Home » Mesmerizing Stars

Mesmerizing Stars

by Sara Wiley

Lori was itching to escape her cramped second class cabin. The longer she stayed the more it felt like there was an iron collar tightening around her neck. It wasn’t that she was ungrateful, the room was nice — a lot nicer than the moth-ball scented room she had shared with her sister at their grandmother’s for the last month — but the pull of the open sky and sea was unrelenting.

“Mother, please, just for a little while?”

“At this ungodly hour?” Her mother said as she tucked Lizzy, Lori’s seven year old sister, into the bed above hers. “I swear you have spent the whole trip on the deck so far, Lori! Honestly, you’re nineteen now. Stop acting like a child!”

Lori rolled her eyes. This wasn’t something she had not heard from her before. “It’s just for a little while. Just for half an hour.”

“Let her go up, dear. You know the lass will just sneak out anyway after we’ve all gon’ta bed,” said Lori’s father.

As a captain, he understood her restlessness. Not of a luxury liner like this one, but of a fishing ship, which looked like a toy boat compared to the Titanic. He knew how hard it was to resist the call of the sea. It was a feeling akin to severing off a limb.

Her mother sighed in defeat. “Fine, but take your coat. It’s freezing outside.”

Lori flew up the second-class grand staircase, taking two, sometimes even three steps at a time. It wasn’t as fantastic or ornate as the first class grand-staircase that was the crown jewel of the ship; a majestic and magnificent make of master craftsmanship of polished mahogany walls and railings, intricate wrought iron banisters with gold embellishments, marble floors, topped with a glass dome, that went from A deck to E deck.

Not that second class was anything to complain about. Actually, the second class on the Titanic was equal to first on any other ship, far nicer than anything her family could usually afford. So far it had been a wonderful treat.

In any case, Lori couldn’t seem to reach the deck soon enough. The frozen mid-Atlantic air smacked her in the face when she pushed open the metal door to the deck. She took a few steps forward, tipped her head back and gave a small gasp of awe.

“So many stars!”

She had never seen so many before! Millions glittered in the sky like sequins on a deep navy satin dress. Lori let out a little laugh as she raised her arms above her head and did a twirl that sent her hair, skirt, and unbutton wool coat swirling.

“Lorelei! That is no way for a young lady to behave!” She could practically hear her mother scolding her.

Lady, schmady! So what if she was 19 and had moments where she acted like she was nine? Life was about looking for the wonder in everything. Children were still able to see magic. Adults only saw the grim and colorless, forgetting even the most treasured things.

She came to a stop and glanced up and down the promenade at a few distant black figures of the crew and other passengers who were like her, and were undeterred by the cold night. An arctic breeze blew through her and Lori’s hands instantly flew to the buttons of her coat. Thankfully, she had not changed into her nightgown and still wore her heavy forest green skirts. Her delicate lace blouse was another story, but the thickness of her wool coat warded most of the cold off. Her cheeks were flushed as she started walking towards the bow.

She had forgotten her gloves back in the cabin, but instead of going all the way back for them she made due with sticking her hands deep into the pockets of her coat.

The night was blistering cold, and the rapping of the hard soles of her worn boots against the deck echoed in the chill. She walked alone for a while until she crossed paths with a member of the crew.

“Do you need to get back inside, miss?”

“No. I’m just out for a late night stroll.”

“Are you sure? It’s cold tonight.”

She realized it wasn’t nearly this cold the other day, or the days before since they boarded the ship in Queenstown. The temperature had just inexplicably dropped to a mid-winter chill last night and had yet to warm up. Her father had mentioned something about the Labrador Current to their table-mates at dinner tonight, but Lori was too busy tuning out her mother’s fussing to remember his explanation. She offered a little disengaging laugh. “I’m all right. I’m not going to stay out for too long—don’t want to turn into an ice statue.”

“How about I bring you a hot cup of tea then,” the steward offered as he motioned to her hand. It was turning red in the cold and she could already tell she had lost feeling in her fingertips. “It’ll keep your hands warm.”

“You know, that sounds like a good idea.”

