Fiction logo

Roger

by Alfiya Laxmidhar 5 months ago in Historical
Report Story

Historical fiction

Roger
Photo by Craig Whitehead on Unsplash

12th April 1912

Gentle currents swept through the Shelter Deck of the Titanic as the passengers continued their voyage toward New York. A face peered over the bulwark rail of the mighty ship and her eyes glistened as the ocean reflected shards of sunlight. The small girl suddenly squealed as a few dolphins played alongside their grand companion. The young girl raced to her mother and pulled on the hem of her chevoit waist jacket.

"Dolphins!" the young girl exclaimed to her mother and her cerulean eyes beamed with reverence.

Behind the mother and daughter pair stood a lonely man, leaning in a corner and keeping to himself, wearing a charcoal jerry hat. He heard the young girl's exclamation, and made his way slowly toward the bulwark rail where the girl once stood. He saw them and they were dancing along the ship's port side. They were putting on a show and the dolphins displayed a buoyant side which the man had not experienced in a long time. He sighed, drew in a breath of salty air and began ambling along the deck toward the stern. He opened a door directed to the second-class lobby where the floor was covered in an ornate carpet, other passengers were walking upon it toward the same location to dine for the evening. The string of passengers walked down a flight of stairs and into a room that was filled with mahogany chairs arranged in rectangles around tables that were dressed and set for eating. A piano sat in an oak alcove that had handcrafted carvings which provided an air of elegance to the room.

Time seemed like it was stuck for the solitary man and he realized he hadn't eaten the whole day. As he made his way to find a suitable seat tucked away where no one would bother him, a small mouse with a pewter coat sat inside a small opening where it had made a nest for itself. The aromas wafting in from the kitchen area made the little rodent excited. His pink, triangular nose vibrated and his whiskers shook with fervor. Patience was something the little mouse had grown used to with the inflow of passengers.

As time passed, the people dined and departed and then the room turned dark. The mouse then listened carefully before he took his chance to scout the vicinity. He made his way through the shadowy hall and gathered crumbs that appeared on the linoleum patterned tiles. After making a number of trips to transport the array of delights, his feast was ready. After consuming his meal, he then retired to bed and dozed until the passengers returned again to provide him with more treats.

13th April 1912

Upon waking, the mouse's little niche was filled with tiny crumbs from last night's dinner. He would wait until the moment he was alone and then he would begin his clandestine task. The hall hummed with passengers arriving for breakfast as the crew catered to their needs and jovial chatter reverberated against the repetitive clanging of cutlery. It made the mouse feel uneasy and he waited as if he was frozen as he watched a man sitting by himself.

The lonely man looked down at his bowl of rolled oats. His hand held a silver spoon which he tentatively dipped into the bowl and decided he wasn't hungry after all. He sat and sipped his coffee while he looked ahead and kept his jerry hat on his lap, treating it like a curled up cat. The lonely man stood up and placed the beloved hat onto his head. He walked past the corner where the mouse hid and exited the dining room. He walked toward the stairs and climbed up two flights toward the smoking room. He entered the empty room and sat upon a green Moroccan leather chair, lit a cigarette and inhaled the only thing in the world that he looked forward to in the day.

There was not much to his life. His father passed away a month before, making him an orphan. His father's hat and cigarettes seemed to be the only comforts that made him feel secure enough to get out of his bed. Alone with his thoughts and with his hat, he lit another cigarette and heard someone enter. He kept smoking and staring off into the vague distance. He unexpectedly heard the newcomer say,"Penny for your thoughts."

He looked up and facing him was a young man, about 18 years old he guessed. He had golden brown curls with a gentle face and he was taking out his silver cigarette box.

"Nothing much." The lonely man took another drag of his cigarette, slowly and deliberately, determined to decelerate the conversation. He exhaled fully and looked down at his crossed knees, picking at something invisible.

The younger man smiled and sat back while exhaling smoke, the man sitting alone looked desolate and seemed like he was going through something. But who about he wondered. Silence filled the room as the smoke traveled in wisps and evaporated into the silence. The silent bond held everything in stillness.

Breaking the silence, the lonely man said, "My father died a month ago." He sat with his entire back leaning in the chair, as if to be fully supported while attempting to converse and took another inhale of smoke.

"Hmm," The young man replied with slight head nod. "Sorry to hear that." He had cerulean eyes which had a gleam to them and he had a face that was kind, yet imponderable.

"Your name?" The young man asked as he raised his fair eyebrows.

"Peter. Peter Fleet."

"I'm Roger."

