Hi everyone! I'm just going to give a little disclaimer: This story does take place on the Titanic, and yes, I have done my research, but I have made some changes to what actually happened in 1912.
1. The real Titanic was only at sea for 4 days, while I made it a little bit longer.
2. There were also eight musicians, and I did only five, and some of their duties were different.
3. The musicians on the Titanic were employed by an agency who dispatched them to play on the Titanic.
But I did try to make it as realistic as possible even with the deviations from the real thing, so I hope you enjoy it!
"I told you, I'm not going." James Albany told his mother firmly, and not without a substantial amount of coldness in his tone. "I"ve told you, I'm perfectly happy here without going across the world for money I don't need."
"And I'm telling you that you are going." His mother told him just as firmly. "Do you know how long it took your father to –"
"Do you know how much I care?"
Mrs. Albay's response came in the form of a stinging slap across the cheek. James flinched back instinctively, one hand already up to caress the redness forming there.
"I'm 27 years old, Mother. You don't need to help me with my life. I'm perfectly capable of –"
"Regardless, you will not allow this once in a lifetime opportunity pass you by. You are out of a job right now. You will do as I say."
"Because you don't have a wife to tell you instead."
James flinched as if she had slapped him again. She had brought up a sensitive topic. It was an unmentioned taboo within their family to discuss James' apparent inability to settle down.
There was another in town who was responsible for this situation. Or at least, he was in James' mind. Matthew Riverton had been known as quite the ladies man. He had the pick of all the ladies in town. He had since wed Eliza Helson – the girl whom James had been courting for three months and had been about to propose to. As she told him to his blank, numb face, Matthew had simply swept her off her feet.
James never had much to do with Matthew after that. He made a point to avoid Eliza and her glowing smile, which disappeared over time.
"I expect you to go to the audition hall next week." Mrs. Albany said, sounding far away. James blinked and refocused in time to see his mother walking out of his house, leaving without even a good-bye.
Feeling disgusted with himself for allowing his mother to have the last word, he snatched up his hat and walked out himself, giving the door a satisfying slam.
Wandering down the quiet boulevard, James was left with too much time and space to think of things he'd rather not.
Making an abrupt decision, he turned off his street, making his way down to the busier parts of town. He walked down the main road, tipping his hat at passerby.
He entered the first tea shop he saw, seeing it to be clean and well-populated by the upper-class folk. The smell of fresh tea leaves wafted towards him, enveloping him in a comforting warmth. He sat at an empty table and ordered a cup of tea.
The music behind the low chatter in the room relaxed him. He turned to see where it was coming from; searching for the piano he knew to be there.
He found it in the back of the shop. James' appreciation for music flared to life as he admired the beautiful black instrument. Its player concentrated on his fingers as he played the soft music that created the mood of the shoppe.
"Your tea, sir." James turned and greeted a waiter who carefully placed a cup and saucer before him, a napkin under the cup. He put a small tray with milk and sugar with a silver spoon beside it and walked away discreetly.
James turned to the warm drink, adding a drop of milk and stirring it in absently. He ignored the sugar and took a long sip, feeling it warm his insides instantly, as he hadn't put on a proper coat in deference to the weather.
He sat there for a while, drinking his tea and listening to the music. He reflected on his mother's words and dismissed them as beyond his attention again.
He didn't know what made him do it, but when the waiter appeared to take his check, he gave a little extra. He beckoned for the man to lean in closer.
"Give this to the pianist." He whispered, then got up to leave.
"Of course, sir." The waiter acknowledged his request.
James left the shoppe and the waiter weaved his way around the tables to the piano and lay the money on top.
Key Wilson glanced up for a second as the waiter whispered, "The gentleman who just left left this for you."
Key nodded and looked back at his fingers, which hadn't stopped playing. The notes flowed seamlessly into one another in a seamless medley of several songs. He had composed the joinment himself. Music was his passion – it always had been.
Key had been left alone in the world when he was only 6 years old. His mother had died giving birth to him, as she'd always been sickly. The birth had been too much for her. His father had followed her 6 years later, leaving his young son behind.
