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Titanic: Diary of a Girl
What could you do when it was over? What use was running, screaming, and hiding when it was over? What did looks and classes matter? What did wealth and fame matter when it was over? What did anything but surviving matter when it really and truly came to an end?
April 1, 1912
Today when Father came home, he had a huge smile on his face.
Anthony immediately begged to know why. Constance and I flocked him, supporting him with the occasional “Father, please?” and “Why? Tell us!” the background. He just smiled and said: “I’ll tell you after dinner.” His eyes twinkled.
“Father!” I whined. “No one in this family ever tells me anything!”
“Stop bothering Father,” Dorothy lectured, something she never got bored of doing. “He’s tired after a long day.” I gave her a glare, then shot Father with the best, big-eyed, trembling lipped, pitiful stare I could manage.
Douglas choked on his food. I shot him a scathing glance, though it probably turned out looking like I was choking. Ignoring his laughs, I turned my stare towards Mother, hoping she would budge Father in some way.
“Your sister’s right,” Mother agreed, though her eyes said otherwise as they smiled kindly at me.
Anthony and I exchanged looks and sighed – we knew better than to argue. Constance folded her arms and pouted. Dorothy smiled and continued setting the table.
I slunk over gloomily to Father and hung his coat up. He smiled at me and ruffled me hair. Ugh!
As we were finishing up our dinner, Father wiped his mouth, satisfied, and began to talk. “It appears,” he stated, his voice grave, but his eyes sparkling with playfulness. “That we will have to move.”
What? Leave? What about my friends? What about –
“We can’t leave! I have –” Stella began, and the whole family broke into chaos.
“I don’t want to –”
“ – really necessary, John?”
“But – ”
Father held out his hand, and we all quieted down reluctantly.
“The reason why,” he continued. “Is because a good friend of mine managed to make for us an incredible opportunity!” He drew in a breath. “We have tickets to go on the Titanic!”
What? The Titanic? The amazing, unsinkable, giant Titanic? It couldn’t be! Things like this don’t happen to us!
“I-but-we-is the really happening?” Anthony babbled?
Fredrick fell out of his chair and George grabbed me into a sort of happy dance, twirling me around as I laughed, happy tears streaming down my cheeks.
Mother started sobbing into Father’s arms. Stella seemed to be far away in her own world, and Dorothy stood up and squealed (for the first time ever) and hugged Father. Douglas sat down, glued to the chair, his mouth gaping like a fish. Constance squealed.
Thomas, unaware and uncaring, sucked his thumb. It was the best night of my life.
America. America. America. Just thinking about it sends shivers down my spine. The beautiful country of riches, prosperity, and good fortune.
I needed to pick out my best clothes for the trip! I decided on bringing my two dresses, my light blue church dress, and my brown everyday dress. Both were a little dirty, but I think they smelled considerably good; after all, they had only been washed a few months ago.
I tossed and turned all night, thinking about the Titanic.
April 4, 1912
The whole day, we fantasized about the Titanic. In fact, no one had stopped talking about the trip for days now.
“I wonder what it will be like, Elizabeth!” Constance chattered. “Do you think it will be big? How big? Do you think the food there will be good? What will we have? Oh, Elizabeth! Maybe we’ll have our own beds! We wouldn’t have to share! And maybe…” she was talking so quickly it was hard for me to understand, so I merely nodded at all the right places, but I was caught in my own fantasies about the terrific ship.
“Hope they have better needles than we do have here,” muttered Dorothy. “I simply cannot sew properly with these!”
Bedtime came too quickly, and as I tossed and turned, I realized I was desperately thirsty. Even though I was sure it was very late, I crept to Stella’s bed, taking care not to wake Dorothy, who slept on Stella’s right.
“Stella?” I poked her in the side. “Stella, wake up!”
“What, Elizabeth…” she groaned.
“I need a drink of water…” I whined.
“Go get one,” she muttered.
“But… I’m scared…” I whispered. She groaned and got out of bed. “Fine,” she surrendered.
As we started to creep down the stairs to get some water, we heard Father and Mother’s hushed tones.
“John, are you sure?”
