better people and better places to be and then they leave. He’s a pirate, he doesn’t get the happy endings. He’s a pirate, and he always will be.
“If our love died young I can’t bear witness”
Why did he think Stede would be different? It never is. It never is. Stede always had a better place back home, with his own people. He was wealthy. Was never a born-and-bred pirate, and never could be. Through the entire time sailing with Stede, he should have never forgotten that the whole time Stede had better things waiting for him than a dirty, violent pirate. A criminal. Ed must’ve loved Stede more than Stede ever loved him—if he even did, and if you can even call what they had love (Ed knows he loves him. The fear of Stede not loving him back makes him deny this fact even to himself). Their time sailing together was over. Their time being together was over. They had their fun, and now Stede had made his choice. He didn’t show up to the dock. Ed didn’t want to think about this anymore.
“You left me, you left me no, oh you left me no”
He couldn’t wait around sitting here any longer. The sun would be up before long. They’d be looking for him soon once the officers realized he was missing.
With numb hands and heart Ed undid the rope tying the dinghy to the dock.
“And it's been so long but if you ever think you got it wrong I’m right where you left me”
He’d waited for hours at this point. There was no more reason to sit and wait around, waiting for something that wasn’t going to happen. For someone who wasn’t coming.
He hopped in the small boat, tossing his bag in with him, and stared out one last time at the wooden dock and the clearing on the beach.
“Anger” was the word he was trying to apply to Stede in his head at the moment. Maybe a touch of “betrayal” as well. He knew he couldn’t be truly, deeply angry no matter how hard he tried to convince himself. As he looked in towards the beach for this final time, he still felt hope that Stede would break through at the last minute, ready to jump in the ship with Ed and sail off with him.
He crushed those hopes in him as he did the first row out towards the expansive ocean.
“You left me no, oh, you left me no”
The coastline grew smaller as Ed rowed, back to the endless water, still facing the dock that was barely a spot in the distance now. Forever facing the coast with an unrealistic wish, expression blank and mind empty.
He kept rowing the dinghy further and further, separating himself as far as he could from the night he became immortalized on that dock. He was leaving as Blackbeard as he left “Ed” behind on that very beach, left to forever wait for someone who wasn’t coming back.
“You left me no choice but to stay here forever”