Two Lives, One Destiny
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Chapter One: Out to Sea
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The 6th of April, 1912; aboard the ship; 10:47 p.m.
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Bienvenu a’bord le Titanic! Oh my! Where are my manners? Welcome aboard the Titanic! Even though it is against the wishes of my beloved “mother”, I intend to pen my diary in my native tongue: French. Although, I never have given a thought to what she wants; she gets that every day. I mean nothing to her; absolutely nothing. In case you are wondering of whom I speak, my father remarried when I was fourteen, hoping to please me by giving me a mother.
Despite his good intentions, she wasn’t the wisest choice. I truly believe she brought on his early death not one year later. She did the part of the grieving widow quite well, I might add. She earned the pity and sympathy of all my relatives. In quiet, she was happy and very content. Papa’s death was just an inconvenience; she had her eyes on the real prize: M. Placant. He was everything she wanted: rich, handsome (in an old, strange way), and charismatic. Once the formalities were completed, the two of them were married.
However, something even Monique (my stepmother’s Christian name) didn’t foresee was the sudden death of M. Placant. We found him in his study one morning, a shot glass in one hand and a half empty bottle of brandy in the other. I knew Pierre was a heavy drinker (I know it isn’t proper to use the Christian names of people older than you, but it is just you and I, dear diary.), but I never anticipated this. I still don’t know if it was a blessing or a curse. For after his death, he left behind a bitter, angry woman with her first husband’s daughter, and her second husband’s three teenage children: twenty one year old Jesse, nineteen year old Richard, and eighteen year old Josephine. With that, he left her with a large fortune, which softened the loss completely.
Not two days ago, while at dinner, Madame (as I call her now) decided she had had enough of France and all its bad memories. So, on the spur of the moment, she exclaimed loudly to the surprise of us all, “We shall go to America aboard that new ship, the Titanic!” Whilst my other step-siblings voiced their happiness of leaving this “God-forsaken land they had the nerve to call a country”, I sat in shock. The thought of leaving my beloved France was too much to bear. I loved my country; they couldn’t understand. They all were from England, the land of Protestants, the land of bland food and screaming bastards. I could do nothing as Madame, Jesse, Richard, and Josephine began to make plans.
Now, here I am, aboard the biggest ship mankind has ever seen. How I got onboard is an interesting story. I’ll share.
We arrived at ten minutes to two at the Cherbourg harbor after a long journey from Paris. Ever step I took, my heart grew heavier. Now that it came down to it, I felt an irrepressible urge to run away; unfortunately, my stupid feet kept walking closer and closer to that boat that would be my death. What was wrong with me?!
The Titanic took one’s breath away. I can’t even begin to describe what it looks like, except it was huge. Titanic was the perfect name for this extraordinary vessel. The four smokestacks burped black soot, which came from deep within the ship. The passengers that were already onboard waved vigorously, and others still onshore returned the greeting. I, however, just stared stupidly ahead, not entirely comprehending all that was being said.
The Titanic was too large to dock in the tiny Cherbourg harbor, so everyone had to be ferried across the gaping distance to board. The next thing I knew, I was sitting in cramped quarters with six people surrounding me, squishing my arms to my sides, the stench of expensive perfume filling my nose and brain. The ride there was the longest yet.
Once we pulled in close to the ship, two long, thick ropes about the width of two man’s hands wrapped completely around it, flew downward, with big shiny hooks attached to the ends. The sailors onboard secured the lines and we were hauled upward to the deck. Everyone gratefully dismounted and collected their luggage. Since it was considered improper to carry one’s luggage when at a high social position, Madame ordered me to carry it all. The bellboys carried as much as they could, but that still left me with four very heavy, cumbersome bags. They saw me struggling, but they could do nothing.
I limped behind the party, taking time to glance at my surroundings. We had just entered in what I supposed was the lobby. The room was encased in windows, and to my right was a grand wooden staircase, divided down the middle by a sturdy looking rail with intricate designs carved on and around it. But I was distracted by my overbearing load. I am a rather strong person for my age, but this was just too much. I was being dragged down, and I was certain if I took one more step, I would collapse right there in front of everyone.
Just when I thought I was done for, that I would surely earn Madame’s beating that night, I heard above the din a quiet voice with a distinct musical tone ask, “Miss, do you need help?”