“I’m…sorry Annie. I thought… We just…don’t have enough money for second class…”
Even though we’re…not rich…I thought we could make it work…”
Silence. Then a few sniffles.
Stella suddenly left. I don’t know why, but I’m not sure I want to. I saw her silent tears slide down her cheeks.
After a few minutes, I too tip-toed carefully back up the few stairs Stella and I had gone down. As I entered our room, I heard Stella’s forced snores mixed with Constance’s and Dorothy’s.
“Stella?” I whispered. “Stella?” No answer. I wish I knew what Mother and Father were talking about. I hated being kept in the dark, but I would find out soon enough.
April 10, 1912
IT’S THE BIG DAY!!!!!
I’m so excited!!! Everybody is pushing and shoving and yelling and screaming. Some people were crying, which I didn’t understand. This was the Titanic! This was the most amazing day ever! “Stella,” I tugged on Stella’s old gown, which was almost up to her knees already! Stella had apparently grown a lot. “Why are they crying?” Stella shot me a small, wane smile, but said nothing more.
We stood in a big line, and waited and waited for our turn to board. I couldn’t stop fidgeting! When I got up close to the great ship, I realized how big it actually was. It was HUGE!!!! It seemed to dwarf the highest mountains.
I didn’t understand how we had to wait in line where other people could just walk right in! A lady walked past me, looked at me, and laughed. She laughed! I laughed too. This was a great day for laughing! More and more ladies were laughing at me. This was great! We were all friends! They started talking in a language I didn’t understand. I squirmed, feeling a bit uncomfortable. Then a man with a cigar in his mouth leaned down towards me – showing his yellow teeth – and said crudely in my language “Stupid, dirty child!” My heart sank. They weren’t my friends after all! How could I be so stupid to think I could learn how to make friends? A few tears rolled down my cheeks. Still laughing, the man and his wife boarded the ship.
After a long time, it was our turn to board. George squeezed my hand reassuringly, sensing my nervousness, but nearly taking my fingers off in the process. I realized he was sweating bullets and was fumbling with his too-small suit.
Behind me, Anthony poked me. I turned around. “My tie is choking me,” he mouthed. I stifled a laugh and Dorothy showed his disapproval by frowning at me.
Mother showed the officer our tickets, and we all had to sign our names on a piece of paper. I printed my full name proudly on the white paper. Elizabeth Ada Sage.
“Hey, hurry up!” someone in the back of the line shouted.
“Let’s go, Elizabeth,” Mother said quickly and quietly.
As I walked in, I saw sparkling china, sweeping staircases, and ladies in the most beautiful outfits. The room was huge! There were portraits, lamps, and everything fancy that you could imagine! But the dresses of the ladies! They were incredibly silky and smooth. I wondered if I could get a dress like that. Maybe all passengers got those dresses? Oh! I wanted mine in a pale lilac color! I wanted to touch the dresses so badly. I could see Stella wanting to touch them too. I wanted to ask them where they had got the dresses, but oddly enough, Mother had told me not to talk to those ladies.
Mother led us down a few staircases, each of them dirtier, narrower staircase. I was puzzled – why weren’t we staying up with the beautiful ladies? The hallway we entered was dirty. There were many people babbling in strange languages. It was very crowded, but Douglas held on to my hand the whole time. Mother then opened a squeaky door. My face lit up. The room was beautiful, much better than what we had at home. The beds were much more comfortable, the showers were great, and it was so roomy compared to our old room! Even though upstairs was beautiful, this was the best! I giggled. I was feeling extremely giddy. I twirled round and round and fell on my bed. The Titanic was truly amazing!
I turned and saw Stella and Mother silently arguing. I tried to listen in on glimpses of the conversation, even though I’d been taught that it wasn’t polite.
“ – call this third class? This is where they keep livestock, no doubt!”
“Stella, sweetie, you’re being unreasonable. Be grateful for what you have – ”
“Completely humiliating! Why would you – ”
“Money is tight, Stella!” Mother exploded and I shrunk into the bed, trying to make myself invisible. “You think everything can come to you, you fill your head with thoughts of pretty dresses and riches, but that’s NOT us! You need to know that! I’m fine with that kind of behavior from Elizabeth and Constance but you are a lady of seventeen! You can be wed any second! You need to learn that life isn’t what you think!”
