Author's Note: The fan fiction ideas in my head are just multiplying by the minute! This idea in particular has been on my mind for a while, and I'm planning on making it only a couple of chapters, possibly four... I'm not the best at creating my own characters, but oh well. And the fact that I've been pulling through writer's block (for I've wanted to write a Wicked fan fic for a while, and just posted a long drabble I'm not super proud of) and frantically updating my stories as summer comes to a close... Well, you've got the idea. Enjoy!
Disclaimer: I do not own Titanic (1997).
Trying to Forget
By Lady Elena Dawson
One year. It had been one year since she took her life, right in front of his eyes.
And he still had the nightmares.
In one year his world had come crashing down. But it went back way before then, way before they were married peacefully in Philadelphia in the summer of 1912.
It started with the Titanic and ended with the Titanic. Everything he regretted in his life took place in those four days of rage and jealousy. It started with Rose—and with Rose it had come crashing down. It started with a hunch and ended with an impulse.
If only he hadn't reacted so fast.
Then maybe the nightmares would cease to exist.
Victoria Harrison had her life full of lessons learned. When she was sixteen, she eloped with a man she thought she loved; she'd always been impatient and snappy; and she'd always been, out of her more judgmental characteristics, unique. It was because of her difference in society that she decided to take up the job as mistress to a very wealthy businessman in the first place.
The first thing she learned of him was not his name, nor why she was needed. No, she was told that there was a man grieving in Pittsburgh, and he needed someone to help him take his mind off of it. When she asked her mother what or who he was mourning, her lips were pursed and eyes unreadable. "He lost his wife from suicide a year ago," she explained crisply and calmly before setting down the notepad in front of her.
Apparently Mrs. Harrison had gotten a call that morning from a man named Nathan Hockley. His son, Caledon (but who everyone called Cal), wasn't dealing well with his wife's death that occurred a year ago. He explained that he needed a woman—preferably young—who would be able to get his mind off what happened.
And of course he found Victoria, the book lover from New York City. Who didn't know who she was? She was only the clumsiest person imaginable, causing quite a scene at every social event she'd been to. Her debut party was so horrific, she couldn't even recount it in her head, much less talk about it, without cringing.
However, she wanted to escape. She was tired of the gossip, of the people, and of her mistakes. So she packed up her bags and left.
Coming upon the Hockley mansion, her violet eyes scanned the elegant architecture of the lush garden with its woven gate. A fountain spouting crystal clear water was positioned in the middle of the curving walk. She couldn't help but stare at the angel statue off to the side with the bouquet of fresh roses in her praying hands. As the butler unloaded her luggage, she strode over to the mourning sculpture, one gloved hand on her floppy hat to prevent it from blowing away.
It was a memorial. Engraved in the stone was someone's name: Rose DeWitt Bukater, 1895 to 1913. Victoria frowned. She was only eighteen-years old, not much older than herself. What gave the young woman reason to succeed in suicide made her shudder.
As for the house itself, it was huge and luxurious—not that you could expect any less from a building of its grand size. There was a winding staircase with plush carpet covering the steps; large portraits hung on the extravagant wallpaper; and vases with freshly cut flowers posed on mahogany tables.
However, the pictures on the walls as they headed upstairs were what caught Victoria's eye. They started with old, fuzzy black-and-white photos of men she did not recognize until it finally came upon a wedding picture. There was a man whose portrait had been in the frame previous, beaming; but the woman next to him looked more fake than exhilarated. Her eyes seemed hollow, and her smile forced. Victoria hoped that whoever she will marry, she would not look like that woman did on her wedding day.
"Right this way," the butler, Reginald, said as they came upon a wooden door. Unlocking it, Victoria's eyes became wider than the open door itself.
The bed had elegantly carved posts with a soft red canopy on top. The queen-sized mattress had at least ten pillows, and the comforter was sewed with gold strands. There was a dresser, a vanity, and even a balcony that had a view of the backyard garden.
"This is breathtaking!" she exclaimed, her heels clicking on the marble floor of the terrace. There were endless patches of flowers in all different colors, shrubs snipped into shapes filling out the empty spaces.
"Will these accommodations do?" Reginald asked as he set her valise on the floor.
Victoria beamed. "Of course!" she gaped. But then a more serious matter pressed on her. "When will I meet Mr. Hockley?"
Reginald's strict expression had a sense of sadness in it. "The master would like to see you as soon as you are comfortable."
"Good," Victoria answered as she threw her hat on the bed. "I would like to see him right now."
The double doors opened to reveal a marvelous white study that was covered in bookshelves and sofas. A giant desk was placed near the windows with the billowing curtains to top off the magnificent place.
A man in a tailored tuxedo stared out into the garden, his back to the visitor. "Sir, Miss Harrison is here to see you." He stammered like he was going to add something, and finally went with, "If you would like to speak with her."
Cal's head, his hear slicked back with gel and combed stylishly, slowly moved to the side as he nodded. "That will be all, then."
