(Heya guys and dolls, just a quick thank you for having the patience to stick with the fic. I truly do appreciate the support and messages, its encouraging to know that people are enjoying the story.
I still don't have a beta so I apologise for any grammatical errors
RMS Titanic 13th April .
After returning to our respective cabins and putting the final touches to our appearance, we began to navigate our way to the Third class promenade. Every now and then, Kurt would pause peering up at the maps set at intervals on the walls, checking them against Ms Sylvester's letter and muttering under his breath before taking off down yet another identical corridor.
He seemed confident that he knew where he was going whilst I followed closely behind doing my best to hold my nervous wild imaginings bay. I was glad that I had taken him up on his offer as I had no doubt that with out him I would have become hopelessly lost.
It was unusually busy for the time of day. Working our way slowly from the back to the front of the ship I felt like a salmon swimming upstream as we battled our way through the foot traffic.
In the heat of the press of bodies it was beginning to become apparent that we had been at sea for a number of days as the pungent smell of body odour and evidence of fine dining hung thick in the air. In the case of a heavy set gentleman who struggled and wheezed up the narrow stairs ahead of us, the stench was over powering only made worse by a rip roaring fart causing Kurt to recoil in disgust and myself to burst into uncontrollable giggles.
Shoving past the man, we burst through the door out onto the deck taking huge gulps of fresh air like drowning men breaking the surface, only to be hit by a gust of icy wind that stung my cheeks like a thousand little needles and instantly caused my eyes to water. Frigid Atlantic ocean spray whisked up by the wind immediately covered me in a layer of damp and was more than likely to blame for the packed corridors.
"Jesus Christ!" Kurt cursed loudly at the sudden onslaught, "It's bitter."
Shuddering in my flimsy dress and wishing I had thought to bring my jacket, I retorted,
"It's not bitter, it's bloody freezing."
"We'll be out of it soon enough," He soothed, offering out his arm, "Come on."
Everyone else having the better sense to stay indoors, the deck was deserted save for one brave soul performing push ups and a couple who seemed lost in a world of their own romance. My thoughts flickered to Santana and I wondered if we would ever take such a walk as to not notice our surroundings.
Heads bowed against the relentless barrage of the elements, Kurt guided me across the deck, patting my hand affectionately
"Let me do the talking."
Shivering beside him, I nodded mutely.
As we approached the stairway that would lead us to the upper class walkways, we spied a man dressed in a heavy, black coat and what looked like a naval uniform. His shiny black shoes reflected the mid day sun. He stamped his feet and blew onto his hands in an attempt to remove the cold. I could only imagine how frozen and bored he must be, standing there all day with only the misguided vigilance of maintaining social order as company.
As we began to ascend the slippery metal stairs, the man moved as if to bar our way, speaking with a thick Liverpudlian accent,
"Sir, Miss, this area is for First and Second class passengers only."
Unfazed by the man's attitude, Kurt straightened his posture, tugging gently on my arm in encouragement as we continued on our path and addressed the officer in a tone I had never heard him use before.
"My good Sir, My name is Mr Hummel, I am an agent and this is my protégée, Miss Pierce. We have an appointment with a prominent member of First Class."
Quickly sweeping away the surprise at Kurt's half truth from my features, I concentrated on making myself look as innocent as possible. Mr Royston always said it was something I had a considerable amount of skill in portraying and this was the perfect time to put it into practise.
When we reached the top, the officer regarded us warily. Kurt brazenly brandished my letter, declaring,
"We have proof!"
Up close I could see the officer was barley out of his teens. Taking the letter from Kurt, he began to inspect it, his lips moving as he read.
"I can barely make out the handwriting." His eyes flickered with uncertainty from the letter back to us, "For all I know, you could be pulling my leg."
"What's your name young man?"
The man continued to inspect the letter, turning it front to back,
"James, I assure you, it is no forgery, do you see this here?" Kurt pointed to the bottom of the letter for emphasis, "Titanic letter headed paper, signed and stamped by Ms Sylvester herself. You have heard of Ms Sylvester, right?"