Stella shook her head, tears streaming down her beautiful face. “No,” she whispered. “No, no, NO! Why are you lying, Mother? Why don’t you want me to be happy?” She ran out the door, taking care to bang it.
Mother looked about to cry.
“Mother?” I ask tentatively. “What was th – ?”
“Nothing,” she reassured. “Forget about it, Elizabeth.” So I did.
We had two rooms. One was for Mother, Stella, Dorothy, Constance, Thomas (my little brother) and me. The other one was for the boys: Father, George, Douglas, Fredrick, and Anthony. Mother gave us all baths with warm water, and I went out of the room after that.
It seemed like something exploded! My ears were hurting. What was that strange sound? Did something happen? I ran into our room, only to find Papa already in there talking with Mama. A few seconds later, everyone else burst in.
“What happened? Did something explode? What’s wrong?” we babbled.
Mama’s face was white, and she looked down. “Nothing’s wrong, children,” she said in a shaky voice. “You go back and play. The ship’s almost about to go.” She forced a smile. I wasn’t convinced. Mama could never look us straight in the eye when she lied. I sighed. People were keeping stuff from me, what else was new?
“Go back to your rooms,” boomed Father. “Everything’s fine.” Slowly, the boys left.
After lying on my bed for a while, I went into the hallway again and knocked on the boy’s door using me and Anthony’s secret signal. Tap-tap. Tap. Tap-tap-tap.
Anthony came out right away. “Hi Elizabeth,” he grinned, but there was something hidden in his eyes. My heart flipped. He knew about what happened! “What happened, Anthony?” I asked. “Please tell me, please, please?”
He flashed a quick smile at me. “Nothing Beth, don’t you worry about it.” I groaned.
“You want to play some games?” he asked. I nodded, the previous subject already forgotten as he chased me around the hall.
Anthony’s more than my brother, he’s one of my best friends. We asked Dorothy if she wanted to come and play with us, but she looked up at me and sniffed, “Fine young ladies don’t play.” Anthony grinned. “Of course not, Miss Sage. We should have realized that you were busy with your incredibly important knitting. Of course you wouldn’t play.” “Out.” Dorothy growled. We ran out, laughing the whole way. The Titanic was incredible!
We grabbed Constance and played hide-and-seek, ring-around-the-rosy, and pick-up sticks. We had such fun! Then, we started playing with dolls, and Anthony left quite abruptly, muttering something about “girls”.
After a while, Constance and I got bored playing. We couldn’t find Anthony! We looked and looked; Mother said he was probably doing “boy stuff”.
At that time he came back, his eyes glinting with excitement, and sweating feverishly, gulping down water.
“Where have you been?” I asked, both curious and angry.
“Watching…the…stokers…” he gasped.
He told me about men that were called stokers who shoveled coal. What is exciting about that? Sometimes, no, all the time, Anthony confuses me.
“That sounds boring,” I joked with him, like we normally did.
His eyes flashed and I knew I had crossed some unspoken line. “How would you know, Elizabeth? The guys down there were right! Why am I hanging out with you, a girl? You’re only ten – you’re just a baby! You don’t understand anything! Why do I even try to make you understand, to feel? You don’t care! All you want to do is play stupid dolls and tea party! I can’t believe I wasted my time on you!”
My eyes brimmed with tears and Anthony’s face fell.
“Oh God, Beth, I’m sorry.”
“Don’t call me that,” I answered mechanically as a tear made a burning trail down my cheek.
He reached out a hand to touch my face, to comfort me as his brow creased in worry.
“Don’t call me that,” I croaked mechanically as I pulled away and ran, leaving him standing there.
As I wandered the decks, I realized I was being stupid. Who cared about Anthony, anyways? Boys were stupid! I didn’t need him. I grinned. I didn’t need him at all! He could do whatever he wanted!
Then, I realized the boat already had started moving! I didn’t even realize it. We had a great dinner, boiled potatoes, corned beef, cabbage, and rice soup. It tasted great, much better than the meals that Mother cooked. Even the plates and knives were fancier!
