Author: MoistenedBint PM
Katie never thought that her last moments would be shared with a stranger who had given her his seat only a few hours earlier. A wee Titanic oneshot I wrote in the wee hours of the morning. And no, it has nothing to do with the movie.Rated: Fiction T - English - Tragedy/Friendship - Words: 3,062 - Reviews: 4 - Favs: 2 - Published: 08-18-08 - Status: Complete - id: 2560762
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
A/N: This hit me in the middle of the night and I worked on it until four in the morning. Which wasn't intelligent, as I had to get up and go babysit for twelve hours. But anyway, here it is, and I have to admit that I'm rather proud of it. I originally posted this under the Titanic section on FFN, but a friend pointed out that it was pretty much original fiction, so I decided to post it here. I've seen other Titanic pieces here, and since this has nothing to do with the movie, I'm assuming it's all right. If not, please tell me so that I can delete it before the admin does.
A few notes before I begin:
Even though those two stewards are trying to stop Jack from entering church on Sunday in the movie, that was a fallacy. All of the passengers were welcome, although very few second and third-class passengers could find seats. Some gentlemen may have given up seats, but I doubt very many did.
I know this completely contradicts what most people think, but I'm not going to have the passengers kept below decks here. I only know of one gate that was locked, and it was opened for a few girls to get through. In fact, it was reported that stewards came to lead third-class passengers to the deck, since many of them did not speak English and would only trust uniformed men.
Now that that's said and done, please read! I'd love to hear your thoughts!
Katie was somewhat intimidated at going up to the first-class dining hall, but no class distinction would hinder her religious convictions. She ascended the never-ending stairs and treaded through the labyrinthine corridors, dressed in her finest clothes. They paled in comparison to what first-class ladies would wear for tea, but Katie was proud of her suit and the hat she had received for Christmas.
She arrived along with a myriad of other people. First-class passengers glanced at her in disdain, turning away to their Reginald or their Alice. Their rustling clothes elicited envy and adoration in Katie, all at the same time. And the feathers…they were so much more beautiful than the violets embedded in her own hat. The second-class ladies' finery was less extravagant, but they were nice outfits that Katie liked to look at. There were very few third-class passengers who had dared to come as she had, and all acted like children who knew they had been naughty and were about to be punished.
All of the first-class passengers took the seats. A few were left in the back, and the second-class ladies took those meekly. The rest of them—second-class men and third-class passengers—stood in the back or leaned against the wall, sharing copies of the White Star Line book used for church services. Katie stood in the back, mentally pushing away her discomfort; she had traveled a greater distance than the first and second-class passengers. But this was the way of the world and she swallowed it like a good girl.
As the captain and the officers prepared to start the service, a first-class gentleman glanced around the room. Katie was near him, watching him. He was the only one looking fully around the room and not chit-chatting with the other passengers. Naturally, his eye caught hers and lingered there. He was not bad-looking, but he looked intensely bored. He smiled lightly after a moment and she returned the gesture, unsure of whether or not it would be impudent of her to do so.
He surprised her then by stepping towards her, away from his seat. No one really noticed; they were all too busy gasping over Mrs. Astor's gown, which was concealing her "condition." Katie stood a little straighter, itching in a thousand places out of discomfort. He came to stand before her and she had no choice but to look up.
"Madam, may I offer you my seat?"
Katie's legs were already tired from the climb; now, she could have been knocked over by a feather. He was a gentleman of a much higher station than hers; this simply wasn't done. It would be rude to turn down the seat and downright foolish; Katie wanted a seat more than anything. But would she be breaking some rules of etiquette by accepting? She was not, after all, a real lady, and he was a fine gentleman, or so she assumed.
"I…you, no thank you, sir," she finally stuttered.
He smiled at her. "Madam, I insist. You have no doubt had a wearying journey up here and you are a lady; therefore, I must offer you my seat. Madam, I insist you take my seat."
Katie glanced around at the other third-class passengers. There were other women, all of whom were fit enough to stand, but she still felt guilty. Could she ask him to offer his seat to another woman instead? An ache tugged at her legs after a moment and she turned back to the gentleman who was smiling patiently.
"Thank you, sir," she mumbled, carefully slipping into the aisle. She hesitated before sitting down as daintily as she knew how. She was in the back right corner, so only those who were immediately to her left saw her. They looked momentarily scandalized before sniffing and turning away. Katie chanced a glance at the gentleman who had given up his seat. He smiled jovially, as if he her taking his seat delighted him, and tipped his head towards her. She returned the nod, albeit nervously, and quickly spun around to watch the captain as he began the service.
