Here's the first chapter, and I hope all this waiting was worth it! It took me forever to write, sorry about that, read and review!
Jack sighed as he walked to the door of an apartment that, for him, was the only home he had had since he was fifteen. The paint was peeling, but beneath it the walls were sturdy enough to stand against the windy June day outside. He turned his key in the lock and heard it click. Around him, homeless beggars and very unpleasant-looking men huddled in little crevices of buildings. A quick exchange of coins happened on the corner of two streets. He wished fervently that he had been able to find a better place to live for Rose, but that had been impossible. For a month and a half they had taken refuge in the Red Cross Humanity Society with at least a hundred other steerage survivors because there had been no other place for them to go. He knew Rose was willing to go anywhere he took her, and that scared him to death, for the terror that he'd take her to the wrong place.
Trying to push the struggling thoughts from his head to leave room for his love, he slipped in the door and locked it behind him. There was silence in the two rooms that they owned. One was a bedroom; the other was a small kitchen furnished with a cheap oven and table combined with a small space where a ratty sofa and armchair sat, gathering dust. Not really counting as a third room was the bathroom, right beside the door into the bedroom. It smelt moldy and as much as Rose had tried to clean away the odor, she could not.
"Rose?" He called throughout the house, loving the sound of her name on his tongue, just as he always had, the name of his flower. He dropped the bag of groceries he had been carrying by the front door and kicked off his scuffed boots, knowing full well that Rose would make him pick them up later.
Sometimes he felt so disappointed in himself that this was the best he could give the one who gave his life meaning. It wasn't as if he didn't remember how her days had been before. He could still see the elegant gowns she had worn, so expensive that one could have paid off all of his parents' land and the little house. And those damn jewels – some of them he had never even heard of, let alone seen. But Rose had insisted on staying with him, saying that if she could survive the Atlantic she'd do fine on the streets. Jack wasn't too sure. She was so amazingly gorgeous – he knew that almost any one of those men that were standing outside of their apartment would rape her without a second thought. That's why he thought it so important to protect her.
If only he could find her. After his long day of work, his arms burned with the need to hold her as soon as humanly possible. He strode into their bedroom and saw what he suspected. She was fast asleep on their bed, a cloth hanging limply in her hand, as if she had fallen asleep while cleaning. He guessed she had. She was quite devoted to mastering domestic skills.
He couldn't make himself wake her up. She was unbelievably beautiful anytime, and she sleeping made her seem even more angelic. She was wearing a pale green dress that they had received at the Red Cross. It was a flattering cut given away by some rich person because, apparently, gowns without lace or beads were not "popular" and it was life or death for the wealthy to stay in style. But it was perfect for Rose. It was thin for the summer, short-sleeved, like a sundress, he decided.
And her hair . . . that was the distinguishing feature about her. She had wonderful hair, scarlet colored, like flames from an unbearably hot fire, almost as deep as blood, and in wild, lovely curls. It was lightly scented with rose water and he loved to run his fingers through every strand.
Her skin was like alabaster, glowing a healthy light color like cream. It was so soft to the touch. She had only showed that skin to him, throughout her entire life.
But the part of her he figured he knew most was her lips. They were ripe and apple-red. He had loved on them more times then he thought possible and he lived for her kisses.
He stood in the doorway for a moment, then lowered himself on their small, squeaky, comfortable bed, their favorite piece of furniture. His weight on the mattress made her stir, her rosebud lips parting slightly. She stretched and, ever so slowly, her eyes opened. He loved her eyes, the color of magnolia leaves and the sky mixed together. He could look through them into the hidden depths of her soul without so much as trying.
"Jack . . ." She murmured deliciously, letting the word roll over her tongue like sugar. Blindly she reached up for him, wrapping her arms around his neck. He sat up straighter, grinning, and pulled her up with him. She yawned innocently and rested her head on his chest. He smoothed her curls and pulled her closer to him so she simply let her body go limp and him support her. "Mmm . . . how long have you been home? You should have woken me."
His grin widened and he answered, "Aw, Rose, you know I can't wake ya up when you're sleepin'. You deserve it."
She arched a fine eyebrow at him and murmured in response, "Yes, sleep doesn't visit us much at night, does it?"
He chuckled and blushed, knowing what she meant, and tried to untangle himself from his love so he could stand, but she wouldn't let him.
"I have something to tell you," she protested firmly, looking up to meet his gaze.
He saw something new flicker in her eyes, something he hadn't seen since a terrible April night with air evaporating to leave screams in its place. Fear. It shone like a candle in her irises, in her soul. He gulped, knowing full well what was coming. He was stupid to think that their relationship would have worked out in the first place without marriage. He had wanted to marry her, but he was too terrified to ask, too terrified of rejection. And now she was done waiting.
Rose's heart pounded inside of her chest. She had learned within the last few months that the old wife's tale was true, that when you were nervous you could actually feel your heart beat. Of course, she had been more than "nervous" before. But she couldn't help but let herself think that Jack didn't want her news. In the back of her mind she was forced to imagine what Cal's reaction would have been if they were not married. Would he have murdered her precious cargo or her? Would he have been too terribly ashamed and disgusted to look at her? Of course, their baby would not have been conceived from love, but force. Jack's child had been made from passion and earnestness and eternal devotion. And he was a good man. But still she couldn't stop herself from praying that it was already over.
"I . . . I . . ." She was finding it hard to look at him, but Jack put his thumb under her chin and forced her face up to meet his eyes, eyes that were looking at her with a little bit of apprehension and worry, but still brimming thick with blue love, blue as the waves of day that had threatened to tear them apart. So, like always, she ended up spilling everything out, because she trusted him beyond imagination. "We . . . well . . . Jack . . . We made a baby."
She could tell that this was the last thing he had expected. His jaw dropped and his stare became unfocused. He dropped his hold around her waist. For a moment all he did was stare. His thumb under her chin lost its force and she bit her lip as she waited for his reaction, terrified.
There was another time that such uneasy silence had hung in the air. And she had been the one to break it. In the back of her head, smoky memories stirred . . . the gymnasium, his touch so tender and his mood so determined. But she had shunned him.
Would he do it to her?
She could see transparent tears collecting at the corners of his eyelashes, and she didn't know what to think. So she tried not to wonder, but she couldn't help it. She trembled in his released grip, thinking that he must have decided to abhor her, because she was not yet his wife.
All of the sudden he focused on her again, and his powerful hands wrapped around her arms. She almost went limp from being so close to him in such a moment of agony, and she prepared herself for the waterfall of the worst.
Tremulously he asked, his voice full of wonder, "So . . . I'm gonna be a daddy?" He turned to her now, and she still could not tell if it was a good or bad reaction she saw within him. She nodded slowly, wondering if he even wanted a child.
Suddenly his rigid self control shattered and he picked her up, whirling her in circles, shouting and whooping incoherent phrases of absolute joy. She giggled, the sound like a silver ribbon from her mouth. Because finally, Jack Dawson had a chance to be a father like his own. That was all he had ever wanted. He dropped her on the bed and kissed her, kissed her with such ardor that he pushed her down into the blankets, his body on top of hers. His lips melted with her round red ones, tasting the fruitiness and feeling the softness. She pulled him back with her, grasping his shirt.