By Mikael Seegen on Unsplash

As the day wore on, Roger and Peter discovered how they found themselves on the Titanic while exploring parts of the ship together. Peter talked about his father and his broken engagement with a lass who grew to dislike him after his father died. Peter's distance and coldness drove her away and Peter was glad, as he would have never planned on moving so far if he was still with her. She was probably the reason he was standing here on this ship at all. He had her to thank he reflected.

Roger expressed his regretful and frustrated relationship with his father. Roger's father was very apparent when he displayed his disappointment in regards to Roger becoming a man. Ironically, the more his father showed disdain for Roger, the more Roger sunk lower into feeling inadequate and weak about his manhood. His father's head would slightly shake as Roger expressed his enthusiasm for music and his father's face would grow grim when Roger would come back from a stroll outside. It seemed like whatever Roger had taken an interest in, his father's disapproval was the main response. This caused a lot of grief in Roger who felt trapped inside a home where he couldn't be himself. The constant discontentment between Roger and his father was enough to slowly chip away at the younger man's soul. There was enough damage committed through slicing words and an aggressive attitude that when his uncle had left him a fair amount of money after his untimely death, he decided he would purchase a ticket on the Titanic. It was time to get away from the orb of dread that had followed him since he was a little boy.

Roger and Peter found themselves on the Bridge Deck where second-class passengers were able to enjoy the fresh air. Roger grinned and chuckled as he looked across the vast ocean, "Fatherly woes! We must find something else to talk about. This is getting rather depressing."

Peter smiled too. He hadn't smiled in a while and he rubbed his cheeks as he felt new sensations in his face he hadn't felt for a long time.

"Let's get some dinner and have a few drinks," Roger suggested as he slapped his hand on Peter's back as a sign of camaraderie.

Both men walked toward the dining room where they continued their conversations about other matters and drank until they clumsily made their way back into their own beds for a dreamless sleep.

14th April 1912

When the young girl awoke, her cerulean eyes looked around to absorb the bright light making its way into the room. Her mother stood next to the window after she had just pulled the curtains to wake up her little girl.

"Victoria, let's get you ready and have some breakfast."

Victoria rubbed her eyes and pulled the blankets away from her to get up and have her morning bath. Her mother went toward Victoria, gave her a brief hug and undid the ribbons that were in her hair to keep her ringlets springy. After her mother was done, a stewardess had entered the room to help the mother bathe Victoria in the communal bathroom for second-class passengers.

"Annie, you get the bath prepared and Victoria you attend to the lavatory, I'm going to post some letters and meet you back here." Informed the mother briskly.

As the stewardess helped Victoria with the bath, her mother stepped out of the cabin to post a few letters to her family in New York and back home in Southampton which she had written the night before. She made her way to the post office where Roger had just visited. She passed Roger and he stepped aside to make more space for the handsome lady.

Roger's head hurt from the night before. He drank a lot of gin, much more than he had anticipated. He was now paying for it and contemplated visiting the sick bay to obtain something for his headache. He thought better of it, and decided a few coffees, time and rest should take care of it.

As Roger entered the second class dining room for breakfast, he saw Peter sitting by himself at a table.

"How's your head?" Roger asked Peter with a mischievous grin.

Peter groaned and leaned his head on his hand.

"Sore." Peter stated bluntly.

Roger nodded knowingly and smiled even more.

Coffee was served and breakfast was devoured by the unlikely pair. After breakfast, Peter excused himself to smoke while Roger made use of the library. He made sure he was able to listen to the music provided for the passengers as the trio gathered outside the library to play at scheduled times in the day.

As lunch time came around, Roger's headaches intensified and now he was really in need of rest. Perhaps a nap would cure it once and for all, Roger thought. Roger clambered down the stairs, along the corridor and into his cabin where his bed welcomed him into a deep slumber.

Roger yawned and stretched his arms above his head. It took him a couple of minutes for his head to stop throbbing. He was in desperate need of coffee. He fumbled out of his bed, splashed some water onto his face and dried it with the flannel provided on the hanger. His clothes were decent enough, he thought and he opened the door to head toward the dining hall. Outside the room, along the corridor he saw the same handsome lady from the post shop with a young girl. He looked into the eyes of the girl while he passed through the corridor.

"You have my eyes!" exclaimed the young girl.

Roger laughed at the sheer spontaneity of the accusation. The mother bent down and told her daughter off.

"Victoria, do not disturb this gentleman, I am sure he has matters to attend to." The mother said pointedly.

Victoria didn't make any sign of an apology. She just stared at Roger like she was hypnotized.

Roger looked into Victoria's eyes and they were indeed the same cerulean blue he was admired for back home.

"Yes, we do have the same color. Where do your eyes come from?" Roger asked.

Victoria understood the question.

"My grandmother. She was also named Victoria."

