I embraced him back as hard as I could that he probably felt my heart throbbing loudly. When he pulled back, he was trying to hide the disturbing, mixed with different emotions Mr Andrews had, but he gave me a smile.
The smile I never thought was the last. Oh, Mr Andrews.
I let the tears fall as I hurried to the door. Henri followed and called out my name. His voice sounded vexatious, and I knew what he was thinking. I was being gormless, but I could not imagine my life without him. Damned being engaged to a person I do not know!
I know one thing for sure: I am in love with Alec, and hell might try to stop me, but well, I want him to know it.
It is him. Every time I close my eyes, I see him: his smile, his intriguing eyes, and his absurd humour. I love him. I want to know his happiness; I want to share his burden and the obstacle we will be facing. I want to know everything that he was and will be. He made me wake up every morning excited and go to bed contented. I want to spend the rest of my life with him until our hairs become grey. I also knew it was too soon, but I was certain of how I felt.
At that moment, between life and death, I cared more about his life than my own. It might be a long shot that he would still be waiting at the second-class promenade, but at least it was a start. As I ascended at the grand staircase to the boat deck, I saw first-class passengers emerged in querulous chatters and drinking with each other while the stewards were trying their best to lead them to the boat deck. They kept complaining that it was noisy and cold outside. But none of that matter, for I ran as fast as I could. I was holding up my skirt, and I felt my satchel slinging on my side.
‘Sierra!’ Henri’s voice rang. ‘Sierra!’ and I slowed my pace, stopping at the landing of the Grand Staircase between Boat and A decks so he could catch up. The glass dome was still glowing beautifully above us. I stopped to admire it for the last time, and with that creeping reality, my emotions built up from my stomach and, eventually, tears settling in my eyes.
When he was in front of me, he swallowed and thought out loud, ‘This is not a great idea, but we do not have much time. I will search for Sadie and Jane, and I assume you are going to find Alec.’
I nodded. Henri knew me too well.
‘I will wait for you at the fore, starboard side.’ He pointed outside the windows, where the lifeboats near the bridge were.
I followed his finger. From inside, I could hear loud clanking and turn of metals and ropes. I supposed the boats were being prepared.
He grabbed my shoulders and looked into my eyes with a grave thoughtful visage. ’Within thirty minutes to an hour, okay? You have Daniel’s pocket watch. Check the time.’
We looked at the wooden carved clock on the wall, and it was already 12:48 AM?!
I nodded at him as I calmed myself; the looming shadows of doubts were getting firmer. He pulled me and hugged me tightly. ‘I will see you soon, Henri, I promise.’
‘Good luck!’ he called as he descended to go to B Deck.
‘You too!’ I yelled back as the loud clanking of davits and crew’s shouting suppressed my voice when I opened the doors.
As I ran towards the aft, I could feel the pressure weighing me down. That was when I noticed that the Titanic had started inclining, leaning into the North Atlantic. It was getting hard to run, and the cold, sharp breeze made it worse.
It took me time to excuse myself from the panicked, gathering passengers from the second and third classes. When I reached the last funnel, the commotion was worse. Men and women with children, crying on their sides, chattered, complained, and asked indistinctly the stewards who were holding clipboards. I gasped when I heard one of them said: ‘Women and children first.’
The cries of the passengers became more opaque as I headed to the edge of the boat deck. There, surrounded by men and women, I could see a table covered with white cloth and, a tipped over vase of freshly cut, spring flowers were misplaced in the centre.
As I recalled, Alec said he had a surprise for me. He prepared a dinner date, perhaps. If I only knew what was bound to happen, I should have swallowed my pride and took immediate action. We might not be apart and board into the lifeboats together. I looked around, but he was not there. I walked, shouted his name, and searched every face in the crowd for him. My lips began to quiver as I held my strength to be consistent. I slowly breathed in and out, closed my eyes and recollected my thoughts from scattering.
I pulled out the pocket watch to check the time, and it said: 1:32 AM. The beating of my heart accelerated as panic began to resurface. Torn between finding where Alec might be and going back to Henri. The plus side was I knew where Henri was.
‘Miss!’ a steward grabbed my arm and beckoned me into one of the lifeboats. ‘You should climb in!’
I protested ’I have to find my — my—’ I pulled away from him. ‘I’m sorry!’ and ran away from them.
Unbelievable as it sounded, but I could hear music through the havoc happening around me. The terror perceived on the faces of the passengers was indescribable and now plastered in my mind; forever will haunt me in my sleep. The chatters were not as cheerful as it was. No one was joking about it anymore, and the first-class passengers were not slaving away their assigned stewards. I dismissed the building doubts and fear inside my chest and concentrated on my mission.
Henri had instructed me to be back within an hour, but I would not stop until I locate Alec. So, I searched everywhere, aimlessly. I looped the aft and amidships, screaming his name, trying to outshine the overlapping voices around me. I turned to the fore and witnessed the bow had completely submerged into the water; I did not notice how much the floor had tilted.
Suddenly I felt a hand on my wrist, and when I turned around, I saw Henri, wide-eyed but filled with concern and relief. Then he pulled me to a tight hug. ‘An hour had gone, and you did not come, I’m glad I found you!’ his voice cracked.
I looked up at him. The man, who was always cheerful and happy, was broken. I never thought I would see that side of him. I touched his face. ‘I’m here,’ I smiled, never minding my shedding tears, ‘You have found me, Henri.’
He stretched his neck to search behind me. ‘Where is Alec?’
I shook my head, and the tears flowed harder. ‘I have no idea! I have been looking for him everywhere,’ time was of the essence, so I recollected myself. I came to my senses. ‘I hope you found Ms Abram and Jane.’
His smile was tired when he said, ‘Yes, the boat they are in is currently being lowered.’ He led me to where the boat was.
I saw the boat was half-full, and I felt mad ‘Why—!?’
Before I could scream, I heard Mr Andrews’s voice saying to fill them, and I, too, was angry for the boats could save more than it could.
Jane called me when she recognized my voice. I looked down and saw Ms Abram pulling her back to sit as the boat lurched. Their eyes were filled with horror as they looked up at me and Henri. The ship groaned, and I shifted my stare at the man who had been there for me, my whole life. He stared back at me, looking strained but managed to smile.