That evening, as we were preparing to go to bed, I tugged on Father’s shirt. “Father?” I asked. “Can you tell me a bedtime story?”
Father grinned. “Now aren’t you a bit too old for that, Elizabeth?”
He grinned. “All right.”
As I crawled into bed, he sat on the edge of it and started to weave a tale with his thick, husky voice. I grinned.
“Once upon a time,” he started. “There was a little girl named Elizabeth. She was very happy and young, but one day her father, who was quite handsome and dashing,” I giggled. He winked at me and continued on. “Well, he brought home tickets to go on an amazing ship called the Titanic! So they went on the ship and the voyage took about a week, since they were sailing towards the wonderful America. Finally they got there. It was beautiful, green, and huge. Elizabeth was able to get much more dolls and dresses, Mother and Elizabeth’s sister, Stella got jobs, and the rest of the family went to school. Except, of course, Father, who worked at a great place and made much money. They had great food every night, better than Elizabeth could imagine.”
Then he pressed a sort of paper into my hand that had “America: Land of the Free” written on it. I gasped at the detailed pictures of greenery, money, and luxuries. They were so beautiful!
Father had filled my head with visions of America and I was so excited. “You promise, Father? You promise that’s what’s going to happen?”
Father paused, and for a second he seemed to look scared, but I deemed that as a trick of the light, because in the next second, he spoke feverently, “Yes, Elizabeth Ada Sage, I promise that that is exactly what will happen.” And then he tickled my face with his beard and I giggled.
He smiled. “Good night, Elizabeth.”
I stared at the piece of paper and clutched it to my heart. “Good night, Father.”
April 11, 1912
This morning, sat up immediately, forgetting that I was on the top bunk, and hit my head. While rubbing the sore spot, I changed into my beautiful blue Easter dress. It went down to my knees. I thought it was prettier than all the pretty ladies’ dresses combined.
It seemed early in the morning: dawn hadn’t even broken yet. I walked along the hallways, marveling at the beauty of everything. Then I spotted a small window. I rushed to look at it, but all I saw was black. Then I realized: we were under the ocean! I recalled us going down stairs after stairs. Wow! Mother would never believe this! Would there be fish swimming around in the morning? Or maybe a giant sea turtle? Or a penguin! I’ve always loved penguins!
I laughed in delight.
I wanted to go upstairs and share this news with the pretty ladies! I found the main staircase and rushed up to it. I needed to go up the stairs to see the pretty ladies! As I ran up the first few steps, a boot appeared and tripped me. I tripped and fell, bruising my knee. Oh well, he didn’t do it on purpose.
I stood up again, ready to go upstairs. A man emerged from the shadows. He was fat, balding, and smoking a pipe. “Excuse me,” I asked politely, like I had been taught to do.
He raised an eyebrow. He tried to say “Excuse me” back at me! Maybe I had made a new friend! I smiled brightly at him. Then he started laughing in harsh tones. His mouth twisted into a cruel smirk. Then he made hand gestures I didn’t understand. I kindly repeated them for him. He roared in laughter.
Then he started speaking in a foreign language, his face coming closer and closer to mine. I coughed and tried to wave the smoke from the pipe away.
He then suddenly clamped his fingers on my ear and pulled. Oh! Oh oh oh! My ear was on fire! It’s spreading! I couldn’t think, shocked by the pain.
He then dragged me into the hallway, deposited me there, and slapped me on the face. Hard.
My face felt numb.
Really numb. I couldn’t feel a thing.
It felt like my right cheek was floating away, drifting… There was a silent buzzing in my ears that soothed me.
I went back into the room and saw that Mother was already up. She was trying to organize all our clothes and belongings.
“Oh, good,” she said. “You came back early, Elizabeth. Darling, could you help me fold these dresses and – ”
She saw my face.
“Dear Lord!” she screamed. “Heavens, Elizabeth, what did you do?” Confused, I touched my cheek, only to realize it was swollen at least twice the size of my left one. I probably looked like a deranged chipmunk.
I proceeded to tell her about my adventures and the mean man.
“Oh,” was all Mother said. “Well, hurry up,” she said in a strained cheery voice. “These clothes aren’t going to fold themselves, you know.”
I was confused? Why was Mother pretending like that didn’t matter?
