FOR BETTER OR WORSE
The next day, Rose awoke to the sound of Jack’s heartbeat. Sighing happily, she snuggled closer to him, reveling in his warmth. She could have died a happy woman right there and then, tucked safely in the warmth of her husband’s arms.
"Rose, wake up," Jack whispered into her ear. "Rose."
Rose just smiled and snuggled even closer, making Jack laugh.
"Rose, come on. We have chores we have to do before tonight. We can’t stay in bed all day."
Rose sighed and opened her eyes. As much as she hated to admit it, Jack was right. "All right. All right. I’m up." Rose groaned.
"Come on, sleepyhead." Jack sat up.
"So, what are you doing today?" Rose asked curiously.
"More work on that blasted shed. I don’t know why they insist on fixing the roof. It’s not like they’re ever going to use it. I’d rather spend the day drawing you out on Lake Wissota."
"Jack…why don’t we move into our own place? Betsy said that room behind the general store was still available."
"Yeah…but this is my parent’s house. I abandoned it once. I don’t think I can do that again. There’s so many happy memories here." Jack sighed. "But if we did move out, that’d give us more time together to do what we please. I don’t know, Rose…is that what you want? To move into a tiny room in the back of a store?"
"I want to be with you, no matter where it is. Jack…I’ve had nightmares where you didn’t survive the sinking, and that practically killed me. I can’t live without you. As long as I have you, no matter where we live, I’ll be fine."
Jack sighed. "I’ll ask Kyle about the back room. It’s not much, but it’s something, and we’ll always have one another." Jack kissed her gently. "Everything’s going to be all right for us, Rose."
"I know. I trust you." She smiled, hugging him tightly.
"Jack, get your carcass down here! We have a shed to work on!"
"See you later, Rose." Jack sighed, annoyed. "Hey, do me a favor and go up to the store and ask Kyle about that room. The sooner we’re out of here, the happier I’ll be."
Rose giggled. "All right, Jack. I’ll see you at lunch." Rose waved as her husband left the room.
Betsy was behind the counter with her husband, both poring over their receipts, when Rose entered. They both looked up and smiled at the sound of the bell.
"Rosie, darling!" Betsy stepped out from behind the counter, her arms outstretched for a hug. "What do we owe the pleasure of your company this morning?"
"Uh…Jack and I need a favor. Is that room in back still available?" Rose nervously cleared her throat.
"Why, of course it is, dear. Are you and Jack wanting to move?" Betsy looked at the girl worriedly, wondering if Butch and Vic disrespected Rose in any way.
"Yes, ma’am. You see, Jack wants to be in a place where we can have total privacy and time to spend together with it just being the two of us. We can’t get that with his uncles and cousin around. Would it be a problem if we did move in?"
"Oh, no, Rose, dear. You two are welcome to stay here. It’s like we said before. You two are always welcome, and you can dine with us. I can even continue your cooking lessons on a fuller scale now. Go tell your husband that your room will be ready for you tonight."
"Oh, thank you, Mrs. Lavery." Rose hugged the older woman. "This means so much to us."
"It means a lot to us, too, Rose. Having two young people around will do us a world of good. Now, go let your husband know that you’re moving tonight." Mrs. Lavery pulled away and shooed the younger woman out the door.
"Butch and Vic aren’t going to be happy that Jack’s leaving. They’re losing their errand boy." Kyle snorted.
"Oh, let those two drunks get their own beer. Jack and Rose need a place of their own, and that room will do just fine with it just being the two of them."
"Come on, Mother. Let’s finish these receipts." Kyle smiled, adjusting his glasses on his nose.
The Dawsons were about to sit down to breakfast when Rose pulled Jack to the side.
"Betsy said that the room will be ready for us tonight and that we can have breakfast, lunch, and dinner with them. She even said that we can go farther with my cooking lessons now," Rose excitedly explained.
"Great!" Jack picked Rose up and whirled her around. "We’ll leave this afternoon. This is the last day I work on that stupid old shed." Jack kissed her gently as he placed her back on her feet.
"What are we going to tell your uncles and Lisa?"
"The truth. We’ve decided to move out so we can have more privacy. That’s all they need to know."
"Rose, it’s going to be all right. Trust me."
"I trust you." Rose sighed as Jack led her back to the table.