As always, such a passionate kiss was doomed from the beginning. As they made love, the only thing she heard was him whispering, "Thank you, thank you, I love you," in her ear again and again.
Dawn shone through the dirt-streaked glass pane above their bed as Jack stretched lazily. Rose's head lay on his bare chest, curls cascading like blood from his skin.
A father. It seemed impossible because merely three months ago he had been sleeping in street corners and under bridges. He hadn't even met his soulmate. And then came the silence of love and the murder of joy that lasted far, far too long. But he felt like he was ready.
Damn it all to hell! Who was he kidding? He didn't feel like he was ready at all. He was absolutely terrified – there was no other word for it. He knew he would never be as good of a parent as his own dad had been, but he had to try. He just had to. Rose was carrying his child, and that was the most precious gift he had ever been given, short of Rose's soul.
He looked down and his eyes sought his love's abdomen, and he felt the tears coming. As much as he tried to stop them, he was soon silently crying because he realized that beneath that skin was the beautiful creation that had been shaped from love: pure, absolute love. So of course the baby would be perfect.
He knew now exactly what he needed to do. He needed to be Rose's husband, and not because of the infant. It was a burning desire that fate and destiny had given to him, a passion so deep that it would never be quenched until done. Nothing else could satisfy him or her so fully.
He almost laughed at the ironicness of it all. Short of two months ago, he never dreamed he would be considering marriage so soon. He had been a wild, spirited, free artist, with ties to nothing and love to no one. With Fabri at his side and paper under his arms and air in his lungs, he never even thought there was anything more to a perfect life.
Now he realized that he was as close to perfection as God would allow. He didn't even put his staying in one place under the category of "settling" for this life was as unpredictable and beautiful as any other he had ever lived.
Anxiety almost drowned him at the mere thought of proposing. He squeezed his smoldering eyes shut and tried to imagine how he would do it, but he hadn't the slightest idea if he even could. Any self-confidence he had ever had was gone, leaving bare nakedness in its place. The moment he looked at her, his heart beat so hard he feared he was having cardiac arrest. The fact that she might soon be asked to be Mrs. Dawson made him nearly die.
Mrs. Rose Dawson.
Mrs. Rose Hockley.
Ms. Rose DeWitt-Bukater
Mrs. Rose Dawson . . .
He let the name roll over his tongue silently again and again. The only thing he could think of was when he had almost lost her, when the Atlantic had almost frozen a Rose. When he had thought his life was not worth living. And that had been too much pain to bear.
He wouldn't survive if he lost her again.
He happened to glance at the cracked clock on their nightstand and cursed loudly. It read eight o'clock in the morning and he was supposed to be at work at seven-thirty! His boss would never, not ever, accept any sort of romantic excuse. If he overworked himself ever damned hour, he hardly had enough to make ends meet. It was widely known that the locomotive factory he worked in paid good money for a factory, and that was still so little that you could count a month's pay on one hand.
Tears stung his eyes. This was not where he had wanted to be. Art was his passion, and with his job, there was hardly any time for the love of his life. But art had not opened a door for him, not even a crack, and he had to get the green now. Rose was convinced that his day in the land of the famous workers on paper would come, but he had a hard time believing it. He hardly had time to draw anymore, and when he did, he had trouble putting his soul in it like he used to.
He tried to unwrap himself from Rose and succeeded, pulling away as the bed squeaked in protest. He stood there for a moment, looking at her tenderly, unwilling to withdraw from the beautiful scene in front of him. She stirred in discomfort from his arms having left her, and he pulled the blanket up higher over her body. Something inside of him hurt so bad that he couldn't bear it anymore, and he softly kissed her forehead before getting dressed and racing out the door.
He locked the door behind him, and, as it did everyday, the sense of worry about leaving Rose home alone flooded through his heart. Instead of putting the keys under the mat, as usual, he shoved them in his pockets, trying to reassure himself that she was a strong woman. It didn't help any, because he knew the men on their street were stronger.
Shaking his head with fear for his love and their unborn child, he raced off down the road, running, his boots thudding into the hard sidewalks. Dust was kicked up as he sped. The scent of cinnamon rolls from a bakery and spaghetti from an Italian restaurant wafted through the damp, humid air and awoke his senses. His stomach rumbled from the physical exertion of the night and hunger. Of course, he wouldn't be eating till he got home, and last night he hadn't even had the chance to eat dinner. Not that he minded. He had enjoyed the other option much, much more.
With that thought, he already began to wish the day was over and he could hold Rose again. He was petrified that this life wasn't for her, but he wanted to make it hers. So he anxiously planned a quick stop at the jewelry store before continuing to their apartment.
Morning passerby cried out in shock as he shoved by them, mumbling apologies every few people. The factory, and another day of heat and pain, was in sight.
Rose's jade and sapphire eyes fluttered open as she awoke, feeling wonderfully renewed and refreshed. Lemon shafts of sunlight bathed her in their warmth and she shifted closer to the man next to her, completely content.
But he was not there.
She sat up, clutching the sheet around her chest, and sighing in frustration. Sometimes it seemed as if the man of her life was simply a stranger who slept in her bed. She knew he was working hard for her, but she couldn't help but wish that he could do what he loved – draw.
Unconsciously her hand fell to her stomach. Startled, she remembered that a product of love and destiny was growing inside of her. She was carrying Jack's child.
She was carrying Jack's child.
Those words would never loose their magic for her. It seemed as though her Savior had left a gift from heaven in her abdomen. She fell back against the pillows, ecstatically happy because Jack had done what she felt no other man could ever do – he had trusted her. She had never seen him more alive, never seen joy radiating from him like that. She could think of not one other better candidate for a father on the face of the planet.
The doctor had said that the baby had been conceived at least a month ago, and she knew exactly when it had happened. The idea that an infant had been forming in her while she was in those waters of cold blood and death seemed impossible.
Wistfully, she remembered the smoky look of unmatched adoration and devotion clouding his eyes in their never-changing orbs of soul-reading blue, so beautiful and wonderful that she could stare at him until kingdom come. She had never expected him to accept the parental task before him with such anticipation and need. But he had.
Already her body needed him to hold her, but she sighed and reminded herself that no, he had work to do, and so did she. Such was their life.
With unabashed dread, she kicked her way out of her cocoon of blankets and sheets. The warm fabric fell off her skin as she moved into the cool world. Her bare white frame immediately began to shiver and she hurried to the wardrobe in the corner, wishing that Jack was there every morning when she woke, not just Sundays. She quickly yanked a worn, frayed, dark blue sundress from the hidden depths and dressed in it over her underclothes, shaking her red and light-red streaked curls back and tying them up in an elegant knot. Every article of clothing she owned was donated from the shelter, but she didn't care. It was such freedom not to care.
She wasn't hungry and usually didn't eat unless Jack was home. So instead she began to clean the house, yet again, humming the melody that was branded in her memory like hot coals.
"Come Josephine, my flying machine, going up she goes, up she goes . . ."
It was when she bent over to pick up the broom from the corner of the tiny kitchen that the first wave hit her. She doubled in half, her stomach churning, and threw her hand against the wall to keep from sliding to the floor. She wanted to scream, but couldn't. It was like her insides were twisting and writhing inside of her . . .