Victoria's comfort wavered as the doors closed behind her, echoing off the walls of the large room. "Mr. Hockley, it's a pleasure—"
"Please, call me Cal," he interrupted, and it was the first time Victoria had ever seen him in person.
He looked like every heir to a large fortune. He had the proper attire, the proper demeanors, and the proper dialect. But it was when she looked into his bottomless eyes that she noticed what made him different from all those rambling airheads.
Anguish. Loss. Grief. That was all she saw in that masculine face of his. Whatever had happened to his wife, he was devastated by it. And it was her job to make him forget—but first, she wanted to find out.
Yet, she hated to pry. This man was lost, and he had been for a year. Why make him relive the memories that made him this way in the first place? To make him delve deeper into his depression? Her palms were wet and her throat dry, and she could feel the beads of sweat forming at the edge of her forehead, probably soaking the start of her chestnut colored hair.
"Cal," Victoria choked out as she pushed her struggling thoughts away. "It's a pleasure to make your acquaintance."
He smiled slightly, but she could tell it wasn't genuine. "No, the pleasure's all mine." He set his icy glass of champagne on the wood desk. "Would you like to have a seat?"
Victoria nodded cautiously; she could sense his discomfort. She strolled over to the plush seats, but a certain arrangement of pictures caught her eye.
She picked one up and stared into the eyes of the same girl she had seen in the wedding picture in the hallway stairs. But there was something different about her expression, something more…content. The woman, with her curly hair in a loose bun and her manicured nails holding an expensive purse, was laughing, her light colored eyes sparkling. But it looked as though she was talking with someone, not just herself.
It was tattered at one edge, giving her the impression that it had been torn in half. She set the picture down without any questions, ignoring the water stain in one corner as best as her curiosity would allow her.
The next photo was of the same woman, but she was linking arms with the man who happened to be standing right in front of her. He had stood next to her when she was too busy studying the battered picture of the young woman. "She was beautiful," Victoria whispered as the woman in the picture gave a slight smile, her eyes holding a hint of desperation that only she could understand.
Cal's face was contorted like he was in pain, but the expression was pushed aside when he started smoothing his hair back to distract himself. "Yes, she was… She was something."
Victoria swallowed the lump of pity in her mouth, her eyes scanning the rest of the pictures. Most of them, unsurprisingly, had the woman—Rose—in them. "I'm sorry about what happened."
He waved his hand and laughed weakly, but his eyes, as usual, gave it away. "It's fine, really. She's gone." He said the last words like they stabbed him in the heart, and Victoria could tell that a memory was hitting him hard in the gut.
"I don't understand why I don't have a say in this."
Cal sighed as Rose paced the room, strands of her curly red hair escaping the bun she had so frustratingly prodded at all morning. "Rose, I—"
"If I'm getting married, I should at least feel like the bride," she interrupted, her eyes full of trouble.
He got up from the chair and took her shoulders in his arms. "Rose," he repeated as he looked deep into her blue-green eyes, a grin creeping up his face. "I'll talk to your mother about the plans."
Rose responded with a weak smile at the corners of her pink lips. She opened her mouth like she was going to say something, but she clamped it shut. "Sometimes… I'm not happy, Cal," she finally said, forcing herself to keep her eyes anywhere but at his face.
He made no response, for he was too stunned at her words to get anything out but incoherent stutters as she continued packing her things for the voyage they'd be enjoying next week.
"Cal, are you all right?" Victoria asked with concern as she shook him out of his reverie.
"Oh, yes, I'm fine," he reassured, but his breathing was a little off, like he was shaken.
"I'm sorry if I scared you…"
"No, no, don't apologize. Really, it's okay."
The room became silent again as Victoria tried to think of a topic that wouldn't go back to his deceased wife. But that was all she could think about, and she couldn't stop the next words from spilling out of her mouth like venom. "How'd you two meet?"
Cal's mouth became dry as he opened his cracked lips to reply. "A-at her debut party three years ago," he uttered, looking down at the wedding band on his finger. "She was only sixteen then, and she was still growing… But God, did she look gorgeous."
Victoria smiled. "She must've been quite a spectacle."
"Cal, can you hand me that glass?" His fingers brushed hers as he handed her the flute of champagne, their eyes meeting for a glimpse of a second. And though he saw the melancholy in her irises, he couldn't stop himself from asking for a dance.
And even though he saw the sadness that was evident in her every action, he still swayed with her. Later on he asked her if she would like to go to dinner sometime—and she responded with hesitant approval.
Though he saw that moment of uncertainty, he still took her out to dinner. And he did so for the next few months, trying to make his courtship look perfect when he knew that something just wasn't right.
He forced himself to smile and took a sip of his drink, his eyes focused on the rim of condensation it left behind. "Yes, she was always different from the rest of them."
Victoria couldn't help but frown. This Rose woman who she never knew—and never would know—reminded her a lot like herself. She began to wonder if her life would ever end as tragically as Rose's did.
Reginald interrupted their moment of silence before Victoria could fully ask him what happened, now that she warmed him up. "Dinner is served," he announced, and her eyes were able to catch the water-stained, torn photo in its frame before the double doors slammed shut behind her.