Roger raised his eyebrows. He allowed the silence to linger just a bit longer than socially acceptable before saying, "Believe it or not, my eyes come from a grandmother who was also called Victoria."

Victoria gasped and burst into a wide smile displaying a few gaps in her teeth. Her mother stood next to her daughter somewhat cautiously, not knowing if the young man was telling her the truth but she remained quiet.

When the young man stood there grinning and looking at her young girl, the mother announced, "We had better get going, her father is expecting us in the dining room now."

"Of course," Roger said and he gave the girl a bow to make her feel even more honored.

"Bye," Victoria said as her eyes shone.

"Bye for now," Roger said and pardoned their departure toward the dining area even though he was headed in the same location.

As Roger lingered behind, he wondered if telling the girl a lie was wrong. She seemed so happy though, he thought but the thought quickly evaporated as his stomach gave a rumble and he headed toward the dining room eager for his meal.

By Andriyko Podilnyk on Unsplash

In the dining room, Roger found Peter whom he cheerfully sat with and together they dined as the musicians performed several songs at the request of passengers. Roger was delighted as his head felt much better and he felt like the evening was making up for his troublesome headaches. He had company even though Peter spoke very little and music to distract the dreary memories of his past. Roger had never felt so accepted and free to be himself.

As the night wore on, many passengers retired for bed, especially ones with children. As the remaining passengers left a while after, the dining hall was empty and inviting for the hungry mouse. He had been waiting all day and welcomed the dark room like a familiar friend. The mouse scurried out of his hiding hole and picked up some treats for the night. He found morsels of bread, a few peas, chunks of nuts and a sweet handful of cake. Delighted with his hoard of food, he settled into his hole, ready to devour the spread before him. Members of the crew came out and cleared the tables as the little mouse nibbled on his delicacies. When the cleaning was finished and the lights were switched off, the little mouse prepared himself for a cozy night.

The mouse pried his eyes open and felt a strong vibration. He looked around and sniffed the air. He was alarmed at the noise and he instinctively went out to flee as he sensed danger. He raced along the edges outside the hole, around the perimeter of the room as the drapes ran along his back. He saw an opening and went through it and heard a cascade of footsteps. Moving away from the noise, he zig-zagged between shoes while hearing urgency in people's voices. He decided to move away from the loud humming he hadn't heard before. Sounds of the loudest water pricked his ears and he kept running until he felt safe from the turbulent noises. As he ran he heard a voice and it bellowed "All hands on deck!" repeating the same words in the same tone. Out of the numerous rooms, people appeared dazed with confused looks on their faces.

One person that stepped out was Peter, with his jerry hat on his head and a pronounced look of solemnity. He walked with the other passengers and followed them toward the deck to the blast of cold which pricked at his face.

Fogged breath and chilled air swept the faces of the tired passengers. Some children were crying, panicked conversations were held and commands from the crew were given with a sense of urgency. In the background the band was playing upbeat tunes in the hopes of creating calmness for everyone, including themselves.

Roger had appeared on the deck wearing his life jacket and instinctively walked straight toward the musicians. His face was pale and his cheeks had patches of redness from the chill of the night. Roger didn't know whether he should sit or stand, help the crew or just sit and be with the music. The ship had a noticeable sway and caused some passengers to abruptly hold onto the rails or a neighboring bystander. The instability of the unsinkable ship was starting to be remarked by the passengers and looks of concern appeared throughout the deck. As Roger looked around, he saw a dark figure in a corner and was drawn to his jerry hat which sat on top his head.

"Peter, what are you doing?" asked Roger imploringly.

"Nothing." said Peter as he gave Roger an intense look of gravity.

Roger stepped back and decided that his friend Peter was better left alone. There was no amount of persuasion that would change Peter's mind or attitude. He had heard his tone, a tone his father used that signified finality.

15th April 1912

Roger decided to walk around and see if he could be of any help. As he passed a life boat seated with tearful women and fearful children, he felt a gentle hand reach out and touch his shoulder. A pair of cerulean eyes met his and he instantly smiled at the young girl.

"Victoria." Roger said relieved. "I'm so glad you are getting to safety." Roger continued earnestly.

The girl's mother was looking away into the distance past Roger. Roger turned his head out of curiosity and saw a man standing with tears rolling down his face, being caught in his mustache.

"Is he your father?" asked Roger.

Victoria nodded grimly and started to cry.

"Hey, don't worry, I'll make sure he is safe. I won't leave him alone." Roger promised to both the mother and Victoria.

The mother nodded and as Roger stepped toward the father of the girl, the crew began to make preparations to lower the lifeboat down.

"I'm Roger."

