Author's Note: Voila! The last chapter has arrived! Thanks to anyone who reviewed; I hope this anticipated ending was unexpected and enjoyed. I apologize if words are repetitive - I usually have time to go back with a thesaurus, but it's late and I wanted to finish this story this weekend. I'll fix up any errors maybe tomorrow. Anyway, tell me what you think!
"Of course, it started out like any normal day. What I didn't know was what was going through her mind—and that it was going to destroy her."
"What would my life be like if he were here right now?"
Cal looked up from what he was doing—reading the newspaper, an idiosyncrasy of his that Rose knew of too well. Whenever she caught him catching up with his personal life, all he could see was the contempt in her eyes, as though she was disgusted that she even knew what his interests were. Swallowing the dry lump in his throat, he shuffled the paper, licked his lips, and replied with, "What do you mean?"
She had her arms crossed intimidatingly in front of her chest, her right shoulder leaning up against the frame. Her heart-shaped face was framed by loose curls; however, his attention was caught on her eyes. He swore he saw a glimmer of something mad inside them—a twinkle of insanity.
"You know what I mean." Rose strolled innocently into the study, her finger tracing the mahogany desk adorned with the oh-so-darling pictures of her and Cal. She eyed the water-stained, tattered photo, her hands beginning to shake. Her jaw was tight against her teeth, threatening to chatter. "You know exactly what I mean."
Of course Cal knew what she meant. There was only one he that she could be talking about. "Jack," he sputtered, adjusting his collar uncomfortably, "is not with us."
Rose let out a cold laugh, sending chills down Cal's spine. "He's not with us!" she scoffed. "Such a sympathetic excuse out of this conversation." Without thinking, she violently threw her hands up and shattered the portraits, no longer being able to look into her fake, unreadable eyes staring back at her.
Cal just sat there, stunned. He'd tried so hard to keep her from falling into that bottomless pit again; but it looked like his efforts had no effect. "Rose," he whispered, more to himself. He reminisced their wedding day, putting the golden band on her tremulous finger. No one saw it that day, but when he looked up after placing the glamorous piece of jewelry on her hand, her lips were pursed and a lone tear was dripping down her porcelain cheek, the veil shielding her from him.
She didn't want him; she didn't want anyone anymore. She just wanted to be alone. But instead he had dragged her into the trap again, locking the bird in its cage for the second time. Every day he remembered that moment, the glistening tear that could only resemble one thing: Mourning. And it was all his fault.
The room was silent except for Rose's whimpering cries for Jack. For the past couple weeks she had done nothing but bring him up, hoping to get some comfort from her husband, but never receiving any. "I'm sorry," Cal finally choked, wanting to pull her into a hug and stroke her curls but knew he couldn't—not when she had such a grieving, menacing look on her face.
Rose stayed in her spot, not moving her legs. Her shoulders shook terribly and she couldn't stop the tears from pouring out of her eyes. "Jack," she uttered, her knees wobbling as she almost collapsed to the ground, but she caught herself on the now-barren table. But her hand wasn't strong enough, and she fell in the broken glass, cutting up her legs.
Yet, she didn't mind the blood. It was just her blood—when she should have been able to share it with Jack. No matter how much she wanted to be happy with Cal, she longed for Jack's arms; to hear his voice again, and his touch. She knew she belonged to Jack and Jack only, though she had a hard time expressing her gratitude towards Cal for taking her in.
Alarmed, Cal jumped out of his chair and helped her up, fetching a warm towel to cleanse the tiny cuts dotting her legs. For once in the months that they had been married, she kept her eyes on his until his guilty irises caught hers. "What would my life be like?" she reiterated under her breath, waiting for his answer.
There was nothing but the silence of a struggling marriage, but Cal eventually spoke up. "You'd be happy," he said, hoping his words satisfied her.
To him, there was no better answer.
The corners of Victoria's eyes stung as Cal told her of Rose's failing mental health, how she had let Jack's death finally affect her—and go to her head. "Cal, t-that's—" She couldn't even begin to describe the plight "—horrible. I don't even know what to say…"
In all her years, Victoria had thought she'd known suffering. After her elope when she was sixteen, her parents had locked her away in the house for months on end, and for those long days she longed for nothing but to step foot outside and climb the trees in the woods behind her house, climb so no one could find her. Once she was allowed a step out into the park, she saw the man she had so hopelessly fallen in love with—Aaron Daniels, a handsome man of twenty. But even as she ran up to say hi, he did nothing but jeer at her, laughing with his friends as he told her of his newest lady. He'd made a complete and utter fool of her in public, and she had ran home and let her mother decide the men she had to court—disgusting men many years older than her, with obsessions and addictions she didn't even want to begin to describe. The experience of being nothing but a doll left her memories scarred, so she never thought of the past.
