> The Things You Can Read: Student Writing: Titanic Short Stories

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Friday, June 8, 2012

Student Writing: Titanic Short Stories

Research Unit

At JEJ Moore Middle School in Prince George County, Virginia, Ms. Ginther, the media specialist, and Ms. White, the Hurricane 7th grade English teacher, worked cooperatively to teach research skills to the Hurricane English students during the month of April and May.  The research unit incorporated "best practices for research" using the 100th Anniversary of the Titanic Disaster to capture student interest.  Students selected topics, which fell into one of the following categories:  The People of the Titanic, The Mighty Ship, The Disaster Strikes, Discovery: Finding the Titanic, and Historical Fiction.  Students then used their research to create original short stories, essays, PowerPoint presentations, and three dimensional models.  

Over the next few weeks, I will share several short stories written by my seventh grade students in my advanced English Class.  They are simply amazing...The first in the series is by Rhiannon. 

All Beginning With “I Do.”

Adelaide Livingston is a woman living in England in the early 20th century. After marrying a man named Edward Haines she embarks on her journey upon the magnificent Titanic, then lives to tell the spell-binding story of her experiences.
Excerpt from the fictional story of Adelaide Livingston


My mother, Adelaide Haines, boarded the Titanic not knowing of what was to come. For some, the telling of their night spent in terror is impossible, whether it awakens the demons known as nightmares, or they are not with us presently. For my mother, however, she is willing to reflect on both her journey prior to striking the iceberg and her actions while trying to survive the sinking. Most of what this book is composed of are her actual diary entries, but there will be parts where she explains what more she is able to remember in further detail.
Her willingness to speak of the tragedy is what inspired me to document the event by way of someone who experienced it firsthand. Her traumatic story truly pulls at the heart-strings of everyone she’s told it to, and I’m hoping that those of you who are privileged enough to read it feel the same.
This book was written in loving memory of my father, Edward Haines, whose soul was saved on April 15, 1912, but taken later on. He will forever be a hero.

