THE HANDPRINT

"Don't mind us! Keep up the good work! You're doing a great job!" Jack shouted to the startled stokers as he and Rose rushed through the dark, overheated boiler room.

One man turned and shouted after them. "What are you two doing down here? It could be dangerous!"

Paying him no mind, Jack and Rose kept going, running through the fire lit darkness, too caught up in the joy of being together and the fun of their latest adventure to worry about safety. Glancing back only once, they made their way to a door at the end of room, opening it and slipping through.

Closing the door quietly behind them, they looked around at the cool, dimly-lit cargo hold. Stacks of crates covered with netting sat every which way, creating a maze. Curious, they walked around, looking over the stacks of goods, trying to guess at who owned them and what was inside the crates.

Toward the middle of the maze, they found something quite different from the usual boxes and crates—a shiny new Renault touring car. Jack walked around it, impressed by the luxurious vehicle.

When he came back around, Rose stood at the door to the car. She cleared her throat, a bit impatiently. Grinning, Jack opened the door and helped her in. He jumped into the driver's seat, honking the horn. As the sound echoed around the closed space, Rose pushed down the window separating them.

He looked back. "Where to, miss?"

Rose didn't hesitate. "To the stars."

At Jack's surprised look, she grabbed him and pulled him into the back seat with her, nestling into his arms. They looked at each other for a moment, both knowing what was going to happen.

"Nervous?" Jack asked Rose at last, looking at her.

Rose shook her head, kissing each of his fingertips. "No." When he still hesitated, she took his hand, placing it on her breast. "Put your hands on me, Jack."

He kissed her then, pressing her back gently against the seat as she slid down under his welcome weight.


Rose's hand flew up, smacking against the fogged-up back window of the Renault and leaving a smeared handprint. Her arm dropped back down, tightening around Jack as he collapsed atop her, breathing heavily. They looked at each other in wonder for a moment, almost unable to believe that this special moment had really happened.

"You're trembling," Rose whispered, touching his face.

"Don't worry. I'll be all right."

Rose pulled his head down to her chest and stroked it, holding him close as they relaxed in the warm aftermath of lovemaking.

All too soon, though, their peaceful interlude was disrupted by the sound of voices echoing through the cargo hold. They froze, not sure whether to slip away or to stay right where they were.

Before they could make a decision, a flashlight shone on Rose's handprint on the back window. A moment later, a steward threw open the door of the Renault.

"Got you!" he exclaimed, then looked at them, startled.

Their faces red with embarrassment, Jack and Rose sat up, trying to cover themselves as best they could. The steward blushed at the sight, too, then turned around, motioning the others back.

"Put some clothes on!" he told them, not moving away from the door for fear they'd take off again.

Nervously, Jack and Rose did as he said, pulling on their clothing as quickly as possible and stepping around the steward to get out of the car. Jack noticed the bloodstain on the fine leather seat and shook his head. The owner of the car was not going to be happy.

They stared at the gaping stewards for a moment before the men escorted them from the cargo hold and up to the deck. Once on deck, they glanced at each other, ready to run away again, but the stewards saw the look and grasped their arms tightly, preventing them from escaping.

"Come along, you two. Miss DeWitt Bukater, your mother and fiancé are concerned about you." He smirked, imagining what they would have to say, especially Mr. Hockley, when they learned what the young lady had been doing.


They had almost reached the entrance to the first class area when there were shouts from the lookouts and a sudden scraping, jarring motion from the ship. Both the stewards and the young couple looked up in astonishment as an enormous iceberg passed by, bumping against the ship.

Everyone froze, staring at it in shock. Had the Titanic just struck an iceberg? It seemed impossible. After all, there were lookouts posted, and surely there was enough light from the ship to see any approaching dangers. But there the iceberg was, moving slowly into the background as the ship passed it, an ominous streak of red paint decorating its side.

