Chapter Two

Molly half-carried, half-assisted the girl into the room, Rose's sopping dress leaving a dark wet trail across the carpet. Rose collapsed into nearest chair while Molly quickly closed the patio door against the invading elements.

"My God, Rose, it really is you! I've been sleeping so poorly, I thought I had finally snapped! Jesus, Mary and Joseph, child, how can you be alive?"

"Molly….I …." Rose glanced up. Molly's face was set with such a bewildered expression that it gave her pause.

Just as quickly, Molly came to her senses and she reached out her hand to pull the girl back up.

"I don't know where my wits are! Come on, darlin, let's get you out of those soaking wet clothes and then you then can tell me everything."

"I don't…"

"Hush now. Let's just go into the bath."

Molly supported Rose with an arm around her waist. In contrast to the warmth of the room, Rose was like ice.

"Rose, Rose, Rose; I'll be surprised if you don't catch your death of cold! You're trembling."

A flicker of pain crossed Rose's eyes; a brief flinch that Molly failed to notice.

"I'll be all right."

The Waldorf-Astoria was world-renowned for pampering its guests and Molly needed all of the room's ample supply of thick towels to finally get Rose dry. Her wet clothes and shoes lying in a heap at the bottom of the tub, Rose donned a lush purple robe embroidered with a gaudy "W" over her heart. Her hair, drying for the first time in two days, hung in a tangled mess.

Rose grabbed a hairbrush off the counter and returned to the bedroom. She gazed uncertainly around the room and moved to sit on one of the beds. Perched on the edge, she closed her eyes for a few seconds and then shuffled back onto the bed to sit cross-legged, facing her friend. Molly had seated herself in one of the overstuffed chairs, still trying to recover from the shock of seeing Rose alive. Molly wanted, needed, to hear everything, but her practical side came to the fore first.

"What can I get you, darlin? Somethin hot? Have you eaten? You look starved."

"Hot tea would be wonderful, thanks."

Molly rang for service and ordered a large pot from the porter. Rose finally looked composed enough to talk.

"Tell me everything Rose, starting from when you disappeared back into Titanic as your mother and I called to you from the lifeboat."

"Oh God…that seems like a lifetime ago. I can't believe it was only … I really don't know how many days have passed since then."

Rose proceeded to relate all that had transpired on Titanic, beginning with the moment she went back to look for Jack Dawson. Her tale was interrupted by the arrival of the hot tea, and she drank with relish, letting the soothing heat of the fluid spread throughout her body.

Molly interjected only a few questions, choosing to allow Rose to tell the story at her own pace. When she came to the details about their time in the water, Rose struggled.

"Jack had me swim, and we finally found a board and I climbed on but it couldn't hold us both. And he stayed with me but it was so cold and the screaming and the cries for help were all around us but Jack reassured me and he was so calm he made me feel that everything would be all right but I couldn’t think and I was numb all over and the stars were oh so close and it got so quiet and there was a song in my head..."

Molly could feel her own heart ache in empathy at the anguish in the words. Rose's eyes were wide with the remembered pain.

"When the lifeboat came I said, 'Jack, there's a boat', but he didn't answer and I shook him and he wouldn't move and we were going to be rescued but he was so cold……so cold….

"Jack …..Jack….." Rose couldn't go on. She stared ahead with unseeing eyes.

And Margaret Brown, always so proud of her own inner strength and not one to reveal her soft side, felt her heart breaking as she watched the poor girl and, for the first time in many a day, she began to cry.

Outside the rain had abated, its sound replaced by that of the wind gently passing through the still bare trees. After a few minutes, Rose continued.

"I hid from everyone and everything on Carpathia. I didn't intend to stay away forever but the longer I did, the more right it seemed. After we docked I waited on deck until I saw you all depart in the carriages. It was easy enough to find your destination from one of the White Star officials; they bent over backwards to be helpful. At the bottom of the ramp when the steward asked my name I told him, 'Rose Dawson.'

"Of course he wouldn't find that name, but as he searched his passenger list he was distracted so I slipped into the crowd. I saw him look for me briefly but there was so much commotion that he gave up… I suppose the White Star people are still wondering who Rose Dawson is.

"I knew where the Waldorf-Astoria was; I'd been to New York several times with Mother. I walked upriver along the piers, until the crowd first thinned and then all but disappeared. As each street passed the nightmare seemed farther and farther behind me, and at the 34th Street dockyard I pulled an empty crate over myself and rested, though not for long."

