|New York hit Rose Dawson like a blast from a canon.Her previous visits to the city had always had a
particular purpose and destination, and it was as though she had been wearing blinders to
everything else. Her mother had deemed the people and activities that filled the streets
as being inconsequential and beneath them, and Rose supposed a bit of that arrogance had
rubbed off on her.
This time it was different, much
Rose had awakened from a fitful
night to find Molly already departed, a brief note on the bed stand her final farewell.
Rose studied herself in the mirror. Dried streaks on her face told a tale of wretched
dreams and she could still feel them but she had no memory of their darkness. Subdued, she
gathered herself to bathe, dress and face the world.
Grabbing her hat, her bag, and a
few dollars Molly had thoughtfully left her, Rose briefly debated whether to take the
'Heart' but decided instead to place it in the hotel safe. There might be questions but
she couldn't think of a more secure place for it.
She rang for the porter and had
him fetch the manager. While she awaited him she turned the necklace over and over in her
Her mind raced back, back to her
sitting room on the ship, and she could almost smell a tinge of charcoal lacing the air.
Rose placed the 'Heart' in a small
box, wrapped that in a pillowcase, and tied it tight with binding from one of Molly's
clothes boxes. Upon arriving, the manager eyed her and the package curiously but accepted
his charge and disappeared down the corridor.
Another person who wants to
know more about me, Rose thought. I never realized before how much just keeping
one's peace brings out the curiosity in everyone else. It's only natural, I suppose.
Rose left by the courtyard door,
not wanting to take the chance that there still might be lingering passengers from the
ship in the hotel lobby. She circled the building and left the grounds via the main
The life of the immense city
crashed over her like a tidal wave and seemed to fill her senses to bursting. The sun was
high and strong yet its power was restrained by the tall buildings lining the streets.
Horse drawn carriages fought for every inch of cobbled brick with a herd of bicycles and a
swarm of automobiles.
A very few years earlier autos
were scarce. Now they were everywhere, each one a riot of its own design. With the
chugging engine, the horn, the teeth-rattling vibrations and the cloud of black exhaust
billowing from behind, every machine was a full sensory assault piloted by its own lord
and master waving as if oblivious to his aftermath.
Pedestrians streamed up and down
the walks and spilled into the streets, moving in surges past bottlenecks of vendors and
stalled vehicles. More then two million souls lived in Manhattan and on this day each
seemed intent on being somewhere else.
Rose realized she was a bit afraid
of the city now that she had committed herself to it. Her mother had always warned her
about the dangers lurking at every turn.
Did I realize what I was
getting myself into? Funny, yesterday I was ready to go on and now
.I'm not so sure.
I do need to walk, to be outside,
She took a deep breath and stepped
into the street.
Rose turned briefly eastward, then
north on Fifth Avenue, and she was swept up into the crowd of church-goers, Sunday
visitors and people just out for air.
Restaurants opened their doors for
lunch, while store windows enticed passers-by with modern creations that whispered
endearments to any whom might wander too near.
A cathedral of stone and stained
glass loomed up on Rose's right, its towering spire a finger pointing the way to heaven.
From the open doors the sounds of a hymn carried out on the spring breeze, and Rose's
mind's eye went back to Titanic, to the service onboard her the previous Sunday,
when they had all ironically implored God's aid for those in peril. Her mind skipped to
the gymnasium, to her meeting with Jack, and her heart started to pound and her vision
faded. She leaned against the old stone wall of the church courtyard, feeling faint.
The vision of Jack, his face, his
voice, had returned the anguish of those moments. His words then had cut her defenses to
the core; had bared those desires of her soul that she should not, could not, speak of.
Rose had so much wanted to cry out to Jack, 'Yes! Yes!', but instead had allowed the
forces in her life to tie and bind her. She had heard her lips say words that her heart
didn't feel and left him standing there alone.
That will be the last time I
will deny my own self, Rose thought. That's another promise I should have made to Jack.
Rose tried to shake her mind
I haven't even made it five
blocks. Maybe I should just go back to the hotel. It might be easier after a few more
Then Jack's words came to her
again and she found strength.
Rose clenched her eyes shut to
force the tears back. Slowly, her ears re-opened to the city around her.
Fifth Avenue was dazzling, with
the opulent houses of society's crème de la crème stretching northward to the sight's
limit, the vista unblemished by trolley or elevated train. The street was made for Sunday
strolls, with its wide sidewalks framing a narrow brick roadway.
Rose noted the varied assortment
of parasols that had popped up like spring flowers, and she casually wished she had one of
Not that I really need one,
she thought, I just like to twirl them! She remembered her mother reprimanding her
time and again to cease her childish antics.
'A lady doesnt spin her
parasol, Rose. It's not proper,' her mother had said.
