|With a spirited assist from Cal, Molly had swiftly
dealt with Wallace Hammond. He was thoroughly exposed and discredited, as Rose had hoped,
and was on the road to a long stretch in a federal prison. Cal had returned to
Philadelphia the next morning, and Rose met with Molly soon afterwards, just before her
friend boarded a train bound for Denver. "Well, you pulled it off, darlin," Molly
said. "I had my doubts, I don't mind tellin ya."
"That makes two of us! Once
again, I couldn't have done it without you. Thanks for your help."
"Nonsense! You did me a big
favor, so maybe we should just call us square," Molly replied. "Cal asked me if
he could keep the fake necklace and I told him I reckoned I wouldn't miss it all that
Molly laughed at her own joke.
"Guess it made him pine away
for the real one. Trouble is, the real jewel got away from him long ago," she added
with a wink.
Rose smiled and hugged her friend
"Everything okay here?"
Molly asked, with genuine concern.
"It is now."
"You know where to find
"Yes. . . And I promise to
come visit you in Colorado one of these days."
"You do just that, darlin!
I'd be tickled pink. . . Well, time for me to catch my train."
They hugged again, and Molly
headed for her carriage.
"Remember to check on my
mother," Rose called after her.
"I won't forget. I'll make
sure she's getting on okay. Merry Christmas, Rose!"
"Merry Christmas to you, too,
Molly was halfway into her
carriage when she hesitated, stepped back down, and retraced her steps to Rose's side.
"I forgot to tell ya. There's
one thing I will always regret."
"What's that?" Rose
Molly's face wrinkled in delight.
"That I didn't get to see it
with my own eyes when you gave the kayo to Wallace's family jewels!"
They both laughed loudly, and
Molly continued chuckling all the way back to her carriage. Her smile still held as she
waved farewell from the rear window.
Once again, Rose was sad to see
her friend leave.
We will cross paths again,
she thought. Of that I am sure.
Rose smiled, recalling Molly's
parting comment, as she walked to the stables a few weeks later. Snow crunched beneath her
boots, and her breath streamed into the frigid air.
After a fortnight's lull, winter
had tightened its grip on the city once again as the new year settled in. New York was
harsh enough in an ordinary January, but this cold snap left the populace fresh out of
adjectives to describe it, all of them tried and found wanting by the end of the first
week. The passing fronts brought snow and clouds, but mostly they brought the winds.
Born on Arctic ice, these winds
had been reared on the shores of Hudson's Bay and had grown to manhood scaling the peaks
of the Adirondacks. By the time they reached New York they roared unrelentingly through
the streets, as though racing towards some impossible rendezvous to the south.
The city was in shock from the
cold. Many businesses had been shut down for days, unable to adequately heat their
workspaces or obtain supplies. Mr. Souster's factory was among the casualties.
Rose had gone to see Mr. Carson on
her first unexpectedly free day, and the iceman had been philosophical, relaxing in front
of a fire at home.
"Tis an unplanned vacation
for me, is all, but this happens near every winter. No need for the iceman when it's
simple enough for folks to fetch their own by steppin outside with a pick. Feel free to
ride Red for as long as this freeze lasts; it'll be good for him to get the
Rose had taken the horse out
almost every day, though the wind had chilled her to the bone and forced all their
excursions to be short ones. She was very close to coming down with 'cabin fever' after a
claustrophobic week at the weather's mercy, but on this morning the winds had miraculously
stopped, leaving an eerie silence over the frosted cocoon that encased New York. Countless
wisps of steam, no longer driven horizontally, meandered lazily skyward into the dazzling
blue. Though the temperature was still well below zero, the wind's absence made the air
feel positively balmy to the residents who dared end their hibernations.
Rose had dressed prepared for the
worst, but her hopes were high for an opportunity to finally enjoy a long outing. She
mounted Red and then walked the horse out of the stable while smoothing her clothing till
no cracks remained for the cold to sneak into.
