The water lapped gently around the piece of wreckage upon which she lay. Earlier, the sound of screams had filled the air, but now those sounds had died away, replaced by only a few feeble cries for help from the dying people.
She looked dully at the man in the water beside her. He was shivering violently, his hand clutching hers but providing no real warmth.
"It's getting quiet," she commented, knowing deep inside what it meant. The people who had survived the Titanic's plunge into the sea were dying, and no one was coming to help them.
The man responded, his voice still holding a hint of hope, but doubt was beginning to creep in. "J-just a f-few m-more m-minutes. It-it'll t-t-take them a w-while to g-g-get the b-boats or-organized…"
He was freezing, barely able to talk around his shivering. She stared at him blankly, not believing him. No one was coming. There would be no boats. Those who were in them were safely away, and they wouldn't risk their lives coming back for the few people still calling for help in the middle of the icy sea.
"I-I d-don't know about y-you, b-but I intend t-to write a strong—strongly worded l-letter to the W-w-white S-star Line about all th-this." He tried to laugh, trying to reassure her, but all that emerged was a gasp of fear.
She found his eyes in the darkness, no longer optimistic, but instead beginning to show the fear that both of them felt. There was no hope left, and she knew it.
Finally, she spoke. "I love you, Jack."
He looked at her, hope and fear mingling in his expression. "No! D-don't you do that. Don't you s-say your g-good-byes…"
Why not? she wondered. They would both soon be dead. "I'm s-so c-cold…"
Jack gripped her hand tighter, looking at her intently. "Y-you're going to g-get out of here…y-you're going to g-go on…and m-make l-lots of babies…a-and you're g-going to w-watch them grow. You're g-going to die an o-old, old lady, w-warm in your b-bed. N-not here. N-not this n-night. D-do you understand m-me?"
Rose looked at him, wanting desperately to believe him, but knowing that it wasn't true. "I-I can't f-feel my body."
Jack pulled himself up slightly, resting his forehead against hers and looking her straight in the eye. "Rose, l-listen to me. Listen. W-winning that t-ticket w-was the b-best thing that ever h-happened to m-me. It b-brought me to y-you. A-and I'm th-thankful, Rose. I'm thankful." His voice was trembling with the cold that was slowly making its way to his heart. Still, he looked at her unwaveringly. "Y-you must d-do me this honor…y-you must p-promise me that you'll s-survive…that you w-won't give up…n-no matter what h-happens…n-no m-matter h-how hopeless…p-promise me now, Rose, and n-never let g-go of that promise."
Rose took a deep breath. She couldn't disappoint him, couldn't let him down. Not now.
He smiled shakily, repeating his words. "And never let go of that promise."
Rose nodded, looking into his eyes. "I'll never let go, Jack. I will never let go."
He kissed her hand, sinking back down and resting his chin on the board. She lay her head beside his, waiting.
"Come Josephine in my flying machine…" Rose sang softly, her gaze fixed on the star-filled sky. The stars were so bright…if only she and Jack were there, they would be safe and warm, the nightmare of the Titanic's sinking behind them. There would be no more pain, no more fear…perhaps they could even turn back time, and the sinking would never have happened.
"…and it's up she goes…up she goes…" Rose turned her head as a dim light briefly fell upon her pale, ice-rimmed face.
It took her a moment to comprehend what the light meant. A boat was slowly making its way amongst the bodies floating in the water, a man's voice ringing out in the stillness.
"Hello! Is there anyone alive out there? Can anyone hear me?"
Rose moved slowly, her limbs stiffened from the cold. She barely felt the pain as she tore her hair away from the ice that had frozen it to the board. Jack had been right! The boats were coming back! They would be rescued, and everything would be all right.
She shook Jack's hand, trying to wake him. There was no time to lose. "Jack, there's a boat." He didn't move. Frowning, she shook his hand harder, banging the severed handcuff against the wood. "Jack, there's a boat…Jack…there's a boat, Jack!"
He didn't stir. Rose stared at him…so still, so silent, not the slightest hint that he had heard her…or ever would. She stared at his white, frozen face, knowing deep inside what had happened. But she couldn't believe it. Not now. Not when help was finally coming. It couldn't be too late.
She shook his hand harder, rubbing it, trying to warm him, to wake him. Her voice growing high-pitched with panic and desperation, she cried out to him as loudly as she could. "Jack…Jack…there's a boat, Jack…Jack…"
She couldn't deny it anymore. He was gone, and her world—the newfound hope and love and freedom that she had known so briefly—had died with him. She put her head down, tears running from her eyes and freezing to her face.
She heard the voice calling again, the faint sound of oars in the water as the people in the boat continued to look for survivors, but it didn't matter. There was no reason to go on. Not without Jack.
Then she remembered the promise she had made to him. She hadn't believed, when she had made it, that there was any hope. But now a boat had come, looking for survivors…and she had to keep her promise. She couldn't let Jack down.
"Come back!" she called, her voice almost too faint for herself to hear. She raised her head, looking in the direction of the boat, which was slowly moving away. "Come back! Come back!"
It was no use. They couldn't hear her. She watched in despair as the boat moved farther away from her, hope fading. There was no way she could get the attention of the people in the boat, and she wasn't strong enough to swim after it.
Then she saw the glimmer of a whistle frozen in the lips of a dead officer some twenty yards away, and knew what she had to do. She breathed on the hand that was frozen to Jack's, melting the ice just enough for her to break free. As he sank into the water, she kissed his hand one last time, tears filling her eyes.
"I will never let go. I promise," she whispered, letting him go and watching as he disappeared into the depths of the icy sea.
