Written by Lazy Chestnut
Based on some situations originated by James Cameron.
Rose couldn’t sleep, something that was very common nowadays. She often awoke at odd hours in the night or in the wee hours of the morning, as restless as if she had just been running around. Oftentimes, she awoke because of the nightmares. She hated those nightmares, the ones where she was wading furiously through the freezing water that was seeping into the corridors, weighed down impossibly by her dress and Cal’s enormous coat. The nightmares where tons of water shoved her against the metal gates and Jack fumbled for the key. The nightmares where she gripped onto the railing while hundreds of screaming people below her dropped. The nightmares where she was so cold in that water. The nightmares where Jack wouldn’t wake up. Sometimes, in her nightmares, she didn’t reach the whistle in time.
Rose often awoke in a cold sweat, no doubt due to the icy water in her dreams. Tonight, her red curls were somewhat matted to the sides of her face and her nightgown was sticking to the sweatier areas of her body. She had kicked off the sheets, and one of her pillows was hanging over the edge of the bed. A thin but bright beam of moonlight illuminated her left arm and part of the bed, displaying the pattern of the quilt that was neatly folded at the foot of the bed. The lamp by the bed had been shut off long ago; it was cold when Rose touched it. There was not a sound to be heard in the house; even the streets were silent, with only the occasional beep of a motorcar somewhere in the distance. Rose was staying in a quieter neighborhood full of families, very few of whom even owned cars.
Rose kicked off the sheets completely and slid out of bed, stretching and sighing as she did so. She found the matches in her nightstand easily; the moon was so bright that she could see quite well. She lit the small, drippy candle on the dresser, bathing the simple room in a faint light. Rose picked up the hairbrush and ran it through her hair, languishing in the smooth and rich feel of the bristles. When her hair had been brushed to her satisfaction, she wrapped herself up in the dressing gown Dorothy Calvert had given to her and pulled on the boots that a neighbor girl had generously donated. After creeping stealthily down the stairs, Rose slipped Cal’s coat out of the hall closet--she hadn’t wanted to depend on Cal, but his coat was, regrettably, extremely warm and comfortable--and then crept out of the house.
New York City had opened its arms to many of the Titanic survivors. Hotels, inns, boardinghouses, and even families had opened their establishments and homes for free, ushering in those who had nowhere to go. The YMCA and YWCA were filled to the brim; cots were strewn haphazardly--there had once been order, but that had gone down the drain as more and more of the needy came--about the place, making it nearly impossible to maneuver around them. Even some of the tramps and beggars had taken to the streets again so that the survivors might have a place to stay after all they had gone through. Or so Rose read in the papers.
Rose had physically recovered from the sinking, but mentally, she was a wreck. The stewards and even fellow passengers had worried about her on the Carpathia, afraid she might fling herself overboard. Dr. Frank McGee, the surgeon aboard the Carpathia, had referred the miserable girl to the hospital. He had even convinced a passenger, Miss Emily Davison, to accompany Rose. The doctors found nothing wrong with her, but they did suggest perhaps visiting a psychiatrist. Rose wasn’t going to do that, however; that meant money, something she no longer possessed. After Emily had left her, Rose had gone in search of a place to stay. Most of the places were already full. She was starting to give up and had plunked herself on a stoop when a pleasantly-plump woman with dull blonde hair swept into a messy bun had stopped before her. One thing led to another, and soon Rose was being taken into the Calvert home.
The Calverts were wonderful people. Jackson Calvert, the patriarch of the family, was in his fifties and a very warm and giving man. His wife, Dorothy, was nearly always baking something and worrying over someone for being too skinny or too pale or too tired. She had raised five sons and was chockfull of remedies and recipes for everything under the sun. James Calvert, called Jamie, was in his early twenties and a real card. His wife, Nadine, was shy but sweet. They had a son, Jimmy, who was only a baby and loved anyone who would hold him. Jackson Calvert the second, fondly referred to as Junior, was eighteen and studying to go to college. He was full of quixotic notions and always had his head in the clouds.
