I am sure you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone in the developed world that has not heard of New York. It is one of the largest, and most iconic cities, in the world. It is also the setting of two of my favorite TV dramas--Blue Bloods and CSI NY--and my favorite morning talk show, Live with Kelly and Michael. New York also plays a large role in my novel, Everything That Matters, as it is the port of entry to America for my heroine, Dianna, and the gritty urban landscape where she completes her transformation from exiled daughter, to self-sufficient woman.
Dianna disembarks the Carpathia at Pier 54 in New York on the night of April 18, 1912. She left Southampton in the care of a childless couple who offered her sanctuary in exchange for her unborn child; she lands on American soil destitute, and the self-appointed caregiver of her abruptly widowed and penniless benefactress who's a non-responsive after her husband and the entirety of their fortune went down with the Titanic. Below is a little excerpt sharing Dianna's arrival in New York...
Excerpt, Everything That Matters, 2013 copyrighted material...
Dianna shivered and brushed dribbles of water from her eyes.
Her cloak and hood were soaked, heavy and clammy through her shirtwaist, and her face and gloved hands numb from the damp cold, but she, like the hundreds of others pressed to the ship's rail, was determined to brave the foul weather and watch the city emerge from the veil of darkness and rain.
The Carpathia had toiled for hours, delicately navigating a treacherous web of icebergs to pluck her and the other half-frozen survivors that had found refuge in lifeboats--the finally tally at just over seven-hundred, and those mostly women and children--from the close to two-thousand on board the Titanic when it started to go down. The rescue ship's crew also brought aboard what few bodies they managed to find floating amidst the icy flotsam, and when there were no more people, living or dead, to be recovered, the rescue ship idled for a brief memorial, and then turned southwest. Two days later they were finally steaming into New York's busy port and Maggie had yet to utter a sensible word. Another tremor rocked Dianna.
She prayed the Carpathia's physician who had examined Maggie was right, and she was suffering temporary shock and would soon snap out of it. The alternative was…too complicated to consider.
Dianna turned her face skyward and let the rain pound her closed eyelids, imagined it washing away her fearful thoughts. She left England in the Stewarts' care, but now the roles were reversed, and she found herself Maggie's nursemaid and entirely unprepared for it. Squaring her head on her shoulders, she opened her eyes, and surprisingly, her agitation abated.
Land. Solid land, so close she could almost reach out and touch it. Even more reassuring, someone waited for her and Maggie, more than some survivors could claim. She frowned.
What if he was not there? What if he had already returned to Texas, or never came to New York in the first place? And how did she even know he was a he?
Heaven. She knew nothing of the cousin, not a name, not gender…fool. She was a fool. So consumed with what lay behind her, she never bothered to request details of what lie ahead, foolishly trusting the Stewarts to manage everything for her. Her anxiety spiking once more, Dianna pushed on tiptoe to study the crowd gathered on shore.
Rain and darkness obscured the mass as a whole, but here and there light from the windows of surrounding buildings and the gas lamps lining the streets illuminated clusters of moving figures, so the entire assemblage seemed to move without changing location, like the heaving sides of a nocturnal beast crouched in the moon dappled shadows of a forest glade. The effect was exacerbated by the agitated hum of voices filtering from the group, indistinct, but clearly gaining momentum as the ship prepared to dock, escalation from a deep-chested warning growl to imminent attack. She inhaled a shaky breath.
Somewhere in that teeming mass of humanity turned out to receive the Carpathia's wounded and widowed was her opportunity to reclaim what belonged to her. But only if she walked through, her head up and eyes forward, to a destination of her choosing; she had to stop leaving it to others to decide her path for her. But first, she must see Maggie safe into the care of…someone.
Author note: As I mentioned in an earlier post, my mother's true-life story was the inspiration for this fictional one; my mother was sent by ferry to Vancouver Island to work as a housekeeper until she was too ungainly to manage the required tasks. She was then returned to the mainland to a Home for Unwed Mothers where she remained until she gave birth. For the purposes of my story, I re-imagined my mother's initial journey on a more epic scale. *cough*
The history of all times, and of today especially, teaches that...women will be forgotten if they forget to think about themselves. ~Louise Otto