Emily Stanford gathered the little items she needed and put them in a small bag. Her father will be up any minute and hungover thanks to Monocle Pub’s ale. He was mean enough as a drunk but when he was hungover, he was much worse. Emily looked to the cabinet that she had been sleeping under for the last several months since she gave up sleeping on her bed. She remembered how her father would stumble home, slowly slip off his belt trying not to wake her, and beat her while she laid in bed trying to sleep.
She looks towards the kitchen cabinet with a smile, knowing that this will be the last time she will ever need their protection. With the poster in her hand, she gleefully trails her bright blue hopeful eyes along the caption.
“April 10, 1912, the Ship of Dreams sets sail for a new world.”
“Ship of Dreams.” She whispers to herself with a smirk, closes her eyes, and puts the poster to her heart. What a beautiful set of words. The triple shifts she had been working at the general store and doing every duty there from cleaning the store up and down to selling vials of liver oil had been worth it. She got all this money and now she is going to the new world.
Emily silently tiptoed out of her father’s house and closed the front door to this life forever. A giddy grin crosses her lips as she ran fast from the house. She is going to make all of her goals for a better future come true.
The Southampton Central Port was bustling with people from all walks of life. The high society elite began to board, showing off their tickets to the captain. Photographers and journalists surround the entrance to the massive ship do everything they can to capture the event. Emily observed the common folk lining up underneath the boarding post to get on the ship. With a determined nod, Emily joined the line-up and awaited her turn.
After a couple of long hours, Emily comes in full view of the Titanic. Her breath was taken away and her eyes were alight with wonder. She knew this ship was huge but to see it like this in person, her first thought was that this must have been what Noah’s Ark was like. However, she never thought that Noah’s Ark would be this beautiful. It looked so clean and white like the “infamous white whale.” There are several windows but by the look of the deck all you had to do was go up there to see the whole world. It’s a ship of dreams indeed.
“Miss,” said a quiet voice that she almost couldn’t hear due to her admiring gaze of the ship. Suddenly it got shockingly loud. “Miss!”
“Oh!” Emily jumped looking at the man with a posh and fancy uniform. “Sorry. Here.”
Emily hands him all the money in her grey skirt pocket and looks up at him beaming. He looks at all this money in his black gloved hand with confusion. His thick black eyebrows scrunch together like two caterpillars kissing. His cold blue eyes looked back at Emily.
“What is this?!” He sharply said to her, grabs her hand, and slams her money back into it. “You need a ticket, you silly girl!”
“I didn’t see any ticket booths.” Emily pleaded to the man. “Please! I need to get on and get to the new world! I…”
Before she could continue the man took her by her small wrist and tossed her like a discarded jar to the left of the line. “Get out of here! No ticket! No passage!”
Emily got up on to her hands and knees. She looked at the large man striding towards her with both sadness and fear. He knelt down and pointed his sausage-like finger at her. “This boat doesn’t need penniless guttersnipes like you onboard. Now get lost!”
With that, the man left her on the ground, returning to his post. Tears started to spill from her eyes. As she wiped her face with her long delicate fingers, Emily saw the back of the ship being loaded with valises and suitcases of all kinds. She thought her heart would break but refused to give up. Instead, she got an idea.
Wordlessly, Emily picked herself up and stood up on her feet, Emily quickly sneaks behind some crates. She looked down on one and sees the bright red New York stamped on the side of it. Carefully, she lifted the lid to look inside where a large odd statue nestles inside. Emily had a wicked little sparkle in her eye as she slipped inside. Not only will this hide her weight but she fits inside the wooded box perfectly. Within minutes, Emily feels the crate being picked up and moved into the ship.
It's working! She deliberated to herself barely containing her excitement. The men carrying her complain at how heavy the crate is but she can’t quite make out what they are saying. She does know that she has to wait for them to go away before making any sudden movements.
After patiently waiting for what seemed so horribly long, Emily heard the booming sound of the horn and felt a nudge of the floor beneath her. The ship is moving and they are on their way onto the ocean. And here, her adventure began.
Darkness filled the area and not a sound could be heard. This was her chance! Emily slowly lifted the lid just a quarter way off so she can slip out without arousing suspicion or making a noise. She peeked her head out and saw no one is in this dark room with her. Emily lifted herself up on the edge of a crate and struggled to get herself out. She managed to swing both her legs out and land on her feet with a loud thud. She crouched down and covered her mouth hoping not to even breath a sound.
“God dammit! Now what?” Yelled out a deep harsh voice.
A bald man with dirty clothing and a newspaper boy hat walked into the room, grumbling out of his sweaty angry face. Emily saw him coming from the small office in the northeastern part of the room. She kept to the ground and crawled away from the crate that she crouched beside. When she stopped crawling, she pressed her back against the taller crate. She can feel her heart pounding in her chest in a combination of nerves and excitement. A few feet away she saw the exit right in front of her.
