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And it was like the breath was being stolen from her. It was easy to push away, to ignore. When the seats were plush and you could recline, hair eagerly pushing behind your face as the wind made sure it stayed as such, you could forget that you were leaving. Leaving again, on a ship, somewhere far away; she knew where she was going. And yet, at length, she did not. She would rather be somewhere else. Tucked away inside her room where she could admire paintings, hide the ones she crafted so that her mother wouldn't dub them as improper. She'd rather slam her fingers onto the piano and make a ruckus without being told to be quiet, mind your manners. Did it really matter, though? The chains would lead her. They twinkled when she stepped outside of the car, the breeze now picking up. The smell of salt wafted through the air, and was that what was making her eyes sting? Because she was minding her manners, her eyes didn't sting. Had to look prim and proper, like a dainty little flower. With every. Single. Petal. Crushed. It was no matter. She pushed the brim of her hat away from her face. The locks of hair fluttered behind her, and she shoved her lower lip upwards and scrutinized the ship before them. It was large, spacious; it looked grand. Cal had talked about how much their suite cost; something like 870 pounds. It was stupid, to be paying so much to go on a damn four-day voyage. Was so fucking stupid. She rolled her shoulders, stuck her nose up. "It's not as big as the Mauretania. I don't see the big deal." Because it was stealing her.
Like God's fingertips, her smokestacks thrust against the sky, "touching" it even. Hard, black, her silouhette eclipsed the horizon--suddenly "obtainable", suddenly within sprinting distance. She could seize the skyline; he had no trouble believing that. It was people like "them", after all, that had made this possible. People with the "resources" and intellect to cross the Atlantic in just four days.He stepped from the car and tipped back the brim of his bowler hat, beholding the ocean liner with satisfaction. It blocked out even the sun, projecting onto the world instead, in dynamic, white lettering, "TITANIC".His smile fell at the voice that issued from his
side. "It's not as big as the Mauretania. I don't see the big deal." Oh, she was wearing that insufferable look again. He had noticed it in her reflection on the drive here, the way her bottom lip protruded , the way her nose lifted theatrically, as though she were merely sending a dish back to the kitchen, instead of a first class ocean liner. Temperamental thing. She was as stunning as the ship itself with her brunette hair tucked primly under her broad, "expensive-looking". But she had worn that sullen face for days now. He hoped it was something she would grow out of once they were wed. For now, he could only try to appease her. "You can be blasé about some things, Katherine, but not about Titanic." With his cane, he gestured grandly to the ship, as though the motion might sweep away her skepticism and reveal the wonder underneath. "It's over a hundred feet longer than the Mauretania and far more luxurious." With a definitive smirk in her direction, he said, "You'll be staying in a first class suite on the R.M.S. 'Titantic'. How you can be so nonchalant is a mystery to me."
It was not that the sight before her was not awe-inspiring. The way the sky could've gone on forever with the clouds and how they spiraled. Again and again, strewn like diamonds across a carpet. One that was a fond blue color that did not break like how the horizon did. The wind spiraled past her, licking her cheeks and forcing the hair that yearned to be free of the stupid butterfly clip. Cal was talking, but she sort of didn't hear it. 'You can be blase about some things..but not about Titanic. First class suite..' And he rambled on, and she was more and more disinterested with what he had to say. He was kind when he wanted to be, but wasn't very interesting to talk to. After all, she was the sheltered little rich girl who knew nothing about anything. But she knew the feel of a book in her hand, turning crisp pages with eagerness. She knew, and he thought she didn't. He thought a lot of things. That she loved him without end, that this marriage was a gift from the gods and that the voyage was as well. What a load of horse shit. Rolling her shoulders, she ushered herself forward and looked expectantly to him. "Sure, it's beautiful. Work of art. I hope the stateroom is airy enough, in any case…" Fucking taking her back to America in chains, why didn't he?
Up the gangplank, the path to heaven, they transcended the ratty driver's caps and skyward eyes. They transcended, like gods carried on green-dollared chariots, and not all the souls that milled about Southampton that day would follow. Most were earthbound, could only skim their eyes lustfully over its streamlined contours, shimmering with ethereal, watery reflection, and salivate over the prospect of a new beginning.A few miles off, but in plain sight of the revelry, he was anything but earthbound. 11:07 Not even in this tavern, where the smoke hung low and acrid, washing the walls and the teeth of every patron yellow. His cigarette, he rolled it carefully in his teeth--not "too" carefully, that would be overdoing it. The trick was to look fleetingly nervous, like the fan of cards you clutched in your hands wore individual glares, instead of hearts and spades and clubs. He blew a stream of smoke, then inhaled again, so he was just recycling bad air, really. Peered with guarded interest beneath the blond shocks of hair that skimmed his brow. The faces around him peered with similar interest, proper distrust. 11:07 To his side, Leuther's poker face was crumbling in places; that was the bad thing-and good thing--about Leuther. Easy to tell what he was thinking. He caught a sliver of anxiety in the confidence that usually shone in his companion's green eyes. So, repositioning the cigarette in his mouth and hoping he was in the good graces of the universe today, he said, "Moment of truth. Who's going to New York and who's staying in Southampton?" He looked to his side. "Leuther?"
A blank stare was all that the cards received. A long, staring one that was so characteristic of him when he couldn't tear his concentration away from whatever was claiming him at the moment. And at the moment, as the smoke swirled about him and he inhaled deeply -- he wasn't really doing too well with the cards he had on him. Fucking money. Fuck being poor in these ratty ass suspenders that barely kept his pants up; it drove him insane. Now all of his coins were on the table and so was his sanity. Leuther shoved his lower lip under his teeth and stared pointedly at the cards. He then proceeded to flop them downwards onto the table, grunting. "I guess I'm staying in fucking Southampton." Glowering, growling, it was emanating from below his throat. Even as the sun trickled inwards from the windows and danced like a carousel on the countertop. Spinning around and around.
The russian men across from them grinned. The whistle blew. He puffed smoke out of his mouth in plumes. "I fold. I guess we're leaving now, Heiderich? My fucking money…"
With an uncharacteristic sneer, Leuther let the cards plummet to the scuffed table. Alfons eyed them with little surprise; a bad hand, just as his face had foretold. "I guess I'm staying in fucking Southampton," he said.He spared his companion a brief glance, took a drag from the cigarette, and turned his eyes to the Russians hunkered across from them. He tapped the ashes into the makeshift tray and prompted, "Olaf?" The Russian revealed his cards: nothing to be grinning about. It looked like Leuther would have company in Southampton, at least. 4:26 That left just one more person; Sven, with his thinning hair and his tobacco smirk. He lowered his cards, not too smug but not exactly crestfallen. "Mm," Alfons made a noise of disappointment in his throat, "...two pair, huh?" "I fold. I guess we're leaving now, Heiderich?" Leuther spat, still extremely acerbic. "My fucking money..." "...Yeah. I think we're going to have to cut out," he agreed. Finally, he could contain it no longer. A grin burst around the cigarette, and he dumped the cards onto the table. Full house. "--cause we're going to America!"
With trembling hands, Leuther raised the cigarette to his lips -- shaky, shaky, inhaled and set it down. An uncharacteristic somberness settled across his face. More like a pouty look, as when a child didn't get what they wanted. Leuther didn't really want to share…not the money, no, no. He was half considering shoving himself over the table, grabbing the coins into his arms and leaping out of the bar with Alfons in tow. After all, they were stupid Russians; what the hell could they do, anyway? Hunching himself over, he shifted his eyes from side to side and prepared for the inevitable dashing away and cursing of his giddy little partner. "..Fons?" He started, staring at him. '..we're gonna have to cut out..' Readied himself to pounce and bolt on out of there-'Cause we're going to America!' Leuther switched his gaze to the table, and nearly had a heart attack. Full house.
"Holy shit! Fons, you beautiful man!" Jolting upwards, he grabbed him by the cheeks and kissed him on the forehead. The italian way to do it was best. "Si bell'uomo!" He was laughing, hard, snatching up all of the money on the table. "We're going to America!" "No, lads, Titanic is going to America!" A whistle. Leuther stopped. Stared, with saucer-eyes, as the Russian men fought behind them. He turned his head, flicking black hair, and one lunged -- grabbed him. "Ee--" …and then turned around to slam the other in the face, rambling off something in Russian. "--In five minutes!" "Come on, Heiderich!" Leuther started, picking himself up. "Let's go, let's go!"
All eyes descended. Alfons watched, twirling the cigarette victoriously between his teeth, as the Russian's exchanged expressions with Leuther. "Holy shit," he cried, "Fons, you beautiful man!" Alfons plucked the cigarette from his mouth, laughed through the cheeks Leuther had gathered around his lips. "Guess you're not staying in 'fucking' Southampton after all, huh?" Someone exited the tavern; the brackish air billowed in, stirring his spine, and he felt goosebumps rise up to meet the itchy fabric that covered his body. His companion lifted a joyous cry, "We're going to America!" 12:49 "No, lads, Titanic is going to America," the bartender indicated a shelved clock with a flick of his thumb, "in five minutes!" Alfons did not even spare the skirmish going on behind them a glance; instead, he looked to Leuther, whose eyes were bulging larger than his pockets. "Shit!" He yanked his bag from the tabletop, nearly scattering cards. "Come on, Heiderich! Let's go, let's go!" And as they burst out the door, to scale the gangplank not because they were "gods" but because the gods had favored them just once, Alfons gave him a rambunctious shove, "We're the two luckiest sons a'bitches in the world!"
Stateroom, Ballroom, Whatever**
The reflection in the mirror was not her own. When the brush idly combed through dark brunette tresses, she could see nothing of the sparkle in her eyes that once was. The hair slid about her shoulders, shined in the light that had never been turned on before then -- and she beheld herself with skepticism.
This wasn't her. Wasn't at all. Setting the brush down, she moved her fingers to her hair and combed it a little harder; she shook her head, allowing the hair to fall this way and that. It didn't have to be perfect, like everything about this little shitty life of hers. If you could call it one of those. And even with how the hair fell about her, how her eyes flickered and how the white dress sat upon her, it didn't feel right. The reflection did not move like she did. It did not think, did not breathe. She grabbed the butterfly clip from the desk and shoved herself from it, hurriedly poking the thing into her hair. Tensely, she abandoned her seat and -- rolling her shoulders -- re-appeared back in the stateroom. Trudy was doing something, milling about; still hanging up the paintings that she had insisted on bringing along. They were so gorgeous, with the color, the composition. Not so dull. As she rolled her shoulders some more, she smiled to the maid. "Miss, where would you like these?" "Over there, Trudy, right on that wall." "Are you going out with your mother and Mr. Hockley to the cafe?" A tense shudder, and she grimaced. "I guess so. Here--" And she moved forward as the sun poured in, flicking itself against the carpet, to help the maid. "No, miss--" "Come on, Trudy, these paintings aren't gonna hang themselves." She smiled, and it was not her own.
In the door frame, he watched them. Katherine's face was mainly obscured by canvases, but he would catch a flicker as she turned--a flicker of her brows, pinched sullenly, and her mouth drawn into a thin line.He had rather hoped the state room would impress her at least. Yet she cluttered the ornate molding, the mahogany fixtures with the amateur paintings of some impoverished artist. He had known rich women who had preferred a sort of "rustic" quality to their possessions, but never to the extreme in which Katherine pursued them. Cigarettes protruding from her mouth. 2:03 He watched them in this way, arm propped against the frame; he watched them circle around, again and again. Trudy was the name of their maid; Katherine always found it very necessary to aid her with tasks she could easily accomplish on her own. He wondered dimly if perhaps she did it to spite him, and he cleared his throat. "I don't see why you had to drag all these along with us," he said, "they take up entirely too much space." Then, striding into the room, he tipped a canvas toward
himself with a finger and wrinkled his nose in distaste. "Is this what they're calling art, now?"