“You should tell her, you know,” Stella commented from the bed.
“Stella,” Mother shot her a warning glare.
Tell me what?
“No, really,” she argued. “If I was her, I’d want to know, even if I’d turn into a bitter harpy all trip long. I’d want to know where we stand in this world.”
Mother broke. “This!” she yelled. “Is not where we stand! We are not the lowest class of people in this world! We do not stand here, in third class! This is….temporary! Once we get to America, we will have a much better life.” What? We were…third class? No one ever told me that! But the rooms were so comfortable, the food so good, to think that people had it better, well, it was a bit too much!
Stella snorted, as I stood, shocked. No one dared to contradict Mother. “Don’t feed Elizabeth lies, Mama,” she pleaded. “You’re not protecting her. You’re crippling her. For life.”
Mother shook her head, tears streaming down her face, and went back to folding.
Breakfast and lunch were all great, but I wasn’t hungry anymore. Mother and Father watched me sadly, and Anthony kept on staring at my blank eyes.
I was focused on the pretty ladies. I wanted to be like them so badly… To be wanted, respected, and loved. To have many things…
My eyes stung.
We stopped at Queenstown, and more people came on.
I sat on my bed for the rest of the day, wishing and hoping.
Dinner was great.
April 12, 1912
I woke up cheerful, but was reminded by my subconscious that we were unwanted. Nobody liked us. I played with Thomas for a while, but it got boring.
Mother called us to eat breakfast, then, she read a verse from the Bible to us.
I decided to stop being sad, and to enjoy the rest of the trip. We would end up as rich as first class, just as Father had promised. And Father always kept his promises. The thought of owning pretty dresses made me smile.
Then, I raced to a lunch of fresh bread and butter, currant buns, and tea. We scarfed it down, then raced back. He went off to see the stokers, and I went to the main hall. There were tons of children playing there….maybe one would want to play with me?
Doubtful. But worth a shot.
There was a girl wandering around, she looked my age, and seemed nice. I wanted to go over to her…except…I didn’t know how to make friends. I never had one before. My friends were my family. I was trembling. I decided to introduce myself first. I boldly stepped up to her, trying to hide my nervousness and fear.
“Hi, I’m Elizabeth. I’m 10 years old.”
“Hello, my name’s Catharina. I’m 10 too!”
We talked and played for the rest of the day. I took her to our cabin, and Mother was overjoyed, to say the least, that I had a new playmate.
During dinner, I realized how dirty I was when a pretty lady walked past me. She was as white as snow. I looked at my skin. I noticed smudges there that I’d never noticed before.
I’d never thought of myself as dirty, but I saw dirt everywhere. I looked at my family. They had dirt everywhere too! How could I have never seen that before?
As soon as I finished dinner, I took a long bath. I was surprised at how much dirt there was.
When I stepped out, I wasn’t white, but I was clean.
I had sweet dreams again.
April 13, 1912
Father went to the smoking room, and, thanks to Anthony, the boys all went to see the stokers, Stella and Dorothy were knitting, and Mother was taking care of Constance and Thomas. There was nothing for me to do.
We had a breakfast of Swedish bread, marmalade, smoked herrings, and milk. Lunch was cheese and pickles, brawn, and tea.
I decided to go to Catharina’s cabin. I knocked on her door, and her father answered. He was a nice man. Catharina came out. We pretended that we were pretty ladies, and were rich. It was fun!
In the afternoon, I wrote a poem. It’s not very good. It’s called “Ocean”.
The ocean is full of mysterious creatures
All of them with wonderful features.
They swim and dart and play
With their friends all day.
Douglas said it wasn’t good, but Mother said it was wonderful. I was glad, because it took me forever to find words that rhymed!
Stella wrote a poem too, called An Outcast.
Ever lonely, longing for belonging.
I watch them run, hunt, and eat together…without me.
I watch them mourn, sing, and sleep together…without me.
I want to feel what love is like…
What belonging means…
What friendship is…
I want to love, laugh, and cry together with the others
Discovering what not being alone feels like
To find other outcasts same as me…searching
This place doesn’t wield what I need…
I walk through the woods searching for others whom I belong with.
