On the doorstep of one Ruth Dewitt Bukater stood two figures. A woman and a child. Not many people would recognize the woman. At a glance, she looked like a pale, poorly dressed, waif, knocking on the door, asking for charity. People would have been surprised to know that the woman was the daughter of the former socialite who owned the house. A closer look would tell them that the woman was Rose Dewitt Bukater, come back from the dead. But no one took a closer look. They just went about their business, knowing that most likely, Ruth would send this hapless woman and her child away.
Ignoring the stares and keeping the child in her arms, Rose Dewitt Bukater...or rather Rose Dawson, ringed the bell once again. The decision to come here had not been an easy one. In fact, it had been a decision made out of pure desperation. It wasn't because she couldn't handle it in the lower class. In fact, she had done very well for herself and her child these past four years...that was until she made the mistake of going to Chippewa Falls and now, the one thing that meant most to her was in danger of being taken away and her only recourse was to return back to her old life and hope that she had a chance to fight back there.
She was just nervous about what her mother would say, seeing her alive and well with a child to care for. Would she turn her back on them or would she take them in and help her in her time in need? Really, she expected to be thrown out...but she had to try.
It was a young maid that Rose had never seen before that answered the door. "May I help you, Miss? If it is food you want..."
"May I speak to the lady of the house, please," Rose requested as she tried to ignore the butterflies battling it out in her stomach.
"Do you have an appointment?"
Rose tried hard not to roll her eyes. How typical it was for her mother to still set appointments for meetings and visits. "No, but she'll want to see me. Trust me."
The maid looked skeptical. Ruth Dewitt Bukater barely saw anyone without an appointment. Caledon Hockley was the only person who had such an honor. "May I ask who is calling?"
"Mama, I'm hungry," the little boy whined, a tear sliding from his blue eyes.
Feeling bad, Rose adjusted the cap the boy wore over his blond curls. She really should have fed him before they had come, but her own anxiousness spurred her onward, really not giving food another thought.
"It's okay, Jacob darling. I'll get you something to eat soon. I promise," Rose kissed his soft cheek, a tear in her own eyes. She hated bringing him here to the world that his father had helped her escape. But if she was going to keep him, there was no choice.
The maid came back, looking regretful. "Mrs. Dewitt Bukater said that she no longer knew of a Rose. The only Rose that she knew of was her daughter and she's long deceased."
Rose sighed and pulled off the hat she had been wearing and allowed the red curls that were identical to her mother's fall over her shoulders. "As you can see, the news of my death had greatly been exaggerated. Will you please let me see her now?"
The poor girl stared in shock. Now that she had seen Rose's hair framing her face, she could tell that it was the same girl in all of her mistresses pictures. She was thinner, not as regal, but still it was Rose Dewitt Bukater that stood before her. There was no denying it.
"Follow me, Miss. I think she may have to see you herself," The maid beckoned.
Before stepping into the mansion, Rose addressed her son, wanting to prepare him to meet his grandmother. "Now remember, Jacob. You must be on your best behavior. Do not speak unless spoken to and do not touch anything. In fact, just stay by momma alright?"
The little boy just looked at her with wide blue eyes and nodded his head. She smiled, her heart melting at the sight of those eyes. So big and innocent. So much like his father, yet so different. She sure hoped that this plan worked and that her days of worrying about losing her baby were over.
Taking a deep breath, Rose followed the flustered maid into the mansion and into the parlor.
"Mrs. Dewitt Bukater is inside taking her tea...I don't know how else to soften the shock. But do try not to scare her too much. She's been in mourning for a good four years now," The maid cautioned, twisting her hands nervously. She didn't like this. Not at all. People coming back from the dead was never a good thing.
"Maybe you should announce me...prepare her somehow," Rose frowned, her anxiety growing. She had no idea how she was going to be received. It wasn't like she had parted on good terms with her mother. In fact, she had allowed the woman to believe her dead for the last four years. There was bound to be a lot of anger to work through before there could be any hope of forgiveness and help.
"That may be best. Come in as soon as you hear your name," The maid advised before entering the parlor. Rose hugged her son tight and stood in that one place until she heard the poor maid announce her name.
