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"No. Because he was wrong about my mother. He thought she needed taking care of, because that's how their marriage was. And it worked, for them. But it isn't true. Whether she marries again or not, she can take care of herself. I believe that. She said as much herself, at Alan's. And I think as long as I don't shut her out of my life completely, which I don't intend to do, she'll be fine."
Max sat up straight and fished something out of his jacket pocket. "Speaking of marriage..." He held out a small, navy blue velvet box. "This was my grandmother's. She left it to me." He opened the box, revealing a simple but beautiful solitaire diamond set in a gold band. "I want you to marry me, Elizabeth. We can get a better apartment, if you want. I have my grandmother's money. And you can still go to Va.s.sar, still do all the things you want. A weekend marriage is fine with me, for now. Will you?"
Elizabeth took the box from him. "Oh, Max, it's beautiful! I love it. But ... but marriage? Now?" She loved Max with all her heart. She couldn't have made it through these past months without him. But it had taken her so long to work up enough courage to leave her mother's house, to be on her own, to make her own life. She would hardly be on her own if she married Max. She would have a husband. No wife she had ever met could be considered "on her own," though she supposed there were those who were more independent. The women who marched for the vote, who spoke at rallies ... some of them must be married. But not knowing any of them personally, she couldn't say how their marriages were.
Max looked hurt, and disappointed. "You don't want to marry me?"
"Yes, of course I do." She couldn't bear the thought of hurting him. "It's just ... well, could we be engaged now but wait a while to marry? Would that be all right? I love you so much, Max, but I know I'm not ready to be married. Could I just be a student first? There is so much I need to learn before I can be a wife."
He looked uncertain. "What if you meet someone else up in Poughkeepsie? Someone you like better?"
"Better than you?" Elizabeth laughed softly. "Oh, Max, don't be silly! There isn't anyone I could like better than you ... love better than you. There just isn't." She took the ring from its box and put it on her left hand. Then she lifted his hand and put it to her cheek. "I promise," she said solemnly, "that I will marry you. If you will promise to wait until I'm ready."
With the ring on her finger, Max seemed to relax, just a bit. "I promise, though I can't say I'm happy about it. How do I know you won't change your mind? You might become one of those women your mother's always going on about, the ones who have no use for men. You could decide never to marry anyone."
"Oh, I couldn't do that," Elizabeth said seriously. "I have to marry. I'm sure I will need furniture moved one day."
Max, who was familiar with all of Anne's sayings, threw his head back and laughed.
Then, to seal their engagement, he kissed Elizabeth thoroughly.
IT WAS MARY WHO called Paddy on Christmas Eve to tell him Katie was in the hospital. " 'Tis her I'm owin'," she said with tears in her voice. "She saved me only child, she did, and she needs to see you, Paddy. It ain't John she wants, it's you. She don't know I'm callin'. You'd best get yourself out here to the hospital quick as a wink. But," she added quickly, "she can't talk. You can't be expectin' her to. Her voice is gone. Not for all time, the doctors say, but for now. The smoke ... still and all, you can talk to her." Mary's voice hardened. "You can tell her how sorry it is you are for bein' faithless with that Belle person, takin' her to Coney Island when you knew full well Katie thought of it as your special place." She explained then that Katie had been there that night, too, had seen Paddy with Belle, how heart-broken she had been. "Still is, if you ask me."
He was in Katie's hospital ward within the hour. Looking disheveled from the rush, carrying a brown paper bag in his hands, he burst into the long, narrow room filled with white beds and waved Lottie and Malachy, sitting beside Katie's bed, away. "She can't talk," Lottie warned as they left. "Don't be arguin' with her."
He had no intention of arguing with her. He dropped into a chair and took both of her hands in his. She looked terrible. Her eyes were swollen and red-rimmed, her skin grayish. One arm was bandaged above the elbow. "Are you all right, then?" he asked. According to Mary's account of the fire, he could just as easily have been looking at a corpse. The thought made him sick. He couldn't have stood it, had she died in that house. "We need to be talkin', Katie. I know you're not feelin' well, but we got to get some things straight."
She shook her head, touching her throat.
"I know. You can't talk. Mary told me." He dumped the contents of the brown paper bag on the white sheet covering Katie. Wooden alphabet blocks, twenty-six of them, the letters painted in white on all sides but one, on which there was a drawing of an animal or a toy. "I stopped at Mary's on the way here ... they're stayin' with Lottie and Malachy until Agnes's house is fixed up ... and borrowed these. Bridget's here, too, in the kiddies' ward, and doin' fine, Mary says. She won't be missin' these until she goes home. Lottie said I could use them." Paddy leaned closer to Katie. "I need to ask you some questions, Katie-girl, need to in the worst way. I was thinkin', you could use the blocks to answer, if you're feelin' up to it. Are you?"
"All right, then." He lined up the blocks on her sheet, four uneven rows of them, wobbling slightly but their letters clearly visible. "Here's the first question. Do you hate me, then?"
Katie lifted her uninjured arm to point. NO "And is it John Donnelly you're wantin' in your life now?"
