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Moonless Night

by Marie Kynd 8 months ago in Historical
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No wave, no swell, no line where sea meets sky.

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I walked quietly past a man in overalls and a girl dressed in a more elegant gown than mine; they paid no mind to me as they spit over the vessel's side. The man's saliva was thrown into the ocean, while I imagined the woman's half attempt to follow dribbling down the "T" painted on the ship. I hoped one day, I would be as carefree as they were.

The dinner bell rang, and I made my way to my room, wondering whose company I would be enjoying tonight. The nerves made my skin itch while my maid Helena tightened the corset of the dark blue evening gown I had chosen. I was supposed to save this dress for meeting the man my family had already promised me to in America, a wealthy man who started his own business.

My mother and father had promised me he was my perfect match whenever met with hesitation. Although, if I was being honest, all that made little sense to me. I came from a family whose company had been making money from generation to generation. My family name alone strikes recognition in a person when uttered, so could it be that anyone could build a fortune from nothing in America?

As I entered the dining room music played louder than the quiet and polite conversations around me. I wished Helena would have been permitted to come with me, so I had someone to talk to, my lack of company giving me a sense of what it felt like as a fish among sharks.

I found one of the ladies I often had tea with and walked towards her, careful to take my time as everything seemed to move in slow motion at these events. When was the last time I had run towards something with any emotion besides complete and utter boredom?

“Caroline, I’m so sorry I missed tea with you and your ladies today. I’m afraid I got lost in a book and couldn’t make myself leave the reading room.” I smiled, her eyes scanning over me in disapproval at the mention of another book.

“Lucille, you truly are no fun!” She teased, getting a slight rise from the other women. I continued smiling, letting the conversation move towards another subject while looking for an escape that never presented itself, leaving me to stand silent around the women who felt superior at my expense.

Eventually, they joined their husbands, and I stood wondering where I would find a spare seat. I contemplated whether or not to return to my room for the evening. My embarrassment from the earlier comment made it seem the most appealing option.

"Miss, would you care to join me?" A man interrupted my thoughts. His presence made me weary since I hadn't seen him among the passengers before and looked around to see if anyone accompanied the stranger, causing him to clear his throat.

“If you don’t wish to, that’s quite all right. I just happened to notice we both lacked company for the evening.” He smiled, and what a smile he had.

“Don’t apologize. I’m afraid I was lost in my thoughts.” I smiled back, taking his outstretched arms as we walked towards the table.

We joined a group of people already engaged in conversation as I took the time to look at my date for the evening. His hair tousled strangely, causing it to slightly fall in front of his eyes, hiding the striking green color that reminded me of the greens America promised to hold. Yet, his entire disposition sent warmness around him. His sweet features caused me to remember the hopefulness I felt as a child, with rounded lips that curled up into a smile as our eyes met after he noticed me looking at him.

“See something you like?” He teased, the familiar embarrassment of the evening creeping in again as I turned my eyes to the glass of wine in front of me.

“I was just wondering why I haven’t seen you in the dining hall before now.” I said, my cheeks growing warm.

“Ah, well, that would be because I’ve spent most of my time with the captain. My father is the chairman of the White Star Line.” He smiled with pride as I realized who was sitting next to me.

“You’re Mr. Ismay’s son?” I asked a few of the other table guests turning in our direction at the comment.

“Quite a legacy to live up to, isn’t it?” He chuckled, revealing dimples. “Truth be told, I take more after my mother.”

I smiled at the comment, watching as the waiter came and placed more drinks in front of us, a few of the other table guests talking to the man they now knew to be of influence. He had such ease with conversation, a smile at the end of every sentence causing whomever he was speaking to relax in his presence. I hoped my betrothed held such a rare quality.

“I find myself at a disadvantage. You know who I am, but I don’t know your name.” He remarked halfway through the first course.

“Lucille Candee, though I would prefer to be called Lucille." I mused, "Ms. Candee reminds me too much of my mother.” I explained, causing him to laugh. His reaction filled me with pride, feeling a weight lifted off of me at the thought of him finding me funny.

“Well, Lucille, call me Thomas then.”

We spent the rest of the meal talking about the ship and what awaited us in the future, though I couldn’t bring myself to tell Thomas of my fiancé in America. Instead, he told me of his father pushing the ship to go faster to hold a record, his hopes to make the front page by arriving a day early on Titanic’s maiden voyage as I took a chance to express my thoughts to my new friend.

