As another boat getting filled with passengers, Henri grabbed my shoulders. ‘You must climb on one now.’
He suddenly stood back and helped a woman who was carrying two infants. Once the woman was comfortable and calmed her children, I stomped my foot and crossed my arms. Outraged by his kindness, I knew he would never stop until I or anyone he could is saved.
I had detested the action. ’I’m not leaving without you and Alec!’ My eyes swelled with tears again. I knew what was about to come next when he guided me to my seat. One leg in the boat and the other still in the Titanic, I was hesitant.
I was about to say something when he shook his head no and said, ‘I wish there is another way, but children and women first, my dear.’
I stepped my other foot onto Titanic and let my tears shed as I clasped my hands with his. ‘Then I will stay with you until men are allowed to be in the boats!’
‘Sierra,’ his tone was calm despite the panicked distant voices of Jane and Ms Abram. He squeezed my hands and firmly said, ’Remember, you are the only living heir of our family, no one else. Think about it. Are you willing to give away what your parents and I had built for you and your future??’
‘But what about you?’ I whispered with a tone of melancholy. ‘I’m scared for you.’
What struck me most was he still managed to beam at me. ‘I will assure you, once I find Alec, we will get into a lifeboat,’ he soothed me by caressing his thumb on my trembling hands in a circular motion with his angelic smile. I found it hard to believe. ‘I promise you. We will see each other soon,’ then he kisses my forehead tenderly.
I held on to his words. Never once in my life had he broken a promise.
He pleaded with his warm blue-green eyes. I slowly nodded, convinced. He smiled brightly and pulled me into a long embrace.
Him still holding my hand, he guided me to climb into the boat. It was a tad crowded, but it was not full as well.
As the boat lurched when it was getting lowered, I never left my sight from Henri. The flare gunshot exploded in the twinkling night sky. With the sparkling of red and the lights still shining from the promenade deck, the glow illuminated his silhouette like he was a human halo. He was smiling, but his expression was perplexed.
My insides stung. I could hear the string quartet in the background through the creaking of the davits and overlaid voices of the other passengers waiting to board. They were playing Nearer My God to Thee.
Out of nowhere, I heard Alec screaming my name and then my eyes drifted to him. There he was, leaning over the railing, hands waving, trying to get my attention.
‘Sierra!’ he kept on calling through his uncontrollable sobs and, it was desperate.
My heart leapt, and I jolted up, making the boat lurched more. The officer on board held me down, but I begged him to let me stand, so he supported my weight as I looked at diminishing from view Henri, and then back at Alec and instructed out, ‘Go to Henri and get into another boat!!’
I saw Henri looked over at Alec, and they went to each other. I could not make it out much, but they left me with this kind of impression that they did not like each other. Or perhaps I was wrong.
Alec leaned again on the railings, ‘Sierra!’ he screamed and cried. At the top of his lungs, he announced, ‘I want you to know how much I love you!’
I smiled, ‘Oh, Alec!’ and whispered to myself, ‘I love you too so much.’
As the boat lowered further, ‘I will see you both soon!’ I yelled at them, and the officer pulled me back to my seat. I blew them a kiss, and I saw that they both smiled.
After the boat I was in touched the water, the stewards paddled closer to the other lifeboats. I heard Ms Abram cried when she saw me; she and Jane were grateful I was alright. As I hoped, prayed and begged God that Alec and Henri were in a boat, safe from the prickling cold water of North Atlantic, I heard Mr Andrews’ voice through a megaphone, calling over for any of the lifeboats that were not full to return.
I begged the officer because ours was not full. Perhaps they could transfer some passengers into our boat so that one or two or more could go back. He was silent, hesitant, and then we heard arguments from the other lifeboats. Their voices rose until someone shouted ‘No!’
The air became still once more. From the distant glowing ship, the megaphone called out again. But still, no one answered. I knew, especially those half-full lifeboats were occupied by my snobby, fellow first-class passengers. I tried to make my voice louder, but it came out as a sob when I begged them. ‘Please! Please, we can transfer some passengers to lifeboats that are not full. Please, let us help them!’
I waited, but no one responded. I threw a remorseful look at the officer, and he spoke, ‘If we go there now, through the panic, they will hover and tip us over, miss. I am sorry.’
I shook my head, ‘Your men are out there!’ and in my mind, the love of my life and the man I loved my whole life are probably still there.
He looked at his feet in shame and guilt. He cleared his throat, and his words will never leave my thoughts. ‘We cannot save anyone if we don’t save ourselves first.’
It was selfish, and I cursed at what he had said. But now that I realized it, he was right. The other phrase in my understanding is ‘You cannot save anyone if you are dead.’
Moments later which stretched out like an eternity, I could not stomach to watch the great, glorious ship be engulfed in the sea, but I could not tear my eyes away from it. My hair stood up from head to toe as Titanic groaned loudly. We saw her nose was completely in the water, and then from within, perhaps the boiler and engine rooms exploded. The first funnel tumbled over and crashed with an ear-splitting blast and then came down the second.
The aft rose high up in the air that the propellers appeared where they should not be. People fell from the top, and with a thunk, a man went straight and hit one of the propellers that I slightly jumped in my seat.
The lights flickered. Alec’s favourite part of the ship had lost its way to function. My breathing quickened as the screams horrified me, filling from my ears to my whole body.
Then with an enormous rough wood creaking and breaking, the ship split in two. Perhaps, the bow dipped into the ocean, out of view from the waterline. The bottom of the Titanic had splashed loudly on the surface. When the water had filled the ship, the other half rose again to the sky like a building. It stayed like that for a few seconds that felt like forever, and then it gracefully plunged in, joining its half in the bottom of the ocean floor.
The waves caused our boats to heave and then still. The Titanic… was gone.