“Then I’ll be right back.” He nodded and walked off.

“I’ll just be walking a bit father down,” she called after him.

An elderly first class couple strolling by gave her a look.

“A lady does not yell.” Another one of her mother’s endless rules.

It didn’t help that Lori was more than likely not supposed to be on this part of the ship. Like the first class grand staircase, there were parts of the deck that were reserved strictly for the well to do, just like there were parts only for second and third class passengers. It was forbidden for passengers from different classes to mingle, the reasons behind which slipped Lori’s grasp. Heaven forbid she or, even worse, some third class rift-raff, tarnished the high-gloss finish of the pampered privileged with their presence.

She knew there was a first class promenade, just like there was one for second class, but as for the boat deck, she wasn’t quite sure where the class boundaries were. As far as she knew she had just as much right to be there as anyone else. Besides, it was so late at night, and so cold, that the rules could be bent a little. She was just walking around, no harm in that.

The second class promenade didn’t open up to the sky either.

With her argument firmly cemented in steel, Lori continued down the deck towards the bow in the opposite direction of the elderly couple. She drifted over to the side and rested her hands against the icy banister as she gazed out the ocean. She had never seen anything like it; the water was completely flat, like a sheet of flawless black glass. It was so calm that every light in the sky reflected on the surface, making it look like the ship was gliding through a sea of stars. The only other light on the water were the mellow yellow blots made by the ship, like the reflections of several artificial moons.

“It’s quite a sight, isn’t it?”

Lori looked to her right to see the steward standing there with a painted tea cup and saucer, both stamped with the red flag logo of the White Star Line.

“Your tea, miss.”

Lori turned away from the black water, took the tea from him, and felt her frozen fingers leach away the heat from the warm surface of the china.

“ Thank you, umm…”

“Beckett, miss.” He tipped of his hat. “ Ryan Beckett.”

Lori took this chance to get a good look at him. He was young—probably a few years older than she, no older than twenty-four at most. There was some stubble along his chin, hinting he hadn’t shaved this morning, but it gave him just enough of that rugged look she admired, and his eyes were gray, a few shades lighter than the thick wool scarf around his neck. The tip of his nose was pink from the cold, adding to his charming grin, and she noticed a faint scar at the corner of his right eye. She switched to holding the saucer in one hand and held out the other.

“Lorelei Hawthorne, but everyone calls me Lori.”

Ryan took her hand and something must have shown on her face because he reached into his pocket and pulled out an extra pair of gloves, which he offered to her.

“Here, I figured your hands would also be grateful for these.”

She could tell they would be too big, but the gesture touched her.

“Oh, umm…thank you. I left mine back in the cabin. I’ll give these back to you as soon as I head inside.”

She took a sip of tea to keep herself from rambling. The hot water  burned her tongue. She placed the china down on the railing before taking the gloves and slipping them onto her hands.

“Do you mind if join you for a while?”

With a smirk, he leaned in and whispered, “Just between us, it’s as entertaining as a graveyard up here.”

“Isn’t that why it’s called “the graveyard shift?”

Lori looked up at him over the rim of her cup and replied with a grin of her own.

“Won’t you get in trouble?”

There was devious glint in his eye as Ryan stood straight and folded his hands behind his back as he put on the air of a professional steward.

“Well, it is my job to help the passengers on this ship. I can help show you around the deck if you want, Miss Hawthorne.”

“Lori.” She insisted and made a face. “ You can call me Lori. I don’t mind. Miss Hawthorne or Lorelei makes it sound like I’m in trouble with my mother.” The tea cup clacked clumsily against the saucer (thanks to the gloves).

Ryan’s crooked smile titled father up on one side as he nodded.

“Miss Lori, then.”

He offered his arm, but remembered who they were to each other on the ship. Instead he gestured for her to lead the way.

“After you.”

Lori smiled and gave a playful curtsy.

“Thank-you.”

They walked sided by side for a while as Lori asked a few questions about the ship.

“You have quite an interest in nautical things, don’t you?” Ryan chuckled after she asked him a series of questions about the engine rooms in the belly of the ship—decks and decks below.

