Chapter Three

Rose removed a pair of scissors from the case and very deliberately began to cut away her hair. Without a mirror to guide her hand, her first cuts were erratic and uneven but she was unconcerned with the artistry of the result.

After a few wild snips Rose's hand was stayed by Molly's grip.

"If you're going to go through with this let me at least keep ya from butchering it."

Molly hadn't cut hair in a long time but, with two children, she'd had plenty of experience when they were young and she was still dirt poor. They'd been simple styles for sure, but Rose did seem to want hers that way.

"How short, darlin?"

"Quite short."

"Rose…. Are you sure about this?"


Molly set to her task and long chestnut strands of hair floated to earth around the chair. Rose sat perfectly still, her eyes closed, and minutes passed with only the sound of Rose's steady breathing and the metallic rasp of scissors at work.

Molly moved around Rose to examine her handiwork, then circled back and thoughtfully added some final cuts.

"Okay, darlin. Done as I'm gonna be."

Rose opened her eyes as though emerging from a trance and slowly looked at the clumps of her hair scattered on the carpet. She nodded almost imperceptibly, then shifted her focus to her hands. She splayed her fingers and examined them closely. Reaching for the cuticle scissors, she began cutting each finely-manicured nail down to the quick.

Molly returned the hair scissors to the case and leaned against the desk, silently watching Rose at work. The last nail cut, Rose again spread her fingers and considered the result. Molly retrieved a wastebasket from the bath, but when she stooped to begin cleaning the mess on the carpet Rose stopped her.

"Please, I need to do this," Rose said.

With almost painful slowness, Rose gathered every lock of hair and every cut cuticle and placed them into the basket. She glanced around to assure that she hadn't neglected any and, satisfied, placed the basket on the edge of the desk.

Suddenly, it was as though the toll of the accumulated emotions of the past two days caught up to Rose and what little energy she had seemed to drain from her body.

"I'm so very tired."

Rose walked to the bed closest to the windows, pulled down the bedspread, and got in. She was asleep almost as her hands pulled the covers up tight.

Molly replaced the case and the basket and stood over the sleeping form of Rose. The girl looked much too young to deal with the path she had chosen. She'd have to be strong.

"Rest well, darlin."


A thin shaft of early morning sunlight had sneaked through a gap in the curtains and was slowly edging up the length of Rose's bed. As it inched across her face, the dazzling brightness caused Rose to stir.

She couldn't remember where she was; the remainder of the room was still in deep shadow. She lifted her head and raised up a hand to shield her eyes from the light.

"Good mornin', Rose."

The sudden sound of a voice frightened her. For a few desperate seconds she imagined it was her Mother, or Cal, or some other acquaintance who would drag her back to her old world, to the existence she so hated. She'd tried so hard to avoid everyone, to stay hidden, to stay dead, but she'd been found out!

Then all the events of the previous night came back to her in a rush and she realized to whom the voice belonged.


A feeling of relief spread over her, but that simple peace was quickly swamped by the return of her pain.

"Good morning," she replied.

Molly waited for Rose's eyes to adjust and then pulled open the curtains, setting the room awash in sunlight. Molly had obviously been up and about for some time; she had quietly washed and dressed while Rose had slept. Rose must have still looked a bit anxious because Molly's face showed concern as she turned to her from the window.

"I startled ya some, I guess," Molly said.

"I just don't want anyone to know I'm here, that's all. I suppose I feel like a bit of a fugitive, as though I'm on the run. I guess I am, really."

Rose gathered herself from under the covers and walked across the room to the dresser. Molly watched her as she caught sight of herself in the mirror.

Rose ran a hand through the short layers of her hair. She let out a sound that was equal parts laugh and sob, and then a crooked smile formed on her face.

"Havin' second thoughts?" Molly asked.

Rose jerked her head quickly from side to side as if to shake out her hair; very little stirred. It was Molly's turn to laugh.

"Welcome to tomorrow, Rose."

As Rose ran a bath she noticed that Molly had neatly hung up her still-damp clothes. That's everything I have in the world, Rose thought. As she fingered the sleeve of the coat there was a rap on the bathroom door and Molly stuck her head in.

"Take your time in here, darlin. I've got to see a few ladies off, check on a few of the sick folk and run a couple of errands, but I'll be back soon enough. I ordered you some breakfast so don't be alarmed should someone come knockin' on the door."

Molly was gone before Rose could respond, and she heard the outer door close and latch.

Some people are trampled under crisis and some rise above it and shine, Rose thought. Molly was definitely in the latter group. Meeting her had been a revelation and a blessing.

Rose luxuriated in the hot bath, her mind bouncing between the sharp pain of Jack's memory and the wonder of the unknown future as it stretched before her. The steam rose into the air above the bath, swirling in soft eddies.

She closed her eyes.


Stop it! Rose thought. Please stop!

She hated the shrill voice of her mother's attack, hated the loudness of it.