Rose stepped into the parlor to find her mother staring towards the entrance, her mouth open, her eyes wide, and her face pale. She lost even more color to see Rose standing there with a child in her arms. The woman was clearly in shock. Rose forced a smile, trying to lighten the situation as much as possible. If Jacob sensed the tension and anxiety in the room, it would only upset him. She needed him to be calm and at ease. Not crying and scared.
"Hello mother," she greeted, trying to put as much optimism in her voice as much as possible. "I've come home."
Ruth stared, the shock at seeing her supposedly dead daughter alive and well and standing in her parlor coursing through her system. She wanted to do so many things. Laugh. Yell. Hug Rose and welcome her home. But all she could do was stand there and stare, waiting for the right words to come to her so she could properly take care of the situation.
"I know that I have a lot of explaining to do. I mean...it's been four years since the sinking and I've only come home now," Rose continued on, unnerved by her mother's silence. Not much struck her mother silent like this. A yelling Ruth she could handle, but she didn't know what to do with the woman's silence. "Mother...please...some something. Say anything..."
Ruth stared at this girl...no woman. She was a woman now. The seventeen year old girl had been washed away and now what stood before her was a grown woman...a mother even...here to ask for what? Forgiveness? Was forgiveness even hers to give? Swallowing, she found the words she needed. Short, quick words that demanded an explanation.
Rose sighed. Here it was. The moment that she had spent the past four years avoiding. Confession time. "I was on the ship as it sank. Jack and I...we ended up in the freezing waters. Jack found a board big enough to hold one person and made me get on while he...while he remained in the water. Another boat finally returned, but by time it did...it was too late for Jack. He was gone. But it picked me up and I spent the time on the Carpathia down in steerage..."
"But Cal...he went looking..."
"I hid from him, mother. I didn't want to be found. As you well know, I didn't want to marry Cal. I never wanted to marry him. It was my one and only chance to escape...so I took it. I know that it was cruel to allow you to believe that I was dead...but you had given me no other choice. I couldn't marry Cal…not when I was in love with..."
"That boy…," Ruth nearly growled, remembering the young man that had captured her daughter's heart so seamlessly and had ruined all of her well laid out plans.
"Jack. His name was Jack, mother. And I won't have you speaking ill of him. He gave his life to save mine and he gave me the only reason I had to keep on living. So you will not speak of him in that tone of voice..."
The shock in Ruth's eyes turned to colder than the iceberg that had sunk Titanic four years before. Anger was finally seeping in. All of this time...while she depended on the kindness of the Hockley's mourning her daughter, Rose had been out in the world, living it up. Pretending as if she never existed. It hurt and angered her and it was a struggle not to go over and slap the young woman.
"So he's dead. And you spent the past four years out there alone, doing god knows what and now here you are back on my doorstep?"
Rose winced, hating the cold anger she heard in her mother's voice. She could only hope that her mother refrained from yelling. Poor Jacob was frightened enough as it was. "I was making my dreams come true mother. I went to Santa Monica and did all the things that Jack and I had talked about. Then I became an actress in a theater...but that was short lived when I found out that...that I was with child..."
"What?" Ruth blinked, unable to believe all that she was being told. All of this was so absurd. She had worked so hard on bringing Rose up to be the perfect little lady just to have it all ruined! And now here she was telling her that not only had she been off traipsing around the world like some harlot, but that she had a child as well?! She watched with disbelieving eyes as she sat down the bundle in her arms that Ruth had barely noticed and removed a hat and coat to reveal a darling little boy with blond curls and big blue eyes. It was all too obvious who the father was.
"Mother, meet your grandson Jacob Dawson. Jacob, this is your grandmother, Ruth," Rose introduced, feeling the butterflies in her stomach double. Usually, Jacob's blue eyes could melt the coldest heart, but somehow she knew that her mother would be resistant. After all, they were the same blue eyes of the man that Ruth blamed for all her problems.
"Hello," the little boy politely greeted, not moving any closer to the older woman, who just looked upon him with cold green eyes.
"My god, Rose. You've been out on the streets with a child for four years?!" Ruth gasped, stunned by all of this. She had to wonder, just how much did her daughter hate her to endure such hardship?
"I wasn't out on the streets mother. Jacob and I, we were doing just fine...until recently..."
"Well then why come back? Why not stay out there in your dream world and continue living the life of poverty that you love so much? Why come back here to me and rip open old wounds?"