“Damn lids.” The man said irately slamming the lid with his heavy arms of the crate that Emily slipped through. “They never set them proper. Damn boat tips and they just slide right off.”
With that, the man threw his arms up in annoyance and walked back to his station in the northeast. Emily soundlessly treaded towards the door, opened it, and left the storage room. The man observed out at the floor again and huffed.
Emily wandered down the hall trying to find an open door, preferably one with a water basin that she could wash herself with. She grabbed onto every door latch that she could find and not one has opened for her. Suddenly two women not unlike her station laughed and walked down the hall towards her. They stop in front of her and the smell of alcohol wreaked from the two of them. Strangely they are still standing up straight.
“Hi Honey! Where you going?” The blonde girl giggled.
“I’m just looking for the washroom.” Emily humbly piped up, trying to be inconspicuous.
The brunette pointed in the direction they came from and spoke. “Over there, hon!”
And with that the two women went past her and chuckled down the hall. Emily wondered if they were telling the truth but at this point, she didn’t care. She just needed somewhere to lay low and hide out. She headed in the direction that they said and found a door that opened as soon as she turned the knob.
The door opened to a room full of people in a rundown but lively atmosphere. Music, cheer, and the smell of beer filled the air while men and women were dancing in the center of the room. Musicians played in the corner with energy and merriment. The bar that sat opposite of them and patrons clapping along with the music and waving their drinks. Emily looked in awe at the people around her. She walked through the circle of people until she was facing the two dancers in the center of the circle. The two dancers recede back into the circle and as if in a trance, Emily walked to the center of it.
A smirk broke out of her face as she sashays her skirt while skipping her legs. With a spin of her body and a wave of her arms, Emily prances around the circle until a man her age grabbed her hand and danced with her. For the first time in too long, Emily is free and because of that, she will happily dance the night away with the other dreamers just like her.
Emily’s eyes fluttered open, she feels the cold tile on her face and her hands. Slowly, she lifts herself up and finds that the bonnet that she was wearing on her head was gone. Her long dark brown curls that bordered on black cascaded down as she stands up. Although shaky, she looks at herself in the mirror. Her hair is down, her eyes are round and clear, milky white skin, and perfectly curved cheekbones on top of a slim figure. She has looked in mirrors before but it’s like she looked at herself for the first time. And for the first time ever, she liked what she saw. A woman who was free and did it herself.
A bang sounded on the door, that startled her to gaze to face that direction. She rushed to the door and opened it. There on the other side was a short stout furrow-browed woman giving her a nasty frown.
“What are you doing in there girl?” She snapped showing off her towel to Emily, “Some of us need this room young lady!”
“Oh I’m so sorry,” Emily said opening the door for the woman. “I apologize. Here it’s all yours.”
Emily leaves the woman to the washroom and walks out. The woman shook her head at the now closed door. Young people just have to take over everything. They confused her so.
Emily walked down several long halls trying to find another place to keep a low profile until the boat docks. She had no luck so far and by the look of things, she wasn’t going to be lucky much longer. Two big men in uniforms who were busy talking to each other were making their way towards her. Eyes wide with terror, she knew she had to get away and fast! She pushed the double swinging door beside her and hid behind them as she watched the men walk by through the two circular windows.
“Hey!” Sounded a voice behind her. Emily spun around and faced a man in a chef’s uniform. “You’re our new tea girl I take it?” Before she could even shrug her shoulders or say anything, the man announced. “I’m Claude but there is no time for pleasantries, you are late!”
Claude went to a cabinet and pulled out a long black dress, white apron, and a tiny white toque for the top of her head. He pushed the outfit into her arms. “Get dressed, put that hair up, and get to work!”
Not knowing what else to do, Emily does exactly what Crazy Claude ordered and rushed herself into the locker room to get changed. This wasn’t what she had in mind but it might keep her out of trouble while giving her a purpose on this ship. The wage would be helpful too when she gets to America. So this was what she was going to do while she’s here. Be a tea-girl.
The tea cart was made and Emily pushed it out into the first-class dining room. The room was so long and fancy that Emily thought she must be in some kind of palace. She took a second to peek at all as soon as her tea cart made it through the dark intricate wooden archway. The walls were so pristine and white with columns and stained glass. Even the set tables looked like works of art. The napkins are folded into conical towers sitting on the plates. The cutlery sparkled in the sun and the crystal glasses shined rainbows. The Titanic was more than a ship of dreams but a window to heaven.
Emily put on a smile and marched into the room to her first table. “Would you ladies and gentlemen like some tea? I have made it fresh for you.”
The wealthy people smiled at her as she handed them their cups and saucers full of tea. Emily continues to float from table to table giving the patron’s their morning cuppa. She fixed a pleasant demeanor on her face and made small talk with the customers. She found herself enjoying the work and talking to the people.
Emily made her way to the second-class dining hall. It wasn’t as bright and shiny as first-class but it certainly was warm and inviting. It is just as big as the dining hall above but with the brown load baring columns, intricate wooden chairs, and curvy cabinets along the wall made the room a little more down to earth. However, the crystal and white table cloths were a reminder that they’re is still in paradise. Smiling at the people who were not as wealthy but still well-off, Emily gets back to work.