Even though she hadn't eaten a thing, vomit gushed from her mouth and splattered to the floor. Her head pounded thickly like engines, and she somehow managed to crawl into the bathroom before she got sick again, this time in the toilet.
She pressed her forehead against the cool surface of the sink and sighed noisily. This was her first morning sickness, the one before many, and she hated it. The terrible taste in her mouth lingered even after she washed out her mouth and brushed her teeth, and the nauseousness would not leave. Inside, she knew it was worth it, but she found herself praying with all her being that the father of this baby could be here with her.
For several hours she sat on the icy tile, not able to move, and even if she could, she wouldn't have. She was lost in complete memories of the man she loved.
After work, Jack jumped when the bell on the jewelry shop's door rang. He was nervous enough already. He could feel the fire color of his cheeks and he knew the world could see it too. He felt as though he were on a mission that could never be completed. For a moment he stood in the doorway and gathered himself. Don't blow it, Dawson, he told himself. She's the one and you know it. You know it!
The man behind the register looked at Jack over his spectacles, eyebrows raised in bemusement. Jack shot him a look of annoyance but his heart was pounding too hard to speak. So the teller spoke for him. "Now either you're running from a gang with knives or you're here to buy a wedding ring." He smiled.
"Well . . . uh . . . the last one sounds better," Jack murmured the red flowing from his cheeks and back into his blood vessels. Shakily, a million thoughts running into his head, he made his way to the ring counter. At first his mind didn't even process the scene of rows upon rows of sparkling gemstones and gold until he saw something that he knew he was meant to look at every day.
The band was silver and it shone with a natural brilliance that reminded him of Rose's eyes. A fairly small diamond was attached to its outer edge and had even more miniscule precious stones around it, two on each side. For several moments he simply stared, jaw open.
It seemed too perfect and beautiful for him to even pick up. He couldn't speak. His insides quivered and his mind flashed back day after day, turning the pages of time in reverse, faster and faster, the flood of tears pricking at his eyes . . . Ice . . . death . . . blood . . . His Rose.
Because, you see, love was something that Jack Dawson had and was and would forever experienced to its fullest. Love was that feeling of total commit and the need and desire to make a sacrifice for something greater than your own black soul. And he had felt it.
Somehow he knew the warmth was going to seep back through the cold, and that would only happen if he were together with the empress of his life for eternity. He just stared, letting the water in the corner of his eyes dry. God damn it, he loved that woman.
The man somehow seemed to read exactly what he was thinking and, with a flourish, held the open box out to Jack. His tender fingers of an Artist stroked the cool metal and he whispered, "It's almost as magnificent as her."
The teller shook his wiry-grey-haired head with amusement at young love and went to ring it up. Off-handedly, not looking at Jack's lax expression, he asked, "You want me to engrave it? At no extra charge?"
Smoky-blue eyes closed against the hurt of memories as "their" phrases ran through Jack's head. You jump I jump . . . Come Josephine . . . You wouldn't have jumped . . . to the stars . . .
Never let go.
It meant so much to him, those three words. They said everything, the pain of moving ahead and the sure death of staying behind, the beginning of an old life and cherishing the new, and passion that would bloom forever and never, not ever, die. Bullets could not kill it. Social walls could not kill it. The mighty Atlantic sea could not kill it. But most of all, death could not kill it. Death could not win. Somewhere in the back of his head, a Bible verse from his childhood floated . . .
Death, O where is your shadow?
That was exactly the sort of devotion and everlasting affection that had doomed the two lovers to their miraculous and manifest destiny.
He cleared his throat and looked again at the shopkeeper, finding it hard to speak at the moment. "Uh . . . yeah," he answered, coughing and shedding his voice of it silent huskiness. "Yeah, could you . . . could ya engrave three words for me?"
The clerk nodded and opened the door to go in the back room. "'I love you?'" He asked, as if confirming what he already knew. "We put that all the time son. Usual, maybe, but still so –"
"No, no, no," Jack interrupted. "No, she knows that. I just don't ever want her to forget something I told her once, such a very long time ago . . ."
The man paused and leaned against the doorframe, looking interested in his story, but Jack could not tell it. He was still too raw, the scar too fresh, the cut too deep. "Never let go."
Puzzled, the clerk looked up. "What?"
"Could you write . . . 'Never let go'?"
"Uh . . . sure thing." He turned and went in back, mumbling something about crazy lovers of today.
Rose was sitting in the ratty armchair in the living room / kitchen, waiting to hear the sound of those big, thick boots thudding up the broken sidewalk to her front door. She loved that sound and the routine that followed – the enveloping of her body by strong arms, the kiss full of such ardor it almost doomed them before they said a word.
The smell of baking chicken wafted through the air from the ancient oven. She had managed to go through Jack's groceries that morning and had just started cooking dinner. She hadn't yet completely mastered the task of cook, but she felt like she was improving. Her first few meals had turned out so burnt and charred that she had wanted to cry at his sweetness when Jack asked for seconds to keep her from bursting into tears. He acted like he enjoyed it, and now he actually seemed to want to eat her food. It wasn't half as bad as it had been anyway. She had adapted quite well to supporting her own physical needs, as opposed to having other people do it for her, and it made her feel healthier than she had in her entire life, with the exception of morning sickness.
She treasured their dinners – the entire time Jack simply stared at her as he tried and sometimes failed to get food in his mouth. A woman had never felt as cherished as she did. He made her feel as if she were the only girl he had ever looked at, ever been with, had ever existed.
That made her day worth it.
In the lonely silence that had not yet been broken inside her apartment, the only company Rose had was her thoughts. They would whirl and swirl, faster and faster until she felt dizzy. Right now, in the back of her mind, the word "marriage" seemed fuzzy and distant but there. She tried to chase it away, tried to say her life was perfect the way it was and there was no need to get married. God damn it, she even tried to convince herself that Jack didn't want to have a wife and be tied down to a place. But he was overjoyed on the prospect of a child, so why should he shun a spouse?
Still, she realized she couldn't simply ponder on it, and when the time came, it came, and there was nothing else she could do. She wasn't expecting it to come for a long, long time because they each had so many other things on their minds – for the most part, healing after the disaster that had occurred and ripped their lives to shreds like the steel of a Titan.
She was only seventeen. Sometimes, it was impossible to believe that she was still only seventeen. Still, as older adults had recently nicknamed her, a "teenager" – not even a woman in the eyes of some, but a . . . a child! It was absurd to even hold that thought about her because, when one had been through all she had, they could never, not ever, be considered a child again. She felt her maturing had happened a long time ago, when her father had been gambling and giving out all of their money and then suddenly died, leaving empty hearts and bank accounts and piles upon piles of bills and debts.
Still like a young girl, she had loved him, but at the same time had grown to hate him like a woman, grown to hate him for leaving her with a future that wasn't hers and a weight she could not bear. It was in this she had learned her first lesson. Any human had a right for equality. Not all got it.
She had nursed this hate for so long, that eventually it began to cover up her ability to love, like vines choking the life from a lovely tree. And by the time that she had become engaged to the infamous Caledon Hockley, the monster in her mind, she was an endless ocean of despair and a cold-hearted person left out in the night. And still, she had only been seventeen.