The steward who had found them snapped back to attention. "Come on," he told them. "There's nothing to see here. Everyone knows the Titanic is unsinkable."

Rose looked into the darkness, worried. Why had the engines stopped when the ship had bumped the iceberg? It had been a hard jolt, scraping along for quite a distance before stopping. And there was that paint on the iceberg…

"Are you sure this ship is unsinkable?" she asked the steward, glancing back with worry as he dragged her inside, another steward pulling Jack along.

"Don't you read the papers? It is unsinkable. God himself could not sink this ship."

"That's what my fiancé said, but God didn't just bump into the ship. That was an iceberg."

"Don't go talking about things and getting people in a panic," he snapped, shaking her.

Rose looked back at Jack, who was clearly also worried. There had been a large quantity of ice on the deck behind them, broken off the iceberg when the ship had struck it. They both hoped that the ship was unsinkable, but how could anyone be sure?


When they reached the hallway where Rose's stateroom was located, the steward who had found them dismissed the others, pulling both recalcitrant young people along towards Room B54. As they approached the room, Lovejoy appeared, walking up to them and looking them over contemptuously.

"Good to see you, miss," he told Rose. "We've been looking for you." He fell into step close behind them, reaching into his pocket, but the steward turned and snapped at him.

"What are you doing? Do you want them to run off again?" He pulled Jack and Rose forward, leaving Lovejoy trying to conceal the diamond in his hand.

The steward shoved them into the room, where Cal lounged on the couch, looking at them irritably, and Ruth paced behind him anxiously. She pulled her robe more tightly closed at her throat when she saw Jack.

The steward let go of them and stood back, watching to see what would happen.

Rose looked at her mother and fiancé anxiously for moment before speaking. "Something serious has happened."

"Indeed it has," Cal replied. "Two things dear to me have disappeared tonight. Now that one is back, I have a pretty good idea of where to find the other." He glanced at Lovejoy, who shook his head slightly, indicating that he had been unable to slip the diamond into Jack's pocket.

Cal gritted his teeth in frustration, but gave no outward sign of how he felt. Perhaps the steerage rat really was a thief, and could be nabbed for stealing something else. "Search him."

"What?" Rose stared at Cal disbelievingly.

"This is horseshit!" Jack exclaimed as the steward pulled off his coat, checking through the pockets. The master-at-arms patted him down, searching for any stolen goods.

Finally, they gave up their search. "He's clean, Mr. Hockley. You'll have to look elsewhere for your thief." The master-at-arms looked at Cal suspiciously, wondering if the man's precious diamond had really been stolen. He had certainly seemed eager enough to pin the blame on his fiancée's new beau. "Perhaps you should search your servants."

Cal sighed inwardly, knowing exactly where the diamond was and infuriated that his plan hadn't worked. "Perhaps. I will see to it."

The master-at-arms and the steward left, leaving Jack and Rose to face Ruth and Cal. The four of them stared at each other for a moment before Ruth spoke up.

"Rose, I need to speak with you." She gestured toward her room. "Come with me."

"Mother, we don't have time for this. When I said that something serious had happened, I meant it." She paused, taking a deep breath. "We've struck an iceberg."

Cal looked at her, contempt and anger on his face. "You worry too much, Sweetpea. The Titanic can't sink. It may need some fresh paint, but nothing more."

He glared at Jack, who was trying to decide whether to stay or go. He wanted to stay with Rose, but he knew that they were in trouble, and didn't want Rose getting into further trouble because of him.

"Mr. Lovejoy." Cal gestured to his servant. "Keep an eye on Dawson." He spoke as thought Jack weren't there. "I don't want him leaving until we get to the bottom of things."

Jack sighed, leaning against one of the paneled walls, wondering what would happen next.


Ruth pushed Rose into a chair and stood over her, glaring at her angrily. Not only had Rose disobeyed her orders to not see Jack again, but she had obviously done more than just see him, if the nude drawing of her was any indication.