Fascination gleaming in her eyes, she hoisted up the painting into the air in front of her -- beheld it. The canvas was heavy and splattered with acrylic, with shapes that didn't make sense and colors that clashed but came together so beautifully. She liked the way it looked; chaotic. Excitingly different. Eyelashes fluttering, she went to prop up the canvas onto the side of the room when a voice drifted in from the promenade deck. It carried easily on the sea air, but it wasn't so pleasant. 'I don't see why you had to drag all these along with us. They take up entirely too much space." She lifted her head, felt something stir in her chest. It was something like annoyance. Or whatever the fuck it was. She really didn't care. Forcing the sides of her mouth that knitted downward to stop trembling -suppressing a frown fucking sucked -- she shrugged, looking to him pointedly. "I think it's quite nice, really. Look -- the way the colors mesh. It doesn't make any sense, but it does at the same time." Trailing her fingers over it. Yeah, sounded like her life. She wished Cal wasn't talking to her. "Does it matter? They were cheap anyway, Cal." Here, she smiled at him. Suppressing this, suppressing that.
From the doorway, he watched her strategically besmirch the state room. Sometimes she would turn, canvas held out in front of her like a steering wheel, and he could see how her eyes were consumed with wonder. Meaningless flicks of a paintbrush could arrest her attention--yet he bought her the "Titanic", and he could not be spared even a glance.He plucked a smaller painting from the corner and glowered at it, trying to find an even remotely interesting detail in the turmoil of colors and shapes. 11:13 "I think it's quite nice, really," Katherine went on, stroking the painting still clutched in her hands, "Look--the way the colors mesh. It doesn't make any sense, but it does at the same time." "...Picasso," he read aloud from the scrawled signature. "He'll never amount to a thing." He turned for an instant as a porter entered the room, wheeling his safe on a cart, and told him to put it in the wardrobe. When he turned back, the maid was
speaking with Katherine. 11:13 "Doesn't it smell so brand new?" Carefully, she stooped to position a painting against the wall, then sprung back up with a small smile. "It's like they built it just for us. Tonight, when I crawl beneath the sheets, I'll be the first--" "And when I crawl between the sheets tonight," he broke in, eyes locked on Katherine with every bit of intent with which her eyes had beheld the paintings, "I'll still be the first."
It was hard to ignore Cal while he stood in the doorway -- looking at her, expecting something. She didn't particularly want to ignore him; in fact, she didn't at all. Not when he was around, anyway. As much as it numbed her and made her feel like a worn-down razor blade, he was gifting her with whatever he could. Perhaps trying to make her happy in the only way that he knew how, which confused her; happiness -- what the fuck was it? Was it being content with everything that was given to her? Shit, shit, she didn't know. So she lost herself in the painting, the way the colors slapped against each other and complimented and just 'were'. Wishing she could just be, she perked her head up when Trudy began to speak. About how the sheets were brand new, about how it felt like it was built just for them. With the twinkle in her eyes, she couldn't help but smile in her direction. The sheets had never been slept in. Ship of dreams. Set down the painting -- "And when I crawl between the sheets tonight, I'll still be the first." A moment to register. Crimson erupted across her face, and Trudy looked a little alarmed too. "S'cuse me, Miss," she muttered hurriedly and, after putting the painting she so adored in the proper position, scurried off. There was a silence when she gazed up at him from underneath her lashes. "..Cal," she started, feeling like something was stuck in her mouth. Like the consistency of pudding. Coughing, she collected herself, busying her hands with the paintings, again. "..Ah-the stateroom is so nice. I'm really glad we're here…" Even if she was trapped. Dear jesus.
Satisfied, he watched the maid hurry through the canvas labyrinth and out the door; that had been "one" of his intentions, at least. Katherine had this irksome habit of befriending the hired help, and they tended to linger around for much longer than required--"especially" Trudy.They were alone after that, and she looked out at him from beneath her eyelashes; he peered steadily back, thinking she "must" have known how coy it made her look. "...Cal," she said. His name dislodged him from the door way. He paced across the state room--the "nice" state room, she said, and she was so happy they were here. He did not point out the disparity between her words and her expression. Instead, he came up from behind and placed his hands upon her shoulders; she was "his". When he held her like this, he knew it."...The first and only," he said, "forever."
For as much as she could complain -- could hover about anxiously and waste her time away staring in a mirror -- there was something about him that arrested her attention when he was around. She didn't know it was just trying to over-compensate. He was nice enough to her; that was the only kind of love or whatever the fuck she'd known. Didn't know the difference, and that was even in the back of her mind when he approached her. Perhaps that what was so confusing. A discontented grunt threatened to roll up through her throat, but she pushed it away. Like everything else. So she continued to look at him shyly from under her lashes, and felt her shoulders roll when he placed his hands upon them. 'The first and only, forever.' The crimson in her face increased tenfold, and she turned around to duck her head into his shoulder, to hesitantly sling her arms around him. "Yeah. You will be," It was so confusing. Inside, she was screaming.
I See You**
As the bow gobbled up the skyline, the deck stretched lazily under the shadows of turning clouds. Rolled its planked, pale-yellow belly over for the murmuring steps of the rich, for the reckless gallops of the children."Henry," someone called, "don't run too close to that railing!" Alfons smiled.
8:50 This ship was divided; first class, third class. The wallpaper on the upper deck was probably inlaid with gold; he would never know, falling asleep under those industrial, naked pipes. But out here, out in the air, the ship did not discriminate. Out here, the wind tousled everyone's hair, unkempt or to the nines, and salted their lips until they cracked. His lips were chapped. He ran his tongue over them, gave in to the hypnotic scratchings of the pencil. Out here, they all saw the same ocean, spanning for miles and miles. Out here, they were all just people, he guessed. 8:50 "Christ," he muttered and laughed to himself. He let the wind finally snap his sketchbook shut; the young boy playing with a top had been safely recorded. He turned his face up to his companion, leaning on the railing nearby; his dark hair whipped at a face that could turn even some first class heads--and had. Grinning, he carefully arranged his charcoal pencils back into their case and said, "I think this ocean air is starting to get to me. I'm getting all philosophical again."
It felt like her head was bleeding. Not the outside of it; not the flesh that spanned across her skull. It didn't mat the tediously combed-back hair that cascaded down her shoulders with a crimson, sticky substance -- but it filled her brain, up, up, until it could think no more and she had escaped the bludgeoning. The bludgeoning had been a result of just the 'talk' in that room. How they looked to her with such disdain whenever she had the idea to talk -- you know, intelligently. With a brain. They were concerned with taking that mind away and replacing it with fine china and jewelry, to jingle around aimlessly in her head. She didn't like that. So she had excused herself, and now she found herself on the railing. The wind, again, eagerly pushed past her -- and the ocean went on for miles and miles. It didn't stop, it simply was; she liked it. How it was so endless, how she couldn't see the horizon. New York was not budding against the clouds, and she could escape for a little bit amongst all the shimmering blue. Shoulders slumping, she leaned farther over the railing. She wanted to take everything in. Glancing over, she noticed an artist. With a sketchbook. She watched him, curiously. She had a sketchbook, too. Cal didn't know about it. So she placed her chin in her hand. And the man beside him looked up, to Alfons, unbeknownst to her. She was looking away. 'I think this ocean air is starting to get to me. I'm getting all philosophical again.'
With a laugh, Leuther cocked his head to the side, keenly smiling at him. "Think so? I guess on a third class deck, that shit happens," Here, he snatched Alfons's sketchbook from his hands and held it to his chest. "You're drawing these beautiful pictures!" He struck a pose. "Of course you'd get all philosophical. Gonna do that when ya' get to New Yaaaarrrkkk, too?"
His sketchbook sank into his lap, and Alfons leaned back, plunging into his coat pocket for cigarettes. Only one left. His heart joined his sketchbook on his lap. Had they cleaned ol' Olaf and Sven out a little faster, he might have had time to spend their winnings on another pack. No matter, though. He lit it, took a drag, and let the smoke come back in his face, squinting at the thin, blurred line where ocean and sky collided. Yesterday morning, he had been chasing the elusive tail of fortune round and round a poker table in Southampton; now he was on a ship bound for America, way out on the Atlantic.For him, the transition had been rather like changing from his day clothes to his pajamas. 10:24 "Think so?" Leuther snared his attention again. "I guess on a third class deck, that shit happens." "Ah yes," he agreed with a lofty grin, "being tragically impoverished 'does' make the mind old." Leuther proceeded to snatch up his notebook. Alfons rose to grab it back. "Hey, come on!" he said. "You spilled beer on it once, remember?" "You're drawing these beautiful pictures!" he replied and struck a nude, French model pose. "You're not allowed to touch it anymore!" "Of course you'd get all philosophical. Gonna do that when ya'..." Somewhere during his valiant struggle for his sketchbook, his eyes swept over the first class deck--then snapped back. His hands fell abruptly to his sides. 10:24 On the upper deck, there was this girl. Her hair was dark, "ebony", like the first, fresh line of charcoal streaked along white moon paper. She had a round face, soft jaw that vanished easily into her hair, and her mouth was the pallid color of her skin, striped with pronounced, curved shadows even so. But her "eyes". Those struck him most. They were some sort of middle ground-between the Atlantic, between the sky. She was looking out there for something, he knew. Nothing physical, nothing like the Statue of Liberty or anything half so obvious as that. She looked lost--hauntingly beautiful.
With this far away look in her eyes, she couldn't see anything but the horizon that dotted blue. How the clouds gathered eagerly towards it, looking like they wanted to spread on and on forever.
On and on, never ending. Never having to stop, but merely drifting and letting the winds rollick them about. They would paint the sky white, they would be framed pink and orange by the setting sun, but nothing would ever confine them to a little room with mahogany walls where she was to stay and rot. Carefully, she dipped her gaze downward from the spectacle in front of her. Her eyes met the artist's again, and he looked far away -- like he was looking at the clouds, too. So she turned her head and gazed at him for a moment. He wasn't confined by a dress suit, he wasn't stuffy and penned up somewhere. She was jealous. Leuther didn't notice how she looked at her, and he didn't notice when she turned her head away, either. He only noticed that his friend had stopped his playful banter and had lost is attention somewhere else. "Hey, Fons!" He started, smacking him with the sketchbook in hand. "What are you--" He paused, looking to the woman who couldn't tear her gaze from the sea. Typical first-class ladies; they didn't know what it was like to be outside or to not shove diamonds in their fucking eyes for every sight. He began to laugh, with the way Alfons was looking at her. As he did, a man approached her -- after gazing across the gulf between worlds, he saw this -- grabbed her arm. She shot her head around and jerked her arm away, looking upset; they argued. He could see the grunt of frustration when she stormed away, and as he went after her. They disappeared along the promenade, as quickly as they had came. "Forget it, Al; you'd as like to have angels fly out of your ass as get next to the likes of her."
Run Away **
Smoke eddied around Orion. He puffed rings at Taurus. Polaris, however, he left alone: that was a good star. A reliable star. Stranded in a cottage in Wisconsin, curled up under a bridge in Paris--the address never mattered. He opened his eyes, and Polaris opened its eyes and stared right back. Twirled the Big Dipper like a pearl necklace around its finger--twirled the whole goddamn galaxy. And for all the cosmic chaos that surrounded it, its greatest job on Earth was to make sure they never got lost.Alfons took another drag and frowned. 11:44 "She" had looked lost. Achingly beautiful, certainly, but more than anything, lost. His thoughts drifted endlessly to her, to that face she had worn. The way her eyes
seemed to be combing through the currents for some nameless object. He wanted to know what that was. But, as his companion had so gracefully put it, cherubs would sooner come parading out his ass. She hailed from a land of caviar and small talk. Had she ever looked his way earlier that day, her eyes would have penetrated him as though he were the smoke trickling from the end of this cigarette. Frown relaxing, he cushioned his head with his arm, then settled back down onto the bench. The smoke reached up to skim the stars but dissipated before it could ever get high enough.
