Stars. Stars, miles and miles away, burning and indifferent. But how beautiful they were, how filled with awe Georgiana was when she looked up into the fathomless blackness and stared wide-eyed at the millions of sprinkled winking lights. They were endless, these little pinpoints that shone so fiercely despite how far away they were. She wondered if Harry could see them, where he was. She hoped he could.
She knew he was dead. She knew it with a finality that she couldn't explain and would never attempt to. It was a part of her, this certainty, like a cold black stone somewhere in the pit of her stomach.
And she hated herself, because when Officer Lightroller had announced that there were survivors, that one had died but one had lived, in that half-breath before she'd realized the living survivor was her father, she'd prayed it was Harry. Her mother was still shaking with relief, stroking her father's forehead, chafing his wrists to try and keep him warm. Georgiana sat next to her, rubbing her mother's back absentmindedly. There was still a part of her, ugly and tiny, that wished it had been Harry.
Someone - a young woman, eyes swollen and exhausted - cried quietly next to her, cradling the body of the man who hadn't made it. The Italian man from the upturned lifeboat had retreated to the prow, back bowed. Had it been his brother, maybe? For hours, it seemed, he had sobbed, "Paolo, Paolo," while around him, the survivors had mistaken the northern lights for a rescue boat. He hadn't even looked up, hadn't cared; eventually, however, he had left the girl alone to stare out into the night, into the stars. The girl continued to weep, brushing her knuckles across the dead man's jaw, smoothing his eyebrows with her thumb.
She knew it was rude to stare; in any other situation, her mother would have already scolded her for her blatant fascination, but Georgiana could not tear her eyes away from the girl's grief.
She thought of moving several times before she actually placed her hand on the girl's shoulder. She seemed to curl inward at Georgiana's touch, stiffening.
"I lost the boy I loved, too," Georgiana said abruptly. The girl looked up slowly, meeting Georgiana's gaze dully. She didn't appear to have really heard her, but Georgiana found herself continuing to speak, as if the words would somehow make it right. "His name was Harry Widener. He had kind eyes and funny ears. He was a wonderful dancer and he loved books and he couldn't swim. I loved him."
She sounded as if she were reciting an epitaph, and a silly, rambling one at that. How to memorialize a boy she'd met only a few days ago, how to explain his courage, his goodness, when it had barely been a few fleeting moments in reality. She'd never truly know him now, would she?
"It's funny, really," she said after a moment. Her hand was uncomfortable where it rested on the girl's shoulder; she wanted to pull away but didn't know how to. "I hardly knew him." The girl shifted, one hand cupping the dead man's face.
"Some things you know," she said quietly.
The two girls sat in a silent vigil for a long moment. The sounds of sobbing had started up again. As soon as the water had closed over Titanic, the night, so loud before with groaning metal and whirring wires, had been filled with the screams of the drowning. Splashing, begging, wordless laments had merged into one long, continuous moaning that bored into Georgiana's ears until she thought she would go mad if she had to hear it for even one more minute.
But then her wish had been granted, and the shouts of the dying had dwindled into an eerie quiet. The only sound had been the ceaseless lapping of icy water against the boat, and suddenly, Georgiana had wanted nothing more than to hear the desperate cries, to know that they hadn't waited too long, that there were still people out there who had survived.
Now it seemed the numbness was wearing off as the lifeboats neared the rescue ship, and hysterical shrieks echoed across the water as the full horror of the night began to hit people.
Chunks of wood bobbed serenely amongst pitiful lifejackets in the distance, their owners lolling limply in the current. Some wore evening clothes; others, nightgowns or robes. Some were men, and some were women. Some were old, some young, some beautiful, some ugly. All floated gently up and down, hair swirling in the water, lips and eyelids blue. Poignant little trinkets drifted by: a child's shoe, the laces trailing behind it; a battered hat; suitcases, their contents ruined or lost.
"My name is Georgiana," she ventured after a moment over the murmuring over the other survivors. Dawn was peeking over the glassy sea, lending it an almost lavender glow.
"Annie," the girl replied. "Annie Sandrini."