“Well, my father is a captain, so I’ve been around ships for as long as I can remember. I guess you can say it’s in my blood. Or, I could be the reincarnation of Grace O’Malley—you never know.”

“Ireland’s Pirate Queen, eh?”

“I’m Irish,” Lori declared. “In fact, we’re returning from visiting my grandmother.”

“Ahh, so, You’re an Irish-American.”

“Okay, you caught me, but my father really is Irish. He was born in Donegal. But I suppose we’re all the same to you British.” She said the word with the same sour inflection she had heard her gram and her mother’s father spit out, like it was a horrid drop of medicine on the tongue.

Ryan chuckled, understanding her jab was in good humor.

“Well, I’m not British.” At her surprised look he added, “Da’s from Wales, Mum’s from Scotland. But since I was born in Cornwell—and it doesn’t make a difference to King George—maybe you should watch out.”

He waggled his thick dark eyebrows at her and Lori had to laugh, only to stop after she realized how it echoed along the empty deck. The warm glow from the windows was starting to look inviting. Lori had practically lost all feeling in her face.

“So,” Ryan drawled, “Miss Lori, exactly where are you returning to? New York?”

“Philadelphia. We’re taking a train from New York after we leave the ship.”

“And are you traveling alone, or are you with your family?”

“Oh, my family. Like I said, we’re coming back from visiting my grandmother. It’s just my mother, father, and my younger brother and sister.”

“Only three of you then? I’m going to take a wild guess and say you’re the oldest?

“Close. I’m the oldest girl. Connor, my twin brother, has that right—but only by a few minutes. He wasn’t able to join us on this trip. He works for a publishing company back home and he couldn’t time get off.”

By now they were nearing the end of the deck, where it turned into the ship’s bridge—Lori was positive that even with Ryan accompanying her she wouldn’t be allowed there. Another crew member in an exact copy of Ryan’s heavy black wool coat with brass buttons strode out of the wheel house and stood at the helm, gazing towards the bow. Beyond there was nothing. There was no end to the world. No light except for the shimmering cold stars high above their heads.

Ryan was watching Lori’s wistful expression with an amused look.

“It’s lonely looking, ain’t it? Like there isn’t anyone else in the world.”

Lori’s gaze lingered on the glassy endless ocean of nothingness that the ship was slicing through, like a black knife through blacker satin. She felt weightless and detached from the world, yet there was a small taste of uneasiness at the back of her throat. Something that told her that there were unseen dangers lurking in the darkness.

The water was unnaturally still. Like the moment before a monster sprang up and devoured its unsuspecting prey.

Her gaze flicked up and once again she was entranced by the ocean of stars hanging above them.

“I’ve never seen so many… The stars, I mean. I’ve never seen them this bright.”

A feminine ring of laughter caught her attention. She leaned over the railing to see six young third-class passengers horsing around on the deck below. Lori watched a young red-head woman in a thread-bear coat, who couldn’t have been much older than herself, leap onto the back of a dark haired young man with a playful shriek. Lori couldn’t quite make out the man’s face, but she heard his deep laugh as he swung his lover around.

The ship of dreams, Lori mused to herself. This ship was full of passengers who had dreams; whether the rich who were living the dream, or who were dreaming of something money could not buy, or people like the couple below who had packed up all their possessions and were chasing a better life. Finding love, finding happiness, acceptance, yourself—this ship was ferrying all sorts of dreams across the ocean.

“And what would your dream be then, Miss Lori?”

Lori started and looked at Ryan, not realizing she had been speaking out loud. She could feel her cheeks turn red as she stuttered.

“I, I…I’m not quite sure…”

“Oh, come on now. Like you said, everyone has a dream. What dream of yours is sailin’ on this ship?”

“I…It’s ridiculous. Boring, I promise you.”

“I doubt that. A smart lass like you wouldn’t have a boring thought in her head.”

Lori chuckled as she brushed a stray strand of hair behind her ears and gave her own charming smile in return. She couldn’t even feel her face.