They started north at a slow
canter, staying on the West End of the island where most of the roads were still unplowed
and impassible to traffic. The city was like a wonderland, and it reminded Rose of the
winters of her youth, when all she noticed of Philadelphia as she traveled with her father
was the snow
the glorious snow
oblivious to the reality beneath.
She breathed deeply.
A new year, Rose thought.
God, my angels, Daddy
whoever is watching over me. . . Thank you
Daddy, I hope you hear me now.
Your little girl is going to be just fine. Hammond is discredited; no one will ever listen
to him again. His greed dug his own grave; if he hadn't been stealing Molly's money he
would have been able to convince Cal about my still being alive somehow... eventually. Now
he is the 'boy who cried wolf.'
The only two people who know the
truth about me are Gina and Molly, and I would trust either of them with my life. It's
Hammond found me through Molly, I found Cora when I chased Hammond's henchman
way back in April, I met Gina when looking for a job in Cora's neighborhood, Gina and
Molly helped me be rid of Hammond. Funny how it goes in a circle. And without Mr. Mole
having stolen my handbag, I never would have met. . . Thomas.
Daddy, I have recalled your words
every day. They speak to me whenever I question my life's fairness. 'Receive once, give
twice, receive forever.'
Fairness doesn't matter; character
does. When Red needed me, I was able to help him. He may be just a horse to others, but to
me he represents everything that I want in my new life - adventure, freedom, exhilaration.
And seeing Red always reminds me of Jack, and of my promise to him. I HAD to save Red; if
he had died part of my dream would have died along with him. Through whatever
intervention, I was there when he was in trouble.
Gina needed me, as I needed Jack.
Nothing I could ever do in my life could match what Jack did for me ... nothing ... but I
stood for Gina, and I could feel my strength growing as I did. Almost as precious as a
perfect love is a perfect friendship, and it's just as rare, just as important to fight
for, and it feels so good to do so. It truly does.
I understand what you were telling
me, Daddy. Your quiet lessons, your guidance
I could never fully appreciate them
until now. I'll never be able to thank Jack for what he did for me ... not until he and I
meet once again. But I can repay the fates, the angels, who brought him to me by following
his spirit. As I can repay you by being true to your teachings, by being your living
legacy. I can feel it all coming back, drawing full circle.
Without realizing it, Rose had
traveled north as far as Central Park. She angled Red eastward into the wooded grounds and
along the horse path. His breath came in thick clouds and his body steamed slightly from
his exertion, so Rose slowed him to a walk, allowing him to rest some. They moved quietly
among bare-limbed trees and evergreens flocked with white. The world was nearly silent
around them, the snow softening all sounds.
I never knew, I was never sure,
until that moment in Hammond's suite. I'd always agonized that maybe your love was real,
your feelings for me strong, pure, that perhaps you were just unable to express your
emotions. Could a mind so awash in profit margins coexist with a good heart? I thought
that I might have judged you too unfairly.
You'll never know how much I'd
been torn by these questions, chastising myself. Not that I ever loved you
time I thought I did, but I was really just mistaking the flattery I felt at your
attention for something more within me. No, I never loved you, but perhaps you had loved
me and I had really, truly hurt you, and when I thought about all that had happened
between us in that light, it seemed to be the worst, the most callous way I had ever
treated anyone. You said I had dishonored you, and I felt the weight of those words as
much as I felt the sting of your hand hard against my face. I thought, 'I should feel more
shame than I do; more guilt', and I was even willing to forgive your shooting at us as an
act of desperation, arising from deep pain
pain that I had caused. Despite my love
for Jack, I felt somehow
.of being granted such a love,
'At the bottom of the Atlantic ...
where she belongs.'
The ice in your voice, the
finality of it ... You put my mind at peace.
