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A Dream Come True

by Gerard DiLeo 6 months ago in Love · updated 6 months ago
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To Sleep, Perchance to Dream

A Dream Come True
Photo by Ameer Basheer on Unsplash

August 10, 1912, was a dream come true. My aunt and uncle had third-class tickets to board the RMS Titanic for a one-way trip to the USA. Uncle's illness was an ironic tragedy, for all his life he had dedicated every spare honest and ill-gotten penny toward his and his wife's emigration. When it came time to put up the 14 quid for the two tickets, he was more than prepared. Truth be told, his plan would launch him across the ocean just a step ahead of the regulators who would soon discover his embezzlement adventures and other fiscal misdeeds.

Instead, he was captured by the tubercle mycobacterium, sentenced, and summarily put to death by its disease. Auntie was required to quarantine long past the embarkation date, and so my younger brother and I boarded instead.

Father had left us before my brother, Rhys, was born. Our family managed, due to the kindness of Uncle and Auntie, who stepped in to raise us after Mother had died of puerperal fever not long after Rhys' birth. We didn't really see much of Uncle, as he was frequently off on business trips of one sort or another. I remember I went with him on one of them, and I had asked him too many questions about his dodgy business which made him so nervous I never was invited again. There really had been no disposition on me and my brother's day-t0-day for when they sailed away, but Uncle's consumption sunk all that.

Auntie looked very much like her sister, our Mum, so the parenting transition wasn't too difficult for me. For Rhys, she was the only mother he'd ever know. He called her Mum as often as he called her Auntie, and that didn't bother me.

In steerage, we settled into our 10-berth cabin and claimed our beds--mats, actually. Unlike other passenger lines, this was Titanic, so we third-class passengers had our own chefs, dining room, deck for strolls, and even a common room, if you can believe that. Had we been on the Cunard Line, also out of Southampton, we would have had to bring our own food, but the White Star Line knew how to treat even folks like us. Either that, or they hated Cunard so much they didn't miss any chance for one-upmanship. Not that it would have been hard to bring our own food--it wasn't like the cruise was gonna last forever. Just a few days' worth of rations. Still, having it complementary showed real class.

Rhys was 10 years old. I was 18. The eight years between us was enough to establish my father-like mentor role, making him luckier than me, 'cause I never knew my father much--as a parent and even less as a mentor.

I was the captain for me and Rhys' ship. It was tough sometimes helping raise him, charting the unchartered seas of responsibility, dodging all the usual obstacles and the surprise ones, too, but he made it easy. He minded me. He was a good lad, but not me, not so much.

The first night I tried to jimmy the grille that separated us from Second Class. I was happy enough with the steerage accommodations, but I just knew the second tier had to be very sweet indeed.

Rhys had accompanied me as my partner in crime that evening, but after an hour at it, I succeeded alone. Rhys had long since become bored and had gone back to the cabin to play checkers with another bloke there who was with his father and seven children--and that was just the sons. There was a Mum and the oldest, a sister, in a segregated women's cabin. So them and us filled the 10 beds of our cabin. Or, "they and we," as their papa would correct us. Sometimes when we were accessories to the rowdiness after lights out, he would include us in the blanket admonitions to the cabin horde.

I did meet the daughter, that most lovely of young ladies, on the steerage deck. From that point on, I couldn't keep my eyes off of her as I spied her from the left or the right as she strolled in review. She was blurry, because I dared use only my peripheral vision, lest she know I was targeting her, blurs and all.

I planned on getting to her soon enough, but the first night I was much more interested in infiltrating second class, and I knew that catching hell from second class had to be better than catching hell from her third-class father. Hopefully, that curtain would fall away by the second night en route. Or even later if she was playing hard to get. As it was, I had until the night of the 16th, our last night on board before docking at Pier 59 in New York. Even if it took till April 12th or 13th to break the ice, so to speak, that would give us up to three nights for debauchery. I knew she'd be open to it because I saw her chewing gum, and we all know what it means when a lady does that: she's no lady. Even though she hid it well from her father, I saw it.

On the morning of the 12th, she approached me on the deck and as she was passing I asked, "Spare any gum?" She stopped short and curtly snapped around to me.

"Do I look like the kind of bird who chews gum?" she asked icily.

"No, of course not. My apologies." She eyed me up and down.

"You're not so bad," she said.

"Just bad enough." She smiled at that. "Wanna go on an adventure tonight?" I teased.

"Cheeky. Depends on the adventure, I would think."

"Get you into second class," I offered slyly.

"Just second? Maybe I should hold out for a real man--someone who can get me into first class."