“Why, Mr. Beckett, if I didn’t know any better I would think you were flirting with me.”

She would have to have been blind to miss the light that that flared up in his eyes, but she would never hear his reply because the moment he opened his mouth the sharp sound of a bell ringing cut through the air.

Ryan, who knew all the language of the Titanic, eyes went large as he his head snapped sharply toward the bow, to the crows nest—the source of the calamity. And Lori, who knew the way of ships from her father, felt her heart stop as the bell kept clanging through the night and a telephone began to shrill inside the cabin. There was a thundering sound of hard soul boots on wood as two panicked officers burst out of the cabin and ran to the banister. They didn’t even pause to reprimand Lori for being in a restricted area as they stared out past the bow. One of them cursed and ran back to the cabin door.

“Keep it hard to starboard!” The officer’s command was instantly followed by a loud cacophony of more ringing from within the cabin.

Lori followed their line of sight and squinted out into the darkness, and for a few moments she didn’t see anything.

Then, like a great black beast rising from the depths, a chuck of solid darkness, blacker than night, loomed ahead of them. Lori’s heart froze. The tea cup and saucer dropped from her hand, and shattered on the ground as the night pulled back like to reveal a mountain out of a nightmare.

An iceberg directly in Titanic’s path.

It was the largest thing she had ever seen. It towered over the ship, and the bow was heading straight for a collision.

“Is it hard over?” Another officer’s voice, faintly strained, called back from inside the bridge. “It is sir, it’s hard over!”

Hard over. Lori’s numb mind reminded her that meant that the wheel was as far over as it could go, it would not be able to turn anymore. More clanging rang out from the cabin as the turnstiles returned with the replies from the engine room below. Dozens of crew members were trying to get a titan to stop dead in its tracks.

They could only watch as the iceberg slowly loomed closer. Time seemed to slow to a agonizing crawl as Lori’s pulse hammered in her ears and her throat tightened with panic. Turning. Why isn’t it turning? She wanted to yell, but all she could do was stare in horror, unable to look away.

“Come on… come on…” Ryan muttered like a prayer.

Then, ever so slowly, the tip of the bow veered away from the ice.

But it was too late. Seconds before the inevitable, she would later remember someone yelling, “ It’s going to hit!”

Lori gasped in horror as the bow dove into the side and shredded off huge chucks of ice that rained onto the deck below, sending people scattering. The entire ship shuttered under her boots, the vibration resonating up her legs as the iceberg scrapped against the ship with a teeth-jarring screech.

“Hard to port!”

The officers shout managed to snap Lori and Ryan out of their daze in time to watch the wall of ice drift by them. It was so close Lori could feel the cold lick her bones and she could practically reach out and touch the surface. She and Ryan could only turn and watch as it passed farther down the side of the ship. Lori stood there in a cold daze. She couldn’t feel her body as her mind tried to process what was going on. Did that really just happen? Had Titanic, the unsinkable ship, just gazed a iceberg?

“-ori! Lori! Lorelei!”

She was jolted back into her body when Ryan grasped her upper arms and shook her. She looked at him, peering past curls of her hair that had fallen across her face, frightened. Lori blinked up at him.

“Wh…what,” she croaked.

“You said you were traveling with your family, right?”

Ryan spoke calmly, trying to coax her out of her stunned state.

Lori nodded and said, “Yes.”

She grabbed onto his words like they were a lifeline and pulled herself back to reality.

“Listen to me, carefully. Go back to your room and wake your family. You said your father is a captain, right? He’ll know what to do. Wake them, dress warmly, and come back up on deck.”

Again Lori blinked dumbly at him.

“Back up on deck? But why?”

She knew that no matter what happened, her mother would rather die than stand outside in the middle of the freezing night. And that wasn’t even adding Rowan and Lizzie to the problem. Lori caught Ryan’s gaze flick to the covered lifeboat to their left and realized what he meant.

“But this ship is unsinkable!”

“Lori, you known about boats. You saw us hit that iceberg.”

