|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
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
"After that, I think I'll
sleep for about a year. Tomorrow
well, I haven't even thought that far ahead. And
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
She leaned over and continued in a
"He doesn't like the looks
some of the girls here give us."
"I don't know, jealous looks
Anthony placed two fingers between
his lips and whistled for Gina. Rose was startled by his action.
"You're still together?"
"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
A flood of images from the
steerage party onboard Titanic swept into Rose's mind. That night had
but she didn't feel at all ready to celebrate like she had
"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
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,
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
"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
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
She scratched him behind one ear
and he bowed his head towards her.
"Found your weak spot, have
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
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
The two twins burst out in
identical laughs and the milkman slapped his brother on the back with appreciation for his
Rose turned to whisper to Red.
"We'll see about that,
She gave him a few farewell pats
and stepped back to the sidewalk.
"Good bye, Mr. Carson."
Rose smiled and continued on her
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
"You've been gone a long
Rose could well remember how time
had telescoped for her while waiting for her father to finish work and join her in
"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
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
"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
"Okay. Now Cora, you mind
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 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.
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
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
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
"I'm just making sure you are
all right, as Molly asked."
He looked down the street towards
"I see you've settled into
your new home and new job. She will be pleased for you."
"How do you now about my
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
"She sends her regards from
Hammond stroked his chin
"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
"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,"
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
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,
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."