The Ship of Dreams

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Chapter 7

Lusitania 1915

Friday 7th May

Lilly quickly decided that she hadn’t got the time or the courage to explain everything to the disgruntled Libby, who had staggered out of her soaking wet bunk and was stomping around the cabin in a fury, her arms folded across her sopping wet nightdress. All she could do was watch the wet footprints slip slap on the floor and the little puddles she was leaving behind her and try not to giggle.

––She’s going to get an awful lot wetter, before the end of today—

Lilly thought grimly and tried to divert her friend by being silly. She rose gracefully to the ceiling and hung there upside down, like a flimsy human bat. When that didn’t work she gave a huge sigh and started disappearing toe first up the tap on the small wash hand basin in the cabin. That at least produced some reaction, Libby stopped pacing and watched in fascination, Lilly wasn’t enjoying it much, there was a rusty taste in her mouth and being halfway inside a tap was feeling decidedly constricting and clammy, when all at once Libby gave a huge snort of laughter at her disgruntled and slightly pathetic expression.

‘’Alright , I absolutely give in, I won’t be cross anymore promise, please come out of that tap and lets go and look for something to eat, I’m starving.’’

Lilly obliged by zipping out of the tap and curling herself around Libby’s neck purring like a cat, Libby shivered and tried to shrug her off.

‘’ Can you jolly well stop that it feels freezing and burning at the same time, you’ll bring me out in a rash and then they’ll think I have measles or something, now don’t look I’ve got to put something dry on.’’

Opening her closet she pulled down a soft grey day dress, stripped off her nightdress and without any fuss flung the dress over her head and buttoned it at the sides.

‘’ Aren’t you supposed to put corsets on and stockings and things?’’

Lilly asked quizzically from her perch on top of the wardrobe.

‘’ Not in my world ,although my mother would like to think so, but she’s too busy worrying about what she looks like to care about her rather strange daughter, now come on let’s find food ’’

Libby laughed rather sadly and led the way to the Pursers cubby hole half way down the corridor where she rummaged around in the lockers and  managed to find a packet of rich tea biscuits and a jug of milk already made up for the morning tea trolley. Grey slivers of light made the imprint of a ladder on the red carpet, which looked less luxurious than it did the night before when everything had been covered in a layer of stardust at least from Lilly’s heightened perception, but the foghorn was still blaring away and they sneaked back to the cabin as silently as possible.

They propped themselves up with pillows and sat swinging their legs over the side of the bunk while Libby crunched away at the dry biscuits slurping the milk down in great gulps as she went. Lilly looked on in wonderment, she couldn’t imagine ever being hungry again and she was itching to get out and about on the boat where she could try and decide what was to be done next, but she resisted the urge and sat there patiently waiting for her friend to finish. She wondered how much of what she had learnt about the ship she should divulge to Libby, and decided that the less said the better. After the milk and biscuits Libby sunk back onto the pillows with a small satisfied burp.

‘’ That is the best thing I’ve eaten on this boat so far’’ She declared contentedly, ‘’ Tell me everything that happened with my mother and the too charming Alfred Vanderbilt’’?

‘’Oh let’s not bother with that, nothing really……tell me a little bit about your life in New York, I’m sort of bored with our conversation being confined to here. It’s not as if I meet someone from the past every day is it……… fact it’s not as if I have any friends that I can really just chat with about ……..things….you know girl stuff. Where do you go to school and all that? ‘’

Libby obliged with a small portion of the tapestry of her rather dull existence at home, finishing up with

’’So you see going on this trip is the most exciting thing that has happened to me for a long while…….because of my headaches and such, I don’t mix with other people much. What about you? I can’t really believe that you come from 1980, tell me who wins this war? What else happens that’s exciting?’’