“But don’t you find that risky?” I dared ask.

“To go as fast as the ship is built to go?” He asked, ready to defend his father if I was looking to argue.

“To tempt fate.” I resolved.

“I’m afraid I don’t follow Lucille.” He said as we both wandered to the decks of the ship.

“You might find it silly, but I believe that to tempt fate is to tempt death itself.” I declared. The night air clipping at my skin as I rubbed my arms, willing warmth into my skin. “Whatever is meant to happen today is not meant to happen yesterday.”

“You mean I wasn’t meant to meet you yesterday, but today at dinner?” He asked, trying to make sense of my words.

“Precisely. If you had met me yesterday, maybe I would have been too enveloped with my friends to take your notice. If we had met tomorrow, maybe you would have dined with your father and never learned my name.” I said, the stars reflecting on both of us, solidifying the reasoning of my argument. I looked at the only friend I had made in the last few days as he seemed to soak in the information.

“Well, I’m delighted we did meet Lucille.” He smiled, his hand brushing mine on the railing. “So glad I wish to meet you tomorrow and the day after that if allowed.”

I turned to face him, the color of his eyes the only thing not turned grey by the moon as I thought of how to tell him no. Thomas, what a beautiful sound on my lips it made when I spoke it.

“Thomas-“ I tried reveling in the sound I might not utter again.

“I don’t care." He announced. "Whatever it is you feel is compelling you to say no, I don’t care about it.” he smiled, speaking louder than anyone in first class had up to that point.

“Okay.” I smiled as he walked me back to my room. As I drifted off to sleep, I couldn't help but smile; I would be seeing Mr. Thomas Ismay tomorrow.

As I awoke the next day, I practically jumped out of bed to meet Thomas for our promenade and lunch. I was overjoyed at being able to maneuver the social situations of the day with someone by my side and asked Helena to place me in my finest day apparel to prove it. The affluent brown towns of the dress resembled the ship's wood while highlighting my porcelain skin and brown hair. I opted for the make-up mother packed for the journey and opened the door to a man holding a tray in hand, both of us jumping at the near-collision.

“Apologies, Ms. Candee. I have a note for you.” He smiled as I took it with a smile and closed the door behind me.

Business running late, I’ll meet you for lunch.

Yours, Thomas

I tried my hardest to be upset, though my brain decided to fixate on the word “Yours” instead. I slid it into the book I had been reading with butterflies fluttering through my stomach, replacing the dread this journey had brought me.

The author tried to hold my attention, but I took frequent breaks to look at the clock in the reading room awaiting lunch. Even those attempting to engage in conversation found me restless as I would end them abruptly until leaving the reading room.

As I walked towards the dining hall, I waited just outside the doors, looking at the sun and sea. What was I doing? How could I stop now?

“Lucille! How lovely to see you. Will you be joining us today?” She asked, looking at the book in my hand disapprovingly.

“Oh, I would. It’s just that….” I began, wondering if it was a better idea to sit with them, as a hand found itself on the small of my back.

“It’s just that she was expecting me.” He smiled as the women looked at him. Hungry for any insight he could give them on me, or at the very least gossip to spread later.

“Oh! I thought your fiancé was in America, Lucille!” Caroline smiled wickedly, her eyes looking to Thomas, who never faltered.

“She’s not off the market yet, ladies.” He smiled charmingly. “Though I’m sure the lack of competition will be comforting when we arrive.” He said as he motioned for us to step away. I stood in front of him before turning to take his arm, a smile on both our lips at the unspoken moment we had just shared.

As we ate, we talked about the books I had read, which he wrote in a small book to make notes of to read later. He mentioned business he had talked about with his father, which eventually led to a conversation about our families. He spoke about the maiden voyage he was on as if it had already ended and said of his return home on the ship, a silence conveying sadness between us at the topic.

We sat at the various cafes and restaurants until they removed us, having to clean for the next meal, the conversation making me feel more seen than I had ever felt up to this point. I barely noticed as the sun started to set until we made our way to the deck and decided to address the earlier comment Ms. Caroline had made finally.

“A fiancé, huh?” He said, looking outward, one of the only times he had chosen to look away from me while speaking, making me turn away.

