Chapter One

Rose was almost frozen as she felt herself being pulled into the boat. The men were grunting as they tried to drag her wet body from the cold clutches of the ocean. It was silent now, except for a few small waves that passed by. The quiet sounds they made echoed in Rose's mind, as though she were inebriated on some kind of strong liquor. She knew what that was like. But this feeling was quite overwhelming. It was hard to explain. She felt her feet leave the cold water and enter the freezing air.

The chill was terrible, and Rose shivered with so many thoughts. Her mind was clouded. Everything echoed, everything was slow. Nothing seemed to move the way they usually did. She wanted to cry out and say, "Stop it! Be normal!" But nothing stilled her dizziness, nor the nausea she felt. Her stomach fluttered with an old illness, and she wanted it to go away. She wanted everything to go away. The world seemed so abstract. It was hard to believe it was real.

The boat pulled away from the bodies, perhaps to return in the morning. Rose know she would never see her beloved Jack again, not even if she prayed with all her heart. Her shoulders began to shake and she knew she was about to weep again. But she couldn't. Rose had promised to be strong, and she would be, if it meant never to cry. She knew the times of only the purest happiness. And if that was the way it was meant to be, then that was it. After all, you never knew what hand you would be dealt in life.

Rose smiled to remember Jack's words. Everything he said was music to her ears, and she longed to hear more. If only he were here beside her, comforting her and telling her it would be all right. But he wasn't, and Rose was about to drift into unconsciousness again.

A cry in the dark. A scream muffled as it got further away. The silent screams of those who were no longer there, but really were. That was all Rose could hear in her deep sleep. All they wanted to do was live, and that had been too much to ask. It was over. At least, her life with Jack. But what about Cal? She grimaced and forced these thoughts to unclog her mind. Her life was with Jack under the water, and she knew that was what she wanted. Rose couldn't be bothered with thoughts of Cal or her mother, and never wanted to be reminded of this voyage, ever again.

XXXXX

All Rose remembered was waking up to the early morning dawn. The sky was a gorgeous shade of pink and yellow, like a painting. She had forgotten what had happened in the previous hours until she felt the sense of cold drill through her body. Her hands were like ice, and her hair glistened with the beads of frost. Her skin was white, and her entire body was numb. She felt as though death had swept over, and still let her hang by a thread. It was not pleasing, and she wished she had died. Perhaps she would be warmer then.

"A ship!" a voice cried. Startled by the sudden outburst of excitement, Rose attempted to sit up. She was immediately pushed back by an officer.

"Please," he said. "It would be better for your health if you remained lying down. You are weak, and barely conscious."

"Don't tell me how I am!" Rose snapped angrily. "I just wanted to see what the commotion was about. I think I can decide how I feel." Her voice cracked, for it had frozen.

"And how do you feel?"

"Awful."

"Well, it looks as though you'll be saved," the officer told her. "The Carpathia's come to our rescue."

"There she is!"

"But I can't even move!" Rose cried. "How am I supposed to board a ship like this?"

"I could help."

"I don't trust you. Who knows where you will place your hands?"

"I am not in this for pleasure, Miss. I did not greatly enjoy being thrown into this mass of water we call the Atlantic. You should be happy I offered to help. You aren't the only one who lost something."

"And what, pray tell, did you lose?"

"My wife of three months, that's who," the officer replied with a look of solemnity on his face. "I tried to help her in, but I couldn't. I couldn't find her, and she found me. I was the last boat, and she almost made it in, but..."

"I'm so sorry," Rose started. "If I had known—I wish I could take back what I said."

"Well, you suffered a loss as well. I guess I was expecting an explosion like that."

"You must think me rude. I'm really not, or at least don't mean to be."

"I don't think you rude. You are suffering, is all. My name is John Wilkes. You?"

"Uh..." Rose stuttered. If she told him her name, he might report her to her mother and Cal. Then where would she be? "Jane."

"Well, Jane, it looks as though we are about to go down in history as survivors of the most tragic shipwreck in all of history, eh?"

"I hope not."

XXXXX

Tea? Perhaps coffee? No, that would only keep her awake, and all Rose wanted to do was remain in a deep sleep until they reach land. Tea would have to do.

Those around her on the deck of the Carpathia were those from steerage. The passengers who had been already on board would glance at her. Their faces were mixed with different feelings, some pity, others with questions. Rose tried to avoid the stares and diverted her eyes.

The woman next to her continued to weep. The daughter dried her eyes. Rose recalled seeing them on her visit with Jack to steerage. What a wonderful night that had been! But now it was the past. She hated it!

"Put your hands on me, Jack."

The words raced though her head, echoing from every wall of her mind. She couldn't get them to leave. They were permanently etched in every crevice of her humanly existence.

"Put your hands on me, Jack."

"Stop," she mumbled to herself. "I can't take any more of this."

"Put your hands on me, Jack."

"Put your hands on me, Jack."

"Put your hands on me, Jack."

"Put your hands on me, Jack."

"No!" Rose sprang from her seat, spilling tea around her feet on the deck.

"Are you quite all right?" asked a voice.

"John!" Rose cried. "What are you doing here?"

"Just searching. I thought perhaps Maria—"

"She'll show up. Trust me. Maybe you weren't the last boat. Maybe someone picked her up from the water. I heard rumors of another ship."

"Thank you, Jane, but I am not a very optimistic person. Did you lose anyone?"

"Yes." Rose saddened a bit. "The love of my life. He died in my arms before I whistled for the boat. He didn't have a life vest."

"Ah," John said. "I'm sorry. I hope everything works out for the best."

"I do, too."

What was to come after that day was unexpected, and certainly not in Rose's near plans.