Chapter Twenty-Three


The dream was coming almost every night. She was in a house, amid a terrible, driving rainstorm, and the roof was leaking badly, water was pouring in. It streamed in through every crack, thwarting all her attempts to plug the holes, and it rose around her, threatening to rot the very building itself. Then, in a blink, Jack was beside her and they were outside, in the warm sun, and the house stood before them -whole, perfect, saved - and they embraced…. and their lips met, everything seemed right…and then it started to rain again and her feeling of hopelessness returned. Another blink, and she found herself on the decks of Titanic, strolling arm-in-arm with Jack. They walked up to the entrance to the reception area and she could see the grand staircase through the glass, see so many familiar faces, but she couldn't enter, the doorman wouldn't let her by, and as she stared longingly inside, pressing her face against the partition, she realized that Jack was no longer by her side, and all that remained of his essence were his whispered words lingering on the sea air …."promise me"….


Despite Rose's doubts, Wallace Hammond's assurances held true, and they were no longer bothered by Anthony. For a while he did send cards and flowers to Gina, tokens of his ardor, but Gina just opened the notes, read them briefly, and dropped them into the wastebasket without a word. They had encountered Anthony by chance on the street one afternoon, and he greeted his ex-girlfriend tenderly, ignoring Rose. He offered Gina profuse apologies, blaming devotion and a love spiraled out of control, but she already had a pantry-full of his excuses and wasn't buying any more. Anthony fidgeted, obviously sensitive about appearing to harass the women while at the same time attempting to plead his case. Gina was in no mood to talk and just said goodbye, turned her back, and strode purposefully away. Rose lagged behind for a few seconds, smiling smugly at him before rejoining her friend.

After the events of that fateful Sunday, Rose and Gina had returned Red to his stall via the horse wagon. Mr. Carson had come running at Sean's call, frantic over the injury, but he listened to Rose's explanation and, to his credit, accepted the loss of his horse's services with equanimity once he understood the circumstances.

"I guess Red and I owed you that much," he had said to Rose. "Anyways, I'll just hitch old Faith to the wagon for the time being, while Red mends up. He'll be good as new."

On the way back to her flat, Rose had reasoned with Gina, insisting that she move in with her for the time being. Gina half-heartedly demurred at first, citing the bother for Rose, but she quickly relented.

She's feeling very alone right about now, Rose thought as she helped Gina bring her belongings into the apartment. It'll be a bit crowded, but it'll do us each of us good to have the other near.

Mr. Souster had welcomed Gina back warmly, and the two women settled back into their workaday routine. On the weekends they shopped together or ate dinner at a quiet restaurant and, on Sundays, Cora was thrilled to have a friend to hold each end of the jump rope as she skipped.

Both women were content to have their lives wrap snugly around them for a while; all social considerations put on the back burner. Gina seemed to be mending well, but some nights Rose would startle awake suddenly, well before dawn, to see Gina sitting at the window, eyes glistening, lost in thought.

Rose visited Red faithfully each Sunday of his recuperation, washing him, feeding him and seeing that he got adequate exercise by walking him monotonously around and around on the soft ground of the stable while his hoof grew out and healed.

The days went by, and the weeks blended one into the next.

Rose's heart jumped one evening, upon checking her mailbox, when she realized that the letter lying inside was from Thomas. She sat propped against the headboard of her bed and deliberately opened the envelope.

"I've been thinking about you…I hope you don't mind," the letter began, and Rose laughed.

Thomas' handwriting was neat and concise; proper yet warm, friendly.

"As my mother can attest, I'm not much for letter-writing, so I guess I might have caught something from one of the patients…I just had to sit down and write to you. I hope this finds you well…"

He continued with some news about life at the University, but he was mostly concerned with Gina and Rose and wondered about any further troubles with Anthony.

"My mother has told me that Gina has moved in with you temporarily," he wrote. "She adores Gina and is happy to have such wonderful 'older sisters' for Cora and John. She wasn't able to tell me much about what happened beyond the fact that Gina had had 'a falling out' with her boyfriend. How did you manage to get Anthony and his temper out of your lives?"

Rose had pondered her reply for several days. She didn't want to lie to Thomas but she found it difficult to explain Mr. Hammond's sudden appearance without mentioning Molly and Titanic, and she wasn't prepared to tell him all of that, at least not yet. She answered him truthfully, if a bit obliquely.