The poem is beautiful. I wonder why Stella would write a poem like that. After all, she’s very pretty and popular, not an outcast. Of course she’s not! Right?
There are so many things I don’t know, but, after finding out about first, second, and third class, I’m not sure if I want to know them anymore.
April 14, 1912
I woke up late, so I had breakfast right away. I played dolls with Catharine, then we had lunch.
In the afternoon, Stella, all the boys, and I played hide-and-seek. We laughed and laughed. Douglas is a horrible finder. Soon, I got dirty again. I took another bath. It feels great not having limited water for baths! And I could get used to hot water!
Dinner was fantastic.
Stella and I told funny stories. Even Dorothy laughed.
I went to sleep with a smile on my face wishing this life would never end. Little did I know …
April 15, 1912
Mother woke us up.
“Hurry!” she screeched. “Hurry, get up everyone!”
I opened my eyes. What was wrong? Mother’s kind, gentle face was red, and there were tears running down her cheeks. She looked so…scared.
I jumped out of bed, then realized my feet were getting wet. What had happened? Thomas was crying, and everybody was confused.
“Put a coat on and get out. Don’t change. No time!” she shrieked.
I was scared. Mother threw a coat on me, then pushed me out. The whole hall was flooding with water! There were so many people, I could barely get out! Where was my family?
What was wrong?
I saw a dirty woman screaming to the man guarding the stairs in a language I didn’t understand.
I saw gates, locked gates. Those weren’t here before!
What was wrong? We should be able to get out and run far away from whatever had happened.
“It’s sinking!” I heard a person scream.
Stella, Dorothy, and Constance came running out. Mother and Thomas followed.
Where were the boys? How could the ship be sinking? It was unsinkable! Wasn’t it? So many questions were going around in my head.
Suddenly, I realized I was alone. Where was my family? They just came out of the room? I tried to find them, but the crowd suffocated me. I tripped over something and fell. Someone stepped on my leg. I screamed, and the pain flared sickeningly. After many attempts, I got up and examined my ankle. It was bleeding and was twisted at an odd angle. I limped through the crowd. I had to find my family!
I ran into Fredrick, and he hugged me tight. “Elizabeth!”
“The ship’s sinking! We have to get out. Now!!! I have to find the others. Stay here!”
And he was gone, in a flash, like lightning.
It took me a few seconds to process what he just said. Sinking? The Titanic? Impossible! Right? I tried to find my family, seeking for reassurance.
The water swirled around my ankles, it was ice-cold, dulling the pain, but freezing my feet. My teeth were chattering so hard, I couldn’t stop. I wished for some warm slippers.
“First and second class first!” a booming voice shouted. “You all wait. First and second class go first. Don’t worry!”
People were sobbing everywhere, and rattling the gates. Someone punched the guard in the face. The guard shot him. The water slowly turned deep red. I felt panic. The man guarding the door was crazy, trying to lock us in here!
I spotted Mother, and hobbled over to her.
“Why…What…” I stuttered.
It was all too much. I started crying. Why wouldn’t the gates open?
The water was up to my knees.
“Have you seen your brothers and sisters?” Mother asked, her voice shaking and panicked.
Crying was no use. We would never be like Father promised. Ever. This was the end. With the water slowly rising, Mother and I cried and cried. I cried for my family, who I would never see again. I cried for our new life that Father had promised that would never happen. I cried for the other people on this ship who were doomed. But mostly, I cried for myself. I cried because I was scared and innocent. I cried because it was impossible for the Titanic to sink. I cried because it wasn’t fair!
I was freezing. How could the water possibly be this cold? My good foot was turning blue. My lips were violet. Suddenly, the gates opened! A voice said, “Get out, get out!” I tried to run out, not caring what happened. “Elizabeth,” Mother gasped. “Whatever happens, you must get on a life boat.” She was suddenly separated from me. She was gone.
All of us ran up the stairs, and through the corridors. We ran through rooms. We ran for our lives.
I never felt so exhausted. I was in the middle of the great “race”. Every step I took, more blood gushed out of my leg and it felt more and more painful. My hands couldn’t stop shaking and twitching.
