Hey y'all, I'm still workin on my other story (Forever by the Sea) so don't think it's over, but I wrote this meanwhile and would LOVE your comments on it:)
She missed him. Oh God, she missed him. She had missed him for eighty-four years. Her heart had been tearing in two for so long that now it was nothing but shreds of memories and faint scenes from her past lying in the bottom of her ribcage. Today, she felt like she had gone back to him with her words. She had almost been able to smell him and see her wildly curling red hair whipping around her face by some divine breeze. She had almost been able to feel the warmth of his chest beneath his homespun cotton shirt. But, like all the other times, it had been all too brief, and when she had ended her story it had been like being thrown from his arms and back into the harsh, cold, cruel reality of life. He was not with her, he was gone, and had been since Titanic. Titanic. That one simple word had so much meaning for her, separating her life into time periods that spanned the pages of her existence. The tears she had kept locked in her heart for almost eight and a half decades spilled down her ancient face, weaving paths through her wrinkles. Jack, she thought, I am so tired. So, so incredibly tired.
She took a deep breath. Everything came cascading back, the pain of her life. The hurt of after the sinking, of being alone. A hurt so real and sharp and bloody that it had never left her, never even faded. The anguish of getting married to another man. The guilt of surviving when Jack did not. It all fell upon her shoulders. Rose DeWitt-Bukater, Rose Dawson, Rose Calvert . . . She knew who she really was, who she would always be.
She would always be Jack's Rose.
The screams echoed in her mind again, and the words. They had never stopped echoing, just grown quieter, but now those shrieks ravaged her entire body and made her eyes press shut. It seemed so far away, like another lifetime, and yet so close, like yesterday.
"You must . . . you must do me this honor. You must promise me – that you'll survive. That you won't give up. No matter what happens . . . no matter how hopeless . . . Promise me now, Rose, and never let go of that . . . promise."
How many dark, sob-filled nights had she prayed for the promise to disappear? If only she hadn't promised him, if only she had died that night, if only she was with him now . . .
Her feet that were twisted and limp with age hit the cold, scraped metal of the outdoor deck. The breeze blew gently threw her thin, pearl-colored curls and swirled her white nightgown about her ankles. It was as silent as the tomb of death, the tomb that would always lock her love beneath the Earth.
She was finally ready. After so many years, so much pain, it was time. How she knew, how she even felt, was incomprehensible to her, but for some reason it was like that long clock of her life had been waiting for this final second. For this second of chipped paint beneath her feet and water as black as death, water that was death, flowing calm again around her, like nothing had ever happened, denying her existence. Slowly, she walked to the stern of the Kelydash. Her steps were soft and even like they had been so long ago. She felt his presence envelop her and she knew he was there, helping her through this moment. It was a peculiar feeling, a feeling that would never loose its mystery, to know that he was there. To know that even though times and spaces and senses of vision separated them, he always seemed to appear whenever she needed him most. In dreams, in times like now, in every single minute that she wanted him to be here, he was, and yet so obviously wasn't.
"A woman's heart is a deep ocean of secrets." That is what she had told her granddaughter, Lizzie. That was all she could sum her experience up with to that girl. She could only imagine Lizzie's shock to realize that her grandmother had been dreaming and feeling and wanting a man that was not her grandfather her whole life. Rose's own son, whom she had unyieldingly named Thomas Andrew for a hero of her life, would have likely never spoken to her again if he knew of these things, but the cancer had forever silenced him. Somehow, Rose had respected John Calvert, perhaps even honored him, but love, true love like the love she had only experienced, could only experience, with one man, simply wouldn't come. Lizzie hadn't understood, could maybe never understand, but Rose had closed her eyes and she had seen him, the face she could never forget. Once more, it was like she had been buried against his chest. She had been able to smell the charcoal and sandalwood and sunshine and sweat again, breathe in the very being of Jack Dawson.
Now, the pictures running through her mind were not as sweet and exhilarating as they had once been. They were terrible, horror-filled images of lives forgotten and dreams broken and she tried to stop herself from reliving these moments, again, and, again, it was impossible. She could see the ship slipping beneath the bubbling surface of the Atlantic, a surface that she couldn't separate from the sky because of each one's spectacular darkness. She was again closed in that vault of death, where the year of 1912 had ceased to exist, first, second, and steerage classes has vanished, and survival was a common thread that bound of God's creation in that deep and endless chasm. The shrieks of fifteen-hundred people echoed through the stillness of the night. Some screamed for mercy. Some screamed for family. Some screamed for warmth. All screamed for holy rescue from the freezing hell that had become their death sentence. Her hand felt someone else's fingers entwined with hers, solid, hard, frozen fingers, and in perhaps the most terrifying memory of all she saw those raw chips of ice woven in blonde hair, blue lips forever silent, a still chest.
She exhaled shakily, trying to banish the images from her brain. It was like she had been haunted her whole life. She had submerged herself in misery and pain and had hardly made it from one day to the next. The last eighty-four years of her life were simply a blur. John Calvert had been a dear friend and a shoulder to lean on in times of trouble, but never anything more. She couldn't love him. Again, she was forced to think that she had given her heart away and had never truly gotten it back. There had been times of happiness and cherishing moments of a growing relationship – when she had visited Santa Monica, when her children had been born, when she had first held her grandchildren. But the first face she had seen at these times had not been her husband's, and she was weary of her time on Earth, of the hurt harbored in her heart for all this long, long time.