Just when it seemed all divine creatures had written her off as a hopeless cause of malicious pain, she boarded the Titanic. But something amazingly beautiful had come out of her tragic time spent on Earth. She had met Jack Dawson.
Looking back, she realized that she hadn't even known she loved him the moment she saw him, but she had. There had been something inside of him the foretold of a timeless love between soulmate and soulmate, between a man and a woman. So, unwillingly and unknowingly, she had become the woman she needed to be to fulfill her destiny in his arms.
He had saved her.
And for that she owed him her entire life, and was more than willing to give it to him. He had already taken it anyway, he took it before she knew she loved him, took it without her permission or consent, but had taken it nonetheless.
The sound of muffled, heavy footsteps seeped in through around the door and Rose's heart flew. She was out of the chair before she realized it. A key grated in the lock and she whisked to the front door, getting there mere milliseconds after it opened.
There he stood, the love of her life, his cheeks even pinker than usual, his hair shining even blonder from the sun, his skin tanner from walking through the hot day again, his clothes dirtier from a day of work. She couldn't adore him more than she did at that moment. His arms instinctively opened and his hands groped for her, and she threw herself at him, her hands clutching the dusty shirt at his chest.
His grin broke like it always did, and she could tell it was the first true grin he had given all day, and it was saved especially for her. She stood on her tiptoes and pressed her lips against his, not able to wait any longer, her arms climbing his body to wind around his neck. He moved her back as their mouths connected, slowly stumbling forward so he could close and lock the door. That task done, he concentrated more on his true job and his hands found their way to her hair, twisting and feeling and smoothing the fiery red curls that always awaited him.
Jack's heart pounded hard against his ribs and Rose's own chest that he was pressed so close to. He felt as though she knew he was nervous. It was as if the ring box in his pocket was glowing red and signaling beams to her, even though she couldn't possibly have known it was there. Her rosebud lips moved away from his for a split second to allow air to fill her lungs before he cut her off again, tasting the sweet honey depths of her mouth meant only for him, that had only been given to him.
He felt her giving way inside, and he held her up as she relaxed in his grip, one arm supporting her weight and one hand on the small of her back. His eyes, pools of mystery that they were, searched her own with concern drifting in their azure waters. "How did everything go today?" He asked softly, bending his head to say the sentence into her skin, heating the flesh beneath his words.
She sighed and her eyelids fluttered shut. "Alright, I suppose. I got morning sickness for the first time."
He looked up with pain in every line of his face, and she knew that he had really wanted to be there with her. Concern reflected in his eyes and they flickered to her stomach, resting there, seeing something only he could see, a soul forming. All of the sudden it seemed something within him cracked and he crushed her against him, breathing in the scent of her, tasting the air around her, needing her, and hating himself for not being there enough.
For a moment she simply stayed there, her cheek pressed against his chest, her fingertips idly walking across his shoulders. But soon the smell of burning food reached her nose and, with a moan, she wrenched herself from his arms and made her way to the oven.
He stared after her, watching every move she made, amazed that anyone had the right or even capability to look so magnificent any time, place, or circumstance. He kicked off his boots and was about to follow when the weight of the box in his pocket was suddenly painfully obvious again. He was so nervous he could hardly make himself reply to her "Are you hungry?" with a slight nod. Seventeen . . . sometimes she seemed absolutely ageless to him because he knew few other women whom had gone through as much as she had.
His hand reached unconsciously in his pocket and opened and closed the velvet case with a barely audible snap. This was what love was, the anxiety that nearly killed him. He felt nearer to his death than he remembered being in the damned Atlantic Ocean, in the middle of the crisis of his life.
Rose was sliding plates of chicken, potatoes, and bread when he finally got in touch with reality again. He was still by the door, still licking his lips that were bruised from their desperate kiss. As she wiped her hands on a rag, she watched him curiously as he simply stared at her. He hardly felt his socked feet moving over to her and his calloused finger gently brushing a curl from her eye. Still, after a month and a half, she glowed shyly whenever he was so tender with her. Her eyes flickered to the floor and a soft smile replaced her puzzled expression as he pulled a chair out for her and let her sit down.
Suddenly ravenous, he did the same and began tearing into his food, trying to get something, anything, to take his burning mind and slamming heart off the question he knew he was going to ask regardless of life or death. It helped some to have his mouth full and chewing but not enough, so he decided to add speech to his multi-tasking. "It's wonderful, my dear," he muttered in-between gulps as Rose daintily cut pieces of chicken and lowered her lips to her utensils. She shone with amusement as he kept his eyes on his plate and he knew that she knew that something else was on his brain.
There was nothing else to discuss, so the rest of their supper was eaten in silence, Rose soaking up the satisfaction of just being with him, Jack turning over a proposal again and again in every part of his body. When he was finished, he cleared his and her place and scrubbed every dish in sight, clean or dirty, as she shook her head at him.
"I have a surprise for you," he murmured finally, once he saw that there were no more dishes to wash. He thought that it might finally be the time to ask, but at the last second he looked into her face, into her soul, and he knew that it wasn't right yet, that she had no idea. Just gazing at that stark display of God's craftsmanship and humanity at its finest made him weak inside, so instead he turned to something other than he had planned.
"What?" She asked, playfully suspicious. He reached in his pocket and took out another key, a key that the apartment leaser, Mr. Tom Benova, had lent him once he told him of his desire for something for his wife to do other than clean an uncleanable living space.
"Tom gave me this and it'll open that little storage space in back," he told her, watching her light up with excitement. Rose knew that his surprises were always wonderful, and she could hardly wait. He was so good to her, and that made her love him all the more.
"What's in it?" She demanded, breathless, watching the teasing in his eyes, the teasing that meant that he had something he knew she would adore. And he knew her so, so well.
"Well, Miss Rose, you can go figure it out for yourself," he answered, mild mocking in his voice as he held the key just within her reach. She snatched it from him and her feet nearly flew across the carpet to the worn door that before they had been denied entrance to. He loved it when she got excited like this, more like a little kid than a grown woman. It unleashed a side of her, a fun side, that she previously had not been allowed to recognize.
He leaned against the hallway wall, a little ways behind her, hands in his pockets again, relishing the moment when she would see his gift that Tom had loaned them. She thrust the key in the lock and bit her ruby lips with concentration as she turned it and heard the rewarding click. For a moment she looked uncertainly back at him, and he nodded.
Rose turned the tarnished handle and slowly pulled back the door. It was too dark to see, so, blood pumping wildly, she flipped a switch that connected to a bare electric light and the artificial glow flooded the room, a room that was like all the other rooms, carpeted with a rough and torn carpet, the walls once white but now peeling and stained a yellowish color.
For there, the only thing other than small windows in the tiny space, was a piano.