Key had been raised in the streets of London. Unusually resourceful, he'd found ways to survive using quick wits and an agile body suited for running. Even as a young orphan on the streets, his passion for music showed through, starting with an old piano he'd found in a dark alley. He'd tinkered around on it whenever he got the chance, finding it fascinating and a way to pass the long hours of the night.
It was this that led people to begin calling him Keyboard, which was quickly shortened to Key. This name was much more a description of him than his given name, which his mother had chosen shortly before he was born. Almost no one besides key himself knew his true name. Not even his fiancé was privy to it. He preferred to keep it from others.
The time until the shoppe closed ticked away, until it was time for him to begin winding down. He slowed his tempo; the medley drawing to a close as night steadily fell. The piano fell silent and he stood up, graciously inclining his head at the people at the door preparing to leave applauding his playing politely.
He picked up his cap and the money the unknown gentleman had left for him, more than ready to go home and see his beautiful bride.
As he stepped away from the piano and made for the door, one of the men standing there suddenly appeared before him, his hand already outstretched for Key to shake. Feeling startled, Key took it, wondering what this man could possibly want.
"Good evening," He began, "I was listening to your marvelous playing and I have a small proposal for you." He paused, clearly waiting for Key to inquire as to what said proposal was. When he didn't, the man continued. "I was noticing your skill and I feel you would be an asset for what I have in mind. I'd like for you to audition to join us on the Titanic as a musician."
The expected intake of breath came from Key's mouth. The Titanic was something one could only dream about. Its maiden voyage was scheduled for six weeks from this day, and all those who had money and dreams were planning to be aboard it. Key hadn't even let himself consider the fantasy.
"Please tell me your name, my good man." The man pressed. Key looked at him, eyes shining with wonder and hope.
"Key Wilson, sir." He said, standing up a little straighter. He watched the familiar eyebrow raise at his first name, but the man made no comment.
"Well, Mr. Wilson, the auditions are being held at Jiminy Hall on Tuesday on 8:00. I would love it if you would show your skills for us."
"Th-thank you, sir." Key breathed, hardly able to believe it. A job opportunity, out of the blue, just like that! He couldn't wait to tell Annabel – he was eating at her apartment tonight.
He gave a hasty handshake to the man and rushed out of the now empty shoppe, calling a good-bye to the owner, who shook his head at his young employee.
Key jogged down the familiar street, home of so many memories. The sky was clear, a sprinkling of stars across the deep blue. He breathed in the fresh air, feeling more grateful for his life than he ever had.
He arrived at Annabel's apartment building whistling cheerfully and greeting everyone his passed. He put the key in the lock of her door and crept inside, following the sounds he heard in the kitchen.
Annabel had her back to him, standing at the sink with whatever she was cooking for supper. Smiling widely, Key took two swift steps to her and wrapped his arms around her waist.
She jumped in surprise and began to turn to him, but he beat her to it. He poked his head over her shoulder and gave her a swift kiss on the cheek.
Annabel swatted at him. "Key!" she scolded, a twinkle in her eye.
"Hello, my darling." Key laughed playfully. "How are you this fine evening?"
Annabel wondered at his cheerful mood, but said only, "I'd be much better if you'd go and wash up for supper." She pushed him gently to the sink. He grumbled good-naturedly, but obeyed her.
They sat down to their meal a few minutes later, both eating quietly for a while. Then Key couldn't hold it in any longer.
Annabel raised her eyebrows. She hated it when Key did that. He grinned at her, anticipating such a reaction.
"Come on, guess."
"I'm not guessing."
"Okay. I got a job offer today."
Annabel gasped. "Oh, Key! That's wonderful! What is it? When do you start? What do you—"
Key laughed at her excitement. "Not so fast, Annabel. He offered me a job to be a musician on the Titanic! I'm to audition next week." He sat back, waiting for her exclamations of enthusiasm. To his surprise, she fell silent, playing with her fork in her fingers.
"The Titanic?" She asked quietly.
Key looked confused. "Of course. What's the problem?"
Annabel was silent for a moment, then, "You'll be going to America. That's a long way."