Lilly looked at her quizzically for a moment, the bright green eyes the pale face and dark curly hair, her friend’s soft grey dress with lace around the collar, and somehow doesn’t want to ruin for her what was to come. On the other hand neither of them might get out of this and if they did and Libby grew up, she would see the appearance of Lilly in her life as some kind of Alice in Wonderland Angel, or ghost; and wouldn’t probably remember any of the details. So telling her a few things couldn’t hurt could it? Unless of course you believed the ‘’Doctor Who’’ theory on TV that all mention of the future changed that future…in this case that might be rather a good thing…but heh she Lilly wasn’t some kind of a wise woman, so what the heck.

‘’Well of course England wins the war, but with the help of America who becomes our ally, but lots and lots of young men die needlessly in this war…..and then of course there is going to be another world war , again with Germany, but that’s not till 1939 or something I think. We win that one too, or at least America helps us win it. But I didn’t really do that period in history yet, I’m still stuck in the Tudors and Stuarts.  Apart from that, women get the vote, in 1918 for the over 30’s and in 1928 for every woman over 21.  American’s fly to the Moon, oh and also long before that they create an incredible type of Bomb called the Atomic bomb that can completely wipe out humanity if it’s used by the wrong foreign powers. It creates an explosion as big as Volcanoes do. In fact they rather horribly drop it on Japan in a place called Hiroshima which ends the Second World War. They also discover that the stuff they use for the bomb causes sickness and genetic illness countless years after they use it, which makes men into something like God, but not in a good way.

We get something called television which is a bit like having a small cinema in your own home, in colour and of course everyone talks in the movies. No more silent films. There are huge airliners going across the skies, no one crosses the Atlantic on a ship any more unless it’s for a holiday. What else? There is music, incredible music, girls wear short skirts and women are supposed to go to University and get their own jobs. No one sees getting married as a career move anymore. Well not really, only incredibly dim girls do. There is something around called the pill which you can take to stop you having babies’’

Lilly paused for breath and grinned at Libby who quite literally was in a state of static amazement with her bottom jaw dropped practically to her chin in astonishment. At that moment there was a polite knock on the door and the Purser’s voice came through it with a gentle.

‘’ Good morning Miss, breakfast is served and your mother told me to tell you that she is expecting you upstairs in the next half an hour. I have taken the liberty of running your bath.’’

Libby muttered an expletive under her breath and headed towards the bathroom with a…….

‘’ Sorry I won’t be long, .just when I was beginning to enjoy your stories…. how amazingly fascinating all this is, won’t you tell me more?’’

Lilly decided that it might be a good idea to tell her some of the truth just in case this torpedo comes really suddenly, when she was in the bath for instance, and Lilly wasn’t there to save her.

‘’ You know what……….I think I will just go up on deck to check out what’s going on… surely don’t want me in the bath with you do you? I’ll meet you up where we first saw each other last night, by the Veranda Café in an hour You see I can’t remember much about the Lusitania from my history lessons but I do think that this Torpedo business isn’t just a joke Libby and maybe I am here to try and keep you safe or something. Who knows, but anyway I’ll come and find you in an hour or so, don’t worry whatever happens I will be there with you’’

These words were to haunt Lilly for a very long time, but for now she couldn’t possibly know this.  Before Libby had the chance to stop her she waved briefly and slid gracefully through the door into the corridor, bumping straight into Alfred with a bunch of flowers in his hands which he was about to deliver to Gracie’s state room.

‘’ Where did he get a bunch of white roses at this time of the morning on board a ship?’’

Crossed her mind…..but she left it there and seeing as he had appeared in such a  synchronistic manner, she decided to keep him company for a while and check out what transpired in the thoughts of one of the most attractive men she has ever had the privilege of being close to. He noticed a slight change in the atmosphere of the corridor, as if the heating had suddenly been turned off, one of the roses in his bunch shed its petals on the carpet and for a moment he hesitated and looked around him.

—   ‘’ Was that a shadow he could see out of the corner of his eye?’’—

Again the image of the slight young woman he had seen from his cabin window the night before crossed his mind, but he dismissed it as fantasy borne out of his restless night.  Alfred has definitely had a bad night; he was desperately in need of a Bloody Mary, to staunch his hangover headache. But for now he was completely sober again and slightly worried by the continuing blare of the foghorn and the bleak atmosphere on the boat.  Everyone has taken to creeping around as if a disaster were about to happen. He has decided to lighten his mood by presenting Gracie with a bouquet. He had several boxes of roses placed in the refrigerator section of the hold, both white and red.