 -Jack Haines

April 10th, 1912

        Today was quite the day! Edward and I boarded the Titanic at Southampton, England in quite the cold weather; I, of course, had my second favorite wedding gift draped around my shoulders, my wool shawl that Edward’s mother placed in my care. Edward later told me that it was a family heirloom. My favorite wedding gift, however, was the incredulous chance to embark on a journey aboard this magnificent vessel.
            Edward had clutched my arm to make sure that we stayed near each other, but I managed to wriggle my right arm free so that I could wave farewell to my mother and his parents. Tears played at my cheeks and, from what I could see, my mother was also beginning to turn red like she does when she cries. Edward took one look at me, smiled, then cupped my face in his hands and swept the tears away with his thumbs. This made me giggle as my heart pounded straight out of my chest- this was the first sign of affection since the wedding. I sighed as I took his hand, his fingers slightly damp from wiping away my tears. This was my chance to break the deafening silence.
            “You may want to become accustomed to wiping away my tears. I am a very emotional woman.” I said as I nervously smiled. He gave a slight tri-toned laugh then fit his long, masculine arm in the small of my back as I curled into his embrace.
As we jolted to a start, passengers of all sorts scurried about the deck, eager to find someone to lead them to their cabins. Edward and I patiently waited for a steward to come to our aid as we waltzed around the deck taking in the lavish décor and color scheme of the marvelous ship. We both agreed that seeing our cabin could wait and that we should explore more, Edward secretly wanting to meet other people involved in booming business, yet not so secretly wanting to flaunt his new, blushing bride.
I complied with his requests, as I too wanted to meet the famous Strauss couple, rumoured to be aboard. After all, they do own Macey’s Department Store. Quite the life they must live, with money piling to their throats to where they’re swimming in it. How could one tire of being able to go anywhere they wanted, whenever they wished it so? I know that now I may live a semi-luxurious life, seeing as though Edward comes from a wealthy family and has his own riches. But knowing this will make me no different than the woman I was before marriage.
As we strolled the length of the dashing promenade deck, we ran into the flamboyant Margaret Brown and chatted briskly with her. She has quite the ostentatious personality! Talking with her made me enraged; as she decided that I no longer existed and that she would like nothing more than to be flirtatious with my husband! I was not going to stand by as my husband became mesmerized by her audacious behaviour. So I quickly spoke up, though tentatively. My words were brash yet fitting of the situation at hand. I said something along the lines of, “Ahem, Mrs. Brown, I should like to explore the vessel with my husband.” She was thoroughly taken aback at the slightly rude tone of my words; though I could care less. He has not pledged his faithfulness to her, but to me, so I shall defend him at all costs. As we walked off, she decided that she was not done talking to him; she shouted at after him, “You can call me Molly!” At the outburst, Edward turned to face her and see if she caused a disturbance and she had the nerve to wink at him! She, a married woman, winked at Edward, a married man! She cooks my clams in the most flamboyant of steam.
Putting her in the past, we walked on in silence. I simply sighed every now and again, hinting at my displeasure. He finally realized, after the fifth sigh, that I was mad at Margaret Brown. He turned to me and said,
            “Please don’t become cross with me. You know that my heart belongs to you and that I’d do anything in this world to keep you by my side! Adelaide, when I said ‘I Do.’ I meant it. Dear, don’t let this ruin our time aboard.”
Of course, being the emotional woman that I am, I began crying yet again. He saw the tears and nudged my chin with his forefinger and smiled at me to where it was impossible for me not to smile at him. There’s no way to stay mad at him, he’s just so sweet and knows exactly how to make someone feel better. I giggled slightly, mainly because I was crying over something so small. Just when I thought he was done complimenting me he shoots another statement my way.
“Darling, your smile could light the darkest of alleys. When you giggle, my heart jumps. I’m guessing this feeling is none other than love. Love in the most profound of stages.”
As long as I live, so long as I breathe, and as long as I am capable of thinking this quote will be etched in my mind. I’ve replayed that moment over and over, hour after hour in my head but it still seems like a daydream.
When I returned to reality, I tugged lightly on his arm and, once again, he fit his arm around my waist. We walked on and on for what seemed like hours when we finally became lost. My sense of direction is no better than his, so we pulled aside what we believed to be a stewardess. From behind the only thing we could see was her intricately woven hair, a braid that started at the middle of her head and fell to her waist.
Upon further investigation we found that she was a passenger. The words Edward and her exchanged were brief and went something like this-
Edward, “Hello, my wife and I are looking for the first class cabins. Do you have the slightest idea of where we could find them?”
Woman, “Pardon you, sir, but I am not part of the crew. I am none other than Genevieve Fret, actress extraordinaire. Now if you’ll excuse me, I should like to find my servant. Ta-ta!”
And with that she walked off. I then turned to Edward with the most inquiring of faces and he simply shrugged. Neither of us wanted to speak of the pish-posh Ms. Fret again.
Since it is getting quite late and I am tiring of writing, I will simply state that we eventually found a steward who helped us find our cabin.

Tired as Ever,
Adelaide Haines

April 11th, 1912
            Life simply couldn’t get any more divine that it is! On this glorious day Edward and I basked in the loveliness of each others’ company as we visited several popular places aboard. We spoke of past times, reflected on how we met, and shared a heartfelt moment atop the grand staircase. My marriage is off without a hitch! Edward has thus far blessed me with wedded happiness.
            This morning I awoke to a vase of beautiful flowers on my nightstand, and accompanying it was a note scrawled in Edward’s chicken-scratch hand. The note read:
“To the love of my life: cheers to one week. And I wish for many, many more.”

