Titanic: Diary of a Girl
April 10, 1912April 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.”