Chapter Six

December 25, 1912

Philadelphia

The boat came slowly in Rose's direction. Her limbs stiffened from the cold, Rose tried to move toward it, to no avail. She was too weak. Officer Lowe and a crew member pulled her from the board and into the boat.

Rose didn't move. Her head hung limply, her eyes closed. Lowe reached for her wrist, checking for a pulse. After a moment, he shook his head, and lowered her back into the water.

*****

Rose stumbled back, realizing. Looking back, she thought of all the clues that something was amiss. She had never understood any of them. Her mother's distant behavior, Jack's refusal to acknowledge her—she had never understood before. But now she did. They hadn't been ignoring her. She truly did not exist for them.

Rose didn't understand why Mabel had been able to see and speak to her when no one else could. Perhaps Mabel had some sort of psychic ability, to be able to see what others could not. Rose didn't know. She had read a few ghost stories, but had never expected to be one. No wonder her mother had been so upset by the wreath.

Jack was walking back down the path, his collar turned up against the cold. His head was down, and he avoided looking anywhere but at the path before him. Rose followed him, not knowing what to do.

She didn't know where she would go. She couldn't go home—she didn't live there anymore. She hadn't really lived there in a long time. Was this what death was—walking amongst the living, seeing what they were doing, but unable to truly participate in any of it?

Another thought occurred to her. People died every day. Why was she the only one who seemed to be wandering around? Were there others like her? Would she ever move to another plane of existence, or disappear entirely?

Jack had reached the cemetery gates. Rose stopped, suddenly reluctant to follow him farther.

"I'm sorry, Jack," she whispered. "I didn't know...I won't follow you anymore, I promise. You have a good life ahead of you...Mimi is a lucky girl." She turned away; then, impulsively, she ran up to him, throwing her arms around him one last time.

He had stopped, wiping his eyes, trying to regain his composure before heading back into the streets. Rose kissed his cheek before pulling away. "I love you, Jack," she whispered. "Good-bye."

He touched his cheek, aware on a subconscious level of what had happened, but unable to understand it. Still, something had gotten through to him, and he whispered, "Good-bye, Rose. I love you," before walking on.

Rose ran back into the cemetery, stopping short when she saw Mabel waiting for her.

"You knew."

"Yes."

"Why didn't you tell me?"

"You would never have believed me. No one does."

"Then there are others like me?"

"Thousands."

Rose looked at Mabel, realizing something. "All those times you jumped at shadows, or talked to someone I couldn't see...there was someone there, wasn't there?"

"Yes."

"Why couldn't I see them?"

"Because you didn't want to. Very few people can see the ghosts walking around—even when they become one." She sighed. "No one really wants to die, no matter how much they might think so. And when someone dies before they are ready, they join the ranks of those haunting every street and hill and house of the world. They're all around, but few people can see them, and most don't understand the signs of their existence."

"Like Mother."

"Yes. Like her. She didn't understand about the wreath because she can't. She only knows that you are gone."

"But why couldn't I see these other ghosts?"

"Because you still believed yourself to be alive, and until you understood that you weren't, you couldn't acknowledge the other dead any more than the living can acknowledge you." She paused. "I think you'll be able to see them now—they're all around you."

Rose looked around and realized that Mabel was right. There were people that she hadn't seen before.

"They don't usually come here—this is a place of the dead, and they don't know that they're dead, too. Once they come here, they don't usually stay long. You're lucky, Rose. You found out in a very short length of time. Some people have been here for centuries, and they'll be here for centuries more, because they have no way of knowing." She stepped in the direction of a carriage that Rose hadn't noticed before. "I imagine they'll be here soon. Good-bye, Rose."

"Mabel, wait! Who will be here soon?"

"You'll see." Mabel climbed into the carriage, ignoring the puzzled look of the driver, who wondered who she had been talking to. "The train station," she told him.

Rose watched as the carriage moved up the street. At a loss, she turned back toward the cemetery, and stopped, surprised, as something soft twined around her ankles. Looking down, she saw her pet cat, who had been run over by a carriage when Rose was six years old. She picked it up, mystified.

The animal had been a bloody mess when it had died, but now it was whole and healthy. The cat purred, rubbing its head against her.

Rose walked toward the gates, and stopped, startled. A bright light obscured them. A figure moved from the light and beckoned to her. She walked closer, recognizing the person.

"Father?" she asked in disbelief. He looked healthy, in his prime, as unlike the thin, wasted figure who had died from tuberculosis three years earlier as could be. He put an arm around her.

"It's time to go, Rose."

Rose looked back one last time. The carriage had turned a corner and was gone, but she could still see Jack in the distance, walking slowly up the long boulevard.

"He'll be all right."

She looked up. "Will I...?"

"...ever see him again?" her father finished for her. "Yes. When his time comes, you'll be there waiting. But for now, you need to come with me. There's another life waiting for you."

As Rose followed him, she saw something in the distance. Titanic stood before her, as whole and gleaming as it had been that first day. She looked at her father questioningly.

"Go, Rose. There's people waiting for you there. And someday, Jack will meet you there. In the meantime, there's a whole world here for you to explore. Go on, greet your friends. And then," he smiled, thinking of what he had seen Jack tell Rose, "meet me at the clock."

Rose smiled and nodded, setting the cat down and throwing her arms around him. Then she ran off, laughing, finally free.

The End.