She stopped her measured walk and froze silently at the very back of the ship. She knew now what she must do. She knew it and she still didn't want to. Her knuckles clenched an unseen object harder in her hand, memorizing every edge and flaw. The tears washed in her sagging eyes again, eyes that might be old but were still as intelligent and bright as they had been four-fifths of a century ago. The waves sounded like rushing silk below her. Barely able to see, she clenched the peeling rail with two bony hands. The veins in her fingers seized up and bloated beneath spotted skin. She followed her hands with her sore feet and held her one-hundred-year-old weight on the bars.
Now she gazed at the black ruffles of the mighty sea, the sea that had proved its strength in so many ways. Tenderly, she remembered his touch, his smile, his heart and drunk it in the way a dying person drinks water. She couldn't make herself stop remembering and finally welcomed it, finally let that heady feeling of love swell up in her again. But it was met by that unbreakable wall of her holding on to something that had been dead for an unspeakably long time. She knew she couldn't bear it any longer. With an inside cry, she let the anguish inside of her tear free and spill out of her soul, cleansing her of the agony that she had refused to part with her entire life. She somehow managed to forgive herself and the other 710 people for surviving the disaster and free the 1, 521 who did not from her spirit.
She nodded slightly at the ocean as a crystal drop rained from her eye and fell into the sea, taking her at last. She had been able to stand against it for so long, but if there was anything she had learned, it was that no matter how proud, how strong you were, you were never enough to survive the kind of heartbreak she had. Thank you, she thought silently. Thank you for never leaving, for loving me, for holding me when the whole world left me cold . . . I love you, and I always will.
For once, she felt at harmony when she viewed the watery grave of Titanic and Jack Dawson in her mind. She could remember, oh, maybe ten or eleven years back, in 1985, when they had found Titanic, her dreams and past and future, down in that icy black deep. She remembered the pictures that were flashed on every newsreel in the world for so many days. She remembered the memories that she had been trying to drown since she was seventeen that had suddenly demanded control of her mind all over again and sent her on the verge of a breakdown. And then she remembered, through it all, that some otherworldly presence had been with her, an unseen hand had been pressed in her own, a not tangible heart had quieted hers. But even that didn't help when she saw those pictures. To her, the water was not that icy black everyone else saw it as, it was a bloody, freezing red, bloody red with actual blood from the sacrifices that had died on that terrible goddamn death trap. But now, finally, she felt like she could breathe, like the gashing wound in her person was closed, slowly, and her broken wings were healed.
Her raw hands trembled as she opened them. A fresh tear made its way to lie on her throat where so many others had found their way, just like the so many silent others that had soaked her pillow at night. For at least twenty years now, her pillow had smelled like salt. This one tear, though no different, was completely. Because, finally, finally, she was gazing again at the Heart of the Ocean.
Its color had never faded and the huge diamond still glittered a vibrant blue, shining and glistening in the worn moonlight. The chain was as beautiful as it had always been, thick silver crusted with tiny white diamonds. Memories flowed back into her fingertips, memories that she had been trying to forget for so long and now needed more than the air she breathed. It was strange to be reversed like that, to think one thing was true and then now know another thing was. But then again, truth hadn't mattered for awhile in her life. Yet, seeing such definite evidence that, at a time, she had crossed the boundaries of love and stepped into completely uncharted territory, something dangerous and daring and magnificent, made her heart clatter again, its beats as unsteady as wild rain from a thunderstorm. Like a television set turned to a channel that it hadn't tuned into in an unbearably long time, scenes rehearsed in her head, unclear and cloudy at first, but then as bright and finely chiseled as if she was reliving it in some other parallel universe.
Seventeen-year-old Rose stood like stone on the deck of Carpathia, staring up at the Statue of Liberty. She couldn't move. She couldn't think. She was numb with despair, painted with regret, filled with grief. Every time she closed her eyes, she was met with visions of death, sounds of screams. She kept on feeling Jack's hand rip away from hers, seeing his handsome face framed with ice and disappearing beneath rippling waves. And the part that cut her most was it was her fault. There was no way around it. A burden of human life was hers now forever. Dead, dying, living . . . it was all the same thing to her. She couldn't care less. Everything hurt in her body, everything from the tip of her skull to the bottom of her toes. Her head pounded so fiercely that it made her throw up whatever food she managed to take down in the first place, so she had just stopped eating. Stopped drinking. Stopped . . . caring.