Their voices. They had kept going. Kept on going, when the night drifted onwards like a reflection in a puddle of water did. It shimmied and continued; eluded the true reflection of what it was. That was what it was like, when she had been seated there, staring at her plate. The meal had looked good enough, but all she could see were the tiny molecules of parsley that were splitter across it. Little details. Like their chatter, and how it meant nothing. It meant nothing in the grand scheme of things, and nobody really cared -- they cared about their jewelry and the way it glittered on their fingers. They did not care about how the stars glittered above. She supposed she didn't, either, when her heels were clack-clacking against the deck. She had gone back to the stateroom so composed; nodding her head, smiling. And then she was alone. And then she started to try and take the fucking corset off, but it wouldn't come off. And she tried to shove her hair out of that tight, stupid bun, but it wouldn't come off; she didn't know where Trudy was. She yelled for her -- she yelled, she smashed the jewelry on the floor and shoved everything off of the table. So now she was running, and that was the clacking. The tears streamed down her face, and the voices had halted. The only one that prevailed: get out of the rut. Get out. Run. Keep going. She didn't want to be grabbed by the arm anymore, didn't want to be handled like some fucking priceless jewelry. She shoved past a couple, choking back a sob. Her destination was the stern, and she was able to tighten her grip on her dress--hoist it up, run faster. Faster, faster, until she was slamming into the railing that she had so wanted. The stars burned brightly overhead, and she dipped her head up to look at it. A plume of smoke rose
from her lips. Hoisting herself over the railing carefully, she took a foothold on it and then reached her arms out. Let the voices stop. Please, god. So she loosened her fingers.
The deck was no longer host to broad, feathered hats and fashionable canes. Occasionally, a guard might happen by, and Alfons would have to feign ignorance to the inevitably suspicious stare. But eventually, the guard would also leave, carried off on his clean, official footsteps, and then the waves lapping at the ocean liner was the only sound to fill the silence. And then, they were not. Good Presently, he heard running. This sound alone was enough to coax his head off his arm and twist it curiously over his shoulder; at this time of night--and on a luxury liner-where did one have to run? 12:42 Finally, melting from the shadows, "she" came into view. Brief, fleeting light flitted across her face--her cheeks were greased with tears. Abruptly, he sat up. Watched her stumble toward the stern, her head dip hesitantly beneath her shoulders. Swallowing, he flung his legs over the bench. And just when she began to loosen her fingers-"Wait," he said, "...you don't want to do this."
In all of the dizziness, she had neglected to see how brightly the stars were burning above her. It was like someone had taken a heated pin and pierced a black canvas, again and again, so sunlight would shine through all of the little openings. The starlight -- sunlight -- whatever it was, it framed her again and again and it framed the water rustling below her. Presently, her mind began to slow. Her feet, too, tied up in stupid fucking heels, wanted out. They slipped a bit under her and, with a hasty breath, she drew them back in. The propellers rolled below her. It was cold. The water was so far down. Slip, jump, she closed her eyes -'Wait…you don't want to do this.' Her head snapped back around, and suddenly she was very aware of the tears
streaming down her face. The ones that coated her cheeks and made her look like a complete fucking idiot. There was the artist, again. The free one that she had seen in a fleeting moment, the one who had been clutching his sketchbook like nothing else really mattered. How jealous she'd been of him. Startled, she watched the sea air rustle is own hair; his eyes glittered in the dim light. He didn't look like he gave a damn. But he did, and he was saying that she didn't want this. "I--" her voice cracked, and she gripped onto the railing. "--I do. I do, I need to do this. I need to get out. Please go away," She flipped her head back down to the water below them and stared. "Please, go away,"
Even teetering precariously on the ship's edge, where a single, abrupt wave could send her off, she looked immaculate. Like a weeping figurehead, perhaps, each curl that framed her face meticulously sculpted, her damp cheeks painstakingly smoothed. The Titanic was a beautiful ship, but had she adorned the stern, Alfons thought the ocean liner might have looked quite a bit more pedestrian in comparison.She had not been expecting him. Of course she had not. Her luminous eyes examined him for several long moments, as though she were unsure of what to do with him. "I--I do. I do. I need to do this," she started, voice breaking, "I need to get out. Please go away." She turned away then, hair that melded with the sky flipping over her shoulder. "Please, go away." 12:25 Alfons sensed immediately that this was not going to be easy. She "had" been sifting the skyline for answers that day, and her search must have turned up empty handed. The only answer she could see now was beckoning from the wine-dark depths of the Atlantic. Sweat beaded beneath his shirt collar, but he gave away nothing. He determined first that he needed to get closer--without moving her farther away of course. He took a quick drag from his borrowed cigarette--not really inhaling at all--then lifted it into her line of sight. When he tossed it overboard, he took a few unnecessarily gigantic steps forward. Wetting his lips, he gauged her face; saw fear there more than any real sense of complacency. He could say it then. "...You won't jump."
In all of her eagerness to throw herself off of the stern of the ship, she had not allowed the fear to settle in; she had only rushed to jump, rushed to feel the ice hit her and that would be that.
Rush to get away, and she couldn't even comprehend that. With the stars twinkling above her, she felt fucking stupid. Even more of a reason to jump. With her fingers so loose, she could just let go. But apparently, he wouldn't let her, because when she turned her head again -- nervous -- he was still there. Taking a drag from his cigarette and approaching. 'You won't jump.' Dumbfounded, she stared after him, unable to form words that felt like goo in her mouth. "..What?" She started, re-adjusting her grip on the railing. Her arms trembled, and her brows knitted downwards. Here was someone, obviously trying to tell her what to do. Everyone, everyone fucking told her that. "No--I am! You can't tell me what I'll do! I won't let you!" With a glare, she started again -- "G-go away! I don't need your help!" No -- she really didn't.
With every moment she lingered on the railing, Alfons grew increasingly anxious; heels and a long dress did not a good combination make--not on the stern of the Titanic anyway, and though he kept the muscles beneath his face deceivingly relaxed, the ones in his shoulders and legs were taut, preparing him to spring should she slip. "...What?" she asked him, expression wavering between disbelief and disgust. She crinkled her nose and furrowed her brows, as though he had made some obscene suggestion. He lifted his brows and said it again, softly but with no trace of hesitance, "You won't jump." "No--I am! You can't tell me what to do!" The flames that billowed from her eyes could have powered the ship for a year. "I won't let you! G-go away! I don't need your help!" Alfons held his ground. "Well, you would have done it already," he said. And now, as he stood looking at her, his thoughts began to build some sort of momentum. If she was going to come back over the railing, it was going to have to be "her" idea. He began to shrug his coat off then, though his eyes never wavered from her. "Besides--can't go away. I'm already involved." He tossed his coat onto the bench, then stooped over to work on his shoes. "If you jump, I'll have to go in there after you. I can tell you one thing," and here he lifted his eyes, to gauge her expression, "I'm not looking forward to how cold that water is."
Anxiously, she watched him move a little closer -- talked to her like she was a baby. That was what goddamn everyone did; treated her like a precious piece of jewelry
that had to be handled with the upmost care or it would get scratched up. Ooh, poor thing, you don't know what you're doing, you feel better soon, okay? Rolling her shoulders, she felt the chill of the air hit her -- hard, harder, and she felt like she was going to slip when the artist started to say that she would've done it already. Speechless, she simply stared at him. 'Besides, I can't go away. I'm already involved. If you jump, I'll have to go in there after you…' And here, he started to take off his coat. She re-adjusted her grip on the railing and gazed at him. Unable to speak, but gnawing on her lower lip. 'I can tell you one thing--I'm not looking forward to how cold that water is.' In that moment, she felt herself tense up. Senses began to take a hold far more than the need to get away was, and she frowned over at him. "…How cold? You can't jump in after me, you don't even know me.." "...How cold?" Concern ebbed faintly in her eyes--which quickly narrowed. "You can't jump in after me. You don't even know me!" He worked his jaw side to side decisively for a moment, then began to pluck at his shoelaces. "...No," he agreed after a moment, "but I can't just walk away, right?" He turned to face her fully then, jamming his Atlantic-raw fingers into his pants pockets. "Even if I am a stranger. You jump, I jump," 6:57 This imparted, he studied her again. Fear still turned like propellor-churned water behind all that irritation; she did not want this. She "thought" she did, perhaps, but he knew well enough about escaping, and there was always more than one route. Moving carefully, he inched closer to her and pretended to gaze over the rail. He whistled and shot his eyes sideways at her. "Kind of a drop. But you'd survive it." He placed his forearms onto the railing, folded his hands, and looked at her for a moment. Then, he asked, "Ever been to Wisconsin?"
Her eyes rolled over her shoulder again, and she cautiously watched him as he inched closer to him. She was enough in her right mind to realize that he was trying to talk her down -- and she couldn't say that she minded it. But she did, at the same time; she was tired of people babying her. Still, she chewed anxiously on her lower lip and re-adjusted her grip on the railing when he said that if she jumped, he jumped. So she shivered, and the night sky burned brightly above them, yet he only carefully shot his eyes to her and said that she'd survive the drop. "…" Speechless, she gazed at him still. 'Ever been to Wisconsin?' Licking her lips, she tried to form words, but none came out. With every passing
second, she wanted to cross the railing. "…Um….no, I haven't been.' More nervousness, and she turned herself halfway around. "…Why?"
He was distracting her. Slowly, she began to ignore the white, reaching fingers of the waves; she rolled her eyes, half-lidded with hesitance, over her shoulder at him. With his arms folded over the railing, Alfons stared quietly back."Um," she said, wetting her lips, "...no, I haven't been." She rotated her upper body to face him; hope flared in his chest. "...Why?" "I used to go ice fishing there," he supplied, "me and my grandpa." He paused for a moment, then said, "You know what ice fishing is, right? Where you break a hole in the ice, and--well, anyway." He scratched the back of his head, then quickly recovered. "I fell in once. Wasn't as cold as the Atlantic but," he returned his eyes to her, "cold enough. You can't move. You can't 'think'. It's like...a hundred knives stabbing you all at once." And here, he simply gazed at her, gauging her reaction, waiting for it to sink in. 8:19 Then, when he felt it was enough, he drew himself up, "Which is why I'm not looking forward to going in there after you." He tipped his head over the railing, this time to peer into her face. "...I guess I'm kind of hoping you'll let me off the hook here...and come back over?"
In all of her musing, in all of the want to toss herself into the ocean and to never resurface, she had not acknowledged that 'yes', it would hurt -- very much so -- to drown in the Atlantic. And she was, now; she was thinking of it, and she knew it would be far much colder than the ice bath she had once been subjected to as a child. It was colder than the stars up above and how they burned blue, perhaps all ice. He just said it, so nonchalantly. How he had fallen into the river when he was ice fishing with his grandfather, and it was a hundred knives stabbing him all at once. She tensed up and nervously moved herself so that she was clutching onto the railing. Moved her shoes, just so, so that she could get a grip and turn herself about. Fuck, the more she thought about it, the more she didn't want to be assaulted with knives. And here was this stranger asking her to come back over, looking so earnest. Like he truly gave a shit. That was more than most, and she didn't want him jumping in after her. Mind a blur, she looked to him; eyes even trembling. "What's even your name?"
Her fingers tightened around the railing for just a little more purchase; her heels slowly pivoted so that her toes were no longer hovering over an inch of open air. She turned to him then, tassels on her dress quivering with her form, and married her eyes with his. The frigid air caught in his chest, expelled no white cloud. The Atlantic had breathed some color into her pallid cheeks, as though blowing the last of life into her to coax her off the ledge. Her mouth was missing make-up but more beautiful for it. It quivered. Tried to make words. 10:01 "What's even your name?" She wanted to know. It was such an oddly endearing question, so innocently misdirected. He wanted to take her into his arms and carry her back over himself. "...Alfons Heiderich," he said after a moment. It occurred to him that they were doing introductions on the edge of the stern. He extended a hand to her. Smiled. "What's yours?"