"You could do that," I agreed. "Have you seen the pansies in the posh section?"

"Can't say that I have."

"Archie," I announced, offering my hand.

"Agnes," she returned, along with her hand. "You should know that you should only offer your hand to a lady if she offers her first."

"Good to know. I will note that well."

"Stick with me, Archie. I'll carry you to first class."

"One step at a time, Agnes. One class at a time."

"That's smart, I suppose." She was still standing when she caught a glimpse of her papa walking toward us. "I must leave."

"7:30 PM, right here? How's that sound?"

"Can't tonight," she said.

"Why not?" I asked.

"Do I owe you any explanations?" she answered, I'm sure just to keep me in my place.

"No, of course not. You want your men curious, don't you?"

"Are you 'my man'?" she again offered, as a question that served all too well as her answer.

I was all in at this point. Do or die: "Not yet," I declared.

When she smiled, I knew my risk had paid off. "Tomorrow night, then. 7:30 PM, sharp?"

"We'll see," she said as she walked away. The dance was afoot.

When her father reached me, he stopped just like she had, and he turned curtly to me just like she had.

"Careful with that one, boy," he warned me. "She comes with plenty of eyes on her. And plenty of eyes on her has a way of getting plenty of hands on you.

"Not my eyes, no, sir," I lied, but he didn't believe it anyway. He resumed his stroll, satisfied that sufficient intimidation would ensure that all was well.

I thought about my eyes, a landlubber's windows to my world, floating within their own saltwater seas. Now I wanted to open them to Agnes, whether this would let in a storm or not. Battening down the hatches came to mind. I stood fast, my sea legs firmly planted, tied to the mast ready to endure the Sirens' song.

For supper we sat at long tables which were segregated between men and women, but once the dinner bell sounded, everyone jockeyed for position to be seated with their family, friends, or loved ones. Agnes' family took an entire table just by themselves. Rhys and I, by my design, sat at the next table by which my line of sight extended straight to Agnes'.

Longing and suffering go together so well as to be a cliché, but it's true. We ate--Rhys and I at our table and Agnes and her family at the other. Our table was alive with conversation--more like waffle, but I only gave muscle memory affirmations to keep me polite while I honed in on the conversation of Anges' family instead.

At times her papa looked at me, and I deftly cast my gaze on a person I was agreeing with by rote on passive waves of the table aether: eyes looking at two things at once and ears hearing only one.

Then the courtship began.

Her papa began an animated chinwag with a man at a table next to his, allowing the ocular foreplay that ensued. I had lengthy conversations with her through eyes alone. We were able to know each other, know about each other--know what was important to each other. We wrote love letters to each other and essays about each other. And when her smile added the punctuation to our exchanges, I asked her to marry me.

Unfortunately, this was the one thing she couldn't glean from the two-way vision whose transmissions went beyond the visible electromagnetic spectrum. There are some things beyond the capability of signal lamps over a distance; some things need words--out loud words. Or perhaps a bent knee. Or even a ring. But all I had were my eyes, and at least I got the fire kindled. I couldn't wait to make it roar.

But not tonight.

Tomorrow night? We'll see, she had said, but from what we saw of each other this night, I basked in the foregone conclusion our eyes had made intuitive. We'll see? I had seen enough.

That night I longed and I suffered, anticipation making abstinence all the more painful. I tossed and turned, over and beyond the ship's list. By morning I was knackered and waterlogged with fatigue.

The morning of the 13th began for me a lot different than any other morning, although it had everything a transatlantic morning should--a rising sun, the smell of brine, the peaks and valleys of the rolling aquatic infirmament around us. Something, sadly, was missing from the first morning of the rest of my life.

Agnes. Lovely Agnes. Gum and all.

But I would see her again tonight. A night's respite from the wireless passion between tables that we had experienced with the signals in our gazes the night before. The Titanic, in contrast, was wired.

Electricity was new and strange and exciting and, to be truthful, I saw for the first time the shadows of me it made, right here on Titanic. Agnes and I--different electrical charges longing to connect and let the lightning discharge to a steady-state that was anything but steady. I wanted to complete the circuit; I wanted to connect the wires. I wanted to make waves.

I realized I would have to sit unrequited through another supper, and I worried. What if her wordless vocabulary languished, becoming a viewpoint that had lost its point? Even if our silent communiqués continued where we had left off, the pain of the anticipation would certainly reach new heights in me; it might offset my diction toward her, put her off. Thus, I worried and worried more.

Before supper, I bathed for the first time since boarding. Rhys joined me in the men's showers.

