The Time Travel Journals: Shipbuilder, Chapter 35

Modern Belfast. The shipyard cranes can be seen in the distance.
Modern Belfast. The shipyard cranes can be seen in the distance.

Chapter 35

March 1911—April 1911

Casey tucked a just-awake Terry into bed with her and lay down to nurse her a while. Sunday morning was Casey’s favorite time of the week. The servants all had the day off, and most had left the night before to spend the day with their families. Sam usually had breakfast with Mrs. Pennyworth in her small apartment off the kitchen, so Tom and Casey had the rest of the house to themselves. She drifted back to a light sleep, Tom snoring on the other side of Terry. Casey waited for the usual Sunday morning ritual to begin.

The bed gave a sudden strong bounce, jarring her awake as a cannonball landed on Tom, announcing, “It’s Sunday! Pancakes!” Terry, who had been sleepily nursing, pulled away with a jerk that made Casey gasp. The baby ignored her mother, crawling quickly to join Jamie on top of Tom, who grabbed them both, growling ferociously and managing to fall out of bed, the children tucked safely in his arms as they screamed with delight.

Casey had long ago discovered it was best for her to leave the room, as she got too nervous watching them roughhouse. All three of them would be mightily disappointed if she put a stop to it. So she put on a robe and headed to the kitchen where one day a week, she got to cook for her family. They would join her there, Tom and Jamie helping her cook and set the table.

Several minutes later, Jamie entered at a run and stopped in front of his mother, an envelope held out to her. “This is for you!” he shouted and she barely grabbed it before he was across the room, trying to avoid his father and sister, who were obviously “it.”

It was one of Tom’s formal stationary envelopes. Her name was on the front and she could feel a card inside. She glanced curiously at Tom. “What’s this? It’s not my birthday.”

Terry had managed to grab her brother, but since she still did not understand the game, she hadn’t let go of him. Tom set her on the floor to wrestle Jamie alone as he turned to Casey, pulling her into a hug. “Why don’t you open it and find out?”

She slipped her arms around his neck. “Okay, I will. After I get a kiss.”

He obliged her, but only briefly, distracted by the clatter of pans. Left alone, she broke the seal and pulled out the card, scanning it quickly. At her little scream of delight, Tom turned back to her, the rescued baby in his arms, his face hopeful and happy at her reaction. Jamie jumped up to see.

“What is it? What does it say?” he yelled, trying to pull the card down so he could see.

She held it away from him and read aloud, “Mrs. Thomas Andrews, Jr. (that’s me)” she said in an aside to Jaime, “is invited to attend a private tour, this afternoon, of the RMS Olympic, in dry-dock at Harland & Wolff Shipyards. H&W promises to provide Mrs. Andrews with her own attentive, knowledgeable, and affectionate guide…, oh my,” she looked teasingly at Tom, who grinned salaciously at her. She continued reading, “…with access to all parts of the ship (safety permitting). Extra events are also planned, for her special enjoyment!”

Casey laughed with delight and hugged Tom hard, being careful of the baby. He hugged her back with his free arm, laughing with her. “I was hoping you would like it, sweetie. I’ve got quite a day planned!”

“I can’t wait! Oh my goodness, what should I wear?” She turned to Jamie with her question.

He stood with his legs straddled, arms folded over his chest as he pouted at his parents. “I want to see the RMS ‘lympic.”

“You will,” his father assured him. “But not today.”

Tom was not as strict as Edwardian child-rearing practices demanded, but Jamie knew better than to argue. He did, however, try to negotiate. “Tomorrow?”

Casey giggled and left Tom to deal with it as she continued with breakfast.

***

At two o’clock, they pulled up to the Yard. Tom, looking quite dapper in a neckband shirt, bowtie, twill vest and tweed cap, helped her out of the car with a gallant bow. She wore a red-orange blouse that brought out some color in her pale skin. She smiled as Tom stopped to gaze at her, then bent to kiss her gently on the lips. She shook her head. “Sometimes, Tom, you still make me blush.”

Squeezing her hand, he offered her his arm and guided her through the empty and silent building to the docks. As they stepped outside, Tom turned her to the right and she followed willingly. The Olympic was berthed at the Thompson Dock during her fitting-out, but just to the left, under the huge gantry, the shell of the Titanic loomed over the yard. I don’t want to see it, she thought, and with an effort controlled the shudder that threatened to shake her. Tom began prattling on about recent changes to the yard and she knew he was trying to keep her distracted. Then they turned the corner.

The Olympic towered over the dock, her funnels gleaming in the sun, her rails and hull newly painted, emphasizing her clean lines. Casey stared, struck silent in awe. Pictures in textbooks or movies just didn’t compare to the sight of the real thing, elegant and proud, as she waited here in the place of her birth. Tom smiled at her expression.

“Have we really managed to amaze the time traveler who’s flown on airplanes and seen spaceships?” he murmured, holding her from behind as she gazed at the ship. She tilted her head to look up at him.

“She’s magnificent, Tom. Airplanes and space shuttles were the workhorses of our day. This,” she looked again toward the ship, “is a work of art.”

He took her hand and led her through the cargo hold on the tank top. He lit a waiting lantern and held it up.

“I’m afraid we don’t have electricity today, except in a few spots. We should be able to see well enough, though.”

She nodded, distracted by the cavernous bay, and began walking the length of it, craning her neck to see how high it was.

“This is the top of the double bottom,” Tom mentioned, pointing to the deck they stood on. “We store fresh water below.”

There were compartments. Tom showed her the watertight doors that could be lowered automatically from the bridge. There was room for cargo, she saw the coal bunkers, and Tom told her that the huge casings rising from the deck to reach into the deck above them, were the foundations of the engines.

