Chapter Eleven

God, I'm tired, Rose thought, as she cleared her machine and gathered her things.

I feel like an old woman.

She had put in a full day's work on Friday and her six-hour shift for Saturday morning had just ended with the welcome one o'clock whistle.

I'm not used to this. And I promised Cora I would spend the afternoon with her, doing anything she wants. I hope she doesn't decide we should jump rope!

Rose put her hat on as she pushed her chair under the machine. The previous day she had gotten so hot and sweaty that she had decided to let her short hair show, no matter the reaction. Hardly an eyebrow was raised. She had noticed a few of the others had shortened their hair some, though not as close-cropped as hers, obviously feeling it was easier to keep clean and out of the machinery that way.

That works for me, too.

Mr. Souster had stared for a few brief seconds, but he was far more concerned with Rose's output than her appearance; she knew she had gotten better but was sure she still lagged far behind the other girls. Fortunately, there were still numerous vacant machines on the factory floor.

"Well, Rose, what are your plans for the weekend?" Gina asked as they headed out into the afternoon brightness. Both girls shielded their eyes from the high sun, waiting for their vision to adjust.

Rose explained about her promise to Cora.

"After that, I think I'll sleep for about a year. Tomorrow…well, I haven't even thought that far ahead. And you?"

Gina motioned to someone behind Rose and Rose turned to see the recipient of her wave. A man of perhaps twenty-five was standing across the street. Black hair, medium height and build; he seemed darkly handsome, at least from a distance. He beckoned Gina with an exaggerated motion of his arm, imploring her to hurry.

"That's Anthony," Gina informed her, "my boyfriend…well, ex-boyfriend."

She leaned over and continued in a whisper.

"He doesn't like the looks some of the girls here give us."


"I don't know, jealous looks I guess."

Anthony placed two fingers between his lips and whistled for Gina. Rose was startled by his action.

"You're still together?" she asked.

"Sometimes, yeah. I work in a saloon most weekends but tonight we're going there just to have a good time. You should come along; it'll be fun."

"Thanks, but no. That's just not me, and I'd probably be in your way."

"Ah, Rose, you might surprise yourself."

A flood of images from the steerage party onboard Titanic swept into Rose's mind. That night had been…intoxicating… but she didn't feel at all ready to celebrate like she had that night.

"I might, someday."

"Gotta go now Rose. Tomorrow, after church, Anthony wants me to go with him to a party in midtown. I guess I'll be there pretty late so maybe I won't be sewing my best on Monday."

"Don't worry, I'll just give you some of my extra dresses," Rose replied, and they both laughed.

They said their farewells and Rose headed back to her flat.

Church, she thought. I'm not really ready to forgive God for all that suffering, for taking Jack from me. Not until my heart can understand it, make sense of it.

Rose gave a wide berth to several street-repair crews as she dodged traffic crossing Sixth Avenue. She considered stopping to shop, since many stores would be open another few hours, but she knew Cora was waiting for her.

As she walked north she spied the familiar wagon of Mr. C. Carson, proprietor of ice, stopped half a block uptown. He was talking animatedly to the driver of another wagon pulled abreast of his, faced in the opposite direction like two ships passing at sea. Nearing them, Rose was able to read the lettering on the side of the second cart: 'West Side Milk Company', and in smaller print, 'W Carson.' One glance at the second driver was more than sufficient to determine that the two men were twins.

"Good day, Mr. Carson," she called out, and both men turned at the mention of their name.

They tipped their caps in unison, the milkman perplexed and the iceman indifferent.

The brothers turned to resume their conversation and Rose moved forward a few feet, next to the iceman's horse.

"Hello there, Red," she cooed. The horse whinnied, shaking his head up and down several times.

"You know your name, huh?"

Since first encountering the colt in front of her apartment building Rose had taken to carrying a few lumps of sugar in her pocket in anticipation of their next meeting. She dug one up and held it out to him. Red crunched it greedily and licked at the few grains still remaining stuck to Rose's outstretched palm. As she reached down into her pocket for another treat Mr. Carson took note of his horse's chewing.

"Hey there, don't you be feeding him!"

"It's only a bit of sugar, Mr. Carson. Surely there can't be any harm in that."

"And where will ya be tomorrow when he's expectin more of the same? Ya don't see me feedin no treats to your horse, now do you?"

"No, you're right….I guess I don't," Rose replied. While they were talking, Red had quickly disposed of the second lump and begun nudging her hand with his nose, insisting on more.

"Sorry, fella, that's it for today."

She scratched him behind one ear and he bowed his head towards her.

"Found your weak spot, have I?"

For some reason, being around Red always seemed to bring Jack front and center in her mind's eye. Maybe the horse's calm demeanor just comforted her but Rose couldn't help but recall the fantasies she and Jack had shared about splashing on horseback together through the California surf.

"Mr. Carson, do you think I might be able to ride Red some time?"

"No, I don't reckon that'll happen, miss. Red ain't no riding horse, he's a working horse, and he's got to earn his keep."

Red's owner turned to his brother and flashed a sly grin.

"I'll tell you what, miss," he continued. "I'm gonna enter Red in that there Kentucky Derby next week and if he wins me that purse then afterwards you can ride him to yer heart's content."

The two twins burst out in identical laughs and the milkman slapped his brother on the back with appreciation for his wit.

Rose turned to whisper to Red.

"We'll see about that, boy."

She gave him a few farewell pats and stepped back to the sidewalk.

"Good bye, Mr. Carson."

"Uh huh."

Rose smiled and continued on her way.

Cora was already waiting for her as she rounded the corner onto her street, and the girl leapt off the steps and bounded up the sidewalk towards her, a big smile planted across her face.

"Rosie, you're back!"

"And hello to you, too, Miss Cora."

