A Shelter from the Storm
Bella opened the door leading into her apartment above the shop. The décor was very feminine, obviously her décor choice. The walls were papered with floral patterned sheets, most of them peeling off from the wall. The carpet was red and fluffy under Rose's feet as she took her shoes off. A pair of scruffy looking white curtains covered half of the window, allowing some light from the flashing sign across the street to illuminate the room. Rose looked around as Bella moved aside some newspapers from a small chair. The furniture didn't match. It was as if they had just borrowed pieces of furniture from other people and placed it in a room, not caring if the colours went together or not. The long couch that sat beneath the small window was brown with a red patch sown onto it. The arm chair next to that was green and the chair that Bella had cleared for Rose was a breakfast table chair that was being used as a sitting room seat. It was wooden and looked rather unstable, but Rose couldn't be picky now, and she sat on it, making sure she didn't put all her weight down at once in case the thing buckled. There was a chandelier hanging from the ceiling. Not a diamond encrusted one with candles, but a small metal one with plastic beads hanging from it holding bulbs, some of which had gone out. The room was quaint, but the smell was delightful!
"It's not much, but it's home. I'm going to make spaghetti for us all. Do you like spaghetti bolognaise my darling?" Bella asked her, scurrying into one of the 3 doors that lead out of this room.
"You're home is lovely, and yes, that would be splendid!" She told her happily.
"I love the chandelier. May I ask where you got it from?"
Bella popped her head out of the open door and said, "It was here when we bought the property. Antonio never did like it, but I told him it was staying, and what Mamma says goes!" She popped her head away again, the sound of plates clattering soon followed.
Rose understood very much that Mamma was in charge of this house, even if Pappa was in charge of running the shop downstairs.
"May I help you with anything Bella?" Rose asked politely, not wanting to sit like part of the furniture and do nothing.
The sound of sizzling water and pans bashing against each other echoed throughout the building. Bella called through to her guest. "You could set the table for me, Rose if that would be okay with you?"
Rose jumped up, the chair wobbling with surprise, and walked over to the kitchen. Bella handed her four plates, eight knives and eight forks. Rose went straight to the table at the end of the room with its mis-matching chairs and patchy table cloth, and went about setting the table. She felt useful for once. No maids or butlers to do the work for her. She had never really set a table, but always felt sorry for the people that set the tables in 1st class. 7 course meals with half a dozen forks, the same amount of knives and countless spoons for you to choose from, half of which were actually used. There was really no sense in all the cutlery set out at posh dinners. No wonder Jack was confused with what ones to use when!
Rose giggled to herself quietly. Thinking of Jack now didn't hurt as much. She was thinking of the funny things they did together, and how proud of her he would be now as he watched her become friends with the lower classes of New York City. She was about to have her first meal as a 3rd class citizen of America, and she couldn't wait!
Bella walked into the room, a trail of delicious smelling steam following her seductively. "That's dinner cooking away." She stated proudly. She walked over to Rose, who had just finished laying down the last plate. Mamma looked her up and down, examining her figure and shape, her hair colour and her cheerful blue eyes.
"I know exactly what you should wear!" Bella grinned, throwing her arms into the air, avoiding the chandelier by inches. "Follow me Rose, you're going to love this!"
Rose followed Bella into another door that opened up to a long dark staircase. This building was amazingly larger on the inside than the outside. The stairs lead up to another door, almost like an attic space. Rose felt excited, yet curious as to what Bella would show her. And then, they reached the door. Bella brought out a small golden key and placed it into the keyhole, the cogs clicked and turned as the door began to un-lock. When the door opened, Rose saw what looked like hundreds of dresses and shoes and hats and coats of all colours and sizes and styles. There were racks and wardrobes full of the clothes. Rose's eyes lit up. It was extraordinary!
Bella walked over to one of the racks and looked through the dresses. A rainbow of colours whizzed by as she fingered through them like the pages of a book. "I suppose you're wondering why I have all these up here?"
Rose nodded her head, her mouth agape.
"Well these didn't come with the property unfortunately." Bella joked. "The truth is I actually used to be a model, and whatever I wore I kept. It was my way of being paid. Money to me meant nothing, because at the time Antonio's business was raking in the green… but then his bar was shut down and we lost everything and moved into this place. We could only afford it by selling our old furniture and selling some of my dresses, which made quite a bit if I'm honest."
She gazed at them admiringly, as if she wished so desperately to wear them once again, and go back to the glamorous life she once could understand how she felt.
"I modelled for Imperial Fashion, a shop that used to be up the street, but it was closed too and they gave most of there stock away to their models, me being one of them. I never did wear them again."
Rose looked at the array of fur coats and faux scarves, and gloves adorned with jewels, taking in Bella's tale. "Why wouldn't you wear them again, they're beautiful!"
"You can't live in this neck of the woods and run a dirty old joint like the one downstairs, and be seen walking out wearing these glad rags. You'd be robbed of everything you have . . . Even if that's nothing in the first place."
