A FATHER'S RESCUE
Fortunately for Rose, thanks to the news Michael had gotten from Mrs. Wallace, he came to visit the very next day. Rose was surprised to see him, but also delighted that she'd been right about seeing him the other day. They spent nearly two hours talking, catching up on things. Most of all, Rose wanted to know why her father had left. He explained it slowly and in great detail. It turned out he'd discovered he had a serious heart condition, and hadn't wanted to burden his wife and child with any more bills.
Rose, for her part, offered as few details about why she'd come to New York alone as possible. Considering that they'd just been reunited, Michael didn't want to press things and upset her.
"We can talk about it when you're feeling better, Rose."
"All right, Daddy. What about you? Have you seen the doctor?"
"Yes. That's why you saw me here the other day. I'm doing very well right now. I'm more worried about you. You look tired, sweetheart."
Rose smiled to hear him call her that again. "I'm better today, but I am a little tired. I'll take a nap after you leave."
"All right." Michael paused, taking a deep breath. "Rose, I want you to know that I realize it was wrong of me to leave you. You always loved me so much. You deserved more than to be abandoned."
"Daddy...I think I can understand why you did it. Mother wouldn't have had any sympathy for you. She's a very...difficult person."
He sighed. "Yes, that's a nice way of putting it. Was it too terrible for you, being alone with her?"
Rose looked away, not wanting to tell him all the nasty little details. "I managed, Daddy. The maids kept me company, mostly. I'd really rather not talk about it, yet. All right?"
He frowned. "All right, Rose. You take a nap now. I'll go home for a while and come back later."
"All right, Daddy. I'm so glad you came. I've missed you...so much." Only now, as he was ready to go, did Rose feel like she was going to cry. Her father wrapped her in a long, gentle hug.
"Rosie, I missed you, too. I love you very much, and I won't ever leave you like that again."
"Daddy, you can't promise that. Your heart, you said..."
"I know what I said, but now that I'll be earning money again, I can afford to have regular checkups with the doctor. Don't you worry about me. Get yourself well, that's all."
"I will," she whispered, hugging him tighter for a moment. Then, Michael kissed her, and left.
When he returned later that day, Rose was still sleeping, so Michael managed to locate some paper and a pencil to leave a very long letter for his daughter. He knew he could tell her these things himself, but he'd always expressed himself more clearly in writing. Besides, he thought Rose would be glad to have something to do in the morning, to fill up at least a few minutes of her day.
After leaving the note with a nurse, Michael went directly back to the apartment house. He first had to answer questions from those who were home about how Rose was doing. Then, he went quietly upstairs and into his daughter’s room.
Michael felt guilty doing this. He had always respected Rose's space as far as her room was concerned. But, he knew this was necessary if he wanted answers.
His search was at first fruitless, but soon enough, he found what he was looking for, in a bureau drawer. The money and necklace he found took him greatly by surprise, but only presented more questions, not answers. What he was looking for was there in the same drawer, resting concealed under the other things. Michael extracted the pieces of paper, and gasped. He had wanted answers, yes...but nothing like this.
Just because Rose had these things didn't necessarily mean that she had been there...but deep down Michael could feel that she had. Only a catastrophe like this would cause such nightmares, especially for someone like Rose.
Just then there was a commotion on the stairwell. Michael left the rather cumbersome piece of jewelry and cash exactly as he found it, but folded the newspaper clipping and stuffed it into a pocket of his trousers. He slipped outside into the hallway, closed the door behind him and hurriedly relocked it just as Lincoln came down from the top level, dragging a reluctant Roosevelt behind him on a leash. Michael hoped the man would just continue on his way, but Lincoln was in a rare friendly mood. "Well, good day to you, sir! And how is your daughter? Better, I hope?"
Michael wondered if the man was trying to make up for all the nasty comments he and some of the other tenants had made about Rose. "She is much better. Thank you," he replied in a strained tone of voice.
"Glad to hear it, glad to hear it. Well, are you coming down for luncheon, then? We should have plenty. Frances ain't here." He let out a little chuckle at his own joke. Then, it turned into a cough. "Well, gotta walk this puppy. I'll see you at the table, eh?" He nodded and was finally on his way. Roosevelt sniffed at Michael, decided he had no food, and followed.
Michael had no time to waste. At least it was Lincoln he'd run into—the one who'd have the least amount of questions—and that Frances woman was apparently nowhere to be found. He had to talk to Rose again.
Michael was very glad the hospital was so close, as David was not home to take him in the carriage. When he arrived, Rose was awake, and she had obviously been waiting for him.
"I got the note, but I'm still relieved you're back so soon. I can't help but worry, just a little."
"I know. It's all right. Are you feeling better?"
"Yes, thank you. I had a nice nap."
"I'm glad. Now, there is something I'd like to talk to you about. I apologize, but while I was at the apartment, I went in your room. I found this."
He pulled the folded page from his pocket, opened it up, and held it out. "Why do you have this, Rose? There is only one reason I can think of why you would. I'm hoping I'm wrong. Will you explain it to me, please?"
One glimpse of the headline and Rose went white as a sheet. She turned away and refused to look at her father, or to take the piece of paper—already heavily creased from all the handling—from his hand.
"Rose? Sweetheart, you're shaking."
Rose wrapped her arms tightly around her body, as if sealing herself in a protective cocoon. She rocked back and forth ever so slowly.
"This is why your mother believes you are dead." It was a statement more than a question. "You were on the Titanic, you somehow got separated from her during the sinking, and saw an opportunity to escape, to start over."
She still said nothing.
"Oh, Rosie, I'm so sorry. How traumatic for you!" Michael pulled a chair beside her bed and took her hands in his. She was trembling something awful now, and her wide blue eyes stared at something he couldn't see. "Rose, can you hear me?"
There was screaming all around her, screaming and splashing and she was so, so cold.
"It's so cold, Jack," she whimpered. "I can't feel my body."
"Jack? Who is Jack?" That name again, just another missing piece of the puzzle. There were so many layers to this mystery. Michael shook his daughter gently. "Rosie? Can you hear me? Please answer me!"