Every time she thought her tear supply was dried and empty, it seemed like a whole fresh amount came in, and she couldn't hold them back. She just cried, and cried, and cried . . . Her skin was blotched red, ugly, disgusting, not her. Nothing was her anymore. Her curls that were pushed down with that cold drizzle were also barbarically twisted around her face. She didn't move even as the rain soaked through the overcoat and gown she was wearing. It stained her body, stained with blood that she saw in all water now. But at the same time, she was relieved. It was actually a relief to be back in the water, in the cold that numbed her so horribly that she felt like she was in a pit of fire. There was nothing more she wanted than to stay in the icy sea and let herself die. Several times before, before everything, she had wondered what it would feel like to die. But now it didn't really faze her at all. She knew what it would feel like, and it couldn't be worse than this. In that Atlantic, she had been so close to death she figured all the pain had been over and the only thing that had been left had been . . . dying. It hurt more to wake up and for her skin to thaw then to freeze – almost. She fantasized about how it would feel to be in Jack's arms again, actually smell his beautiful scent and look into his heart-buckling smile. While as a girl her dream had been perfect life, it was now, as a woman, perfect death.
The loneliest feeling she had ever known swept through her like a biting breeze, carrying the remorseful melody of a song she didn't understand. A song that spoke of her existence as it would be from now on.
She focused on the Statue, seeing the graceful tunic of freedom swept into Lady Liberty's arms, a thick book under her elbow, a torch high in her hand. Freedom . . . it was such a new concept to her. Jack had been her freedom, her torch in a world that had gone dark and now was dark again. While at first her eyes had burned from such bright light, now they begged for it to come back again. She had forgotten what color they were before but now, to her, they seemed to always be a muddy brown, brown with her grief.
"Can I take your name please, luv?" A crew member of Carpathia stood under an umbrella, carefully balancing a clipboard and pad of paper with a pencil in his free hand. His cap was pulled low over his eyes, almost like he was too ashamed to look at her, too ashamed and too unworthy to be next to someone who was experiencing so much pain.
In a way, he was.
The manner in which he spoke so softly told her that she looked a mess, like she could be knocked over with his very words, or sent into some kind of compulsion. She guessed she probably could be.
What had he asked her? What? Something about who she was . . . her name maybe?
For most of her life she had said Rose DeWitt-Bukater. When she had been introduced to anyone, it had been as Rose DeWitt-Bukater, a strange name that tied up her tongue, a name that fit like a dress that was way too small, like she knew she was meant to be more, meant to be freer than that name that chained her to two people that she couldn't ever love in the way a human had meant to be loved. Two people who had ruined her childhood and almost made her miss the destiny of her life. Her father and her mother . . . one a liar, a cheat, a gambler, but still her father that had told her of those mystical lands and of true love and of a life that didn't exist anymore for them, even though she had thought it had. So in some innocent, strange way she still did love him, as a girl. As a woman, she hated him. And then her mother . . . a woman that couldn't handle responsibility, a woman that thought years without wealth and social stance were nothing, a woman who was blind to her daughter.
No, she didn't belong to any of them.
And then Cal Hockley was another matter entirely. For months after the engagement, Ruth DeWitt-Bukater had introduced her to others as, "The soon to be Mrs. Rose Hockley!" and then she got what she wanted, the congratulations and the looks of envy that their daughters hadn't snagged that dashing, rich beyond rich young man for themselves. They didn't know him for what he truly was – a monster, a monster that wanted nothing but to control her and to show her like some prize horse. Maybe he had really loved her. Maybe he didn't know how to show it. But in the same way he had abused her, with words and looks and touches, until her self-esteem had flew from her.
But that other man, that man she loved so passionately and uniquely, was someone she could only hope to be like someday. Someone so free from the regulations of this world, someone so happy and simple but so complex. Someone who saw her even when she wasn't really there.
Someone she felt already joined with in a union forever. She turned her face upward, and icy mist sprinkled on her face like tears from him, tears that washed her pain away for a brief second because it was like he was there again.
"Dawson," she breathed quietly, as if it was a miracle of another age, a miracle that heaven had handed down to just make her happy for a second. To know that she was carrying on an affair of the heart, a devotion like that was absolutely wonderful. "Rose Dawson."
The man looked at her keenly all of the sudden; his eyes colliding with hers like they had previously refused to, and in the reflection of herself in his black pupils she saw that her irises were, for a moment, magnolia green. He seemed to understand that she didn't want to dwell on it, so he simply nodded, made a note on the paper, muttered "Thank you," and moved on.
Rose, however, couldn't move on. She was lost in the sound of that one word, Dawson, and who it identified her with. Oh God, she would do anything to be back with him. She had truly been in love, heart-stopping, knee-trembling love. She would always love him until the end of time.
Cherishing that thought in her heart, she shifted her gaze back to the Statue of Liberty and became lost in memories, memories of rough, calloused artist's fingers that touched so gently.
Unconsciously, she threw her hands in the overcoat's pockets and drew them tightly into fists, taking out her blindness to the rest of the world on the fine fabric inside. The fact that Jack Dawson had touched this coat, this gown, this body, made her feel like she had been blessed somehow, blessed beyond what she could only wish for.
Her fingernail knocked against something and she felt the sharp edge of something against her skin. She was sure she hadn't put anything in these pockets. Confused, angry that there was another thing to be confused about, she pulled the object out into the open, allowing it to brush against the fiery curls.
At first she didn't see. It was like a handkerchief had been drawn over her eyes. But as her fingers caressed all the grooves, she almost swore she felt another fingerprint press up against hers and she identified it immediately. It was a huge diamond, the color of sapphire, she remembered distantly, on a silver and white diamond chain. It lay heavily in her palm, in that shape of a heart, and she thought without warning that it was her heart, because she felt like she had lost it.
