"The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails."
-William Arthur Ward
Chapter One, Part One: Meet Adelaide Richards
I remember the day my life changed distinctly. It was a dreary Irish Saturday and Mother was busy fixing up the parlor for the hundredth time when Father came bursting through the front door.
"We're going to America!" he had cried triumphantly. I was in the study at the time.
"America?" I remember asking, and poking my head round the door.
"Yes, America! I purchased our tickets from an old family friend just this morning. We will travel first class on the ship of dreams! We're off to opportunity!" He was so giddy with happiness that his face was flushed and his graying hair was out of place. He had already put his walking stick against the front door.
I don't ever recall seeing Father so happy. He was always so aloof and cold to us children, although you could hardly call us children anymore. My older sister was already 21 and I had turned 18 the previous November. We really were growing up, but when were we going to leave the nest?
"Charity! Get in here, darling!" At the sound of her name, Mother came bustling through the door.
"What is this racket? What is so important that you feel the need to shout it through the rooftops.
"We're going to America, Mother," I said, feeling the glow of love she always radiated. "Or, that's what Father says."
"America! So, that means you secured the tickets?" At this, Father nodded. "Oh, Curtis! The Ship of Dreams."
"I know. It leaves April 10th. So we must be swift in our packing. I've already managed to find someone to purchase the house and most of the furniture. I've sent word to all of the newspapers that our furniture is up for grabs." He pulled his coat off and threw it over a chair that had a silk dressing gown that Blanche had had been playing with earlier on it. I cringed, knowing that my older sister, Esther, would easily blame me for the ruined robe. I could already see the raindrops soaking it through.
Almost like she had a sixth sense, Esther came floating through the door. She peered down the end of her pointy nose and at me. "Why is there so much noise in this house?"
My mother laughed. "Oh, Esther. Stop being so uptight and smile! We have a fantastic opportunity awaiting us. Now, go gather the rest of the family." When I didn't move, she said, "You too, Adelaide. Go collect Gregory and Cornelius. Let us have a family meeting!"
I hurried away and up the stairs to the second floor of our house. I could see Esther's lace printed skirt turning into the children's playroom, knowing that she would be bossing the younger two about getting up and downstairs. Honestly, Esther. Be happy for once!
There was another stairwell all carpeted in red. This is where I went upstairs to the third level. Just as I thought, Cornelius was sitting by the window seat, reading his latest book. I pitied him, knowing that Father wouldn't allow a whole library of books onto the ship with us. "Cornelius? Mother and Father want us all downstairs for a small family meeting." I peeked at the book. "A History of France. Are you planning on travel, Cornelius?"
He grinned at my teasing. "Not yet. I'll just go there in my dreams. I take it you need to get Gregory, too?"
"Yes. Is he still in the attic or has he decided to be human and come socialize?"
"Still alone, I'm afraid. At least I talk to people."
"Would you like to go and get him with me? It'll take but a moment."
"I suppose. I want to see what he's working on up there. What's more important than his family?" Cornelius grabbed his tasseled bookmark and stuck it into his book.
Cornelius was, by far, my favorite sibling. He wasn't cold, like Esther. He didn't ignore us, like Gregory. He wasn't obsessive over much of anything, like Nelson. And he wasn't loud, like Blanche. Although, we need to give her some leeway because she's the smallest one of us at just 8 years old. But isn't there such a thing as too much leeway?
It takes awhile to figure out how to get to the attic of our house. In the upstairs music room there was a large bookcase that had came with the house. It was actually a secret door that leads to a dusty, narrow stairwell. Esther was the first to find it when we had first moved in. Now, only Blanche hasn't been up there. She says that the dust scares her. Really, it isn't all that bad. Esther doesn't like it so much either because she likes to keep prim and proper like a real lady. Well, then.
Cornelius pulled aside the bookcase for me, although I could've done it easier than he did. He's weak for 14. Father wants him outdoors more often. Once, after one of these chats, Cornelius confided in me that he goes outside with his characters in his novels. He really is brilliant. He can tell me about the most upsetting story and make it seem beautiful. That's a gift that Father doesn't understand and doesn't want to try to.
Gregory was sitting at a little desk he had set up when he had claimed the room. A large leather bound book was sitting in front of him. It looked at least 5 pounds. "Gregory?"
He didn't turn around, just said (in a crusty voice, I might add), "What?"
"Mother and Father have some good news they want to share with everyone else. I think that you'll appreciate it. Please, Gregory. Come socialize," I said when he didn't respond.
"What are you working on, anyway?" Cornelius asked, stepping toward the desk.
The book was snapped shut. "Nothing."
"How can it be nothing? You shut yourself in here, day and-"
"I said it was nothing. Silence and let's get downstairs. The sooner this is over, the sooner I can get back up here." Gregory took no notice to Cornelius' fallen face.
"Come on, Cornelius. Walk with me," I said, shooting my older brother a look. I don't know what's gotten into him. Just a few years ago, he was my best friend. I don't understand.