Tears stung her eyes as memories from her childhood were dusted and she could again see her father's thick fingers flying gracefully over the keys as he taught his musical magic to her, taught her every note and every song he knew. She could see herself bouncing on his lap, starched dress loose and once-proper curls flying across her face as his entire body beat the rhythm that was completed by the piano. She could even hear his voice, a deep, rich bass, overcoming her own tiny singsong one, "I am thine and thou art mine for ten thousand years beside . . ." If she imagined hard enough, she was back in that room again, warm oak paneling half way up the parlor walls, the floor soft and thick sapphire-colored carpet, the plush drapes pulled back from the gigantic, majestic windows to allow the sun to grace them with its presence, comfortable, wide chairs positioned strategically along with potted plants for guests, and the two double glass doors swung open so the whole foyer could hear their joyous melody. And there was Jonathan DeWitt-Bukater, in person, his neatly slicked back dark hair and salt-and-pepper beard covering his strong, square face, his muscled arms moving as he tapped out a song for the little girl on his lap, a pretty little girl with lovely hair and wild eyes. Then there was her mother, and she was . . . happy, happy as she had been before her husband's death and their financial doom. She looked so beautiful with her face free from these worries as she stood with her hands on Jonathan's shoulders and smiled as she listened.
But then Time moved on and the scene dissipated, making the people more smoky, like phantoms of her past. The room fell away, leaving this one with its smell of mold and dampness overpowering the clean, fruity smell of her childhood home. The music inside her head began to die, seeming ghostly as it disappeared.
But the piano was still there.
It was a different piano. Not the grand one that she had once owned. It had a box behind the keys holding all the music-making components, and altogether looked less than two feet wide. It was wooden and it was stained with use. It was old. The keys looked more beige than ivory. But it was still a piano.
Still in a trance, she glided over to this instrument, her hands ever so lightly grazing the cracked top. The key fell forgotten to the floor. Jack faded away. She sat herself at the bench, carefully arranging her skirts as if it were another thousand-pound gown that she was wearing.
Her alabaster, slender fingers reached for the smooth keys and rested there, for a moment, as she rested in the comfort of yesterdays ago. Then she began to play.
It was a haunting song; she didn't remember the lyrics, only the tune, a tune that her father had told her. Faintly, words began reforming, words she was sure Jonathan had just made up.
As surely as the many birds do sing,
As surely as the butterfly takes wing,
As surely as the stars twinkle in the night,
As surely as the moon shines so bright,
I will surely forever love you
As surely as the morning dew
I will surely forever love you
Surely . . .
She played it slower than he had, and she didn't sing out loud as he had. She hardly remembered how the notes went; it was as if some invisible force was guiding her fingertips.
When the song ended, she collapsed, pressing her forehead against the cold wood beneath the music keys, crying uncontrollably, knowing she had lost that family for good.
Jack stood where he had for the past five minutes, and when the tears started coming down Rose's face, he didn't know what to do. Half of him wanted to take her in his arms and rock her and hold her and make whatever was hurting her go away, but the other half of him felt helpless because he was not this part of her past, and he knew that it was that past that was with her at the moment. So he stayed there, silently crying with her, because it pained him to see her weep like that.
Suddenly she stood up, those tears still streaming down her face but not affecting her complexion of warm, pinkish snow, and ran to him. He barely had time to open his arms before she threw herself at him, the same tears making imprints of water on his shirt. He murmured incoherent words of comfort into her ear until he finally made out her own words through her sobs, "I love you, I love you, I love you . . ."
He reached a thumb under her chin and tilted it up to meet his gaze and he argued, "I love you more."
She laughed, that contrasting sharply with her weeping, and shook her head at him, saying without actually saying that no, he didn't, and no, he couldn't, but he disagreed.
A burning desire was refilling her need for her family, and it was the need of him, not just to feel him, but to be him, to be one with him and for him to love her like no other man could possibly ever do.
She looked up into his face and whispered that secret, forbidden whisper of a destiny that so outdid anything she could ever hope for herself. "Put your hands on me, Jack."
He looked surprised for a moment, as if this was the last thing he had expected, but she kissed him without warning and deeply, and that was all he needed to give in. He didn't even need that.
It was two o'clock in the morning, but neither of them could sleep. Rose was still remembering each passion filled moment of reaching higher heights than ever before, Jack was basking in these and using them to build a platform for the question he had to ask. She was lying with her head on his chest and he was idly playing with her curls, weaving his hand in and out, while the other hand clutched her closer to him, as though he thought that she might fly away like a fragile butterfly carried by a stronger wind.
"Rose . . ." he muttered, breaking the quiet darkness of the moment, waiting for her to acknowledge him before he went on.
She moved to look up at his face. "Hmmm?"
"Do . . . do you . . . do you love me?"
Fear flashed in her eyes like lighting racing across a Texas prairie in summer, devouring everything in its path. Didn't he know? Couldn't he see? She would die for him, defeat the very core of Hell for him, cross the world for him, freeze in an icy sea for him, drown for him, but most of all, live for him. Her expression turned to absolute confusion. "Jack . . . Jack . . . of course I do . . . I'll love you eternally . . ."
She felt some of the tension ease in his tight muscles around her and she breathed a sigh of relief at the fact that he was relieved. "Well . . . uhhh . . ."
She looked at him imploringly, telling him to go on. Confused, she watched as he reached beside the bed and pulled something out of his pants pocket. It was a box.
She knew. Just looking at the terror in his blue, blue smoldering eyes told her. She froze, not knowing what to do, not expecting it in the least, everything he had ever said to her racing through her mind like a wildfire, feeling every emotion she had ever felt with him, the height of ecstasy to the pit of horror and desperation and the sure knowing she was going to die where she had been born on the Titanic, the Queen of the ocean that was murdered by a mutiny.
He flipped open the lid with trembling fingers and her eyes roved the ring inside, not believing it, hardly even seeing the beautiful, pure silver or the variety of diamonds sparkling and dancing in the shining moonlight. The moment of truth for her lifetime was in front of her.
"Rose . . ." He had planned a speech, but now a speech was out of the question, his heart was pumping so fast that it would kill him if he tried to remember it, so he spoke exactly from that heart, meaning every word that passed his lips. "I love you . . . I love you so much that I'd die without you, I would have died without you, I can barely live with you not being mine, because you're not mine, not really, not yet, and I would go back into the gates of that freezing Hell for you again and again and again, and I can't ever put that behind me unless I know that we are forever, and I want a family and I want a life and I want . . . I need you and . . . Oh God, Rose . . . Trust me."
Tears trembled at her eyelashes like crystals but he didn't wipe them away, just stared at her, strings of love binding them together. She knew the answer, she had known it since forever. The story of blood and of sacrifice and of ice had never had as much of a meaning as it did right then.
He held the ring out to her, and in the moonlight she read the inscription – "Never Let Go."
So many things hit her when she heard those three words. Life. Death. Victory. Defeat. Struggle. She could almost feel that strong, angelic hand of an Artist pressed against hers, almost feel the contours of his fingers frozen to her own. Such fierce determination in his blue eyes that were frosty like his blood. The absence of Time and yet the bitter impression of it. Fear dying because she didn't have the strength for it anymore. Passion fading. Love hardening. Eternal devotion blooming.
Souls that had died and souls that had lived but were passing in front of her eyes from something no one could stop were speaking to her, their words entwining like a vine into one, "Soulmate." Their screams became bold in her mind, and her own scream mixed in with theirs.
She had never really been warm in the first place. Jack was her only source of warmth. And she loved him so much. Too much to not be his wife.