At the mention of the Dragon Lady's name, James visibly quailed. Kurt continued,
"I can see by your reaction that you have, then you will know how awfully sore she will be if we were to miss our appointment. You wouldn't wish to incur her wrath would you?"
James shook his head.
"Good. Neither do we. Now be a smart lad and let us through."
Handing back the letter, James neatly stepped to one side, offering,
"The easiest way to avoid prying eyes would be to cut through there."
Rounding on the officer, Kurt replied sharply,
"What are you insinuating?"
Shrinking into himself, James sheepishly apologised.
"I'm sorry Sir."
"Shame on you!" My self professed agent scolded over his shoulder as he continued to lead me past the life boats and towards our destination.
"What an ignorant cur." He remarked.
Walking a few steps ahead, I brushed off the comment,
"Forget about it."
"Brittany, surely you must know what this looks like." Regarding me gravely, he added "People will make assumptions as to your virtue, so be prepared for more behaviour like that."
I was fully aware that I would stick out like a sore thumb amongst the rich and affluent and the presumptions they would make, seeing me being ushered towards a First Class state room.
How could they not?
It wasn't as if they would know any different. From what I could gather from my conversations with Santana and my own experiences with wealthy patrons that came to the vaudevilles, they were raised and educated in such a sheltered fashion they could hardly be expected to draw any other conclusion.
I almost pitied their blinkered perceptions.
Now I had Kurt with me, my anxieties had shifted from being worried about what I would do if Mr Sylvester made advances unbecoming of a gentleman, towards how I would fair in the up and coming interview, I had no space left in me to fret over stuffy old babbages whose opinions I did not care for.
"But we know that is not the case, so to hell with them." I pinched his cheeks, "And besides, I have you to protect me."
With a small shake of his head and an affable grin, he pushed open the ornate wooden doors that would lead us into the unknown.
To watch Kurt traverse the lofty decks of the wealthy was like witnessing a child looking out of the window and seeing the first snow of winter. He commented on every minute detail with 'balustrades this, and gilded that and other technical jargon I did not quite understand. Where as I was grateful for simple things such as heat and shelter, Kurt basked in the opulence of the décor, breathing in wonderment,
"Its more beautiful than I could ever have imagined."
On seeing the elevators, encased in their beautifully carved archways, he let out such a high pitched squeal of excitement, I had to cover my ears and rub out the ringing. After he explained to me the rarity of the machines hidden in the trunk of the staircase and commended the craftsmanship, he gathered his composure, carrying himself in a gentlemanly fashion.
After growing accustomed to the noise and the bustle of steerage, I found the muffled silence and caustic atmosphere unsettling, Kurt however, seemed genuinely relaxed and it struck me that for the first time in the whole trip he seemed like he truly belonged.
Passing a small group of people trussed up like Christmas chickens in their finery, he acknowledged them. They politely returned his greeting but their eyes drifted over me unseeing, as if they already knew the reasons why I was there and had no wish to be part of it.
It baffled me as to how someone could be so judgemental without making an effort to know anything about the individual in question. I felt sorry for them, being so blinded to how interesting and fascinating people could be.
If they could become invested in the characters of books and plays, why could they not apply that to everyday people and their stories?
Lost in my own thoughts I had not realised we had reached our destination until Kurt informed,
Boring two holes in the solid door, my stomach churned and my skin set a flame with prickly heat. Beyond that door, there was a stranger, a stranger who held in their possession the key to my dreams.
I had no qualms that with one swift audition upon the boards, I would not fail to impress. I was always much better physically showing what I meant rather than explaining my meaning as I had a tendency to get confused and mix up my words or use strange turns of phrase.
What if Mr Sylvester was not open to my bold ideas?
My thoughts and doubts rose up like a Tornado sweeping across the plains.
If I messed this up and did not secure employment then my notion of asking Santana to leave with me would be laughable. The events that were about to transpire could very well change the course of my whole life and it all boiled down to one man and whether he liked me or not.