Esther was already in the foyer when we returned downstairs. Blanche and Norman were standing with her, looking rejected. I had a sudden flash of anger at my older sister. No matter how beautiful with that golden hair, she had an ugly personality.
"It's about time," Esther said to me. "How hard is it to run upstairs and fetch your brothers? We've been waiting for 3 minutes."
Under my breath, I muttered, "Yes, that's such a long time to wait."
When her eyes narrowed, I knew that she had heard me. Good. Let her hear me. I don't need her bossing everyone around. She isn't our mother. Mother is actually in the other room. "Are we all ready?" I amended.
"Well, now we are." Esther turned toward the dining room and I pulled a face at Blanche. Perking up, she crossed her eyes and stuck out her tongue. Gregory just stood there.
"Blanche, if you keep making faces, yours will stick like that. Stop it." He looked over to me. "Adelaide, don't teach her those things."
I had a few things I could've said to him, but Mother and Esther interrupted my thoughts. I hadn't noticed that Esther'd slipped out; Gregory said just what she would've said.
"Alright, we have everything spread out, come into the dining area, all of you!" Mother looked very happy to be sharing the surprise with the whole clan and not just Esther and I.
When we had all found our seats at the dining table, Father started talking. Across from me, I could see my younger brother Nelson's eyes grow wide. At 10 years old, he was the most enthusiastic about our upcoming boat ride. The dining table had been spread with gorgeous photographs and flyers advertising the Titanic, the Unsinkable, the Ship of Dreams.
"We really get to sail in that?" Nelson asked Father, which was a bold move for him. Nelson is probably Father's least favorite of all of us because he "failed" with the other two boys and has no faith left.
Father was too worked up at the moment to roll his eyes or make a snide comment. "We really do. Our first class tickets are in our lockbox. Now, Charity, darling," he addressed Mother, "I am having the banks transfer our money into an American bank so we won't get robbed or our fortune won't be lost." At Mother's expression, he raised his hand and continued. "We will travel with a modest sum, just enough to get by. All of you will get a little pocket money for tips. What I give you is what you get. Don't ask for anymore."
With that, Father stood up, gathered the papers and exited the room. Our family was sitting in silence before Gregory asked, "Are we done? Because I need to go get organized if this really is the case."
Mother sighed. "I suppose. But wouldn't you want to work on things down here for a bit? Cornelius could go upstairs and get your pro-"
"No! Uh, I mean, that's alright." Gregory took in Mother's expression and sighed himself. "I'm sorry for raising my voice."
"Oh, well. It's fine. Yes, dear. Just go and work on your project. I love you!" she cried as he briskly exited the room.
Her expression was one of defeat. I hated that. I know,a young lady shouldn't say "hate." It isn't proper. The way high society sees it, we need to be as indifferent as possible.
"Children, you can be dismissed. We're done here. Esther, come help prepare supper?" Mother said as she stood from the table. "We need to prepare something special. This is exciting!" I could tell that she was trying to muster some happiness, but to no avail. Gregory had ruined the experience for her.
Esther was immediately up. "Coming, Mother. Were you thinking chicken or a stew for tonight?"
"How about fish?" I could still hear them discussing the main course for tonight's meal.
There were only 4 of us left at the table. "Well, shall we work on our lessons?" I asked, although I couldn't get too enthusiastic.
Blanche and Nelson pulled faces at me. "No," Blanche whined. "The lessons are boring. Besides, we've already done our lessons today! I want to play a game."
Cornelius and I shared a look. I could tell that he was itching to go back to Une Histoire de France. Having a sudden idea, I winked at Cornelius and turned to the two children. "I have an idea."
"What?" Nelson asked. "Is it fun?" At 10, Nelson was very excitable and anticipated every move.
"Yes, I'd like to think it would be fun. Come on. We need to go upstairs for this."
With that, I led the children upstairs with Cornelius in tow. We stopped at the second level; Cornelius kept going. When he was gone, I turned to the children. "Now. Why don't we play boat? Nelson, you be the captain and Blanche and I will be the passengers. Good?"
Nelson's face glowed. "Alright!" He had a chair close to him, which is where he promptly sat to steer our ship. Blanche and I prepared a small table to be fine, First Class ladies on.
"Adelaide, we're on the Titanic already!" Blanche giggled.
"Oh no!" Nelson cried in a faux voice. "We've busted a hole in the bottom!"
Blanche was laughing so hard her face was red. "Will... we go down... Captain?" Tears started running down her cheeks. Nelson had put a blanket around her for what I assumed was a life jacket.
"Yes! Hold on, into the lifeboats!" He ushered us away from the "boat."
"Ah, look at the lights," Blanche sighed dreamily. "It looks so nice."
"What do you mean, silly, the boat is already under."
"That fast?" Blanche looked surprised.
"Yes, that fast. Now, careful. The water's freezing!"
Blanche looked over to me. "The Titanic isn't going to sink, is it?" she asked, her little voice trembling.
I merely brushed her off. "Of course not. They don't call it the Unsinkable Ship for nothing! Nelson is just joshing."
I really wish I was right.