After admiring the vast array of flowers, I dressed in my attire for the day. I chose my powder blue dress with a lace collar and lace cuffs, then pinned my family heirloom broach to the collar. As I walked out of the room I came quite close to forgetting to snatch my wool shawl, but abruptly turned back to fetch it. After I carefully draped the shawl across my scrawny shoulders, I found Edward sipping on his usual cup of morning coffee while he looked out over the ocean. He seemed to be mesmerized by the bobbing of waves and the jumping of fish… that is until I walked over and tapped him upon the shoulder. As he realized it was his wife that caught him off-guard, he quickly regained composure and took in my appearance. He lightly complimented me and said that I would be receiving a pleasant surprise shortly, which both intrigued and perplexed me. I had not the slightest clue as to what my surprise could be.
We then started on our journey to my surprise. At first I thought that he was just going to take me around to tour the ship again, but when we started down the first class hallway I was again at a dead end. After we walked past our own cabin I began to grow weary and, I admit, started to complain. But just as I thought my feet could no longer bear walking, we arrived in front of a foreboding door. Though it was an exact replica of any other door, it seemed eerie and strange, almost as if the door hinted at what was tucked intently behind it. As Edward reached up to knock on the door, it opened with a slight creak and none other than Mrs. Astor stuck her head into the hallway. She piped in a shaky, high-pitched voice, “Who are you?” followed by “Are you here for business?” but just as she finished speaking she realized that it was Edward and me who had crept down the hallway.
Her voice took on a livelier tone and she called out to Mr. Astor, “Dear? Edward and whom I presume to be his wife have arrived!”
After being welcomed into their equally lavish cabin I began to marvel at the expensive taste of both Mr. and Mrs. Astor. She had the finest bottles of perfumes and he had many extravagant flasks which I assumed were filled with many gins and liquors. To my surprise another couple was also of the Astors’ company. Isador and Ida Strauss were in the cabin sitting near each other, chatting lightly. Edward made proper introductions to those who were unfamiliar with me, as he had previously conversed with everyone.
After introductions the women and men split into two separate groups so that the men could talk business and we could talk of whatever we pleased. Seeing as though Mrs. Strauss is many years our senior, Mrs. Astor and I carried on lively conversation most of the time while Mrs. Strauss occasionally gave her input on the subject matter. At one point a statement from Mrs. Astor threw me into a fit of uncontrollable laughter; I believe we were talking of things we said as children, but I do not quite remember the exacts.
The men brought out their bold sides when Mr. Astor brought out his brandy. I must admit, Edward sure can drink! Within twenty minutes of the bottle being opened, over half of it had been consumed. Edward later confided in me that he had at least four reasonable glasses of brandy. Currently he is lying in bed, awaiting sleep. I dread seeing him as ill as he seems, but he brought it upon himself.
Two hours and an empty brandy bottle later, Edward started feeling sickly so I decided we were going back to our cabin where I would spend the rest of the day lounging and reading while Edward occasionally awoke in need of a glass of water.
After reading my fill of Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen, I decided to document my day in my diary. I believe later I may go watch the sun set out on the deck; it is one thing I promised myself I would not miss.
Also: Becoming used to signing everything with “Haines” instead of “Livingston” is quite the task.