“My mother made the arrangement. I wasn't even given his name, and I know that it’s a good business prospect for my father.” I felt the need to explain, though it was also the only time I had been honest to someone other than Helena.

“Ah. I don’t suppose there’s a way of getting out of it?” He said as we stopped near the edge of the railing. His attention now focused on me as I wished he would look away again, my emotions stirring faster than the calm water below.

“Excuse me for being blunt, Lucille.” He apologized, finally breaking away. “But I’m tempting fate. I’ve never met someone like you." He smiled. "Someone who shares her opinions when asked, and truly not afraid of what I may think. Someone who listens when I share mine, even when you disagree with them. I don’t think I could ever tire of it.” He smiled, a sadness in his eyes I wanted nothing more than to remove forever.

“Can I think about it?” I managed to whisper his hand moving to hold mine, a warmness filling me with his touch. I felt the air around me thicken as he leaned closer to my face, my eyelids slowly closing as his forehead leaned against mine.

“I’m assuming she’ll be dining with us tonight, Thomas?” A voice asked, causing us to break apart as I looked at Mr. Ismay staring at us. Thomas nodded before his father motioned for him to follow, a smile from his assuring me everything would be all right, and they walked away whispering to one another as I returned to my room.

As Helena looked through dresses for tonight and asked me questions about the day, I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was wrong. Maybe about Thomas, maybe about his father, or something else entirely. I tried to calm my stomach, repeatedly leading me to the water closet while Helena watched.

“Are you having another episode, Ms. Candee?” Helena asked after my third trip back.

“I might be.” I smiled, trying to reassure her not to worry.

“I’ve only ever seen it this bad once before. The day before we boarded.” She whispered, laying out a dress for the evening though no longer sure if I would be using it.

My doctor at home believed me to be extraordinarily superstitious and even diagnosed me with female hysteria, but I knew it was more than that. Sometimes I felt crazy. That much was true but what I failed to explain, or others failed to hear, was that usually, I was right in my feelings. A few circumstances where I had had these feelings followed by tragedies. Some personal, and others on a global scale. So which one was this one, personal or global?

“Do you wish me to tell Mr. Ismay you cannot join him tonight?” Helena asked as I sorted through the last few days to pin when this feeling had started.

“No, Helena, if anything being around him will help me distinguish where it’s coming from.” I smiled, the hesitancy of my actions fading as I approached the bed showcasing my favorite gown. A black lace top elegantly covering the top of my décollage that leads to my arms before flowing towards a cape with a white fabric covering the rest of my body. It fit perfectly around my curves and accentuated my waist as Helena let my hair down from its pinned curls to allow my hair to flow behind me.

I stepped into the hallway, finding the air frigid at the places only lace-covered, and grabbed a long black coat to make my walk towards the dining room. The ship seemed quieter than usual, the music not quite reaching the promenade as I looked into the sea that looked more like glass than water. Those around me looked to their surroundings other than engaging in conversation. Could they feel it too?

Stepping into the ballroom and dining area seemed like another world as people spoke loudly and music struggled to play above it. It seemed as though those inside this room felt as if they could talk above the uneasy feeling spreading through the ship and slipping under people's skin. The feeling was cold and unforgiving as I walked among faces that over displayed emotion, looking for Thomas. I felt as if I might slip on the surface until feeling a hand on my back that made my blood melt from its frozen state as I turned to see Thomas.

“You look incredible.” He smiled, offering me his arm. I smiled despite myself and looked at his outstretched arm and hair slicked back and out of his face that I decided was far less charming than the tousled look I had grown fond of. I took a step toward him, past his arm so he could hear me above the music.

“Can I speak with you for a moment?” I pleaded. He looked around him before nodding and walking up the grand staircase and out into the parlor before bringing me to the now empty tea room void of any light.

“Somethings wrong...” I said, choosing not to waste any time, though I knew this could ruin everything.

“I know. I’m so sorry my father saw us like that before I-“ he began though I quickly shook my head and interrupted him.

“No. Not you, not your dad; at this point, I don’t think it's me either. Something bigger is wrong.” I said, the distance between us menacing as he looked at me in confusion.

“Okay…” he said, holding out the “O” for a little too long.

“Ever since I was a little girl, I got these overwhelming feelings when something was about to happen. And you might think I’m crazy, but something is wrong.” I tried again as he smiled at my struggle.