–You never can tell who you might need to pacify or woo with flowers and it helps to always have them handy. –

So his morning itinerary was to be a quick presentation to Gracie at breakfast and then a turn around the top deck to find out exactly what was going on from the Captain on the Bridge; this was definitely his new plan of action. It was difficult to have a plan at all in the middle of all this dam fog, but there must be something useful he could do.

Coming out onto the deck he noticed that some of the ladies seem to have slept in the saloon on the boat deck, wrapped in their blankets and in close proximity to the swinging lifeboats. He has listened to the conversations of several families anxiously pacing the Promenade deck staring out into the gloom for the first sight of land. All the passengers were definitely more than a little spooked and he wondered whether a snifter of brandy after the Bloody Mary might not go amiss at this juncture.

Gracie was sitting at the breakfast table with the Nanny and Jessica looking serene and beautiful this morning. The love affair of the night before a delicious memory that has left her with a warm feeling, no more than that; and when she saw Alfred arrive with her flowers a pink blush spread from her cleavage all the way up her slender neck.

‘’ Good morning Gracie. May I take a seat? I couldn’t help thinking when I saw these that they should go to the most gracious lady on the boat ‘’

‘’ Why Alfred, how delightful, but it really isn’t necessary, how lucky your wife is to have such an attentive husband, I think I am almost jealous of her’’

She gave a little fluttery laugh and Lilly perching above them can feel the batter of Gracie’s heart and the beat of her pulse as she pulled in the delicious smell of Alfred’s after shave. There was still high voltage attraction between them, if she screwed up her eyes Lilly could actually see the molecules of their aura’s stretching across the strawberry jam to whirl in a delightful dance of desire together. Jessica was scowling and chomping her way through several pieces of heavily buttered toast, and the Nanny had a slightly surprised expression on her face that looked like it had been painted on. It was relatively early for the saloon passengers to be up, at 9.30 most of them were still sitting propped up in bed on their pillows having morning tea, but Lilly noticed Rita and Josephine having breakfast with a group of admirers at an adjacent table.

—It must be awfully exhausting to have to be continually beautiful and interesting —.

Passed through her brain as she amused herself rattling the crystal on the chandeliers and diving into the cold milk on the table to create a pattern of frothy bubbles that left the diners looking on in dismay and calling for a fresh jug. She tweaked at the stiff high collar of Alfred’s shirt in wonderment and smoothed down the material on Gracie’s pale blue silk morning dress. The intricacy of the materials, colours and styles of the clothes fascinated her. It was so different from the mass produced stuff she was used to.

—As different as instant coffee is to real coffee. —

Conversation has become sedentary at the table; the couple were very busy giving each other long meaningful glances and Lilly saw Alfred’s hand had crept again onto Gracie’s thigh.  Sighing with irritation she left Alfred and Gracie to their shy flirtation and drifted out on deck where she could just see the glimmer of the sea appearing as the fog began to disperse. She stood by the bow of the ship, still unable to see land but clinging onto the rail in order not to be swept down into the spray as the Captain ordered the crew to raise the speed to 21 knots and the foghorn became a distant drum in her ears. If she was not careful she could just drift down there into the light filled spray and become a molecule of the Ocean returning and returning to the earth in different guises. Romanticism took hold of her for a moment and she played with an internal monologue in her head. She could become a cloud on a summer’s day, an icicle on a mountain top, a bead of sweat on a lady’s bosom, the list was endless and she stood in deep reverie until a voice at her elbow jolted her and she spun around to see Libby fully dressed with her hands on her hips.

‘’ There you are……….I’ve been looking everywhere for you again……’re as hard to find as inspiration when I need to write an essay. Now come on I think we need to find out what is going to happen to this ship, you seem to think we are doomed in some way. It’s time to sit down and tell me what you know and very importantly, how not to die’’



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