All throughout the makeshift church service, Katie's eyes strayed to the gentleman. He was taking it all in stride, belting out the verses to the hymns grandly and nodding smilingly at those standing around him. Once or twice he caught Katie's eye and winked at her. Katie was quite at a loss. She had never imagined that rich men would wink, but then again, she supposed it was rather logical. She had only ever seen men of her station wink at her after they said something naughty. This gentleman, however, was winking in the purest way possible.
Frankly, it floored Katie.
When the service was over, he turned to a man nearby with a great walrus-like moustache and asked after his family. Katie was unsure of what to do; should she stay and thank him, or should she go on? It would have been polite to wait and thank him, but her nerves begged her to leave. And so she did. She hurried back to her cabin, her skirts flapping against her stockinged legs. Her neighbor, Mrs. O'Loughlin, asked if she was feeling all right ("You look as if you've seen a ghost, child! Are yeh runnin' a fever, Katie?"). She swore she was fine and begged to go to lunch now.
She told no one of the kind gentleman who had insisted she take his seat. Somehow, she didn't think anyone would believe her. Perhaps she would have a chance to thank him later. Before the ship docks, she promised.
Katie awoke to shouting in the corridors. Mr. O'Loughlin came and roused his wife, daughters and neighbor. They dressed quickly and put on their coats over their lifebelts.
"Do yeh really think the ship hit somethin'?" Elizabeth asked.
"It can't have; it's unsinkable," Mary chided.
The ship had hit something. They all rushed up to the deck, grabbing each other's coats so as not to lose one another. They joined an anarchic queue for the lifeboats. The two oldest O'Loughlin boys went to the other side to try and find a lifeboat with a shorter wait. Katie was shoved and jostled until she knew she would be bruised. No one was getting on the lifeboats, or so it seemed. With a heart sinking faster than the ship, she realized that they had spent too long dressing. Water rose noticeably, pulling the magnificent ship down into its freezing depths.
"Mrs. O'Loughlin, maybe we should go find yer boys," Katie suggested. The youngest boy, Jimmy, was clinging to his mother's hand. Mary seemed to have attached herself to her mother's waist, refusing to let go. Elizabeth complained about the crowd.
"No, we'll get on this one soon," Mrs. O'Loughlin said with an assuredness that Katie knew she did not feel. "Just a little bit longer." Mrs. O'Loughlin said "Just a little bit longer" so many times that Katie realized that the matron knew just as well as she did that they were never going to get onto a lifeboat.
The two boys were gone; they had either found a boat and saved themselves or had gotten lost. Katie preferred to think that they had gotten lost. Katie no longer fought to keep her place; she allowed frantic mothers with sobbing children to push past her. They needed life more than she did. Katie stood there so long that soon she had lost the O'Loughlins. They were not on the boat that was being lowered. She thought she glimpsed them in the throng trying to get on the next one, but she knew that unless they had a miracle, they would never get on.
Katie suddenly could not breathe. She wanted out; she wanted to get away from all these people who were suffocating her. She stumbled towards a wall and pressed herself against it, her breath ragged. She was going to die. There was no escaping it. Taking a deep breath, she uttered the most comforting words she knew.
"I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth, and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord."
Katie groaned, rubbing her eyes. She was so tired. She had hardly been asleep ten minutes when Mr. O'Loughlin had roused her. And to think, that was the last sleep she would ever get. She could have laughed bitterly. Her eyes lingered on a few harried people before she recognized one of them. It took a moment, but she remembered the gentleman from earlier that day. He looked different now; his smile was gone and a look of ragged weariness overcame his features. His tired eyes were dull and they did not perceive her at first.
He looked up and a ghost of a smile flickered across his features. "Ah. You are the young lady to whom I gave my seat earlier today. Or, yesterday, rather. I suppose you are not attempting a boat?"
Katie shook her head. "No. There's no chance of escapin'."
The man nodded and took a step closer so as to hear her better over the confusion. "I never did learn your name by the way. Mine's Christian, if you were curious."
"I'm Katie," she said, finding the introduction somewhat out of place. "I meant to thank yeh, Christian, fer givin' up yer seat today. Yesterday. I, I meant to thank yeh before the ship docked, but…"
"It appears that this ship is never going to dock," Christian said wryly. He craned his neck and looked around them. "Are you with anyone?"
Katie shook her head. "I lost 'em. They might've gotten on a boat."
Christian nodded. "Very well. Come along with me; we're sinking fast and if we stay here much longer, we'll be underwater."
Katie suddenly let out a dry sob as he led her along. Underwater. This ship of dreams, the ship that was carrying her to a new life in the States, was sinking, and she was most likely going down with it. Not only that, but with a complete stranger for company.