She looked at it blandly, knowing and not knowing what it was.
Then she realized something. This was the last few days in tangibility, in her hand. She did have a heart. A heart that was full of love two people had shared. Jack's heart. The ocean's heart.
Now Rose smiled faintly, seeing into the past and looking at herself, a mess of a girl standing on a ship about to embark on a new life. She had been so ready for the world then, ready to take on anything that came her way. Now she was so old, so drained of life, so deprived of love.
She could see it like it had happened an hour ago – He was leaning over his portfolio, an expression of utmost concentration on his face. His skin was bathed in a warm orange glow. All she could hear was her heart banging against the huge jewel around her neck and her breathing, accompanied by the ever-present scratch of charcoal on paper.
She had kept the necklace all these years because she needed Jack to be with her, needed a piece of Titanic to bring close to her soul every time she got pangs of misery, which was often. It had been locked in a wooden case for eighty-four years. She had never removed it to look at it, but just knowing it was there had given her comfort. She told herself that it was because she was afraid someone would see it, but how many dark nights had she been alone in her house while John was overworking himself at the hospital, again, and her children had been fast asleep? No, she realized now. The truth was she was terrified of it. Terrified to death to see death again. Terrified that she was betraying her marriage by wanting to remember that one memory so bad, and terrified she was betraying her spiritual destiny by not doing so. In the end, she had just denied it was there, if such a thing was possible.
Now its silver was tarnished, but the diamonds, white and blue, sparkled with an intensity she had been aching to see for a lifetime. She was back again – in the moment, in the love, in the pain. The heart that had been too indifferent and old to feel swelled with barely sustained joy.
She closed her eyes for a moment. She saw Titanic; she saw magnificent, soft, passionate, and deep blue eyes. It hurt to hang on anymore. Her very spirit was too grinded-down to grasp the rope of pain. Life had overwhelmed her with fatigue. She was ready to go home.
It was the moment she had been waiting for since she was seventeen. Her elderly breaths evened out as she gazed down into the waves that had destroyed her very life and had, at the same time, built a new one for her. He hands trembled with the shaking muscles.
Jack, she thought silently, I'm doing this for you. I'll never let go. I promise.
As sights of the night of April 14, 1912 tore through her mind she saw them – Thomas Andrews, Fabrizio, Tommy, and Jack, oh Jack, like ghosts from the past and promises of the future. How could she go on without moving away?
With a small cry, her hand unclenched. Before she could think she tossed the priceless, wanted jewel into the churning sea. Its blue shimmer slowly drifted into the deep and, at last, the Heart of the Ocean was where it belonged, truly at the heart of the ocean, with Titanic.
She watched it momentarily. Finally, she lifted her aged face to the stars, feeling a gentle breeze wash over her body like warm water. It was over. After all the hurt and all the long years, it was finally over. She never had let go. She had kept her promise.
And, as her eyes closed to feel the soft gust pour over her spirit, she was finally at peace with the world. With the sea. With Titanic.
The room was dark and cool. Rose lay tiredly in her stiff bed, her eyes closed, images of Jack Dawson running through her mind.
"Put your hands on me, Jack . . ."
"They've got you trapped, Rose, and you're gonna die if you don't break free, maybe not right away because you're strong but . . . Sooner or later that fire that I love about you, Rose . . . that fire's gonna burn out."
"If you let go, I'm gonna have to jump in there after ya."
"Do you trust me?"
"I trust you."
She smiled quietly, trying her best not to awaken Lizzie, who was sleeping fitfully on the bed across the room. Tear tracks ran down her granddaughter's face and Rose knew they were results of the story she had shared . . . her story with Jack. Why did everything have to always hurt those whom she loved?
The memories of him drifted around her like a blanket, protecting her from the true world of death. He had always been with her since that fateful night and had never left her side for a moment. She had felt him so many times and was so grateful that he still loved her. Even in the withering of age, he still loved her.
She shifted heavily to her left and gazed at the photographs lying on her bedside. Moments trapped in time stared back at her.
She breezed by the pictures of her posing as an actress, of her climbing into an airplane for the first time. The one that caught her eye was of her riding a stunning chestnut horse near a pier in Santa Monica like a man, a man! The freedom of being equal, her long, fiery red curls glowing in their place around her shoulders, being ruffled by the wind. She could still feel the spray from the beach stinging her legs as the horse galloped through the waves. Behind her was a tall, terrifying rollercoaster. A hint of a grin touched her loose lips as she remembered the fear she had felt in the pit of her stomach that day, the churning of cheap beer burning up her throat, the way her mouth ached from laughter. But then a little bit of a frown creased it when she also remembered the emotional turmoil she had been in, the bittersweet pain, of having to go with someone other than her soulmate but at the same time for her soulmate. John had been so confused, she recalled now. She had wanted to go to Santa Monica throughout the whole, then three years, of their marriage. Finally, he had taken her, but she had cried the entire time.