When she could no longer see him, she lunged from the piece of wreckage, swimming awkwardly in the direction of the dead officer. Resting on the deck chair he had been clinging to, she yanked the whistle from his lips and blew on it, faintly at first, and then louder and louder. The sound carried across the still water, alerting the men in the rescue boat to her presence.
"Come about!" The voice sounded across the water, a beam of light shining on her pale face.
Within minutes, the boat had reached her, and two men reached out to pull her inside, one taking the whistle from her. Rose shivered violently as she was wrapped in blankets, wanting to scream, to cry out, to beg them to put her back into the ocean with her beloved Jack, but she couldn't make a sound.
Blackness edged at her consciousness as she gripped the blankets, and then she knew nothing.
Two hours later, Rose awoke, a strange greenish light flickering across her vision. Shifting her gaze, she saw the officer who had rescued her waving a flare, and in the distance, she saw the hulk of a ship coming towards them.
Rose looked back up at the sky. It was morning now, dawn streaking the once-starry heavens, leaving her to wonder if the past night had happened at all.
But it had, and she knew it. Still cold, she curled deeper into the blankets, closing her eyes as the memories came back. There were other survivors in the boat with her, along with the men from the rescue crew, but she felt alone. Jack was gone, and, had she not made a promise to survive, she would be with him.
There were cheers from some of the survivors in the other boats, but Rose didn't hear them. Everything seemed to move in slow motion—the officer waving the flare, the men in her boat rowing towards the ship, the survivors being taken aboard the rescue ship—none of it seemed quite real.
Even hours later, as Rose sat huddled on a bench in steerage, a cup of tea in her hands, nothing seemed quite real. The weeping survivors huddled together…parents searching for missing children…wives looking for missing husbands…none of it was enough to rouse her from her trance.
There was a stir, voices sounding in surprise as people turned to stare at the man coming down the steps to the deck. A steward hurried to stop him.
"You won't find any of your people down here, sir. It's all steerage."
Rose turned slightly, recognizing her former fiancé, Caledon Hockley. His once-elegant tuxedo was damp and ripped from his struggles during the sinking the night before, and his usually arrogant, self-satisfied face now held what appeared to be a hint of worry and sorrow.
Rose didn't move from her place on the bench. She heard the sound of his footsteps as he walked slowly around the deck, looking at the faces of the survivors.
She turned towards him slightly, unsure of whether to make her presence known. She had fled from him the night before as he had chased herself and Jack into the depths of the sinking ship with a gun, but now she didn't know what to do. Should she go back to him, back to her old life? Or should she stay where she was, allowing him to think her dead?
If she went back with him, back to her old life, she would be warm again. She would be back in the lap of luxury, living the life she had been brought up to live.
But if she made her presence known, allowing him to take her back to her old life, she would lose the freedom she had tasted so briefly. For a few short days, she had known what hope and love and freedom were, and having known them once, she was loath to give them up again.
What did any of it matter, though, now that Jack was gone? It was him she had loved, he who had given her hope and taught her freedom. Without him, did those things mean anything? Love was gone, but hope and freedom…those were still there, tantalizingly close.
Rose didn't know what to decide, but as Cal came closer, she ducked her head slightly, pulling the blanket closer around her face and looking away. She heard the footsteps stop some distance away, then resume, moving away from her and back towards the stairs.
The blanket still hiding her face, she turned, watching as he walked up the steps and out of her life. She turned back, knowing that in that moment she had made her decision. She would never return to the life she had once known. Whatever happened, she would keep the promise she had made to Jack, and she would keep it on her own.
It was raining on the night of April eighteenth, the night the Carpathia docked in New York. As the ship came up to Pier 54, Rose stood on deck, unmindful of the rain, her gaze fixed on the Statue of Liberty. It had been a symbol of hope and freedom for millions of people before her, and would remain so for millions after. But to her, it was more.
It was a symbol of rebirth. She had been a member of the upper class, coddled, pampered—and despairing of ever being able to live the life she had dreamed of. Now, her old life was over, finished, and her new one was about to begin. Out of pain and sorrow and fear had grown resolve, and her promise to Jack was clear in her mind as an officer with a clipboard and umbrella approached her, taking down the names of the survivors.
"Can I take your name, please, luv?" he asked, pen poised to write it down.
Rose looked at him, coming to a decision. "Dawson," she told him. "Rose Dawson."
"Thank you." The officer moved along, looking for more survivors, and Rose turned her face back to the statue.
Rose DeWitt Bukater was dead, as much as if she had frozen to death that night with fifteen hundred others. She would never, could never, return to her old life, and she was dead to them now. None need ever know the truth. She was Rose Dawson now, the name that surely would have been hers had Jack survived.
Shivering, Rose dug her hands into her pockets for warmth, a confused frown crossing her face as her hand hit something cold and hard. Pulling it out, her eyes widened in surprise as she saw the Heart of the Ocean in her hand.
She looked around quickly to be sure that no one had seen, then stared at the sparkling blue gem, as blue as the eyes of the man she had loved. Tucking it back into the pocket, she wrapped her arms around herself, shivering in the cold rain.
Cal must have put the diamond in the pocket of the coat before putting it on her. It had been the diamond he had been seeking, not her, and she was glad now that she had not made her presence known and gone back with him.
Nothing would have changed if she had gone back. It would have been more of the same, and she would have been locked back up in her gilded cage.
Instead, she was free, free to live her own life and make her own destiny. No one from her old world would ever find her, and she would go on as she had promised Jack.
She put her hands in her pockets again, feeling the hard outline of the necklace. She was free now, and the diamond would serve as a reminder of Jack, and of a world that she would never be a part of again.