'No, but it's FUN, Mother!'
Rose thought. That's what I should have said to her!
She walked onward.
Rose felt as though she was a
tourist, agog at the wonder of the city, and she thought afterwards that she also must
have looked the part. That would a long ways towards explaining how, in her first few
minutes on her own in the city of her new life, she became the victim of a street crime.
She had traveled ten blocks or so,
past the immense Croton Reservoir. Rose craned her neck to watch the stylish crowd
promenading along its rimming walkway, sixty feet above the street. She had come upon the
Vanderbilt house and was awestruck by its sheer size. It was impossible to ignore,
occupying as it did a full city block. Her head was tilted far back to admire the house's
many gables when she was suddenly knocked back a few steps by a collision. For an instant,
she thought she had distractedly walked up on the heels of someone in front of her and was
prepared to apologize, but she found herself staring at the dirty brown cap of a man who
had run head-on into her while going the opposite way.
"Sorry, missus," he said
hurriedly as he steadied Rose from falling, his hands briefly gripping her shoulders. Her
quick glance took in dark skin, dark eyes, a mole at the corner of his mouth. Then he
strode away into the crowd behind her.
It took Rose's mind several
seconds to catch up with the events. At first she felt affronted by his touch, lost
balance or not, and then it suddenly registered that her bag was gone. She whirled around
in the direction he had fled and saw his hat bobbing its way in the sea of southbound
"Stop him! Thief!" Rose
yelled, pointing, but the quizzical glances of backward-glancing pedestrians made her
realize that the thief was but one man among hundreds.
She began to run after him,
picking her way with trouble through the crowds, but her shoes weren't suited to the task
and she quickly lost ground in the chase. The thief glanced back as he hurried on and,
seeing Rose in pursuit, doubled his pace without chancing the extra attention that
out-and-out running would bring. He ducked right, down a side street, and disappeared from
Rose's view. As she came to the corner she was at first unable to see him as she scanned
the sparser crowd. Then he darted left down another avenue and she spotted him again.
"Stop!" she gasped, but
he was almost a full block away now. Her breathing was labored from her unaccustomed
effort. She quickly despaired of ever catching him.
"Can I help you, miss?"
Rose had been concentrating so
intently on her quarry that she had failed to notice a mounted policeman just a few feet
from the corner where she stood.
"That man stole my bag!"
"Which man, miss?" he
asked as he surveyed the street from his high perch.
"He turned down the next
The officer made a quick decision.
"Hop on, miss," he said,
and with the strength in one arm he pulled her up to sit sidesaddle in front of him.
Rose's arm circled his waist in order to steady herself and they were off at a gallop.
"Down the next left,"
Rose instructed, having to twist her upper torso far to one side to see ahead.
The horse scrambled around the
corner, losing his footing a bit under the added weight. They started down Sixth Avenue,
the elevated railroad tracks overhead throwing flickering shadows onto the cobblestone
pavement as they rode.
"What did he look like,
Rose searched her memory.
"I didn't really get a good
look at him. Just a dark brown cap, brown coat, kind of a limp in his stride
Rose thought she saw the thief
once but by the time they had ridden a mile or so they both realized their task was
hopeless. The policeman slowed his charge to a trot and, finally, to a stop.
"Sorry, miss. I guess we lost
Rose didn't speak for a moment.
Despite their failure she felt alive for the first time in days.
The ride had been exhilarating.
She had loved the feeling of power and speed in the horse's withers beneath her.
"Yes. I thank you,
"Can I take you back?"
Rose noticed the officer's
inquisitive glance and then realized she had taken her hat off as they rode, for fear of
the wind claiming it. She straightened it in her hand and self-consciously put it back on.
The officer had a kind face and she read genuine concern in his expression.
"No, thank you. I can easily
walk from here."
" If you're sure, miss."
Rose slid off the horse's shoulder
and landed on the brick with a loud clap of her shoes. She brushed the underside of her
dress with a sweep of both hands, clearing away the horsehairs.
Rose reached up to pat the roan's
neck and he arched his head back to look her over. His breath slowed to rhythmic snorts as
he recovered, and his coat gleamed in splinters of blue and white, a thin sheen of lather
testifying to his efforts.
He's beautiful, Rose
"Then I'll be off,
The officer tipped his cap and
reined his horse around to head uptown, glancing back briefly to check on her.
Rose found an empty bench under
the stairway leading to the El platform and she sat down to rest. Next to her a bustling
newsstand sold worlds full of adventures to anyone with five cents in his pocket.
That was stupid of me, Rose
thought. If I'm going to make it on my own I have to act like I belong here; be alert.
This isn't another tea party within the cozy confines of some estate. It's real life.
Maybe mother was right about
Rose laughed at herself. This
is a fine start!