Her shift was over after she finished serving the third-class passengers. Emily walked out of the kitchen with her regular clothes on and five dollars richer. She can’t wait until she has her shift tomorrow. The talking with the people, seeing them smile when they taste her tea, and the tips that she gets in return was a pretty nice bonus. In the meantime, she had to find a place to sleep. Emily was unworried about this. She will find a place but, in the meantime, she wanted to enjoy her new earnings. As she passed down the hall, she puts her hands in her skirt pockets and found a piece of paper.
“Go to the salon. The dress is waiting for you.” It said.
Emily lifted an eyebrow. She can’t help but be intrigued by this note. Who sent it? Is it a trap? She looked up from the note down the hall with a decision made. She will go to the salon to find out.
In only fifteen minutes, Emily found herself at the salon. It’s a place that had dark wooden walls but everything else sparkled. The basins were clean, the mirrors shone, and the seats looked soft. Emily glanced around the room to see if anyone was there. Perhaps they can tell her why she’s here. Suddenly a familiar face shows itself.
“You!” The grouchy faced woman pointed her finger at her. “Girl from the bathroom.”
Emily remembered this woman when she fell asleep on the bathroom floor. She was a mean looking woman and clearly still had a grudge. Before Emily could say anything, the woman waves her hands at her.
“Come here girl!” The woman snappily interrupted before Emily could argue. “I’m Trudy, I am taking care of your hair and make-up today.”
“Oh Trudy, I…” Emily trails off as Trudy pulled her arm to the chair and plunked her down on it. “I don’t know if I’m…”
“Yes, I know who you are Emily.” Trudy said to her as she begins brushing Emily’s hair. “Your dress is on the screen.”
“Trudy.” Emily spoke up. “I don’t know why I’m here I mean. I don’t…”
“I’m the one who sent the note.” Trudy said to her and Emily gawked up at her shocked. “When I first saw you, I could see what you were. A girl like you would not take a chance at being a stowaway on this ship if she didn’t have a good reason. So, we clean you up and show that you belong here.”
Emily turned in the chair to take a look at the dress. It is a full-length black lace emerald green gown that every girl would dream of wearing. Her breath is completely taken away. It’s now that she realized why she is here. She was going to the grand gala in the first-class ballroom. She turned, sat forwards, and let Trudy work on her hair. She stared at the counter with its combs, brushes, and rollers. Suddenly, it felt like she was Cinderella after all.
Emily, all dressed up in the gown, trailed her black gloved hand along the intricate banister that belonged to the second floor of the ballroom. She quietly reminds herself to breathe. She pressed another hand to her heart and made her way to the grand staircase with its dark wooden statues. She looked around and saw that this room was more majestic than any room she had ever imagined in her life.
Slowly, she walked down the stairs and to her surprise she can see all these men in tuxedoes study her up and down. The way their eyes stared at her, she wondered if they were going to eat her alive. She felt her face becoming hot and turned away shyly from the men. Emily strolled to the bar where a gentleman with blonde-slicked hair sat on one of the stools.
“What can I get you miss?” The bartender asked her.
“I’ll just have a water please.” Emily said.
“She will have the champagne, Murray.” The man sitting at the bar stated.
Emily looked at the man, incredulous. “Excuse me! Who said that I wanted a champagne? I can order my own drink!”
The man turned and looked at her in surprise and amusement. “A beautiful lady deserves a beautiful drink but it is not everyday a lady can stand on her own.” He gave her an impish smile and toasts his whiskey on the rocks to her. “I like that. Murray let the lady have a water and a glass of champagne, on me.”
Looking at his smile, Emily could not help but chuckle at him. She held out her hand to him, “Emily Stanford.”
He took her hand in his and shook it. “Robert Logan.”
The night seemed to fly by as Emily and Robert danced the waltz on the ballroom floor. Although it was full of people, Emily only noticed Robert. He was such good company. When she explained her reason for being at the gala, Robert just laughed. Yet somehow, he didn’t seem surprised. But that didn’t matter, because for the first time in her whole life, she was enjoying the moment and the present company.
“So why did you come on the Titanic, Emily?” Robert asked as he held Emily close. When she looked down to the ground with a wistful look, Robert had to speak. “I apologize. Should I have not asked.”
“No, no, it’s fine.” Emily said uttered looking back up at him and smiling. “It’s just this ship is my one and only hope that I have a better life waiting for me on the horizon. My story started as a sad one and now I want it to be happy. Whatever that may be.”
Emily looked into Robert’s eyes and in them she saw complete understanding. “That’s the same thing. I am trying to do.”
She sent him a sweet little smile and rested her head on his shoulder. She wondered when the last time she felt this kind of tenderness and if she would ever feel it again. All that there was for her was that night, and that optimism. What will the future bring? She wondered.