"Why can't I be like you Jack? Just head out for the horizon whenever I feel like it. . . Let's say we'll go there sometime, to that pier, even if we only ever just talk about it."
"No, we'll do it! We'll drink cheap beer; we'll ride the rollercoaster till we throw up . . . And then we'll ride horses on the beach, right in the surf. Now, you'll have to do it like a real cowboy, none of that – sidesaddle – stuff."
"You mean one leg on each side!"
"Can you show me?"
"Sure, if ya like."
It had been so torturous that day. She had only gone because she needed to – she needed to head out for the horizon not for herself, but for Jack and Rose, the two young lovers who were so star-crossed after just three days that they were lost in each other. Her old eyes bled tears as she remembered the feelings coursing through her body, feelings she hadn't felt in eighty-four lonely, damned years. Yearning, desire, and love – true, unimaginable, honest, innocent love that broke her heart and mended it all at once.
"Come Josephine, my flying machine, going up she goes . . . up she goes . . ." She found herself whispering that old melody in the pitch blackness. It was as if someone was trying to tell her something.
"You're gonna die an old, old lady – warm in her bed. Not here. Not this night. Not like this, do you understand me?"
The earnestness in his voice had chilled her more than the water. She remembered the unbearable agony of losing him and having to go on, the sad, mournful, and lonely span of her life closing in on her.
Those words had haunted her through the rest of her days. For the next eighty-four years, her heart and soul had wept like there was no tomorrow.
For her, there hadn't been. She had been trapped in yesterday.
Yet, somehow, she was feeling again. The ancient spirit inside of her was beginning to burn its beautiful flame. She welcomed the warmth that could only come from him. That was him.
It's been so long, but I can still taste our passion. I can still see you against my body, still feel the way I pounded and melted inside whenever you came near me. I still love you.
For the first five, dark years after Titanic, she had tried to forget him. It had proved impossible. In her dreams he was there, holding her and kissing her, stroking her skin and smiling. She would look into those eyes, those amazing pooling blue eyes that knew her spirit, and she could feel his artist's hands, rough and strong, but soft and gentle, careful and beautiful all in their own way.
The worst part about trying to leave him in her past was that the past would always haunt her. She would see him in her mind, staring at her. His gaze would pierce her skin and shift back layers of blood and bone to look into her heart and soul. He would be reading the inside of her and suddenly his face would screw up in torturous pain when he found the one thing he vividly feared – ignorance. She had forgotten all that had happened between them and themselves, between them and the sea. Suddenly his head would bow and blonde pieces of hair would cover his eyes, tears of ice and blood raining down his eternal face.
And she had done that. She had deprived herself of his smiles.
So instead she kept him safe in her heart, locked away from the rest of the cruel world. And although she grew old and became wrinkled in age, she left a bit of her seventeen-year-old self with him. Whenever she closed her eyes, she could see them together – holding each other with such fierceness that she knew that even though she had let go of his hand, she had never truly let go of Jack Dawson.
They were soulmates.
The word was beautiful and exotic. Rose, a one-hundred-and-one-year-old woman shouldn't be feeling these things, she reminded herself gently. But I am not a one-hundred-and-one-year-old woman, she argued. I'm Jack's Rose, and I always have been, always will be.
With that, she could ever-so-slowly feel the rest of her hurt ebbing away. She was not Rose Calvert. John Calvert did not exist for her anymore; her children and grandchildren were disappearing from her mind. She had served her purpose in life and now it was time to forget those long, empty, and lonely years and go home.
Rose DeWitt-Bukater was back.
It was a different Rose DeWitt-Bukater, not the spoiled, trapped, and dying girl she had been before Jack. No, now she was strong, beautiful, and free.
She closed her eyes lightly and opened them again, leaving her one-hundred-and-one year old body behind.
Instead, she was again seventeen. Blood-red curls poured down her back. Her skin was flawless and smooth. Her turquoise eyes were round and sparkling.
She knew he was near. She could feel his presence, that exhilarating feeling of flying that soared through her heart whenever he was close. For a moment, she was surrounded by blackness. Finally, a faint light like that from the stars shone around her and she knew.
The wreck was still beautiful. Even after eighty-four years of rust and decay, the site of the once-mighty ship knocked the breath out of Rose's lungs. Such sadness and perfection lying on the floor of the sea never failed to make her mind spin and her heart pound.
I still have a heart.
Suddenly she became weightless, soaring like the very being of freedom through the black water that enclosed her and yet opened her, that was so cold and so warm, so painful and so beautiful. Water that was a merciless killer, draining the lives of innocent victims, and a renewal, that pulsed life and love into her body.
The tips of her toes didn't as much as brush the rusting, decaying decks as she flew, as though on wings of an angel, above them. Memories, memories that had not been lost to her, awoke in the deepest, most hidden parts of her mind. A forbidden passion that had been put aside for so long was back at full force, crashing through her.
She gracefully moved down the deteriorated A-deck promenade. The wood had long since rotted away, but even in the faded life of a Titan, she could hear once-present majesty echoing back to her from the past. These were the floors that had been poured with blood, with love, with pain, with suffering, with death, with rebirth, with all of the passion human hearts could hold. These were the floors that told of ghosts of the past and tellers of the future, innocent lives cut short by faith and lack of. These were the floors that laid out the story of her beginning and end, all on the same ship.