"You little fool," she hissed, her voice so malevolent that Rose flinched. "How could you do this, Rose? Didn't I tell you to stay away from that boy?"

"Mother…"

Ruth put up a hand, demanding that Rose remain silent. "Mr. Hockley was willing to forgive you for going off with him last night. You are, after all, very young and naïve. But this—what were you thinking, Rose? Letting him draw you naked, running away when Mr. Lovejoy tried to find you—do you really think Cal will forgive you now?"

Rose looked up at her mother, her face set. "I don't care if he does or not." She displayed her ringless left hand. "The engagement is over."

"Yes…thanks to your foolishness, Rose! How are we going to survive now? You won't get a thing out of that penniless drifter."

"I don't care, Mother. I love Jack, and I'm staying with him."

"Are you, now? And does he know that? Does he know that he'll have a penniless girl who hasn't worked a day in her life to support?"

Rose stared at her mother, her words sinking in. Jack had never said a word about loving her, or about wanting her to stay with him. They'd known each other all of three days.

"Well, Rose? Did you even think about the situation you might find yourself in? Suppose you become pregnant?"

"Mother!" Rose's face reddened with shock and embarrassment.

"It's a possibility, Rose. Unless I miss my guess, that nude drawing was a prelude to something even more intimate. What do you have to say for yourself?"

Rose opened her mouth to speak, then closed it again. Her mother was right—she had been foolish. She had been so caught up in the moment that she had never stopped to consider the consequences. She would have ended the engagement to Cal anyway—there was no question about that. But she had never stopped to think whether she really meant something to Jack, or if he simply found her to be convenient entertainment aboard ship.

A soft knock sounded on the door, and a moment later Cal looked in. "I would like to speak to Rose for a moment," he told Ruth. "Alone."

Ruth nodded, leaving the room and stepping back into the sitting room, where she eyed Jack cautiously, not sure what to say to him.


Cal closed the door behind himself, staring coldly at Rose. She stared back, getting slowly to her feet and turning away.

"Rose."

Rose didn't look at him, but instead stared bleakly around the opulent room, fighting tears of anger at her own stupidity. She knew that Cal was angry, but realized that his anger stemmed more from her having gone about with another man, and from her giving to that man what she had denied him, than from any love for her. She gasped, shocked, when Cal strode across the room and grabbed her arm, whirling her around.

"Look at me when I speak to you!" he demanded, grabbing her shoulders and shaking her.

Rose stared up at him, too upset to care what he said. Cal saw the look and exploded.

"So, it is the little slut, isn't it?" He slapped her, sending her stumbling backwards, her hand to her stinging face. He started after her again, but at that moment another knock sounded on the door.

Cal sighed furiously, gritting his teeth. "What is it?"

Ruth's voice sounded from outside the door. "Mr. Hockley, that steward is back. He says that we are to put on our lifebelts and come up to the deck."

"Not now, Ruth. We're busy."

The steward pushed the door open, stepping inside and handing lifebelts to the embattled pair. "I'm sorry, Mr. Hockley, but it's captain's orders." He saw Rose's devastated face and tried to reassure her. "I'm sure it's just a precaution, miss," he said, misunderstanding what she was upset about.

Cal smiled politely, escorting the steward from the room. He turned to Rose. "We'll discuss this later."


Rose walked miserably beside Cal, her long, pink coat hanging limply over her dress. Only Ruth and the maids had bothered with putting lifebelts on. Cal hadn't seen the point, and had pushed Rose from the room before she could put one on, and there hadn't been one available for Jack.

Jack trailed behind them, not sure what to do. He supposed that he could go back to steerage, but with the ship beginning to list towards the bow, he didn't think it would be a good idea to go downward. Ignoring the stares of the first class people, he walked along with the servants, hoping that it wasn't as bad as it seemed.