But at least I didn't bring the
necklace with me.
She shuttered at the thought of it
being stolen and then her mind leapt and bounded and circled back to
. whom her
thoughts always returned to. Jack.
Rose closed her eyes and took a
This is the first time since
that night that I have gone even five minutes without thinking of him.
Briefly forgotten, the pain
returned, ever so slightly diminished.
Rose glanced at the nearest street
sign; they had ridden down past 20th Street. The storefronts along the avenue
held a full spectrum of businesses: tobacconist, tailor, bakery, shoemaker, dress shop,
grocer, meat market, several department stores and, liberally sprinkled among the rest,
All the necessities of life in
the shadow of the Sixth Street El.
As if on cue, the structure over
her head began to hum and the distinctive sound of a steam engine approaching from the
south grew louder until, with a squeal of breaks, it slowed to a stop at the station
above. A few small pieces of coal rattled off the tracks and fell to the street with dull
thuds. Traffic below knowingly parted under the stopped engine, wary of wayward debris and
sparks flittering down. The train moved on northward and was soon drowned out by the
general street noise. The passengers wound their way down the stairs to the street level.
Rose crossed the avenue and
wandered west towards the Hudson. On the cross street densely packed apartment buildings
loomed up on each side of the narrow roadway, almost as though striving to meet overhead.
The traffic was much lighter. Rose's attention was drawn to the scattered "Room to
Let" signs up and down the block and she paused to consider the neighborhood.
At first, Rose couldn't locate
where the voice had come from, but then a young girl peeked around a nearby stoop.
"Hello," Rose replied.
"Whatcha looking at?"
the girl asked, searching the building fronts in the direction of Rose's gaze.
just seems like a nice street."
"I guess," the girl
said, shrugging her shoulders.
"What are you doing over
"Coloring. Wanna see?"
Rose walked around to the girl's
makeshift studio in the lee of the brick stoop. A coloring book lay open on the ground
with a box full of Crayolas strewn around it.
The girl held the open book up to
her chest and proudly displayed it to Rose. It was a picture of a horse in a pasture. A
blue horse under a pink sky.
"It's beautiful!" Rose
said, and the girl beamed brightly.
Her hair was reddish blonde,
almost the same color as Rose's. She had it neatly tied up in pigtails. Her round,
freckled face was Sunday clean and her pixie nose wrinkled as she smiled.
"Wanna color one?"
"Maybe next time. What's your
Rose was taken aback by the name.
It was like an unexpected sharp jab to her heart. She and Jack had befriended a small girl
named Cora on Titanic. A poor little soul who had not made it into a lifeboat.
Cora jumped up and curtseyed, her
mother's training showing.
"Pleased to meet you,
Rose curtseyed grandly in
"And you, Miss Cora."
A young couple passed by and Rose
nodded in greeting. She turned to Cora and gestured to the building behind the girl.
"Do you live here?"
"All by yourself?"
Cora put her fists on her hips in
a scolding posture.
"I'm only eight! There's my
mom and my dad and my stupid brother John and my older brother Thomas who doesn't live
here anymore, 'cept sometimes."
Rose went on to ask Cora about her
family, her school, and her favorite games. Cora answered each with an echoing question
for Rose. She was deep into explaining to Rose the significance of the blue horse when she
was interrupted by a call from an open window above them.
"Cora! Where are you,
"Down here, Mama."
A face appeared at the window and
peered down at them.
"Who are you talkin to,
"My friend Rosie, Mama."
Rose smiled at her new name.
"Well, say goodbye to your
friend and come up for supper."
Before Rose could introduce
herself, Cora's mother disappeared back into the window and the sash was banged shut.
"I have ta go, Rosie."
Rose helped her gather her crayons
and book. Cora skipped up the steps and pushed open the door.
"Bye!" Cora said.
"Goodbye, Cora. Maybe I'll
see you again."
Cora beamed another smile, waved
and vaulted inside. Rose could hear her yell to her mother as she banged opened the door
to their flat.
She reminds me of myself,
Rose thought. Same coloring style, too.
She smiled as she remembered some
of her own drawings from back when she was Cora's age. Her mother had always clucked at
her color choices but her father had loved them, regardless of how wild they might be.
Mother was only right once in a
Rose strolled for a while up and
down the streets of the neighborhood, and it felt somehow comfortable to her. She realized
as she walked that some of her earlier anxiety had faded. As the sun angled towards the
cliffs across the Hudson Rose began to retrace her path. She still had a good-sized trek
to return to the Waldorf and she was beginning to get hungry.
The few dollars I had started
out with this morning have probably already been spent by their new owner, she thought
She returned to the hotel and
spent a quiet night within her thoughts, with Jack never far away. The events of the day
had exhausted her and, thankfully, she slept a dreamless sleep.