On a particularly sunny day in the Summer of 1926, the elite of American society gathered in New York City's Central Park to celebrate the 10th wedding anniversary of Caledon Hockley and his wife Jocelyn, the daughter of wealthy socialite, William Rutherford. Every guest was a name, a well-known figure amongst the social events of the country. The Hockleys had paid specifically for the entire park to be closed off to the public that day, open only to those invited and the countless waiters serving out trays of drinks. Prohibition was in effect but it seemed to bypass certain gatherings. A make-shift gazebo held an extravagantly sized orchestra. Mrs Hockley had instructed them to only play compositions by Mozart as he was her favourite composer, and the only one she would listen to. She stepped from guest to guest, each one giving her their congratulations on reaching such a momentous milestone. She accepted each greeting with a content smile and a reply of 'thank you' as the guests gave her presents of unimaginable cost. Of course, they were all simple trinkets to the Hockleys, one of the wealthiest families in the United States. Jocelyn was not entirely sure exactly what business the family had earned it's money from but it didn't interest her in the slightest. She had her own inheritance to live from and intended to do so. Her husband's money was a nice bonus.
She tried to spot her husband through the crowd of well dressed guests, glittering in diamonds and fashionable outfits. Although everyone acted joyously together, Jocelyn knew that secretly, they were all competing with each other to be the best dressed, the most expensively outfitted and the richest. Such was the main activity at these gatherings. She herself wore a satin emerald gown, adorned with beads and lace that had been custom designed by a dressmaker in Paris. It cost a grotesque amount of money but since that was of no concern to her, she was willing to pay any amount to be the centre of attention at her party. She seemed much older than her 36 years, her wrinkles leaving her aged beyond repair. It did nothing to dispell her pretty features, her eyes being the main feature of her face. Although cold in spirit, they gleamed a topaz colour that never failed to draw attention to her. She kept her hair styled in impeccable waves against her head, each one perfectly held together by invisible pins. The colour of her hair was an obviously unnatural red, but she refused to go gray gracefully. All in all, she exhuded the look of a lady about town, completely entrancing and at the same time unnerving.
"Darling, finally." A voice from behind exclaimed. "I thought you'd disappeared amongst the crowd."
Cal Hockley touched her shoulder with a light touch and turned Jocelyn around to face him. He too had dressed expensively, in a simple but nonetheless impressive black tuxedo with bow tie that contrasted with the perfect white of his shirt. He kissed Jocelyn, more a friendly brush against her lips than a real sign of affection.
"Are you enjoying yourself?" Cal asked his wife. "I know that you aren't properly aquainted with many of father's business associates."
"It's fine. I'm having a lovely time." She replied. Although it was true that she was having conversatons with total strangers, attention was never a negative thing. Overall, the entire party was a complete bore to her, but she hoped Cal would not notice.
"At least someone is. Why is it that the moment one is throwing a party, people crawl from the wood-work and act as if they've been friends with you all your life?" Cal grumbled, looking around at the party guests who seemed to be having a much more enjoyable time than himself. "At least it's good for business, if nothing else."
"Why don't you go and sit down in the dinner tent?" Jocelyn suggested. "The toasts aren't for another hour or so."
"I might just do that, darling." Cal said, giving his wife another kiss, this one lasting longer than half a second yet remaining as loveless as the many kisses she had received over the decade. As he turned to leave the crowd, he saw a woman he hadn't seen in many years and had had no desire to lay eyes upon her again.
"Well, if it ain't the man himself!" A woman squealed excitedly, moving towards Cal. "Cal Hockley. I haven't seen you in, how many years has it been?"
"Hello, Mrs Brown." Cal feigned enthusiasm rather convincingly, although Jocelyn knew he was lying. The pair shook hands and smiled at each other with grins that could split the side of your mouth.
"It's so good to see you again, we left on rather unusual terms." Mrs Brown said, taking a moment to pause and remember that night with a slight shudder. Molly Brown was a painful and annoying reminder of bad times past for Cal. How she had gotten her hands on an invite, he would never know.
"Aren't ya gonna introduce me? This must be the lucky lady Mrs Hockley!"
"Yes, of course. Molly Brown, this is my wife Jocelyn Hockley, of the Rutherford family." Cal said. He always introduced his wife in this way, hoping her family connection would make a lasting impression.
"Charmed, Mrs Hockley. Or can I can I call you Jocelyn?" Molly said happily, shaking Jocelyn's hand. Her big hat, big figure and big gestures seemed so different from the willowy frame of Jocelyn, who took pride in her boyish body.
"Mrs Hockley is fine, Mrs Brown." She said with a hint of command. She had heard many things about the so-called unsinkable Molly Brown. Her mind briefly made a cruel joke about her unsinkable state compared to her size and muffled a slight laugh aquiringly. Her family never really associated itself with her sort of people, 'new money' as they were nicknamed. A moment of awkward silence followed that Molly broke with a boom of her common sounding drawl that seemed so out-of-place amongst this crowd.
"Fourteen years, Cal, and you haven't changed." She smiled, looking at him from top to bottom. "Well, not much."