As if sensing my mood, Kurt reassured me,
"It's ok Miss Brittany, If you are uncomfortable just say the word and we shall leave at once."
Not trusting my voice, I nodded to indicate that I understood. With my heart thudding in my chest I was sure it was about to burst, I fussed with my hair and picked at imaginary lint on my dress as Kurt rapped his knuckles lightly on the door.
Swinging open, the door revealed a small man dressed in light brown dress pants, perfectly pressed with a crease down the front, his starch white shirt flapped down past his fly and a mustard yellow dickey lay unmade round his un buttoned attached collar. He wore gold rimmed, round shaped spectacles, underneath thick triangle eyebrows, giving him the appearance of being constantly surprised. His hair was immaculately parted and lacquered in so much oil I was sure the glare alone would blind me.
Hastily tucking in his shirt, he looked us up and down with an amused but friendly expectation. Stepping forward, Kurt introduced,
"Mr Hummel and Miss Pierce. We are here to see Mr Sylvester."
Nodding in recognition, the man who barely came to my shoulder began busying himself with buttoning his mustard yellow waistcoat,
"Anderson," He corrected, with a genial tone, "Blaine Anderson. Sylvester is Susan's name. You must forgive me, I wasn't expecting you so soon. Please give me a moment to gather myself."
Without an invitation, he disappeared back into the room, yelling,
"Susan, Miss Pierce and her friend have arrived."
Lingering in the passageway, Kurt and I shared puzzled glances at Mr Anderson's behaviour. Suddenly the door was wrenched back with a bang causing Kurt and I to nearly jump out of our skin.
Ms Sylvester stood framed in the doorway, her feet wide apart and her hands on her hips, with her head held high, holding herself in a dramatic pose. Raking her eyes over my appearance, she remarked,
"You call that a dress?"
Beside me, I felt Kurt bristle, his voice wavering slightly,
"Hold on a.."
I had to give him credit, he was braver than I.
Ms Sylvester spat in reply,
"Did I ask your opinion, Elf?"
Under her steely gaze, his words died, wearing the expression of abject horror I assumed everyone wore when confronted with Ms Sylvester for the first time.
From within the room, I heard Blaine ask,
"Are you sure you will not join us?"
Still filling the doorway in her magnificent pose, she replied, brusquely,
"I have far more important things to attend to. " She paused before adding, "Besides, it's not as if you are going to ravish her. I would be far more concerned if I was the woodland creature."
Shifting uncomfortably beside me, my companion flushed an ugly red that spread from his neck up over his pale cheeks.
"Brittany." The Dragon Lady began with a hint of kindness to her voice," Do you have any issues being seen in the company of two upstanding gentlemen? Even if they are idiots."
Not wishing Ms Sylvester to think that I was weak or unable to handle myself, I stood tall and forced my voice to come out steady as I dutifully replied,
"No Ms Sylvester."
I must have pleased her some how, as she gave me a tight lipped smile and the corners of her eyes crinkled slightly,
"See, there!" She barked back into the room, "If a slip of a girl and a rather damp one at that can handle a bit of groundless gossip, why cant you? Are you a man or a complete pansy?"
Unperturbed at his wife's chastisement, Blaine squeezed himself through the tiny gap between his wife and the doorframe. He had topped off his outfit with a light brown dress coat and a matching bowler.
"I shall see you in a while."
Ignoring him, Susan once more shouted into the room,
"Jones, wine .. I suspect Esmerelda will be in dire need.."
She slammed the door shut with such force even the plush carpet could not muffle the boom.
No longer faced with the terrifying apparition that was the dragon lady, Kurt mustered up the courage to speak,
"Wait a second; I was under the impression that we would be doing this in your quarters."
"My wife has rather pressing matters to deal with this morning so we shall have to conduct our business elsewhere I'm afraid."
My stomach suddenly came over all queasy as if I had hundreds of tiny worms wriggling about and them some. The thought of sitting in the company of the upper classes, their beady little eyes taking everything in, was adding to my already edgy state. Kurt drew me too him, protectively.