Key was beginning to get the picture. "You don't want me to go."
She looked at him. "No! That's not it. I just…I'll miss you." She said in a small voice.
Keys eyes lost some of the surprise as he considered her. "Well…" Then he smiled. "Did you truly think I would take this job without you?"
Annabel gasped. "Really, Key? You would let me come with you?"
Key laughed. "Of course. I wouldn't have it any other way."
Annabel leapt up and embraced him fiercely. "Thank you." She said in his ear. He hugged her back and stood, lifting her off her feet and twirling her around the kitchen.
The left the remains of their meal on the table as they danced together to imaginary music, laughing like small children in simple delight.
Key walked home an hour later, considering how to get Annabel a ticket on the boat in the event that he got the job. He doubted he'd be able to get anything higher than 3rd class.
He felt a bump on his shoulder and turned, startled to face the person he'd just hit.
"I'm so sorry." He said in apology. "I wasn't paying attention."
Matthew Riverton studied him. He noticed the happiness shining in Key's eyes and felt a pang of jealousy following immediately. "Don't worry about it." He said and continued on his way, glancing back at Key and the jaunty spring in his step.
He was dreading walking through his front door, making an entrance to his dreary life. He could predict what would happen: His son would be crying and his wife would start in on him right away on what an incompetent father he was and why wasn't he home earlier?
The funny thing was, he'd been so happy before. In his younger years, late teens, he could have had anyone. Everyone wanted to be with handsome Matthew Riverton. He was more popular than even James Albany, the richest boy at the time.
Matthew had seen Eliza and thought she was beautiful and he'd love to court her. But James had been courting her, and she was off-limits. But he still would have liked to court her first. Ironically, once she broke up with James to be with him, things had gone downhill rather quickly.
Things had been fine for the first month or so, but Matthew found her to be very demanding and critical, especially nine months later when little David was born. The child was growing up in a house full of yelling and cold silences. Regardless of that though, David was the one thing Matthew enjoyed about what his life had become. He looked forward to seeing him after work each day.
He recalled the scene he had witnessed an hour earlier. The window had been open and he hadn't been able to miss it. The man and woman dancing burned into his memory, the lighted kitchen displaying their love for all to see. He wished he had that. He just didn't know what happened; he assumed maybe they just hadn't been meant for each other.
A fact made more prominent by Eliza frequently mentioning how superior James was and how Matthew wasn't quite up to par.
Matthew sighed heavily like a man with nothing left to live for. He had reached his apartment and turned the knob, bracing himself for the barrage of verbal abuse coming from his wife.
The door opened easily under his fist. The dark entrance greeted him rather than his wife's voice. The silence deafened him, seeming to be too absolute, too final. Not a sound penetrated the darkness.
Fearing the worst, he entered the bedroom and lit the gas lamp on the table. He felt lightheaded at what he saw. He sat on the bed, dazed.
It was empty. Her bed was stripped bare, no pillow, no covers. Her closet was empty. All that was left were his things. He got up as if in a trance and went to the nursery down the hall.
As he suspected, it was empty of everything; the crib had no blankets, the clothing was gone, even the diapers. Not to mention the baby.
Matthew went back to his, not single, bedroom, and sat again. There was a note he hadn't noticed before on his pillow. It stated simply: David is with me.
Nothing else. No good-bye, no nothing. Just an impersonal note on his pillow announcing Eliza's departure. No information as to where she had taken his son, or where she was.
David had been the one thing in Matthews life that he enjoyed, succeeded closely by the piano. He couldn't believe he was gone so suddenly.
Almost absently, or on instinct, Matthew reached under his pillow for the newspaper clipping he'd hidden there the previous week. He knew that if Eliza had found it, she'd be angrier with him than she ever had been.
Well, he thought bitterly, It's not as if that matters anymore.
He fingered the word "musicians," the ink smudging slightly onto his finger.
Since getting married, he considered himself as such, playing piano every chance he got, driving his wife crazy. He'd bought the instrument when he was first able and set it up in its prominent position in the dining room for every visitor to exclaim on its beauty. Eliza had gritted her teeth and dealt with it whenever he played, sitting for hours on end at the piano.