Christian clicked his tongue sympathetically at her sob, one hand firmly on her back and one holding her arm so as not to lose her. "Now, now, Katie, don't be like that. It'll only make things worse. You mustn't cry."
Katie nodded, taking a deep, calming breath. Random screams punctured the freezing night air and it frightened her. She clung to Christian's arm as they tried to move as far away from the stern as they could. They were unable to get to the bow; there were too many people jostling about and Christian was not the kind of man to push; nor was Katie the type of girl to do so. They settled for gripping the starboard railing as the ship began to tilt, and dangerously so.
"Christian, I'm afraid," she admitted. "I don't want to be, but I am." She had to raise her voice slightly as the screams increased. She thought she heard the band playing something; after a moment, she realized it was Nearer My God To Thee. Katie shivered and tried to ignore the shrieks.
"So am I," Christian shouted back. "But it'll all be over soon."
"Do yeh think the lifeboats will come back?"
Christian hesitated, and in that hesitation came Katie's answer.
"Please don't lie to me," she pleaded as she was jolted by a frantic man.
Christian sighed. "No. I don't think they will, and if they do, it won't be anytime soon. Just look at how far away they are."
Katie squinted and finally found the lifeboats. They were far away. Too far away. She closed her eyes and sighed bitterly. God, she began to pray silently, I don't know why you've decided to take down this ship, but it was all in your plan and I won't question you for now. She swallowed. So all I ask is that you give me a quick death. And Christian too, she added as an afterthought. Amen.
Christian was glancing around them when she opened her eyes; the ship was tipping precariously. "All right, love; I have a pretty good idea that the ship is going to tip up into a straight line."
Katie gripped the railing tighter; the ground was slipping from underneath her feet.
"Hold onto the railing as tightly as you can." It was an obvious instruction, something Katie already knew to do, but she also knew that Christian was talking more to soothe his nerves than anything. "Hold onto the railing until we are almost in the water. When you start to get wet, let go and kick for the surface. The ship may suck us down, but it may not. If you lose me, get away from the crowd, especially those with no lifebelts."
Katie swallowed. Her throat felt sore. "Yeh sound like yeh've done this before."
Christian smiled tiredly at this. "No; I simply am prepared to die. The Almighty has willed this to happen and so it shall."
The lights went out then. Katie sidled up closer to Christian, the coldness of the railing biting into her hands. He glanced down below her and pulled her up higher. She was now pinned between his arm and the railing. She gripped his waist and the railing as tightly as she could, her knuckles turning white.
"Ready," Christian muttered, an arm uncomfortably tight around Katie's back. She could not help but shriek as the ship rumbled beneath them. She thought she heard Christian give a shout, but in all the confusion, she only heard her own hoarse cry. Katie looked down and immediately wished she hadn't; the ship was tearing in two. The back half of the ship, the part they were on, soared downwards horrifically fast. She screamed again as this happened, her eyes squinting shut tighter than she had ever done before. The ship raised itself up again. Katie wanted to cry; why couldn't the ship bloody sink already?!
"We're going down now," Christian shouted. "Remember what I told you."
Katie did remember. She swallowed her fears and gripped onto Christian and the railing tighter than she thought possible. The ship bobbed in the water for a moment. They hung there, almost placidly. And then the last of the Titanic plunged down into the sea. Katie held her breath just as the water surged up against her toes. She let go of the railing (she did not realize until then that her legs had wound themselves around the railing as well) and clung to Christian as they soared to the surface, thanks to their lifebelts. She gasped as they surfaced, coughing.
"I-it's s-so c-c-cold!" Katie sputtered, fighting off a scream. Her insides felt as if a thousand sharp chips of ice were pelting her. She had to scream after a moment, if only to ease the pain. Christian might have said something, but if he had, Katie certainly hadn't heard it. Instead, he pulled her away from the panicked men and women splashing around, looking for something (including people) to hold onto.
"C-Christian?" Katie stammered after a moment.
He made a noise to indicate he was listening.
"I w-wish we had h-had m-more t-t-time to get to…know e-each o-other." It had taken such a great effort to say those words.
"Katie, d-don't be s-s-silly; we'll have p-plenty of t-time for that in Heaven."
Katie didn't know if he was in possession of all his faculties or if he was mad, but his words eased some of the icy chips stabbing her inside, but only by a little. She could feel her life slowly ending. The cold was too much; it consumed her entire being. Not even Christian could soothe her now, and even if he did manage to say something, it would not have driven her mind away from the freezing, freezing cold. It felt like ages, this agony. Finally, Katie could feel her breath slipping away.
She looked up; Christian was already dead, ice beginning to form on his closed lashes. Katie felt one last icy knife in her chest before her last gasp slipped away and she knew no more.