Miraculously, I got on the top deck. Perfect timing – a lifeboat was being lowered. My eyes searched the deck. There were a few more lifeboats! It was hard to get to them, with so many people pushing, shoving, and screaming.
“Woman and children first!” I heard a deep voice boom. I then heard music, beautiful music playing. There was a group of people in a corner playing instruments. They looked so…peaceful.
My leg gave away, and I fell. I cried, and people stepped on my leg, hurting so bad I could barely move. I had to get up. I tried to crawl, but in the short amount of minutes that I had been down, all the lifeboats were gone.
My last hope was also gone. It was over.
People slowly shuffled around, some crying, some doing their favorite activities for one last time.
We were all sentenced to die.
As I looked toward the pitch-black sky, I saw fireworks lighting up the sky. They were so beautiful.
Crying wouldn’t do any good, but I cried anyway.
Anthony walked slowly to me, his face a hard, bitter mask. It scared me. “Hi Elizabeth.” He said in a flat, emotionless tone. “Just wanted to say that…I love you.”
Why would Anthony say something like that? He wasn’t the mushy type. I was confused, then frightened. His voice was so lifeless.
Suddenly, he saw my leg. Anger flashed over his face. “Who did that?” he demanded. I cowered away from him.
“I…fell.” I whispered. His eyes flickered back to life. He reached out to touch my leg, and then pulled his arm back, as I shrunk away. “I can’t do this, I can do this…” he muttered back and forth. I was glad that his face was alive again, yet still confused.
He took a deep breath. “I’m a coward…”
“Anthony, what are you talking about?” I asked.
He hugged me and said, “It’s going to happen sooner or later. I’d rather it happen sooner. I know you probably think I’m being a big coward, and I probably am, no, I know I am. I really do love you, it’s just…”
What was he talking about?
He gripped the rail. “Are you coming, Beth?”
“Don’t call me that,” I replied automatically, a well-oiled machine. He didn’t deserve to call me by my nickname.
He smiled sadly, his eyes filled with some intense emotion I didn’t understand…then flung himself over.
Shock crossed my mind. I couldn’t think. No. It couldn’t be. Not Anthony. Not my best friend. My brother. He always faced things head on, was never afraid to take a challenge. Anthony…… Gone?
I was frozen in place. When I could finally move, I walked slowly to the rail and looked over. I could see nothing. No Anthony. He was gone.
Why was the ship still sinking, some people just coming up still screaming, music still playing, everything the same? Almost nothing had changed, and yet everything had changed. I felt so much older, wearier. It wasn’t fair. Anthony.
I couldn’t even cry. I stood there for minutes, or hours. I wouldn’t know.
Anger kicked in.
“Coward!” I shouted at the sea. “You just want to escape what will happen. Why did you…why did you leave me? Everything’s going to be all right, you’ll see! Someone’s going to come for us! We’re going to survive! You big fat coward!”
I couldn’t even lie to myself convincingly.
Tears trickled down my face. Why? It wasn’t fair. Why me? Why our family? Why did we even go on the Titanic? I wanted to find who did this, and push him into the sea, not Anthony.
Where was my family? I hated Father then. I knew that hatred was unjust, but I still hated him. He lied. We would never go to America. Ever.
There was no sense in crying, but I already knew that. I tried to make myself feel better. We went up the stairs. We could look at the beautiful china. I felt a bit better.
I went to the first class dining room and marveled at the china. I went back on deck. The musicians were still playing. I admired their calmness in the face of Death himself. I wished everyone would just calm down like them.
I limped on the deck.
Douglas saw me, and came running. “Elizabeth! Have you seen the others? Where are they? What happened to your leg?”
It was too much. I started crying again. “Anthony … he … jumped…gone…” I wailed.
I tried to calm myself. “Anthony j-jumped over.”
The expression on his face was painful to look at. “He jumped over?”
I nodded, and started crying again.
I would find him. He wasn’t…gone. He was probably down there, laughing as I cried. So why was I crying?
“You’re lying,” Douglas said simply.
He didn’t believe me? Even more tears streamed down my face. “No! NO! Please, Douglas, don’t leave me! Don’t…” I blubbered.
Douglas hugged me. “I’m sorry, I was being stupid. I really am sorry.” he whispered.