He was right. She had always thought claiming that ‘God-himself’ couldn’t sink a ship was a arrogant boast to begin with, but it was a safety blanket shielding her from a horrible truth. Finally, she could think clearly.

“It’s too soon to know how much damage was done. The officers, captain, and contractor have to asses the damage first and then they make a-”

“Miss Hawthorne, please!”

The formality was like spray of ocean water to the face. It reminded her they were not a young couple. They weren’t even friends. She was a passenger on the ship and Ryan was steward whose job it was to make her trip as comfortable and safe as possible. He had more authority here.

As if he realized that himself, he dropped his hands and slipped on a mask. No longer the young man she had just been walking the deck with a short while ago, laughing and talking about idle things, flirting—all of that seemed so distant now. Like it happened days ago. He wasn’t even a young man she would have interest in back on land. They were strangers who happened to meet on a ship.

“It’s just a precaution.If and when they do make a-”

“You!”

Both of them jumped as the same officer who had stood beside them and watched the unthinkable happen stormed back out of the bridge and spoke to Ryan.

“I want you to wake Mr. Anderson and bring him on the bridge. Tell him it’s an emergency. Orders from the captain himself.”

Ryan’s response was automatic. “Yes, sir.”

The officer paused and seemed to have finally noticed Lori standing there.

“What are you doing here?” He asked a little more harshly than what would be socially acceptable when talking to a lady. He then seemed to catch himself and tried to back pedal, or maybe he saw how pale she was and realized she had seen everything as well. “I’m afraid this a restricted area, ma’am. Passengers are not allowed up here.”

His voice took on that fake soothing tone she had come to know when someone wanted to make things seem like they weren’t as bad as they really were. That alone annoyed her more than the fact that he was talking to her like she was an oblivious child, like most adults did. He glanced at Ryan with a silent look that stated he should escort the lady back to her cabin.

Ryan reached out and touched her elbow, but Lori shook him off with a quick jolt of her arm before he could steer her away. She stared at the officer for a moment longer, looking for the cracks of anxiety in his mask around his eyes and mouth. She bristled with frustration at him, at Ryan, at the entire situation. She wanted to reach out and grab the lapels of the officer’s coat and shake him until he said what he and everyone else who were on deck five minutes ago feared, but we’re too afraid to voice. Too afraid that saying it would make it real and would rather live in false hope for just a few more moments.

Instead, she plastered on her own mask of a docile, properly-raised young lady.

“Of course, Officer.”

The words rolled around like hot, barbed metals marbles in her mouth. Without a word to Ryan, she started down the deck, fighting the urge tugging at her to break out into a run and bolt for the nearest door.

She was so focused that she didn’t realize there was a second set of steps echoing alongside hers.

Somehow in that short period of time she had managed to recognize the sound of Ryan’s walk. A loud sharp whistling sound pierced the quiet and Lori jumped. Her head snapped to see steam forced out the tops of the four giant funnels that crowned Titanic. The steam was so thick it blocked out sections of stars.

They killed the boilers? That could only mean one thing. Lori’s gut dropped like a rock into the icy black water of the Atlantic below.

“Go!”

Ryan was leaning into her ear. He was talking quickly.

“Use the next doors on you right, make a sharp left and take the staircase all the way down. Then make another left when you get to the bottom. You’ll be in the second class area.”

She bolted down the stairwell, her heavy skirt constantly threatening to trip her as it tangled around her legs while she hurtled around so many corners her lost count. The hard soles of her leather boots rapped loudly against the wooden stairs as she raced past level after level and down.

She paused once to stop herself from slamming into a wall when she reached the landing for second class. She barreled down the white corridors. She didn’t run into anyone in the halls. Not a single soul was out. They were empty. No one was in the halls asking their neighbors or flagging down staff about the giant quake.

Lori practically threw herself against the door to her room and tumbled in, hitting the floor in a heap of tangled skirts, coat and hair, gasping for breath and shaking.

“Dear God! Lorelei Rachel Hawkins! What in heaven’s name are you-”

Her mother jumped from bed, startled from sleep, clasping her hand over her heart.

