A/N: This is my first Titanic fic on this site, but not the first Titanic fic I've written. All my other ones are written in Hebrew and go back to 1997 when the film first came out. Watching the film yesterday and the 100th anniversary of the sinking today have inspired me to write this short piece. I hope you like it. Please review if you do.
The rain is pounding mercilessly down on the wooden deck. People who have up until now remained outside, unbothered by the light drizzle, in order to witness the arrival to the New York port, flee in shrieks and hurry inside to find shelter as the rain becomes heavier by the minute. It seems to be everywhere, coming from all sides, but the vessel remains oblivious to it as it plunges on to port.
The ship is not the only one who doesn't care much for the rain. There is a young woman on board, who remains on the deck even after everyone else seems to desert it. A steward approaches her, gently touches her shoulder, and pleads with her to come inside where it is warm and dry. She shakes her head, distracted. He shrugs and leaves her be, but cannot help looking after her with concern. She looks like she carries the entire world on her shoulders, and in a way, she does. Her coat, her clothes, even her undergarments, they're all soaked through. She feels none of it. She doesn't even seem to notice the chill that drives even more people inside. She just stands where she is in a trance-like state, and looks up as though waiting for the Statue of Liberty to acknowledge her.
She remembers the first time she has seen it, on a summer trip from Philadelphia to New York when she was twelve years old. It seems so long ago now, a far away memory from a different life. Her father was still alive, her mother was distant yet bearable, and at the tender age of twelve, she had no duties, no obligations. There was no talk of engagements and weddings, no need to maintain the family's fortune and reputation. She was free to live her life as she wished... to an extent.
She remembers standing on a ferry, looking at the lady with the torch raised high in her hand, listening to her father as he recounted the story of her arrival to America all the way from France. She has always enjoyed her father's stories. She remembers her mother rolling her eyes, chiding him for filling his daughter's mind with pointless nonesense. He didn't try to contradict his wife. Behind her back, father and daughter shared a secret smile. To them, there was nothing pointless about wanting to know more. It is something that lives on inside her, an unquenched yearning for knowledge. It seems to have intensified after her father's death. She cannot help the sigh that escapes her lips at the sudden realization she is all alone. Her father is long gone, and although her mother is somewhere on board as well, she does not plan on ever seeing her again.
She barely took notice of the statue when they left for England several months ago. She was too wrapped up in her own grief, the recent death of her father still fresh in her mind, to look up at what she had considered a true wonder only five years earlier. And now it's towering in front of her, and through the numbness, she's trying to search within her, looking for the childish awe she has felt upon first looking at it. Like a distant dream, she can almost hear her curious queries. How did she get here, Father? Doesn't she feel lonely, standing here for days and days all by herself? Does she ever get tired holding up that torch? It seems dreadfully heavy. And him, ever so patiently, answers each of her questions at length.
Perhaps if her father hasn't died, her future would have been different. She might not get engaged in the first place to a man she despises. She might not be forced to cross the Atlantic on a trip she has never cared about. She might not stand there on board of the Carpathia right now, with nothing but a torn dress and a sodden coat, wondering what the new day may bring.
But no; she doesn't mean that. Because if none of that would have happened, it would mean that Jack and their precious little time together on the Titanic would never have existed as well.
As she looks up at the enormous statue, she can't help but think of the irony of it all. In every way, the lady with the torch is a symbol for her life and her newly-found liberty. At long last, she has got her wish. She is free, truly and absolutely free. But instead of feeling overjoyed, she feels trapped. In what is supposed to be her moment of victory, she is broken and alone, so utterly alone.
The rain is getting worse, but it mixes so well with the tears she can feel running down her cheeks that she cannot tell which is which. It is a quiet sort of cry, but her whole body shakes with it all the same. It is long overdue, after long hours, days even, of holding back. No one is coming to rush her inside, but she doesn't mind it, because she doesn't want anyone to witness her breakdown. It's all rushing back now, and she knows it will be a long while before she can find the strenght to leave the sights and sounds behind. The memories are overpowering already, threaten to pull her under, and for a moment, the thought is tempting. She holds on to the railing as though her life depends on it, and in a way, it does.
Her eyes fall on the dark, menacing depths, and a single word escapes from her lips. But even as she utters his name she knows it's futile. After what has started as the best night of her life and ended up as the worst, she has finally made it to safety, in more ways than one, whereas the ocean has claimed the only thing she has wished she could salvage. Now, a few days later, she is slowly coming to terms with the most devastating realization of all. Jack isn't coming back.
As her crying abates, she is reminded of her last promise to him, and struggles to compose herself. In the distance, it is almost possible to make out the twinkling lights of the city beyond the rain and mist. Almost there, she tells herself. She is terrified, of course, but now she's more determined than ever to make good on her promise. She knows she will be able to get by. As though to make sure, she is reaching once more inside her coat pocket. Sure enough, the money she has found tucked inside soon after boarding the Carpathia was still there. A chill runs through her as her fingers brush against the diamond. She doesn't let them linger. In her current condition, the necklace is more of a blessing than a curse, but if she is truly honest with herself, all she really wants is hurl the dreadful thing into the ocean, as far as her hand can reach.
In the short time since leaving home, her life has changed so much, but it has also come a full circle. When she and her mother left America, she was a girl mourning her father, uncertain of her future. Now, on board of this ship of widows, holding on to a new name and a new identity, she is a woman mourning the loss of a man who has become her everything in such a short time. Like the girl she has been all these months ago, she is still uncertain of her future, but with one exception. Now she has a promise to keep.
It is so strange. If she closes her eyes, she can almost see him. She doesn't want to remember him like she has last seen him, before she has lost him forever. In her mind his eyes are still filled with youth and fire. His laughter still makes her want to smile. And his voice still makes her believe she can do anything, be anything, if she has so wished.
You're going to be alright, she pretends to hear him say to her. I believe in you.
She opens her eyes. His image is slowly fading, but not forgotten. Never that.
And she will be alright. She has made him a promise. She will never let go.
She feels drained. It has been days since she has had a proper rest. She is afraid to close her eyes. Every time she does, she falls into a continuous nightmare. It is hardly comforting to know she isn't the only one who does. Nonetheless, she knows she must rest; she must regain her strength. They will arrive in New York shortly. She will need all the strength she can muster.
She glances at the marble lady one more time before she turns away and makes her way inside. They are alike, she and her. One stands for liberty, the other is just coming to terms with it. And like the statue, she feels frozen, as though her heart will never recover again. She assumes that it will, someday. The wounds will turn into scars and the scars will eventually heal, but for the time being, all she can do is hope this will be the case.
As she goes inside, she is surprised to feel a smile slowly curling on her lips. It feels like she hasn't smiled for days. His assertion rings clear and true in her mind. She's going to be alright. Of course she will. She is free.