The Carpathia arrived soon after dawn. They had watched it approach with caution, parting the icy waves as it steamed towards them: the fortunate unfortunates. It was as much as a miracle as the parables Annie had read from the Bible. She wasn't much of a religious person, she didn't understand how there could be a God while there was so much tragedy in the world, but she looked to the sky, tinged with pink as a new day broke, and thanked God for saving them.
Soon, Carpathia was looming over them and it was then that Annie truly realised that they were going to be rescued. The hours spent alone on the vast sea that seemed to last forever were almost over. For Paolo, this was extremely good news. Finally he would be able to be checked over by a proper doctor, and hopefully their fears would not be confirmed.
Although he had improved greatly since being pulled from the sea, he was still very frail. There would be water in his lungs and he was coughing it up, as if the trauma of his experience was not harmful enough. He seemed determined to get through it, and was now even sitting up in the lifeboat as much as he could, one arm around Annie. They were all exhausted, but none as much as him. He had been through so much. It was a wonder he was alive, really. If he hadn't been found in time … Annie did not want to think about it, even though at one moment it was her harsh reality.
Their lifeboat was among the first to be picked up. Immediately, she and Mario were handed a bowl of warm soup, a blanket and were asked for their names. Paolo was taken aside to be looked at, but when Annie and Mario were not allowed to go with him, he assured them both that he was going to be fine.
"I have survived this much. There is no way I will give up now."
So Annie and Mario walked the deck while waiting for Paolo to get the all-clear. It was tense, as Annie let her mind think about all the possibilities and complications that could arise over Paolo's condition. He could have contracted any illness, there may be too much water in his lungs, and anything could occur that could snatch her hope away from her as quickly as it had been rebuilt. She could not let that happen.
"My brother is very lucky." Mario said in his thick Italian accent.
"I know." Annie replied. "I'm just so grateful he was found in time."
"As am I." Mario paused for a while, deep in thought. "Annie. Can I call you that, Miss Desmond?"
"Annie. Do you love Paolo?"
"I do." She said, unhesitant about her words. "That sounds mad, doesn't it?"
"No" Mario chucked. "Love, ah, it does not have to take a long time. Alcune cose basta sapere"
"I'm afraid my Italian isn't thatgood!"
"I said: 'Some things you just know'"
"That's what Paolo said." Annie thought back to the dining room where he had proposed. It was a shock to her, but he seemed adamant. It was very sweet of him. And Mario was right. She just knew that she loved him.
"He is a very wise boy." Mario smiled at his future sister-in-law. One week ago, he would never have expected this outcome when he and Paolo were almost ready to leave. Now they had to deal with the terrible sinking that had torn apart so many lives. But they also had something to look forward to: his brother finding love like this. It was a glimmer of light in the midst of such a horrific event.
Soon after, Annie noticed a familiar man walking towards them. It was Paolo, slowly making his way across the deck. She rushed over, so grateful that he had been deemed healthy enough to carry on, and was closely followed by Mario. Paolo embraced his fiancée and held her in his arms tightly.
"Are you going to be okay Paolo?" Annie asked, desperately searching for answers so that she could breathe a little easier.
"They think I will be, they said I was extremely lucky to survive. I will be okay."
"Miracle" Mario breathed. He hugged his brother, and they both seemed on the verge of tears. The conclusion could have so easily have been different. He could be standing there alone. Annie could have lost a relationship before it had even started.
"You know, I have not thanked you." Paolo told his brother, in Italian. He was unsure if Annie would understand what they were saying
"Why?" Mario asked, again in their native tongue.
"If it was not for you, I would have never met the love of my life." Paolo reached for Annie's hand, and the two brothers smiled at each other.
As the day went on, and as the initial panic and shock lessoned slightly, all that Annie, Paolo, Mario and the other survivors could do now was wait until they reached New York. The water was an ice field, some bergs more than 20 feet in height. That, of course, was just what they could see on the surface. As the ship tentatively made its way around the icebergs, Annie wondered which of them were responsible for Titanic's fate.
The scene on deck of Carpathia, however, was the one that broke Annie's heart the most. Women wept for their lost husbands and sons, widows tried to distract their children from their father's passing, the few men that were rescued sat in silence, wanting to seem strong. At that moment, there was no class divisions, no way to distinguish people other than perhaps the clothes they were dressed in. They were all survivors.
During the day, arrangements for sleeping were made. A few passengers were kind enough to sacrifice their own comfort for the sake of others, which Annie felt was most kind. She, Paolo and Mario along with some others, though, would have to make do with blankets and mats on the floor of the gym.
"Is this going to be okay for you, mio amore?" Paolo asked when they entered the vast room. Equipment was pushed to the side, and people were quickly claiming spaces for themselves.
"It's fine." Annie insisted. She was not used to any luxury. This was far more than she could ask for.
"But are you sure? I do not want you to be uncomfortable."
"I'll be more than comfortable, as long as you're here." Annie squeezed his hand, and Paolo kissed her forehead tenderly, before finding them a secluded spot in the corner.
It was 3 days before the Carpathia came near to the American coast. Annie and Paolo were sitting on the deck, when someone near to them cried out:
"I can see it! I can see New York!"
Annie and Paolo rushed to their feet to look over into the distance. Sure enough, there was a stretch of land fairly close, which could only have been New York. Never before had something as normal and as dull as land filled so many people with hope. It was confirmation that the nightmare was finally, officially over. The part that people could see, at any rate. Of course, the mental scars of such a disaster would stay with the survivors for the rest of their lives. But at that moment, they were safe from further harm. They had to live, for all of those who could not.
"It's beautiful, isn't it?" Annie commented.
"It is. I think it is the most beautiful thing in the world … with the exception of you."
Annie and Paolo simply stood in silence, their hands around each other as Mario joined them and the three of them looked across the sea to the United States of America, and a new start. The destination that, at one point, they didn't think they would reach. The country drew closer, and the Carpathia pulled into dock in late afternoon, greeted by cheering sympathisers, concerned relatives of those aboard and journalists buzzing for a story to take to the front page.
And as the boat sat in that dock, Paolo Sandrini reached for his fiancée and gave her, a long-awaited kiss. His lips brushing against hers, it was a kiss bearing tender emotions and a silent, but powerful, declaration of love. Annie responded with such enthusiasm and passion that Paolo clung onto her adoringly. They parted, and he looked into her brown eyes. She could not help but giggle slightly, and he smiled, wrapping his arms around her in a protective embrace.
"It will all be okay now, Annie." Paolo kissed her forehead. "I promise you."
They were some of the lucky ones. They had gone through such a disaster, but had come out the other side. Of course, they were battered and shocked and heartbroken. They knew that they would never truly get over such an event as the Titanic. But they also knew that they had the rest of their lives to look forward to now.