Joseph, called Joe, was thirteen and a handful. He was constantly and intentionally annoying his mother, but he could be charming when he made an effort. The only person who he didn’t bother was his nephew, Jimmy. The oldest boy, Jason, lived in Maine with a wife and two children of his own. There had been another boy, Joshua, but he had fallen off a roof and broken his neck when he was twelve while playing with his friends. His photograph hung on the wall beside the stairs; he had been a handsome boy, and probably would have grown into a dashing young man had he been given the chance.
The Calverts had welcomed Rose into their midst with no questions, save if she liked milk or orange juice with her breakfast. They had set up the guestroom that Jason and his wife, Shannon, took when they came to visit. They had scrambled around for clothes, because Shannon was so much smaller than Rose and Dorothy’s clothes were, in her words, much too old-fashioned and frumpy. The neighbors had gallantly pitched in to help Rose, and their kindness overwhelmed her. She was truly grateful to be a part of their household. But that didn’t stop her nightmares or her remorse over Jack. She had seen an ad in the paper the other day for a family from the Titanic frantically searching for their daughter, who had been lost in the sinking. The Titanic just didn’t seem to want to let go of Rose; she was forever being reminded of it.
As the door quietly shut behind her, Rose briskly stepped off the stoop and headed down the sidewalk, her feet making pleasant thumping noises against the pavement. She had traversed this path many times; walking always made her feel better after a dream. The streetlights flickered every now and then; the electricity was often neglected in this part of town. A few cats scampered into alleys as she approached, mewling in their quest for food. A few lights burned in some of the houses, but most of the neighbors were asleep. She turned at the next corner, looked both ways, and then crossed the street that led to the park. There were a few lovers here and there, walking dreamily in the shadows or entwined on a bench, but the park was generally empty.
Rose ambled down the path a ways, stopping when she saw a girl sitting on a bench. The girl was dressed in a simple cotton dress that was slightly dirty and a worn and faded cardigan that was also a bit dirty; it had seen better days. Her pale, pale blonde hair was pulled into two girlish pigtails with ribbons of white and the palest of pinks streaming down among her locks. Dirt was on her cheeks, but not much. In her arms was a dirty, raggedy doll with yellow yarn for hair and a flounced dress of powder blue with scraps of aged lace. The girl looked to be about thirteen or fourteen, not old enough to be wandering around in a park by herself. She was staring at nothing, but when Rose paused, the girl’s head turned to gaze at her. She had blue eyes and could have been pretty had she not looked quite so mournful.
"Hello," Rose ventured, clearing her throat.
The girl said nothing.
"Are you…alone?" Rose continued, taking a hesitant step forward. Was the girl sick? Perhaps she needed medical attention. Where were her parents? Did she even have parents? She had dirt on her, it was true, but she didn’t look bedraggled like most street children.
"Yes," the girl said simply. She had a ringing voice that gave Rose the shivers.
"Are you all right?"
The girl made no answer. After a moment, she spoke. "You haven’t found Jack yet."
Rose took an immediate step back, gaping. "How do you know about Jack?"
No answer. Just that stare.
"Who are you?" Rose asked loudly, clutching the coat.
"I won’t hurt you, Rose," the girl said calmly.
"Who are you?" Rose cried out in frustration.
The girl sighed and looked down at her doll. "It doesn’t matter. I can help you. But only if you trust me."
I trust you.
Rose shook her head, as if to clear it. "I don’t even know you. Who sent you here? Was it my mother? Cal, maybe?"
"Your mother and Cal don’t know about me," the girl answered. "I am here of my own free will. But time is running out. I have to leave before sunrise. Do you want to find Jack?"
Instinct encouraged Rose to keep asking questions until she found out more. Her heart got to her brain first.
The girl merely nodded. There was not a flicker of emotion across her face. Rose’s mind ticked furiously. She could have been a girl picked up off the streets by Cal or Ruth to find her. After all, Lovejoy had probably died in the sinking and couldn’t chase Rose for Cal anymore. No, not off the streets; the girl looked and sounded as if she had had a decent upbringing, or she was a marvelous actress. Rose could only imagine the amount of money Cal was paying her.
"You should come with me," the mysterious girl said.
"Where?" Rose asked warily.