In all of her preoccupation to hoist herself back over the railing -- to keep from slipping -- she wasn't even registering half of the things occurring about her. How the wind licked at her bare arms and coaxed the bumps out; how he looked at her and couldn't even breathe, she didn't notice. All she could fathom was how she was clutching onto the railing and how she was asking his name. Kept her ground to sanity, to something, when he responded. 'Alfons Heiderich.' He said as a matter-of-fact, and extended his hand. She took his, gingerly, and looked nervously to him with a smile. "..Katherine…eh…Elizabeth Drechsler," And here, she moved her foot forward. To ground herself, and somewhere in between she slipped, still clutched onto his hand. The other, the railing. The name she had just learned was being screamed, now, along with a cacophony of screams that were simply nothing, and she was dangling over the Atlantic, and the stars didn't even care.
"Katherine eh," she took his hand, an uncertain smile spreading across her lips, "Elizabeth Drechsler." "Katherine," he repeated back. Then, with a mischievous smile, "And you threw in your middle name too. How fancy--"Suddenly, dead air. Broken by tendrils of wind borne hair."Alfons!!" The tendons, the ligaments, the chords in his arm were suddenly being stretched to their maximum elasticity. Dangling at the very bottom of this organic chain was her. Frightened, wide eyes. The crashing waves suddenly seemed to leap up for her.She cried out for him.He
was suddenly aware of the way his chest was mashed into the railing. When he got his breath back, he called down, "I've got you! I've got you--pull yourself up!" Bracing himself, eyebrows nearly clashing together in the center of his forehead, he began to pull.
Her legs were dangling, and christfuck before she had felt lost and scared but never before had she felt this 'petrified'. Suddenly, the wind was blowing hair into her face and clinging eagerly onto her lips; it was blocking her vision, the vision laden with a film of tears over them. But she wasn't going to fall, his face said that anyway; 'I've got you!' And he sounded like he really meant it. With how he was hunched over, even when the officers on deck heard her cries -- assumed the worst, assumed something disgusting, and were racing down to get her too -- the fear in his eyes; he would've jumped in after her. Panicking, she grabbed herself onto his other arm. Clutched it for dear life and managed to hoist herself over the railing, scattering herself onto the deck. She accidentally pulled him onto her, and she was panting and tears were clouding her vision. The officers approached and she was half-aware of them. They barked commands, and fuck, her legs had been dangling. All she could do was pant. "What is the meaning of this?!" One of them yelled. All they saw was how her skirt was hiked up, his shoes, and how she was crying. "You stand up! You stand up and stand back!"
A cloud of relief orbited his head; nevermind how his brow was dusted with sweat. Nevermind how the hem of her dress was pushed up past her thigh. Nevermind how their breaths joined each other overhead, white and shallow, and nevermind the tears that sheathed her eyes like ice. She was "alive", mainly, and that was all that mattered.Still, when a brigade of footfalls descended on them, he had the presence of mind to recoil."You stand up!" one of them, official in his night-colored uniform, barked at him. "You stand up and stand back!" Already, he knew how this looked. He got to his knees--from straddling her, Jesus Christ--and did as told, hands slightly lifted. He offered no words in his defense. A third class man "assaulting" a first class woman--if he said anything now, it would only come out like a lie.
4:59 The handcuffs chomped around his wrists--not an entirely unfamiliar feeling, he had to admit--and he was just beginning to wonder where they kept prisoners aboard an ocean liner when he was spun around. He was accosted by a familiar face--familiar because it had chased Katherine off the deck and out of sight earlier that day. "No one else was to touch her," he growled, "my fiancee. Just what the hell did you think you were doing?" Alfons's eyes wondered briefly to hers, only to be jarred back when he was shoved. "Answer me!"
In a dizzy flurry of moments, she was being wrapped up in a blanket. This blanket smelled new, too, like the one she had slept in last night -- it smelled new, it wasn't anything but new, and somehow she was going over this fact again and again because nothing else was catching her attention. But, in all of her trembling, after she had pulled herself up, she was now registering 'quite' well that they were barking at him. Alfons, his name was; the person who had pulled her right back over the railing without any qualms. He had told her he wouldn't let go -- and he didn't. Even though she had been dangling off of the back of the fucking Titanic. In all of the commotion, she jumped considerably when they put handcuffs on him. Handcuffs? Fucking handcuffs; what had he done wrong? She looked down at herself, and she sort of noticed why. "Shit," she muttered-- especially when Cal appeared at her side, shoving him. 'My fiancee. Just what the hell did you think you were doing?' "Cal!" She admonished, almost starting to yell. Collected herself, and looked to Alfons. Follow my lead, she wanted to say -- I'll save you, too. "He didn't -- he didn't touch me. I was..leaning over..to look at the uhmmm… huh..propellers!" The officers stared at her oddly. "I leaned too far over…and..I slipped! But…ah--Mr. Heiderich here, he saved me. He pulled me back." The officers continued to stare, looked at Alfons. "…Is that the truth?"
"Cal!" The pair turned in unison, Cal's fist still firmly embedded in Alfons's collar, Alfons's mind still firmly embedded in the word "fiancee".Strands of hair had glued themselves to her cheeks, crimson and pink where the wind had licked too roughly. Her eyes shared this pigment, bled of her tears, but the fright was noticeably
lacking. All Alfons saw, as she glanced briefly to him, were two words: "play along". She went on to explain that nothing had happened; she had merely been leaning over to observe. 1:07 "...Uhmm...huh..." she trailed off. Alfons watched perplexed expressions settle on the officer's faces as she struggled to name the object of her attention. As she spun her finger in circles, the rage on Cal's face returned to a dull, annoyed simmer. Alfons had to wonder if the word was truly giving her such a hard time--or if not knowing would simply add to the credibility of "slipping overboard". He lifted his eyebrows in admiration. "Is that the truth?" asked an officer when she was finished, and Alfons quickly nodded. "Yep," he agreed, "that was pretty much the way of it." 1:07 "Well, then, the boy's a hero!" The same officer crowed. "Good for you, son!" As the handcuffs were worked from his wrists, officers agreeing at intervals that women and machinery "did not mix", he watched Cal lead her off by the shoulders. "Come on, let's get you inside," he said with concern--or some inflection that closely mimicked it anyway, "that's quite enough excitement for you in one day." Disappointment tugged in his chest as he watched her go; fortunately, the officer stopped them."A little something for the boy?" he inquired.When the other man turned, Alfons half-expected to see contempt boiling on his expression, but it was surprisingly void. As though he could not bother to work himself up over a commoner. "Ah, yes--Lovejoy," he said and handed his wallet to him, "I think a twenty should do it."
To her delight -- was it delight? --the men gathered about her almost immediately took her story as nothing but the truth. How could such an innocent young woman lie about that, anyway, in favor of a scrawny little 'third-class' boy? Not a silly woman. Silly. Yeah, that was what she probably was in their eyes…but it didn't matter, not one bit. As long as they unlatched the handcuffs from Alfons's wrists, that was enough for her. Never mind the fact that they were mumbling how women and machinery didn't mix, and how the blanket was being drawn protectively about her. It didn't really matter, at this point. At least she wasn't dangling her feet over the tumultuous sea. Rolling her shoulders when Cal stated that they needed to get inside -- quite enough excitement for her, hell if he knew -- she cast her eyes back at the steerage boy who was peering over at her with glittering eyes. And she would've said thank you, but with how Cal was urging her inside, she
stumbled over her words -- not her feet. As she grappled with this, wringing her hands, she heard one of the officers mention 'something for the boy'. She turned he head, scrutinized how Lovejoy took the wallet from Cal's hands and thumbed out a twenty dollar bill. "Mm," She mumbled, couldn't resist cracking a smile. Had to play the game with him, especially when she rested her head on his shoulder. "Is that the going rate for the woman you love?" Cause, of course, he deserved more than that.
Alfons made a link around his wrist with his fingers, rubbing away the incisions. A white-haired man with a jagged jaw and a rigid face--too hardy-looking to be a mere servant--rifled through his wallet and produced a twenty. Tentatively, he reached for it; under any other circumstances, he would be more than happy to pocket the money, but accepting payment for saving someone's life was another matter entirely."Mm," Katherine made a noise in her throat and tipped her head against Cal's shoulder. He watched this and could not help but feel she was still "playing along". Like this whole affection business was not a common occurrence--or perhaps that was only wishful thinking on his end. "Is that the going rate for the woman you love?" she asked him. 2:30 Cal lifted his eyebrows, an amused sort of smirk teasing his lip's edges. "Kate is displeased," he noted, sounding remotely unsurprised. "Very well, then. Heinrich, you said your name was?" Alfons straightened, at attention once more, and smiled warmly, "'Heiderich', actually. Alfons Heiderich." "Would you care to join us for dinner tomorrow evening?" Thin smile. "If your schedule is not too terribly chaotic that is." "Oh, no. I'll be there." Again, he watched the two exit. The bodyguard--Lovejoy, he thought his name was--started off after them, then stopped abruptly when he whistled, "Hey. Have you got a smoke?" 2:30 The look on the other man's face told him just how much he wished he did not. When Alfons had lit it from the borrowed match--it was well-deserved, he thought, after pulling a woman back onboard--Lovejoy began to speak. "You know, it's funny," he said with a tilted smile, "the young lady went so quickly overboard, and you still had time to unbutton your coat and undo your shoelaces." And as he stood twirling the cigarette between his teeth, watching them depart, he could shake the feeling of leaking vital information.
La Coeur de la Mer **
She had almost slipped into the open arms of the Atlantic, and the chill was still seizing her. It was there, rippling, holding on tightly to her goosebump-flitted arms. When she had changed into a far more comfortable dress, she was still cold. Still freezing, still afraid that she was dipping off the edge of the Titanic. Christ, she hoped she wasn't. So she busied herself with gazing into the mirror, watching her reflection stare on back. The lights in the room shone in her eyes, amplified them a thousand times and caused them to glitter. Just like Alfons's were -- and she was happy that he'd accepted the dinner invitation. Whatever she'd seen of him, she liked him. He'd been concerned. But Cal had been, too. She could see it -- rather, feel it -- in the way he protectively drew his arm around her and held her tight all the way back to the stateroom. He confused her, badly, just like everything else. At least she wasn't screaming inside. Not at the moment. Right now, she was probably more half-asleep than anything.
Poised in the door frame, he watched her once again. The flannel blanket and her dining dress had been replaced by a gown, and the stray hairs that clung to her cheeks were tucked behind her ears. The vanity did not face him; even so, he could see her reflection in the mirror, see her reflection staring into her face. She did this often. Not out of vanity, as he had so often observed in other women, but something else.He inched into the room, relying on his reflection to announce his presence."I know you've been melancholy," he started, rubbing the ball of his thumb into her shoulder, "and I don't pretend to know why." But God, for all the tragedy lurking in the matte shadows of her face, she was still so captivating. The wind had left a pleasant, fading blush upon her cheeks, and her eyes were aquariums filled with sunburst fish. Physically, he was frozen for a few moments, and then he procured from his pocket the box. 1:03 "I wondered if this might not lighten your mood," Slowly, he draped it around her neck. It was the nighttime Atlantic, chiseled into a jewel that swung around her collarbone, refracting the light and never quite rivaling her eyes. When he shut the clasp behind her neck, he was thankful to brush the warm skin for even a few seconds.
As she sat, the door creaked. Her chair would've creaked, too, if she had needed to turn around in the glittering room she was seated in; but she had the presence of mind to raise her head, just a bit, to where she could recognize the figure flitting across the room in her reflection. The reflection that she'd peered into, again and again. And it stayed the same, but it changed, too. 'I know you've been melancholy, and I don't pretend to know why.' He noticed, then; she hadn't known this, and felt that stupid fucking second wave of guilt rush over her for wanting to jump. But she had been screaming, and no one even looked up -- one head did, and she guess his did, just halfway. She kept herself quiet, watching him, lips slightly parted. It wasn't awe, it was just quiet -- how it stole over the room, even when he gazed at her and lifted a box from his pocket. And, then, the Atlantic was glittering across her neck. 'I wondered if this might not lighten your mood.' It was large, heavy, but fucking stunning. With the way the light reflected across it, a thousand times over and over and flung itself against the walls. It was like it was breathing, like the ocean itself. With all of the flitting fish sputtering on about it. "My god, Cal…" She started, reaching to touch it. She tilted her eyes up to look to him. "…It's beautiful," Her mouth formed words, maybe, but they didn't really come out.
