Part One: The Words
That night, I had the dreams. Pleasant ones of her always laughing and smiling, her eyes twinkling because she was with me, and of her kissing me, sweetly, on the lips. I woke up feeling strange, as though they had all been real, and then I remembered that it was only what I yearned for that wasn't true. And that's when I realized it was all in my head, and that she had never kiss me and probably never will.
Emanating in the air was the mouth-watering scents of bacon and coffee, a sure sign that the sun had surely rose, and that it wasn't just in my imagination either. However, I stopped in front of the dining room door anyway, uncertain what my mind might create. Would she step out of the shadows and wrap her arms around me, love smitten? Or would she just be there to pour our drinks and serve my family our meal?
Whatever the case, she was still there, and that was all that mattered to me right now in the short time I'd known her. Her presence formed a fiery, coursing feeling in my veins that sent me off in a set of wide, unexplainable grins. And I wasn't surprised when I pulled together my confidence and stepped into the room where my family waited for me, and learned that I was in reality after all.
Rose stood off on the side with a pitcher in her hand, the other pushing a loose strand of hair back into her bun. I pretended like I didn't see her eyes light up as I pushed open the door and sat down, and attempted to push aside all thought and feeling as she hovered over me, her warm neck close enough to me as she poured a glass of juice that I could kiss it if I wanted to.
But the breathless moment only lasted ten seconds, and she was back to where she was posted, fiddling with her apron as her mother produced the last plate of grub on our table, curtsying and pulling Rose aside. Not knowing that by doing so, my stomach fell and I no longer felt so hungry.
Was I ever hungry for food since the dreams started? Or was it more of a yen for something nourishment could never offer me, the delightedness that came with loving a woman? At this, I was lost, aimlessly pushing around what was on my plate, appetite spoiled.
"Jack," my mother called for me across the table, a morsel of egg on its way up to her painted lips. "Have you been all right lately? You don't seem the…"
"Listen to your mother, Jack. She's right about your behavior lately," Father piped in before Mother could finish, shoveling in his breakfast.
Mother smiled weakly and put her hands down beside her dish. "Yes, what your father said."
Dumbstruck, I glanced around the table, at my two siblings and parents, all giving me different looks that I couldn't begin to describe. And then I noticed my pounding heart, how Rose had decided to enter the dining room just then, her presence sending life-sucking chills all over my already shaken body. She was in the process of taking away the empty plate of bacon when she noted everyone's piercing stares on me, and she inherently worked more sluggishly at picking it up, her eyes looking straight into mine with worry.
Swallowing hard, I fumbled with my words. "Uh," I started, rubbing the back of my neck anxiously—was there sweat on the nape of my neck? "I haven't been feeling well lately," I lied bluntly before turning my attention to my uneaten plate, swirling everything around. By that point, Rose had exited the room, but I could still make out the hinged door swinging back and forth.
"Oh, dear," my mother exclaimed as her expression worsened.
"God, Jack, if that's all it was, why didn't you stay in bed today?" Father uttered, my sister rolling her eyes as though she knew I was telling lies to cover up how I really felt. And then he joked, "Can't have us all dropping sick, can we?"
"I'm sorry, Father," I apologized, and my heart fluttered when I saw Rose's pretty eye peeking out from the crack of the door. Without a bit of hesitance, I smiled at her—my brother craning his neck to see what I was so fond of—and scooted back my chair, standing up. "I'll just be in my room then."
Meanwhile, in the kitchen, Rose was watching with fervent attentiveness as Jack made his way out of the dining hall, and she grinned back even though he couldn't see anything but her eye from the way she was looking. Adrenaline coursing through her veins, she broke her intense gaze to smooth out her apron nervously before ducking back in, only to see that Jack had gone and Mrs. Dawson was asking anxious questions about her son to her inattentive husband.
"Rose!" snapped Ruth. Her throat still sore from a case of strep she'd caught from her immune system still adjusting to the American land, the croaking wheeze caused Rose to jump out of her train of thought. "What are you doing standing at the door?"
Despite her mother's burning stare, Rose was dexterous at the art of playing the part. She leaned back against the corner and calmly replied, "Nothing, Mother. I was just checking to see if the family needed anything more, that's all."
Sighing exhaustingly, Ruth gave up on prying into her daughter's life and whispered, "I know we were never like this, Rose. Don't get me started on how hard it's been to adjust to this life we've never lived, surviving because we have no other experience except for housework. And I know it's been especially hard on you, leaving that man and all—"
Rose's heart plummeted, a bitter and sour taste rising up in her throat like bile. Her mother still didn't know what he'd done to her; she'd had to lie about it just to keep herself alive. His threats, they scarred her, and haunted her in her sleep: The hungry animal of greed who called himself a man. She told her mother that their relationship wasn't going so well, that he broke the courtship, and that he was an obsessive maniac who suddenly wanted her back. Fearing for her daughter's safety, they fled.
"Mr. Dawson has taken ill, Mother," Rose simply said after her mother finished rambling about what had supposedly happened in England. During her mental breakdown of events and blurred ramblings from her mother, she'd created a tray of hot soup and tea to take up to Jack's room. "I think I'll go ask him if he needs anything."
Bumping her hip with the door that led to the servants' stairs of the impeccable Victorian home, Rose clambered up one step at a time, a smile appearing on her face though her head was full of unpleasant memories. Little did Ruth DeWitt Bukater know of the five other women involved.
Yet, little did she know of anything except what she had been told.
