Author's Note: I wrote this four years ago at the same time I was writing Beyond the Ocean. Crazily enough, it was also before I knew about fan fiction - and to think I was writing it without even knowing what it was called! So if any of these themes seem familiar or already used in the Titanic fandom, excuse it as a coincidence. Enjoy this first chapter! It's kinda long, so good luck!
Disclaimer: I do not own Titanic (1997).
Back to Titanic
By Lady Elena Dawson
My story is different from everyone else's. It brought me sorrow, pain, and curiosity. I never knew my father, and my mother never talked about him. All she ever told me was that he died before I was born. That's her story on him. But I believe there is much more that she hasn't told me…
My mother seemed in a daze when I talked about him. I saw in her eyes something more than just love. I noticed that her eyes flickered like a moving picture, each second that passed showing a different feeling that stabbed at her heart. It went in this exact order, in fact: grief, anger, happiness, love, disbelief, desperation, fear, and finally sadness. And this wasn't just lust or attraction, this was what I came to define as true love. The most romantic love story you could get and the most heartbreaking sadness you could get. I can read that all from her expression.
Life was strange in the way you remembered things. For when I was five-years old, I clearly remember asking my mother this exact question:
"Mommy, why are your feelings changing?"
And she said, "You seem to get that from your father."
She didn't elaborate. Somehow, someway, I just understood. I told myself that what she told me was that my father was really good at detecting her feelings, and how when she was scared he would try to comfort her right away. Her moods went from warmness, but then to sadness. Her emotions changed all the time. But they mostly altered when I talked about my father. And every single year since the day I was old enough to understand I got more and more curious about him. Who was he and how did he die? Did he know about me? What goes through her mind when I bring him up? It wasn't until I was ten that she told me some of it. But it wasn't enough to feed my hungry need for information.
"Mother, why won't you talk about Father?" I asked her one day.
"Oh, Emily, you ask me that all the time," she said as she sat on my bed.
"But you never tell me anything about him!" I protested. I remember I was getting ready for a school concert; I played the violin. I started struggling with my dress, and Mother came to help me.
"That's because those memories, Emmy, are painful," Mother told me.
I flipped my red, curly hair out of my face and looked at my mother through the mirror. Her green eyes watered a little.
"Oh Mother, why won't you tell me? Don't you think I'm old enough?" I asked her.
A lump formed in my throat as well as hers. "Oh, sweetie, it was such an awful time!" she finally burst out when she could hold it no longer.
My eyes widened in misconception. "Meeting Father was awful? Does this mean you never wanted me?" I rapidly said in shock.
"No, no, not at all! Don't take that wrong, Emily, sweetheart. Meeting your father was the most amazing and wonderful experience of my life." After that, she sighed. Her lips pursed in a smile, she indicated for me to sit down next to her.
"Why, Mother? Why was it so great?" I encouraged her to move on.
"I-I can't tell you why, but I can tell you a little bit about him," she stuttered. My face contorted in disappointment.
"Emily, it's for your own good! One person involved in this story could hurt you, or even kill you! Believe me, sweetheart, this one man should be put in jail and never be let out." She said the last part in a whisper. A shiver went down my back. Who was she talking about? Was this "man" such a bad person that he would murder out of cold blood? She held my hand and looked at me with these pleading eyes, showing me that she didn't want to go on.
"Okay, Mother, you win," I told her. "Just tell me about him then."
A smile crept on her face and she whispered, "Thank you. I'll tell you, sweetheart, I promise you. But right now you're so young, so fragile. He can hurt you, and he will…"
My mind raced with questions about this man. But I kept my mouth shut and listened to my mother. I sat on her lap and she held me tight, almost suffocating me.
"Your father," she sighed, "was Jack Dawson…"
She had paused after saying his name, for, I realized, she never told anyone about him.
"Was he some rich man that stole your heart?" I asked her, but that was a bad idea. Her grip tightened on me, and I gasped. My breath was squeezed out of me. Her eyes filled with dread and anger.
"Mother?" I squeaked out.
"Oh my God, Emily, I'm sorry! Your grandmother told you too much," she said. I nodded, recalling Grandma's stories of high society life. In retrospect, I remember her saying that Mother always had her eyes on the upper-class men. But was my perception of my mother a lie?
