"Christopher! Are you ready to go yet?" Rose called, checking her luggage to make sure she had everything she needed. In an hour, they would be on a train headed east.
"I'm coming, Mom!" Christopher yelled back, appearing for a moment at the top of the stairs before disappearing again.
Rose sighed. At twelve, Christopher was much like she had been at that age—a chronic procrastinator. He could put anything off, especially if it was something he didn't want to do.
Her son had not been happy when she had told him that she had gotten a part in a movie that would require her to go to Europe for filming. He had begged to be left behind, but Rose was not about to leave the twelve-year-old to fend for himself, not even with the housekeeper to keep an eye on him. She had hired a tutor to teach him for the last month of school, and informed him in no uncertain terms that he was accompanying her, first to Philadelphia, and then to Scotland.
Christopher had been slightly mollified when she had pointed out that they would be taking a ship to Scotland—he loved sailing, though Rose had always found an excuse to avoid it—but he didn't want to leave his friends and spend the summer in a foreign country. For that matter, he also showed little interest in meeting his grandmother.
Ruth and Rose had written back and forth during the past year and a half, and had finally arranged to get together when Rose came east on her way to Scotland. Rose was nervous about the meeting, but was still looking forward to seeing her mother. They hadn't seen each other in thirteen years.
Christopher came down the stairs, his feet thumping loudly as he dragged a large suitcase behind him. "Do I have to go, Mom?" he asked, looking at her beseechingly.
"Yes, you have to go. It's high time you saw more of the world than Los Angeles, and you're too young to stay here on your own. Besides, your grandmother wants to meet you."
"Why does she want to meet me? Doesn't she have other grandkids?"
"Actually, no. I'm her only child, and you're my only child."
"How come she's never come here?"
"She can't afford to travel out here, and up until a year and a half ago she thought I was dead."
"She thought you were dead? Why? Doesn't she go to the movies?"
"Not very often."
"But why did she think you were dead? I knew you were alive."
Rose locked the front door behind them as the taxi she had called pulled up. "You were living with me. She, on the other hand, hadn't seen me in a long time, and she'd thought that I'd died right after the last time we saw each other."
Christopher looked at her in confusion, not understanding what his mother was talking about. Rose followed him into the taxi.
"I'll explain when we get on the train."
"Rose! Rose, is it really you?"
Rose turned at the sound of someone calling her name. An older woman with graying red hair hurried up to her.
"Mother!" Rose moved toward her, then hesitated. She hadn't seen this woman in thirteen years. The last time she had seen her, she had told her to shut up and walked away without a backward glance. Of course, she hadn't thought then that she wouldn't be seeing her again soon.
"Rose...it's good to see you. Life has been good to you, I see. You're more beautiful than ever."
Rose smiled, a little embarrassed. At thirty, she had reached the age where directors where beginning to overlook her in favor of younger actresses. She still looked very young for her age, as she always had, but she certainly wasn't a teenage girl anymore. Still, she didn't lack for work, even if some of the roles she wanted were harder to get now.
"You must be Christopher." Ruth looked at the boy standing beside Rose. He was the spitting image of his father, making him unmistakably Rose's son.
"Yep, I am. Christopher Jack Dawson, at your service, Grandma," he told her proudly, giving an exaggerated bow that brought smiles from both his mother and grandmother.
Rose had told him the story of Titanic on the way east, describing her struggle to escape from a life that had been suffocating her. Christopher had pressed for more details, but Rose had been unable to bring herself to give them, not even telling him who his father had been, or that they had met on the Titanic. She had told him only that a young man had helped her to break free of her old life, but hadn't told him that the young man had been his father.
"You look just like your father," Ruth told him, drawing a questioning glance from Christopher. Rose caught her mother's eye, shaking her head slightly. Ruth nodded, understanding what Rose was trying to say. Christopher didn't know who his father was, and Rose wasn't ready to tell him.
Rose collected their luggage, handing Christopher his share. "How far is it to your apartment, Mother?" she asked, picking up her bags and slowly making her way out of the station. Even after thirteen years, she still knew her way around.
"Only a few blocks, though it may be a long walk with so much luggage."