I turned as best as I could without dropping anything, and found myself staring into the most beautiful pair of eyes I’d ever seen. They were green, but they weren’t just plain green. They were more like a…smoky emerald, or perhaps, a murky jade. Whatever color they were, they took my breath away. I then realized a face went with those hypnotic eyes.
His face was muscular and well shaped, not a sign of imperfection. He had ebony hair slicked back, soft delicate skin defining the attractive contours of his lovely visage, and those lips…oh! I don’t even want to think about them, for then I start daydreaming about things I shouldn’t. They looked so gentle and inviting. Then something caught my eye: I saw on the right side of his lovely face was a white leather mask covering close to half of his gorgeous face. I wondered why that was needed, since he seemed to not necessary.
When I finally tore my gaze from his face, I remembered he had asked me a question. My cheeks burned as I hurriedly replied, “Oh, no. I-I’m fine, thank you, monsieur. I’ll be fine.”
As I turned to leave, his voice once again stopped me, his French accent giving his voice a very alluring air. “Here. Let me have those. A young lady shouldn’t be carrying those.” He gave the bellboys a dirty look as he held out a gloved hand in supplication. I slowly and reluctantly handed him one of the bags, and he switched it to the other hand, and held the left one out again. This continued until he carried one bag in each hand, and had one bag under each arm. Under my insistence, he allowed me to carry the lightest bag, firmly stating a lady shouldn’t carry such heavy items.
We walked in silence, following Madame and her loving children. Along the way, I saw out of the corner of my eye this man glancing at me, and if I wasn’t mistaken, was he staring at me at certain times? But every time I started to look his way, his head snapped forward again.
All too soon, we reached Madame’s suite. Quickly, he set the suitcases on the floor, bowed, and politely excused himself. Before he left, I called after him in French, “Merci beaucoup monsieur. Tu bien amiable.” Thank you, sir. You’re very kind. He stopped and turned around, staring at me with a most peculiar expression on his face. He opened his mouth to say something, but Madame ordered me to her side. When I looked back, he was gone, not a trace of him left behind.
I walked in the room, and helped Madame arrange everything like a common servant. I learned a long time ago to not contradict what Madame says or commands; it would just mean a severe physical punishment. I have quite a few scars (the only thing that covers them is my clothes) from those times. Even though she is cruel and abusive, she feeds, provides, and cares for me; not very well, but all the same. It’s all I got.
Once Madame was finished, she handed me a set of keys. “These are to your room. It shouldn’t be too hard to find.” I thanked her and left the suite, promising to change and return to the room before supper. I glanced at the tag attached that identifying the room number, and saw this arrangement: 3C-R143. Third class, room 143. I am just like a servant to her, and now she’s treating me as one.
I better stop. My candle is going out, and my bunkmates are grumbling about the light. More later, diary.
The 7th of April, 1912; aboard the Titanic; 2:34 p.m.
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For my first day on this ship, a lot of exciting events have transpired. There is so much to tell, and so little time. I’d best get started before Madame needs me again.
I forgot to tell you about dinner last night, I was in such a rush to get off. Once I was situated in my new quarters and had acquainted myself with my roommates, I changed and reported back to Madame upstairs. In my expensive, bejeweled gown, no one questioned my being there.
Madame gave me strict instructions not to talk to anyone, and to be as invisible as possible. She didn’t want me embarrassing her with my stupidity. I obediently nodded, and we were off. All first class people walked down the beautiful stairs to the dining hall. All the ladies had escorts waiting for them at the bottom; Madame and Josephine were no exception. Jesse accompanied his stepmother, Richard a woman I did not recognize, and Josephine with an unknown lad about her age.
I trailed behind them, hoping against hope that someone was waiting for me down there too. As soon as Madame and Josephine reached the bottom, all the gentlemen I had nominated as possibilities left the room with their women. I was alone. I felt the blood rush to my cheeks as I descended the stairs, struggling to keep my emotions in check. Why did I think things would be different now that we were on a luxurious ocean liner? I was still a pauper in Madame’s eyes; just because we were in public didn’t mean her feelings would change. If she had any, that is.
The second I stepped down off the stairs, a vaguely yet hauntingly familiar accent reached my ears. “Mademoiselle, do you not have an escort for dinner?”