"To Jack." The girl rose, her hair catching the moonlight as she did so. "He’s not far. Follow me."
"Let me walk beside you," Rose said suddenly. If this was a trap, the girl surely wouldn’t want to get caught in it, so if Rose was beside her, she would be safe.
"If you like." The girl shrugged. She set off down the path, her feet making not a sound. Rose fell into step beside her. The girl looked straight ahead, walking, walking. She led them out of the park and down the street, down, down the blocks. Rose tried to catch her hand once or twice, she wasn’t sure why, but all she ever caught was a whiff of cool air. The girl did not want to be touched. Rose left it at that.
They kept walking quickly. Rose lost track of her surroundings; it was all a blur of signs and buildings. They were at Feldman’s before she knew it; they had walked an impossible distance in that short amount of time. Rose shook her head; perhaps she was more tired than she thought. The sky was getting lighter; the sun would rise soon. The girl had said she had to leave by then. This was a trap. They stopped suddenly in front of a small, two-story house that was painted red. The girl stared at it. She seemed to do a lot of that. It occurred to Rose that perhaps the girl was mentally unstable. The thought made her shudder.
Rose narrowed her eyes. "All right. Where’s Cal? Inside? Is he waiting to grab me in there? How much did he pay you?"
"Cal isn’t here," she said simply. "He’s never seen me before. If you want Jack, go knock on the door. Someone will answer. I have to leave you here."
"I knew it," Rose muttered.
The girl turned to her fully. "Can you live with it, Rose? Can you live the rest of your life knowing that you could have found Jack, but you turned away from him? Jack always takes leaps of faith. So should you. He didn’t win those tickets for nothing, Rose. Don’t throw away all that has happened between you."
Rose felt as if a stunning blow had been delivered to her heart. The girl, traitor though she may be, was right. Rose would never, ever turn away the possibility that Jack had survived. Yes, she had seen him sink below her…but there was always a chance. After all, hadn’t they said that the Titanic was unsinkable? That had quickly been disproved. Rose turned to look at the house. The sky was lightening up further; the sun was close to rising. She turned, but the girl was gone. She looked around; no sign of her.
There were two things that could happen; it was a trap, or the girl was right. Or the girl really was crazy and the inhabitants of the building would kick Rose out.
Rose took a deep breath and walked across the street. A paperboy whizzed by on his bicycle, the newspapers thumping onto stoops and against doors. She lifted her hand and knocked on the door. It wasn’t for a few moments that she heard someone moving around inside. A moment later, the door opened to reveal a woman in her thirties. Black hair hung in a loose braid over one shoulder and she wore a blue dressing gown. Her tired face wore an expression of surprise. Rose suddenly realized how strange she must have looked; she was in a nightgown, dressing robe, a man’s heavy coat, her hair was loose like a harlot, she was wearing boots, and she was flushed from the walk. She gave a nervous laugh.
"I…I’m sorry, I realize how…strange this must sound, but…um…I was wondering…is Jack here?"
The woman’s expression of surprise grew. "I…well, yes."
Rose nearly fainted. "O-oh?"
The woman nodded slowly, her eyes never leaving Rose. "Do you know him?"
"Yes," Rose answered, her voice breaking.
The woman glanced outside before stepping aside and pulling the door open wider. "Come inside, dear; there’s a bit of a chill out."
Rose obliged, stepping into the foyer. Her heart began to race; Jack was here. He was here.
"We took him in after the sinking," the woman continued, closing the door. "My niece, Eloise, is a nurse, and she came home one day begging me to take in her patient. He had been partially paralyzed for a few days after the sinking; the water affected him terribly. He’s recovered now, but he’s…depressed."
"May I see him? Please?" Rose asked anxiously.
The woman nodded. "I’ll get him." She paused on the stairs and turned. "Are you Rose?"
Rose had to catch herself on the table. "Yes."
"God in heaven," the woman murmured. She headed up the stairs again.
Rose waited for less than five minutes. She heard movement upstairs, and then the patter of footsteps. A blond head she had never thought she would see again peered over the banister.