Blaine's eyes danced over the pair of us. Mistaking my hesitancy of not wishing to humiliate myself, for fear, he kindly offered,
"Miss Pierce, you are wise to be cautious. I am well aware of the practices of the charlatans who pass themselves off as gentlemen in the industry. You will have to take my word for it when I say I am not like that. Quite frankly, I find their abuse of power positively vile." He became agitated, muttering almost as if to himself. "It is difficult enough to garner respect for our profession without our own kind undermining it from within."
"No, its not that." I reassured him, "It's just, I'm not entirely comfortable being questioned in front of strangers."
Peering at me through his tiny round glasses, his caterpillar eye brows raised a notch,
"Miss Pierce, did my wife not inform you?"
"Tell her what?" Kurt tersely demanded,
Giving us both a dazzling smile, Blaine gestured with his hand, cryptically parting,
"Come my dears, you are in for quite the treat."
13TH April. Deck B .
In a bid to avoid my Aunt's hung over irritability, I took a light breakfast on the balcony before silently slipping out into the deserted hallway, spitefully leaving no instruction to notify my Aunt of my whereabouts.
(If she wants to find me, she can do it herself.)
Not trusting my fragile hold on my temper and wanting nothing more than to be left alone, I wiled away the rest of my morning in one of the numerous private dining rooms, reading, until I deemed the hour appropriate to call upon Ms Sylvester.
As I began to make my way to her quarters, my thoughts turned to the revelation that the talent scout had taken it upon herself to attend to Brittany's dining etiquette.
My initial plan had been to invite the Sylvester's out of protection, relying on Sue's antics and brash comments as a sort of buffer. The spineless and the argumentative would be far too pre-occupied defending themselves or making a point to give Brittany or I much notice. If what I suspected was true and Ms Sylvester did indeed harbour some sort of affection towards the theatre girl, then she would more than match Quinn barb for barb, forcing the harpy to find her entertainment elsewhere.
Finding myself outside the entrance of the talent scout's cabin, I took a moment to gather my wits, doing my best to ignore the tightness creeping up my neck and the tell tale dull throb of the onset of a headache.
Taking a deep breath, I knocked lightly on the door. There came a soft click and I was greeted with the warm smile of Jones,
Her informality and lack of fear of reprimand for addressing a person of my status in such a fashion once again caught me by surprise,
"I hope I'm not too early?"
She opened the door and beckoned for me to enter, her accent carried a vague hint of similarity to Mr Evans',
"Not at all Ma'am . Right this way."
The curvaceous maid moved with a speed that belied her size. I got the impression that she did everything with a supreme confidence and you had better think twice before getting in her way. I wouldn't expect anything less from someone who worked closely everyday with a woman like Sylvester. I could only imagine that it would take an iron constitution and a will made of steel in order to put up with her constant insults and disagreeable candour.
Jones disappeared into the connecting cabin and I quickly followed.
Entering the other room, I spied Sue sat behind a monstrous desk littered with books and paperwork, her head bowed in deep concentration as she made notations in a heavy looking ledger upon her lap. She had angled her seat beneath a window and two lamps to make best use of the light.
The older blond woman wore a rather matronly white blouse and one of her self commissioned, refashioned riding skirts, in a hue of claret. She had rolled her sleeves past the elbow so as not to stain them with ink as she worked. A pair of half moon glasses hung precariously on the end of her long nose as she continued to scribble.
Never looking up, she pointed to a sheath of papers on the corner of the desk,
"Jones," She instructed, "Please put these in the Rhodes ledger."
Without acknowledging my presence, Sue returned to the pages on her lap. The black maid obediently collected the pile before disappearing from view leaving me to my own devices.
In the lull, I took to observing all round me.