"My God Cal," The rapture that had been absent from her gaze that morning as they beheld the Titanic suddenly returned with a vengeance. She broke eye contact with her own reflection to acknowledge him, to tell him it was beautiful, and he beamed. She would not bat an eyelash at the world's greatest ocean liner, but he had bought her the sea to wear around her neck, and finally, she was astonished."Fiftysix carats," he informed her, "and it was once worn by Louis the Sixteenth. They call it Le Couer de la Mer, the Heart of the Ocean." The jewel lay heavily against her throat, casting its hard, dark shadow against the smooth flesh. It twitched as she swallowed, and he was prompted to trace his fingers across it. In her reflection, he joined her. 1:39 "It's for royalty. And we 'are' royalty," He watched her marvel over her treasure for a moment more, watched the jewel looked comparatively less beautiful against her flesh, and then he sank down onto
his elbow to look at her. "There's nothing I couldn't give you. Nothing I would deny you if you wouldn't deny me," he said, "...open your heart to me, Katherine."
There was nothing to say, but there was. Yet, she was effectively silenced when he mentioned that it was fifty-six carats…and it was worn by Louis the Sixteenth. Called the Le Couer de la Mer. Here she was, a piece of history draped across her neck by a man who was not -- but very well could've been. And she understood that maybe he was just trying to buy her. but maybe he wasn't. 'It's for royalty. And we 'are' royalty.' Cautiously, she trailed her eyes to him when he dipped onto the ground and lamented about how there was nothing he couldn't give her. Nothing he would deny her -- open her heart, why didn't you. "..You noticed I was upset.." she started, moving her hand from the diamond adorning her neck. In all of its shimmering beauty, she was afraid to even touch it. She turned her head to him, looking at how he presented the diamond like it would matter so much. "…you don't have to buy me."
"...You noticed I was upset," His fingers lingered at her neck, his mouth pulled taut with questions. She was not marveling at the heart that overlaid her own anymore but at the fact her abjection had not gone unobserved. Not the treasure but the thought concealed "behind" the treasure was luxuriated in. Le Coeur de la Mer dangled just under her chin, and she was just thankful someone had noticed her."...I did," he finally said when he could properly operate his jaw again. He had little else to offer her, however, in the way of words.Finally, she turned to peer at him; the force of her eyes had been dilapidated in her reflection, grayed with glass. But now he had pulled her out. She was "acknowledging" him."...You don't have to buy me," she said to him.The words became easier to access again. He slid her hand from the vanity, lifted it to his lips, and brushed them against her flesh, eyes never leaving her. "...Then let me in, Katherine," he said against the warmth of her knuckles, "I notice more than you would believe."
Somehow, she had managed to squirm out of the iron grip of jewelry-laden and sun-
splattered upper class deck. She wasn't sure how she had gotten away, with how her white dress glimmered in the sun and garnered so much attention. It did, to her, of course; not to anyone else, they just ignored it. They were too caught up in their idle chatter; her mother spoke to a bunch of women she didn't care to know and Cal was off socializing with some of his riffraff. Subsequently, she'd managed to get away. All she could think about that day was the artist's hands and how they'd grabbed her, pulled her back up from the Atlantic. How his lips had coaxed her from the stern of a ship, slipping, falling, yet falling back onto solid ground because he had raised his head. How pleasant he'd been, and how he'd smiled so radiantly at her. Fuck, she couldn't get him off her mind, never mind the fact that she had a fiancee. Whatever it meant, she didn't care. So she'd cautiously let herself through the gate. And people stared. She didn't want to cause a commotion -- christ -- and she was suddenly overcome with an intense anxiety. She didn't like it, being the object of attention. She didn't like these fucking glittery clothes that showed off too much. When she walked past the people, how they looked at her; the girls that danced in laced-up boots and flowing skirts, in muted colors. It was beautiful, and she wasn't allowed down here, but she was. Eyes fluttering about, she noticed men playing on the piano. Unbeknownst to her, it was Leuther, who had a norwegian girl close in his arms and was talking, giggling with her. "Speak English…? Speak…" And then he looked at her, too. The room was silent. Alfons was sitting on a chair, with a little girl, scribbling in something. Her face lit up when she saw him. "Mr. Heideri--um…Alfons?"
Drawing was a decidedly fascinating activity to children, before their grease pens and wax crayons lost their luster, and they learned that the only way to be an artist was starving. On a street curb, in the gutter, on the third class deck, he was no stranger to the curious shadow of a tiny head cast across the page. "What are you drawing?" they always wanted to know. And generally he would try to explain, until their interest faltered, and they went over to inspect an insect or pluck an apple while the grocer's back was turned.Cora was different. She had asked him no questions, had not requested that he draw her. She had ebbed uncertainly in his peripheral for a few minutes, until he had finally lifted his eyes and smiled.
4:21 Her dark, tightly-spun head of spirals had bobbed under his arm, vying for a better look, and he had sat there patiently, continuing to draw, not even flinching when she mashed his thigh with a scrabbling hand. She watched him like this for a few minutes, before working the pencil from his fingers. Right next to his sketch--of Leuther and the Norwegian girl--she began to doodle, and he just smiled against his upturned hand and told himself he would try again later. A bunny, a lamb, a dolphin--she told him she had seen one of those earlier that day--gamboled across the page. She drew a Santa-esque captain, and the Titanic skimmed along triangular waters and puffed great, fluffy clouds into the sky. When he got his pencil back, he quickly sketched the woman from last night-Katherine Drechsler. With every stroke, he recalled the contours of her face more vividly. "It's her," Cora announced, and he had stopped drawing to gaze at her. She said, "Mommy said she is a princess." At that, his smile broadened. 4:21 It was about this time that an eerie hush fell over the room, and both the child and Alfons lifted their heads to see the woman on the page, drawn to life. "Mr. Heideri," she started, corrected herself, "Alfons?" "Um..." Quickly, he snapped the sketch book shut, then bent close to mutter into the little girl's curl-covered ear. "We'll draw more later, okay?" He rose to a stand then, feeling the cabin spin deliriously around him. "Hello again,"
In all of the quiet that stirred around them, she was engrossed in the artist that stood up and greeted her so warmly after murmuring something to the girl beside him. The attention was unnecessary, she didn't like it at all, so she buried her thoughts in the boy in front of her. Talking with him was completely called for, and it had been completely worth snaking down through the gates of the third class with saucer eyes cast her way. They weren't like china, though, and she liked that; they weren't made out of precious jewelry, but rather, made from laughter. The people down here, after looking at her -- and god, it was quiet. She could hear the mumbles about her. Either about how gorgeous her dress was, how pretty that young lady is, or what the hell are the first class swine doing down here with the likes of us? They mixed, and swirled together, but she merely smiled at the little girl beside Alfons, and then right back to him. "Can I talk to you on the promenade deck? I'd like to -- if you're not too busy," And she said this much more gently than Cal had, and she'd meant it, too.
Fate was fickle. He knew this--and accepted it--better than anyone. Fortune might gust favorably in one direction, then send you surging right back to the shore. So soon after the pivotal poker match, he supposed he was expecting Lady Luck to turn her smile on someone else for a while. Yet here was this beautiful girl-beautiful, "first-class" girl--breaking from dining by violin and skirting indulgent servants to visit him. "Can I talk to you on the promenade deck?" she inquired. "I'd like to--if you're not too busy." "No, no," he said and turned to give the small girl a smile. "I can come back later. After you." Sweeping his sketchbook under one arm, he gestured with the other for her to lead the way. They left the crowded room in a hushed uproar, and as he passed Leuther, he lifted his eyebrows with a smile.
On Deck **
She'd been walking for what seemed like hours, and yet she wasn't tired. Not even the way her heels clacked against the deck, how the breeze from the ocean pushed at her and urged her to collapse onto one of the chairs. No, she couldn't feel tired, not when she was in the presence of this artist that she'd gotten to known better in two hours than she knew most of the people that slipped in and out of the room she was confined in. It was startling. Never before had she spilled her guts to someone like that; never before had she laughed so hard, or told someone so much. And she'd just met him, the wonderful man who'd pulled her back over. Far away from the Atlantic. And she liked being with him, she did. There wasn't any pressure to act polite and reserved and 'god' she really did like it. How was it possible that he knew more about her than her fiancee` did? So, here they were, going around the deck for the thousandth time, and she smiled warily at him. "Getting tired yet?"
Sketchbook papers waving like tattered sails, the sun warm on the patchy shoulders of his shirt, Alfons followed her around and around the promenade deck. Matching her step-for-step, he would glance at her occasionally while she politely conversed
with some oil tycoon or watched the hem of her dress sweep around her shoes; the great wide sky was a backdrop, she the center piece. The ocean lovingly swept flyaway strands behind her ears, and her lips folded back against a glimmering smile. For all his traveling, Alfons was not sure he had ever seen such a beautiful person. But he was by no means feigning interest in her words; she talked about her morning, the infuriating things her mother had said, the contemptuous drawl in the dining hall. He listened and raised his eyebrows when appropriate, putting in a word here and there. The rate at which he was learning about her was exceedingly fast, he realized, but part of him was excited--honored, even, to be let in on her secrets. He had the feeling, anyway, that few others had heard quite as much as he had. 9:30 "...Getting tired yet?" she asked at one point, her smile cautious, as though she was worried she had said too much. Instantly, he shook his head, "No way. Let's do a few more laps around this ship, you and me." He smiled, readjusted the pad of paper beneath his arm, and then looked to her again. "I could understand if 'you' are, though. Having to walk all the way down to the bowels of the Titanic like that." A note of hesitant jocularity hung in his voice; so she was engaged? That was fine. He still did not want to frighten her off with his misplaced humor, though...
Relief flooded over her when he only smiled at her after she'd asked if he was tired, saying he wanted to do a few more laps around the ship. She hadn't scared him off when she had decided to run her mouth, again and again, like a fucking sound loop going on endlessly. But at the same time, it wasn't endless -- it was different things. It was complaining, it was her childhood, it was her feelings and thoughts that most people didn't know at all. So he was happy to be around her, and adjusted whatever he had underneath his arm again. 'Having to walk all the way down to the bowels of the Titanic..' And here, 'he' smiled eagerly, so she couldn't push away a laugh. Not all for his want to crack a joke. "But it was nice down there, everyone was together," She commented, trailing off the deck and over to the railing. She wasn't hanging over it; simply leaning, and god she was glad she hadn't jumped. "You know..thank you for listening to me," She started, tilting her eyes back up to his. "It's just so fucking frustrating. I know what you're thinking..poor little rich girl, what does she have to worry about? But it's everyone, and you heard it, and god,"
She stretched out her hand to look down at the diamond twinkling on her finger. It clasped around it, cold and uncaring. She didn't know what to make of Cal, but dear god she knew she couldn't spend the rest of her life with him. "I just want to 'go'," She started, "Wherever life takes me. But look at this thing," And here, she flashed it at him. "Trapped, and I hate it."
"But it was nice down there," she insisted, eyes wide and endearing, "everyone was together." He tailed her to the railing, to watch the shadow cut through the ocean and the light just over that. He did not watch her closely or anything like that; he knew she had never had any intentions of jumping, not even from the beginning."You know...thank you for listening to me." Alfons lifted his eyes--not out of disbelief, exactly, but a wary sort of curiosity. "It's just so fucking frustrating. I know what you're thinking," she went on, "poor little rich girl. What does she have to worry about?" He drew himself up from the railing and shook his head a second time. "No. I'm thinking 'what must have happened to this girl to make her think there was no way out?'" "But it's everyone, and you heard it, and God," she turned away from him again and extended her hand. Not in a vain way, like she might be admiring her nails, but her eyes were markedly dismal at the sun-engorged twinkling coming from her finger. "God!" he exclaimed, reaching out to grip her hand--to touch it more than to really get a better look at the ring. "Look at that thing! You would have sunk right to the bottom!" "Trapped, and I hate it." "If this is your engagement ring, I'd suggest you don't ride anymore ships after you're married." When he released her hand, he gazed at her, silent, a question beading on the tip of his tongue. Finally, dismissing all propriety, he asked it, "Do you love him?"