Once again, I found myself standing in front of the Frenchman who had helped me earlier. He was dressed in a black dinner jacket and trousers, white wing collared shirt, grey tie, black cummerbund, and black polished dress shoes. His hair was slicked back again, and he still wore that off-white mask on the right side.
Once again, I temporarily forgot he was speaking to me; once I got my voice back, I answered honestly, “No.”
I saw his eyes flicker in surprise at my statement. But he composed himself quickly as he held out his arm and asked, “Then would you allow me to accompany you?”
This was unheard of. Only those who were part of your party escorted you; I knew he wasn’t one of my mother’s friends, or I would’ve known him a lot sooner than now. Nonetheless, I acquiesced and took his proffered arm. I could feel the powerful muscles under his coat, and that feeling of strength left me speechless. He seemed so kind and gentle; I didn’t expect him to be so…masculine. Not that he looked adolescent, but… I really can’t describe it.
As we inched toward the door, he turned and inquired, “Are you supping with your party?”
I nodded stupidly, still mute.
“Do you think they would mind if you joined me just for tonight? If that is your wish,” he quickly added.
I was taken by surprise. A man I didn’t know was asking me if I wanted to dine with him. First, he offers to attend me to dinner, now he’s asking if we can eat together! This was very interesting indeed.
I observed him before I answered, trying to discover his true intentions. He looked expectant and hopeful, like a child who had asked for a puppy and was awaiting his parent’s reply. It was so cute! I almost felt like I was dealing with a child. As he turned away, mistaking my silence for refusal, I spoke softly. “I’d be honored and delighted to join you. But only under one condition.”
He looked at me, puzzled. “What is that?”
“You must tell me your name, monsieur.” I smiled teasingly.
He sighed in evident relief and laughed good naturedly. “Oui, of course. My name is M. Erik Danton at your service, mam’selle.” I chuckled and followed him to a vacant table. A waiter pulled out my chair and laid the napkin in my lap.
During the first course, things were a bit awkward, but as the other courses were served, conversation came quite easily. I found he was a native Frenchman and missed the land as much as I did; I also found out that he loved music. He was a composer, and he played the organ, among others. When I spoke of my desire to sing professionally, M. Danton’s eyes lit up like an electric light bulb.
”You like to sing? Mon Dieu, that’s wonderful! What’s your range?”
“I-I..uh, soprano, I believe,” I replied hurriedly, feeling utterly stupid for being rendered silent by his mesmerizing voice. I felt I was trapped under the spell he was casting with his gaze.
“Really?” He looked genuinely excited and interested. “Well, perhaps later, you and I could meet in the music room and see how good you are.”
I highly doubted that. Madame didn’t like or approve of music at all. In fact, one time, when Josephine was just softly singing to herself in that lovely, clear alto of hers, Madame screamed at her so loudly the servants heard her outside about fifty meters from the house.
“I’m afraid I can’t, monsieur,” I sadly replied. I continued as he sat back, a perplexed look on his face. “My stepmother doesn’t approve of music. She calls it a waste of time, and forbids anyone to even go near anything of the sort.” It broke my heart. I was in the presence of a maestro, I knew it. Yet there I was, giving up a chance to sing again like the old days when my father was alive.
I glanced up, cringing as he pursed his lips and leaned back in his chair, his eyes changing from the warm jade they held while he listened to an icy aqua that sent chills down my spine. He snorted softly and muttered something under his breath. Once the episode had passed, he sat up and spoke quietly with a twinkle in his eyes, “Well, perhaps your stepmother doesn’t have to know now, does she?”
I was surprised. This man liked to live on the edge. Disobeying Madame was like signing your own death warrant. She would kill me if I even thought about singing. I told him so, and he just smiled.
“My whole life I have ‘lived on the edge’, as you say. Nothing is too dangerous or too risky anymore. I have grown accustomed to getting in trouble frequently. But if you don’t want to, then-”
“I’ll meet you there tomorrow at three,” I quickly interrupted before I could change my mind. I wondered what had gotten into me; I was going to get into so much trouble I wouldn’t survive Madame’s beating. Just don’t get caught, Christine Daae, I scolded myself.
M. Danton’s eyes registered mild surprise at my reply. “Ah, you want to experience danger? Well, I believe this is the way to go then.”
Dinner ended all too soon. Once the dessert course was finished, M. Danton rose, bowed politely, and said, “Au revoir, mademoiselle. I shall look forward to our seeing each other again.” He leaned in closely and whispered playfully, “Remember: music room, tomorrow at three. I shall be waiting, mademoiselle.”