You never loved me; you just loved
having me with you. Maybe in your mind that was one and the same, I don't know. I was just
another checkbox on your list for building a successful high-society life: obtain a young
bride to charm your business associates and to make their spouses jealous. God, what a
world that is! But you belong there.
I never did.
You asked me to open my heart to
you, and you sounded so sincere, I was really confused. I thank God that I resisted your
plea. Yes, you'd never have denied me any material things, but I've seen hundreds of
people who have had every luxury that their hearts desired, and few were truly happy. I
think if I had bared my feelings to you, you would have torn me apart, and I never would
But on Titanic, on that night when
you first showed me the 'Heart', I was still frozen with doubts.
Then Jack helped me find the path
. But, still, only you could set me free to follow it.
And you have.
You were right about one thing,
though. We DO make our own luck.
Rose had looped around the lake at
the heart of the park and decided to pause for a while to watch the budding activity
there. The first townsfolk had arrived, bundled within layer upon layer of clothes, their
blades tied over their shoulders. They were busy with push-brooms and shovels, trying to
clear away enough snow to create a space sufficient for skating. Rose's mind went back to
July 4th, when they had all envied the boaters out on the very same lake. It
seemed a lifetime had passed since. So much had changed.
She chirped to Red and they headed
west once again, towards the river. Many more people were out and about the city now.
Children sledded up and down the icy streets as their parents and neighbors gathered in
tight clusters, warming their hands around fires, catching up on a week's backlog of
gossip. Vendors pushed their carts to their usual stations, and a few wagons- the mail,
the gazettes, the police- braved the roads, slipping and sliding as they went.
I remember a day like this last
winter, Rose mused, when Mother had asked Trudy to go to the market to get a lemon
for her tea- one lemon!- and the girl had nearly broken an arm on the ice. I always
suspected that mother knew the market wouldn't have any lemons in the dead of a winter
freeze, but I gave her the benefit of the doubt rather than think her so drunk on her
position that she would frivolously endanger the girl. Would that have been me in 10
years, sending my maid out on a whim, unthinking, unfeeling?
Mother, I still think we would
have been all right without Cal and his money. We both would have had to struggle, but for
most, life is one long struggle anyway. Why should we expect different? Who are we?
How foolish of me to ask. These
questions would fall on deaf ears. Your presumption of privilege in life is all too deeply
I hope you're okay. I asked Molly
to check on you, to make sure Cal is watching out for you.
More than anyone, you have left me
with jumbled emotions. This confusion was inevitable, Titanic or not, but on the ship you
had played so on my sympathy, my guilt; coercing in a manner not suited to a mother's
relationship with her own daughter. You laid such a heavy load on my shoulders. What were
you thinking as you shot daggers at Jack with your cold, unblinking eyes? Were you even
considering me at all?
My God, Mother, I love you
but I hate you sometimes. Can you understand that? I would give almost anything for this
to be different...almost anything
but I wouldn't do the one thing you demanded. I
wouldn't give in.
Why did it have to be that way?
Couldn't you have loved me enough to want what was best for ME?
Maybe you thought Cal WAS best for
me; I'd like to believe that. The alternative is too painful to consider.
You bewildered me so when I was
little. You railed at Father unmercifully, and often I didn't hear your words, only your
anger. Yet, when he became ill, you were so soft, and the tears you wept at his side while
he slept tore at my heart. I cried along with you, a room apart, every night.
I saw a side of you that had
seemed long vanished- the mother I had been missing. But when he died, your hard exterior
returned, shutting me out, and your despair turned into bitterness. Why couldn't you let
me in? Why did you have to be so stubbornly proud
Society would never have loved me,
Cal wouldn't have, and so I needed you to
. but you wouldn't either. You never let me
be just a little girl, nor just a young woman. You always demanded more. And the
bickering, the chastising, the lectures would have grown unbearable.
I love you, Mother, but I am not
you. And I'm glad that I will be able to raise my children free of the emotional scars of
your kind of expectations. I am ashamed to say I feel that way, but I do.