He saw Molly Brown accost the steward who had dragged him up to first class, asking what was going on. No one seemed to know for sure what was happening—not the passengers or the crew. She nodded to him as he passed by, surprised to see him back in first class.

Rose pulled away from Cal when she saw Thomas Andrews, hurrying up to him as Cal and Jack followed close behind.

"Mr. Andrews." Rose shook his arm, getting his attention. "I saw the iceberg, and I see it in your eyes. Please tell me the truth."

Andrews looked at her, an agonized expression on his face. This ship was his greatest work, and he knew that it was done for.

"The ship will sink," he told her.

Rose put a hand to her mouth. She had suspected, but hadn't wanted to believe it. "You're certain?"

He nodded. "Yes. In an hour or so, all this will be at the bottom of the North Atlantic."

"My God," Cal whispered from behind Rose, the full implications of what had happened only then hitting him.

Jack was equally stunned, though he, too, had suspected that the ship was in trouble. Still, he had hoped that it would be able to stay afloat—after all, it was supposed to be unsinkable. But it wasn't.

Andrews looked at Rose seriously. "Get to a boat quickly, young Rose. Don't wait. You remember what I told you about the boats?"

Rose nodded her head, still stunned. "Yes. I remember."

"Tell only who you must. I don't want to start a panic."

Rose nodded, her eyes meeting Jack's. Even if she had behaved foolishly, she was glad for the time they had spent together. It might well be the last moments of their lives.

"Come, Sweetpea." Cal grabbed her arm. "We need to get you to a boat." He signaled to Lovejoy to escort Ruth to the boat deck.

"Let go of me, Cal. I can walk by myself."

"Don't defy me, dear. Your life is at stake here, and you've defied me enough already."

"I trust this sinking ship farther than I trust you," Rose replied, her eyes defiant. "Now let go of me."

"Rose, you're making a scene." Ruth walked up to her. "I'm going back to my stateroom for a moment, to get my brooch. Then we will all go to the boat deck."

She turned to leave, but Jack grabbed her arm. She stopped, affronted, but her anger faded when she saw the look in his eyes.

"Mrs. DeWitt Bukater, the ship is sinking. You need to get to the boat deck immediately."

"Surely there's time—"

"There isn't." Jack looked at her seriously. "Would you leave your daughter at the mercy of the world for a piece of jewelry?"

Ruth, Rose, and Cal stared at him, stunned. Ruth and Jack weren't fond of each other, but Jack was willing to help Ruth, for Rose's sake.

Ruth hesitated a moment, then asked a question no one had ever thought to hear out of her. "Do you love my daughter, Mr. Dawson?"

"Ruth!" Cal looked at her in shock, wondering how she could possibly ask the gutter rat a question like that. Wasn't he the one Ruth had chosen for Rose's husband? Why would she ask another man such a question?

Jack looked at her seriously. "Yes, Ma'am, I do. More than anything."

Rose gasped, pulling away from Cal and rushing to Jack. He put a protective arm around her.

"I suggest you tell her that, then," Ruth told him. "This may be your only chance." She turned to Cal, who was staring at them, mouth open in surprise. "Mr. Hockley, we all know that the engagement is off. Rose made her decision. But I won't see her setting out against the world alone."

"It isn't over—" Cal began, but Rose cut him off.

"Yes, it is," she told him, her voice as cold as his. She turned toward Jack. "I love you, Jack. Whatever happens, I'm staying with you."

Jack embraced her, drawing still more stares from the upper class people remaining in the room. "I love you, too, Rose. But Cal is right about one thing—you have to get to a boat immediately."

"Not without you."

"I'll survive somehow, Rose. But it won't be worth anything if you don't survive with me. Now, let's see if we can both get into a boat." He turned to Ruth. "Thank you, Mrs. DeWitt Bukater. I'll see that Rose makes it all right."

That said, he and Rose joined hands and walked from the room into the cold night, searching for their survival and for their future.

The End.