“So you think you’re psychic? I’m guessing you have a crystal ball in your room, and you-“ he laughed, leaning against the salon's wall as I cut him off again.

“Thomas!” I raised my voice, though I could never bring myself to yell. “You have to listen to me,” I said softer as I watched him pull out a cigarette and light it, disregarding the rule of smoking elsewhere on the ship.

“I’m listening, Lucille.” He assured me.

“I first got the feeling when I was about to board the ship, but I figured it was this mystery man I was betrothed to, and every day after that-“ I started to explain as he took the chance to cut me off.

“Do you think it was because you would meet me?” He asked, his voice soft and delicate like I was breaking him. I walked towards him as he avoided my eyes looking anywhere else, my hand making its way to the side of his face causing him to look at me as warmth filled the both of us.

“You’re the only thing that made it go away.“ I said so softly that I was sure he hadn’t heard me.

He removed my hand to put his cigarette out on the wallpaper, letting it drop to the floor before his hand made its way to my hair and pulled my face towards his. His lips brushed mine as if asking for permission as I leaned my weight into him. A smile lit his eyes, mirroring my emotions before his lips crashed into mine. His hand moved through my hair as if it had every day before this moment. The cold feeling subsided in me as my hands found their way inside his coat and onto his back, tracing my fingers down his spine until he pulled away.

“You’re right; something crazy is about to happen.” He smirked, pulling back from me, his fingers playing with a strand of my hair as I smiled back at him. His lips found mine again as his lips grew more urgent as we quickened our pace, the dark cafe fading away as I thought of only him.

Footsteps sounded outside the door as I reconnected to my surroundings, the warmth of his hands utterly contradictory to the cold feeling just below my skin as I stepped away from him. I took a moment to leave the room, battling the guilt. I tried to measure the increased feelings that had started upon boarding, the night begging me to figure out what my intuition was telling me.

“Ms. Candee, this arrived for you.” A man smiled, a silver tray outstretched towards me. “This telegram was intended to find you on the 13th, being yesterday. However, I’m hoping that its arrival on the 14th makes little difference.” He explained as I took the telegraph from him.

I pulled at the seal and jumped at Thomas's arms around me before feeling grateful for his touch bringing me back to the present moment. I used my shaking hands to remove the seal, concealing the message that caused my stomach to turn, my eyes having read to the second line before Thomas's arms dropped from around me. I turned to look at him, my gut feeling no more at ease at the news I had received.

Horror filled me with the realization that the night still held something worse in store than my current feelings about the man standing in front of me.

______________

Amanda Clark walked toward the Titanic exhibit in New York with a notebook in hand; she was determined to get as much from the museum as possible since she loved the various books about what had happened. A movie had recently come out, breaking the Hollywood box office, but Amanda paid little mind to it because she felt as if the film was disrespectful of sorts. Why create fake characters when there were thousands of lives lost? Real-life full of much greater shock on average than fiction could ever dream of?

She walked into the showroom and got her ticket as the person introducing the layout spoke of the various artifacts she would find. The items were explained in detail through an audio listening guide of an extra fifteen dollars that Amanda decided was necessary for research. She listened a little longer before the woman got to the end of her speech which was probably the only part the rest of the group found interesting.

“And before I take your boarding pass, please note the name on the bottom of your ticket.” The host smiled, pointing to the bottom of her’s.

“That is what person you will be boarding with us as this evening.”

While rummaging through her notebook for a pen that she eventually found, Amanda took her ticket and wrote the name on the top of her page. “Lucille Candee. First Class Passenger.” With the odds of Amanda surviving having skyrocketed, she took her pen and scribbled it out carefully, replacing it with “Ms. Lucille Candee.” She felt it showed respect for the wealth and family name that at one time probably meant more than it did now.

Upon walking into the exhibit, she immediately stepped up onto a makeshift ship with audio echoing the excitement of various voice actors of men, women, and children, telling each other what a “ship of dreams” The Titanic seemed to be. It was cheesy, yes, but more than anything to Amanda, it felt…haunting. Like she was walking around ghosts reliving their journey, confused without a way around, forced to live with the high emotions and pure agony of their time choosing the White Star Line to push them into their future in America.