Rose took a deep breath. She didn't even know where to begin. But she did know that she had to explain why she did come back if she expected any help.
"Can we sit, mother? It's been hours since we sat down comfortably," Rose asked, beginning to feel the ache in her feet.
"Mama, I'm hungry," Jacob tugged on Rose's coat, reminding her that he still needed to eat something.
"Go ahead, take a seat. The boy can nibble on these finger sandwiches. They're quite nice," Ruth placed a tray on a nearby table for Jacob to help himself.
"Thank you mother," Rose took a seat. She knew that the offers made were not peace offerings. It'll probably be a while before her mother forgave her.
Ruth kept her eyes on the little boy, taking note of how he didn't just glump down the sandwiches like she had expected, but took neat, well calculated bites, just the way that she had once taught Rose to do as a child. She found herself pleased that the boy had some semblance of manners. Clearing her throat, she looked at her daughter and took in her own appearance. She noted that Rose still had the luxurious red curls that had been her trademark all of her life. It was cut a bit shorter though. She was older. There was experience in her eyes and posture, but she was still beautiful, if not more. But it was obvious that she was no longer that seventeen year old girl that had given her so much trouble on that blasted ship. She had changed and was desperate enough to return to the world from which she had fled four years ago.
"Cal looked high and low for you on the Carpathia. He had searched every list. Searched steerage...but there was no trace of you," Ruth picked up her tea and took a sip, hoping that the hot liquid would calm her nerves.
Rose blushed, remembering the moment she had seen Cal walking along steerage and the moment the officer had asked for her name. She didn't know if her mother would be angered by the truth or not, but there was no other answer to give.
"I saw Cal...but I hid from him. I didn't want him to drag me back. I had promised Jack that I'd live life to the fullest and...well I couldn't live the way that you and Cal wanted me to. It was killing me and you didn't even care...so I hid from him. And when they asked me what my name was...I said that it was Rose Dawson and I've been Rose Dawson ever since..."
"Besides, if he had found me...a few months later, you wouldn't have been happy. A month after the sinking, I found out that I was pregnant...and as you can see, the father is not Cal. Think of the scandal that would have caused…."
"You are right about that. We both would have been out on the street," Ruth took another sip of tea. "As you can probably tell, the Hockley's had been generous. They paid off my debts and allowed me to stay in the family home with a handful of servants. I probably wouldn't have had this much if it was found that you were with that...boy's...child. But what brings you back to my doorstep, Rose? That is what I want to know. Especially since you went to such lengths not to be discovered."
Rose sighed and glanced over at her son, who was now calmly nibbling on a sandwich. She then looked at her hands, replaying the past four years in her mind. Her arrival in New York. Finding that she was pregnant. Jacob's birth. The friends she had made and the things she had done. And finally that fateful trip to Wisconsin that had changed everything…
"When I found that I was pregnant I officially became Jack's widow. It was the only way to save my reputation. Besides, I'll always believe that we would have married if he had lived…"
"There's no way you can possibly know that. You only knew the boy for three days and he was barely a responsible person..."
Anger flashed up in Rose at her mother's harsh words. How dare she say such a thing about Jack, who had saved her in all ways that a person could be saved! He had seen her through the sinking. He had taken care of her, he had made sure that she survived at the risk of his own life!
"I may only have known him for three days, mother but you didn't know him at all! He was more of a gentleman than Cal could ever be! He died for me! Would Cal do that that for anyone else?"
"On with the story, Rose," Ruth sighed, not wanting to argue.
"Anyway...after Jacob's birth...we traveled. We went from New Orleans to California. I took good care of Jacob, making sure that he wanted for nothing. He became the center of my life...my reason for going on and keeping my promise to Jack to make each day count. He made life without Jack bearable. Then...a few months ago...Jacob began asking about his father….and that's when I decided to go to Chippewa Falls Wisconsin to find out more about him..."
"I take it that's where things changed."
Rose nodded, remembering the shock of finding out that Jack did have relatives. Not close, but still relatives. "Yes. I found out that Jack had an Uncle and Aunt. They had arrived in Chippewa Falls after Jack's parents had died and two months after Jack had left town. They had been looking for him all this time...you can imagine their reaction when I told them of his death. Anyway...I told them that I was his widow. They really couldn't share much about him, they had barely known him before his parents deaths...but they fell in love with Jacob right away. They gave him toys and fed him sweets. They doted on him. I thought it was sweet...that was until...until two days later when I got a summons that they were going to sue me for custody of Jacob. They're going to try to take my baby...the only piece of Jack that I have...away from me.