"Mother, Grandma told me how you loved all these rich that even true?" I asked her.
Mother hesitated, eyes filling with tears, until she finally mutterd, "None of that is true."
I was absolutely dumbfounded; I felt shocked and hurt. "What do you mean? Why did Grandma tell me that, then?" I begged, pleading for answers now.
"What I mean is that he was of lower society. Third class."
I tried to take this all in. I wasn't stunned, and I wasn't disgusted that my father was a lower-class gentleman. I was actually happy that I knew something about him.
I didn't say anything, which made Mother continue, "He was such a charming man. Comforting, caring… I never met anyone like him." looked into her emerald-green eyes, and I could see content and reflections pasted on them. "He stole my heart from a glance. It was sort of like love at first sight, you know what I mean?"
She held me closer and we both laughed. "He was a good artist. A very good artist. Even for a third-class man with not a penny to his name."
She sighed and a question popped up in my mind. "Mother, why are you saying 'third class' like that? Was this on a ship?"
I knew what my mother was thinking because her eyes always changed color between blue and green. Right then, they were an icy blue color, meaning the memories she was reminiscing were hard to think about. In short, her eyes were always a bright green when she was in a good mood, but a light blue when she had a bad day or felt sadness.
I decided I shouldn't ask again. She cleared her throat and continued anyway. "Jack was such a different man. Your father, I mean."
I giggled and said, "It's okay to say his name. It might make you feel better."
She smiled. "Jack was full of life. He explored the world. I wished I was like him, just to head off in the horizon whenever I felt like it. Not knowing what would come each day…"
"Don't you already have that?" I contemplated our middle-class lifestyle. "Or most of it?"
"Yes, I do now. But back then I didn't."
Right at that moment, I remember now, my mother and I were entering the Renault waiting in front of our house. I thought I saw a difference in Mother's eyes when we entered, but maybe I was just seeing things.
We were quiet the whole ride. It wasn't until five minutes before I was going on the stage that I asked her, "But Mother, if you already have all that, then what made you not have it?"
"When you're older, sweetheart. When you're older I will tell you…"
"What could have possibly happened before me? You had me when you were seventeen. What could have possibly happened before that?" Anger had overtaken me. Didn't I have the right to know about my existence?
"A lot," she whispered. That's all she had time to say before I had to go out on the stage and perform. Tears filled her eyes, and for the first time I realized that I had hurt my mother in some way. That was the only concert where I didn't see her in the crowd.
After the concert, I asked her, "Did you like it?"
"Of course I did. You were wonderful, sweetie."
I knew that she had been crying, but I pretended I didn't notice.
"Mother, I didn't see you in the crowd."
"I was listening, though."
I knew she was lying.
She sniffled and I looked up at her. "Mother, I can't help asking. Who is this dreadful man you mentioned before?"
Her face went pale and her eyes went wide. "For you to know later."
Anger filled me again, so I pouted in the car.
"You'll be staying at your grandmother's," she said, breaking the silence.
"Only for one night."
"I have some business to take care of. Personal, adult business."
I sighed. "Okay."
I knew something was wrong. I knew that Mother was taking a break off her acting job to spend time with me. But I didn't ask. I resisted the urge.
The car pulled up to Grandma's house, and I jumped out. Mother slowly followed behind me as I ran to hug my grandmother.
"Grandma!" I exclaimed. Ruth DeWitt Bukater could not have felt happier than to see me, her granddaughter. Her daughter, though, was a ghostly shade of white.
"Rose, are you okay?" her mother asked her in concern.
"I'm fine, Mother. Would you look after Emily for me? I have some business to take care of, and I'm afraid I can't bring her with me."
"Of course, dear."
"Are you sure you're all right?"
"Yes, Mother. I'm fine."
But I doubted she was. Mother never seemed this nervous or scared before. I wanted to run after her but resisted the urge to do so.
"You should get to bed, Emily," Grandma told me. I could also tell that she was worried.
When I was in my own, personal bedroom at Grandma's house, I finally decided to ask her the question that had been prodding at me all night. "Grandma, do you know anything about my father?"
Grandma Ruth seemed to pause, and it looked like she seemed disgusted instead of unhappy. As if her daughter having me with a man like him was a shameful thing, practically a scandal.