"Frank." Replied the man as he choked on his sobs and watched the lifeboat begin to descend its way into the inky blackness. Roger waited until Frank was ready to move and he directed him to sit down as the musicians provided a comforting atmosphere.

"Music always helps me feel better." Roger explained. Frank just nodded as he fought back more tears and sat with the young man, becoming drowned in the music.

As the music played on and the lifeboats were filled and set adrift, the remaining passengers were mentally preparing themselves for their fate into the icy waters. The Titanic took a plunge and the stirring ocean came rolling up over the steel bridge beneath the deck they sat on. Frightened cries and the harsh grating sounds became part of the wind, which were carried far and wide. It was hard not to feel the terror upon the ship that was once hailed as unsinkable. The irony was not lost on Roger who wanted to make sure that Frank saw his family again.

The beckoning water swept at the passengers across the decks and washed them in a shivering drench as they huddled in a bone-chilling mass. Some passengers clambered up and held onto parts of the ships' appendages that brought them closer to the stern. Some were desperately trying to move up the sloping deck toward safety, prolonging what was yet to come.

The band's last song ended and the silence that filled the air afterward was somber. The band prepared themselves for the inevitable. Hugs and handshakes were given out and received nobly and they placed their musical instruments into their cases out of respect for the objects which gave them their life's work. Some of the musicians, like many others gravitated toward the stern, the highest point. Roger and Frank watched the band disperse and Roger decided he needed to do something to take away the dread that seemed to follow him wherever he went.

"Frank, I think we ought to head to the front part of the bridge and jump. We need to start swimming away from the ship or else we will be sucked in the current and there will be less chances of surviving." Roger said bluntly .

Frank nodded as if he was in a trance. Then as if someone dropped something on his head, Frank departed from his reverie and looked into Roger's eyes, the same eyes as his daughter, and placed a firm hand on his shoulder.

"OK," Frank said bravely.

The pair of men quickly made their way to the bridge as desperate screams and heavy sloshing water became the new music of peril. The two men nodded to each other and jumped into the deadly water, feeling as if a thousand knives were stabbing their bodies. Once their heads came up to the surface, Roger lead them away from the ship. The water was beginning to swirl and the ship was sinking rapidly. A lifeboat which looked empty was visible and with all their might, they swam vigorously toward it. There were many passengers around them in the chaos, some were swimming frantically and some were drowning; life and death was as tangible as the extreme cold. The bow of the ship was descending into the Atlantic depths while the stern began rising higher and higher. The surreal scene distracted those trying to survive momentarily, taking their mind off the hypothermic conditions and the devastation of what would become of them and their loved ones. The lights of the ship flickered but she still managed to illuminate in the darkness. While passengers looked on, gasps and screams filled the air as one of the funnels started to fall and crashed its impressive weight onto a large number of people, adding to the increasing number fatalities.

By this time the second funnel was below the surface and suddenly the night became tenebrous, the ship's monumental silhouette was suspended against the plutonian dark sky punched with countless stars.

In the darkness, Roger saw something flash. The pair swam toward it and arrived at the lifeboat they had spotted earlier. Roger allowed Frank up first who then helped Roger up, who by now was exhausted. Other survivors were on the boat shivering and staring at the mass of destruction they had managed to escape. Roger lay down flat on his back, trying to get his breath back. He then sat up slightly and leaned his face against the side bench, gazing at the grand ship as she sat in a perfect perpendicular position for half a minute. Then with great momentum and impressive grace, she descended into the mysterious depths of the Atlantic.

Frank whispered in shock, "She's gone."

As he looked over to where Roger sat, he saw that Roger was now on his back, eyes closed and still. Roger exhaled his last breath at the same time as the Titanic's last dive.

***

5th May 1916

A young girl plays with her younger brother in the sunlit garden.

"Frank, could you fetch the children? Supper is ready." says the mother.

Frank walks out and calls in his children, "Victoria and Roger, time for tea, mother wants you washed and ready in five minutes." He winks at his young children and leads them back inside the house.

A young girl with her younger brother look at each other, staring into identical cerulean eyes, smile brightly and run into the house where their supper is waiting.

Historical

About the author

Alfiya Laxmidhar

Love words and their origin. Like poetry. Rumi is my favorite.

Thank you for stopping by.

Facebook: Alfiya Re Lax

Reader insights

Be the first to share your insights about this piece.

How does it work?

Add your insights

Comments

There are no comments for this story

Be the first to respond and start the conversation.

Sign in to comment

    Find us on social media

    Miscellaneous links

    • Explore
    • Contact
    • Privacy Policy
    • Terms of Use
    • Support

    © 2022 Creatd, Inc. All Rights Reserved.