This was the place that held the burden of bravery.
She remembered the bravery . . . the faces creased with lines of worry and the noble forms stiff with terror. The band, drawing their bows over their instruments to let prayers of beautiful music swirl into Heaven, the Captain, knowing his fate before he risked it . . . the facing of the drowning fear.
Such bravery cut her free now, allowed the ropes of life to snap and fall back, the chains to break and slide from her ankles. She had truly lived and truly died. She had fulfilled her promise, and she would be forever grateful. But now was the time to forget and remember all at once.
Something inside of her fluttered as the boards began to reappear and to deepen in their golden-bronze haze of hardwood. The debris began to clear. Sunlight was pouring through the windows and gleaming off of white-washed walls. The ship on which love had been born, had been murdered, and now was being resurrected was rising above death and pain. Titanic was triumphing over evil.
Distant strains of a waltz seemed to follow her very presence, wafting through the Titanic she remembered, the Titanic of her yesterdays and tomorrows. The song was so familiar, so vaguely familiar . . .
She gracefully swept around a corner and she knew. Her heart pounded, threatening to burst out of her ribcage. It was ironic how alive she felt, vividly alive again. The moment of her reuniting was at hand. It was the marriage of pain and love, finally.
She had lost the memory of her life. She only knew it had been so long since she had been here, so long and so much suffering had passed by since then. She had been forced to go on. Instead of dying, she felt as though she was all of the sudden blooming into the Rose she was meant to be.
And without warning, everything was crashing down and opening a passage to the heavens above.
The black-jacketed steward that she had seen so many times in her past was waiting for her. A beam spread on his face when he saw her, and, surprised, she saw anticipation and excitement for her dancing in his eyes. As if unable to force her to wait any longer, he stepped back and curved open an elaborately carved door of rich, beautiful, crafted wood. She had been through this door so many times, but this time something inside of her was unleashed like a dove from a cage as she entered the Grand Staircase and her eternity.
She saw them and couldn't move at first. It had been so very, very long, but here they all were – memories and ghosts and the future all at once. There were no words to honor these Souls of the Sea, those who had inspired her by their undying courage. Her breath caught in her and a glorious smile spread on her glowing complexion. They were all here – everybody she had lost and was now finding. Finally, her feet began to gracefully walk again, against the shine of the marble tiles. She knew the path she must take down the aisle in between the crowds.
The music became vibrant and ghostly, signifying an end to her life and a beginning to another one. It flowed through her entire body, coursing through her veins like blood once had. It echoed along the eloquent hall, resounding in the sadness and joy only music could bring. Then she suddenly realized what the song was. It was the melody of her life, from the start to finish, circling around and around, never ceasing.
All around her, people smiled. She recognized the ship's orchestra, instruments still by their sides, white stars still sewn to their collars. Dignity fell from their very beings. Finally, their faces seemed to sparkle with relief and contentedness, as if all horror of horrors and dried away to leave perfect everlasting bliss. They bowed, as if graced by her presence, when she was truly awed by theirs.
And there was Tommy. His rough Irish look was softened by his tender gaze down the hall, as if he had been expecting her, waiting and waiting and waiting. He looked astonished and his mouth opened wide. Suddenly he swept off his rough hat and rung it in his hands, welcoming and respecting her at once. What made her heart patter was that she could recognize him, that he was . . . here, that Titanic was not a gravesite but rather, a place of heroes.
Cora was in her father's arms, waving wildly with the liveliness of a child. Her rich dark brown curls fell past her shoulders and bounced with the movement of her body. She clutched a little doll, as if nothing had ever happened and yet everything had, her irises warm and chocolate-colored brown. They did not shimmer with the hurt and wisdom that they should have, but rather the ecstatic recognization of someone whom, perhaps to her, had disappeared for only seconds. When Rose smiled lightly back, she became suddenly shy and buried her face in her father's coat, her face innocently glowing, so innocent in a matter of fact that something in Rose hurt deeply because something so awful had happened to her and she turned away.
Rose's eyes swept around her as she proceeded forward. Officer Murdoch stood a little further along. She took a deep breath as she regarded him. After the sinking, she had heard terrible, horrible stories – stories that he had shot two male passengers trying to make their way to one of the last lifeboats in a panic, and then, seeing what he had done, had exiled himself from this world and shot himself in the head. His body had flown backwards and landed in the ocean as his blood colored the water. But as she saw him now, she saw none of this guilt and anguish, but a soft sort of smile, a face no longer creased by the burden of worry and duty, but free with happiness and honor and pride and humility all at the same time. He stood so straight, so tall, his shoulders so square, that she could barely stand to look at him, because she didn't deserve to be in his presence, to be in his afterlife.