He heaved a sigh of relief. Taking her hands in his again, he said, "Mary was tellin' me you saw me with Belle at Coney Island. We was only talkin' about the writin'. Her beau came along with us. He was there, too. You must have come upon us when he was off finding somethin' for us to eat." He shook his head. "Why did you not tell me? You could have telephoned, told me what you was thinkin'. I'd have told you the truth. So that's my next question. Why didn't you tell me what you was thinkin'?"
The hand moved again. It pained Paddy that it moved so slowly, that Katie had so little strength. STUBBORN Paddy smiled. "You?" he asked. "Or me?"
"Aye, that's the truth. I could have come to talk to you, find out for myself why you wasn't talkin' to me, and I didn't. It was 'cause I thought you was better off without me, you doin' so well and all."
She shook her head and pointed. NOT WELL Nodding, Paddy said, "Well, I know you're not well now. But that's because of the fire. You was incredible brave, Katie. Everyone says so. Like Bri. He was that brave, too. You'd have made a fine pair, the two of you."
The finger pointed quickly, moving rapidly from one block to another in exasperation. BRIAN GONE SORRY MISS HIM BUT LOVE YOU BRIAN HAPPY FOR US Paddy's expression was bleak. "I think about him, Katie. I try not to, but the thoughts come. They're terrible thoughts, me up here, alive, him on the bottom of the ocean...."
Katie reached up to put a finger to Paddy's lips. She mouthed, "Shh!" Then she pointed again. DON'T BE DUMB BRIAN NOT THERE IN OCEAN YOU KNOW BETTER PADDY "But I see him there, plain as day!"
She pointed again, this time tapping each block with such force several tipped over. NOT THERE HE IS IN WARM SAFE GOOD PLACE YOU KNOW THAT SAY IT PADDY SAY THATS WHERE BRIAN IS NOW He looked dubious, but Katie could see he was trying, that he wanted to believe her.
STUBBORN BRI SAFE HAPPY YOU KNOW TRUE.
At last he nodded. Tears of relief appeared in his eyes. "You're right. He's not there. I shouldn't have been thinkin' it all this time. It was wrong thinkin' on my part." His voice almost a whisper, he said, "It came from me not understandin' why I lived and he didn't. It's tearin' me to pieces, Katie, wonderin' that."
The tears that filled her swollen eyes then were angry ones. Her jabs were rapid and furious, as if the blocks themselves had offended her. IT DONT MATTER WHY YOU JUST LIVED THATS ALL NOW YOU GOT TO DO SOMETHING WE WASNT SAVED FROM t.i.tANIC TO DO NOTHING PADDY DO IT FOR BRIAN FOR ME FOR YOU ITS TIME "You mean the book."
Paddy thought about that. Mary had said it was a wonder that Katie had lived, that everyone was certain she would die in that house. But she hadn't. Maybe because he needed her so. And maybe he hadn't died on the t.i.tanic along with Brian because he was needed. It wouldn't hurt to think so. "Will you help? I mean, I know you're busy and all, singin', but..."
She touched her throat again.
"Oh, I know, but Mary says you'll sing again. Not for a while, though. Maybe you could help me get goin' on the book till then? When you're feeling' better, I mean. And then when you're singin' again, I promise I'll come. " 'Twas pigheaded of me not to. If you want me to, that is."
I WANT AND I WANT IRELAND SOMEDAY.
Paddy nodded. "I been thinkin' on that. I guess I'd like to see my ma and da again. And granda. I should be tellin' them how brave Bri was. They'd like knowin' that."
YOU MEAN IT.
"Yes, I mean it. Some day. If the book sells and there's money enough. I mean it."
"I promise." Paddy bent to kiss Katie's aching throat.
She reached down and gently tugged on his hair to lift his head up. Then she began tapping the blocks again. SING PROMISE Paddy laughed. "Are you daft? You're the singer, not me."
PLEASE SING IT.
He was so glad she was alive, that she hadn't died, not only on the t.i.tanic, but again in Agnes Murphy's roominghouse. The months without her had been miserable and he had not expected them to end. He had thought to go on forever without her. The thought had brought a constant ache to his chest. Now, he would do anything to prove that he never intended to let her go again. He would even sing, if that was what it took.
"You'll be regrettin' this," he said, "as will everyone else in this ward." But then he sat back in the chair, still holding Katie's hands, and he lifted his head and began to sing in a clear Irish tenor, "I'll take you home again, Kathleen..."
Katie closed her eyes. But she was smiling.
THEY HAD COME TOGETHER once again, two years after the tragedy, to gather at the Seamen's Church Inst.i.tute in New York City. In some faces the pain had eased a bit, in others it was still as fresh and raw as it had ever been.
Holding tightly to Paddy's hand, Katie gazed up at the Memorial Lighthouse and thought of Brian. She had meant what she said to Paddy. Brian was not in the ocean, he couldn't be. She was just as certain that in the warm, safe refuge he had found, he was pleased that his brother was here now, with her, that they were still together and always would be. He would understand how Paddy still struggled with his book, but be proud that he hadn't given up, that he kept trying. Paddy would finish the book one day, and they would both thank Edmund Tyree for his patience, and Belle for all her help.