Her life raced before her and she realized, finally, that she had been dying for a long, long time. This was her chance to live, his chance to live, their chance for life.
A barely noticeable whisper. "I trust you."
These words had the same effect on Jack that they had times before, during the apex of a sunset, getting painted anew by the colors of a melted sky, of orange and bronze and yellow, and the climax of the death of a Titan as an immortal goddess had become mortal and met destinies of all destinies and horror of all horrors from the collision of greed and thoughtless acts by thoughtless humans. The total surrender inside of her matched his own as God melted them into one soul.
He slipped the ring on her lovely, unblemished finger. The fit was perfect. She held her hand up in front of her eyes, staring at it, unbelieving, because now she was to be Jack's bride. And this showed it to the whole world. She loved it, so, so much, she treasured the diamond so, so much more than the last one she had had on her hand, the rock that had been pulling her down, drowning her, and now this was the wind beneath her wings, making her fly. She was free.
He watched her reaction, and breathed a sigh of happiness that matched her own. The angels smiled above because their fate had finally been sealed. Time ceased to exist and for just one last moment, the world belonged to them, only and always them.
She flung her arms around his neck, burying her face in his skin, tears soaking into him, until suddenly his lips pressed against hers and the past, present, and future ravaging kiss deepened into such that all of Creation stopped to gaze upon the two lovers whose love had conquered death as the melted into one, just as the rest of their lives just had.
Rose was the first to awake that morning, on Saturday. The moment her eyes fluttered open she was greeted with a gorgeous sight – the diamond ring on her finger against Jack's muscled chest that rippled as it rose and fell with his breathing. She sighed with satisfaction, still not believing. Everything had happened so quickly, so intensely, that it was almost as if nothing had really happened at all. Being engaged and pregnant . . . it was like an answer to an unconscious prayer.
The room was awash with sunlight, even from the tiny window above their bed, and she knew it was late. She had always been an early riser, and had usually awakened before dawn. Those last few months in Society had been so dreadful that she would wake up but stay in bed for hours upon hours, not having the strength to prepare herself for another horrid day. She would puzzle over everything in her life for that warm, comfortable time, safe under the covers, where she could think and nothing could get to her. Mostly she thought of her father and mother. They had each been deplorable parents in their own way – her father for not having responsibility, and her mother for doting it all on Rose's shoulders, including their own futures.
Now, as she lay next to her destiny, she knew that she had been meant to break away from Ruth DeWitt-Bukater, and never, not ever, come back. There were some things that a woman had to leave behind.
As a little girl, she had always thought of her mother as a strong, sensible, content, and relatively cheerful person. But as the years flew by and things that Mrs. DeWitt-Bukater had rested so surely on crumbled to a soaking up ground, Rose began to see that person for whom she truly was – broken, hurt, confused, and lost. And maybe without even knowing it, she – as all daughters must – felt such compassion towards this poor creature that the roles in life reversed, that Rose was the figure on which all burdens and duties rested, and Ruth was the one begging and pleading like a child in a confectionary shop.
And then there was Caledon Hockley.
Rose had always known that Cal wasn't necessarily just a "bad" man, he was insensitive and indifferent and demanding and controlling and possessive, yes, he was definitely all of those, but she believed that somewhere deep inside he just might have cared for her, if just a kernel, but still cared. He had shown it on several occasions, but all the same Rose couldn't stand to be a trophy, couldn't stand to have a master. She wanted a willful, compassionate companion, and Mr. Hockley had surely not been that in the least. There had been times when he had tried, but material possessions seemed to be the only symbol of affection that he knew, not altogether adoration and devotion to a single, living, breathing soul because you loved them.
She had kept the Heart of the Ocean, maybe for no reason at all, maybe for a reason beyond what she could understand, maybe just for the spirits inside a Titan. Whatever the case, there was a panel in the wall that Jack had carved out and put a box filled with the necklace and the money that Cal had left in his overcoat. When the plaster piece was replaced one could never tell riches beyond imagination were being held in the depths of such a crumbling instrument.
They had had the option of using the bound stacks upon stacks of bills for housing when they had first began, or even selling the necklace for royalty. But Jack had firmly refused, and Rose couldn't argue with him. He felt an undying need to provide for her by himself, to show her that he was strong, but she already knew he was, because Jack Dawson was her hero.
She had been so intent in her thoughts that she hadn't realized that the man next to her had awoken. His eyes were like chips of blue, blue ice, boring past her skin, peeling back layers of her heart to look into the very bottom. A grin played on his lips when she started suddenly.
"G'mornin'," he murmured, still groggily. He propped himself up on his elbow and pulled her closer to him with his charcoal-stained hands.
"Good morning," she answered softly, unwilling to disturb the quiet. Over his shoulder, she saw that the clock read one in the afternoon. Blissfully she yawned.
It hit her so suddenly in that moment. There was hardly time to think before it burst into her like water released from an ocean. She would have died if he had not survived. There was absolutely no one else on this entire planet, in the entire universe, that had ever been, was, or was going to be, that could fulfill her like this, love her like this, make her into the heavenly creature that God wanted all of his people to be. And in a split second she realized how sickeningly close she had been to losing him, to not having this future, to losing everything that made her life a life, because the North Atlantic and a mound of ice had cut through them like a knife, and he had been willing and needing to give his life for hers, he had stayed with her, he had stayed in that murdering water, silently screaming but being strong on the outside for her. He would have graciously died so that she might . . . live. Alone, but alive. Never had she met someone like that, and never would she.
His bravery and all of the others that had given their lives to a crime of greed and haste so overshadowed her own that she felt weak and humble and useless in their presence right now, because she could feel the lost with her, and although they were met to comfort, it had to hurt first.
The tears fell down so hard because she knew she had been almost fallen off that great precipice and lost him, lost him like the world loses the beautiful colors of autumn to the freezing death of winter. Except each year the promise of that autumn blooms again, but he would not have.
He stared at her, not at all having expected her tears, but then was ready for them just the same. He wiped away each raindrop until they were coming so fast he couldn't keep up, and then he started crying to, crying because the overwhelming sense of loss had just filled that room so deeply it was gorging into his soul. He had never forgiven himself, never even came to reality about letting his best friend throughout all the world die a lonely and dream-breaking death in a lonely and dream-breaking ocean. He knew that Fabrizio de Rossi had not made it to America, and he wanted to kill himself sometimes for that. Not another soul had deserved America like that Italian, who had wanted it since he was old enough to want. He started from the beginning without asking to, without desiring to. Some unknown force sorted through his brain and pulled out a memory that resurfaced in the very front of his mind.
Jack Dawson looked into the never-ending skies of Ronice, a tiny, tiny town near the southern tip of Italy. As he stared at the edges of the horizon, he wondered vaguely if the same horizon was visible in Chippewa Falls. He didn't dwell on the thought because he had left, and it was done, and there was no use asking why.
He was lying on soft strands of emerald-coated grass on a hillside, the sweet smell of cherries and olives making him very, very regretful at soon having to leave this place. It was a small stop he was making between two larger cities to sell his artwork, and he had already stayed longer then he had planned. Oh well. Plans didn't exactly matter anymore, his time schedule wasn't important at the moment anyway.
