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Empty Promises: part 1

I knew I couldn't keep the truth a secret forever...

By Morgan Rhianna BlandPublished 2 years ago 5 min read
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Empty Promises: part 1
Photo by K. Mitch Hodge on Unsplash

We don’t talk about Titanic. That was the number one rule I had for my daughters. The elder two, Jane and Lucille, followed it with no trouble, for they were old enough to remember that night and just as reluctant to speak of it as the rest of us. Anne, my youngest and the only one born after the disaster, was… different. It was as if she and that ship were connected from the moment she was born. I suppose I should’ve seen it coming when she, in an ironic twist of fate, came into this world on the one year anniversary of the sinking.

From a young age, she developed a morbid fascination with the disaster. When she was nine, I caught her reading a book about the Titanic. I threatened to burn it unless she returned it to the library immediately, but that didn’t stop Anne. She just learned not to bring the books home after that. She continued to soak up information like a sponge, and I knew it was only a matter of time until she learned the truth.

That day came when Anne found an old article in The New York Times containing the survivors list. She correctly guessed that the Mr. and Mrs. William Ellison listed were her parents and the Misses Jane and Lucille her sisters. I found her in the kitchen attempting to get information out of the cook, the servant who’d been with us the longest. “Mr. and Mrs. William Ellison, Miss Jane Ellison, MIss Lucille Ellison… are those my family’s names?” she bombarded the poor old woman. “Do you know what happened?”

To the cook’s credit, she said nothing, but I knew her silence wouldn’t last. When Anne wanted something, she was relentless. I had to stop this conversation before it began! “Anne, you know you’re not to bring up that topic in this house! Go to your room, and don’t come out until dinnertime.”

I expected tears or protests, but neither came. Just more questions, this time directed at me. “Am I right? Was it your name on the survivors list? Is that why you won’t allow us to talk about it?”

I knew on some level that it was wrong to keep Anne in the dark, but what else could I have done? A man must always appear strong, especially in front of his family, but the memories of that night made being strong impossible. The best I could do was not lie to her. I answered all three of her questions with a single word, “Yes.”

I felt Anne’s eyes on me, studying me, trying to read me as if I were one of her books. I don’t know what she guessed at that moment, whether it was better or worse than the truth of what happened. Perhaps she thought I was one of the few pulled from the icy North Atlantic that night. Perhaps she thought I acted dishonorably to secure a spot in a lifeboat. Whatever it was, it silenced her. Somehow the silence was even worse than the endless barrage of questions!

“My darling Anne,” I said, bending to give her a hug. “I promise that someday I’ll tell you what happened that night, but now is not the time.”

********

Anne never brought up the Titanic again after that. Part of me hoped that in time she would forget about the promise I made her, but I knew she wouldn’t. My Anne was wise beyond her years, not unlike someone I used to know. I knew I couldn’t keep the truth a secret forever. I couldn’t allow my promise to her to become empty like the promises I made to another on that fateful night.

So on the evening of her sixteenth birthday, I summoned Anne to my study. A small wooden jewelry box sat open on the desk in front of me, and I stared aimlessly at the tarnished silver Celtic cross necklace inside as I awaited her arrival. Overwhelming dread crept over me as my thoughts turned to April 1912 and the necklace’s original owner. What would Anne think of me once she knew?

A sharp knock at the door jerked me out of my thoughts before I had time to dwell on that question. I took a deep breath. It was now or never! “Come in.”

I could barely force myself to look at Anne, but as I did, I saw that my youngest little girl had grown into a kind, intelligent young woman. Not unlike… Well, she would find out soon enough.

“Hello, Father,” she greeted me with a smile. When I couldn’t smile back at her, her expression turned concerned. “What have I done wrong?”

“Nothing, nothing at all. I have a birthday present for you.” I handed her the jewelry box, watching - dreading her reaction to the cross inside.The confusion was evident in her eyes and in her voice as she finally said, “It’s… beautiful”. I couldn’t blame her. All her life, I’d given her the finest birthday gifts money could buy. Why would I give her something so old and battered?

With a sigh, I rose from my chair and crossed the room to the fireplace. I stood with my back to her, staring into the fire so she couldn’t read any emotion in my eyes. Throat dry, I struggled to find the right words to begin my story. “It belonged to an old friend. Her name was Anne Kelley. I met her on April 11, 1912…”

Historical
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About the Creator

Morgan Rhianna Bland

I'm an aroace brain AVM survivor from Tennessee. My illness left me unable to live a normal life with a normal job, so I write stories to earn money.

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