We hurried to her side and made our way out of the Veranda Café. In an instant, I saw Alec at the bottom of the aft grand staircase. He was standing and smiling at the passing passengers, looking dapper in spite of him rushing out of my room this morning.
His wavy hair was neatly tied with a black ribbon on his back and his uniform tidily pressed. I noticed that he was holding something behind his back. His face lit up when he saw me walking, but his eyes indicated panic when he saw Ms Abram trailing behind me.
I shook my head with a toothy grin. ‘We’re in the clear,’ I whispered, enthusiastically when I was near him.
Ms Abram glided to my side and held out her hand to Alec. ‘So, you must be the infamous Mr Sanders.’
Alec took her hand and shook it. ‘Yes, I like to think I am.’
I rolled my eyes, and he laughed as he saw me did that.
Ms Abram’s eyebrows contorted as he stared at Alec. But before I could ask her what she was thinking, she leaned her head towards me and hummed, ‘Now, I can see why you are…’ she looked at Alec up and down, ’Well, smitten.’
Jane caught what Ms Abram had said and nodded her head eagerly. She glanced at her, and Jane lowered her eyes and cleared her throat. Ms Abram turned her eyes back at Alec, and he froze up as if he was under her microscope. He smiled sheepishly.
My eyes widened at her remark. A few nights ago, she was utterly opposed to me and him, but now, I am confused and happy that she finally let me be, especially on my birthday.
‘I’ll leave you to it, Jane. I am going to find Mr McGregor.’ She then turned to me and ordered, ‘Do not be late for the party later, Sierra,’ and walked away.
I felt my cheeks burning that I could just raise an eyebrow and looked at the floor. Jane walked to my side and informed that she would be away from earshot like last time. I saw Alec held out his right hand to me and gestured.
I linked my arm to him, and then he showed what he was holding. It was an ornate box. As he led me to where Mr Andrews was, he informed me that I could place my treasures in it, folded drawings, and letters, for instance.
Beaming brightly at the box, I opened it, and there was another small box. It contained a fetching pendant. It is round and inside the middle is a daisy, and a small diamond is placed on the floral disc. It was simple but gorgeous. I was surprised, for it must have cost him a fortune!
We stopped walking.
‘Happy birthday, love,’ he smiled and took the necklace out; the lace was long. He went behind me, and I grabbed some of my loose hair, putting it on my left, and then he placed the necklace on me. He kissed my nape before he put his hands on my shoulders.
I blushed as he did that, touching the pendant. I could still feel his breath as I turned around to give him a peck on his cheek. ‘Thank you so much! But, Alec, you didn’t have to.’
He shook his head as he tucked a strand of hair behind my ear, and then traced my jaw to my chin, ‘I insist.’ Then he lifted my chin and lightly brushed his lips with mine.
‘How did you know?’ I raised an eyebrow.
He smirked. ‘Miss Pérez.’
Lilting, I said, ‘Of course,’ and held the pendant. I lifted my eyes and beamed tenderly, ‘It is lovely.’
Alec’s eyes shone brightly, and he brushed his lips against my cheek.
‘Oh! Speaking of the party,’ he gasped, lacing his fingers with mine as we walked again. I noticed that we were going to the private promenade on the port-side, which I believe was occupied by Mr Ismay.
‘What is it?’ I asked, but then he shrugged.
‘All I know is that it will be held in À la Carte Restaurant hosted by the Wideners to honour Captain Smith’s last voyage, and the success of Titanic’s progress,’ he said as he opened the door.
We see Mr Andrews, drinking tea half-way, and put down the cup when I entered. ‘Oh! Thank you, my boy.’
Alec bowed and waited outside with Jane.
‘Sierra!’ he opened his arms and embraced me. ‘Happy birthday, my dear!’
I laughed at his contagious energy. ‘Thank you, Mr Andrews!’
He then pulled out a chair and helped me sit. ‘Your aunt sent me a Marconigram. She reminded me to give you this.’ He moved to the side, and with a grunt, he pulled out this huge box.
I giggled as he gave it to me, and he ran his hand to fix the loose strand of hair on his forehead.
He smiled and gestured for me to open it.
I gasped when I saw what was inside, ‘So this is what Aunt was saying in her letter!’ I pulled the camisa (an embroidered blouse with loose sleeves) of the Maria Clara gown or traje de mestiza with a taste of Parisian fabric. ‘It is gorgeous!’
Mr Andrews chuckled. ‘Yes and, also, she wanted me to give you this.’
It was a framed photograph. I recognized it in an instant. It was you, mother, and Henri, he must have been twelve or thirteen that time. I felt the overwhelming sensation when I noticed the dress Aunt sent me. It was the same dress mother had worn in the photo but altered with new fabrics. I laughed as tears started to form in my eyes. I wiped them as quickly as I could when I gave my thanks to Mr Andrews.
‘I must inform you,’ he continued, ‘Mr and Mrs Widener have heard from your father, may his soul rest in peace, that you can sing! So, they have a request. They want you to play something for tonight.’
My heartbeat quickened. I have never performed in front of an audience, but I remembered Alec. His smiling face would calm my nerves. He might be attending to wait at the party, so I smiled and said, ‘I’d be delighted to.’
‘Excellent!’ he rejoiced and clapped his hands together. ‘I will tell them right away!’
I watched him walked towards the door happily.
At the open doorway, I saw Mr Andrews gave Alec a light slap on his shoulder and removed his hat to greet Jane. I shook my head and laughed as I opened the box again to study the hand-sewn beads and pearls across the neckline of the Maria Clara dress; it was elegant. As I wondered how I was going to pull it off, I heard Alec’s footsteps drawing in and a seabird squawking away.
Alec walked behind me and peered over my shoulder. ‘Is that your parents with Henri?’
I looked behind and up to his smiling face. ‘Yes,’ then I showed him the box, ‘Look, it’s my mother’s dress.’
‘I’d put a wager, you’re going to look stunning tonight,’ he gazed from the dress and onto my lips, then into my eyes. The intensity was so great that the breath caught on my throat as he stepped closer.
Remembering the trails of kisses he left on my forehead, nose, cheeks, lips, neck, and his hands searching every inch of my body last night. I did not mean to let out a heavy and shaky sigh when I said, ‘Do you really think so?’
He nodded while giving me a devilish grin, the one that would make any girl fall on his feet. Even though it was the first time he flashed me that smirk, it made me wonder how often he used that smile to other girls he left disappointed, and I wished he would not leave me high and dry. I believe he saw right through me because his grin turned into a genuine smile. He intertwined his fingers with mine, and then looked at the necklace dangling across my chest.
He observed, ‘It suits you,’ and his eyes flickered back to mine. He chuckled and shrugged. ‘Since Ms Abram has come around, I guess, there is no need for us to go on stealth mode.’