AUTHOR'S NOTE - This is my first Titanic fanfiction, and my first published work for years. Thomas Andrews in this story is my own interpretation of Victor Garber's portrayal in James Cameron's Titanic. He's my 'default' Mr. Andrews, if you will.
No disrespect is intended to the memory of the real life Thomas Andrews. And, I dedicate this to all the souls who suffered exactly 100 years ago as I write this note on the 14th of April, 2012.
Additional info: This story is set in 1982 and is told in an autobiographical style, from the POV of my own character - a fictional, elderly Titanic survivor, called Mimi Monaghan. (My other half's family are from Northern Ireland; Monaghan is his family name, and a common Northern Irish name. We visit Northern Ireland once a year and often pass by the original Harland & Wolff shipyard in Belfast where Titanic was built.)
Chapter 1: Prologue: A Queen Of The Ocean
She was known as The Ship Of Dreams. And yes, she certainly seemed to be that. A marvel to look at, inside and out; she was what could only be described as a giant 'floating hotel'. There had never been anything like her until then. The Queen Of The Ocean. 'Unsinkable', was a word many people used to describe the monumental vision, anchored peacefully in the Southampton docks on that brisk April morning. And they truly believed she was an unsinkable vessel. Why wouldn't they, after all? I had worked as a serving maid on smaller liner ships and ferry boats in England and Ireland before, but this ship was like nothing I'd ever experienced. There was a certain magical aura about the R.M.S. Titanic.
In passing, I had seen the two year construction of the ship in Belfast, at the Harland and Wolff shipyard. A fellow Belfast-based man by the name of Mr. Thomas Andrews, had overseen her design and the extensive building process. To witness the progress of such a project was astounding. Thousands of men had built her, but one man had designed her.
Oh, my dear, dear Mr. Andrews. He saw Titanic through to her tragic and unexpected end. The project had been his brainchild, and ultimately, was what killed him. Him, and all those brave souls who had boarded his Ship Of Dreams, with the hope of starting a new life in The Land Of The Free. The sinking of the Titanic on the 15th of April, 1912, was the most talked about maritime disaster in history. I believe it still is. And my significance? Well, I was one of the survivors. By the skin of my teeth, perhaps, to coin a more modern phrase. It is something which has haunted me for the past seventy years. I was twenty seven years old when the Titanic went down; just a young lass myself.
Like many of the women who'd boarded the lifeboats, I had to accept that the man I loved wasn't coming back. I had to accept that I would never see him again. I had to accept that he was giving his life; for me, and for the many other poor souls whose fate was clear that night. The man I had loved, desired, and could never truly call mine: Mr. Andrews was the man whose ship had plunged more than one thousand innocent people to death, into the icy cold depths of the North Atlantic.
Striking the iceberg had not been his fault, you must understand. Not in any way. He was not a naval officer and had no control in steering the ship. He had been in his private quarters at the time of the incident, having spent most of the day studying blueprints of the ship's structure. As the designer of the vessel, he'd felt a huge burden of responsibility towards her and the safety of the passengers. He was a gentle man with a good heart. I had known that more than anyone else on Titanic's maiden voyage.
After the iceberg had struck and the magnitude of the damage was suspected, he'd felt completely helpless and his soul had been destroyed. I knew this. He'd told me to my face, as we embraced for what would be one last time, in front of the ornate fireplace in the first class smoking room. Even before he'd told me, I had seen the helplessness in his face. In his eyes. Never had I witnessed a man so torn apart, by guilt, over what was happening. My own fear had been heightened by his desolation.
''There will be people who'll make it out alive from this,'' he'd whispered to me, his voice hushed and shaking. ''But many will not. That's the reality of this situation. There aren't enough lifeboats for even half the people onboard. Hundreds will die, perhaps thousands. Tonight.''
Even now, I remember his words so well. I can still hear his voice clearly, in my mind. He'd then kissed the top of my head and pulled back quickly from my arms to look me in the eye. His face was close, his brown eyes were desperate.
''My dear Mimi. Many will perish. D'you understand? Lifeboats or not. I designed this damned ship! She's pulling us down. Many are perishing here, on this night. Get on one of the boats, Mimi. You must.''
My skin was so cold - cold from the drop in temperature since the collision with the iceberg; cold from the realisation that this amazing, unsinkable vessel was disintegrating into the ocean at an incredible rate. Mr. Andrews' words echoed through my head over and over. I started to shiver, not just from the chilly air, but out of pure fear and desperation.
''I... but, Thomas... I can't...''
I just couldn't get the words out. Again I clung to him, terrified. I inhaled his scent, and felt him shiver with fear just as I was.
''No, Mimi," he scolded loudly, pulling me off of him with strong hands. ''Go! There's no time. Get up to the deck and save yourself now, or so help me God!''
With those words, he had pushed me away forcefully, in the direction of the doorway. The freezing water was a little past our ankles.
I pulled my overcoat over my shoulders tighter, and looked back at him.
''Please, Thomas... why won't you come with me? Maybe they're loading more men on! Don't just st... ''
Turning his teary eyes away from me, he cut me off.
''This is my ship, Mimi.''
I was the last one to see Thomas Andrews, Titanic's creator and architect, alive. My darling Mr. Andrews. It only seems correct to call him by his last name, for he was more of a true gentleman than many of his first class counterparts were. And I can vouch for his integrity, his heroism and his devotion. How did the spectacle that was Titanic turn into such a disaster, one where so many dreams and aspirations would drown? Human error can have such tragic consequences. You all know how the Titanic story ends. But here, my own story is just beginning.