Mostly she was scared.

Rose inched back into the far corner of the study trying to fuse into the wall, to flow right through it and re-appear somewhere, anywhere, else.

"You keep giving Phillip our money and you're going to ruin us!" her mother screamed.

The firmness in her father's voice couldn't disguise the unease that he felt.

"Ruth, his business is failing and he asked for our help. He has a family to care for. My God, Ruth, he's your brother!"

"What about our family? He's a good-for-nothing! His wife's family won't help them; they've disowned her!"

"Please, let's not go down that road again. I've got a lot of work to do on my ledger and then I need to tend to some matters at the factory. We will.."

Rose's father began to cough; a phlegmy, deep-seated spasm that racked his whole body.

"Ruth, we will help them as best we can," he continued, when the spell had abated.

"And I say let them fend for themselves! You always act so softhearted. You're a fool!"

Rose felt dizzy, her face flushed with anxiety. Though she tried to remain still her body shook.

Her mother's angry gaze flitted around the room and landed on Rose.

"You! Aren’t you supposed to be practicing your scales?"

The words pounced on her like some horrible beast. Rose was barely able to force a whispered reply.

"Yes, mother."

"So be off with you!"

Rose didn't move. She hugged her arms to herself and squeezed her eyes tight to shut out the images.

'It's okay', she told herself, and repeated it over and over. The heat of her mother's attention quickly flashed back to her father.

"I won't allow the money we give to Phillip to affect our lifestyle! We simply must have more money!"

"You know things are slow at the factory right now."

"AND WHO'S FAULT IS THAT?" Ruth screamed.

Rose crouched lower into the corner. Her mother, a swirling tempest, turned and left the room.

Rose's father stared after Ruth for several seconds, eyes unblinking, and then he shook his head slightly. Rose shifted her weight, and the movement broke his contemplation.

"Rose, my Rose, come over here."

Rose unfroze and ran to him. Without a word he began to wipe away the tears that streaked her face.

"Father, is Uncle Phillip okay?"

"Yes, Rose. His business is not doing well, but he works very hard. He just made a few wrong decisions, is all."

Rose looked up into her father's tired eyes.

"But we're helping him, right?"

He smiled, and it was for Rose as though the sun had at long last emerged to drive away the storm.

"Yes, you, your mother and I are helping him. Some day he will help us, if need be."

Rose thought for a moment.

"Mother doesn't like Uncle Phillip."

"Rose, don't say that! Your mother loves him."

Rose was quiet again. She felt unsure, confused.

"Rosebud, let father finish his work and then we can go picnic at the lake this afternoon. Would you like that?"

Rose clapped her hands in glee.

"Oh yes! Can we bring bread for the ducklings?"

Her father's response was cut off by a renewed bout of coughing. It seemed to Rose that lately the spells had been too loud, and went on for too long. Her father's body bent almost in two with the hacking and Rose cringed at every cough.

When the attack had finally subsided Rose looked at her father's handkerchief.

It was spotted with blood.

Her heart leapt in fright and she grabbed his legs to hug them to her with all her might.

"Father, what's wrong? Are you okay? Are you hurt inside? What's wrong?"

Her father cleaned his mouth and dropped the handkerchief into the wastebasket.

"I'm fine. I'm fine," he sad, leaning over to sweep her up into his arms.

Rose embraced her father tightly. She could feel the strength, the warmth of him and it made her feel as though nothing could ever harm them.

"You won't leave us, will you?" she pleaded.

"No, little one. I won't leave you."

Then the coughing started again…


There was a series of loud knocks on the outer door, and Rose was plucked from her memories. She rose from the tub and ran into the foyer, dripping as she went.


"Room service, Ma'am!"

"Leave it, please!"

She heard the sound of rattling china and glass as the tray was set on the hallway carpet. She dried off, put on her robe, and opened the door. She leaned out to peer up and down the corridor. It was deserted, save for a few guests far down at the lobby end. She quickly retrieved the tray and moved across the room to set it on a small table alongside the patio entrance.

The aroma of the biscuits and ham made her stomach growl in anticipation. She hadn't realized just how hungry she was; her middle had been a taut ball of knots for several days, and now that it was slowly unwinding her body was making its needs felt.

Devouring the meal with abandon, Rose smiled as she imagined her mother's horror at her lack of etiquette. As she ate she gazed out on the morning's start.

Several days of downpour had scrubbed the air clean of the soot and smoke that normally paled the city's color. The sun streamed across the courtyard from between buildings, the reflection off east-facing windows like an answering fire. The sky was a deep blue, startlingly so, like the pristine ceiling over the plains, or in the mountains.

Or at sea, she thought.

Little of the city could be seen from her vantage point. The tops of buildings along Fourth Avenue jutted above the far side of the complex, their drab-colored walls dotted with freshly hung laundry flapping in the breeze. The courtyard was ringed with red maple trees. There must be a stunning explosion of color here come autumn, Rose thought. For now, their limbs held only a few small birds of spring, and the whole enclosure was nearly silent.