"Anthony was persuaded by circumstances to move on with his life and to forget about Gina. He has not been a concern for quite a while."

Rose had many other things she burned to say to Thomas, but as she wrote her thoughts out in several different fashions, each page ended crumpled up in the bottom of the wastebasket. Gina had silently observed her efforts and smiled understandingly as each note proved inadequate.

In the end, Rose felt her response a bit terse, but she found it an acceptable compromise between what her heart wished to say and what her hand could bear to write.


Rose and Gina invited the O'Reillys to be their guests for Thanksgiving dinner. Mrs. O'Reilly had declined at first, noting that their apartment was too small for so many people and that it would be too much of a burden on them as hosts. They then tried to convince her to agree to an alternate plan - they would do all the preparations and cooking if she would let them use her kitchen and dining area - and to this the woman finally acquiesced.

It was a warm, wonderful holiday for them all. Rose and Gina had to shoo Mrs. O'Reilly from her own kitchen several times; the woman was just not used to being served in her own home and kept popping in to offer assistance. Cora and John helped prepare the table, and the resulting feast was a perfectly delicious collaboration.

During the evening, Rose watched Gina as she interacted with the children.

She's really, truly relaxing now, Rose thought, and I can see she will be a wonderful mother. She has always put on a carefree front, even when things were at their worst, but I can see now that she really IS feeling light-hearted.

This made Rose happy, and proud of her own actions on her friend's behalf.

"It's so nice to spend a Thanksgiving like this," Gina offered, looking around the table. "Almost like my own family."

"You're as good as family here, Gina," Mrs. O'Reilly said, and her husband nodded; an enthusiastic response for him.

"Too bad Thomas couldn't be here," Rose added.

"Yes, tis a shame for sure," Mrs. O'Reilly responded, "and we're gonna miss him somethin fierce come Christmas, then."

Rose shot a startled look at the woman.

"What do you mean?" she asked.

"Oh, you don't know, then. We received a note from Thomas just yesterday. Seems he was given the opportunity to work and observe at the hospital in Cambridge over the winter break and he decided it was something he couldn't pass up."

Rose's body sagged and she clasped her hands tightly in her lap. The O'Reillys went on with their dinner, oblivious to her reaction, but she was aware that Gina had stopped eating and was watching her closely.

Many weeks earlier, after Rose had finished telling Gina about Titanic, her friend had asked only a few questions. Rose had not told her of Jack…no, Jack had to live on in her own secret place…and so Gina was unclear as to why Rose was still on Titanic when it finally sank. Rose had explained about her horror at seeing the supremely selfish sides of both Cal and her mother, and how she had fled from them back into the ship, gotten lost in the tumult, and was unable to board another lifeboat in time.

Gina had nodded, staring into space, imagining the terror of that night, and then had looked directly at Rose.

"I appreciate your telling me all that; I know it was hard for you….. Since you're feeling more comfortable sharing now, let me ask you another question," she said, a smile forming on her lips. "You really like Thomas, don't you?"

Rose felt embarrassment and then relief wash over her as she was finally able to admit to her feelings.

"Yes, I do…a lot. But the time is still not right for me; I'm not ready to fall in love again. There is so much I need to do first."

Rose's mind returned to the Thanksgiving feast before her. She looked across the table and met Gina's gaze, and her friend smiled at her in sympathy.

Everything seems so settled now in my new life, Rose thought. Calm. Maybe it's time I started to think about moving forward, doing all those things that Jack and I spoke about.

I have asked myself over and over 'could this include Thomas?' That question is still too difficult for me to answer…it's hard to sort out all my feelings.

Maybe that decision has been made for me. 'The time is not right'; that's what I said back then. I meant I just needed a little time and freedom to be able to live my life, to experience it fully; that's all.

They say you should be careful what you wish for.


By early December, New York had been stripped of any reminders of seasons past. The limbs of the trees lay bare to the winds, and the grasses of summer had gone a dull brown. The sun lay low in the sky even at midday, and its feeble, angled light was unable to chase the cold from its roost at the feet of the towering buildings. The city itself took to arms, fending off the cold hands of winter with its own warm breath.