The room was slightly smaller than my own but still impressive none the less. Where as mine was decorated in an Edwardian style, hers leant more towards the Jacobean period. A number of men's jackets with the correct coloured ties so as not to clash, lay in a meticulous row over the back of the lounge sofa, suggesting that someone had left in hurry. Similar to my own cabin, there was a large mirror above the fireplace. The fire in the hearth roared like the pits of hell personified, sucking the moisture from the room and leaving me instantly parched. I was used to the heat but in the confines of the room and with no breeze it was stifling.
The scratch of pen over paper was the only sound to accompany the whoosh of the fire. A slam of a ledger dropping onto the table, broke the silence,
"Esmerelda" Sue barked, removing her glasses and leaving them to hang from her neck on a delicate chain. "To what do I owe the displeasure?"
Under her gaze, I stood to attention like a soldier at inspection, giving a dry cough as I replied,
"I believe you wished to see me?"
"Somehow I doubt that. However, since you are here converting oxygen into useless gases, there is something I would like to discuss. Have a seat."
Smoothing my skirt so as not to crease, I seated myself in a nearby armchair. No sooner had my buttocks touched the cushion, she rattled off,
"Before I begin, is there anything you wish to ask me?"
I had one hundred and one things I wanted to ask. Like how did she know my Aunt and the Fabrays. What did she know of my mother? What had transpired between my elders to cause them to hate her so?
Clasping my hands on my lap and using what I hoped she would take as a friendly tone, I choose to ask what was most pressing,
"Yes, I was wondering if you and Mr Anderson would be so kind as to join my party and I for dinner this evening, if you do not already have plans that is?"
Her eyes narrowed slightly, as she crossed one leg over the other,
"I was under the impression that your invitation was withstanding for the entirety of the trip?"
Ignoring the flash of jealousy at her freedom of movement, I gushed,
"Of course! It was just with the way that things ended the last time that I thought it best to err on the side of caution."
Distractedly fiddling with some papers, she said,
"As puerile as I find some of the company you choose to keep, I never pass up the opportunity to let those lesser than I know of my superior wit and intellect." Her voice became sly, as she added "One must find a way in which to entertain ones self on such tedious journeys, don't you think."
A chill swept through me at the eerily similar words I had heard not less than 24 hours before.
Had I guessed wrong Ms Sylvester's motivations?
What if all of this was an elaborate ruse, to lift someone up, lulling them into a false sense of security before delivering the crushing blow, no doubt making the humiliation all the more sweeter?
It was the sort of dastardly behaviour I would attribute to Quinn.
As we continued to lock eyes, it occurred to me that maybe this was some sort of test. That maybe, like I, she was suspicious and was using this opportunity to figure me out. It would make sense taking into consideration Ms Sylvester knew nothing of me other than what she would glean from the gossip on the ship and I would have most definitely been tarred with the same brush as my Aunt and Miss Fabray.
How could I make her see I was not like my peers and that my reasons behind what I was about to ask were honourable?
Never breaking from our staring contest and carefully choosing my words, I replied,
"It is my belief that to entertain oneself at the expense of someone undeserving is rather cruel and barbaric."
A pleased smirk played on the older woman's thin lips and a wicked gleam came to her eyes,
"There are members of your party I take great pleasure in bringing to heel as I'm certain, do you."
I breathed a small sigh of relief that I had some how answered her correctly. Grinning I added,
"To deny such a thing would make a liar of me."
She continued to watch me like a hawk spotting a mouse off in the far distance, deciding if it wished to pounce.
"Is there anything else?"
Dropping her gaze, I fiddled with my wrist purse as I drummed up the courage to broach the delicate subject at hand.
"Spit it out!" She growled, "I do not have the patience for you squandering my precious time when there are a thousand more important things I would rather do with it."
Gingerly, I approached the subject,
"I have heard that you are considering bringing Miss Pierce under the umbrella of your talent agency?"
The temperature in the room dropped a couple of degrees as Ms Sylvester icily retorted,
"What business of that is yours?"
Nervously, I licked my lips as I began,
"I'm sure it has been brought to your attention that Miss Pierce has also been invited to this evening's festivity at the insistence of Miss Fabray."