Something inside of her told her to look across from the First Officer, and as she did, she saw someone that she hardly knew but at the same time respected completely because of whom he had known, whom his best friend was. Fabrizio de Rossi leaned lazily on the cherub at the base of the Grand Staircase's rail. His rich dark hair fell into rich dark eyes, dark but no longer muddy with the desperation to complete his dream, to reach America, because he had reached Heaven. Dreams might have been broken, wishes might have been scattered, but his heart had been mended. On his arm was the Swedish girl, Helga, he had been so fascinated with, and she seemed completely enthralled with him. The moment she saw him, his face split into a huge grin that went almost from ear to ear, thanking God that she had come back. He seemed so relaxed, as always, and she let out a breathtaking sigh of familiarity.
As she turned to go up the steps, she saw a final person. Tears were in her throat as she looked at him. Mr. Thomas Andrews, Master Designer of the R.M.S. Titanic, stood on the first stair. The title alone made something within her quake with anticipation and awe.
She looked questioningly into his eyes, eyes full of relief and sparkling with responsibility that was no longer a plague. He nodded, as if assuring her she was home. That was all it took for the dam in her heart to burst open and for the certainty of forever to embed itself within her. The man that stood before her was one she trusted with her life, because he had given his selflessly so that others might live. He, and he alone, had been the sole one to realize the gravity of the iceberg, and he had made sure that she knew where to find Jack in those final moments. He had earned her utmost respect, and now, with him smiling quietly at her, she saw just how much of himself he had given, and just how noble he had been. She remembered his final moments – drowning in guilt and grief and despair in front of a dying orange fire. She remembered embracing him . . . and she remembered how she had been haunted ever after by his death. Something that she could never forget was that she had survived in his lifejacket.
She looked at him, recalling how he had shouldered shame that was not his to bear, and how reverently he had bore all of it. He was the symbol of Titanic herself, and he was something that said that she had made it.
But all of the sudden something grasped her heart and her head turned upwards. Her breath stopped, her spirit was caught. She tried to tell her feet to move.
For there he was, Jack Dawson, the love of her life, the one who had saved her so many times, her Jack, the one whom she had been blindly searching for for eighty-four years. All of the darkness faded as she watched him, his back to her, staring at the clock as if he had been waiting since the moment they had been wrenched apart. He was staring at the clock of Honor and Glory crowning Time, the clock that read 2:20 in the deepest bounds of all eras.
His shirt was red-brown, a shirt she automatically recognized. She remembered the soft, worn fabric of it against her hand as she clutched to him, the scent of the man inside it. His pants were the same golden brown, shabby as well, and his suspenders were light tan, the same suspenders that she had grasped to as he pushed her towards a lifeboat. His boots were dusty and faded leather, heavy and old. The very appearance of him made her almost faint just like it had so long ago.
He looked over his shoulder and saw her, then suddenly turned around, a grin on his face. Her heart stopped. It was the grin that she had been drawn to in the first place, the mischievous, innocent, inside-melting, lop-sided grin that had been returned to her. His streaked, too long, boyish blonde hair hung in strands in his face but he didn't move to brush them back. Instead, he just watched her. Her breathing became labored. The magic that made it almost impossible to breathe at all was coursing around her again.
Her blue-green eyes began to finally shimmer and sparkle with barely sustained joy. The strange feeling came into her, and she knew he was reading her soul with his own eyes – the swirls of azure that she was lost in, that she fell apart in the gaze of, that were so bright and bold she could stare at them forever, which was all she had now. Instead of tears his grin broadened. He was reading the story of her life, the story of a girl forced to blossom into the flower of a woman, the story that dripped with love and pain, with heartbreak and loss. She could feel him seeing the reuniting of two souls that had been tied together with the strings of passion between two Times and two Places – into the great beyond where life and death did not exist; there was just being. She had missed his eyes for her entire existence without him, had dreamt of their unfailing gaze, had held their mystery, beauty, and wisdom that surpassed knowledge in her heart. She drank in those warm and cool blue orbs, the smile on her own face widening.
But what made her almost burst into tears was the glorious relief that nothing had really changed. Under all suffering, torture, moving on and staying back, past all time, they were still just Jack and Rose, two beings that could not be separated by Hell or Heaven, in love for eternity.
She slowed on the steps, her long pure-white dress swirling around her weightless feet. The gown was embroidered with lace and pearl, clothing her body in a celestial garment. Its design mirrored that of the last dress Jack had seen her in – a long train, short sleeves – but gave her much freedom in movement. It was like a heavenly wedding gown. Her long, scarlet curls cascaded freely down her back, a ribbon woven through the strands like a crown at the top of her head. She was a beautiful bride dressed for her groom. She was Jack Dawson's bride for eternity.
His grin softened to welcome her home as the music soaring through the room changed drastically from its mournful, tearful melody to that of relief and joy, and she knew that he knew – this was their wedding, a wedding of fate and everlasting love. The realization began to dim away until only Jack was left in its place. She could concentrate on nothing else as he removed his left hand from his pants pocket and leaned back on his feet. He seemed so at ease, so carefree, as he always had, just what had attracted her to him originally.
Everything began to spin and her insides accelerated as he held out his hand to her, those hands she would recognize anywhere. She shakily lifted her own to his and he grasped it. Everything fell out of line at the shock of electricity that passed through them when they touched. She melted into water. Those hands – rough and calloused artist's hands, to be sure, but so gentle – even in this abyss of eternity. She had been waiting to touch him for . . . God, she didn't know how long. Too long.