"You have no idea mother. You have no idea what it's like to have someone try to take your baby away from you. For them to think that they could take better care of him than you can..."
Ruth took a long sip of her tea, not wanting to admit that she did know what it was like. Losing a child...it was a pain that she wished on no one, least of all Rose.
Unaware of her mother's thoughts, Rose continued. "I spoke to a lawyer...and he informed me that they had a case. That as an unmarried woman, no judge was going to let me keep Jacob. That I had to be married and be well off in order to have a chance to effectively fight for my son..."
"So you come back home. Hoping that I'd use what money I have to help you keep the boy," Ruth guessed, not at all sure what to make of the situation.
"Believe me, mother. This is by no means easy for me. This place...it was killing me. I had been ready to jump off the back of Titanic, if it hadn't been for Jack talking me out of it. But I'm willing to come back if doing so helped me keep the one person that I love most in this world. I know that as Rose Dawson...I won't have a chance against John and Edith Dawson...but as Rose Dewitt Bukater..."
"You still won't have much of a chance," Ruth got to her feet and began to pace. "Despite all that you see here, my financial situation had not changed. I am living off of the kindness of the Hockley's. All of the Dewitt Bukater money is gone. I am sorry, Rose. I know that the boy is blood and he seems to be a lovely child, but I can not help you."
Ruth's words stabbed into Rose like a knife. Her mother couldn't help her and she couldn't help herself. There was no way she was going to be able to keep Jacob, but she couldn't lose him either. "Mother..please...there has to be something. I can't lose Jacob...please..."
Ruth sighed. With the way she was feeling, she wasn't really keen on helping Rose with anything. But looking at the child in question, she couldn't say no. After all, no matter what Rose had done in the past, the child was her grandson. She wasn't about to let some strangers raise him.
"There is one solution, I suppose. But I doubt that you'd like it."
Whether she liked it or not, Rose was desperate. She was willing to do anything just to keep Jacob with her. He was her whole world. She might as well lay down and die if they took him away from her. "I'm willing to try anything at this point..."
"It may not even work. He may be too angry with you to even consider taking you back...but he is still unmarried and in need of an heir or else Nathan won't give him his inheritance and time is of the essence," Ruth rubbed her chin, deep in thought.
Catching on to who and what her mother was talking about, Rose's stomach dropped. She felt like her whole world was closing in on both herself and Jacob. Even now, her mother's first and only thought was Cal. Of course it would be. He was taking care of her, despite Rose's disappearance. He was probably her solution to everything. But Rose couldn't picture herself marrying that man and becoming his little trophy wife. Becoming the woman she had fought so hard not to be. Getting involved with that man, it was a step backward!
Then she looked at Jacob, who sleepily rubbed his eyes. Full and tired from their long journey. Clueless of the danger he was in of being ripped away from her. He would be ripped away from her if she didn't do all she could to keep it from happening...and Cal and all of his money may be the only way to keep that from happening. No matter how much she didn't want it.
"What do you say, Rose? Do I send for Cal?" Ruth looked at her daughter who was now pale as she wrapped her arms around her son, who yawned tiredly. The boy had to get to sleep soon.
Feeling dead inside, Rose just nodded her head. The fire inside her may die out, but that was better than having the only light in her world snatched away.
"Very well, mother. If you believe doing so may save Jacob..."
Ruth simply nodded, her face unreadable. "I'll send for him in the morning. For now, I'll have Maria make up a bed for both you and the boy. He's exhausted and you need to sleep and bathe."
"Thank you mother," Rose mumbled, feeling that she should say something. Ruth could have turned her away, but she didn't, which was a surprise to Rose.
Ruth's voice was hard and angry this time, revealing that all was still not forgiven. "I'm not doing this for you, Rose. I'm doing this for the boy. No matter how you've hurt me, he's an innocent and my grandson. I will not have him raised by strangers."
Rose just nodded and watched her mother go find the maid, feeling sad and anxious. Despite coming home, her and Jacob's future was still unknown.