"One last look round my house. Window all shut and locked, the keys left for Mrs Smith. Mrs Smith will be in tomorrow to clean, I’d better leave a note to tell her which key is for what. She usually gets confused. Paper … and pen, better make it brief.
Dear Mrs Smith, The large key is for the front door and the silver one for the back. I’ll leave you just this one key for a window as I don’t think you’ll want to open them all. I’ll write to you on my holiday and tell you what the boat is like. Best wishes. Mary
I’d better change into my travelling clothes. The carpet on these stairs looks more worn every time I go up them. The bedroom looks bare now those big trunks have been sent on to Southampton. One outfit left in my wardrobe. My second best dress, not too hot and not too cool is what the steward said was best for travelling. The material feels warm and soft. I won’t be seeing this room for a while. How could I refuse the chance to go to America, a chance of a lifetime.
That must be my taxi. I move to the window, yes it is. I grab my small holdall and my purse full of shillings. I pick up my skirts and run down the stairs. Very unladylike my mother would say. I don’t care, I’m excited. Running down the path, looking at the flowers, it will be cold over the Atlantic, make the most of the Spring sunshine.
This is a nice neighbourhood, large houses. Quite a few people with cars now. I can’t afford one; they look like a menace to me. But maybe it’s because I was brought up with a mother with antiquated ideas. Miss her now she’s dead. But the money from her will, I’ve put to some good use. Travel. That’s what I was told to do, and now I am.
The cab is well polished and the driver is cheerful. I run my hand over the cab door, it feels cool. I will miss London. I don’t have to go, I can turn back, not too late. Stop it, pull yourself together, can’t miss a chance like this. I watch the houses whizz by from the taxi. I can’t help this fear in the back of my head like a black feeling of death.
We’re at the docks now. The bustle is different here to London. People are more friendly, calling to each other. Cranes lifting the goods off the boats – fish, cotton and wood – brought from exotic countries. I imagine the silks from India, the hot sun, ornate buildings and elephants.
There is a crowd gathering around a boat which is unloading. A crane is lifting a crate with an elephant in it. The crowd laugh at its frenzied antics but all I can notice is its wide terrified eye. My heart goes out to the poor creature. It should be in the hot sun of India that I was dreaming of, just like that elephant probably is. I can’t bear to watch, and the fear of death crowds in on my again.
I decide to look round more. All is bustling in a shed where fish is being sorted. White crates with thousands of different kinds in them. Greys, pinks and greens shine in the morning sun. There is a particular fish that attracts my eye – a silver grey back with all the colours of the rainbow on its belly. I’m fascinated by it yet disgusted by its wide unseeing eye that stares at me. Fishermen slosh ice and water over the fish so I move out of the way quickly. I should really look for my ship. I am so excited but so reluctant to go. Walking down one of the aisles that divide the boxes of fish, I marvel again at just how many types there are. I might see some in their natural environment while sailing, swimming through the shining, blue sea – happy but most importantly – alive. Maybe I feel more than others, but I am sensitive about cruelty. My mother always said I was soft and I can’t help rushing out of this mortuary.
The sun it hotter now as it is nearing midday. I breathe in the fresh air and can hear the faint sounds of a brass band somewhere in the distance. I decide to head off in that direction. As I near the noise, the full force of the celebration hits me. Bunting and streamers colour the blue sky. A brass band is playing and people are dancing, laughing and drinking around me. I am engulfed by people. I am jostled to the centre where there is a table of food and punch. Lots of people are together and I feel a pang of loneliness standing there on my own. The food looks lovely, so I drown my sorrows in some punch.
I can’t help laughing at the children running around with streamers and am brought back to earth with a bump when someone taps me on the shoulder. I turn to see a woman holding a reporter’s notebook and a man in tow holding a camera.
“Hello, we’re from the Southampton Gazette. Are you a passenger? Can we ask you a few questions?”
Without waiting for a reply, she carried on. I answer politely but am too busy concentrating on the people moving towards the ship. It must be time to board.
“How does it feel to be one of the lucky ones, to be able to be on this marvellous ship’s maiden voyage?”
“Really good. I must go. Everyone’s getting on,” I reply, trying not to be rude.
I make my way through the cheering crowd and people immediately let me through when I tell them I’m a passenger, calling after me to have a safe journey.
At the foot of the gangplank I stop to look in awe at the majestic ship. It really is amazing, and the flags and flowers decorating accentuating its majestic qualities. People are already lining the balconies waving frantically to the people on the dockside. I move quickly up the gangplank so that I can find a place to stand. Glancing sideways, I notice the name written in gold letters, ‘H.M.S. Titanic’ ––– This is going to be a really good trip ………."