‘I’m so cold,’ someone said.
The sound of prayers and sobbing.
It was hard to breathe.
Another voice. ‘A ship.’
She was being lifted then, pulled. Her frozen hands tried to grasp a rope. A ladder? Was she back on Titanic? Was it a dream?
Her body wouldn’t move. She had no idea where she was. Where was Kathleen? Where was everyone?
‘Maggie,’ someone said. ‘Her name is Maggie Murphy. From Ireland. She had this small case with her.’
A bitter taste in her mouth. Hot coffee? Then brandy. Coughing. Spluttering.
She tried to open her eyes, but they were too sore from the salt and the cold.
She tried to speak. ‘I can’t see. Am I blind?’ The words came out as an indecipherable mumble.
‘It’s OK Maggie,’ someone replied. ‘You’re on the Carpathia. It came to rescue us. You’re going to be OK. You’re safe now.’
A blanket was wrapped around her. She let the tears fall.
For the next few days, Maggie barely noticed the sunset or sunrise; barely acknowledged the faint shafts of early morning light which reflected off a piece of metal through the window in front of her, sending light dancing across the deck. She stared dimly ahead, the sun almost irrelevant to her, unable to warm her, unable to illuminate the shadows of thirteen people which clouded her broken heart.
‘Where am I?’ she asked the person lying next to her.
‘The library,’ they replied. ‘There wasn’t room for us all in the cabins and those of us who were last to be rescued were placed in makeshift dorms, like this one.’
‘Which ship are we on?’ she enquired, still confused.
‘The Carpathia. They came to rescue us. Remember?’
It wasn’t until the third day on the Carpathia that she found enough strength to sit on the deck. Still shaking under her blankets, a kind man with blue eyes, who said he was the doctor, told her that she wasn’t cold anymore but the shock of what she had been through had her nerves bouncing around all over the place. She was unable to cry any more tears. All she could feel was fear and a desolate loneliness.
She reflected on the journey she had taken from Ballysheen, almost able to hear the rumble of the carts as they’d set off, before a sort of stillness had fallen over them as the rutted tracks gave way to the softer sandy road at the edge of the village. She remembered how she’d watched the three carts ahead of the one she shared with her aunt and how she had wondered what thoughts were passing through everyone’s minds as they moved slowly through the landscape that had framed all of their lives. She had watched Peggy, in the cart ahead, speaking some words of comfort to Katie who was twisting a sodden handkerchief around and around her fingers. She remembered that they had stopped once for a driver to remove a stone which had become lodged in one of the horse’s hooves. She recalled how she had hoped that if she stared intently enough, listened hard enough and really concentrated on those sights and sounds and smells, she would impress the memories into her brain, ready to recall at will in the years to come, as the vast ocean and the passing of time attempted to erode them. It was these small, intimate details she recalled now as she sat, shaking and alone, although whether in dreams or in waking moments she wasn’t quite sure.
‘We arrive in New York tomorrow evening,’ she heard someone close by say. ‘And not a moment too soon. This ice is wreaking havoc with the minds of the poor unfortunates. They must be terrified it’s going to happen all over again.’
‘Excuse me sir,’ she whispered.
The man heard her and turned. ‘Yes Miss?’
‘What day is it today?’
‘It is Wednesday Miss. April 17th.’
‘Wednesday,’ she repeated. ‘Thank you.’
She closed her eyes then and slept.
The Girl Who Came Home - A Titanic Novel is available to download on the Amazon Kindle Store, priced 99p/99c. If you don't have a Kindle, you can download free Kindle reading apps for PC, iPad, iPhone, Android and other devices from the Kindle Store. Read previous extracts: