|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
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
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
I just had to sit down and write to you. I hope this finds you
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
"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
"You're as good as family
here, Gina," Mrs. O'Reilly said, and her husband nodded; an enthusiastic response for
"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
Rose shot a startled look at the
"What do you mean?" she
"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
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
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
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
"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
"Rose, it's chestnuts!"
Gina begged, and Rose realized she was fighting a losing battle.
"All right, just a few for
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
"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
"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
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
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.
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
day walking in the city, when my bag was stolen
those eyes, that mole
I think it
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,
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
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
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
"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
Hammond leaned forward, narrowing
the gap between them so he could lower his voice, despite their near solitude in the large
"I've been growing impatient
with all this, so perhaps it's just speeding up the inevitable, your spotting us together
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
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