I blubbered into his chest. Suddenly, Douglas remembered my leg. “What happened?” he asked, his voice shaking.
The ship tilted dangerously as I explained it all to him. He was truly sobbing now. “I’m such an awful brother! And you were alone, and you got trampled…” My throat was too dry for me to talk, so I simply hugged him tightly.
Suddenly, the ship was tilting so much, I had to grab on to a rail. The ship was tilting even more. I held onto the rail, scrambling to the stern where everybody was going. I saw some people in life boats, looking at us in shock. Someone jumped just like Anthony. People on deck started screaming for help. Douglas’s eyes were wild as I saw his grip on the rail next to me slowly loosening…
Nothing happened in slow motion. One moment Douglas was there, and the next he was gone. As I whipped my head around, I saw a final glance of his flailing body until I heard a sickening crash.
I was blind with tears. I had lost my family, I was alone! Douglas! My heart rang out in pain. I gripped the rails with all I had, though it was hard since my hand got numb a long time ago.
The ship was almost vertical now. More people lost their grip and slid down, objects smashed their way to the ocean, and there was blood everywhere. For a second I thought I saw Stella falling, and I closed my eyes not wanting to see more, though the images were firmly imprinted inside my head. Anthony, dead. Douglas, dead. Stella, dead. Mother, Father, George – all dead! Polly, my doll, dead! But Polly wasn’t even on this boat! My mind was conjuring up sickening images of everyone I knew, dying. I sobbed wildly, my already dry throat burning. I threw up over the rail. My leg was so painful it felt like it was on fire. Everybody screaming, falling. I squeezed my eyes even tighter, praying I could make it. Please, please, please. More and more people jumped into the sea.
I stayed that way for longer than eternity, waiting for the end. The world was torturing us, keeping us alive, but just barely. When would death finally come? I shivered violently, then coughed.
I was losing my grip. I was being pulled down, down… Gravity was taking its toll. I was going to fall! I tried to hold on. Every part of my body was extremely numb right now. This is the end, it’s over. I thought.
And then it was over. Just as I was about to let go, there was an ear-splitting crack! I can’t possibly describe to you how loud it was. The tilting stopped.
I opened my eyes. The boat had broken in two! We were all on the stern, and it was actually floating! We were going to survive after all!
Slowly, I realized that the stern had started to sink too! No! It went down slowly, but it seemed like a second until we were in pitch-black, ice-cold, water. I could barely swim!
Cold salt-water seeped hurriedly into my leg, making me scream in pain. Without thinking, I thrashed my leg, hoping to get the salt out. My leg felt indescribably painful.
People started screaming and pleading for help. Why didn’t the people in the lifeboats help us?
“Help! Come help me!”I screamed desperately, my throat raw and burning.
The water was freezing. I kicked and struggled, gasped and gurgled, waiting for rescue.
I waited for what seemed like days, but no one came.
I felt myself slipping away. It was too cold, too much. I tried to cling to life. I was slipping, slipping into the black darkness that waited. It was so hard to keep trying. Why didn’t I just give up? I hummed a lullaby Mother used to sing to get me to sleep. I kept on coughing and shivering. My head went under a couple of times. It was getting harder to open my eyes.
There was a life boat nearby. “Help! Help me, please” I whispered in a scratchy voice that wasn’t mine.
Some people in the life boat were crying. They shook their heads and rowed away.
Why wouldn’t they help me?
I didn’t have any more strength. I couldn’t fight anymore. I didn’t want to fight anymore. It was over. I was slowly sinking.
Despite the fact that I was going to die, I smiled. This would all be over soon. The cold, the fear, the not knowing what happened. Peace flooded through me, as I imagined seeing my family in heaven. Yes, what was I so afraid of? They would all be there, every single one, even baby Thomas! This was the beginning of my end.
My legs slowly stopped kicking. My arms stopped flailing. I coughed very hard. My throat hurt. Let death come, Lord, I prayed. And let it come fast.
As if in answer to my silent prayer, I felt myself being pulled toward unconsciousness. Yes, God was good.
Water went up my nose. I smiled, the cries for help ringing in my ears.
Elizabeth Ada Sage
10 years old