“D-deck.” Lori stammered as she tried to catch her breath.

Her mother blinked at her, perplexed. She sighed with a shake of her head.

“We have to get to the deck. Now!”

There was a soft mewling sound, and a second later Rowan’s head poked over the side of bunk bed above Lori’s. His green eyes blinked sleepily down at them.

“Mom, what’s going on?”

“It’s nothing sweetie. It’s just your sister.”

Her mom sighed as she pulled off her covers and got out of bed. She crossed over to her eldest daughter into two quick strides and reached down to grab her by the upper arm.

“Get off the floor. That’s not a place for a youn-”

“Will you listen to me for once,” Lori snapped.

Her mother recoiled like she had tried to bite her, and under any other circumstance she would have feared that look in her mother’s eyes.

The creaking of springs in the background followed by the solid thump of feet hitting the floor hinted that her father was up and debating if this was a safe moment to interrupt, or risk losing a body part courtesy of his wife’s fury.

“Lori, what’s goin’ on?”

Lori scrambled to her feet and reversed her mother’s grip.

“Mother, listen to me, please. We have to get to the deck. Get everyone dressed. We. Have. to. go.”

But instead of listening to her, her mother rolled her eyes in exasperation and looked to her husband, the only person who could usually control their daughter.

Lori looked around her mother to see her father perched on the end of the bed like he was about to get up but was frozen in time, feet on the ground and one hand braced against the wall by the head of the bed. His eyebrows were knit in concentration, his mouth was turned down. Lori knew that look.

“The engines have stopped,” he said.

He looked up and captured Lori’s gaze intently. His voice was calm but solid—his captain’s voice.

“Lori, what happened?”

She didn’t break her father’s gaze as she told him, “ The ship struck an iceberg. Starboard side.”

Her mother fell back with a gasp. Her father’s eyes widened and he shot to his feet as he reached into the bunk above him and jostled a bundle of blankets.

“Lizzy, get up.”

Her baby sister groaned out of sleep. Lori walked over and helped her down as Rowan tumbled out of his bed. Neither of her young siblings were even half awake. Lori hugged her sister protectively as the seven year old nuzzled sleepily into her waist.

“What’sa goin on?”

“Nothing.” Lori muttered softly, even though fear and pain clogged her throat.” We just have to go somewhere.”

It took ten minutes to get everyone ready. Just enough time to hastily throw on warm clothes and coats, grab a few blankets, a few priceless trinkets like her mother’s jewelry box that held small family heirlooms and pictures, for their father to remind them to grab the life jackets from top self of the closet, and for Lizzy to scream that she forgot Aislinn, the doll Grams had just given her, and then run back for it. By the time Lori’s father was leading them down the hall stewards were already knocking on cabin doors and telling people to get up, get dressed, and head up to the deck.

Lori held Lizzy’s hand. Her father placed a hand on her shoulder as he ushered them up the main second-class stairwell. Her mother was quiet, the way Lori knew she got when she was worried.

“In a couple of minutes they’ll have this way sealed off until all the first class passengers are taken care of.”

The deck was almost as empty as when Lori had left it. The only difference was about a dozen of crew members scurrying along the promenade uncovering lifeboats and preparing them for launch.

“Where is everyone?” Rowan asked. He was holding the pile of blankets their mother had handed him, the tips of his ears turning pink. Lori felt Lizzy press into her side again.

“It’s too cold,” Lizzy said.

Their father glanced back at the warm and inviting glow from the arch windows of the first class grand staircase. Lori could faintly hear the delicate music of a string band playing mixing with the idle chit-chat of the few upper class on deck. They didn’t seem to take any of the situation seriously. Lori’s father glanced around and lead them over to a place to wait until they started loading the life-boats.

It felt like ages until the order was given to start loading the boats, women and children first.

Lori gasped and turned to grab her father’s arm after he had handed Lizzy to her mother over the lip of the ship and into the tiny lifeboat.