She ranted, and she could feel herself going on and on. Like she was spinning in circles, yet he still remained so interested in what she had to say. Same old, and apparently her plight wasn't one that he didn't understand; 'what must've happened to this girl to make her think there was no way out?' Looking at him, she scrutinized him -- the ruffled hair, the earnest expression crossing his face. The shirt that looked too flimsy against the sea air, and the suspenders that clung to his frame; some would think he didn't understand anything. And yet he did,well. Very, very well. When she reached out her hand, he exclaimed that she would've gone right to the bottom -- she laughed, shaking her head. "I know, it's atrocious, and--" She hesitated after he'd released her hand, and he was watching 'her' now.
'Do you love him?' Blank expression, and the bones in her hands cracked. Twitched. Something like that. "…that's hardly a proper question! It doesn't matter," Huffing, she puffed her hair from her face. "You can't ask that,"
"...That's hardly a proper question!" Alfons lifted his eyebrows. After the barrage released on their morning walk, he hardly expected her to resist the question. He just thumbed his bottom lip and marveled over how quickly she could weave between imprisoned and "proper". "It doesn't matter," she added and cleared the hair from her face with an indelicate breath, "you can't ask that." "It's a simple question," he insisted, tucking his tongue into his cheek. "Do you love the guy or not?" By now, the answer was staring them in the face, like a licorice-colored smoke stack dividing the sky. She did not want to say yes. Part of him was sad for this; it was obvious their eventual marriage had been arranged, probably for financial reasons, and she had little say in the matter. But part of him remembered the way she had leaned her head on her fiance's shoulder the night before with a dim sort of satisfaction. Still, he wanted to hear it for himself, and he leaned against the railing expectantly. "Well?"
Aggravation had settled over her -- it was sharp, vying, and she resisted the urge to glare at him. But she couldn't bring herself to. Not at those gleaming blue eyes that wanted to know -- wanted to know because she was kidding herself into thinking he gave a shit. Wasn't out of curiosity; it was because he was concerned. Roped into this, and he saw it; he saw every little flicker of her eyes and nervous quake in her breath. She couldn't bring herself to answer, either. She settled herself when he leaned expectantly against the railing -- do you love the guy or not? Do you love him when he draws a necklace around your neck and you try to, or what the fuck is it? "You need to --" Tensing, she reached out to grab the sketchbook in his hands. "Agh!" Ad hominem argument, direct attention away, and she sat down on the deck chairs adjacent to him. "What even is this stupid thing anyway?" With gritting teeth, she hated how he made her angry and yet so damn happy at the same time. Intrigued. She flipped through the pages and felt her shoulders fall. Drawings. Hundreds of them. Detail, beauty from the page.
"…Oh..wow.." She looked up to him, then, squinting her eyes in the sunlight. "I do like artists,"
By the twitch in her neck, he could tell the words were churning in her throat, and her mouth writhed incomprehensibly around them. It was as good as any "no", and he could not say he blamed her. He could not forget the possessive, vulturine way her fiance's arm had lead her away. Still, it was not his place to point out such matters--let alone question them, he supposed. So when she snatched the sketchbook from under his arm, he resisted little. "What even is this stupid thing anyway?" He lifted his eyebrows at the awkward phrasing; someone was a little flustered. He answered, "My drawings." And then knitted his hands together and took a seat beside her, strategically positioning himself so that he was close but not "too" close. The ocean air gathered her perfume into its arms and waved it teasingly in his face. "Oh...wow," she breathed. She glanced up from an older sketch--one he had done in London, men hoisting a ladder--and squinted through the sun at him. "I do like artists." Smiling crookedly, he rubbed the back of his neck and replied, "They didn't think much of them in Old Pair-ee."
Flip, flip through the weathered pages, and it was like he was telling her 'his' life story, too. Oh, he'd told her quite a bit about himself -- but these drawings, the marks on the paper, revealed tidbits she would've never heard before. She could see when he had been frustrated, happy, upset, whatever; the marks were different. Every time amongst the faded yellow. Amazement settled over her, and she moved her fingers across the page when he said that they didn't think much of them in 'Ol' Pair-ee'. Here, he was able to illicit a soft smile. Soft like the pages. "My god, Alfons, these are beautiful," Another flip; to a picture of a child cradled in a hand. Again, she trailed through the pictures, came across naked figures strewn onto the page. Picture-perfect, gorgeous, but she could feel the crimson rise to her face a little bit. "O-oh--" She started, swallowing. But they were exquisite. "…You know, I draw too. But..never drew this kind of stuff…" Same model again, and she narrowed her eyes. Smiled as she inched closer to him. Taking his hand to rustle it with that same smile. "You like this woman, huh? You used her several times…." A pause. Coy. "I think you had a love affair with her,"
In Paris, the pages had gone quite untouched--except by him, of course. Sometimes, after she had draped the artwork of her body with a robe, the model might thumb through his other sketches, though she would never care much where her cigarette ashes drifted. Katherine, however, deliberated over the pages. He watched her fingers admire the grain of the paper, study it, caress slowly. Her eyes were narrowed--against the sun but he thought maybe concentration too. Her eyes skimmed up every line--every curve, every hatch mark. The jagged, the sweeping, the half-hearted. He felt she had not opened up his sketch book but his chest cavity. Finally, she had reached the nude sketches. "O-oh," she said, and Alfons scratched his upper lip and tried not to let her see him gauging her reaction. She went on, "You know, I draw too. But...never drew this kind of stuff...don't have the nerve." "Well, that's the good thing about Paris," he said and gave another lopsided smile, "lots of girls willing to take their clothes off." When she reached the series of drawings of a particular woman, the embarrassment began to disperse. Instead, her smile began to mirror his own. She noted that he must have liked her--he had used her several times. In all their rather intimate exchange, it was the first time Alfons had rushed to his own defense. "It's just--she had beautiful hands. See?" "I think you had a love affair with her." "No! Just with her hands! She was a one-legged prostitute...look,"
Another flip of the page, and she found she was not only immersed in the lines but in his voice, too. It was like a moving picture, maybe -- he narrated it, even when he was readily explaining that 'no', there had been no love affair, she just had beautiful hands. He tripped over himself to correct her, making sure she knew she was a …one legged prostitute, it seemed; here she balked and tried to suppress a lag -- and she was sort of relieved. That he hadn't. She caught herself and looked back to him. "…You're gifted, Alfons. You see people," Quietly, she ducked her head to look more at the pictures, flipping again and again. Came to one of the more recent pages. "…Saw me more than anyone has," She paused, blinked. From the page, figures gazed up at her -- one in particular reminded her of the figure in fleeting glances at the mirror. Mesmerized, she allowed her eyes to roam the page, the features of the faces. "Who is this?" Pointed unwittingly to herself, recognizing and not recognizing.
Aside from a small gag, she recovered rapidly, and she lifted her gaze. Alfons moved his head, just enough to obscure the sun; he wanted her eyes opened wide. Looking at him. "You're gifted, Alfons," she said, "you see people." He took the sketchbook into his lap and closed it deftly, just as an upperclass gentleman sauntered by. His smile, however, never fled. "I see you." "...Saw me more than anyone has," she appended. Alfons had a feeling it had not been meant for his ears, and so he did not reply. He just ducked his head and felt his smile broaden. "Who is this?" When he looked up, he fully expected to see some stranger on the page. Some person he had connected briefly with, in the square, in a tavern. Instead, he saw the crude sketch of her. Immediately, he realized her lips should have been fuller, her nose more upturned. He hesitated for a few moments, then shut the sketch book over the page. "A very beautiful woman."
Spit Like A Man**
So they day had gone by, and she'd barely noticed. She wasn't watching a clock in a far corner of a room, ticking while glasses of china clinked against each other. Not overwhelmed by a chatter that she could make no sense of, nor of how the sunlight just barely and maddeningly trickled into the room. She'd always wanted more. And there she was, carefree, laughing on the deck as the sun slid behind the waves and into a cocoon with a man she had just met but had known forever. And she liked him, she liked him a lot -- beautiful person, even though they were snorting about him working at a pier in Santa Monica and how a seagull had stolen his french fries. They found themselves on the railing, again, and she was staring out into that lovely space between space and earth, then to him. He was perhaps even more lovely, and she admonished herself for thinking that but couldn't quite shake it. "Al, you should take me to that pier sometime! Even if we only talk about it, just say you will," She smiled brightly up at him. "I'll be an artist, like you, and we'll run around and live off of nothing."
The way she called him Al. The way the sun burned a dim, orange varnish into his upper lip, stretched tightly over his teeth. The way, if he did not look down, he could pretend the Titanic was a raft. On the ocean, nowhere to go. The waves turned lazily
onto their foam-white stomachs and vanished under again. "Al!" she said, even though last night he had been Mister Heiderich. "You should take me to that pier sometime! Even if we only talk about it, just say you will." "Oh, I will," he agreed and inserted a cigarette into an ironic smile, "I was sorely lacking in french fry guards the last time, and I will not be made a fool of again." She smiled up at him, and it was like the sun shattering over the horizon. "I'll be an artist, like you, and we'll run around and live off nothing!" "Sure." He watched the smoke leak through his teeth. "We'll muck around the pier all day and draw portraits for money. And eat corn dogs and ride roller coasters until we puke." He paused to take a drag, then double-took and went on before he could, "And we'll ride horses on the beach. But none of that sissy side-saddle stuff. You have to ride like a man."
Cautiously, she drew her eyes up from the billowing sunset, whatever it was, and listened to him. How he said that he needed a french fry guard, because of course he wouldn't be made a fool of -- here, she laughed, because no one who was heavily laden with jewelry ever talked like this. They never had time to make jokes, to rollick around on the deck and take in the sunset. They were far too preoccupied with how they looked, how they presented themselves and how their dresses swished behind them when they walked. But he did, and he did it well. 'Sure, we'll much around the pier all day and draw portraits for money. And eat corn dogs and ride roller coasters till we puke…' He took a drag of the cigarette freshly introduced to his waiting lips, and she plucked it from them and took a drag, herself. Coughed a little, pushed it right back to his lips. '..You have to ride like a man.' "With both legs on either side? -Really-?" She started, not feigning surprise. It was genuine. "How scandalous!" but this was a laugh. "You gotta teach me to…walk like a man….n' talk like a man." She hoisted herself up a little bit on the railing, billowing her chest out. "Spit like a man!"
Between his fingers, he pinched a cylinder of air; between her fingers, she held his cigarette. She took a deceivingly fluid drag, then broke off into coughing. She fed the cigarette back into a smile when he asked, "Don't smoke often?" He turned away to blow the smoke, flick the cigarette overboard. When he turned back, her eyes were sun-fed and wide. "With legs on either side?" she asked. "'Really'?" He laughed--partly at her expression, partly at her obvious shock. "Well, no one said you had to wear a 'dress' while you do it." However interesting that image may be. She went on, "How scandalous!" And then, bolstering herself on the railing, setting her
jaw, she insisted he teach her to "walk like a man 'n talk like a man". And spit like a man. He blew air through his lips and said, "What? They didn't teach you that in finishing school? Here--come on." Grabbing her hand, he lead them away from a pair of gentleman talking railroad fortunes. Then, after an...unbridled snort, he cocked his head back, then sent one whistling through the air, arcing magnificently into the deep blue. Admiring his handy work, he turned and smiled.