Mother, there is one thing I truly
do wish. There are many things I would like to explain.
I wish we had another chance to
Rose had arrived at the river, and
she looked out on a sight usually reserved for crazed dreamscapes - at mid-city the Hudson
was frozen solid all the way across to the western shore. The papers had reported that the
ice was two feet thick in places, and some wags had declared it a sign that the end of the
world was at hand. On the near shore, stationed on the frozen surface alongside the giant
ships anchored there, bedraggled crews chipped at the edge of the ice without respite,
trying to keep clear water around the hulls so that the force of the moving floe did not
crush the ships like tin cans. A few scattered boats had been unable to reach safe haven
in time when the water had crystallized, and they stood frozen in mid-river like
sculptures in an ice garden, frosted with snow, their sides slashed open but their bulk
kept buoyant by the ice.
The river's surface had all week
been a white maelstrom, a no-man's land of stinging wind and driving snow, but now, with
barely a waft of wind crossing it, people had begun to trickle out onto the ice in
amazement. The snow-cover on most of the river's face was too deep to allow skating, but
the wind had rubbed a few bare spots here and there and intrepid New Yorkers had
discovered them and begun delightedly tracing their tight figures.
Rose angled Red down the
embankment and to the shore of the Hudson. The line where the river ended and the land
began was indistinguishable. She thought the horse would be afraid, but to Red the river
must have looked like one long, wide roadway, for he strode out onto the ice without
pause. She walked the colt slowly away from the shore until they were nearly 200 yards
out, and then she reined him around.
The sight took her breath away.
The city's towering buildings rose up out of the white like spires of a magical kingdom,
one set in clouds of steam. The sun reflected from a thousand snowy roofs, sparkled in ten
thousand windows, and glistened with shards of light off a million tree limbs thick with
ice. The New York of yesterday - dusty, sooty, smoky - had ceased to exist, replaced by a
frozen dream. Rose imagined that it must be what Heaven looked like, approaching from a
The sound of laughter drifted to
her from nearby, and she walked Red towards the voices. Several men and their small sons
had hacked their way through the ice and sat in a riotous circle around the hole, their
fishing lines disappearing into the jet-black water at the bottom.
The words came back to her in a
'Ice fishing's where you chop a
hole in the ...'
'I know what ice fishing is!'
Rose smiled at the memory now. She
had been so distraught that night, their first night; Jack had seemed annoying. Charming,
"I've got a bite, papa!"
one of the boys screamed in delight, and he began reeling his line in furiously, his
father steadying the rod.
Jack, I can picture you and your father
fishing just like this. Did you yell when you caught a fish? Did your father help you and
hug you and laugh with you, always? Did you look like him? Was he proud of you to the
point of bursting?
There are so many questions I'd love to
Rose wheeled Red southbound and
they walked along the ice just outside the ends of the piers. She looked across the wide
expanse to the opposite shore. New Jersey looked so close, as though she could reach
across the ice and touch its palisades as she sat in her saddle.
If you could see me now, what would you
think? I wish we could sit and talk, as we did on the deck of Titanic. I have so much I
want to say to you.
The first months after, I thought I would
never be whole again. Never feel unburdened, even for a minute, of the fear, the guilt,
the blame, the shame ... Time heals all wounds, but often the scarring is deep.
So why do I feel so free of it all now?
Because you have been with me every day ... You, and the promise you drew from me. It gave
me direction, hope, a reason to go on when I was at my lowest point.
You carried me when I still needed you
Jack, I'm free of the guilt, of wondering
why others died and I did not. I am NOT guilty of some sin simply because I survived; I
know that in my heart. Though I can still hear the cries, the screams, I know I need not
carry those sounds with me any longer.
I'm free of the fear that Cal was truly
hurt by what happened back there. He cared, but in the wrong way, a soulless way. He is
better off without me. As, in a way, is Mother. She would have leaned on me so hard that
it would have crippled us both.