Rose's solitude was briefly interrupted by the arrival of the maid, announced with a quick tap at the door and a curt, "Housekeeping!" call from the corridor. Her duties quickly discharged, the maid left in short order.

Rose relaxed and curled her feet underneath her as she sipped her tea. The serenity of the scene combined with the food, the comfortable chair and the enveloping warmth of the sun to bring her near dozing. Suddenly, she started in alarm as she heard the door opening behind her.

Molly strode into the room with a bag in each hand, followed by two bellboys cautiously navigating while trying to gaze around towering armfuls of boxes.

"Over there boys, on the bed."

The boys piled the boxes on the nearest bed as instructed, and Molly tipped each as they retreated into the corridor.

Molly had on a new dress, hat and shoes. As were all the clothes Rose had seen her wear on Titanic, the outfit was stylish: a dark beige silk-organdy dress with matching petticoat and black pointed-toe shoes. Though Molly came from 'common' roots she now traveled in select company and always dressed the part. Her husband had struck gold in Colorado and they had moved into high society in Denver. Before that she had been just another poor girl. Now she wanted desperately to fit in to the same society that Rose was equally desperate to leave forever. And here we are together, Rose thought. Ironic.

"Rose, come on over and try these on, would ya. I've just barely started in on replacing what I lost. As for you, I had to guess on your size, but I've usually got a pretty good eye for that."

Molly was busily opening boxes and laying garments across the bed.

"I reckon you'll like some of these but if not you'll only need to wear them until you can do some shopping on your own. We couldn't very well have ya walkin around New York buck naked, now could we?"

Rose smiled and ran her hand through what was left of her hair.

"It's a little late for me to play Lady Godiva, don't you think?"

Molly began to chortle and then stared at Rose's short locks and her laughs became louder and harder until tears started to roll from glee. Her laughter was so infectious that Rose couldn't help but join in.

As the first bout subsided, the two looked at each other and another round erupted. It felt so wonderful for Rose to laugh again and she realized that she had needed a release for quite a while.

Rose looked over Molly's selections, her eyes moving over an assortment of basic dresses, skirts and shirtwaists made of silk and cotton, perfect for spring and summer. They were very much what Rose might have picked for herself, and she realized that Molly had read her intentions from her choice of hairstyle.

"You'll surely be needin' this, my Lady," Molly said as she handed to Rose, with an exaggerated flourish, a plain black hat.

Rose tried it on and looked at her reflection in the dresser mirror.

"Hmmm. Hides a multitude of sins, I'd say," Rose offered.

"Ya got that right!" Molly added, and they broke into laughter once again.

Rose picked a pale pink dress from the bed and went into the bath to try it on. It was a bit snug across the top but otherwise a good fit.

Molly looked at her appraisingly when she returned.

"There's the Rose that I know," she said, nodding sharply for emphasis.

Rose looked in the mirror and then said, softly, "Molly…thanks."

"Aw shucks, darlin, it was nothing. I always enjoyed shoppin' for my daughter, even though she didn't always like my taste."


Rose gave a firm hug to her newly found friend and confidant, and then set to placing her clothes in the proper drawers. New clothes, Rose thought, no, my only clothes.

"I'm gonna take a load off," Molly said as she plopped into an armchair. Rose glanced up as she worked; Molly squirmed and adjusted herself as she sat. She noticed Rose's amused expression.

"Darn new corsets! The good Lord never meant a body like this to be stuffed into one of these things!"

Rose had to smile at Molly's directness. It was refreshing for her to hear after so many years of subtle expectations and dictates.

"How are people… doing?" Rose asked.

"Well, I went over to Saint Luke's to see if I could lend a hand but they seemed to have everything under control. I just tried to cheer em up some. Most of the folk seem to be getting on better."

"I'm glad to hear that. It was so horrible…"

Her comment was interrupted by three short knocks on the door, and Molly rose to open it, revealing one of the bellboys from earlier.

"Mrs. Brown, there is a Mister Hammond checking in at the front desk and he asked us to inform you of his arrival."

"Wallace! Thanks, sonny! Tell him I'll be right there."

She gave the boy another tip and his broad smile as he turned down the corridor signaled that Molly had made a friend for life.

Molly turned to Rose and spun a half-turn right and then left.

"How do I look?"

"Just fine Molly. Pretty."

"Confession for you tonight, child," Molly scolded in jest. "Listen, I'll go get Wallace settled in and I'll be back in two shakes. There's still a few people from the ship out there so it'd be best if you stayed put for the time bein'."

Rose could tell from the lift in Molly's voice that Mr. Hammond was more to her then just an 'advisor'.

"I'll be fine. Go give him an eyeful."

"Rose, I do believe there's a devil hidden beneath those green eyes!" Molly replied with a wink, and then she was gone.


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