Yesterday my sons came in from Christmas shopping and dear of them, they’d spent some of their hard earned cash on their old mum - yep I had yet another “Titanic” book to add to my collection.
Entitled “Little Book of Titanic” published by Nauticalia to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the Titanic tragedy, the book fell open at page 28: Life on Board, ‘Apart from the sixty-nine members of staff employed in the Cafe Parisien ....’ Since it is such a French word, perhaps it was obvious to call my fictional cafe ‘Cafe Parisian.’ Still I let out a little screech of delight.
‘Can you believe this? There was a Cafe Parisien on board the Titanic.’ The sons were mildly impressed, or at least they made appropriate noises, but I’m still trying to convince myself that it is merely coincidence or that I’d read this fact somewhere then forgotten it.
To celebrate the reality of the Titanic’s Cafe Parisien, here’s the chapter taking place at Cafe Parisian, a place which until yesterday, I thought existed only in imagination.
From A Ripple in Time:
‘Here comes Carrie now!’ Andrew said brightly, rising to his feet.
She still wore the crew’s uniform she’d borrowed from supplies, the white jacket emphasising her flushed cheeks and her eyes seemed more green than brown under the bright lights of the chandeliers.
‘My my, didn’t realise it was fancy dress night.’ One twin whispered loudly to the other. Carrie’s steps faltered.
‘Really? You could have fooled me.’ Wren said giving each a long impertinent look. Their mouths hang open, Andrew spluttered and Wren strolled over to intercept Carrie. Blushing she whispered that she’d caught a glimpse of naughty Rhyllann ushering a woman into their Stateroom and felt obliged to spend the past hour dozing in a deckchair.
Wren tchhed with annoyance; he’d have words with Rhyllann when he caught up with him. ‘Come on. Café Parisian. Doctor’s orders for headaches and sore feet.’
Wren shrugged off his jacket to drape around Carrie’s shoulders. It didn’t stop her trembling.
‘What happens next?’ She asked.
‘The waitress brings your mushroom omelette and our hot chocolate, maybe we’ll have an ice-cream or dessert, then get you back to the warm.’ He said, eyes on the window and deck outside as though watching for someone.
He grinned, acknowledging his obtuseness. Still he hesitated. Rhyllann had asked the same question; Wren flinched remembering the look in Rhyllann’s eyes when he’d given an honest answer. He couldn’t bear for Carrie to look at him like that. Instead he turned to stare at the Westminster style clock over the ice-cream counter.
‘Just under three hours from now we’ll collide with the iceberg. Then you, I and Rhyllann are going home.’ He kept it as succinct as possible. He could see she wanted more and waited uneasily for the next question.
He placed a finger against her lips, then pushed her hair back from her face. ‘Don’t. Please Carrie, don’t torture yourself.’
As prophesised the waitress placed a plate and two steaming mugs of hot chocolate on their table, added a bowl full of crystallised sugar rocks and left. Carrie pushed her plate aside.
‘Look.’ Using the miniature tongs Wren held a pastel pink rock against Carrie’s finger, ducking his head to peer under her fringe, trying to coax a smile.
‘When I find you I’ll cover your fingers in rings.’
She jerked her hand away. Wren thought any minute now, the tears will start. He decided not to allow it.
‘Carrie. Stop it now. In three hours time we are going back to our own world and I promise you, this will be like something you dreamed. You won’t remember it.’
She gasped. ‘I won’t remember you?’
‘It’ll be like something you dreamed.’ He repeated. She began breathing heavily, then sucked at her mug of chocolate, pulling back quickly.
‘Too hot?’ He asked, smiling when she nodded. In her distress she’d forgotten basic science. She blew on her drink, and began to sip cautiously.
‘I won’t remember you.’ She said mournfully.
‘I’ll remember you.’ He was certain of this. ‘And that’s a start.’
Her hand dropped, fingering the chain round her neck. Her Gran’s locket. Rhyllann had retrieved it from the blonde.
Her fingers tightened over the locket. ‘Wren – this other world – will people who died in this version be alive in the other version?’
He considered carefully. The truth was he didn’t know. In this world he died, aged thirteen. Rhyllann’s Mum would die in Africa. He knew what she was asking him, would Gran, would Jeff Holden live in the other version, the true version as he thought of it. Then he realised it didn’t matter; she wouldn’t remember anyway.
He smiled brightly. ‘Of course.’ He said. Although he wasn’t going to risk it. The moment the iceberg tore a hole in the Titanic’s side, he had everything in readiness to return to their own time. He’d already drowned once in both worlds and had no wish to repeat the experience.
Carrie’s face worked, teetering between smiles and tears.
‘I’ll find you, I promise. I’ll find your Gran and I’ll buy her the biggest diamond she’s ever seen.’ He said hurriedly.
‘And you’ll treat her to bingo?’
‘We’ll take her to Las Vegas.’
Carrie giggled. ‘She’ll be happy with an outing to the pub.’
‘We’ll take her to Munich’s beer festival.’
She pulled her plate back and began cutting into her omelette. Suddenly she paused, her eyes wide and staring.
‘The Blonde. What about the Blonde?’
Wren had forgotten all about the psychopathic maniac. He shrugged and refused to answer.
‘Eat your omelette up before it gets cold.’ He said, and resumed his vigil; At times he thought Rhyllann had forgotten the reason they were on board the Titanic. Rhyllann lived in the present, throwing himself into the experience of first class life afloat.
As though reading his mind, Carrie changed the subject to Rhyllann.
‘At least I won’t have to put up with Rhyllann teasing the life out of me!’ She said, pinging his hand with her fork.
‘Honestly Wren, he thinks we’re making love morning noon and night, why didn’t you tell him the truth?’
He laughed. ‘I tried to, believe me. Annie thought there was a technical problem and wanted a man to man chat.’ He shrugged. ‘It was easier to let him think what he wanted to think.’
Carrie wrinkled her nose. ‘Doesn’t he realised, haven’t you told him?’
‘He’ll realise soon enough. But he won’t have much time to tease. Don’t worry.’
They grinned at each other, imagining Rhyllann’s incongruous reaction. Carrie’s face softened.
‘I wish it could have been so. I wish we could have spent all day and all night making love.’ She said fiercely.
He placed a hand over hers and squeezed gently. ‘So do I.’ The expectation of what was to come churning inside, Carrie’s beautiful hazel and green eyes welling with bitter sweet tears, the knowledge, the certainty he had that in three hours they would be leading separate lives, all these emotions surging, demanding he sweep her off her feet, carry her back to the glorious double bed to lose himself in her and damn the consequences.
‘So do I.’ He whispered again.
‘I feel like Cinderella, waiting for midnight.’ She said, with a sound that was half choke, half laugh. A vision of Rhyllann as fairy godmother sprung up and the moment passed. Catching his eye Carrie read his mind and they dissolved into giggles.
Excerpt from 'A Ripple in Time' available to sample on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk
'Little Book of Titanic' packed with info and illustrated throughout with colour and black and white photographs is available from Nauticalia's Website: Click here