"Saw you two yesterday," he told me.

"Just being friendly," I explained.

"Yep," he said. "I'm sure that's true. Saw you two last night, too, all googly-eyed. Plenty of eyes, indeed. " Her father's warning had circumnavigated the world and come back to me through Rhys. I threw a bar of soap at him.

"Stay out of my affairs," I said sternly, then laughed.

"Get-in! I knew it! Arright, arright." As my brother, Rhys would always be welcome as a co-conspirator in my affairs. We finished and dressed for supper.

"I'll nick your bread for meddling, bruv, you little nose-trouble, you," I warned him as an afterthought. I didn't mean it. The bread was what topped us off when the supper wasn't filling. I would give up mine first; that's what a real father would do.

"You gonna get to second class with her?" he asked mischievously.

Come supper in the third-class galley, just looking at her was a joy that erased all trepidation, and I was all chuffed. Our visual conversation was more truncated, more to the point. 7:30 PM was a certainty! When Rhys saw her making eyes with me, he elbowed me. I put my hand on his bread, but then released it when he straightened up to unfasten our naughty threesome.

I leaned toward him for a whisper. "I need you to do something," I said quietly. "I need you to go back to the cabin after supper and stay there."

"Am I punished?" he asked, hurt.

"No," I replied. "I need you to keep an eye on the ol' man."

"What old man?" he asked.

"Her ol' man," I said, and I motioned my head with a jerk toward Agnes' table.

"And what?"

"And lemme know if he leaves."

"Why would he leave?"

"To look for me."

"Why would he be lookin' for you?"

"Because I'm gonna be with Agnes."

"So, Agnes it is. That's her name."

"That's her name," I repeated, but with finality, our conversation over as far as I was concerned.

He sat thinking, rolling some peas on his plate with a fork. "Where ya gonna be?" he asked.

"Second-class deck."

"Ah, so yes."

"Yes--what?"

"Second class with Agnes."

"I know what you're saying, ya li'l miscreant. No, I mean we'll be on the second-class deck."

"Get in trouble one way," he thought out loud. "Get in trouble another way. And put 'em together. Yep, that's Archie."

"No one's gonna get in trouble," I said. "It's your job to make sure."

He smiled and finally conquered the few peas that had escaped his fork. I looked up and Agnes stuck her tongue out at me. She was a pistol, that one.

At 7:30 I was sitting in a chair on the third-class deck--our spot--and waited. By 7:31 I was still waiting. 7:32, 33, 34. Each minute I sunk into the deck chair deeper. By 7:45 I feared it was not to happen. Maybe she changed her mind. Maybe her Mum had plans for her. Maybe she had met someone else. Maybe she couldn't disappear nonchalantly. Maybe she could never be with the likes of me.

Then I saw her.

She was still dressed in her supper clothes, and she looked so pretty. Something about the hat she wore which was part of her dinner dress ensemble made her face stand out brightly, even though the sun was already set.

"Hello, third-class street urchin," she said.

"Hello, goddess," I stammered. "We're about to get an upgrade." I stood and took her hand and led her to my private second-class access. She crawled through the grate with me and we found a secluded area under an outside stairwell. She sat in the chair next to me and my heart began pounding so hard, I knew she would hear it. Even though this deck was less busy than third-class, there were still occasional strollers. But we were in the shadows.

"Well, here we are," she sighed.

"Yes."

I reconstituted and my heart descended from my throat which cleared enough for me to speak. "Y'know," I continued, "we're hundreds of miles from any territorial waters."

"And?"

"It means there's no rule of law here. Nothing's illegal."

"And?" she repeated.

"I mean, we can do anything together and it'd be just fine and dandy." She eyed me suspiciously. Then she leaned in toward my left ear.

"Wanna know a secret?" she offered me.

"Whose secret?"

"Why ours, silly."

"Sure."

"I like you," she whispered.

Then she used her petite hand to lower my chin toward hers and kissed me. She pulled back a space, took gum out of her mouth, leaned in, and kissed me again. Better.

The ocean waves lapped with otherworldly sounds of the alien seascape; the moonlight shined a spot on the horizon that drew a bright scintillating line toward the ship, pointing at us like limelight. In all ways, it was a magical night. A magical moment. It belonged to us, as such moments should belong to lovers who venture past infatuation into the frenzies that follow.

And indeed they followed.

The magic exploded. The circuit was completed and the flow of electricity made our wires white-hot. We could have powered Titanic's entire massive propeller assembly across the entire Atlantic.