Rose looked at the photos in frames hanging on the wall. A tanned young girl with flowing black hair and pouted lips, wearing glamorous dresses, and sometimes nothing much to speak of. She was beautiful. A stunningly attractive black and white model. But that was in the past. Now Rose saw a bossy old house wife wearing an apron, but her hair was still radiantly dark, and the eyes and lips were the same. Still fierce and pouted, hiding a history of fame and fortune that was gone. Rose couldn't believe how similar their lives were.
Bella sat on top of a chest, dust sprinkling off of it as she sat. Her face looked reminiscent, "I learned to live this way. Not because I wanted to, but because I had to. I loved Antonio, and when he lost his job I was willing to give it all up for a better future. I guess that's just how life goes . . . never the way you want."
Rose sat next to her and took her hand. It was different for Rose not be the one being pitied for a change. The last few days onboard the Carpathia was constant sympathy for her, but now Rose felt like she could do something for someone else.
"You've got a good life here, Bella. You've got a man who loves you, a home, he has a job, you have your cooking skills! You're life is made."
"But it's not the life I wanted. I wanted to be somebody! I wanted to be rich one day and have a prince as my husband. I wanted to be bathing in money and showing off my fashion, not letting it gather dust up here for 4 decades!"
"Being rich isn't everything Bella, trust me." Bella looked at Rose curiously.
"I mean . . . I was on the Titanic for several and days and on the Carpathia for a few days also, and the way that 1st class act, not all of them, but most of them, it's revolting. Such disregard for people like us. I was called a drowned rat when I was on the brink of death! That's not the kind of way you want to go, looking down your nose at those less fortunate than you."
"But I wouldn't have become like that…"
"Trust me Bella, when a girl is brought up in that kind of environment, it becomes you're first nature. You don't know any better, and you do it to be accepted as part of the posh parade."
Bella looked at Rose, her face slightly less upset. "You really have experienced the way of 1st class before haven't you?"
Rose smiled and nodded. "I guess you could say that, yes."
Bella stood up, brushing her self off and cleared the lump in her throat. "Well my precious girl, I brought you up here to find you a dress, not let's have a look shall we?"
Rose giggled and nodded graciously.
"Just take those coats off and throw them down there." Mamma told her. Rose took off Robert's coat and folded it neatly, taking in the fragrant smell of his cologne, and then took off Cal's coat, suddenly remembering the necklace. She lay it down quietly. Bella turned round and saw the dress that Rose was wearing. The white material complimented her hour glass figure, and the pink and violet lace and ribbon that was tied around her mid section flowed gracefully down her back like wings.
"Is that yours?" Bella asked, admiring the art that Rose was wearing.
"Oh no, it belongs to someone I used to know. She was on the Carpathia and let me have it."
"Did she get off in New York?"
"No, I don't know where she is. Last time I saw her she was on the deck of the ship waving me goodbye."
"That was awfully nice of her to let you have it. I guess your other clothes must have been drenched?"
"You have no idea!" Rose laughed, the comment bearing more of a meaning than it sounded…
Bella held out her hand, directing Rose to the rows upon rows of colourful racks of clothes. "Take your pick, dear."
Rose walked forward in awe and took in the sight before her very eyes.
"If you'll be staying with us then you can wear these whenever you like."
Rose turned sharply and looked at Bella. "Really, you mean I can stay with you and Antonio?"
"We would be honoured. We have a spare room next to ours, and Robert lives just down the street so you two aren't far away from one another."
Rose smiled at the thought of being welcomed so warmly into someone's home within an hour of meeting them, and also the thought of being so close to Robert. She ran over to the friendly woman and hugged her tightly. Bella wrapped her arms around the teenager and closed her eyes, feeling the love that radiated from Rose. This was the start of a beautiful friendship.
Antonio and Robert sat at the dinner table, taking in the aroma of the cooking bolognaise in the kitchen. "Where's Mamma and Rose?" Robert asked, his stomach growling.
"Don't ask me, I think'a she's finally left me!" Antonio joked.
Just then, the door opened and Bella walked out, her face glowing with pride.
"Bella, Where'a have you been! This table was beginning to look more and more like a pizza the longer I waited!"
"Gentleman, I'd like you to meet, the new and improved, Miss Rose Dawson…"
She opened the door wider, and down the stairs a figure appeared from the shadows. Robert stood and watched as Rose walked into the room. He was speechless. Rose was wearing a tight red dress decorated with swirling golden lines. The dress itself hugged her body and stopped at her ankles, but moved freely as she walked. Its straps clung to her shoulders and showed off her flawless white skin, and around the low collar and the base of the dress were little material flowers. Her low collar showed something that pleased Pappa very much… Her striking ginger hair had been brushed and curled, making it fall wavily over her shoulders, and her fringe had been brushed out of her face, making her astounding beauty more visible to the astounded on lookers. Her eyelashes were long and black now with eyeliner to bring out her best feature, and her lips were a dark and sultry shade of red. She was wearing golden jewellery that was decorated with crimson beads and her necklace resembled a gold and red water fall of sparkles as it sat on her chest. She wore a pair of gold heels that matched the gold belt around her waist. She looked like a model herself, or an Italian heiress.