“No. Da you-”

“I’ll be fine. I’ll get another boat.” Her father told her with a half-hearted smile.He reached up and tugged a lock of her hair, an affectionate gesture from when she was still able to perch on his shoulders. “Stay with your mother. Besides, you can show these sailors a thing or to about how to properly row this ding.”

But before Lori could open her mouth, his fingers, gentle but steel-like and calloused after a life time of working on ships, easily pried her thinner, weaker ones off his arm and curled them around something small and hard he slipped into her palm. He leaned down and kissed her brow, and muttered something in Irish.

“Mo Astor” My treasure.

Lori’s eyes were dry as he helped her into the boat. Her mother reached out for her as one hand tightened the blankets around Lizzy. Rowan perched stoically on the bench, putting on a brave face as he watched the officers work the rigging. The people around them in the lifeboat, who were mostly fine ladies and children of first class were idly chatting without a hint of distress in their lofty, scratching voices. She couldn’t believe they were fretting over being forced outside in this cold night for silly reasons, or that they hoped the maid would have tea and biscuits ready for when they returned their stuffy rooms.

“Is that all?” An officer called out.

He glanced around one more time before raising his arms and looking at the two men on either end of the boat who were waiting and holding on to the thick rope that fed into the two pulleys holding the lifeboat aloft. He looked like a conductor standing in front of an orchestra with his arms outstretched.

“All right, start lowering!”

The life boat lurched violently causing several to women scream. Lori braced herself against the rim of the boat. They were dangling in mid-air, over a hundred foot drop to the dark water below. Lori had never been sea-sick before in her life, but her stomach started doing sickening somersaults as the tiny boat swayed under her. Then something caught Lori’s attention. Something about the Titanic seemed off. As the upper half of her body leaned dangerously over the side, Lori stared and squinted hard at the jet black wall of steel that sliced down into the water. The water line should have been level, reaching the same height all the way around, but it wasn’t. Water was lapping at the underside of a porthole, and the one to the right of that was almost completely underwater, the yellow light from inside making small moons in the waves. Lori leaned up and looked down the rest of the ship—lead pooled in her gut as she realized the true extent of damage the iceberg had caused.

She slunk back in her seat, dumbstruck. She didn’t even flinch when Lizzy crawled into her lap, only moving to wrap her arms around her.

It was not a smooth descent; the life boat jostled, jolted, swayed, and bumped like a carriage going down unpaved and uneven country road as it was lowered down the ship’s side. Soon Lori was eye level with the square openings for the first class promenade.

“I’ll see you in New York,” her father called out to them.

Lori craned her head up to see him watching them. His voice was calm, but his knuckles were white where he griped the railing, and Lori could see the fear in his eyes. The liar.

For the next two hours, Lori watched as the Atlantic slowly devoured what was once the most luxurious ocean liner in the world. She didn’t blink as she watch the bow get pulled down, or the funnels collapse one by one. She didn’t even cry out as the stern of the ship lifted clean out the water, the three mammoth propellers exposed one last time for the world to see, and then as the ship tore like a rag down the middle, and the stern bob like a fishing lure before Poseidon sucked it down.

She was too far gone in shock to feel anything. They all were.

Too far gone to hear the screams of hundreds of souls left in the water yelling for someone, anyone to come back. Lori only dimly gazed over the empty half of the life boat and told herself she wasn’t hearing her father calling her mother’s name over and over again. He was captain, he had most likely gone down with the ship.

When the officer instructed them grab an oar, Lori, the only woman who probably knew how to actually row, instinctively reached out to take the long white rod —only to pause mid-reach when she realized her hand was still clenched around the tiny hard object her father had given her. Hesitantly, she uncurled her hand, finger by stiff finger, to reveal a band of gold, the twin to the one her mother wore on her left hand.

Without knowing why, Lori tilted her head back and looked to the sky. She had never seen so many stars. And she had never seen them this bright.

Philadelphia, October 1912

Lori sat at her vanity playing with the band of gold, watching as the inscription on the inside of the ring flashed in the mid-day autumn sunlight streaming in through the window. She sighed and placed it down on top of the too-big leather gloves resting on the polished oak. She remembered.


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