But unlike her, Cal was aching—and she was helping him. It brought a wet, tearful sting to her heart as the tears flowed freely from her eyes. She wished he was over with the story; she didn't know if she could hear anymore, especially how she already knew how the tale ended.
"I wanted to give Rose her freedom, but she wouldn't take it liberally," Cal continued, oblivious to Victoria's raging thoughts. "So I hatched a plan for Santa Monica again, but would offer it to her at a better time. Little did I know that there never would be the right moment…
"There were, of course, times when I thought she was getting better, only for her to talk like a lunatic again a few minutes later. She was so out of reality, I would have never thought I would come home to see her holding the gun in her hand… Of her pulling the trigger, screaming nonsensical things that I still remember now…"
Victoria shook her head sadly, sniffling. "W-why would she do that?" She wiped her dripping nose on her glove, as unladylike as it was. Her head was pounding and she was fully confused over the thought of suicide—a selfish, greedy act—that her mind was reeling. "What was her reasoning?"
For a moment, there was nothing but pure, total silence. Cal's eyes became blank, and the next words that came out of her mouth made Victoria want to jump out of her seat.
"I killed him," he confessed, leaving Victoria stunned and chilled to the bone.
"What d-do you m-mean?" she stuttered as her body shook. Her throat was dry, and she fought the urge to run away. The teacup she had poised in her hand made clattering noises on the plate she was holding, and she knew she was ready to scream.
"Victoria, I haven't been completely honest with you," Cal admitted painfully, silent tears falling from his eyes. "It's through my reckless choices that I regret so much of what has happened in my life; the reason why guilt sits in my cold heart every morning I wake up."
For the first time in her life, Victoria listened to the account of a murderer—and through Cal's words, she let herself feel compassion for the mistake he had made two years ago.
"Move!" Jack yelled as he stumbled down the staircase as quickly as he could, his hand gripping that of Cal's young fiancée. Rose let out a scream as Cal took thoughtless aim again and pulled the trigger—this time, missing Rose's head by an inch and sending freezing water splashing in her face.
Cal watched on with green, envious eyes as Jack jumped into the rising water with Rose's hand safely in his. The more he watched their entwined fingers, the angrier he became, and he shot again, this time whizzing by the couple before slamming into the thick glass window of the dining saloon. "Rose, you get back here!" was what he wanted to yell, but for some reason all he could make was furious grunts as he lifted his tremulous hand, closed one eye, and pointed it at his target—the blond-haired man who so willingly had an affair with his fiancée.
When the shot rang out, there was nothing but silence, and he swore he couldn't see anything that was going on in front of. But afterwards, when Cal would play it back in his head, he could see Jack falling into the water, Rose's distraught and horrific face gasping as her hands reached out to clutch his tumbling body.
And then, the scream—the kind that makes your skin prickle and your eyes look away with discomfort. It was the cry of a heartbroken, grieving woman with the love of her life dead in her arms.
Lovejoy had so easily pried the gun out of Cal's stone-like hands before challenging the water and beckoning for Rose to come to the decks, but she refused to leave him there. "No, I won't leave him!" she screamed, though it was hard to make out what she had said because she was shaking so badly. "Jack…"
For Cal, everything was in slow motion: Rose stroking Jack's bloodied hair, the water stained a sickening red, as her face was smothered in her tears and wrinkled by her agony. And Lovejoy, finally able to pull her away as he put his arms around her shoulders and coaxed her to the stairs, but for only one time and one time only she was able to break free and run to her lover again, pushing Lovejoy aside and saying that she couldn't just leave him in the rising water to drown.