When he grabbed her hand, she neglected to let go. Not because she wanted oh so badly for him to be close to her or to fall in loveeee or -no, none of that. It could've been that, with how he was, but it wasn't; she was simply so comfortably around this delightful, blue-eyed boy that she forgot how to behave properly. She forgot that she was engaged, and that she had an image to uphold -- that she had just met him the previous night. And yet, around him, it didn't matter. It was a flurry. A dizzy spin of emotions, and she trailed after him eagerly. Even though he was basically saying that he was going to teach her how to spit. When it set in--and her hand rested absentmindedly on his--she stared at him. The only word that could describe it was flabbergasted, probably, and she just stared when he spit across the railing. "…Alfons!" She started, trying to situate herself through the laughter. But she failed miserably; "No, they just taught me what fucking spoon to use. Lemme try," And here, she hocked back a spit. It barely got past the railing. Frustrated, she bit her lip, gnawed at it. But she reveled in how he laughed and how she laughed, too, even if her mother was strolling against the sunset -- threatening to choke her, pry his hand away.
She was a flighty thing. When not sulking in the state room, she was slinking around the deck, consorting with steerage and generally doing everything in her power to besmirch their reputation. God forbid she actually converse with someone important once in a while. Had the gutter rat behind her been immediately visible, she would not have lead the other wives to the railing. By the time they reached them, however, some of their conversation was already drifting back to them. "...They just taught me what fucking spoon to use." "...Really? That's it? That was pathetic! Come on, you really have to hock one up--"
"Ladies, if you'll excuse me," she said, and naturally, they all followed. Just in time to see the gutter rat crane his neck back, conjuring something in his throat. When he turned, spittle dangled from his chin. He swallowed noisily, then straightened, averting his eyes. His hair was not slicked back, free to blow around a grubby, poorly-shaven face. He looked like he could not have been more than twenty, which meant of course he was only after one thing. She did not try to disguise her disgust. "...Katherine?" she inquired.
The sun was flickering brilliantly on the horizon, and she was trying to hock up something from the back of her throat just like he was doing. It was pathetic, how bad she was at it -- she fought back loud giggles and tried not to snort. It was stupid, whatever they hell they were doing, but she lied it. She liked how it was a far cry from clinking china and smells that were far too inhibited; she liked it, liked it a lot. Didn't want it to end, away from the chairs that locked onto her ankles. He claimed she had done pathetically, admits her snorts, that she 'really' had to -Clack, clack. Familiar sound of heels, and by some means, she managed to turn around briskly and straighten herself. Prim and proper, back in an instant -- a far cry from riding side-saddle on the beach, and she was arching her back just right, like a good little girl. Unmistakably, it was her. Asking her name, full-blown and aristocratic, and not even trying to disguise her disgust. "Oh…mother," She started, smiling. Gracefully, and she hated. "May I introduce Mr. Alfons Heiderich." Here, she motioned to him, "He's the man who saved my life." An approving mutter from the crowd behind her, but she knew she would not see the same reflection in her mother's eyes. "He'll be joining us for dinner this evening. Won't you, Alfons?" She turned to him briefly,the sound of a voice cracking overhead. A figure from behind her mother -- one of the gracious and curious ones-- spoke. And it was Molly, the one her mother complained about but was no less interesting. "Well, Alfons, it sounds like you're a good man to have around in a sticky spot--" A pause, and a bugler sounded a meal call behind them. The lot of them were startled, and Molly expressed her anger towards it. She could only smile gracefully, rolling her shoulders. "Shall we go dress, mother?" And she grabbed her mother's arm, quick to avoid the situation. Over the rolling shoulder, she smiled at him, "See you at dinner, Jack." The lot of them exited, yet Molly remained.
She looked to Alfons, smiled. "…Son, do you have the slightest comprehension of what you're doing?"
When her feet had slowed, he noted, for the first time, the bubbly toes peeking almost comically from beneath her dress. She bent herself over his arm, and he was close enough to see the sheen of sweat that lined the bridge of her nose. Freckles. Freckles dotted her eggshell complexion. He realized that, until now, powder had concealed them. Imperfections. He found himself loving her more than ever. "I'm so drunk," she said, "oh my God." And he laughed, heaving her bowed form up and into him. "But still such a marvelous dancer!" Over the cigarette haze and the sweat-slicked heads, they did not see the man creeping down the stairs, with a first class over coat and a suspicious stare. They did not see the disbelief--then the delicious knowing--as he lead her by the hand back out onto the floor.
Last night had been more than just alright. At least, that was what she had said. In response to the dinner, in response to folding her hands primly over her lap and smiling gently at the cacophony of people surrounding her. It had been alright, it had been a nice time and oh! yes, the food had been especially wonderful. That was what she had told Cal. To his knowledge, she'd just talked with the ladies after Alfons had left. She was not guilty of sneaking into the depths of the ship's bowl and rollicking happily with a man that was not her fiance. No, of course not. Not with how her morning dress flowed around her knees, how her smile was gentle now, too. Just like she was supposed to be. Delicately picking up the fork, using it only slightly. She bit the tip of it, and looked to Cal. Just alright. He had been informed that evening. Lovejoy, eyes twinkling like a hound with the scent of a hare, had weaved his way through his associates and cigar smoke. "It appears our dinner guest," he said into his ear, "has extended an invitation of his own." She had returned--loudly--and superbly late to the state room. He lay in his bed and waited for an explanation. Perhaps an excuse. But the sun had elongated over the Atlantic, and she had remained in bed, stinking of sweat, liquor. Steerage. Finally, she had joined him on the balcony at breakfast. Oh, but didn't she look innocent, with her morning dress flapping around her ankles, the way she nipped coyly at her fork.
"It was alright." "...You look tired," he noted quietly, jabbing at his untouched breakfast. "...Your little excursion to the lower deck must have been particularly exhausting."
There was this silence that she could not write off. This -- sort of unease, and it had permeated the atmosphere all morning. Choking her. In that prim little dress of hers, looking so innocent, and she could tell Cal wasn't having any of it when she seated herself across him. Her eyes flickered to the side when he noted quietly that she looked tired. "Yeah…last night was--" 'Your little excursion to the lower deck must have been particularly exhausting.' She froze. Cautiously rose her gaze to him. "I'm not some worker in your factory that you can control, Cal…I'm your fiance,"
Surprise shredded the veil of innocence she had draped so carefully around her face. Her fork stayed poised at her lips, as though even it had been shocked into motionlessness. Himself, he simply watched. His breakfast turned slowly cold, like the organ beating steadily in his chest. All he could think was that he had been second. To a gutter rat parading around in their clothing, he had been second. She would rather rollick in their filthy air and tromp through their floors stickied with cheap beer. Lovejoy said he had been "holding" her. Finally, she spoke, "I'm not some worker in your factory, Cal. ...I'm your fiance." "...Fiance..." he muttered, and a smile flitted, unwillingly, to his face. He plucked a glass from the table, drew it to his lips, took a few calming sips-then flung it promptly to the floor. The sound of shattering glass was quickly joined by the other objects tumbling to the floor boards. He gripped the table on both sides, thrust it another time at her, barely noticing when her breakfast dove for cover in her lap. "Yes! You are! In practice, if not yet by law," he snarled, "you 'will' honor me--the way a wife is required to honor her husband." He moved again, in one fluid movement of which he was not even aware. Both hands again found either side--of her chair, this time, and he hovered over her, close enough to smell the alcohol still on her breath. "I will not be made a fool of. Is that in any way unclear?"
Instantly, she knew what she had said had treaded into unfamiliar territory.
Dangerous. By the light glimmering, flickering in his eyes- he just gazed at the cup settled in his hands, sipped at it, and promptly flung it to the floor. A loud crack emanated through the room, and the ceramic glinted in the bright sunlight flooding into the deck. And then he was tossing the table over, and he was shouting something. Her ears burned - face ablaze with crimson, if only from the sheer fright. The shock of the glass clattering to the floor, the soft palette of colors being shocked by the wood. She clamored for the sides of the chair, where he hovered over her, breath harsh in her face. 'You will honor me. I will not be made a fool of. Is that in any way unclear?' The sheer fright in her gaze was enough, but she nodded and breathily responded 'yes'. Yes, of course, Cal. The tears had fled to her eyes, and her chest heaved. "I--yes," She gripped it tighter and then ducked her face into the back of her hand, scooting the chair back when he drew away. Trudy had heard the commotion, and was at the doorframe. She moved, as he moved away, to clean up the mess - hand resting on her heart. All she had wanted to do was go to a party...
Yes. That was all he needed. The fright that varnished her eyes in a hard, vivid shell, the way in which her fingernails bit crisply into the wood of the chair. "Yes," she said, and that was all he needed. He drew himself up, noting the way her cheeks were blotched crimson in some places, noting the way tears were beginning to well beneath all that fright. Looking around, he saw their breakfast on the floor, forks surrounded by halos of food, juice still dripping from shattered bits of glass. Back to her, and she was hiding her face from him. Apologies climbed in his throat, but he remembered what Lovejoy had said-about her being in his arms--and they plummeted quickly again. He turned and prowled across the deck without another word, not even looking back when the maid scurried over to help her.
When they strolled - the ocean air rollicked against her face, but it did not beckon her to throw herself into the waves rolling below. No - it just beckoned her to watch. To ask questions. Talking to Mr. Andrews something about lifeboat capacity, and god, it didn't add up. Really - nothing on this ship did. Not her strange fascination with the man in steerage who made her feel far more alive than anyone else ever had - the brilliant artist, whose sketchbook she envied. The sketchbook that encompassed a life beyond china dolls. She envied his smile, too. And she had liked being in his arms, and she had liked hearing him laugh. Cal would have none of it, though. He would rather watch her suffocate. And as her heels hit the ground in front of her - one, two, one, two, she felt like she could've sobbed. But she just trailed behind, slow as ever.
Something. Something had happened on the fairer deck. While he had been correcting her portrait, mentally skimming every angle, every curve, wishing she could materialize before him in the flesh instead of in charcoal, something had gone on above. He knew this because, when he had gone to find her, they would not let him in. She was attending a church service; he had not planned to barge in and interrupt or anything like that--he did not need the label "heathen" on top of "gutter rat". Really, he had planned on just pulling her aside, to ask why she had not met up with him like they had agreed, and had he done something wrong? But he had been turned away, right at the door. "Miss Katherine does not want to see you, sir." He knew immediately what that meant.
Ironic how easy it was to blend in with the upperclass. He snatched up a coat that had been draped over a deck chair and strode quickly after her, keeping a wary eye on her fiance and mother ahead. They happened upon a gym, at one point, and that was when he grabbed her arm, signaled quickly for her to be quiet, and pulled her into the building. "Katie," he said, once they were inside, "I have to talk to you."
It was all of a sudden - with clacking of shoes against the deck, there someone was, pulling her. She dipped her head upwards, eyes wide -- to recognize a face, hair slicked back. Soft. Strands flinging themselves onto his forehead. He shushed her - she followed, mouthing a quiet 'Alfons!' before being ushered into a gym that she had not been in. She noted how the sunlight flooded into the room. How it stretched itself languidly across the floor, looking new. She noted this, yeah, and she drifted her eyes back to his. They were close - she was up against a wall, close to him. They needed to talk, apparently. For a moment, she allowed herself to clutch feverishly onto the front of his shirt. She could feel the skin beneath the soft cotton. Her mind spun deliriously, and she wanted to hold him. But moved her hands away. "..Alfons," she started, lump in her throat. She wanted to say - I'm so glad to see you. You know, you make me happy, you're like the best friend I've ever had and--but no. She did not. "..This looks…bad. I --can't be in here. I can't see you anymore,"
A punching bag dangled from the ceiling, casting a bulbous, black shadow on the wall opposite them; exercise equipment, looking for all the world like apparatuses designed for torture, stood motionless and glimmering in the afternoon sun. A feathered hat drifted by in the window, and he huddled himself closer, trying his damned hardest not to be seen, knowing they could be found out at any moment. Hands tangled themselves in his shirt; he could feel the warmth of her fingertips through the fabric. Really, he could have--should have, maybe-kissed her then. Her mouth was near; the sun painted a beckoning arc of light upon her bottom lip. But she moved her hands away, and he straightened. "...Alfons..." "Katie," he countered, "I know what you're going to say." "This looks...bad..." "No one is here but us..." "I--can't be here. I can't see you anymore." So there it was, then. He had been anticipating it, but his heart still dropped
like a lead weight in the ocean. "Kate," he began and gripped her shoulders--not threateningly but firmly enough, "they're going to snuff you out, if you stay in there."