The sunlight streamed through my windows as I changed into an old shirt and boxers to play the act of an invalid, creeping under my covers and feverishly sketching out Rose's heart-shaped face from that morning's breakfast. Tongue sticking out of the corner of my mouth as I concentrated solely on burning her face into my memory, I couldn't help but grin like a crazy person in an insane asylum as I thought of everything about her.
My pleasurable thoughts, however, were not meant to last long, because there came a knock at my door unexpectedly. Panicking, I flung my sketchpad under my sheets as a woman muttered, "Mr. Dawson?" through the closed door.
After fluffing my pillow frantically and scooting around to get comfortable, I cleared my throat and nonchalantly said, "Yes?"
"A tray for you," the sweet voice said, and for a second I thought I made out the smallest hint of longing in her words. It was Rose.
The breath knocked out of me, I still managed to utter a "come in" even though I felt like I was floating, my head in the clouds.
The door opened uncertainly, and there stood Rose with a well-prepared tray in her hands, blinking her lovely eyes at me. "I'm sorry to intrude, sir, but I heard you were unwell and I, well…" She took a step into the room, her full body in view now; I felt so pathetic lounging in my bed. "I cobbled up this tray."
Smiling, I thanked her. "Just put it over there," I said, pointing to my desk. However, I remembered my stack of drawings that I'd left there and started to panic as she strode on over. "Uh, actually—," I started, but it was no use: She was already paused in front of the mahogany desk.
Her brows became furrowed as she set the tray down, barely paying attention to it, and her eyes skimmed the stack that'd been scattered when I'd been looking for my sketchpad before. I don't think my face could have flushed any more than it was now, a scarlet red that really did make it look like I had a fever.
"Yes, about those," I improvised, rapidly trying to come up with a good reason why I'd drawn so many sketches of her. "I have to say I'm—"
"I can't say I haven't noticed your eyes on me since I moved here," Rose interrupted, breaking her intent gaze to look at me softly. "And I can't deny it's not wrong."
Gulping, I took a shaky breath and responded, "I'm sorry. I just can't help it…" She began shuffling my drawings together in a pile so sincerely and understandably, her eyes seeing each and every one. "You're so beautiful."
That made her freeze like a deer that had heard its prey in the middle of a dark forest, unsure of what to do and definitely scared. In this case, she battled with what was right and what was wrong, and how to say it to my face. Slowly she set down the pile I sweated over for nights, barely getting any sleep just so I could stay with her longer.
When she didn't reply, I scooted out of bed and cautiously made my way over to her, tenderly placing a finger to her cheek so I could tilt it up to me. "Let me tell you a secret," I whispered, her eyes flickering over every boyish feature on my grown face. "I'm not actually sick."
"And I knew that you weren't. I just wanted an excuse to see you," she confessed in a puff of air, her heart hammering inside her chest; I could feel her apprehension as I inched closer to her face, the vein in her neck pounding visibly.
"I knew that, too." I finished our tension-filled small talk by closing the small distance between us, consuming her lips with mine. Instantly passion overcame me, and her reluctance to return my kiss quickly dissipated and was replaced by a strong urge to deepen it with a beating sense of pleasure.
Eventually we had to break our embrace for air, and I stared into Rose's lustful eyes, her hand flying to her lips as though she was stunned by what had happened. "Sir, I didn't mean to—"
"Enough of this politeness. It's rude to me," I interrupted her guilty cover-up of a phrase; after all, I was the one to take the chance first. "Call me Jack."
There was a slight twinkle in her eyes as one corner of her mouth turned up in a twitchy grin, and she let out a weak laugh. For a moment her eyes left mine, but when she looked back there was a new kind of confidence in them. "Jack," she muttered, then giggled.
Familiar with the aching in my heart, I knew it was the sweet sort of laugh I loved so much for so long—and lusted for so badly. Eyebrows furrowing in mock confusion, I said her name, purposefully adding a slight question to it. "Rose?"
She gave me a peck on the lips, and it sent my body aflame. When she pulled away, she kept her nose close to mine, so all I could really see were her beautiful eyes and fluttering lashes. "Yes?"
So innocent, yet so fiery. If I had to choose two words to describe Rose, that's what they would be, for she was so playful and fun, but also witty and courageous. Nothing could bring her down, except for one thing—something I wouldn't know until much later.
Licking my recently kissed lips, I mumbled, face flushing, "I don't know what to say."
Sadly, Rose pulled away and smoothed out her apron like she always did, even though she always looked fine. "It's all right. I have to go anyway." Striding across the room she headed towards the door, and I knew that she wanted me to say something.
"Can I see you later, then?" I blurted out without much thought, but it must have been fine because she turned her head around to smile at me.
"Of course, Monsieur Big Artiste," she replied with a wink that made the color drain from my heating face. Then, with disapproved tsk: "Hm. I can't see Monsieur Monet blushing."
"Monsieur Monet obviously didn't have a pretty girl to fall in love with," I said, again, without much of anything processing in my head before it came out of my mouth, and immediately I knew I said too much.
Rose seemed to frown slightly, and she cocked her head as though she was curious of me, like I was some exotic animal. "My sister's coming to visit tonight. If I were you, I wouldn't pay much attention to her. She's mute anyway." And she put her hand on the door to leave, though I was not fully satisfied.
"Would you be jealous if I did?" I asked, finally realizing why I shouldn't think before I spoke: everything felt like a huge embarrassment.
A mysterious grin printed on her face, Rose clicked open the bedroom door and stepped out, eyes still and only on me. "I wouldn't risk it if I were you." And with that, she was gone.