"Jack!" she cried, her voice breaking as she began to sob. Her vision blurred with tears; she heard him charging down the stairs. She wiped her eyes and flung herself into his arms, collapsing against him. "Jack!"
His lips were on hers again, and she was in heaven, pure heaven. She didn’t know how long they were standing there; it could have been hours or it could have been seconds. They were a mess of arms and embraces and kisses and tears and whispers and love. When they had finally recovered from the initial euphoria, Rose glanced at the woman who was beaming from the stairs. "Well, I expect you two will want to catch up now. Where are you staying, Rose?"
"With a family a few blocks down," Rose answered, still clinging to Jack.
"Come stay with us. There’s plenty of room to spare, and I like the company. Go bring her things here, Jack."
"Thank you, Rachel," Jack said softly, grinning at Rose. They almost went out the door.
"Put on your coat and shoes first!"
Jack obliged, hurriedly lacing up his shoes and sliding into his jacket before grabbing Rose’s hand again and heading out the door with her. They stopped at the stoop, kissed. They stopped every few paces to touch, to kiss. They wanted to be drunk, and they had to keep drinking in the other. They made confessions of love, admitting they were afraid the other had died. It was a whirl in their minds and they never wanted it to end.
"But how did you find me?" Jack finally asked. "I looked for you for ages, Rose. Nothing. I only ever got wind of Ruth DeWitt Bukater. Never you."
"I wanted it that way," Rose admitted. "I didn’t want them to find me. Mother and Cal, I mean. So, I changed my name. I…I told them I was Rose Dawson."
Jack gazed at her for a moment before kissing her hungrily. "You’re amazing," he murmured.
"But I couldn’t find you," Rose went on. "There are a thousand Jack Dawsons in New York, but none of them were you."
"I was in the hospital for awhile," Jack explained. "I couldn’t even remember who I was for awhile. It sort of came back to me, bit by bit. I wanted to get away from the press; they were hounding the other survivors. So, Ellie took me here, with her Aunt Rachel. But you still haven’t answered my question. How did you find me?"
Rose hesitated. "It’s…strange."
"I can take it," Jack promised.
Rose sighed. "It’s so absurd…I went outside to talk a walk this morning, early. There was a girl in the park, a little blonde girl. She unnerved me. I don’t even know her name. She just told me to come with her because she knew where you were. And she was right."
"Little girl? What did she look like?" Jack asked, frowning.
Rose thought for a moment. "She was a little bit dirty…she looked poor, but not homeless. She had blonde hair…it was in pigtails. She had these icy blue eyes that I could never look at. And she carried a doll."
"A doll?" Jack’s face was pale.
"Well, yes." Rose looked at him worriedly. "Jack? Are you all right?"
"This doll," Jack said, not seeming to hear her. "What did it look like?"
"Blue dress, yellow yarn for hair?" Jack asked hurriedly.
"Yes. Do you know her?"
Jack squeezed her hand. "God…Rose…I think you saw Ruthie."
"Ruthie? Who’s Ruthie?"
"She was my sister," Jack said quietly. Rose stared at him. He went on, "She was in the fire with my parents. She was fourteen. She…she used to carry that doll everywhere. It’s name was Annie. Ma tried to get it away from Ruthie, but Ruthie just wouldn’t have it. She used to hide it when she went to school so that Ma wouldn’t take it from her. She was…God, she would have died without that stupid thing." Jack half-smiled as he reminisced.
"But Jack," Rose protested. "Ruthie…Ruthie’s dead. That…Jack, this is absurd. How did she tell me where to find you?"
"Who else would it be?" Jack countered gently. "Rose, nobody else knows I’m here. I haven’t left the house. Ever. Ellie and Rachel don’t entertain a lot of people, especially not any little girls. It was her. I know it was her. She came…just for us."
"Her ghost?" Rose asked, her resolve weakening. Well, there was no other explanation…she nearly gasped. That hadn’t been dirt on Ruthie; that had been soot.
"I’m willing to go on a little faith here," Jack said firmly. "I know Ruthie, Rose. It was her. It was her."
Rose squeezed Jack’s hand and pulled him along to the Calverts’ home. Someday, she would have to find a way to thank Ruthie Dawson.