Excerpt – Albatross

One of my latest projects: a young adult work featuring a Moorish girl who sails with the Spanish Armada and takes on the English when they’ve come to take Puerto Rico. Krakens and sirens and selkies, oh my!

Dawn broke over the sky like blood, but Safa had no time to worry about the old ones’ tales. It was the fifteenth day of Rajab, and it was nearly time to set sail.

“Oi!” A voice like cannonfire burst up the steps. “If you don’t hurry, señorita Safa, the crew will be happy to leave you behind!”

Safa ignored him, her head lowered as finished up her prayers. “Wa ‘ala ale Ibrahim Fil‘ala Meena innaka hameeddun majeed,” she whispered. “Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullah.”

“Come on, Safa!”

“I heard you, culo!” She shouted, rising from her knees. She hurried around the room, tucking her prayer rug into her travel pack and shoving on boots. Plucking her cap from the shelf, she tucked in her locs the best she could before sprinting out the door. Marina was already at the foot of the stairs, breakfast steaming on the tray.

“Will you not have breakfast, Safa?” She asked.

Safa shook her head, hoisting her pack onto her shoulder. “Not today, Marina. El Monstruo waits for no one!”

When she tumbled outside, two broad hands clapped her on her shoulders. She glared up at Tomas, whose tanned face was spread in an unrepentant grin.

“You’re getting rude in your old age, querida,” he teased, swinging a bulky arm over her shoulders. “I remember when you were just a niña and I could bounce you on my knee.”

Safa rolled her eyes, shrugging his arm off. “You just turned eighteen, Tomas. Don’t act like you’re some sort of adult.”

Gasping, he smacked a hand over his heart. “Such cruelty!”

“Come on, culo!” She laughed, darting ahead.

They dashed through the early morning crowds, already beginning to fill up the streets of Cádiz. Merchants were announcing their wares, the smell of freshly baked bread flooded the air while fishmongers raised up their brightly-scaled catch to tempt their patrons. If Safa paid extra attention, she could catch a glimpse of duendes hiding in the shadows, their pointed faces earnest and waiting for crumbs to drop. One of the goblin creatures caught her eye, tipping his hat and winking at her. Spurred on by this good omen, she raced ever faster to the dock.

Salt-seared wind swept over her as she and Tomas broke their stride as they arrived dockside. The long line of ships moored in the harbor was truly a sight to behold, the white of their sails like enormous clouds against the blue morning.

“The armada must have arrived during the night,” Tomas mused. “A Dios mio, what I wouldn’t give to be on one of those beauties.”

Safa traced her eyes along the long, sleek lines of the galleon, its wooden hull glistening with sea water.

“They are beautiful, aye,” she agreed, “but too fat for me. I prefer a sleeker ship.”

Tomas rolled his eyes. “You are a corsaria at heart, mi querida. A true pirate.”

“And, don’t you forget it.”


Published by Ren Martinez

Ren is a thirty-something Lost Boy whose personal aesthetic is “suspected of witchcraft by local villagers.” She subscribes to cheerful nihilism, the destruction of the patriarchy, and the belief that glitter makes everything better. She is a Richmond-based writer and performer who has fiction and non-fiction work found in a variety of publications, such as The Mary Sue, RVA Magazine, The Quotable, and Nostrovia Press. She is currently the fiction editor and a regular contributor at Quail Bell Magazine. She is also the co-host of the podcast, This F***ing Guy! Find out more at renmartinez.com or read her dumbass tweets on Twitter @itsrenmartinez

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