Quite the Worried,
Adelaide Haines

April 13th, 1912

          Yesterday I was too busy and in the midst of everything I forgot to write and today Edward granted me another day of rest and relaxation. So, of course, I decided against doing nothing all day. I have no interest in being lazy all day.
            Yesterday Edward treated me to yet another day of exploring this vast expanse of a vessel. Though we had no intention of actually exercising, we visited the gym and simply looked at what sort of equipment they had managed to bring aboard. I was astounded by the electric horse and the cycles! It is simply incredible that a ship could have many things that you wouldn’t expect to see. Edward jokingly sat down at the rowing machine and started to practice rowing. He said, “At least if I ever have to row a lifeboat I’ll know how to.” His statement made me feel uneasy, I just felt like it would be bad luck for someone to joke about that happening on a ship’s maiden voyage.
            After we left the gymnasium, we headed straight for the Lounge Room so that Edward could see who he could interact with and introduce to me. When we arrived, Edward managed to spot millionaire Benjamin Guggenheim who immediately invited him to play a round of cards. Edward accepted with my consent, though I don’t know why he would think that I am not okay with him playing cards. While Edward enjoyed his game of cards with Benjamin, I sat in a nice armchair and enjoyed the time to rest. My relief was short-lived as Edward waltzed over to tell me that Benjamin invited us to accompany him to dinner. He of course accepted the polite offer.
            At the time of our departure from the lounge room it was only 1:00 pm which gave us a couple of hours to ourselves. We decided that around 4:00 we would go back to our cabin to put on our best for dinner.
            Edward told me that I was welcome to decide where we would go next, so I told him that I wanted to go to the Café Parisian to eat a slight meal that was satisfy my hunger without over-filling me. As we arrived I took in the breath-taking view of the sea. I found myself spending more time looking out of the windows than I did speaking, and apparently I made Edward start to worry that he’d maybe done something wrong. Later I assured him that he never did anything that would upset me, but that I was just astounded by the magnificent view. After my light meal of salmon and greens we sat and chatted lightly, discussing things we’d like to do on board and what we’re going to do after we get to New York. I suggested that we settle in New York for business purposes for at least a year, and then maybe if we’re willing we would move back to England to find a permanent home.
            Before we knew it, it was 3:30 and we were supposed to be on our way back to our cabin already. We complimented the waitress and told her to pass the compliment on to the chef, the waitress then thanked us for dining at Café Parisian. As we walked back to our cabin we exchanged quick Hello’s and Good Evening’s, as we were on a tight schedule. Edward was just as eager to join Benjamin at the dinner table as I was; we were to dine at A La Cart restaurant. Edward was told not to bring money as Benjamin would pay in full for all of his guests, which was thoroughly surprising to me.
            I dressed in my peach evening gown that was decorated with loose hanging fabric and adorned with a single fabric rose held to a pink sash that fit around my waist. As I stepped out into plain view, to where Edward could take in my appearance, he said I looked “ravishing” and that my dress was stunning. My hair took little to no time, as I just secured it up again.
            As we walked arm in arm to A La Carte, many passengers stared at Edward and me. I didn’t mind the staring, but it seemed to bother Edward as his hands became clammy like they do when he feels uncomfortable. Sensing his discomfort I took his hand in mine and discretely told him that it was nothing to worry about, and that people had just never seen such a good looking couple before. He gave a slight chuckle and the tension in his muscles relaxed. He held his head a little higher and kept me a little closer as we came within 50 feet of fine dining with an incredibly wealthy man. For good measure, I asked him to pinch me just to make sure that I wasn’t dreaming. My life at this time felt too lovely to even possibly be real.
            The steps into the restaurant felt surreal; as we walked in the room quieted as if they were all expecting us, though I only knew that we were dining with Benjamin. As Benjamin politely welcomed the both of us, people returned to eating and conversing as usual. We took our seats and Edward quietly lamented at how comfortable the seats were, we are both used to the average wicker chairs that accompanied the tables back home. It was then that I explained to Benjamin and our other table guests that Edward and I are fascinated by the delicacies and delights aboard and that neither of us have had the slightest discrepancies or complaints thus far. Benjamin nodded his head fervently and declared that it is an honor to be aboard such a marvelous ship. After this statement he proposed a toast to all of his dinner companions, the ship, and to the food about to be served, he also asked the Lord that we prosper from this food. As everyone raised their glasses, the reality of it all sank in.
            I was on a magnificent ship, with my husband, on my way to America. We were dining with a millionaire, I had met many other wealthy people, and my name was becoming more and more known. This voyage marked the starting of a new life, a life filled with complete and utter happiness that nothing else could ever measure up to. But most importantly, I found the love of my life, the person I could tell my secrets to, the man who could share pain with me, a man who could make light of the darkest situations, my so called “prince charming”, my Edward Haines.
            With the revelation fresh in my mind, I carried on with my lively dinner conversations that consisted of tales of humor, sadness, and celebration. Edward occasionally threw in a story about the both of us that was very humorous or heartfelt and they all gained positive feedback.
            After an hour or so of socializing, we finally started to eat the mouth-watering dishes presented before us. Benjamin had ordered before we arrived, but thankfully neither Edward nor I am choosy. We started off the first course with oysters, and then progressed to the second course which consisted of cream of barley which I did not eat since I do not care much for it. The third course was poached salmon, which I had earlier in the day, so I did not eat but one-third of the small filet I was given. The meal carried on for seven more courses, which is ten courses in total. Ten courses! When I can barely eat four! Needless to say I will be able to survive without heavy eating for the next few days.
            With full stomachs and a new appreciation for friends, we sluggishly walked back to our cabin to retire for the night. But as we got up from the table we had the whole room’s attention yet again, which made me nervous. I felt as though the crowd was criticizing my every move, so I was careful and more aware of the steps I took. I thought twice before I did everything until I walked out of the room. After leaving the room I shed my shoes because my feet were throbbing, this action caused two people to look at me wide-eyed. I guess people aren’t supposed to take their shoes off whenever and wherever they please, but if I’m in pain I will try to rid the source.
            We arrived back to our cabin with heavy eye-lids, as our beds beckoned and called to us. In my state I was far too tired to even change into my night clothes, so I did fall asleep in my evening attire. I slept quite peacefully and awoke feeling renewed.
            This morning Edward told me that he’d be home in spurts throughout the day; he was going to “talk business” with Mr. Astor and Mr. Strauss. I don’t think that he will honestly talk any business; I think he just wanted to have more of that brandy that made him ill the other day, but now that he knows what will happen he will hopefully act accordingly and responsibly.
            As for me, I’ve been lounging about, playing with trinkets, and writing all day. I’ve mainly focused on poetry, iambic pentameter to be exact. Ten syllables per line, each ending word rhyming; sort of like a couplet, but more complex. I’ll write what I have come up with so far:
            Gather quickly in thine own hands flowers,
            Cherish the sweet, tangy smell for hours.
            All sorts of colors that one could discuss,
            All available in the earth’s brown crust.