Steam seemed to arise from every building, every grating, every manhole, until it was as though all the heat of the earth was being called forth to do battle with the elements. Boilers went full bore, fighting the good fight, as the great metropolis hissed and squealed at Nature's bid for dominance, as though saying 'Come, take your best shot.'

Rose, Gina and the O'Reilly children walked among the clouds of steam, heading for another Saturday afternoon at the flickers. They had become regulars at the show, attending at least every other weekend.

At first it had been little more than a diversion for Rose, but as she saw the moving images up on the screen, two new stories each week, she became fascinated by the whole world of make-believe being fashioned out in Hollywood.

It had made her recall her one brush with stardom: playing the lead in a play at the Academy when she was ten; playing a man, no less, seeing as there were no boys allowed at the school. The parents in attendance that night were surely a biased, captive audience, but still the applause she had received had made her flush all over, goose bumps rising. She could still feel the thrill, so many years removed, and shivered with the memory.

Could I do that now? she wondered.

They took their seats for the matinee showing of two new films, "At Coney Island" and "Musketeers of Pig Alley". Gina was especially eager to see the latter as it starred her new heartthrob, the dashing Lionel Barrymore, and the children were agog to see the former movie about one of their favorite places. An hour and a half later they re-emerged into the late afternoon light, drawing their coats about them.

"That was great!" John said. "That Coney Island one was funny!"

"Yes," Gina agreed. "And that Lionel Barrymore is so handsome!"

John shot her an exasperated look and blurted out "Girls!"; Gina just smiled sweetly in return. Rose shook her head at both of them and they all headed towards home. Suddenly, the air around them was aswirl with a mouth-watering aroma and Rose turned, searching for its source. It carried from a vendor's cart stationed across the avenue.

"Oh, roasting chestnuts! That smells SO delicious!" Gina said.

"Can we have some, Rosie?" Cora implored.

"Yes, please," John added.

"I don't know, it's awfully close to your dinner time and I don't want to have your mother in a stew about me spoiling your appetites."

"Rose, it's chestnuts!" Gina begged, and Rose realized she was fighting a losing battle.

"All right, just a few for everyone, then."

They waited at the corner for a chance to cross and then the children raced ahead, Gina and Rose following at a walk. Standing beside the cart, Rose could feel the warmth emanating from within and could see the glowing coals lying at the bottom of the oven. Just over the coals a rack-full of sweet potatoes were baking, and on the grill above sat a pile of chestnuts, popping and snapping in the heat.

The children held their hands up to enjoy the rippling warmth rising from the cart as Rose made their purchase. She held the bag up to her nose, inhaling deeply.

"Oh, that is wonderful!" she exclaimed, spinning around, as though that one luxurious whiff threatened to lift her clear off the ground.

"Let me, let me!" Cora begged, and Rose passed the bag around for each to experience. As they walked she handed out chestnuts, and they all snapped the split shells open and extracted the soft, delectable centers with gusto.

They proceeded at a leisurely pace, stopping to look at the Christmas wares displayed in every shop window. The children were drawn to a toy emporium like moths to a flame, their eyes wide.

"We might as well pitch a tent," Gina said. "I think we'll be here a while."

Rose laughed. She was ashamed to admit that she still liked to look at the toys and games herself.

"Oh, Rosie, look! Look at the princess!" Cora said, and Rose leaned down next to the girl, their faces cheek to cheek.

"She is beautiful," Rose offered. The doll had long reddish-brown hair and was dressed in a glittering gold evening gown quite suited to her royal stature.

"She looks like you, Rosie," Cora remarked, and Rose was flattered by the compliment.

"Thank you, Miss Cora!" she replied. She pointed out a doll whose face was splattered with freckles. "And that one looks like you," she teased.

Gina began tugging insistently at Rose's sleeve.

"Isn't that Mr. Hammond over there?" she asked, pointing across the avenue.

Rose straightened up and looked in the direction Gina was indicating.

"Yes, I think so," Rose replied.

Mr. Hammond was turned slightly away from them, deep in conversation with a man who was face-forward to Rose.

"Let's go over and say hello," Gina said, and she grabbed the hands of the children to lead them.

"Okay," Rose agreed. As they started across the roadway once again, her attention was focused on the stranger speaking with Mr. Hammond.

He looks familiar, she thought. Very familiar.

