With that, I knew what he meant. I smiled widely as I placed the photograph atop of the dress inside the box Aunt gave. As we left Mr Ismay’s private promenade, I gave Jane the box and told her to put it in my room.
She nodded and inquired, ‘Shall I wait for you in the suite, Lady Sierra?’
I shook my head. ‘Jane, you can drop my title in front of Alec, and you do not have to wait for me. Go, explore while Ms Abram’s eyes are not upon us.’
She giggled and winked before walking away.
Hand in hand, Alec led me further down the ship, just like he promised a few days prior that he would show me around. We passed beyond steerage and into a hallway, different from what I had seen lately in the ship.
It felt like a maze: endless.
But as astonishing as it sounds, Alec knew where he was going.
The way was getting narrower until I could hear the clanging and banging louder as we went deeper. I could feel the heat whipped through my face and body as we entered a giant room. It was an incredible sight. It felt like we were in another world; a world I had never seen before.
There, I could see massive boulder-like cylinders placed in rows. I was astonished by the reddish view. We carefully walked along the suspended gangplank, and my anxiety kicked in as fear letting me remember how much I am terrified of heights. From where we stood, I could see the fuss underneath through the steam. I must have squeezed Alec’s hand too tight because he winced.
Through the noise of machinery’s creaks and bursts below, he noticed my startled face. He placed a hand on my back and guided me, protectively. ‘Don’t worry, we’re fine.’ He said loud enough for me to hear with a smile.
I found comfort in his word and close stance beside me. The heavy, hot air stung my eyes, but I remained them open, still processing that I was in the heart of Titanic. I tore my gaze away to observed Alec; his eyes were shining with fascination as the men beneath us work.
I beamed at him when he looked back at me. ‘I can see why you’re amazed.’ I exclaimed.
He chuckled and shared his thoughts, ‘Call me foolish, but I believe in the future these machines will be quieter and smaller!’ He shouted with a nod.
‘And less hard labour, I might add!’ I expressed with giggling.
He stared at me. I believe he was happy that I agreed with him. ‘Yes, that’s a possibility too.’
I saw a glint on his smile when he glanced at me. My curiosity set me up high, ‘So, are we going to head down or…?’
‘Do you want to?’ he asked seriously.
I was hesitant.
He noticed and then he declared, ‘I don’t want you to feel uncomfortable, the hot furnace might burn your beautiful face.’ He raised an eyebrow and smiled playfully.
I could not help myself; I rolled my eyes and laughed. Alec joined me, laughing. Standing on my left, he leaned on the railings. I felt uneasy when he took his hand out from my back. I moved closer and linked my arm to him. He stiffened for a while, surprised at how close and forward I was and looked down at me. His face dimmed and reddish because of the fire from the boilers. But he never looked more serious and handsome.
My head was low, but my eyes were steady at him, and my eyebrows were raised as I confessed, ‘Thank you for sharing this with me. I like seeing this side of you,’ and smiled.
He was so close that I could smell his scent, like French rose and almond oil. He smelled so good it was intoxicating. He gently caressed my cheek, closed his eyes, and kissed my forehead. When his lips left my skin, I could still feel it lingering. Leaving me with a passionate desire. We stared into each other’s eyes with complete mutual understanding as we were drowning in the noise in the boiler room.
I did not notice how hot I was feeling until I had to pull my collar, stretching my neck, and gasped for air. Alec took my hand and led me back to our mundane world. When we reached the upper deck, the cool wind refreshed my body.
Alec pulled out a handkerchief from his pocket and wiped the forming sweat on my face. The sky had become orange and pinkish as the sun slowly went down into the other side of the earth. The brightest planet has shown in the dimming, painted in purple, orange, and pink sky. The frosty breeze in my face, I observed that steady light.
Alec followed suit. ’That is probably Venus or Mercury. I am not certain, but I am sure that that is a planet.’ He informed in a matter of fact way.
I shifted my gaze to him and hummed. ‘Is that so?’
He chuckled as he nodded. ‘That bright light?’ and gestured his hand up, and I looked at the sky. ‘It is not twinkling, right?’
My eyebrow was raised as I nodded. ‘Yes, it is not.’ I stifled my laughter.
‘So, it is not a star,’ he smirked.
Hoping he did not witness my eye-rolling, I stated, ‘Well, yes that is true. However, what about some stars that twinkle? Don’t you think there is a slight possibility that they are planets as well?’ I challenged and bit my lip.
He was baffled.
’I know that bright light is Mercury,’ I chimed. ‘The reason why it is not twinkling is that it is close and can be seen by the naked eye. The twinkling stars we see might be planets since the distance between is far from earth. The light travelling through space and time to reach here must be interfered by the atmosphere in space. Thus twinkle.’
My hands were acting on their own, pointing, gesturing, and mocking him as I explained all of that to stammered Alec.
He crookedly beamed as his eyes flickered at my lips. He crossed his arms and pronounced, ‘Twenty-two years of my life, and now I’m enlightened!’ He pulled himself together and observed me, ‘Ms Abram is a wonderful educator, huh, Sierra? She has done a great job with you. What else do you know?’
‘Depends on the topic, of course!’ I hid my laugh with a cough.
He suddenly claimed, breathless, ‘Can I kiss you?’
Shaking my head, giggling, as I thought of how many times we had kissed since this morning and now was the only time he was asking for my permission was ludicrous.
He took a step backwards with a flummoxing expression on his face. ‘Oh, I guess not,’ he muttered as he crestfallenly looked away. His mellifluous voice cracked.
I grabbed his cheek to make him gazed at me and snaked my hand to his. The warmth of him, prickling through mine. Biting and licking my lips, I whispered, ‘You can kiss me, Alec.’
He pulled me in his arms as I tipped my toes. His lips were open when they met mine. It was gentle, leaving me with a tingly sensation across my body. Wrapping my arms around his neck as our kisses became fervent, his scent of soap mixed with soot was exhilarating my soul.
When we both comprehended that we were out in the open, and more public than we intended to, unwillingly, we broke free. We looked around and laughed. Alec softly pressed his lips on my temple, and then my cheek and brushed away some of my hair. His eyes on mine were radiant in the darkening horizon. His gazes were powerful that even in the gloomiest hour, I know I am safe. The way he held my waist as if never wanting me to let go was enough for me to prove that we are feeling something more.
Half-heartedly, he then took me back to my suite to prepare for the party for the bell had rung. The kiss lasted for a while, and yet it felt like forever. I felt guilty and sad. When this trip ends, so will our brief romance.