It's been so long since that night that
sometimes I think it all never happened ... like a nightmare that seems to be so real, but
that you know will dissolve at the first light of dawn. Then I remember ...
In all ways, I acted as I had to. Some
may say our love was frivolous, that I acted like a child; others will call me a fool for
having jumped back onto Titanic to be with you. They can't know what they are saying. If
they utter those words, then they have never truly loved.
No, I had to try, I had to do what I did.
I was brave ... WE were brave.
No regrets, and no shame at all. Shame?
No.. I'm proud of how we acted. We fought for our chance to survive at no one else's
I am free of the horror, the terror, the
disaster. I will remember it always but it will not control my days. It will not fill my
As much as can be hoped, I have
I'm free of it all... except for you.
What were we, Jack? What was our love?
I said we were like ships crossing in the
night, and you had laughed. But we were, and we almost missed in the crossing. When we
talked, laughed, fantasized, I began to realize what it meant to be alive, and when we
danced my mind was spinning faster than my body. After it was over, I could still feel the
imprint of your hand on my back, burning like a brand, sending waves of heat throughout
It was like opening the cover of a
sparkling new fairy tale and discovering the magic within; a world beyond.
And when we met at the bow of Titanic,
the smile you gave to me was so warm, so beautiful, that I knew in my heart right then
that I had made the right decision. Your fingers stroking mine, soft against my
when our hands were wound up as one, my heart swelled and swelled so that I was
sure it would burst from my chest ... I had never imagined that love could fill one so
suddenly, so completely.
You eased my fears and erased my doubts.
You touched me as a kindred spirit, hastening my childhood's end and allowing the woman in
me to be truly born. You helped me to find my courage, to learn the true value of life.
And you died to save me.
So, what was our love?
What IS our love? What will it
Remember when we saw the shooting star
from the ship, how beautiful it was?
For me, our love is that star, soaring
faster, brighter, brighter still ... but never reaching the end, never flaring out.
Instead, it is stopped in time, burning hot forever.
The love we have is beautiful, complete,
and in my heart it will remain that way ... frozen in perfection, never fading.
I know I can go on to live, to laugh
to love, and none of that will ever dim what we have. It will always be
hung high over my head, fixed in the heavens, lighting my life forever.
I dream the same dream now, every night,
and I know that one day I will enter the reception room, I will walk up the grand
staircase, and you will be waiting with a smile that speaks to me all the words that you
never had a chance to say. I know this with every fiber of my being.
Rose and Red had trotted as far
south as the Battery. A few hundred yards ahead lay the jagged southern edge of the floe,
abruptly ending where the salty brine of the ocean halted the ice's spread. Loud cracks
filled the air as chunks of the floe broke off and floated away into the cold, ice-strewn
Rose looked around, at the
pristine city, the sea, the white road stretching to forever behind her, and then she
gazed a few miles across the water to the Statue of Liberty, standing in the harbor mouth.
She stared at the statue, reliving the pain, the anguish, the loneliness, the rain that
had seemed to be the tears of God's angels
.and her circle was
She turned Red to the north and
clucked to him, urging him faster, faster, until the snow and the ice and the city were
one white blur under the perfect blue ceiling. He ran surer and more smoothly than he had
ever run before, kicking up soft puffs of powder with each long stride, and it was as
though they were gliding together through a dream. Rose raised up slowly from the saddle,
his speed pressing upon her, and she welcomed the numbing cold and the biting wind, her
tears crystallizing as they fell against her cheek.
Her love was frozen, her heart
open again, and her life stretched before her, just as Jack had promised.
Standing up full height in the
stirrups, all in perfect balance, Rose closed her eyes, and she could feel Jack's fingers
intertwine with hers once more, his breath warm against her cheek. Then she opened her
eyes once again and, slowly spreading her arms out wide, she began to fly.