Author's Note: Hey readers! Long time, no writing, huh? I've been extremely busy, and I was going to update my other stories, but I just HAD to start this one! I recently watched "The Reader" and an idea popped into my head that turned it into something Titanic style. It'll be close to the plot, but a little different and not as inappropriate. I don't really like this title, so it might change.
Disclaimer: I do not own Titanic (1997) or The Reader (2008).
By Lady Elena Dawson
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1948
The pattering of the rain outside practically made the thoughts bouncing around in my head unbearable to contain. They wanted to burst out so everyone on that train knew of the devouring secret I had kept for years, the reason my heart died a little bit each day. But none of them would understand; none would care, or even notice.
She was more than just a toy to me. She was my inspiration, why I woke up every day with a new passion coursing through my veins. Today I will help her with the garden, I would tell myself. Today I will read to her The Odyssey. Though the world turned into turmoil that same year, I would read to her what was going on in Europe, about how the archduke was assassinated along with his wife. When I told her about Russia declaring war on Austria, she began to cry.
"Why are you crying?" I had asked her.
She wiped aside a stray tear on her cheek and focused her puffy eyes on mine. "It's just so sad. That poor man and woman…" She demanded for me to stop reading that day, and I left her in the grassy field, drowning in her thoughts. It was that time I learned something new about her, as I did every moment that I spent with her.
Sensitive. Cautious. Tolerant. Passionate.
She was all those things.
So I would read to her the newspaper before I started with the stories.
It went on like that for a whole year.
But then one day, she disappeared.
And that's when I realized my Rose wasn't coming back.
The reason I took the train to the local prison every day was simple. There was someone there who I needed to settle my sins with. She was a kind woman with wise wrinkles etched in her face. Her eyes were the same as hers... I could just imagine her laugh right now.
"Do you want to hear a joke?"
She giggled, her face turning red and her blue eyes sparkling as she shook her head.
"No? Well, that's too bad, 'cause I'm the greatest comedian around."
Why she was in there was simple: She was a thief. The police had her record packed with written statements of her daily steal: Apples, bread, a bracelet. Mostly food because she couldn't find work. What I found strange, though, was how she never tried to fight when they caught her, she never tried to deny it. And when they sent her to jail, she always requested the same cell that was strangely always uninhabited.
What she said whenever I visited her was the same thing. "She was here for a couple years, if you remember, Jack," she would tell me. "You would send her all those books." After this statement, she would laugh, and I would smile. "Silly of you to do that for a girl who cannot read."
Oh, but she can. It would take her a while to get through a page, but I would always be there, only a wall apart from where she sat, and read to her. I could faintly remember now what she had been doing: Scanning the jumble of letters known as words and circling the most basic ones. A week later, I would receive a letter from her, something that would be like this:
Thank you for the books.
That was it. No name, no reference to our passionate past. It made me wonder if she remembered at all…
Rose DeWitt Bukater, Rose Dawson, Rose Calvert.
They were all the same person, the wonderful woman who belonged to me. But most people didn't know that, so I had to keep it a secret—and with my silence I dragged along hers.
Most people didn't know that she was killing me from the inside out every morning and every night.
They didn't know why I kept it a mystery when I could've saved her myself.
A little boy on the train watched me as I stared out the train window. I wanted to tell him to never have regrets, because he was looking at an old man filled with them. But the boy kept staring, and it seemed like he never got my message. I wondered why I didn't open my mouth to ask him why it wasn't obvious.
Ruth DeWitt Bukater was like many people during this post-war time. With no money and no work, she would starve, and so her residence became the jail. Hopping off the train into the pouring rain, I scattered across the wet pavement and shook my dripping jacket off as I entered the prison.
"Mr. Dawson, here to see Ruth, I assume?" the policeman at the front desk said, tapping his pencil on a stack of papers.
I smiled. "Yes, as always." I watched him scribble a couple things on the stack of papers before gesturing over his shoulder that I could go in.
My hand held hers as I traced the letters on the blank page, my eyes wanting to focus on my writing but all I could see was her watching our hands move together as one.
The first word appeared: I.
The second: Love.
The third: You.
Her finger traced the phrase. "What does it say?"
I couldn't break my gaze from her glowing face, my hand entwining into hers. "I love you."
The guard led me down the passage and showed me the seat I practically called my own. A couple minutes later, Ruth was pushed in, and she smiled warmly when she saw me. "Jack," she fawned as she put her hand over the glass barrier that separated us.
I grinned back, but half heartily. "Ruth," I greeted her, putting my aging palm over her old one.
"How have you been?"
"I've been better. The case I'm working on right now is a tough one. A husband says his wife cheated on him with another man. At least this 'other man' is present." My expression was unreadable.
Ruth's face faltered, and she nodded weakly. "Ah, yes. We have a lot of those cases going around lately, with the war only ending a couple years ago."
I bit the inside of my cheek, banning my thoughts. "Yeah, the men come back with their wives hiding lots of secrets."
Neither one of us spoke. I glanced at the guard precariously in the corner, wondering if he had any idea what we were really talking about. "So, Ruth," I sighed, clapping my hands together in my lap, "have you heard anything?"
Her face paled, and she licked her chapped lips. "Jack, I don't know if you want to hear this…," she whispered, looking down at her hands.
A spark ignited in my head; I was surprised I didn't turn mad with longing. There was nothing but silence in those few moments that I fought with an inner strength I didn't even know I had. My mouth was parched when I finally decided to open it. "Tell me, Ruth. What do you know?"
She swallowed inaudibly, but I could tell because her Adam's apple bobbed like any old woman's. "The police here have taken a liking to me. Strange thing for the law and a thief," she began. Strangely enough, tears filled her eyes—yet another person whose head I wanted to get into. "We're almost like friends. I haven't had any of those in a while." Her wrinkled smile was small and weak. "I told them to look for her, if they had any information for her after she left in 1924. But for a long time they didn't have anything, until now…"
I could barely breathe. I didn't even have to speak as she unfolded a slip of paper and laid it out in front of me. "They traced her here, in California," she said, beckoning me to read it. Her shaky finger pointed at the address. I waited for her to say the words I hoped were true.
A man does strange things in moments of torment. It was my raging heart that made my legs, though one with a damaged knee from the war, board another train straight to Santa Monica.
I told myself that I had a long enough journey ahead of me. Why not go back in time and write down the past?
Is it because I tried to push it away?
I was her reader, and she was my reason for living.
Why didn't I tell them what I knew?