It was overwhelming, standing there. With the smell of sunlight and the ocean exchanged for sheets woven from rough cotton and charcoal - he was there, she was there, and she moved her legs restlessly when he quietly amended that no one was there but them. But she couldn't tear her eyes away, even when she let it slip - "This is impossible. I can't see you." Cal had been clear, and she was not to be around him. As much as she 'wanted' to, as much as she wished and prayed - she was supposed to be trapped like that. And yet, he was so 'real', standing before her. More than anyone she'd known. 'They're going to snuff you out.' "It's not up to you to save me," She shot back, feeling her palms press up against the wall. "You're making this hard," She captured her lower lip with her teeth for a moment. Looked back to him. "Alfons--I don't know what you're trying to do,"
"This is impossible," she said, her eyes fastened to his even when every muscle and bone that jibbered beneath her flesh tugged magnetically at the door, "I can't see you." "You mean you 'won't' see me," he countered, throat tightening against the hard edge in his voice. "They have you in chains--don't you see that?" "It's not up to you to save me. You're making this hard." He simply gazed at her for a moment, watching the sunlight gambol upon her face and aching. He lifted his hand, and, with a thumb, traced her cheek. No time for playing coy. He met her eyes. "No...you're right. That's up to 'you'." "Alfons--I don't know what you're trying to do." He sucked in sharply, through his teeth, and with his other hand, he gripped her shoulder tighter. "Look, Kate, you're no picnic--you're a spoiled little 'brat' even, but--there's a fire in you." He swept his thumb to the corner of her mouth, made circles, held her gaze so evenly his eyes began to water. "And if you stay, that fire is going to go out. Maybe not now but eventually. They're going to kill it--what I...that fire...I 'love' about you."
With one hand - it was on her face, and it was soft. Firm. An artist's hands, and he cared so much that it was almost suffocating. But it was a good kind of suffocating. She just gazed at him, bewildered, not having the words to respond to him. They had her in chains, didn't she see? She could take care of herself, even if that meant she was to toss herself into the depths of the Atlantic. Even if it meant that she didn't, couldn't be with him-'You're no picnic, you're a spoiled little brat. That fire will go out..they're going to kill it, what I love about you.' And he hesitated, but he'd said love. Something like delight surged through her, if only for a moment. But it quickly went away, and who cared if he knew her better than anyone ever had? She lolled her face into his hand--quiet. "..Alfons," She started, cautious. He cared so fucking much. "..Alfons," She said again, throat tightening. She ducked her head against his chest, resting it there. And then she pulled away. "I'm sorry. This is better for both of us," She left, tears beading in her eyes. ------------------------This time, the smoke blew backwards. He made no move to relocate himself; maybe the smoke that stung his eyes was deserved. Maybe not. It had been her choice. It was not his job to save her. Out again, he blew slowly. His eyes, pink with tobacco, traveled down the length of the cigarette hanging lank between his lips. Watched it circle the sunset in lethargic circles, until his eyes grew strained and ached even more. It was not his job to save her--and yet, he felt as though he had failed her somehow. If she crashed and burned, it was because he could not convince her. Maybe he should have kissed her. Maybe not. Maybe it was for the best.
Sighing, he sank onto the railing, plucked the cigarette from his lips, and tossed it. Watched it spin and blink and sputter out somewhere in the foam crashing below. He supposed he might never see her again. "Fuck," he said and plunged his hand into his coat pocket for another cigarette.
The smoke was rising from the bow of the ship. It was not the stacks that puffed smoke languidly into the air, like that. They did not smell like cigarettes and tweed coats, either - framed against a backdrop of a golden sky, stretching on and on and never quite seeming to end. That was what she saw, at the bow of the ship. A figure draped across the railing, and even is figure could make her heart ache. It had been a tumultuous storm in her heart, bleeding her, when she'd walked away. For a bit, she had retreated to the stateroom and gazed at the shoes she had flung so happily towards the crowd. They were worn - they smelled faintly of alcohol. Of laughter. But the breaking point was when they were sitting, and there she was again. In some elegant room that was 'too' nice for its own good. She watched, resigned to her fate. Trapped behind ceramic bars. And she had seen it. The little girl trying so hard to please, folding her hands primly into her lap. Arching her back just so. She deliberately took her cup of tea and spilled it into her lap, if only to excuse herself. Fabrizio had said he might be up here. His eyes had seemed sort of delighted to see her - perhaps Alfons had confided in his friend about how he'd never see her again. Cautiously, she approached. The man hanging himself over the side of the ship, looking lost. He was so much more real than anyone she'd ever known, and her chest simply ached for him. She drew close - faltered. "Alfons.." She began, voice soft. "…I don't want..to go,"
"...Alfons," The match sprang from his hands and winked out into the blue. He turned, unlit cigarette nearly slipping from his open jaw. And there she was, wind tousling her hair, sunset coaxing pink to the surface of a face he thought he would only ever behold in matte tones of charcoal and graphite. With the sunset laying thick on her bottom lip, she said, "...I don't want...to go..." He was certain he had never heard such a beautiful combination of words before. He clutched the railing in his hands, afraid his heart might pound him right off the edge if he did not. The salt of the air whispered through his spinning mind. "The king of the world..." he murmured. And then, jolting, it came to him. "Come here," he whispered and outstretched his hand. "I want to show you something." She had chosen freedom. He would show her how to fly.
This was intimacy. Emotional intimacy. It slung them together far more than any of the times Cal had traced his fingertips against her arm at night. Unwilling skin. But here, she was willing, and she thought she could've been gazing into his soul. Felt as if he had opened her chest cavity and found everything he knew about her and still somehow was fascinated. He cared about her - he wanted her to be happy, away from the bars that closed her in and made her feel like she had no way out. And she -- she just admired him, the artist with the stunning eyes. She took his hand when he smiled at her. After clutching at the railing, and she could've swore her art was about to jump out of her chest and plummet to the waves below. His hand was so 'soft'. Unlike anything she'd ever felt. Rough, but gentle. She felt her shoulders fall in relief, and when she drew near, she wished he would have kissed her. Someone she had known for days but felt like years. Years and years. And here, before her, was the person who meant more than her than what she thought was possible. And so she drew closer, eyes scanning the ocean carefully - and then him. Surveying. "Fabrizio said you might be up here. I can see why." She brushed the stray
hands of hair from his forehead, fond as ever.
"Fabrizio said you might be up here," Her voice breasted the wind whistling in his ears. "I can see why," "Shsh," he shushed her. The words between them were exhausted; she had said all that needed to be said when she told him "I don't want to go". He reached up to snare the fingers brushing his hair from his forehead, pulled her to the railing. "I need to show you something," he whispered, "but you're going to have to close your eyes." Just to speed along the process, with the other hand he gently tugged her eyelids down. "...Step up on the railing," he urged her, guiding her slowly to the edge. "Do you trust me?"
There with him - and she could only gaze into his eyes, so affectionate. She felt as if her heart could've burst from her chest and rollicked along with the waves when he looked to her, voice so soft. Shushed her and said that he needed to shower her something -- but she'd need to close her eyes. Before his soft fingertips were alighting upon her lids, they were already closed. An unspoken answer to the question, if he trusted her. She stepped out of the too-constrictive heels, guided by his hands. "Yeah," She returned, clasping tightly onto his hands. She was lead to the railing - uneasily stood upon it, leaned her weight against his chest. Warm and welcoming. "I trust you…"
Graphite and constellations had always been his areas of expertise--not so much words. Even so, he could appreciate the irony of guiding her back onto the railing. She stepped from her heels--a wise decision, in hindsight-and clambored up, movements shaky and hesitant. He remained behind her, silent, supporting her easily. Whips of black hair kissed his cheeks and lips. He wondered if she was not somewhat aware of the hypnotic quality of her perfume, and so always wore it around him. The last time--out here on the railing--Alfons supposed it had been for the same reasons. She had only been trying to free herself, ignorant of the chains that encircled her, particularly the one around her ring finger, and how quickly she would have sank. If he could just severe them here--now-he thought she really could be airborne.
He waited until they were both steady enough, his legs spread slightly to maintain balance as she leaned her weight against him. He stepped closer, locked her knees against the rail. Very carefully, he unfurled her wings. "Okay," he instructed to her neck, eyes on the sun racing forever ahead of them. "Open them."
Graphite and constellations had always been his areas of expertise--not so much words. Even so, he could appreciate the irony of guiding her back onto the railing. She stepped from her heels--a wise decision, in hindsight-and clambered up, movements shaky and hesitant. He remained behind her, silent, supporting her easily. Whips of black hair kissed his cheeks and lips. He wondered if she was not somewhat aware of the hypnotic quality of her perfume, and so always wore it around him. The last time--out here on the railing--Alfons supposed it had been for the same reasons. She had only been trying to free herself, ignorant of the chains that encircled her, particularly the one around her ring finger, and how quickly she would have sank. If he could just severe them here--now-he thought she really could be airborne. He waited until they were both steady enough, his legs spread slightly to maintain balance as she leaned her weight against him. He stepped closer, locked her knees against the rail. Very carefully, he unfurled her wings. "Okay," he instructed to her neck, eyes on the sun racing forever ahead of them. "Open them."
His breath - she could feel it rush in and out of his chest, just like hers was. How her chest rattled, but it was so pleasant. How the air - it rushed, too. Against her face, and she could smell the salt air. Taste it, even. It tasted like something lovely. Like -- freedom, like being with this artist was everything that being free was. He cared - when he bolstered himself against her weight, interlocking their hands together. He whispered into her ear -- okay, open them. Her eyes were met with rushing water. But she did not see how the ship crashed through the waves; she only saw the dizzying expanse of sky before
her, all framed in shimmering gold. The clouds rushed past, making way for her, and she could only stare at the beauty before her before erupting into a delighted smile. Delighted was not the word. Euphoric. "Alfons-!" She started, breath hitching. "Al--," Her breath was a strangled whisper, and she clutched his hands tighter. Interwove her fingers between his. She had never been so whole with one other person. "We're flying-!"
Climbing, climbing in altitude. He could feel her ascend, chiffon plumage streaming after her outstretched arms. He looked over, and the sun tinged gold the delighted curve of her cheekbone. She was smiling. He remembered her, somber-faced, when he had first saw her, but she had not seen him. Now he knew that smile enough to construct it perfectly from memory. He wondered if Cal had ever known anything other than a taut, appeasing smile. "Alfons!" she breathed his name. He shut his eyes and tried to commit the sound to memory. It was not visual, but God, he wished for it to be there always, like the hundreds of faces he had drawn. "Al--we're flying!" Chuckling, he stayed this way with her, silently watching the world pass below. "Come Josephine in my flying machine," he murmured, caressing her fingers, "going up she goes...up she goes..."
The shivers down her spine increased tenfold, and the clouds around them swept warily to the sides. All before her - shimmering gold, spilling across the sea and dipping itself onto their faces. So close. She could feel him breathing against her - never been this close before. Never had been so singularly happy with one person, she had met him only days ago but it was 'years' as far as the caress of the Atlantic was concerned. There was this relief - this 'knowing'. And she, too, memorized how his voice sounded. Come Josephine, in my flying machine…. sang that on the deck under the stars, and they were on the bow, now.
And they were flying. Like birds, spanning their wings and fluttering them. So she fluttered her lashes when he touched her fingers. "Up, up, a little bit higher.." She whispered, soft, and turned her head. His hair moved against the wind, and she could smell him. Such love - for a man she had just met. She moved herself closer, tilting her head close to his. It was like the clouds were bowing to them. The sky was their canvas. She just clasped his hands, tight, tighter.
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