Rose picked up the hairbrush and absent-mindedly stroked her hair as she spoke.

"In the first light the next morning… this morning… I came east across the city. The rain was intense; the streets were flooded and very crowded. I stopped at the Red Cross shelter and, though they tried to get me to stay, I accepted only their offer of a biscuit and some coffee. For some time I stood across from the hotel carriage entrance, not knowing what I was going to do. Then I saw you and Mother and Cal come out and when they got into a carriage and headed back the way I'd come, towards Pennsylvania Station, I knew they were going to take a train back home. So I just drifted around the city, watching people living and breathing and going on about their day as though Titanic had never happened, and I so much envied them! I wished I could be like them and live like them because, to them, Titanic was just something that the paperboys yelled about, something that had happened to 'someone else'. They didn't have to try to forget….

"I saw newspapers from the past few days lying in the alleyways and their headlines said, 'All Hope Lost', and I thought, 'That's about us, about all those men and women. That's about Jack'…..

"In the end, I believed you were the only person who would understand, who I could trust, so I waited across the garden until I saw that you were alone."

Rose took a few deep breaths. She was obviously relieved to have gotten the story out, jumbled as it was. She stopped stroking her hair and looked doubtfully at the brush, as though unsure how it had gotten into her hand. Placing it on the bed stand, she picked up her cup and took another sip of tea.

Molly shifted in her chair uneasily and decided to broach what she felt might be a sensitive subject.

"Rose, darlin, we really oughta send word to your Mom." She had decided to leave Cal out of the equation for the time being.

Rose put her tea down, drew her legs up and hugged her knees to her chest. Her face was buried in her robe, lost somewhere beneath the cascade of her hair. The only movement was the gentle rocking of her body as she breathed. Molly waited, the silence complete but for the quiet ticking of a clock.

Rose had known since she had decided to confide in Molly that it would eventually come to this.

"No," she said gently, but with a tone of finality that precluded any further discussion. She raised her head.

"Molly, when I saw Cal and Mother get into that carriage together I realized that everything I hated about my life was right there in front of me and when the doors closed on them, well, that part of my life was closed as well.

"Mother could never understand what Jack meant to me because her own need to be a member of 'society' blinded her to the needs of my life." The word 'society' left Rose's lips laced with seventeen years of frustration and overbearing control.

"She thought I didn't understand love; thought I couldn't possibly love Jack as much as I did because it wouldn't fit into her plans.

"Her whole lifestyle was squeezing the breath of life out of me, until I was like a swimmer caught too deep, pulling for the surface desperate for air. Then Jack came along and everything changed. In a few short days he lifted me up and filled my heart like I never could have imagined….

"It was everything to me, yet Mother couldn't have cared less about my feelings."

Rose hid her eyes from Molly, ashamed of what she had to say next.

"When Jack saved me from falling…do you remember?….I was actually planning to jump. It was the lowest point of my life; it just seemed that there was nothing to live for and suddenly he appeared, and his voice called to me and beckoned me back."

Rose's head slumped back and she closed her eyes. Small pools of wetness formed in the corners of her eyes and began flowing down her cheeks. Molly realized that, as it had been with the other women, the pain could be dammed for only so long and finally would seek a way out. She crossed the room to sit beside Rose and embraced her about the shoulders. The tears, set free, flowed readily.

After a while, Rose cleared her nose, wiped her eyes with the back of her sleeve, and was able to continue.

"On that board I could feel my spirit leaving my body but something called me back. I could hear Jack saying, 'Not here, not on this night', and I was filled with our spirit, his and mine, and it was as if I was to be reborn to begin to live the life we should have had together.

"Destiny…" Rose faltered, and Molly understood that the word pressed down on the girl like a cruel joke.

Rose gently wiped her eyes once more.

" I was in limbo from the time the lifeboat rescued me until the moment that carriage took Mother and Cal out of my life."

Rose sighed heavily, then got up and went into the bath. Opening a drawer, she removed an ornately embossed black box and brought back it into the bedroom.

Molly saw what she had in her hand and immediately understood what she intended.

"Rose, dear, no."

Rose seated herself on the writing desk chair. She opened the box and laid the contents out on the desk.

"Yes, Molly... yes.

"It's time for Rose DeWitt Bukater to die."


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