Pappa stood up and applauded her as she walked into the room. It was the shortest dress she had ever worn, but she loved it!
"You look'a like a princess Rosa!" he cheered, admiring her figure.
Robert got out of his set and stepped forward to take her hand and kiss it gently. He looked up into her eyes and smirked cheekily. "Nice to meet you, princess."
"Nice to meet you." She told him, talking in a fake snob voice. She felt like one million dollars! Even more than she did when she was 1st class. She looked down into Robert's eyes as they watched her smile intently, his handsome face just inches away from her hand, his silent breath tingling her skin.
"Shall we eat?" Bella asked, clapping her hands together with one swift movement. Rose was awakened from her trance, looking away from Robert's green hypnotizing pools of passion. She felt shaky, her brow hot and her hands still felt as if his hand was holding hers.
Antonio and Bella were sitting next to one another at one end of the rectangular table, allowing Robert and Rose to sit side by side. The plates of spaghetti bolognaise sat steaming in front of them all. Bella and Antonio began to eat as Robert and Rose played with the strings of pasta on their plates, making it dance around in the brown and red mixture that sat on top. Rose would see Robert look at her at the corner of her eye, and he in return would catch her looking back at him. Bella could see the two of them acting like children. Pappa was engrossed in the meal in front of him.
"So Rose, where will you be staying in New York?" Robert asked her, taking a sip of his wine.
Rose looked at Bella and said "Well, Bella and I were talking and it looks like I'll be staying here for a while."
Antonio almost choked on his pasta as Rose delivered this joyous news. He looked up at his wife, "You mean Rosa will be staying with us?" Bella nodded.
"Yes she will," she assured him, "But as a guest, not as your toy. I'll make sure you keep your hands to yourself even if I have to tie them up!"
He went back to his food, smiling cheekily. Robert looked at Rose, his eyes making her feel light headed. "That's fantastic! I live just a block away." She was simply delighted at how well things were going. "That means you can visit me whenever you like. My door's always open." She looked at him and he winked. This was turning out to be a very eventful evening…
Dinner was over and Bella was preparing the spare room for Rose. Antonio was sitting in his chair looking out the window at the rain that continued to fall. Robert was getting on his jacket and hat that Bella had brought down from the attic after they ate, remembering that it was still up there. Antonio offered to walk him downstairs, but Rose insisted. Bella understood why. They left the room and their footsteps grew quieter as they walked downstairs to the shop.
"She's a wonderful girl… the daughter I never had." Bella beamed as she collapsed on the sofa next to Pappa.
"That'a she is Mamma, that'a she is." He was reading the newspaper.
Bella looked at the front cover -
"TITANIC SINKS IN 3 HOURS - Jacob Astor - DEAD, Madeline Astor - MAYBE"
She couldn't believe that the poor girl had survived such a tragedy.
"You know not many 3rd class people got off the ship alive. She's one lucky person."
Antonio nodded, "It's a crime! What's a wrong with our lot?"
Bella shook her head, "God only knows. It's those 1t class lot. I blame them!"
There was a pause in their conversation as a clap of thunder ripped through the clouds above their apartment. The rain rattled off the window constantly.
"She likes him." Mamma told him.
"He likes her." Pappa told her.
"How come?" she asked curiously.
"He told me how he felt. She has a lot to offer him."
She sighed adoringly. She felt like a mother would after her daughter's met the first love of her life. "They would make a lovely couple. And they've only just met! That's what I call love."
"We got'a married a month after we met? Is that'a not love?" Antonio question her.
"No, that's called being stupid!"
"I'm not'a that bad!" He laughed.
"No, you're not . . . you're worse!"
They both look at one another and stared blankly for a minute, and then burst out laughing. After over 40 years of being married, they had learnt how to live with Bella's insults and Antonio's foolish business endeavours and scandalous affairs. They lived a grumpily happy life!
Robert and Rose got to the front door. She opened it for him and stood inside, not wanting to get Mamma's old outfit wet. He looked her up and down.
"You really do look amazing, Rose."
"Thank you, that's the 3rd time you've told me that." She teased.
"Sorry, I can't remember what I've said when I feel this way."
Rose moved slightly closer towards him. "How do you feel?"
Robert stepped into Rose's warmth. "I feel very attracted to you."
"Oh really?" she smiled audaciously. He leaned in, his eyes closed and his soft pink lips puckered. Rose was just about to lean in to him to, but she stopped herself. She pressed her finger against his lips. He opened his eyes, shocked slightly.
"What's wrong? Don't you feel the same?"
Rose couldn't lie, she did feel the same, but how could she? Jack had only just died and she thought she was in love with him. She was, but she couldn't move on so quickly. It didn't feel right. It felt like Jack was watching her and judging her.
"It just… doesn't feel right."
He was confused. "What do you mean?"
"I'll explain some other time. Goodnight Robert." And then she shut the door.
There was a storm of confusion boiling away in her head. She needed to put her old life as Rose DeWitt Bukater behind her is she wanted to succeed in living as Rose Dawson . . . Dawson? . . . Maybe that was the thing holding her back?