He helped her up a ladder to the next deck. There were more coal bunkers and boilers, and she had a good look at the engines, which continued upward into the next deck. There was a mail sorting room, food storage, and more storage for cargo or passenger luggage, as well as vehicles.

“Vehicles?” Casey looked askance at Tom and he just shrugged.

“Some people like to take their automobiles with them. Or they buy them in Europe and ship them to America.”

She nodded, then. “That’s right. I remember in the movie, there was a car stored on the ship.” She hugged him gently, dropping a flirtatious kiss on his chest. “Two of the actors made love in it in one scene.”

He returned the hug, laughing. “You know, that doesn’t surprise me. I’ve often thought people consider ocean liners to be just a playground.”

“What happens at sea stays at sea?” She teased him, continuing her caress.

He looked embarrassed. “Sort of.”

They went up another ladder to G Deck. Here, there were portholes that let in more light. They had to step around construction debris, but he showed her crew and third class quarters with bunks attached to walls. There was more storage, the Squash Racquet Court for First Class, and the continuation of the engines, boiler rooms and coalbunkers. At a juncture between rooms, he paused and pointed upward.

“Watertight doors.” His face was thoughtful, then he smiled sardonically at her. “A victory of sorts. Normally, we would not have them on this deck.”

She returned his smile, but made no comment. She didn’t want to think about the sinking, right now.

This deck had the beginnings of the spiral staircases, fore and aft, and Casey paused to stare in amazement when they reached the aft stairway.

“This is amazing, Tom. I’ve seen you work, I helped with Adriatic and I thought that ship was incredible. But how do you do this?” She ran her hand along the detailed carving of the rail.

“It’s a talented workforce,” he murmured, standing behind her. He placed his hand on hers and followed it over the carving. Her body throbbed briefly at the sensual feel of the wood, and of his hand. She settled herself against him, teasing him with her hip. He rubbed against her, nibbling the top of her ear before he released her and guided her up the stairs.

At the next deck, he pulled her into a long kiss. She pressed against him in response to his hand on her bottom, the material of her skirt and petticoats sliding under his caress. She almost couldn’t look at the ship, anymore.

“F Deck,” he whispered, drawing her attention to the hull, then speaking normally. “Or sometimes called the Middle Deck. Directly along the hull, we have coal chutes that feed into the bunkers below.”

They continued arm-in-arm down the hallway. “Crew and Third Class Cabins, the swimming pool and a Turkish Bath.” They paused in front of an empty room. “This will be a kennel. For those passengers who must have their dogs along.”

They turned into the Turkish Bath and she gasped in delight at the marble tile and brass fixtures in the mirrored sitting room. The shampoo rooms had large chairs that lay back to reach the deep sinks behind them. The spa had marble benches nestled among steam vents and a space for heated rocks. The mirrors in the dressing rooms reflected all the glory around them.

“You know,” she whispered, snuggling against him, “you could get in trouble showing me these things. I’m going to expect the same thing at home.”

“I’d build it for you.” His voice was husky and his caresses became more insistent, demanding her attention. She let him lift her onto a massage table, leaning forward to kiss him. He returned her kiss, then stepped back to lift her foot and slowly unlace her shoe. She caressed his hands and arms, but was unable to reach any further than that. So she began to tease him, lifting her skirt by inches until it reached her thighs. He grinned as the skirt rose, and when her shoe was off, he ran his hands up her leg, squeezing her thigh as he bent to kiss her. She took advantage of the chance to unbutton his vest and shirt, before he moved away with a teasing smile to work on the other shoe.

She giggled in frustration, but got even by using the shoeless foot to stroke him, moving up his leg with light touches of her toe. At the same time, she began to open the buttons on her blouse. He went a little faster with the laces on the second shoe.

***

The sun had moved more to the west when they finally made their way down the grand staircase, to pause at the entrance of the paneled first-class dining room. Casey was speechless to find a table set with the best White Star dishes and tablecloth. The table stood next to a wooden beam carved with musical notes and a detailed lyre. It commanded a view of the grand staircase, curving upward to a huge round skylight.

“Oh my goodness,” she breathed in disbelief.

Tom was laughing softly, his face bright with the pleasure he was bringing her. He gestured grandly. “Madam, your table,” and pulled out her chair to help her sit.

She curtsied to him and sat regally, then giggled in delight as he lit the candles with a flourish. Motioning for her to wait, he disappeared through a doorway, while she sat in bewilderment.

He returned in a few minutes with a cart laden with dishes. She laughed as he uncovered a variety of cold dishes and placed them before her, comically checking the name of the dish against a card placed next to each one.

“Poached salmon with fennel relish,” he declared, eyebrow raised as if daring her to deny it. “Scalloped potato, cheddar and chive pie–you know, that looks pretty good. Asparagus with parsley gremolata–hmpf.” He was not big on vegetables. “And for dessert–the lovely lady’s favorite: chocolate mousse!”

She clapped with delight, then rose and kissed him soundly. “You are the most amazing man in the world, my love. How did you do all this?”

“Me? You know I don’t cook like this!” He smiled wickedly at her. “I,” he stressed, “know people.”

He had one more surprise for her, presenting in grand fashion, a chilled bottle of French Chardonnay. He did his best to share it with her, but since he didn’t drink, he didn’t care for it, and managed no more than about half a glass. She assured him it was all right. “I’m a little out of practice, myself, you know. We’ll take any leftovers home to Sam.”

He agreed this was a good idea and if they felt tipsy at all, they walked it off by completing their tour. They ended at the boat deck stern, gazing at the setting sun, as the lights of Belfast came on and sparkled on the Lagan.

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