Tipping her head defensively, she curtly replied,
Approaching the table, I removed from my wrist purse a number of bills of different monetary value, slipping them towards her.
"This is to take care of Miss Pierce's attire and anything else she may need."
"And why would you do that?"
Not wanting her to make any mistaken conclusions as my motivations, I parted a nugget of truth,
"Because we have become friends of sorts and I do not wish for Brittany to step into that nest of vipers unprepared, especially where Quinn Fabray is concerned."
"Friends." She carefully repeated.
Eyeballing her and daring her to press the matter further, I firmly replied,
"And as 'friends' you want nothing more than to make sure certain people do not have ammunition with which to poke fun at Miss Pierce, and as you are unable to be seen making such a purchase without raising questions as to why you would care, you would like me to do it?"
Her emphasis on the word 'friends' did not go amiss.
"Something like that." I muttered.
The short haired, blonde wrinkled her forehead,
"Ah. I see. Maybe you are not as dim witted as you first appear." Using the tip of her pen she pushed the money back to the corner of the table, "As of this morning, Miss Pierce came under my employ and I take the best care of my employees."
Resisting the urge to whoop in triumph that Brittany had managed to impress the hard to please woman, I gathered the bills and slipped them back into my wrist purse, grinning broadly,
Giving me a contrite nod, she rose from her seat and wandered over to the other room. I heard the murmur of a hushed conversation before she returned, closing the door behind her. Moving over to a cabinet, she began to remove bottles and glassware.
"Wine or Brandy?"
Watching her, I countered,
"A little early is it not?"
With her hands hovering over the numerous bottles, Sue raised an eyebrow, expectantly. Not wishing to upset her or have any cause to take it out on Brittany, I conceded,
"No thank you."
Turning back to the cabinet, she began to pour out the amber liquid into two tumblers, announcing abruptly,
"You do not like your Fiancée very much, do you?"
Stunned at the sudden turn in conversation, I started,
"Excuse me? I do…"
Replacing the decanter's stopper with a chink, she cut me off,
"Oh stop it Santana. You can barely conceal your contempt for the obsequious wretch so don't act so offended when someone has the gall to pull you on it." She slipped one of the tumblers onto the small table beside me, continuing, as she returned to her seat, "What I can not fathom, is why then are you agreeing to marry him?"
Reaching for my glass, I watched the older woman warily as she, again, crossed her one leg over the other at the knee and wiggled a little to get comfortable, my mind whirled as I tried to figure out what she could possibly wish to gain by her bold, uninvited intrusion into my private life.
Was she being innocently conversational or did she intend to use anything I said to a much darker end? So far I had not got the sense that she intended me any harm, even though I doubted she did much of anything innocently.
Sue looked up from what she was doing, her eyes dancing over me with a look I could not decipher. As if sensing my hesitancy, she encouraged,
"Anything that is said here will be kept in the strictest of confidence."
Casting my eyes round the room, I lingered upon the closed door. Rachel had warned me how maids like to gossip and always to be mindful that walls had ears.
Could I risk it?
In contemplation, I began to inspect the contents of my glass, studying how dark brown turned to umber as I swirled it in the warm light of the room. I fancied I could make out orange at the edges.
I had already entrusted her with the hint that I cared more than I ought to for the peculiar girl who was fast becoming precious to me with every passing moment, surely I could part with how I felt about my current situation?
Coming to a decision, I replied,
"It is not as if I have much of choice."
"Nonsense!" She trilled, "You always have a choice."
Taking a sip and ignoring the slight bitter sting, I stated, flatly,
"It is what my Father wants."
"And what do you want?"
The realisation that I had not been asked what I wanted for such a long time rendered me unable to form any thought. Needing a moment, I let out a huff of air, asking,
"May I smoke?"
Sue gave me a slightly disapproving look,
"Up the chimney if you must. I don't want the stink lingering on the upholstery."