"We'll get a taxi, then," Rose responded, looking up and down the street. Within moments, she had hailed a taxi and instructed the driver to load their luggage onto the back of the car. Ruth gave directions to her apartment, and they were on their way.
Late that afternoon, Ruth and Rose were sipping tea in the tiny kitchen of Ruth's apartment. Rose looked around, the place reminding her uncannily of some of the places she had lived since she had left the upper class behind. It was a different town, a different building, but it was still much like the apartment she had first shared with the Calverts. No matter where she went, some things didn't change.
They had spent several hours getting reacquainted and letting Christopher and Ruth get to know each other, but Christopher had finally grown bored and asked to be allowed to explore. Rose had given her permission, although she cautioned him to stay within a few blocks and to return in time for dinner.
Now, Ruth looked at Rose over her cup. There was so much to talk about, but many things couldn't be said with Christopher listening. Now that he had gone out, they could speak more seriously.
"Rose...whatever happened to Jack? You said that he'd died, but you didn't say anything else. I know he was Christopher's father—the resemblance is unmistakable—but you never said anything else. What happened? Why doesn't Christopher know who his father is?"
"The Titanic happened, Mother. Fifteen hundred people died—and he was among them. I still can't speak of him without being overwhelmed."
"Rose, if you ever need someone to talk to..."
Rose shook her head. "Thank you, Mother, but...I can't," she whispered, walking to the window and looking out. Ruth started to question her further, then stopped, knowing that this was a chapter of Rose's life better left unsaid.
They never spoke of Jack again.
Rose and Christopher stayed with Ruth for a week before it was time for Rose to cross the ocean to Scotland. Ruth was concerned about her daughter making the trip, but didn't try to talk her out of it. Neither of them had set foot on a ship since the Carpathia had docked, but Rose was at last facing her fears. Maybe someday, Ruth thought, she would be able to sail again, too.
Mother and daughter had grown much closer over the past week. Nothing could completely heal the years of separation, or the hostility that had existed between them during Rose's childhood, but they could try. Ruth was still not quite able to believe that her daughter was alive and well, and appreciated Rose's presence and spirit far more than she had when she had taken Rose for granted. Rose had missed her mother all the years they had been apart, though she had never mentioned it until Ruth had contacted her for the first time.
"Are you sure you're ready to get on another ship, Rose?" Ruth asked, waiting with her daughter and grandson in the train station. In about fifteen minutes, the train that would take Rose and Christopher to New York—and their ship—would arrive.
"I have to do it sometime, Mother, before the fear of it cripples me. It's been thirteen years, and I've never forgotten a minute of that journey on Titanic, but life does go on. I need to sail again, to see what is in the world. Christopher has never been outside of the United States, and has spent most of his life in Los Angeles. It will be good for him to see more of the world. Besides..." She hesitated. "This is the only way to get to Scotland, and that's where they're filming this picture. If there were another way, I think I would take it, but there isn't, and I...want...need...to do this part."
"What is this picture about, Rose? You never did tell me."
Rose turned to her mother, looking at her somberly. "It's about the Titanic, Mother. I'm playing a first class woman who becomes involved with a third class man."
"Rose!" Ruth looked at her in shock. "Are you sure about making this picture? It sounds so much like..."
"I know it does. But I need to do this. I've never really faced...what happened...and I think I'm ready to do so now. I've seen the script...it isn't as much like what I went through as you might think—but it is familiar. I'm going to face the past, Mother, because that's the only way to move on into the future."
They could hear the train approaching, the whistle sounding to warn people away from the tracks. Ruth hugged Rose.
"Good luck, Rose. I hope that this will be what it takes to overcome your memories."
"I hope so, too. Good-bye, Mother. I'll see you again on the way back." She hugged her mother for the first time in years. "I love you, Mother."
"And I love you, Rose, my daughter. Good luck...with everything."
"Thank you." Rose picked up her luggage, escorting Christopher onto the train. She turned back once to wave before boarding, looking for Ruth, but she had already disappeared into the crowd.
As the train pulled away, Rose saw a lone figure standing beside the tracks waving, her red-gray hair blowing loose in the breeze. Smiling, she opened the window and waved back, continuing on until the train moved around the bend and headed onward toward New York—and her future.