As he turned to leave, I stopped him with a quiet cry. “One more thing, monsieur. You told me your name, I shall tell you mine.” In response to his mischievous whispering, I in turn said quietly in his ear, “My name is Mlle. Christine Daae. See you tomorrow.”
I scurried away, smiling as I heard him chuckle and murmur, “I shall count the hours, my dear.”
I hurried up the stairs, my mind all a whirl. Things aboard this ship were certainly strange, I had to admit. You meet a man who helps you with your luggage; you then dine with him; and after the meal, you arrange a meeting in the music room. Was this what every rich person experienced when they went on a cruise? I thought not.
When I skidded into Madame’s suite, she was already purple with rage. “Where in Heaven’s name were you?! I thought I told you to join us at dinner, not run off to God knows where. You missed supper and-”
I interrupted her before she went on anymore. “I was actually at dinner the whole time.” She stopped, looking very surprised and angry at my boldness. “A kind gentleman asked me to join him, and I didn’t see any reason not to. After all, it was you that didn’t really want me to be there to begin with.” When I finished, I knew I had gone too far.
Madame changed from her screeching rant to a calm, yet ice cold voice. “Indeed, you are correct, you insubordinate hussy. However, I don’t really recall you asking if you could join him, now did I?”
I shook my head, fear beginning to take root in my heart.
“So, I fear I must confine you to your room.” Her eyes, whose chill reminded me of a cold winter wind that comes before a blizzard, dared me to say anymore.
I accepted the challenge. “You can’t confine me. Others will question why; and what will you tell them? That I bedded with Jesse? Honestly, there isn’t any way you can keep me here.” I knew I could only stall her for a second, but it was still worth it.
Madame’s face went from purple to white with rage. In one swift move, she stepped over to me, and slapped me. Every time she said a word, she smacked me. “Don’t-you-ever-speak-to-me-like-that-ever-AGAIN!!” With that last word, she cuffed me so hard I catapulted across the room and hit the wall.
As I laid there dazed and hurt, Jesse, Richard, and Josephine walked in, wicked smiles on their faces. “What’s the matter Maman,” Richard asked, his eyes glued to my still form.
“Oh, nothing. Just disciplining your sister.”
“But…Maman, I’m right here,” Josephine reminded, flashing me a cruel, triumphant smile.
“So you are. Forgive me, darling.” Madame beckoned and put an arm around Josephine, her intention the whole time to hurt me. I was beyond hurting. She killed me years ago when my father died.
As Madame held Josephine, Richard and Jesse began to whisper among themselves, often glancing my way. Then, Jesse strode over, knelt next to me, and gave me an impious smile. Before I could react, he reached behind my back and started to unbutton my dress.
Then every muscle in my body reacted as I screamed, kicked him in the chest, and leapt up, a snarl of anger and fear hissing between my teeth. I was not about to let him or anyone else take my purity. It was the only valuable thing I had left.
Jesse jumped up, a look of feral rage in his eye, and started toward me, hands crooked.
“No, Jesse.” Madame’s voice stopped him dead in his tracks. “That is not necessary. We’ll save that for when she’s done something more than talk back.” Jesse’s shoulders slumped, but before he walked back to join Richard, he gave me a smile that put the fear of God in my heart. His eyes held a ravenous look, which made him look like an untamed beast just waiting to kill. I knew he would; he may not be Madame’s flesh and blood, but they have the same mind structure.
I tried to run out, but Madame grabbed my arm. “Oh no you don’t. I’m not finished with you just yet.” A low chuckle rumbled in her throat as she showed me what was in her other hand: a long steel pipe-like object. With a smile, she hit me across the stomach with it and kicked my legs out from underneath me.
I don’t know how long she beat me; I passed out when she hit my side. I do know when I woke up, I still lay on the parlor floor, my whole body feeling as though I had become a living punching bag from the gymnasium. I managed to stand on my own and sneak out the door.
I stumbled to my room, praying I wouldn’t faint in the hall like some kind of drunk sailor. I somehow got in my bed without awaking any of my testy roommates, much to my relief. The last thing I wanted was three angry Czech sisters yelling and cursing me in their language.
Oh, dear. Madame wants me to meet her on the bow in five minutes. I must go.