We collapsed into our deck chairs and soon rock-a-bye-babied away to the seduction of the ocean waves. I didn't know--without asking--whether I was her first and didn't care. I hoped so, because I know the first is always so special. But I did know that she would be the only woman I would ever make love with, for the rest of my life, and if I died right here and now, it would be just fine.

When I awoke with the sunrise, I saw her buttoning up, sealing away the ecstasy of the night. She looked at me intensely as she did, and I was lifted out of time itself, experiencing both forward and backward simultaneously, the buttoning and unbuttoning until the buttons were irrelevant. All I saw in my mind's eye was her, unencumbered by cloth or fastener or button.

"Tonight, again?" I asked. It was a rhetorical question, for we were way past schedules and agendas. We were to be together every night forever.

"We got to second class," she told me.

"Oh, I think we got much further than that," I corrected her. "Tonight, then?"

"Tonight," she replied with a smile. There seemed at that moment no more beautiful and exquisite word in the English language as "tonight."

It was understood between us that we would mimic the previous evening's itinerary identically on the evening of the 14th. We ate at our tables, we cast knowing looks to each other, and I enlisted Rhys again in the conspiracy. During supper, Agnes even made eyes at Rhys, but they were different eyes--part embarrassment, part shyness, part gratitude, and, now, part sister.

Again we stole our way to second class. There we settled in our secluded spot and re-established our homestead, which we rocked with the waves. Her scents mingled with the salty air until I could taste both. And then the dream metamorphosed into the nightmare.

"Archie!" I heard Rhys whisper frantically. Agnes literally dove into her clothing, fasteners and buttons and all. "Archie," Rhys continued, "he's left the cabin and I don't know where he is. I woulda got here sooner, but I forgot which grate you broke in through." Agnes was going full stiff on me.

"Shhh," I reassured her. "He's probably looking all over steerage for us. He'd never think to come up to second class."

"No, he'll just send some security wankers to look here--and on first, too--if I know him. Even without, still," she fretted, "the game's over, innit? I'm in for it f'sure now. He's goin' to be off his trolley. I better leg it now." She started to leave, but I held her hand firmly.

"What about tomorrow night?" I asked. "Do you think it'd blow over by then?"

"You're joking? That's a cruel joke, Archie." She freed her hand from mine.

"No joke; let's see how it goes."

"I'm gonna tell you how it's gonna go," she said, beginning to cry. Since I had prepared for our tryst with a gentleman's accoutrements, I quickly retrieved a handkerchief. She placed her hand on mine as I pressed it upon her eyes.

"Don't distress yourself over the worst that's possible. Think about the best that can happen."

"I am thinking about the best, and even that's bad. No, Archie, this ship has sailed. In fact, it's leaking fierce."

"We're unsinkable, like Titanic, Agnes. You really are overthinking it. No one but Rhys knows the truth here. And he'll make a good alibi for me, which'll clear you. Your papa will never know the truth. "

"Papa doesn't need to know the truth," she cried. "Something's amiss, and he'll pre-empt. He'll act. He'll over-act."

"Like how?"

"Like locking me up in the women's cabin till we reach port on the 17th. His little girl's whereabouts are unknown, and to him that means only one thing. "I'll be the errant lass locked up for sure. All alone with the women and their stares. Three days without you."

"Like hell!"

"Oh, you're gonna change it?"

"Yes! We'll ask the captain to marry us. International waters, remember?"

"And if he says no?"

"If he does, we'll tell him what we did, and he'll have to do it to restore your honor."

"Well, that's just barmy."

"I'm going," Rhys interrupted. "You've been warned. Lemme know if you need a witness."

"It's not crazy, Agnes, it isn't," I told her. I hadn't even heard Rhys. It'll work. We can honeymoon all the way to New York."

"No! Archie, let's just let the dust settle. Three more days won't stop us--we can be together in New York."

"You're killing me, Agnes," I said softly.

"You'll be fine, my angel," she cooed to me. "I'll take the troubles to come and do what I'm told. I'll allow my incarceration in the cabin till we port. I'll just go to sleep and sleep all the way to speed up the time till we're together again. And I'll dream of you, my love. Good dreams."

"Good dreams," I repeated in acquiescence. "So, you're going to sleep for three days straight."

"I will. I have nothing else to be awake for till then. Just one thing, my love..." she continued.

"Yes?"

"Just be sure to wake me up when we get to New York, and then we can be together forever."

Love

About the author

Gerard DiLeo

Writing full time now in Phase II of his life. Tangential thinking and hippocampal reality from left to right on the page.

https://www.amazon.com/Gerard-DiLeo/e/B00JE6LL2W/

email: [email protected]

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