Chapter Twenty-Six


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 much."

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 tightly.

"Everything okay here?" Molly asked, with genuine concern.

"It is now."

"You know where to find me."

"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!"

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 asked.

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 exercise."

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

Jack … 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 strange…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… For a 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….dirty, unworthy….of being granted such a love, until…

'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 have become…anyone.

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 to myself…. 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 ingrained now.

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….a martyr?

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 say goodbye.

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 cloud top.

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 flash.

'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, but annoying.

"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 ask you….

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 near.

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 expense.

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 nights.

As much as can be hoped, I have absolution.

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 me.

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 palm…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?

No… What IS our love? What will it be?

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 and…yes…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 Atlantic.

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 completed.

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.


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