Finally, she spoke. "Jack Dawson? No! Why would I?" was her response.
"Just wondering," I whispered. "Good night."
"Good night, Emily."
I never knew what Mother did that night, but I did know that it terrified her. What I didn't know was that the outcome of what she did led to the tragic events to come.
I was waiting for my mother to pick me up, climbing a tree to pass the time. I loved climbing trees. "I probably get all this improper behavior from my father," I said to myself.
"Emily Rose Dawson, get down from there!" I heard Grandma yell from the kitchen.
"I'm coming down, Grandma!"
I slid down the tree and decided to just sit on the grass (on a blanket, of course) and draw the scenery. Mother was never the best artist, so I wondered where I got my talent from. I just figured out yesterday that I got it from my father. I was so into my work, I didn't notice the boy on the sidewalk walking past me.
He blocked the whole park across the street!
"Excuse me, sir, but may you please move? I am drawing something, if you must know."
The boy stopped and turned in my direction. My dark red curls reflected an orange color from the sunlight as it mixed with the blonde.
"Yes, of course. I'm sorry, miss," he said. He moved out of the way.
He might have shimmied to the side, but that didn't mean he was completely out of my view. I raised an eyebrow.
"If you don't mind me asking, miss, but may I see that drawing?" he finally asked me.
He came over and sat next to me. "I'm Emily Rose Dawson," I greeted while putting out my hand to shake his.
"William Carter, pleased to meet you," he said while shaking my hand.
"William Carter? Are you familiar with the famous Carters that were on the Titanic?"
"Yes, of course. I am William Carter's nephew. All the men in the Carter family are mostly named William, so we don't really know who we are talking to anymore." I giggled in response.
"Are you, by any chance, familiar with the famous moving picture actress, Rose Dawson?" he asked me.
"Of course. She's my mother." He seemed stunned also, and I laughed again.
"You're her daughter? When I read her interviews in the paper, she always mentions highly of you."
"I know. I'm so proud of her, since I grew up without a father." I picked a daisy out of the ground, examining the smooth, green stem.
"You don't have a dad?"
"No. I never knew him. Mother said he died before I was born. She never tells me anything about him, though. Through prying I finally learned something yesterday," I said softly.
"Yes. I am not a liar, William."
"Please, call me Will."
"All right. And you may call me Em."
There was a pause. I saw a car coming down the street and rushed to my feet.
"There's my mom! I have to go. It was nice meeting you, Will. Bye!" I said in, literally, five seconds.
"Wait, you left your drawing!" he yelled.
"Oh!" I rushed back and picked it up.
"You're quite a fine artist," he complimented.
"Thanks. I got it from my father," I said with a smile. It was the first time I ever said something like that. Like my father.
I ran back to the waiting car and jumped into the back seat, waving at William and my grandma. "Bye!" I yelled.
Mother seemed annoyed with me, clamping her hand on my arm. "Close the window please, sweetie, and don't yell." Her knuckles were a ghostly white.
"Are you okay?" I squeaked, my heart pounding in my ears.
"Yes, I'm fine. I just had a rough night," she grumbled.
Months passed, and soon I knew something was wrong with Mother. She rushed through the door, out of breath, holding a different part of her body every time—her hand, her arm, her cheek, her nose, and sometimes she put her hand on her thigh or leg.
"Mother, are you okay?" I asked her every day.
"I'm fine, sweetheart. Finish your homework and I'll make you a snack."
Every time she said something like that I believed it less and less. One day, though, I noticed a giant, newly formed bruise on her arm. I gasped.
"Mother, what happened?!" I exclaimed, my small hand grabbing ahold of her wrist.
She quickly covered the giant, purple bruise with her sleeve. I noticed another bruise on her neck, a small one on her cheek, and if you looked at her long, beautiful legs, you would have noticed a purple-blue bruise on the back.
I poked the small, discolored circle lightly on her cheek and she flinched. Her eyes turned a bluish-green. From normal to fear.
"I keep falling on the way back home. A crack in the sidewalk-" She tried to go with the first excuse that came into her mind, but I knew it was a lie right when the first word came out of her mouth.
"Mother!" I yelled, ignoring her statement. More quietly and pleadingly, I said, "Please tell me the truth."
I held her eyes in desperation. Mother stared back at me, licked her lips, and said, "I can't tell you."