"Help me pull him up to the decks!" she begged, taking ahold of his oddly cold hand. However, the pull of the water was too strong, and his body was larger than hers. She grabbed him and was able to move him a few inches, though the water was now nearing her neck. Desperate, she turned around and faced Lovejoy and Cal, and it was hard to look into her face, so distorted were her features for the love she had lost. "Why aren't you doing anything?" She wanted it to be serious, but she had broken down into a fit of tears again, turning back around and tugging helplessly on his shirt, watching as his lips turned blue and the gash on the back of his head was washed away by the guiltless waves.
Surprisingly enough, Cal, who didn't notice he was holding his breath, managed to take a step forward into the sloshing water. When he reached Rose, he couldn't look her in the eyes, but instead took ahold of Jack's other shoulder and helped her pull him out of the water and onto a dry section on the staircase, her dress and his coattail soaked and dripping.
Finally, Rose's legs couldn't support her any longer, and she collapsed helplessly beside Jack, clasping his lifeless hand firmly in hers. She wanted so badly for the cold blood to disappear, for them to escape on a lifeboat together and start a brand new life with art and adventure at every turn. But she knew that that wasn't possible, and that her wish was an unrealistic, little girl's dream; she had to say good-bye.
Closing her eyes, she leaned forward so that her wet eyelashes fluttered over his face. "Good-bye, Jack," she whispered, tenderly caressing his cold cheek before sighing a mournful "I love you" and kissing his blue lips.
With all the strength she could muster, Rose let Lovejoy help her up and to the decks, repeatedly telling herself to not look back or she'd throw herself over Jack's body and stay with him until it was all over. But she knew that he wouldn't want that, and so she bravely took the first steps towards a new part of her life with a straight back—praying that the jumbled emotions in her heart would just leave her alone.
As for Cal, he looked at the damage that he had done. The blood that belonged to what he had hours ago called his "forsaken enemy" seeped over the majestic floor. His hands were curled into fists of pure guilt, his mind whirring. "You call yourself a man?" he said through clenched teeth. "You're nothing but a murderous coward."
With that, he turned around on his heels and let the water wash away the deed that was so uncleanly on his hands.
The response to the story was, lack for a better word, silent. There was nothing for Victoria to say; giving sympathy would be like forgiving the sins that so dirtied his hands. She knew, deep down, that time would forgive him, but the deed was still done—and Cal had never looked so guilty for it.
Smiling sadly, she leaned forward and tenderly grabbed his arm, rubbing it soothingly. The action was unexpected for her as it was to him—was she forgiving a criminal? Whatever the case, she knew that the suffering that was brought with his crime was punishment enough.
She gulped down the solid lump in her throat, built up from the horrific account of the tragic murder. "What about—?"
"The picture?" Cal finished for her. He sighed heavily as he reached for it and held it in his hands, gazing at it lovingly. Strangely enough, he laughed; Victoria remained more confused than she already was. Had he gone senseless?
"What's so funny?" she wanted to huff, but it came out as a calm stream of words.
He shook his head, meanwhile tears pricking his eyes, as he took a scrap out of his pocket. "It was always Jack Dawson."
And just like that, the puzzle was solved—and the whole time in Cal's coat pocket.
Victoria exhaled from the building suspense that plummeted. She rested her elbows on her knees and her chin in her hands, her eyes scrutinizing Cal's tearful expression. "You know, Jack really did love her," she said, shocking Cal, "but I wouldn't question if you really did, too."
The grin on his face was contagious, for the relief he felt in his swollen heart was no longer existent. They both chuckled, but their laughs only lasted for a couple of seconds. "It's all I have left of her," he explained, pocketing it. "It's all I have left of her happiness."
The day was gray and mournful, just as that night had been. But even with the depressing weather, that didn't stop Cal from making a well-needed trip to his wife's grave. Since his confession that morning, he couldn't stop replaying the sound of the gunshot in his head, of his—no, Jack's—Rose pulling the trigger of the same gun he had used to take away her lover's soul; of her screams as she confessed what had been going through her mind since the day he died, that she wanted to do nothing but shrivel away into emptiness because he was dead.
Victoria assisted Cal as they made the short trip to Rose's grave. She didn't blame him for what he had done, not that it wasn't wrong. But like she'd always done, she didn't think of the past; so she was willing to give Cal Hockley a chance.
She watched as he placed the fresh bouquet aside the majestic statuette, smiling slightly as she saw the stiffness in his shoulders loosen. Bending down, they both sat in front of Rose's resting place, the silence surrounding them light and empty. There were no words left to be said.
He was finally at peace.