Swimming with the Current
Author's note: I did this for an English project. I really enjoyed writing it and I have always been fascinated with the Titanic.
The Choice“Fate is never fair. You are caught in a current much stronger than you are; struggle against it and you'll drown not just yourself but those who try to save you. Swim with it. and you'll survive”
― Cassandra Clare
“Do yo' haf enny grub fo' mah siblin's, miss?” A little dirty boy asks as he pulls on my skirt.
I look down at him, nose wrinkling despite my effort to control my expression.
“I’m sorry, little boy. I do not carry any food with me.”
He sighs and walks away dejectedly, head hung.
I start walking, stop and turn around intending to give the boy the half penny I had sitting in my pocket but he was gone. Part of me was relieved but another part of me felt sorrow for the child. London was full of homeless children always wanting money. If I gave coins to every child I would soon join them. Father did not agree with this logic but Mother lived by it. I sighed, whose side I would take, I don’t think I’d ever find out.
I kept walking; head down so as to not make eye contact with anyone. I was in a hurry. Beatrice had told me to hurry home for she had heard word from Father. We had decided to not open it until Mother and Alexander arrived home from Martha Green’s house where they were having tea.
Finally I came upon a brick house that looked as if it was slightly sinking in the middle. It was old and smelled slightly no matter how many flowers we put in the rooms and the blue door was atrocious but I loved it none the less.
I walked in, “Mother, I’m home.”
“Greetings, darling. Come, sit, let us read your father’s note.”
My siblings and I all crowded around my mother as she sat in her favorite armchair. I plopped down onto the ground, grinning excitedly.
Mother folded her hands in her lamp and looked down her slightly pointed nose. “Bridget, what have I told you about sitting on the ground?”
I sighed, “Ladies should never sit on the floor. It is unbecoming and the floor will no doubt ruin my dress.”
“Yes. Now shall we follow my teachings?”
“Perhaps…” I said, prolonging my stay on the floor.
“I do not know why you must make such a fuss about this Bridget. Just sit on the couch or I shall just read this letter to Beatrice and Alexander.”
“Fine, Mother. I shall follow your ‘teachings’.” I heaved a large sigh and stood up being sure to hike my skirts well above my knees in doing so resulting in a sharp intake of breath from my mother. I grinned and sat down taking a few extra seconds to arrange my dusty skirts around me.
I looked at mother. “I believe I am ready.”
She rolled her eyes (something she would never do in public for it is unbecoming and unladylike) and started reading.
“My dear wife and children.
I have missed you all greatly and hope you are faring well. I have taken much time to think this over in my past months spent in this great country and have come to a grand conclusion. I believe that you should all come and live with me in America.
My painting business has already started off well and I believe you would all love it. I have even been able to purchase a small piece of land and I have great plans for a beautiful house we shall build together.
I hope you will consider it. I know this might sound rash but if you do not come I have come to believe that I shall stay in America. I have no attachment to England though it be the place of my birth and so I shall not miss it too greatly although I shall miss my family that is why I hope you will come live with me.
I have left money with Aunt Josephine for you to go. I am afraid that it will only barely be enough for all of you to go but the living quarters on the ship shall not be luxurious. I have a ship in mind for you all. If you have not already heard there is a grand ship under construction. I marvel at the craftsmanship but again my marveling is limited for I have only heard about it. It is called The Titanic. Does it not sound grand? I think I shall paint it when it arrives in New York.”
At this point my Mother sniffed disapprovingly. Father had a way to get off subject and my mother just hated it. She said it made him sound distant and not like a gentleman. I thought it a fine quality. I want my husband (once I find one of course) to have a great imagination much like my fathers.
She continued, still sniffing.
“I am sure you are sniffing at this point my dear Victoria so I shall stop my marveling. I must stop writing for it is getting late. I wish you all well and hope you all come to the same conclusion as I have.
Your Father and Husband,
I looked up at my mother. She sat, staring at the letter.
“So... what do you think Mother? Are we going to America as Father said?”
She sighs, “I do not know Bridget… I do not think that with Alexander and I being sick this past winter… we might not fair well with the trip. I have not fully recovered yet and I am not sure I want to leave London just yet.”
