My nerves were wracking, and my voice started to shake. I stopped the orchestra, but then I heard a loud clapping and the crowd followed. I looked at the direction where the sound had started, and there I saw Alec standing on the doorway of the reception room. He smiled warmly at me and gave me thumbs up.
He mouthed the words: You will nail this!
My confidence went higher, and I requested the band to start over. There I sang bolder and more certain of myself. My voice echoed in the room as the crowd listened to me intently. I heard some sang along with the tune for it was a popular song.
When the part ’Pray meet me in the land of dreams,’ came, I changed land to ship on purpose, and the crowd shared a hearty laugh. I occasionally glanced at Alec, and Jane was right. He could not leave his eyes from me.
I noticed Henri too. All I could say was that he was mesmerized. He tried to hide it by gazing away or bowing down his head, but his love towards me still radiated. It pained me that it was too late.
When I finished the song with a high note, the crowd applaud, and some even stood up. My cheeks burned in overwhelming sensation and flattery. I curtsied and thanked everyone. I wanted to approach Alec, but I got showered with praises, and the guests swarmed and congratulated me. Even Captain Smith was pleased with my performance! It was unbelievable.
When I looked back to see if Alec was still by the doorway, I saw him heading out with a woman, dressed in a lavish maroon gown. I narrowed my eyes and excused myself from my adoring crowd. I followed them, and as I got closer, I could hear their ongoing argument. They were at the poop deck. I stayed upstairs, just close enough to overhear their heated conversation:
‘Stop your shenanigans. Think about that poor girl. She does not know the truth. End this now before it gets worse!’ I heard the woman scold him.
‘But I don’t want to undergo something against my will!’ snapped Alec, hotly. ‘Why can’t I do it my way, huh?’
I covered my mouth as I gasped.
The woman continued, ’Sorry, Alec, but that’s how it is. When we arrive in America, you will meet your fiancé and that’s final.’
Alec groaned in frustration.
But before I could hear any more painful details, I clasped my ears and tried to swallow my tears as I retreated to Henri to say that I was going to retire to my room.
‘Whoa, whoa, wait a minute, Sierra!’ He chased me down and held my arms when I tried to run. ‘Is there something wrong?’ his hands brushed against my cheeks. ‘Please, tell me.’
Blinking hard, and trying not to cry in front of him, I shook my head and embraced him. All I need was his arms wrapped around me.
He pulled me closer and caressed my hair. ‘My dear, did something happen?’
I desired to tell him so bad, but I did not want to anger him, so I still shook my head as an answer. He offered to bring me back to my suite, and I tried to refuse, but he was persistent. Hurt and as if a blade cut through my chest, we headed out and searched for Jane. We found her with Ms Abram and Mr McGregor in, thank god, Café Parisien.
I excused her from them and commanded her that if Alec comes looking for me, do not tell him anything. Jane knew something was wrong but kind enough not to ask for I did not want to talk. Henri gave her a nod, and he and I walked to my room.
‘I will be fine, Henri,’ I whispered when we stopped at my door.
He lifted my face and gazed at my eyes. Blue green seeing icy blue. ‘If this is about that lad, Alec…’ my eyes widened as he struck a nerve. ‘…don’t let him worry you. Always remember, my dear, you are strong, incredible, and an elegant woman. And you mean the world to me.’
His words of encouragement always make me feel better.
‘What would I do without you?’ I sniffled.
He shrugged, ‘Probably, running around, oozing your dandiness amongst the crowd.’
He is so good at making me laugh. ‘I can imagine.’ I sighed and pulled him into an embrace, ‘I cannot think of any words to describe how grateful I am that you are in my life, Henri.’
I heard him chuckled. ‘Go get some rest, alright? I will just say go and good night to Mr and Mrs Wideners.’ He pulled away to press his lips against my forehead. ‘I will check on you later, okay?’
I nodded as he opened my door. I went in, and when I heard the click of the lock, I hurried to the bed and poured my sorrows out; letting the mascara ruin Jane’s beautiful make-up she put on me. I pushed myself away from my pillow and felt sorry for the steward that would change the sheets the next day.
Moments later, I heard a knock on my door. I did not answer, the knock went louder, and I heard his voice. ‘Birthday girl! I have ice cream and a surprise!’
I figured Jane disobeyed my order. I rolled my eyes and sniffed. I scurried to the door and mustered my strength to scream, ‘Why don’t you save that for your fiancé?’ but it was hoarse and forced.
The knocking stopped. ‘Oh,’ his voice was muffled, ‘I guess that’s out.’
‘You think?!’ I said loudly.
I heard the scraping on the door as if he was caressing it. ‘I beg your pardon, If you want to be clarified of my situation, I will be waiting in the second-class promenade at the aft of the boat deck. I’m so sorry, my love.’
And from the other side of the door, I heard his footsteps faded away.
Now, here I am, tears running down my cheeks as I contemplate that I am as guilty as him for I am keeping a secret from him. Should I go and tell him the truth too— (INK SPLATTERS)