"Let me do all the talking, okay?" Jack squeezed her hand.
Rose simply nodded. She didn’t wish to get into the conversation anyway.
"What are you women planning to do today after lunch? The house needs some cleaning." Butch snorted.
"Well, Rose is going to pack up our stuff. We’ll be leaving tonight," Jack spoke up. The sooner the subject was broached, the better off they’d be.
"What? Where are you going?" Lisa asked, surprised by the revelation. "Why are you leaving?"
"We’ll be moving into the back room of the Laverys general store. We want more privacy, and moving out is the only way to get it."
"Privacy? You have privacy here." Vic looked at his nephew.
"You think you’ll have privacy in that room of the Laverys‘? With all those busybodies coming in and out of the store?" Butch set down his fork. "Plus, you have a first class lady there, Jack. I don’t think she’s going to be happy stuck in the back room of a general store."
"I’m happy wherever Jack is." Rose squeezed his hand. "Whether it’s here or in a one room shack."
"Well, fine, then. But, by all means, Jack, help your wife pack and be out of here before lunch." Butch threw down his fork and stalked off.
"We’d better get back to that shed if we’re going to finish it." Victor followed his brother.
"Well…I’m going to miss you, Jack." Lisa looked at the table. "You were like a breath of fresh air around this place."
"You can come visit us anytime, Lisa." Jack took his cousin’s hand. "And when we get a place of our own, you can come stay there."
"I’d like that." She forced a smile, and then got up and ran upstairs.
"Everyone’s angry with us." Rose looked at her husband.
"They’ll get over it, Rose. Don’t worry about it. Let’s just finish our breakfast, then get packed. I want to be out of here before lunch is over."
Jack and Rose arrived at the general store a little before lunchtime. The Laverys were waiting for them.
"Rose, Jack, there you are. The room is all ready for you." Kyle grinned. "Betsy sent you two hot plates of food for lunch."
"That was very kind of the both of you, Kyle. Thank you." Jack grinned. "Rosie and I are sure to be happy here."
Kyle smiled as he led the way to the back room. Jack and Rose entered, each carrying a bag. "Have fun, you two."
The couple just smiled, Kyle shutting the door behind him as he left.
"Well, it’s just me and you." Jack pulled Rose into his arms. "What do you want to do now, my love?"
"I want to talk. About us. Jack, we barely know each other. I want to know more about you. Your favorite color, your favorite food, who your first girlfriend was…"
Jack laughed. "Why, aren’t we the curious ones?"
"Only about my dear husband."
"My favorite color is red…like your hair." Jack gently touched a red curl and tucked it behind Rose’s ear. "My favorite food is turkey. Every time I eat it, I feel nice and relaxed."
"Me, too." Rose smiled.
"And my first girlfriend…well…that will just have to remain a secret." Jack laughed at the shocked look on Rose’s face. She was expecting him to tell her.
"Oh. All right. You don’t have to tell me," Rose stammered.
"You silly girl, of course I will tell you. Her name was Stephanie Lake. She used to live across from me a year before my parents died. We broke up when she decided she liked Bruce Wheeler better."
"Poor baby." Rose playfully pouted, causing Jack to laugh.
"That’s okay. Word has it that she’s now fat and mean, and poor Bruce is now her husband, henpecked as hell." Jack laughed. "Lucky for me, I found a beautiful princess on a sinking ship."
Rose blushed at the compliment. "Believe me, Jack, I’m no princess."
"Well, you’re close enough to one." Jack smiled.
"Well, then, you’re my knight in shining armor." Rose smiled, squeezing his hand. "Thank you. Thank you for talking me out of jumping off the back of the ship and getting me away from that suffocating first class life. I like this one a lot better."
Jack frowned. "You may change your mind soon enough, Rose. Right now it doesn’t seem all that hard, but it is. I’m going to have to find a real job now."
"Jack, as long as I have you, I can get through anything. Don’t worry. So what if life with you is hard? It’s also wonderful and loving and free. I’m with the man I love, and I can do anything as long as he’s by my side."
"You seem so sure."
"That’s because I know what I say is true. Besides, nothing could be as hard as surviving the Titanic. Don’t you think?"
"You’re right. The rest of it is a piece of cake for us." Jack smiled, pulling Rose into his arms, holding her so her head was against his chest and she was listening to his heartbeat.