A FATHER STANDS with his little daughter in his arms; she can't be any older than six or seven. "Give her to me." An officer rips her from his arms, and she cries out, "Daddy?" She can't understand what's going on; her mother and her little sister are already in the boat, so why isn't her father getting on with them?
"Daddy, get in the boat," she whimpers, her voice starting to crack. Though she's so young, she realizes that something's not right.
"It'll be fine, darling; don't you worry. It's goodbye for a little while, only for a little while," says her father reassuringly, but she hears the false note in his voice. "There'll be another boat for the daddies, this one's for the mummies and the children! " He's trying so hard not to break down, but he knows this is probably the last time he'll ever see his wife or his beautiful daughters. "You hold Mummy's hand and be a good little girl."
Suddenly it dawns on me: if this officer won't let fathers on, there's no way Jack's going to be let on. I whirl and face him. "I'm not going without you." My voice is firm, steely; I can't show any fear, any doubt, because then there is no way that he'll let me stay with him. But I can't leave him…not without losing myself in the process.
"You have to go. Now," he tells me, his eyes conveying panic and disbelief. How can he believe that I would so willingly leave him behind, after all we've been through together? What happened to, "you jump, I jump?"
"No, Jack, no," I murmur.
"Get in the boat, Rose." His voice is slightly louder now; I raise mine to match it.
"Yes, get on the boat!" He's almost yelling now, and I jump a bit when an all-too-familiar voice cuts in.
"Yes, get on the boat, Rose." It's Cal; I'm surprised to see him. Surely money could have bought him a seat, after all? Why chance it that you might not make it, when you could just buy your way to safety? Jack looks torn between anger that he's there, and hope that he might be able to persuade me to get to safety.
"My God, look at you, you look a fright," Cal continues. What does he even care? "Here…come." He whips the blanket off from around my shoulders. Jack grunts as Cal shoves it into his stomach without so much as a "please." Meanwhile Cal has taken off his jacket and drapes it loosely over my shoulders. His hands stroke my hair; disgusted, I back away from him, and Jack takes his place.
His beautiful eyes full of urgency, he says, "Go on; I'll get the next one." Just like the father with his daughter; well, I'm not six. I can speak for myself and make my own decisions.
"No, not without you!" I know I sound like a pestilent child, but I can't help it. I'm not losing Jack…where he goes, I go.
"I'll be all right! Listen, I'll be fine. I'm a survivor, all right? Don't worry about me! Go on, get on," he begs. There's fear in his eyes now, which he does his best to hide. Is it fear of losing me in the icy waters, or fear of losing me when I live and he dies? I'd rather die with him than live without him, especially if I never learn what happens because I got on this stupid lifeboat.
"I have an arrangement with an officer on the other side of the ship," Cal interrupts again; I'd quite forgotten he was there. "Jack and I can get off safely-both of us." He exchanges a glance with Jack, and I don't miss the apprehension in Jack's eyes before he turns back to me. Cal's lying to get what he wants-me on the lifeboat. Jack could die for all he cares.
"See?" Jack asks. "Got my own boat to catch."
"Hurry," Cal says, with an attempt at a smile. I want to punch him in that arrogant, lying face. "They're almost full."
I turn back to Jack, whispering urgently in his ear, too quietly for Cal to hear. "Look, I know Cal's lying-I could see it in his eyes. But I want you to know that I'm only getting on this boat because of you, because you asked me to. You're gonna make it, you are a survivor, and I'll meet up with you. I'm not going to stay with him. Promise me you'll find me!"
"I promise," he whispers, holding me tight, brushing his lips against my hair. Suddenly…
"Step aboard, Miss," says the officer, and I'm yanked away from Jack. We hold hands for as long as we can, but are eventually ripped apart. "Lower away!" cries the officer, and there's a gasp from the lifeboat as we all jerk downward. I keep my eyes on Jack's face, not willing to miss a second of it, in case…no, there's no "in case." He's going to make it…he promised.
He's talking with Cal, and I know that he's confirming what I already knew in my heart to be true-that Cal is an evil, conniving, arrogant, pathetic excuse for a man, who will do whatever he needs to in order to win. Well, he's not going to win this time…
I look up at the ropes, creaking under the weight of the boat, and back to Jack, who looks back stoically. Cal's to his right, and he's wearing his customary smug expression, though he tries his best to hide it. The girls are waving up at their father, tears streaming down their faces…the officer is screaming, waving his arms to lower the boats, but I can't hear any of it over the pounding of my heart.
I look back to Jack…are those tears in his eyes? Suddenly, a flare bursts to life behind him, and his face is illuminated perfectly. His hands shake, a tear trickles down his face, but somehow I've never seen him so strong, so perfect, so beautiful. I want to be with him, to be right at his side through this sinking, but this way he doesn't have to worry about me. This way, he can focus on getting himself out of the water, or swim to a boat, or whatever he needs to do to survive…
I try and smile up at him; I'm not going to let him know how much leaving him is hurting me. He already knows it, I'm sure, but crying while he watches will only make it worse. "I love you," I tell him. It's the first time either of us said the words; it was almost unnecessary before, and though he can't hear me, I hope he understands the message.
A true smile lights up his face, though the tears still threaten to spill over, and his lips part. "I love you, too." I spare a quick second to watch the anger flit over Cal's face as he realizes our message…and then our boat's in the water, and Jack's out of sight, and I finally can let the tears flow.
Sobbing relentlessly, I begin to pray, Let him make him, please help him to survive, I don't know what I would do without him…