April 10, 1912
Rose sat beside Cal as the Daimler-Benz moved through the streets of Southampton, where they had spent the last night of their trip before boarding the Titanic to return to America. She didn't look at him, keeping her gaze fixed on the window, staring out at the city.
Today they would board the ship that would take them home to America. The thought made her shudder. Soon they would be home. Then, they would host their engagement gala, followed by the social whirl associated with high society weddings—and then she would marry Cal, and be bound to him forever.
She looked up as the car came to a stop, the driver honking the horn to clear a path for the vehicle. A moment later, someone opened her door and extended a hand to help her out. She stepped out daintily, looking up at the ship before her, tilting her head back to see beyond the brim of her oversized hat.
It was a magnificent ship, she had to admit. The newspapers had called it the ship of dreams—and it was. But as Cal stepped out of the car to stand beside her, she only turned to him and remarked, "I don't see what all the fuss is about. It doesn't look any bigger than the Mauritania."
Cal scowled at her slightly. "Rose, you can be blasé about some things, but not about Titanic. It's over a hundred feet longer than the Mauritania, and far more luxurious." He turned to Ruth. "Your daughter is far too difficult to impress."
Ruth had emerged from the other car and was standing with them. "So this is the ship they say is unsinkable."
"It is unsinkable," Cal declared, as proud as if he had built it himself. "God himself could not sink this ship."
Rose smiled slightly as his bragging was interrupted by a porter. "Sir, you have to check your baggage through the main terminal. It's over that way, sir."
Cal pulled a five pound note from his pocket and handed it to the man. "I put it in your good hands, sir. Kindly see my man about it." He gestured to Lovejoy.
Ruth frowned slightly at Rose as Cal rejoined them, warning her to behave herself. Rose looked away, looking up at the ship once more, trying to hide her churning emotions.
Was it any wonder she was irritable? She hadn't even been allowed to choose her own outfit for boarding the ship. The attractive black dress she had chosen had scandalized both Ruth and Cal the moment she appeared. No one wore black to board a ship. It was supposed to be bad luck, although in this day and age of science and technology, she wondered if they really believed that. More likely, they had been upset that she would flout the rules of appropriate attire. Well, she had felt like wearing black. Why shouldn't she? She felt as though she were going to her own funeral, screaming all the time that she was alive while no one listened. What could she do, beyond defying the rules set out for her?
Rose covered her nose delicately with her gloved hand as the rank smells of the pier made her stomach churn. She allowed Cal to take her arm and lead her up the boarding ramp, hoping that she would feel better once she was on board—or at least that if she didn't, she could blame her malady on seasickness. The queasiness she had felt each morning for almost a month now continued unabated, and now she knew why.
Three days earlier, a fainting spell had resulted in a visit from the hotel doctor. He had examined her thoroughly, asking questions that had made her turn red with embarrassment, but when he had told her what was wrong with her, she had begged him not to give his diagnosis to her mother and Cal. She had slipped him a twenty pound note to ensure his silence, and then he had told them that she was simply overtired, that there had been too much excitement for her recently. He had recommended plenty of rest, giving her a reprieve from the endless social whirl of their last few days in Europe.
Rose had told no one what she had learned from the doctor. They would find out soon enough, and she would face the consequences then. She was already with child. No one would know about it when she walked down the aisle—she would only be two months along, and she could probably hide it for several months with her corset. But after that…
Cal would have to be told, of course, although common sense told her to wait until after the wedding, so that he couldn't use it as an excuse to call it off. Not that he would, but she had to be sure to avoid any hint of scandal, for the sake of the DeWitt Bukater name and for herself and her unborn child. Ruth would be furious, of course, but if the baby was small, they could claim that it was born early.
Still, no one close to her would forget that she had become pregnant out of wedlock. Ruth would blame her, and no amount of arguing would change her mind. As far as Ruth was concerned, Rose had seduced Cal that night in Philadelphia, and thus the pregnancy was her fault. Rose had never wanted to sleep with him, not even after the wedding—but Cal would never admit that he had forced himself upon her, and Ruth would never believe her when she said he had, nor would she believe that Cal had visited her bed almost every night of this trip.
They stopped as they stood in line, waiting to board the ship. Rose looked again at the huge, luxurious ship—the epitome of wealth and luxury of their time. It was the ship of dreams to everyone else, but to her it was a slave ship, taking her back to America in chains. Outwardly, she was everything a well brought up girl should be—but inside she was screaming.
As they moved forward again, Rose turned her head, looking out over Southampton. Her eyes lit on two figures bursting out the door of a nearby pub, running in the direction of the soon-to-depart ship. Obviously, they had waited until the last minute to board.
She watched them a moment longer, envying their freedom. What luxury, to be able to come and go as one pleased, to not have to worry about what society would think of one's behavior. If only she could be so free.
Cal tugged on her arm, and they moved forward, the open gangway door swallowing them as they stepped inside. Rose's face was set, her eyes distant. This was her life, and there was no changing it. Perhaps there had been a chance once, but no longer. The child inside her bound her to this life more surely than any vows ever would. She would return to America, marry Cal, and bear and raise her child in the same society in which she had grown up. She had no choice, for no one would let her break free.
No one she knew.