April's Fool (2)
As I walk downstairs for breakfast, I catch a glimpse of Alec’s portrait. I feel a pang in my chest. He was beaming. He had the same blondish-brownish tousled hair, bright hazel eyes, and playful grin. He had the same posture but looking smaller next to Victoire. He must have been thirteen or fourteen in the portrait, and he looked happy, just as how I remembered him.
I touch the golden, ornate frame. Oh, Alec. How I long to caress his cheeks, for him to touch my lips with his. Or just for him to be there, humming a tune. I quickly dab my eye with a handkerchief before the tears fall on my face.
Servants greet me as I walk and about. I nod and give my best smile as a reply to them.
I ascend to the breakfast table at the patio and see Ms Abram, Aunt Celeste and Victoire, eating and reading the paper. As I sit down beside Aunt, they bid me good morning, and I greet back. I see Victoire’s children running around, chasing each other in the garden. I manage to smile at the sight of their innocence, making me wonder about mine.
I look at the perfectly placed china and silver utensils in front of me. The smell of freshly baked bread, toast, scrambled eggs, bacon, sausages, black pudding, tomatoes, mushrooms, and marmalade made me look up. Seeing the glazed, delicious food, I hear and feel my stomach growling.
A maid prepares my favourite tea on my side as Jane fills my plate. Not that I could not do it myself, but I believe it is Aunt’s commands. I have not looked at myself in the mirror yet. But I would put a wager that I do not look good. I believe I look sick, thinner, and paler.
As I drown myself in the screaming and laughter of the kids, I eat, little by little, even though I could feel my stomach not accepting it. I hear the rustling of the newspaper getting set down.
Aunt says to me, “How are you, my flower?”
I see her smiling as I chew my food. “I am okay,” I say after I sipped my tea.
With this sorrow blinding my sight, I did not notice how Aunt resembles Alec, with the colour of her eyes and, how she smiles. Now I know why Alec felt familiar. He radiated so much of her. He is so much alike Aunt Celeste in terms of seeing right through me too.
She leans closer to me, patting my back carefully. She beams at me. I can tell that it is her way of expressing how she knows. Even though I am lying, she appreciates that I am still holding on. Now that I see the resemblance between them, I try to smile back, but I look away, trying to hide the pain.
But I know I cannot hide away forever. I inhale deeply and smile at Aunt. “Thank you, Aunt. I now know why I felt safe with Alec.”
She gives me a sad smile, “Forgive me when I asked Sadie here to separate you two.”
Ms Abram gives an apologetic look. “Mr Colinsfirth convinced me to let them be. I supposed he knew who Alec was all along.”
“Can we please change the subject?” I bite my lip, “I am sorry, it’s just…”
Ms Abram holds my hand. “It’s okay, Sierra.”
I avert my attention to Victoire, who is watching over her kids. “Victoire, how old are Liam and Louisa?” She beams at me, much like Alec. I cannot excuse myself from not seeing Alec in them. I would just have to get used to it.
“Those two are turning seven in June,” she giggles. “I love them so much. Landon and I are planning to have their birthday at the beach. So that they can build sandcastles, we can grill barbecues, enjoy the sun. Landon and I both want the twins to be normal kids. All their friends are going to come. We already gave away the invitations. It will be fun, don’t you agree?”
I nodded and giggle. “If you don’t mind me asking, why must it be that early?”
She tilts her head, and I see that her resemblance of Uncle is shining. She beams at me, and I lost her for a while when she says, “Well, one thing I learned from what happened to us is to treasure my loved ones as long as they are still here. In a blink of an eye, they could be gone. Life is so short.”
I agree with her through my smile, and I reach out to squeeze her hand.
When Mr Anderson walks in, Victoire greets him with a passionate kiss that Aunt Celeste clears her throat. Ms Abram and I giggle as Aunt winks at us. Victoire calls her children, and we all break our fast, listening to each other’s stories about anything and everything.
Before luncheon, we head to the Pier 59 to pay respects for all the people we had lost. During the sermon, the priest talks about how precious life is. He also mentions about how all who passed are now with God as His angels. I am standing near the steel railings with Jane, Ms Abram, Aunt Celeste, and Victoire with her husband and children.
I could hear the silent sobs of Aunt and Victoire. They were controlling their tears. I noticed Ms Abram is staring without seeing at the skyline. I was so preoccupied with my selfishness that I only knew Mr McGregor was one of the passengers who did not survive when Jane mentioned it to me. Jane is awfully quiet. And I stand here, motionless.
When the priest finishes his sermon and asks if anyone would like to share a few words, the voices of my fellow survivors in the crowd, sharing and expressing their mournful experiences, seem to be underwater as I lose my focus on them. I clutch onto my satchel, remembering the trinkets and memories I took the night of the inevitable, and I recalled my sketchpad and the contents I tucked in between the pages.
The drawings I made on the Titanic. The letters I wrote during the voyage, the mails I took with me from father and Henri. I remember them all. Every word, every motion, every dance, and music, I can hear and see them vibrantly. It feels like it was all a dream. A nightmare, to be exact. But with that terrible experience, good things also happened. I had the chance to meet Alec and fell in love. I felt the rush. I found out about buried secrets. I learned valuable lessons, an epiphany if you will. Without sadness, there is no happiness, as well. Those two emotions are essential to one another. So, in the conclusion of everything, it was still a good thing.
An hour or two had passed when the memorial finishes, everyone starts to walk away from the pier, making their way back to their homes. I feel a warm hand touch my shoulder and another by the back of my waist. I turn my head to see Ms Abram and Aunt Celeste on either side of me.
“The motor cars are ready,” says Ms Abram softly.
I lower my head as I nod and whisper, “Can I stay for a moment?”
“I will stay with Lady Sierra,” offers Jane.
Aunt Celeste smiles at her and then watches her goes to the door. She pulls me into an embrace. “We will be in Delmonico’s, alright, flower?”
We freeze for a moment, finding comfort in each other with that grip. When Aunt breaks free, I nod and watch them go. It has been a few days, but I memorize where the restaurant is, and knowing Jane is here with me, the journey will be fun and easy.
I look back towards the sea and think of how majestic and dangerous it is. My hair is flowing on my back, being carried by the wind. The salty breeze rests under my nose. I walk closer to the railings just behind where the White Star Line marquee is. I open my satchel and flip through the pages of my sketchpad. Finally, stopping at the image; I made of Alec. I smile and remember how he looked at the setting sun. That evening was when we shared our first kiss.
Tears silently roll down from my eyes as I close my sketch pad, my hat protecting me from the rays of the afternoon sun. I can finally shed some tears on Alec. I weep at the dawning sensation that he, too, is gone.