He couldn't help but chuckle at that. His "time schedule?" It made him sound like some soaking-in-money business bastard. He didn't have such a thing. Hell, he just randomly thought up going to the shore of the Mediterranean because he'd always wanted to see that. He didn't really care about money anyway; he managed to sell enough sketches, even in this little village – and if he couldn't afford lodging for a night he slept outside. He preferred the outside, matter of fact, even though he was only sixteen. Nearly seventeen, he reminded himself viciously. He didn't know what the exact date was, but he knew it was almost the end of October, which brought him one month closer to December 17, his birthday. For October, it was considerably warm and balmy out, he had been forced to undo the top two buttons on his shirt.
All of the sudden his icy blue eyes, gaining blueness as they gained wisdom, landed on a young girl and whom he assumed was her mother playing in the meadow. Obviously the mother had gone to get some water from the well that lay a good four yards away from Jack, but the bucket lay deserted by a rock and she was running with her daughter, picking up her skirts, her bare feet molding to the soft, damp ground, her long black hair falling out of its bun and flying after her.
The little girl had lighter hair, a sort of almond-colored brown with streaks of a reddish shade falling past her shoulders in absolutely straight tendrils. She was small, so small that she had to weave in and out of the flowers as she giggled in delight and tried to escape her mother, who probably was attempting to wash her. But the chase soon turned into a game.
Automatically, Jack reached for his sketchbook and let it fall open to a blank sheet of paper. He took a stub of charcoal from his tool belt and went to work. Sometimes he just got impulses like that.
He loved watching people be like this, wild and free, the way he firmly believed they were made to be. Time wore on and still the running girls never tired. He captured them quickly, every single emotion pouring from them onto the paper, beautiful and real. Then the details came naturally – their cascading hair, their pretty homespun dresses, the waving flowers . . .
He was satisfied when he was finished. A gift or not, he didn't know, but drawing was his passion. Quickly he signed it and dated it "October 1908." While he did this, the girl skipped over to him, as if she had been waiting for him to finish.
He watched her come. His Italian wasn't too good yet, and he doubted that the girl would be able to understand him. But he couldn't help but notice that her warm eyes were so comforting and gentle, that her skin was so light tan, that he lips were the color of dark plum. She looked so sweet that he couldn't help but remember his own home and the people there.
"Sir, what's that?" Surprisingly, her English was perfect, if somewhat accented.
"Lilia!" The mother whispered fiercely, motioning for her daughter to return to her, obviously afraid that she was bothering him.
"No, no, it's fine," he insisted while opening his sketchbook to the page he had just finished. "Look. I drew this for you."
It hadn't entirely been like that. He had just drawn it, hadn't known why. But now he knew exactly why. He loved seeing her face glow when she studied the drawing further and recognized herself and her mother. She clasped her hands together and squealed, jumping up and down like she could barely contain her excitement.
"Mama!" She cried out, turning quickly to the cautious woman behind her, her little mouth erupting in a childlike grin. While her back was against him, Jack quickly initialed it and put away the piece of charcoal. "Come look!"
Lilia's mother raised her dark, fine eyebrow quizzically and, without any further hesitation, came next to her daughter and examined the picture. Soon she to was smiling. Her finger, calloused from work, stroked her little girl's image gently. "You be doing this, sir?" She asked, her own accent a little bit heavier than the young one's.
He nodded, and then handed it to her.
"Oh no, sir, we couldn't possibly – you don't seem to be in the a' understanding, we have no American money . . ."
This was the part he loved, giving the sketch to someone. "Well, mam, that's not what I met. I just want you to have it. Ya know, for free."
Her brown eyes glittered as she gingerly picked up the paper, whispering "Grazie, grazie, grazie."
Suddenly her daughter took it from her and began dancing around, yelling, "I have an immagine! An immagine! It's bello signore!" Her feet flew around a patch of yellow daisies.
A loud, deep voice from the little hut on the other side of the hill called out, "Lilia! Cherine! Come inside!"
Apologetically, the mother bit her lip and took her daughter's hand, hurrying away, but stealing glances back at Jack with every few steps.
"Dawson," he mumbled when they were gone, "Ya gotta stop doin' that, ya gotta eat!" He stood up, groaning from the cramps in his legs, and started to walk down the small slope away from Lilia and Cherine's quaint little home. His stomach rumbled, and his pockets were empty. Maybe he'd ask that old, sweet lady, Madame Dalanio, for a few cherries. Or maybe he'd just go hungry for tonight.
The fiery orange ball of the sun sank lower beyond the now lavender horizon line until dusk was upon him. He walked on the dirt path into the main part of the village, each grain of soil on fire from the sunset and transforming to a grain of gold. The scent of the air changed from cherries and olives to pigs and grass as he passed a small farm.
His eyes flew up to the sky, trying to make out the first evening stars to explode in the purple eternity above. For some reason today, he couldn't stop thinking about home. If it was still home, that is. He had left and he wasn't sure if his leaving had been bravery or cowardly fear. He guessed it didn't matter anymore, but still, faces kept floating in his head, faces of his past, of Pa and Ma, of Eliza, of his best friend Peter . . . to that little network of people, he mentally added Lilia and Cherine. The only bad thing was he only seemed to hurt the people he was thinking of. He had left behind Eliza and Peter. And his mother and father . . . hadn't they died at his expense?
It had been almost two years, but it still hurt, and the tears stung his eyes like smoke. He tried to force them back but he couldn't, making the endless violet above blur. Angrily he wiped them away. He couldn't remember that day. If he only remembered that day, he'd never move on.
He shoved his hands deep in his pockets and kept looking at the ground the entire way to the village square, trying brutally to keep thoughts out of his inside mind.
He heard a faint scream from behind an abandoned building that looked as though it had once been a bakery. He froze, the night closing in on him, the deserted street making his imagination run wild. He became convinced that the scream hadn't been real when he heard it again, louder, and in a form of "Help me!"
Before he could even wonder what it was he ran, his recently-found boots not even holding him back. His breathing accelerated, and not from anything physical, but from fear at what he'd find.
"Shut up, lil' bitch!" The ferocious mutter, definitely from an American, reached him and all of the sudden he went faster, even though it wasn't humanly possible. If he walked in on a murder . . . God, he had to do something.
He rounded the corner expectantly, picking up a rock at the same time to use as a weapon if necessary. What he saw shocked him so thoroughly that the stone fell from his lifeless fingers.
A man with light brown hair and waxy white skin was pushing a beautiful girl, maybe fourteen or fifteen, onto the rough ground. She had wavy, midnight-colored hair and her dark oak-colored eyes were round with fear and regret. Her skin was smooth, tan, and, he painfully realized, bruised. The man was pulling up her dress as she kicked and moaned. Obviously he had just punched her in the jaw and she could barely talk. His belt was by him on the floor, and his shirt and pants were unbuttoned.
All of the sudden Jack realized something. He had just discovered a rape in the moment. When it clicked, all anxiety vanished and was replaced by anger, such terrible fury that he could barely see. He dropped his sketchbook beside him.
"What in the hell do you think you're doin'?" He thundered, his voice booming with indescribable rage.