Making my way over to the hearth, I placed my glass on the mantelpiece, removing my cigarette case from my purse and teasing out one of the slender white cylinders.
Catching my reflection, I paused. With the white cigarette hanging casually from my lips, I had a brief flash of myself dressed in a pair of trousers, loose shirt and open waistcoat, Brittany lounging on a sofa after a hard days work at the theatre, her fat, lazy cat sprawled across her stomach, her fingers working through his fur as she rambled about her day and all the funny little anecdotes she would tell about the colourful people she worked with.
A particular loud pop in the fire dragged me back to the present. Striking the match I inhaled, hooding my eyes from the light, blue smoke before flicking the match in the fireplace. Ms Sylvester's voice drifted towards me, this time much softer,
"What is it you really want from your life?"
Afraid the ship would open up beneath my very feet and ghouls would drag me to the seventh circle of Hades for betrayers and wilful daughters if I spoke the words aloud, my voice came out barely a whisper,
"I don't want to get married, I want to live a little, but how do I do that without going against my Father's wishes and shirking my duty?"
"What if I was to tell you that I may have a way in which you could do just that?"
Spinning to face her, I gasped,
Ms Sylvester took a long draft of her drink, observing me coolly over the rim of her glass,
"Lets just say I have it on good authority as to who is behind the attacks on your vineyard."
With an irritated stamp of my foot, I demanded,
With no preamble, the talent scout stated,
A chill of horror ran through me,
"Are you sure?"
Unfazed by the gravity of her revelation, Ms Sylvester continued in her matter a fact tone,
"Some one I trust implicitly over heard a conversation they shouldn't have."
Agitated, I began to pace,
"But why? That doesn't make any sense. Richard has been detrimental in helping oversee our Californian asset. He has even gone so far as to take care of the investigation personally."
"You're a smart girl Santana. Think about it."
The room spun and I gasped for air as the pieces of the puzzle began to slot into place.
Richard had used the excuse of the attacks as a way to get into my Father's good graces. Being trustworthy and attentive to our plight had been one of the deciding factors in my Father accepting his proposal on my behalf.
The rest of the picture began to become glaringly obvious, why Richard had been so insistent on cutting our courtship so short.
One of the reasons why we had passage booked on this damn ship was so we would arrive in time to make the arrangements for our wedding to take place in the fall instead of spring as had been originally agreed.
My father had been reluctant at first but my dumb Aunt had ram raided him, playing on his insecurities of his failing health and leaving me alone in the world, in a bid to achieve her own ends. .
Everything began to make perfect sense.
I had always wondered why Richard had been so quick to throw over Quinn, his perfect ideal of a woman, choosing instead to pursue me even though he made no attempt to hide his distaste for people of colour and now I had my answer.
The dirty rat bastard was after what was rightfully mine and I was merely collateral damage!
How could I have been so blind?
My body was taken with a bout of tremors, every fibre of my being oscillating with barely containable anger.
Every where I turned there were conspiracies, false hoods and deceit.
Finding I could not breathe, I scratched at the restricting collar of my dress, ripping it open, caring not that the button had torn. Gripping the mantelpiece until my knuckles turned white, I struggled to suck in lungs full of much needed oxygen.
Ms Sylvester asked full of concern,
"Santana, are you ok?"
A rock hard ball of rage erupted from my chest in the form of a scream. Shakily I retrieved the tumbler, bringing it to my lips and knocking back the liquid brimstone.
"For what it is worth, I don't think anyone else knows apart from the two arseholes involved."
"I'll cut him in his sleep." I screeched, as I continued to pace,
Getting to her feet, Sue approached me, laying a light hand on my shoulder as she spoke,
"You will do no such thing. My advice to you is that you continue to behave in an attentive and respectful manner."
I glared at her, murderously,
"How can you say that after what you have just told me?"
"As it stands, it is mere conjecture, one mans word against another. To make the bastard aware of what you know will only serve for any proof to magically disappear."
I shook my head in disbelief at what she was asking of me.