Occasionally, the sound of violin would accompany his playing from next door. Though the neighbors had never met, they could hear each other
Now that he thought of it, the strains of violin were sounding from next door. Talented as its player was, it was giving him a headache.
He stood woodenly and went to the door. He went into the hall and knocked for the first time on his neighbors door.
The music stopped and a youthful face peered out at him. He looked to be around nineteen or twenty years old. He looked inquisitively at his visitor.
Matthew suddenly looked rather uncomfortable. "I apologize for disturbing, but I wondered if you could save your violin for tomorrow morning."
Thomas Brown just stared at him for a second. This was the person he often heard through the walls, he was sure. Surely because he usually enjoyed his violin, there must be a good reason for asking him to stop this particular night.
"Of course. I apologize."
Matthew thanked him and Thomas closed the door, returning to the living room where the beautiful instrument was resting carefully upon the couch. Thomas picked it up tenderly and placed it back in its place.
He sat on the couch in the violin's place, feeling restless. He'd been practicing nonstop since he read in the paper of the job for musicians on the Titanic. He dreamed of performing, feeling the violin beneath his chin and moving the boy smoothly across the strings and hearing thunderous applause just for him.
Unfortunately, age usually was held against him. Being only 20 years old, most orchestras or groups were wary of allowing him in, seeing him as an amateur. But he kept on, now hoping the Titanic would put his youth aside and allow him on for his talent.
He sighed, his fingers itching to pick up his instrument of choice and begin playing. But in deference to his neighbor, he squashed the desire and picked up the book lying on the table beside him.
He set it down two minutes later and picked up a music book instead. He opened it to the most recent page, covered with markings and erasers, barely legible. He'd been working on this piece for the past two weeks – it was to be his audition piece and it had to be perfect.
Thomas studied his writing and glanced at the part he had been having trouble with. He furrowed his brow, listening to the notes in his head. He picked up a pencil and began making minute changes in the beat and notes.
Not five minutes after he started, the ringing of the telephone startled him out of the world of music. Sighing in annoyance, Thomas stood and went to the table where his telephone stood and answered it.
"Thomas, dear," It was his mother. Thomas stifled a sigh of frustration. "There's someone here I'd like you to meet. Please come over and we can get started." His mother trilled.
"Mother," Thomas tried to sound patient. "I'm not interested –" There was only silence on the other end. His mother had hung up, convinced that this one would work out.
"Mother." Thomas muttered to himself, slamming the phone down. "Not again." These calls came at least twice a week, usually when he was doing something else much more enjoyable than meeting another "eligible" girl.
First of all, none of them were girls he'd ever consider marrying. Second of all, he had absolutely no interest in getting married. He didn't feel ready. He'd rather concentrate on his music. This one probably had scores of money in her fathers' bank account. They all did.
Thomas grabbed his jacket and walked out of his apartment, ready to give his mother and piece of his mind and he didn't give a damn if there was a lady in the room.
He locked his door and went outside, slipping his arms inside his jacket and huddling into it. The weather was getting warmer, but the nights were still chilly.
His steps were fast and angry, and he was thinking of nothing other than the speech his mother would be receiving that night.
"Careful there." The voice made him look into the amused face of Jimmy Parker, whom he had just avoided smashing into.
Jimmy watched him disappear into the darkness, eyes still amused. Jimmy was on his way home from a long, grueling day at his second job. Being a factory worker was never particularly satisfying, but his boss hadn't been in the greatest of moods recently.
But Jimmy was an optimist and he was sure things would turn around eventually.
He continued along the pleasant street, unwilling to admit that he didn't want to arrive at his own neighborhood, it being one of the poorest, most decrepit neighborhoods in the area.
The single most expensive thing Jimmy owned was his precious viola. He'd bought it during better times and had refused to sell it with the rest of their belongings when their financial situation went sour.
But he didn't mind living in poverty, so long as there was plenty of happiness in their household. Samantha agreed, and both did their best to give their three children as happy lives as possible.