"You've been gone a long time!"

Rose could well remember how time had telescoped for her while waiting for her father to finish work and join her in playtime.

"I guess I have," she responded. "What would you like to do this afternoon?"

They had reached their building and Rose resignedly noted a jump rope nestled among the toys Cora had brought out to provision their play area.

"Do you know how to play checkers?" the girl asked. Rose breathed a sigh of relief.

"Yes, I do, but I'm not all that good at it so I hope you will go easy on me."

While Cora excitedly prepared the pieces, Rose dashed inside to put her belongings in her apartment. When she returned the board was set.

"Do you like sewing?" Cora asked after each of them had made a few moves.

"It's fine for now."

"But you want to do something else when you're older?"

Rose smiled at Cora's question.

"Yes, I think so. How about you?"

Cora studied the board with the intensity of an eight-year-old, tongue stuck out in concentration.

"I want to be a teacher when I grow up," Cora responded with emphasis.

Rose boxed Cora's pieces into a corner but then made a purposeful blunder to let her escape.

"My brother Thomas is going to be a doctor," Cora continued. "I wish I could be a doctor, too. Can't girls be doctors?"

"People don't think it's proper, but I think you would be a good doctor."

"Make me a king!" Cora exclaimed, pushing one of her men onto Rose's last rank.

"Oh, so now you want to be a king, too?" Rose asked, and the girl giggled.

Each of them won a few games, with Cora's triumphs coming on multiple jumps that she performed with great flourish. Rose found she really didn't have to give the girl too much help to win.

To Cora's delight, Rose then suggested walking to the avenue for ice cream, and Cora obeyed Rose's request that she inform her mom of their destination by bellowing up to the windows above them.

"Mother! Rosie and I are gonna get ice cream!"

"I meant you should go inside to tell her!" Rose said with a laugh.

Mrs. O'Reilly's frame filled the window.

"Okay. Now Cora, you mind Rose."

They strolled the avenue and had their leisurely treat as they watched the people pass by. Cora questioned many things around them, and her queries opened Rose's eyes to things she herself had overlooked about the area.

The curiosity of youth, Rose thought. No, that's not right. It's not limited to the young; it's just that mine seems to be absent nowadays. Nothing seems to capture my interest anymore.

After browsing for a short while outside a few toyshops they headed back.

"I want to color now," Cora declared on their return, and the girls began to set crayons and coloring books out on the bricks.

"Hello, Rose."

Rose swung around at the sound of her name spoken so near, her heart in her throat.

Wallace Hammond stood at the foot of the stoop.

"Mr. Hammond! You gave me a fright! What are you doing here?"

He was dressed much differently than the last time Rose had seen him, much more casually. He glanced down at Cora, who was looking inquisitively at the stranger.

"And who might you be, young miss?" Wallace asked.

"Cora O'Reilly, sir."

"Cora, please go inside!" Rose interrupted. "I need to speak with this gentleman for a moment."

Cora reluctantly obeyed and disappeared up the steps. Rose didn't hear the inside door open and assumed the girl was listening from just beyond the doorframe. She purposely walked away from her building, and after a moment's hesitation Mr. Hammond followed.

The man's appearance had jarred her day, like a misplayed note during a concerto.

"What are you doing here, Mr. Hammond? How did you find me? I don't appreciate your being so familiar, either. I prefer you call me 'Miss Dawson'."

"My apologies, Miss Dawson."

Rose couldn't miss the tinge of sarcasm in his voice or how he bowed to her in an overblown manner.

"As to how I found you," he continued, "have you forgotten what I did before I began working for Molly? Half of my time back then was spent finding people who didn't wish to be found."

They had walked half a block and Rose felt they were far enough from prying eyes and ears. She stopped to confront him.

"Fine! Why are you here?"

"I'm just making sure you are all right, as Molly asked."

He looked down the street towards her apartment.

"I see you've settled into your new home and new job. She will be pleased for you."

"How do you now about my job?"

Mr. Hammond looked at Rose steadily but didn't reply. He smiled slightly.

"And how IS Molly, Mr. Hammond?" Rose asked, trying to lace her own voice with a spoonful too much honey as well.

"She sends her regards from Denver."

Hammond stroked his chin thoughtfully.

"Have you told anyone of your being on Titanic?"

Why would he ask that? Rose thought. I don't like the direction of this conversation. Why is he REALLY here?

"No, sir. I prefer to avoid pity and, I truly want to put all of that behind me. I'd appreciate it if you told no one yourself."

"Miss Dawson! Please! I just was on this side of town and thought I'd take the opportunity to fulfill my promise."

I'm really beginning to dislike his patronizing tone.

Rose raised her voice a notch, though still tempering her volume for privacy's sake.

"Sir. If you would, please tell Molly I am quite fine and able and that she needn't worry about me. I appreciate her help, and yours sir, but neither is necessary any longer."

Mr. Hammond looked at Rose and she felt he was appraising her in some way, just as he had that morning back at the Waldorf.

"Miss Dawson, I'm sorry you feel that way. I had hoped we could become….better acquainted. Friends perhaps."

He shrugged his shoulders and tapped his hat back in place.

"Very well, so be it," he added.

Without another word Mr. Hammond turned and headed back towards the avenue. Rose remained in place until he had disappeared around the corner.

Imagine him just showing up like that. Checking up on me. But why?

Suddenly, she felt a bit guilty about the way she had spoken to him.

Did I overreact to his presence here?

Maybe I'm just too sensitive about keeping my past at bay. He brought it all back in a flash and that bothered me.

Don't let yourself get so rattled, Rose!

She walked back towards her flat and Cora re-appeared, descending the steps in two jumps.

"Who was that, Rosie?"

"Oh, just someone I knew a long time ago."


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