She felt the slight pressure on her hand as he pulled her to him and his expression dimmed into sheer nervous anticipation. That pressure was something completely unbelievable to her – it meant that he was there, he was real, he was with her.
She wanted to damn her legs; they wouldn't move her to him fast enough. A glorious feeling washed over her and she did not recognize what it was, only that it came from her Artiste.
She was vaguely aware of ascending the last step and standing next to him on the landing, the marble under her feet sending coolness up her spine. He guided her until she was no more than three inches from him and his scent suddenly washed over her . . .
Sunshine and hard work and charcoal and sandalwood all mixed together to form what was him, that had haunted her senses. In any other circumstance the tears would have been flowing, but such happiness and awe and relief was coursing through her and left no room for weeping, even with joy. She wanted to throw herself into his arms, to press herself against his body, but she was incapable of doing anything but smiling, a magnificent smile that made her entire body glow. Something akin to smoldering desire and utter liberation glowed in her lover's smoky eyes of melting ice.
They simply stood there for a moment, and Rose knew that fate was giving back to them the eras that they had before been denied and ripped from. All universes and creatures, living and dead and just there, seemed to hold their collective breath as the two who had loved with something that was beyond love, that was pure and holy and dangerous and divine, simply stared in wonder at their counterpart and the other half of their person. She could almost see the celestial bodies crashing above to rain milky-white light on their suddenly bright reaches of the darkness of everlasting horror that had created an everlasting paradise.
Her lips suddenly seemed to be buzzing as if trying to tell her something, but she couldn't or wouldn't, or whatever she was feeling, respond to their desperate need. The vividness of the moment washed away any and all doubt that it was just a dream and she knew that death had really given her life. He was there as he always had been, and that gave her the strength to look beyond everyone else in that marvelous chamber and see only him, the one whom had waited forever for her and was now taking her with him for forevermore.
He seemed unable to wait any longer for something that maybe he had been waiting for since before his birth, she wasn't sure. But then again it didn't really matter.
His head bent towards hers and, knowing what was coming, all she could do was stare in marvel at the phenomenon that he still wanted and needed to love her with anything he had and everything he didn't. She didn't move in response, could barely breathe, heart pounding, everything freezing, room whirling, nervousness wracking her body as she felt his breath on her neck.
But then it all faded away and she didn't really care that everyone was watching because to her no one was. Everything vanished in light of Jack's face getting closer to hers, sandy blonde hair streaked light back behind his forehead, tan skin so near her own creamy white. Even beneath his closing lids she could still feel the searing burn of his gaze and she simply relaxed in it, not knowing what "it" was.
All of her earthly worries melted away when she finally, after so many years of torturous pain, gave in to that hunger inside of her. His soft lips tenderly caught her own and, tremulously, she realized he was tangible. The minty taste still lingered in his mouth but she couldn't respond to his soft, probing moves because she was still in utter shock of him whom had been given back to her.
Suddenly her insides blazed into that roaring flame she remembered so well and music was lost in the back of her mind as it hit her. He was here, she was here, they were together, and it was their time.
She reacted slowly as the stream built inside of her and she couldn't believe what was occurring at that moment. Without warning everything of the past eighty-four years poured out of her, grief drying away and layers of suffering and uncertainty peeling back. Her eyes fluttered shut but really saw more than they ever had. He seemed to wipe away all of her hurt and she just gave it to him. She felt so light, like she was flying, and all Time disappeared. The sea that had been black and blue with her weeping bruises and tinged red with the blood of a murdered love evaporated, leaving shimmers where all the agony had been.
The kiss that had started soft suddenly deepened into two souls finally being clasped back into the one that they had been molded to be, two hungry and passionate lovers getting filled and their desire being all worth something. Her hands were moved over his shoulders and around to his back as she clutched the folds of his shirt and took in the texture of him beneath it. He was solid. The locking of lips and hearts intensified until gentle love was flowing from their mouths like a raging river. One of his strong arms wrapped around her waist and she felt it tighten as if she were a fragile butterfly that he would never let go.
"Never let go . . ."
One of his hands caressed her burnt red curls with all of the softness that he had in him, and she remembered with a shiver of ecstasy those gentle hands, the hands of an artist who had been in her life and had never left, those hands that were calloused and rough but so mild and calm that she had never wanted to stop being treasured by his fingertips.
From somewhere in the far reaches of the Titan she heard people of the Abyss that had given their lives for crimes they had not committed applaud, the sound penetrating the silence of the deep void and swirling to the sea and above until God was smiling down with them.
Inquisitive tongues met and ensued in the lover's dance as both people that had been separated by more than Death and Life finally were rejoined. All other times faded away and the Rose inside of her bloomed again, full and ripe and red, as she became lost in the Jack that was healing her.
It was quite simple, really, the truth and no logic that was beheading all of her horror and molding it into heaven and harmony that she had for so long deserved. She could remember nothing as everything was burnt away. The kiss blossomed and her trampled self was fulfilled, her beatings taken away into nothing.
Because after so long, the sea was not bloody anymore and the screams were gone. The darkness of her life had lit into the swirling white of eternity. Finally, finally, she was warm again.