As they neared, Rose was able to get a better look at the man. Dark skin and hair, dark eyes, and a small mole just beside his mouth……Rose stopped, recognition seeming to be right at her fingertips. As she paused, the man happened to glance up and notice the four of them approaching. His eyes flared for a brief second and he spoke quickly to Mr. Hammond, who looked back over his shoulder towards them.

The other man turned abruptly and walked quickly up the avenue. As Rose watched him go, her heart leapt into her throat.

That gait…I've seen it before, Rose thought, and recognition hit her like a thunderbolt.

Twice, at least, she realized. The last time, outside my apartment that night, spying on me, fleeing up the street when I challenged him. But before that…My God, before that….that first day walking in the city, when my bag was stolen…those eyes, that mole…I think it was HIM!

Rose could still picture clearly in her mind the sight of the thief moving rapidly away from her that afternoon, months before, walking with that same distinctive motion… It WAS him!

She suddenly realized that she was still standing in the middle of the road. Gina and the children stared back at Rose questioningly, and she hurried to complete her crossing. The four of them approached Mr. Hammond, who stood awaiting them with a smile.

"Miss Dawson, Gina, Cora…and you must be young Cora's brother, John," he said in greeting.

Gina exchanged pleasantries with him, introducing the man to the O'Reilly boy. John and Mr. Hammond shook hands formally, and then Cora insisted on shaking as well, wanting always to be on equal footing with her brother. Mr. Hammond's gaze turned to Rose.

"And how have you been, Miss Dawson? No further troubles, I trust?"

"Fine, sir. And, no, it's been very quiet," she responded, trying to gauge his expression.

"Out shopping, are you?" Mr. Hammond asked Cora.

"Just coming from the flickers, sir," the girl answered. "We're on our way home but Rosie and Gina let us look at all the toys."

"Well, don't let me keep you then, young miss," Mr. Hammond said, bowing to her.

Rose's mind raced, unsure what she should do.

I think Mr. Hammond needs to know that that man is a thief; he seems to be working for him. Why did he pick a man like that to keep an eye on me? Doesn't he know his background?

"Mr. Hammond, may I speak with you for a moment?" she asked.

"Surely, Miss Dawson," he replied. They walked a few steps away from the others for privacy.

"Mr. Hammond, that man you were just speaking with… I know him. I realize now that you sent him to watch over me, but I think you should know that he is a petty thief. He stole something of mine many months ago."

The man's eyes went wide and his face wrinkled in disbelief. He gazed beyond Rose for several seconds, looking into space as though weighing her statement, and then turned to address Gina and the children standing ten feet away.

"Gina, Rose and I have some matters we must discuss. Perhaps you could escort the children on home?"

Gina nodded and the children waved their good-byes as they headed up the sidewalk. Rose looked at Mr. Hammond, her nerves starting to tingle.

He called me 'Rose'.

Hammond glanced up at the signs of the establishments lining the avenue and gestured towards a nearby saloon.

"Perhaps we can go inside, get out of the cold?" he suggested, and she agreed.

The saloon was deserted so early in the day, and they sat at an empty table far in the back. Hammond waved the barmaid away and looked levelly at Rose for a minute before speaking.

"So you recognized him? How interesting. You don't miss much, do you Rose? Quite an amazing memory."

"Did you know he is a common crook?"

"Oh, he has many talents," he replied cryptically.

Rose could feel her insides tensing, alarms ringing throughout her body.

"I don't understand. What is going on?"

Hammond leaned forward, narrowing the gap between them so he could lower his voice, despite their near solitude in the large room.

"I've been growing impatient with all this, so perhaps it's just speeding up the inevitable, your spotting us together like that."

She stared at him, beginning to tremble slightly. His eyes had gone black.

"Yes, he works for me," he said, "and he and I have been groping around in the dark, so to speak, for quite some time, but just lately I have uncovered information that has greatly enlightened our search."

His face, so close, seemed to dwarf hers, his eyes swallowing her presence.

"It's time for this game to end," he continued.

"I know who you are, Miss Rose DeWitt Bukater."

Rose gasped; her breathing stopped and her heart raced unevenly. He paused, letting her digest his revelation.

"Yes, I know who you are, and you have something that I want…

"I want the 'Heart of the Ocean'."


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