The man froze and slowly turned around. His hazel eyes widened when he saw Jack standing there, but even as he buttoned his pants, he didn't move fast enough. Jack didn't see the girl look at him as though he were Messiah. Instead he charged at her assailant and grabbed his collar, yanking back so hard that he gagged and was sprawled backwards on the ground. "You damned son of a bitch!" Jack screamed, spit flying from his mouth, so mad, so, so mad that he thought he might kill this person. What he hated most was someone betraying the trust of another someone, of someone hurting an innocent someone, of someone lying to get something that wasn't theirs, of someone trying to possess a pure body. The man tried to say something, but all that came out was choking sounds.
Jack kicked him side with his heavy boot and stepped on his middle at the same time. Then he got down on the ground and started to punch the guy's face, each time feeling more tissue give way, until he upcutted the pervert's lip and made it split open. The guy's lip bled and his eyes turned black and green as he clutched his heaving stomach. "Get up and get out." Jack stood again, towering over the man, his eyes aflame with blue wrath.
His victim tried to stand, grasping the wall of the abandoned building, stumbling to maintain balance, and suddenly he ran, more like a limp, but not before shooting a look at the girl so pure of abhorrence that she shuddered and began to cry again.
He fell down on his knees on the floor next to her, gentle fingers feeling her arms. "I don't think he broke anything," he murmured softly, suddenly tender after his outburst.
"Thank you so much, sir, I don't know what he would have done –" She dissolved into sobs again.
"Aw, no problem. Shh . . .don't cry, let's get you home." He pulled her up with his newly developed muscles and supported her with his arm, letting her hobble beside him.
As he picked up his book of drawings, he insisted, "Here, just show me where you live, and I'll make sure you get there."
She looked at him gratefully. "I be a' living down the path to the lake." That had been the same path Jack had took earlier. He nodded and helped her to, surprisingly, the exact farm he had noticed a few minutes ago.
A plump, short woman with an apron on was waiting outside the small clay cottage with smoke billowing out a little chimney and vines of grapes and flowers climbing up the outside walls.
"Oh, Belina!" She cried and ran to her when she saw her daughter's cuts and bruises. She embraced her and murmured countless things in Italian, not even acknowledging Jack. Tears flowed freely from both women, and then something in a raging tone shot out of her mother's mouth, with Belina urgently saying, "No, no, no!" Jack guessed she was telling her mother that he had not done this horrible thing to her.
A shadow of a man appeared in the lighted doorway, slightly blacker than the growing night. He stepped out of the front door and moved in a somewhat anticipated way towards Belina. Soon Jack saw that it was a boy about his age, with wavy, dark hair and melted chocolate eyes, dressed in an off-white shirt, reddish suspenders, and pepper-colored pants, topped with a heavy black jacket from some work he had just finished. He bit his lip as he approached, his fingers lacing in and out of each other.
"Fabrizio? Oh my brother . . ." She threw herself at him, away from her mother who was smoothing her hair, and he held her, shushing her gently and rocking her back and forth. Awkwardly, Jack put his hands in his pockets and wondered if he should leave. He just wanted to make sure the girl was alright.
When this "Fabrizio" character's sister went inside on her mother's urging to clean up, the boy noticed Jack for the first time. Curiously they looked at each other. The Italian had the rough beginnings of a shaved off beard, while Jack's face was smooth. He had never really had trouble with facial hair – he only had to shave every once and awhile.
"Chi? I mean . . . who would you be a' being? Did you save my sister?"
He shrugged, still a little shocked from the thickest Italian accent on English words that he had yet heard, and when he received a keen look, hesitantly nodded. "I'm Jack Dawson. I'm from America."
This Fabrizio's entire expression changed without warning when he heard the word 'America.' His eyes glowed like little chips of amber and he almost began dancing.
"I have heard tales of this America. I will go to the Land of Dreams someday. But what brings you here?" He asked, the last sentence with eyebrows raised.
"Well, I'm your average outcast, a tumbleweed maybe, not goin' here or there, just goin' somewhere . . ." He broke off in thought, almost day-dreamily seeking out constellations above his head.
"What do you do? For the a' money? For food?"
"I draw and sell my drawings."
Again Fabrizio became excited. "Drawings? Art? Really? May I see, per favore?"
From the little Italian Jack managed to know, he recognized the word please, and produced his sketchbook from behind him. Nervously he shifted his weight from foot to foot as the young man flipped through drawing after drawing after drawing, a genuine grin spreading like butter on his face, hard, thick fingers tracing each bold charcoal line, murmuring things that Jack couldn't understand.
"They are . . . they are . . . bello . . . absolutely bello . . . I mean . . . beautiful!"
Jack let out a sigh of relief and he didn't know why it mattered what he thought anyway, it wasn't Fabrizio's drawings in the first place, but for some reason an instant connection formed and tied them together as friends.
"Where are you a' going after this little place? Che cosa?" He inquired anxiously.
"I dunno, I was gonna go to the very tip of southern Italy, maybe France. I've always wanted to go to France."
"My whole life's an adventure, now, Fabri." The nickname came naturally, and the now deemed "Fabri" didn't question it. His eyes glazed over at the thought of an adventure. Jack doubted that he had ever left this little village in this little country.
"I'm a' coming with you, approvazione?" He seemed so eager, so willing, his entire body language showing that excitement, his feet tapping like a wild horse ready to be unleashed, like another free spirit tapping against its captivity.
"I dunno what . . . appr . . . approv . . . approvazione means . . . but I'd love for you to come . . . gets lonely sometimes ya know . . ."
He became so happy that Jack thought he might have had his entire bag packed already and had been dreaming of this chance for all his life.
"Grazie! Grazie, grazie, grazie!"
Somewhere beyond those bronze eyes Jack saw something that made him trust Fabri, that made him believe that they were meant to be friends, that made him think about destiny. Perhaps he was the Italian's ticket to that destiny.
And as he felt the breeze ruffle through his hair, he knew he would never, not ever, be chained down again.
When Jack awoke out of his trance, he noticed that Rose's sobs had quieted and now she was rocking back and forth, her blood-colored curls cascading over his chest, her blue-green eyes trembling with unshed tears, and her luscious lips forming one word, "Jack, Jack, Jack . . ."
He took a deep breath and put Fabrizio in a sanctified part of his mind for a moment and drew Rose in his arms, murmuring to her, "I'm right here, I'm not leaving you again."
She sighed shakily. The pain in her started to ebb away, but she knew it would never fade; it would never fade as long as a wreck was on the floor of the sea, as long as ghosts haunted the decks of a broken majesty. But still she felt she had to ask. "When will this nightmare be over?"
Jack came to sudden realization that he was laced into the worst disaster of all humankind and could not be cut lose, not in his entire life, because once someone was a part of something so horrific they could not escape it. So he really had no true answer for his fiancée except never . . .
Instead of saying it he pulled her closer, trying to shield her against the wisdom he had gained, because wisdom was really agony, and he wanted to spare her from any more pain.
But somewhere in the back of his mind he knew it would get to her someday. There was nothing he could do to stop it forever. And the fact that it might take her from him, that something could take her from him, made her hold her with all the strength he possessed.
Somehow he knew all of it wasn't enough. The ocean would drown him.