She made her way around the makeshift cabin recreations and cited the pictures of the authentic rooms she had in her notebook, she frowned at the red rope in front of her. It didn’t allow her or any other guest to touch the replicas. She took out her pen and wrote:

“The workers must also be wary that these articles may be a portal into the past.”

It was interesting to see shoes that seemed in perfect condition sitting behind glass and other clothing items that had been restored to their previous glory. Then again, what it must have been like to look from the grave and see all the things you cared for pulled from the sea to commemorate your life.

There was no way of knowing which articles were the passenger's favorite and which ones were things thrown onto their suitcase “just in case.” Which dress had been Lucille’s favorite? Which hand mirror had her maid held up to show her what the finished look resembled?

These were questions Amanda just couldn’t know, and she began to understand why fiction felt a bit better than historical retellings. Even if they ended in tragedy, we would know how they ended; even if it was made up of conversations, we might be able to imagine and understand that real people lay at the bottom of the ocean. She shivered at the thought before walking over to a case and removing her audio guide, pieces of paper sitting before her.

“Doomed telegraphs” The plaque had them labeled, the tiny font explaining that they had been found or carried to shore by survivors. The story of Jack Phillips, the senior telegraph operator was recovering from a mechanical breakdown working on a backlog of telegraphs from the day prior, never passing the message of ice up to the bridge, and ignoring the Californian’s message altogether.

Amanda couldn’t help but look around to see if there was anyone around her to scream at the thought but found herself alone. So, he didn’t pass up the message because of the useless conversation that needed to get to the first-class passengers? Amanda paced back and forth before reading the rest of the plaque, then read that Jack died in the sinking and she swallowed a lump in her throat.

“Anyone could have made that mistake, I suppose.” She said as the room suddenly felt filled with opinions and thoughts of those from the past that she just couldn’t reach. She took a deep breath while reading one of the miscellaneous telegraphs thrown into pockets that night before they hit the iceberg and held her breath as she did.

My darling daughter,

As it turns out your betrothed is on the ship STOP He is Mr. Ismay’s son and maybe going by the first name of Thomas STOP. There seems to be a ploy to determine if you’ll stay faithful to your future husband STOP I hope you are doing well STOP Helena tells me it’s gotten bad again STOP

-Mother

Well, I’ll be damned, Amanda thought. A secret ploy? She looked down to her name again and reminded herself that it was Lucille she was on board as. She wondered for a moment if Lucille knew the woman that received this telegraph. But then again, what were the odds of that?

She paused, while stepping onto the outside of the deck where “wind” blew through the museum, and the iceberg lay just off the side, Amanda’s readings popped into her head as she pictured men and children playing with chunks of ice, no clue as to what should happen next.

She put her audio guide back on and pressed play, the man on the tape explained that the men on lookout had not been given binoculars.

"If they had," one of them claimed, "it would have allowed them to see the berg sooner and react accordingly. Alternatively, had they seen it later and hit it straight on, the ship would have survived."

"One of the lookouts surviving the journey committed suicide later in his life." The audio droned on as Amanda felt the need to scream again. The audio continued to explain that the boat nearest to them was just a little too far to see the Titanic, and a five-cent increase in the budget for the ship's screws may have been able to hold them afloat longer.

She felt sick and sat down as the section concluded. Then, overwhelmed on the artificial promenade of the ship, looked out to the man-made starry sky, closed her eyes, and tried to give her thoughts a chance to catch up with her.

“Divine intervention, huh?” She remarked, keeping her eyes closed.

“That’s my best guess.” A voice answered and she opened her eyes to find herself alone. While everyone was busy in the next room trying to find their passenger name on the survivor list.

She stood up with shaking hands, choosing to lean on the rail, and looked around again. Now dead set on the eerie feeling of the setting, she took off the headphones and was met with the sound of the fake wind and automated slow waves.

She looked out to the black surface that was meant to be water, even peering past the railing as faint sounds of footsteps played through the speakers of the exhibit. She then took out her notebook,

“Water could never possibly resemble glass with no moon overhead.”

She placed her hand in the water at the temperature that the sinking survivors had stayed in, waiting for the half-filled boats to come by. She took a deep breath under the simulated sky, knowing what was coming next, as she looked to the survivor wall awaiting her past the ship's deck.

“Please, Lucille,” She whispered. “Be on the surviors' list.”

Historical

About the author

Marie Kynd

An english major that loves a good story, and loves writing one even more.

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