NOTE TO READERS: Most Titanic sequels (including my own
"Absolution") seem to find Rose Dawson on quite similar paths to her
future, accentuating her strength and conviction at overcoming the tragedy. I
sometimes wondered what would have happened if perhaps Rose hadn't been quite so
Into The Depths
What was it Jack told me he said at that poker game? Oh,
"When you got nothing, you got nothing to lose."
Rose Dawson flashed her blade at the approaching street urchin
and glared him to a halt. Thwarted, he veered away with a low growl. Hundreds,
thousands like him - face sooty, hair wet, tangled, and eyes…so empty…so
The jetsam and flotsam of the lower West Side pressed in all
around Rose. She wore them like a coat now, and they all possessed eyes of
midnight, as though they had been …. out there, when God had turned his back
Alone again, Rose dared to close her eyes for a few seconds
You were wrong, Jack, she thought. There's
always more to lose.
She cast a fossilized eye at the knife in her hand. It held no
fear, no shudders, no free-fall from civility. All that was long gone. It was
If not for the dozen waterlogged bills wadded deep within
Cal's coat pocket everything might have ended that first night in the city.
She'd used Cal's money - blood money - for the switchblade and a box and the
postage to send the Heart of the Ocean to Denver … to Molly.
I'm alive. Keep this for me.
Tell no one.
Blood money. Jack's blood, maybe more….many more.
Hockley steel, all throughout Titanic. The best parts.
Cal. He sank her.
Rose looked up into the lightening gray. Dawn, finally. The
rain was spent, now just a drizzle. Closing the blade, she left the shelter of
the overhang and headed out of the alleyway onto Sixth Avenue. Transparent, she
passed busy shops, passed hurrying workers, passed the newsstand….
"Titanic Inquiry Set" in bold type.
Inquiry? So starched a word, so proper.
Interrogate them, demand explanations, condemn them. All of them. Cal.
She glanced at the date above the banner. May
something. Only a month…
What made her look up just then? There, across the avenue...hands thrust down in his coat pockets, the blonde hair, that walk …Yes!
Yes, it's him!
She dashed across the avenue - mud sucking at her shoes,
motorists' curses airborne - briefly become visible as judging eyes stared,
looked away; heads shook.
Why are you ignoring me? Please, please. I didn't know you
were still alive... I'm so sorry I let go... I didn't know.
Her hand went to his shoulder, close enough now to see his
breath frost the morning air… like on… that night. He turned.
"I have nothing for you! Go away!"
The hair not blonde, too tall, too old…
She turned away, shrinking from his sight, his eyes bright but
lit by shards of ice. Two steps back and she had vanished once more.
One lived…one died.
She walked in the street. The giant awakened. Clacking,
pinging, hissing… louder, louder still. Sounds of life, of movement… of
"Why?" Rose asked aloud. Why
do you keep on trying?
A Renault roared by, cloaking her in exhaust, freezing her
in the past.
Where to, miss? To the stars.
She watched the auto until the mist consumed it.
There's always more to lose.
A mounted policeman drew near and Rose folded upon herself,
pushing the knife further into her coat, into the depths.
"Move along, won't ya." The voice tired, familiar.
"Ya can't be standin in the middle of the road now, Ruth."
She looked up, surprised at the name.
All would have been lost those first few days - maybe even
her very life - if not for him. Back, back before she knew the city. Knew its
secrets. Knew how to survive.
"Sorry." She looked at her feet, hoping he would
leave without words of kindness. Compassion was an ill fit for her now.
"Where ya been stayin, Ruth?"
That name. She'd been terrified by the attack, four of them on
her, trying to take everything...everything...and after Maloney came along and
banished them to the shadows it had been the first to spring to her mind when he
asked. Rose smiled inwardly. The ever-proper Ruth, living life on the streets. Sure.
She pointed abstractly northwards.
"Uptown a bit," she said, eyes still averted. A
carriage splashed by and added a fresh layer of muck to the bottom of her dress,
clinging like mache. Her defense lapsed as she watched the carriage's progress
and Maloney snared her eye and pinned her with his own gaze. Struggle was
He knows. He'll make me live the lie.
Maloney offered his hand.
"Let me take you to the Red Cross tent; get you fed
Rose assented without conviction. With one powerful arm he
lifted her to a perch at his back and urged his mount southbound.