Tears formed in both of our eyes. One from hurt and one from anger. I looked in her blue irises and saw that what she said was the truth.
I backed away from her. "I want the truth!" I yelled. "The whole truth! I want to know the truth about Father, I want to the know the truth about your past, and I want to know the truth of what is happening!"
I breathed harder and harder, into hyperventilation. My mother sat at the table, shocked. She took my hand and put her other hand on my back to steady me.
"You need some rest, sweetheart. Let me help you-"
"No!" I yelled, a little too aggressively. I pulled away from her and stared straight into her eyes. This time, I saw hurt staring back at me. "Not until I know the truth," I whispered. She didn't say anything and looked down. "I knew it," I grumbled.
I ran back up to my room, slamming and locking the door, and started sobbing into my pillow. This was so unfair! I should know everything about my parents, but I don't. I barely knew my own mother.
Mother didn't come to say good night, and she didn't even bother to come into my room. At dinner she just knocked on the door, said the tray was outside the door, and left. When I opened the door to retrieve the food, I heard sobbing from downstairs. My heart sank as I heard the cries. I slowly and sneakily went down the stairs, peaking at the living room where Mother was on the couch crying. She was looking at some newspapers she collected over the years and started ripping them apart, each tear more powerful than the one before.
One paper in particular, actually. She tore others, but not so emotionally as this one. I could tell she was upset. When she finished tattering up the newspaper she tore so expressively, she lay back on the couch and I could hear her sob, "Why did you leave me, Jack? Why couldn't you be here to stand next to me?"
Tears of guilt and sadness filled my eyes as I saw this. Father was so important to her. And that one newspaper might hold the answer…
Already a plan was being conceived in my head. Tomorrow, when Mother was at work, I would slowly paste the newspaper back together and see what it holds. All this time I had the answer at my fingertips!
The next day, once Mother said good-bye to me at my bedroom door, I rushed out of bed and downstairs. I grabbed the paste bottle and the medium-sized box that sat on the "Shelf of Memories," as Mother called it. And it sure held a lot of memories. Pictures of me as a baby, ore pictures of me growing up and at my different concerts, and Mother at her many moving-picture premieres. She had frames here that she didn't like to talk about, even though it looked like she was having a completely good time. Like the one of her at the Santa Monica Pier when I was a baby, though I wasn't in the picture. It was a picture of her riding a horse on the beach with a bright smile on her face. But when I looked closer, I saw a hint of gloom in them. I wondered why.
There was also many other things there. A locked box I never got into, a couple of written diaries by me or my mother, my baby teeth and first hair cut in two, small metal boxes with engravings like "Emily's First Hair Cut," and lastly, the box of newspapers Mother kept special for her acting career.
My hand shook as I opened the lid.
A sigh of relief came over me when I saw the ripped newspaper in the corner. I took the small box and paste upstairs so I could start.
I decided that I should only keep the torn newspaper and hope that Mother wouldn't reopen the box until I was done. I put the torn pieces gently in a plastic bag, tied it loosely, and hid it under my bed with the paste. I was too worried about my mother right now to figure out anything about my father. I mean, she came home with a new bruise every day. Was she dating some rich man she never told me about to marry into money to protect me? Or was she actually engaged to some man who beat her every day?
A shiver went down my spine.
Would she do that for me? She really did love me, and I had known that for as long as I could remember. But who can blame me for wanting to know about my father, even if it hurt her a little bit?
A trace of guilt lay inside me. Why did I have to bring up all those questions? Was all this pain she had my fault?
I can't blame myself. I don't even know who she is seeing or what she is doing. It can't be my fault...
Mother came home with another bruise. Right on her temple. I didn't ask her, but I could tell it hurt. She would work so hard on cleaning the house, and when she even put her hand to her forehead she would cringe in pain. Not that she would show it.
"Mother, I'll do the dishes. Why don't you just lie down for a little bit?" I told her once I saw her face contort from the thudding pain for the fifth time. Just watching someone aching was awful.
"Thank you, sweetheart. Remind me to pay you" was all she said.
She headed upstairs, too tired to even look at me. I sighed. I have to do something, I thought to myself while doing dishes. I can't let her get beat up like this. But even though I planned to help her, I was too late.
Mother died the next week.