            That’s the extent of my work thus far, but I hope to progress as the afternoon goes on. Currently it is 2:00 pm, and I’m hoping that Edward returns home shortly so that we may make plans for dinner. But knowing him, he will come home quite late. Mrs. Astor came by today to ask if I would be willing to join her on her trip to the Writing Room, but I politely declined. All women do there is gossip nonstop, and I’d rather sit in my lovely cabin than part-take in talk of the ship. I’m afraid I’d hear too much about me that is untrue.
            For now, I’m finished writing in here as I’d love nothing more than to finish my iambic pentameter poem.

Feeling Talented,
Adelaide Haines

What should have been documented for the 14th of April

            My mother shared with me that she would document what the day was filled with when she was settling in for bed, but since they struck the iceberg on the night of the 14th she was left no time. I will write, in her words, what went on that day and that hectic night.
            “Well we, Edward and I, started off the day with a pleasant morning cup of coffee and him telling me of his talk with Mr. Astor, I believe. It’s all fuzzy right now, I’ll remember when I tell more of my tale. Anyway, after we finished our coffee we started off in the direction of the gymnasium where he wanted to try out the mechanical horse, either that or the mechanical camel. But I think in the end he tried both. He was whooping and hollering when he was on the camel, claiming that it was “terrifying to even think about being on an animal like that!” After he came off the camel, his face was beet red and he was drenched in sweat. Even through the sheen of perspiration he looked dashing.
            “He asked me if I wanted to try the horse since he remembered that I took horseback riding when I was little, and I replied shyly with an acceptance of his offer. He promised that he’d be right there to catch me if I were to fall off, even though we both knew that it wasn’t quite that rigorous. As I slightly lifted my skirt so that I could mount the imposter horse, I became “weak” in the arms. Edward realized my struggle and lifted me the rest of the way up. It was as if I was a kid again, riding my precious Diamond. It was effortless, like my body knew just what to do without me having to command it.
              “I soon grew tired and wanted to do something else, so I asked Edward if he had brought anything he could use for the swimming pool. He replied that he had, and I confirmed that I had as well. Our next move was to go and test the pool; I secretly hoped that it would be heated.
            “After we went home and changed, we journeyed on in the direction of the pool. And just when I thought things were going great, I saw that none other than Mrs. Margaret Brown was at the pool, too. I vocally expressed my displeasure at her presence, and Edward vowed that he wouldn’t talk to her in a manner other than friend-like, which did set me at ease.
            “We ended up spending close to three hours at that pool, simply because it was heated and it felt nice to exercise. I must admit I didn’t want to leave, but I did become tired and hungry. Edward suggested that we go home, freshen up, then go to lunch, and I happily complied. After showering, I dressed in a casual dress and, again, did my hair up to keep it out of my face. For the second time we dined at Café Parisian and again I got the salmon with greens, because I was satisfied with it the first time and I don’t like taking risks on something that may not be of satisfactory taste.
            “What we did after we finished our meal, I’m sorry to say, I do not remember. All I remember is thinking that I’d just write about the 14th and the 15th together so that I could get more sleep. Little did I know that fate had other plans in store.”

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