She hadn't given up hope of one day getting her voice back. The doctors Paddy took her to were encouraging. He teased her, saying he liked her hoa.r.s.e, dry whispering. But she sorely missed the singing. Flo had been so kind, bringing flowers and magazines to Lottie's house, sometimes small toys for Bridget, who was healthy and active again. Flo had never once said, "Didn't I tell you the smoke would ruin your voice?" She was a good woman.
Paddy hadn't forgotten his promise to take her back to Ireland. He mentioned it every once in a while. When he was in a really good mood, he even sang the song for her again. They would need money for the trip, and more important, the courage to board a s.h.i.+p again.
Once there, they might stay, they might not. Did it really matter? They were alive when she, at least, might not have been, and they were together. It wasn't the place that mattered. It was, Katie had decided, who was with you, wherever you were, that mattered.
Elizabeth felt a measure of peace for the first time since she'd begun attending the memorial services honoring her father and so many others lost on the t.i.tanic. Last year at this time, her dreams had seemed to disappear along with the s.h.i.+p itself. Now, at last, she was beginning to fulfill them. She loved college. It was everything she had hoped it would be. Max was painting well ... she'd seen some of his new work, wonderfully detailed New York scenes that she felt certain would draw positive attention. Her mother, while never ceasing to complain that she saw too little of her daughter, was at least civil to Max now. That was progress.
They still had a long way to go. But they had managed to survive a monumental disaster at sea and, almost more difficult, they had survived two years of grief and adjustment. Elizabeth wasn't sure how, exactly. There had been many times when she had doubted they would manage. But they had.
Max said occasionally, "We've been through the worst. It can only get better from here on in."
Perhaps he was right.
"Those we loved and lost..." a speaker's voice broke into her thoughts.
No one spoke then as the ball in the t.i.tanic Memorial Lighthouse mounted on the rooftop of the Seamen's Church Inst.i.tute in New York City dropped once again, in memory of fifteen hundred people lost at sea.
A Biography of Diane Hoh.
Diane Hoh (b. 1937) is a bestselling author of young-adult fiction. Born in Warren, Pennsylvania, Hoh grew up with eight siblings and parents who encouraged her love of reading from an early age. After high school, she spent a year at St. Bonaventure University before marrying and raising three children. She and her family moved often, finally settling in Austin, Texas.
Hoh sold two stories to Young Miss magazine, but did not attempt anything longer until her children were fully grown. She began her first novel, Loving That O'Connor Boy (1985), after seeing an ad in a publis.h.i.+ng trade magazine requesting submissions for a line of young-adult fiction. Although the ma.n.u.script was initially rejected, Hoh kept writing, and she soon completed her second full-length novel, Brian's Girl (1985). One year later, her publisher reversed course, buying both novels and launching Hoh's career as a young-adult author.
After contributing novels to two popular series, Cheerleaders and the Girls of Canby Hall, Hoh found great success writing thrillers, beginning with Funhouse (1990), a Point Horror novel that became a national bestseller. Following its success, Hoh created the Nightmare Hall series, whose twenty-nine novels chronicle a university plagued by dark secrets. After concluding Nightmare Hall with 1995's The Voice in the Mirror, Hoh wrote Virus (1996), which introduced the seven-volume Med Center series, which charts the challenges and mysteries of a hospital in Ma.s.sachusetts.
In 1998, Hoh had a runaway hit with t.i.tanic: The Long Night, a story of two couples-one rich, one poor-and their escape from the doomed ocean liner. That same year, Hoh released Remembering the t.i.tanic, which picked up the story one year later. Together, the two were among Hoh's most popular t.i.tles. She continues to live and write in Austin.
An eleven-year-old Hoh with her best friend, Margy Smith. Hoh's favorite book that year was Lad: A Dog by Albert Payson Terhune.
A card from Hoh's mother written upon the publication of her daughter's first book. Says Hoh, "This meant everything to me. My mother was a pa.s.sionate reader, as was my dad."
Hoh and her mother in Ireland in 1985. Hoh recalls, "I kissed the Blarney Stone, which she said was redundant because I already had the *gift of gab.' Later, I would use some of what we saw there in t.i.tanic: The Long Night as Paddy, Brian, and Katie deported from Ireland."
An unused publicity photo of Hoh.
Hoh with her daughter Jenny in Portland, Oregon, in 2008. Says Hoh, "While there, I received a call from a young filmmaker in Los Angeles who wanted to make The Train into a film. They ran out of money before the project got off the ground. Such is life."
Hoh in 1991, addressing a cla.s.s at the junior high she had attended in Warren, Pennsylvania.
A 1995 photo taken in Austin, Texas, with Hoh's grandchildren. Says Hoh, "Although my deadlines for Nightmare Hall were tight, I made time for my grandchildren: Mike, Alex, and Rachel. I'm so glad they live here."
A current photo of Hoh at home in Austin, Texas.