No, he doesn't know. He's just a cog in the machine. Cal's
machine. But things fall apart.
"Are you sure I couldn't be returning you to your
parents, Ruth? No matter how bad things were they can be made right again.
Family is family. You just tell me where to take you, then."
Give up! "My family is dead." They are.
The El rattled overhead, drowning out almost all of Maloney's
"….boyfriend?" was all that reached her.
The pain hit her square and rendered her in two, slowly.
"Just leave me be!" she said, and she slid down,
falling backwards onto the slick cobblestone. He reined around and started to
dismount, thought better, waited. She righted herself and started to walk away,
then stopped and turned to him, uncertain, ashamed.
"Thanks," she said.
Maloney reached into his jacket and produced a small yellow
"This is the address of a women's rescue mission. It's
run by a friend of my wife's; a wonderful old lady." He extended it towards
her. "For later, if you need it."
Rose stared at the card.
possible. Never possible.
"Please," Maloney said. "Take it."
She reached out slowly to remove it from his hand and then
thrust it into her coat pocket. It nestled next to the knife… and the cigar.
The shopkeeper had been at first abhorred by the sight of her,
then pleased when he spied her bills, and finally perplexed. "Why would you
want to spend the last of your money on a cigar? Save it for food, you
He knew nothing of hunger. Food for the body, yes, but
anger needs to be nourished as well. A cigar. The incense of the unfeeling. One
small piece of that netherworld - of businesses and deals and soulless
calculations … and Cal. 'Have I made myself in any
way unclear?' No, you are glass to me now.
Maloney was gone, swallowed by a cross-street. Rose decided to
walk the remaining blocks to the shelter. Maybe… he… would be there.
People a thread's width from the gutter shunned her, and twice
she was forced into the street when Faberge Eggs she might have taken tea with a
month earlier negated her existence on the sidewalk. She denied them the
pleasure of feeling superior, shuttering dark as they sneaked glances at her
over turned-up noses, hoping to glimpse the headwaters of despair.
One block from the tent a shiny clean carriage pulled to the
curb and another Cal stepped from inside. Rose stopped to watch as a servant
carried the man's wife out across the muck. The woman was awash in colors stolen
from the sun and the spring.
You left only grays for the rest of us.
Arm in arm the couple started for the haberdasher, oblivious.
Saints in the whorehouse, Rose thought. No,
"YOU!" Rose shouted, pointing at the man.
"Who are the stones that YOU walk on?"
The servant scurried, wanting to place himself between Rose
and the couple, but before he had gotten halfway Rose found herself spun around
by a tug on her arm.
"Rose, come away from here."
Mary. 'No, not the Virgin Mary,' she had said when they
first met. 'Natural mistake, though.'
Mary latched onto Rose's coat and dragged her towards the
"Rose, you're gonna get yourself into trouble one of
these days. You've got to learn to leave the rich ones alone."
"That's what they want," Rose said, glaring back at
the man. "They won't get it."
Mary shook her head and let out a breath that was equal parts
laugh and sigh. "I sure wish I understood you."
Rose envied her laugh; envied the release. Maybe it's not
so bad as I think, living on your back. Not so dirty. Not so weary. Still,
Mary's eyes were unceasingly rimmed in red. No rescue.
The soup line snaked long and tired around the tent and
they took station at the end. The rain had stopped, the clouds broken, but dust
and black smoke had taken up the task of choking the sun to a whisper.
"I haven't seen you in a few days," Mary said.
"What've you been doing with yourself?"
"Thinking," Rose replied as she scanned the
gathering, ever alert for…him.
"About what I said?"
"No, not that." I'm not ready for that. Some
desires need to be murdered in their sleep. "About another past … and
"A future? Jesus, what future? Can you survive on your
own? What can you do?"
Rose hawked back and spit into the street. "I can do
Mary laughed again. "Great…'Come see Rose…she can
spit!'" She touched Rose on the arm. "No, really, I've watched you
lose more and more of yourself every day. You're gonna die out here if you don't
do something to get out. Can't you go…back?"
Give up! "No." Everyone,
"Look, I understand you don't want to tell me what
happened but I know you don't belong out here. You belong.." Mary looked
around and gestured towards the north. "…uptown."