Did she not understand, it took all my strength to tolerate the loathsome creature and now that the depth of the betrayal had been revealed, I had slipped into the realms of all consuming hate from which there was no return?
Removing her hand, she began admiring her reflection in the mirror, adding,
"It will only be for a couple of days. If once we docked, you wished to disappear; it would be easily achievable in the leviathan that is New York City."
Slamming my hand on the mantelpiece, I snapped in annoyance,
"And how on earth do you suggest I do that, I can hardly just get up and leave?"
"My dear, there are over two thousand people on this ship, what do you think it will be like when it comes time to disembark?"
Taking a pull on my cigarette, I mulled over Ms Sylvester's question.
Boarding and loading the ship had been a great spectacle, taking the bones of the whole morning. Some of the passengers had boarded as early at 6 and 7 am in order to beat the rush. I, myself had waited a considerable amount of time for my belongings to arrive in my rooms.
There were twice as many passengers than there were staff, and of those staff only a handful would be given the task of attending to the upper classes.
I could only imagine how harried the porters would be when it came time to begin the arduous feat of unloading the liner. The queues would be endless and the dock full of restless people with frayed tempers, waiting around for their luggage to be returned.
More than likely hot words would be traded in the confusion some cases would come to blows.
"It will be bedlam." I exclaimed.
Smiling, devilishly, she slapped me on the back,
"Exactly! You have proven yourself to be rather resourceful, I imagine it would be quite easy for you to get separated from your party and slip away unnoticed."
"If I were to do that, where would I go?"
"You are not as lone in this as you think, Santana, I would be more than willing to harbour you until we can notify your Father as to what has transpired."
She waved her hand,
"I suppose she could keep you company whilst I attend to business in the city."
Wandering back over to her seat, Sue suddenly became severe,
"Do not thank me just yet, Miss Lopez. The road ahead will not be easy and more than likely fraught with peril. In my experience men like Richard and Russell do not like to lose and are not easily dissuaded once they have their eyes on a prize. If they are half as shrewd as I, they will not be above employing questionable tactics in order to achieve their goal. If we are unable to obtain proof we may also ourselves have to take drastic measures."
Flicking the butt of my cigarette into the roaring flames and watching it as it instantly engulfed, I ventured,
"I am curious, if it is as dangerous as you say then why are you willing to help me? I am nothing to you."
Reaching for a ledger and putting on her glasses, she mysteriously responded,
"I have my reasons."
Wanting to make sure I had not just agreed to jump from the frying pan into the fire, I demanded,
"You will have to do better than that!"
Facing her boldly, my arms crossed over my chest in a show of defiance, I waited for an explanation.
Sue suddenly came over wistful, her eyes glazing slightly as she stared into some unknown memory. She spoke with a timbre of emotion,
"Once, a very long time ago, your mother, god rest her soul, showed someone very dear to me a great kindness when others were not so forgiving. Think of this as me repaying the favour."
A myriad of questions that suddenly came to mind, I ventured,
"What did my mother do?"
Picking up one of the ledgers and dipping her pen in the inkwell, she deflected,
"If you are worried as to whether I shall stick by my word, I suggest you call into room 9 on your way back. Now get out, I am sick of the sight of you."
Not to be swayed, I pressed the matter,
"Ms Sylvester, I have a right to know!"
Looking up from her leather tome, the glare she gave me from behind her glasses, skewered me to the spot. Pointing to the door with her pen, she growled,
Realizing I had pushed my luck as far as I dared, I gathered my belongings and let myself out.
Taking a few moments to enjoy the coolness of the hallway, I leant against the wall, marvelling at the difference a few hours could make.
This morning I had arrived at Ms Sylvester's door, clueless and naive with nothing but a flimsy notion and now I was leaving far more enlightened than I could ever have anticipated.
There were still so many unanswered questions I did not know where to begin. I yearned to find Brittany or even the boys, anything to give me a little space to breathe so I could process it all. Their idle chatter and ridiculous jokes would be the perfect remedy, but first I had to check that Sue could be trusted.