I frowned. “Well, you can send me and Beatrice can’t you?”
“Beatrice and I, Bridget; and I might consider sending just your sister and you but I am not in any condition to decide this minute. Now, leave me at once. Beatrice, make dinner please. I need to rest.”
We all slowly trudged out of the sitting room. I made my way up to my room. If I go down to the kitchen Beatrice will demand I help and I am not in the mood to work.
When I get to my room I instantly go to my small wooden desk. I open the only drawer and carefully lift out a small purple book. I gently open it. I sigh. How I live for the crinkle of the old pages. I pull out a pen and start writing:
Saturday, April 6, 1912
We got a letter from Papa. He invited us to come to America and help him build a home. Mother is contemplating. She doesn’t think she or Alexander will go. She might send Beatrice and me and then come later. I hope she does this.
I have a good feeling about America. I think it will be a fresh start—something that I believe I need. I want to start new, with a blank canvas, free of dark smudges and scratches. I don’t know. I just have this incredible feeling that America will do us good. I am positive Papa’s business will flourish. I just see it as a land of new possibilities which is what people say it is, I guess I just believe it.
Anyway, Beatrice is calling me down to help with dinner. I hope to soon be writing in you while on aboard the S.S. Titanic (it truly is a grand name, I love saying it) Titanic. It has a ring to it, don’t you think? Goodnight for now dear diary, ‘til next time.
I hurry down the stairs, careful not to trip on my skirts—it has happened and I got no sympathy from Mother.
“BRIDGET!” Beatrice bellows. She does not usually bellow when Mother is around. This must be serious.
“You are a lazy pig! Why do you never help with anything? What were you even doing up in your bedroom? Were you hiding from work?”
I blink at her. “No. I was writing in my diary; preserving my history. Is that a crime, Beatrice?”
She glares at me. “No it is not but there is a time and place for ‘preserving your history’.” She mimics me angrily.
“I found right now a perfect time. Didn’t Mother ask you to make dinner?”
“Yes she did, but I think she also expected you to help!”
“ENOUGH.” Alexander yells. For being three, he is quite intelligent.
We both look at him, then at each other. Beatrice sighs. “We are accomplishing nothing bickering. Let us just both work and then we can eat.”
Alexander nods approvingly. I swear he is mocking me. Sometimes I truly wonder who would be considered the wisest among us. I think Alexander would win. Grumbling I start to set the table.
After dinner Mother again calls us all to the sitting room.
“Children, I have made a decision,” She paused; Mother can be very dramatic when she wants to. “I will be sending Bridget and Beatrice to America on the S.S. Titanic.”
I jump up and give an excited yelp. I throw my arms hastily around Mother. “Thank you, Mother. Thank you, thank you, and thank you. You are the best. I love you!”
Surprised, she daintily taps my back. “You—you are very welcome, my dear. Now, let me continue. I will let you girls go on one condition.”
“Yes?” I ask eagerly.
“You must promise to help your father earn the money to be able to send Alexander and I to America. Do you understand?”
“Yes! Of course, Mother, of course.” I cry.
“We will work our hardest and get you to America, Mother.” Beatrice adds with a broad smile.
The next days are some of the slowest I have ever experienced in my short 15 years. Then finally comes the day that we board the Titanic; Wednesday, April 10th, 1912, such a momentous day. Beatrice and I start packing early in the morning. The Titanic is to set sail at noon. We are close enough to walk to South Hampton where we will be boarding
I take my time packing. I put my journal wrapped in my favorite blanket in the pocket on the front of my suit case. I packed my clothes slowly relishing the moment because I knew I would probably never come back. I zipped it up and slowly turned in a circle, taking in my room. It was small with a large window. I had always loved sitting in that window seat. I used to sit and read novels all day or write in my diary. I smiled. My smile faded. This room held just as many bad memories as good. I would be slightly happy to leave it and start anew. It was time to start a new chapter and I would start by leaving the place where I had spent the most time. I quietly closed the door, soaking in the nostalgia of my room. The door closed… and another opened.