They were just three back of the entrance when two teenage
rogues walked boldly past the throng and cut in front of them.
"Looks like the whores held our spot," one said, and
the other laughed, his eyes daring a response.
"Go back to your mamas," Rose said quietly.
"Up yours, you stupid
Mary wound up to slap the boy but before she could Rose had
grabbed him by the collar and bent him backwards. Suddenly, her knife was out
and held flat against his throat.
"I am done being polite," Rose said, in measured
breaths. Both boys' eyes widened.
"Okay, okay," the other boy said, yanking hard to
free his friend. "We're going."
Rose retracted her knife and the boys ran off. The line
muttered approval and then faded back to limbo.
"You're crazy," one of the boys screamed over his
shoulder from a safe distance.
Is justice sane? Find those who are to blame, put it right.
"Was I in any way unclear?" Rose yelled after
Mary just stared at her, saying nothing.
They received their soup, coffee and one slice of bread
apiece, and moved to sit at the end of a long, low table. The surface was dirty
with the remnants of previous diners; Rose grasped her sleeve in her hand and
brusquely swept it with the underside of her coat arm.
The tent was quiet save for the sounds of hunger being briefly
"I remember my last boyfriend," Mary said, almost in
Rose studied her friend's face.
How spacious is the pain? A room? A house? Mine is a city.
"I thought he was everything, at long last,"
Mary continued. She shook her head once at some past epiphany. "So did he.
"No matter where the blame lay, though, he wasn't worth
ending up here."
Yes…Blame. The heaviness of choice.
"Rose, there's not a night goes by that I don't wish
I'd made a different decision. This city is so cruel. If you fall … you can't
get back up again."
Rose watched a tear wind slowly down Mary's cheek. She could
almost taste it on her own lips.
The sea's perfume. It stays with you…Forever.
Mary smeared the tear with one finger. Rose looked away,
anywhere but at the moistness.
Forever. He's not coming back.
"He was my fiancé," Rose said halfway through
another silence. Mary started at her utterance and lifted inquisitive eyes.
"I figured as much; I mean, I guessed it was a boyfriend
or some such. You found him cheating … or he you?"
Cheating, oh yes. Cheating emotions, cheating justice…cheating
Mary broke off a chunk of her bread and dabbed it into her
"Both?" she asked. "And YOU ended up
Ended. 'The best thing that ever happened to me.' Shouldn't
One lived. The wrong one.
"He killed everyone."
Mary shook abruptly, spilling some of her coffee onto the
tabletop. She sat back, eyes narrowed.
"I don't understand."
Rose waved her hand overhead, as though to dissipate all cares.
"Oh, I am over-dramatizing it." Lie. "But he destroyed
many lives." Yes.
"Bastard!" Mary said, taking a sip.
"So you know him, then," Rose said, and Mary laughed
so suddenly she spit coffee out her nose. Rose smiled at the sight.
"Now, there's a first," Mary said, indicating Rose's
grin. "Nice to know you still own one. Look, your friends and your family
will take you back. Don't waste your life. Don't let one miserable man do this
to you. Make a plan; do something."
I promise. Half the people will drown. 'Not the better half.'
The better half.
"What is men's biggest weakness?" Rose asked after a
"Oh, now you're talking my language," Mary replied.
"Depends on the man, I suppose… Money, sex, vanity, sex…"
"What about control," Rose interrupted.
"Ah, yes. Pretty much ties up all the rest with one
pretty bow, I'd say."
Rose stared into space as her hand searched the depths of her
pocket. She located the yellow card and began turning it over and over between
An inquiry, one judge. It costs too much, cheating death.
Control. Getting control. Exerting control.
'What are you thinking, Rose?"
Rose turned to Mary and lifted up her coffee, offering a
"To making it count!"
"To making it count," Mary echoed, lifting her cup
in kind. She sat back and gazed levelly across the table. "Okay, now how
are you going to do that?"
The card flicked quickly in
Rose's pocket, snapping against the
cigar, the knife. A rescue, a rebirth, a renewal. He's
dead. We're all dead.
She stood and circled the table to Mary's side.
Her friend got up,
thinking they were leaving, but Rose just kissed her on the cheek and motioned
her back into her seat. Without another word, Rose walked out into the charcoal
morning alone, a solitary idea resonating through her world.