These thoughts had carried his feet right to his front door. He plastered a smile on his face and pushed it open.
"Daddy, Daddy, Daddy, Daddy!" A small figure hurled herself at his legs and squeezed tightly. Jimmy staggered back slightly at the force of the nine-year-old girl.
"Daddy's here!" Another thin voice piped from further into the room, and another figure came running and joined the hug.
"All right, Elsie, Louisa. Let Daddy find Mother now. Why are you still awake, anyway?" Jimmy detangled himself from his daughters and found his wife sprawled on the threadbare couch with Jonathan, looking exhausted. Jonathan looked at his father eagerly, considering it beneath his six-year-old dignity to go running to him.
Jimmy leaned over and pecked his wife on the cheek, giving Jonathan a shoulder squeeze at the same time. He glanced surreptitiously around the room, taking in the mess that appeared as if a hurricane had blown through. Samantha must have been pretty tired today to have not reined in the children from such a mess and allow them to stay up so late.
His eyes immediately flicked up to his viola case on a tall shelf over the couch, reassuring himself that no small hands had touched the instrument inside. He breathed a sigh of relief when he saw it untouched from its position from that morning.
He pushed the girls in the direction of their dolls and sat on the couch next to his wife.
Samantha's head turned slowly to face his. Her beautiful brown eyes were half-closed and exhausted looking. Jimmy felt a pang of remorse looking at her. All she'd ever wanted was to stay at home and raise their children. But their situation made that impossible.
"Mrs. Albany was in a horrible mood this afternoon." Samantha murmured, her eyes sliding closed. "She came home from visiting her son in a frightful temper and suddenly, everything I did was wrong. She made me re-clean everything."
Jimmy swore in his mind. He hated it when his wife's employer visited her son. It made Samantha's life that much harder. He hated that James Albany, as he made her angry every time.
His eyes strayed to the shelf above their heads, glancing at his viola again. His wife opened her eyes and caught the movement.
"Must you think about that now?" She asked, too tired to actually snap at him. "Can't you forget about that wretched viola for one night?"
"I wasn't." Jimmy said quietly, as if hoping she wouldn't hear. But she did.
"Okay, so you looked at it for what reason, exactly?"
Jimmy didn't say anything, but a red flush began spreading on his face as he looked at anything but his wife.
"Jimmy, just tell me, did – Elsie, no climbing – did something happen today?"
"Sort of." Jimmy mumbled, trying to think of how to best approach this topic. "I'll tell you after the children are in bed."
Though burning with curiosity, Samantha made no protest, instead lifting herself off the couch with a tired groan and went to the tiny bedroom to begin the long awaited bedtime.
Several tantrums, tears, and bribes later, the two adults were alone on the couch again.
"You were saying?" Samantha prompted as if they'd never been interrupted.
Jimmy mumbled something to himself, seeming to be too embarrassed to say it out loud.
Samantha sighed. "You'll have to speak up, Jimmy."
"I've been offered a job." He said reluctantly.
Samantha stared at him, a happy look stealing away the tired one in her eyes. "Why is that something to be ashamed about? That's wonderful!"
Jimmy's eyes were downcast. "It's on the Titanic, Samantha." Her smile faded. "And I can't afford for you and the children to come too. I'm auditioning next week to be one of the musicians."
"But, it would pay well, and maybe we'll have a good income again." He sounded slightly desperate now. "Right? It's a good thing."
Samantha was quiet, deep in thought. Then she made her decision. "You're going." She said firmly. "I know you want to, and it will help our family." Jimmy began to protest, but she talked over him. "I don't care. I want you to go."
Jimmy smiled. "Thank you Samantha." She smiled thinly, the difficulty behind her decision showing plainly. Jimmy stood to get something to eat from the kitchen, then paused.
"I love you."
He got no answer. Samantha had fallen asleep, the anxiety not quite faded from her face. His face softened as he looked at her, then he went to their bedroom and brought their blanket out, draping it over her.
Forgetting his hunger, he sat next to her and put his arm around her shoulders, pulling her close. She shifted and drew into him.
"Love you too." She murmured in her sleep.