|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
"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?"
. Are you sure about
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
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,"
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
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,"
"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
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
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,
"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! Arent 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.
"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
"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
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
Rose unfroze and ran to him. Without a
word he began to wipe away the tears that streaked her face.
"Father, is Uncle Phillip
"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
"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
"Rose, don't say that! Your mother
Rose was quiet again. She felt unsure,
"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
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?"
"No, little one. I won't leave
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
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
Molly looked at her appraisingly when she
"There's the Rose that I know,"
she said, nodding sharply for emphasis.
Rose looked in the mirror and then said,
"Aw shucks, darlin, it was nothing.
I always enjoyed shoppin' for my daughter, even though she didn't always like my
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
"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
Her comment was interrupted by three
short knocks on the door, and Molly rose to open it, revealing one of the bellboys from
"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
"Rose, I do believe there's a devil
hidden beneath those green eyes!" Molly replied with a wink, and then she was gone.