Age too had touched Cal, pushing his hairline back that even a cleverly placed fringe could not conceal. He didn't mind the streaks of grey or creased skin by his eyes and mouth, something his father often called 'signs of character.'
"I could say the same about you, Molly. I would recognise you straightaway." He replied. Molly was obviously much older looking from their last meeting, but she kept that air of optimism with her that was unmissable.
"Still a charmer. It's good to see you again. We never got a chance to part on friendlier terms, what with...well, you know."
Nobody ever talked of the events of April, 1912 with Cal. He had expressed rather openly to his family that he wanted to erase the entire thing from his mind if at all possible. It was the only way he could conceal the truth. His friends had promised on their lives never to utter a word and he had moved to New York City just to start afresh. Molly was dragging poison from his past out again.
"If you excuse me, Molly. I have guests to greet."
Molly nodded, noting that Cal was still the same as he had been when she met him. When she heard that he had survived the tragedy, she immediately wondered how many of the crew he had bribed. Once a coward, always a coward. Unfortunately, as Cal tried to leave, he was stopped by the last person he wanted Molly to meet.
Isabella Hockley felt extremely uncomfortable at these extravagant events. Much like her father, she had no interest in these events. Her beautiful dress was rubbing against her skin, the jagged beads scratching at her delicate skin. She tried not to move her head too much as the tortoise-shell comb in her exceedingly long blonde hair would pull painfully at her scalp. The entire outfit was much too fancy for her but her father had kindly requested that she dress finely for today instead of her usual boyish slacks and shirts.
"Father, thank God you're here," She said, kissing him affectionately on his cheek, then doing the same for Jocelyn. "I don't think I'll ever get used to these occasions. Oh, hello ma'am." She turned to yet another stranger and held out her hand to be shaken, as it had been countless times today. "I'm Isabella Hockley."
Molly froze for a moment. The girl couldn't have been a day under 17, maybe even 18. Cal had either been keeping secrets, or she had found the bartering tool used for his escape from the R.M.S. Titanic. She regained her composure and shook Isabella's hand. She seemed like a sweet girl, not blessed with beauty but an unusually grabbing appearance that made Molly immediately like the girl, no matter what her situation.
"Well, I never. Cal, you didn't tell me you had a little girl." She told Cal, staring straight into his eyes as if looking for an honest reply. "Although I could hardly call you little, young lady. How old are you?"
"I'll be 18 in September, the same day as my grandfather." She informed the lady, still unsure of her name.
"What a coincidence! You look beautiful, Miss Hockley." Molly kept smiling at Isabella, her naive uneasiness obvious to Molly. "Your father is lucky to have such a lovely daughter. I bet she does you proud, eh Cal?"
Cal resisted the temptation to scowl at Molly and kept his composure polite. "She does, she's my little girl." He wrapped an arm around Isabella and brought her closer, giving her a fatherly kiss on the head. Isabella smiled. "Isabella, why don't you go to the dinner tent if you're feeling uncomfortable? I don't want my special girl to become overwhelmed by all this."
"Okay, I'll be back out when the toasts are happening." She gave Cal and Jocelyn another kiss. "It was lovely to meet you, ma'am." She said, shaking Molly's hand before leaving, tottering tentatively on her high heeled shoes. Molly watched her work her way through the crowd again, ready to ask some questions.
"Seventeen years old, Cal. Did the De-Witt Bukaters know or was this post Titanic?" She asked, already knowing the answer.
"That is none of your business, Mrs Brown." Cal spat rudely, sick of this woman and her interrogation. "Isabella is my daughter and she doesn't need you poking around in our family history, upsetting everything."
"Oh, so little Miss Hockley is really someone else's girl. Did you pay for her or just snatch her from the hands of some desperate family?"
"How dare you!" Cal raised his voice just loud enough to intimidate Molly, but not draw attention to himself. "I saved her!"
"And she saved you." Molly added, refusing to back down to this slimeball excuse of a man. "Does she know?"
"Of course not, and that's how it will stay. Isabella is my daughter in every other way and I love her more than you'll ever know. What she doesn't know won't hurt her."
"So you're just gonna lie to her? Lying always did work for you." Molly didn't like the thought of that innocent girl having been snatched from her loved ones by Hockley, but she also shuddered at the idea of a 4 year old child perishing in that freezing water. The very thought of that night still made Molly tremble with cold, no matter what the weather. "It was nice seeing you Cal. Jocelyn."
With that, Molly made her way out of Central Park, never wanting to see Caledon Hockley again. She hoped that girl was happy with that man as a father, happier than a certain Rose De-Witt Bukater was with him as a fiancee.
Cal grabbed a brandy glass from a waiter's tray and downed it in one gulp. That party crasher had left him in an infuriated state that even alcohol could not calm. He had spent 14 years concealing Isabella's unfortunate past and giving her the best life any girl could ever dream of and he thought it would have ended in 30 seconds thanks to Molly Brown. Jocelyn put a comforting arm around his broad shoulder, unsure of what else to do.
"Don't worry. It's all safe." She reassured her husband. The girl she called her step-daughter would always be the child of Caledon, the heir to the Hockley fortune. "Isabella is your girl, nobody elses."
"Yes," Cal said. "Nobody elses."