Titanic: A Doll Named Hope

Laura sat huddled on her bunk on E deck. The small port window was unlatched, letting in a chilly breeze. Pulling her wool shawl closer around her shoulders, she nervously troubled her lip. The sun shone through the window but did little to warm her caramel skin. All was quiet except for the waves crashing against the hull of the ship.

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What she had overheard made her eyes fill with tears and her breath draw short. Her mother was dying. The news was sudden and shocked her deeply. To lose her mother at the age of eight was something that she had never even thought possible. Laura couldn't imagine being without her mother's loving smile that filled the world with hope every day.

In the months that passed, Laura and her father both found it difficult to be productive. He would pull himself out of bed and into work but Laura knew that her mother’s death had taken its toll on him even more than it had on herself. She shouldn’t have been surprised when, two years later, he told her that he had landed them a spot on the Titanic by offering work and that they would be leaving in a little over two weeks. Still, she found herself even more devastated. She had grown up in this home and adored it. But more than anything, she feared she would lose the memories of her mother.

Laura and her father packed up what they could bring and departed on the Titanic on April 10, 1912, from Southampton to New York in hopes of a new beginning.

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Tiptoeing cautiously through the silent corridors, she felt like the hallways could go on for miles.

“Would you like some more tea, Miss Hope?” came a young girl's voice.

Laura clutched the skirt of her brown dress in one hand and her doll, Adaline, in the other. She quietly crept around the corner. Sitting behind a small crate was a little girl. She had to be around Laura’s age and had short, brown, curly hair and a lacy blue dress. She carefully poured pretend tea for her two dolls from a delicate china set. Walking around the crate and into the clearing, she accidentally kicked the corner of the box making a hollow thud. Startled, the other girl stood up.

“Oh! Hello,” the little girl beamed.

Laura tentatively replied with a “hello” back.

“Would you like to come play with me and my dolls?” inquired the little girl.

Laura nodded with a smile.

“My name’s Aaliyah,” she told Laura as they both sat down. “And this is Hope and Irene,” she introduced her dolls.

“I'm Laura. They’re very pretty,” Laura smiled.

Indeed the dolls were made of smooth porcelain and painted perfectly. Laura's own doll, Adeline, was nothing more than a stuffed piece of cloth, embroidered mouth, and beaded eyes. The dress had been patched up numerous times, and the tiny leather shoes had lost their buckles. However, Laura held onto her like she was her life preserver.

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“Ben, look! Aaliyah forgot her doll. She must have fallen behind the crate,” Laura said as she picked up the doll.

“Would ya look at that? Why don’t you hold onto her for tonight and give her back next time you see her?”

“No, Ben. You don’t understand. She’ll be missing her doll. I have to get her back tonight.”

“It’s too late tonight. I’m sure she’s already asleep.”

Laura shook her head and turned to run.

“Laura! Get back here!”

Laughing, Laura ran through a gate that was recently opened and up the stairs behind it. Ben chased her which only made her run faster continuing up to B deck. At eighteen, Ben was fast but Laura had more stealth. She ran down a hallway and hid around the corner. The echoing of Ben's footsteps led the other way. She took notice of her surroundings for the first time and was delighted by the glittering chandeliers and candelabras. Being of a lower class, Laura was familiar with plain, simple things, not the outlandish glamor that adorned nearly every wall.

Suddenly, the ship lurched violently sending Laura to the floor. The lights flickered as several screams pierced the air. Some people came out of their quarters in big white life vests, grabbing odds and ends from their rooms and heading up stairs. Others looked around in confusion. The noise level steadily grew as people began to talk over one another.

"Women and children need to get to the lifeboats on deck,” an officer commanded.

Laura was terribly frightened and instead ran the other way in hopes of finding Ben. She ran down several hallways, worry on her face. She briefly halted to allow a family to pass by. Two sleepy children were draped over the shoulders of a man and a woman. Stepping around, Laura sprinted headlong into Ben.

“There you are!”

“What’s happened?” she whined.

“People are saying we’ve hit an iceberg. The ship may be taking on water. We need to get you to a lifeboat!” Ben shouted over the crowd.

“No! Not without Daddy!”

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The boiler room was a mess. People shouted back and forth as water gushed into the room. She climbed down and ladder and pushed through the water to find her father.

“Laura! What are you doing down here?” he asked.

“Daddy!” she wailed as he picked her up and shoved her into Ben’s arms not far behind.

“Take her to a lifeboat. Ya hear me?”

“Yes, Sir.”

Ben carried her through the door. The water now up to his knees. The floor of the ship began to tip upwards slightly as the water became less deep. They ran to the first gate, but it was locked. Many people stood in front of them and yelled for help. They ran to the next gate but again found it locked and packed with people. Officers stood on the other side threatening the passengers to keep back. They ran until they found a gate with no one behind it.

“This one’s locked too!” Laura cried in despair.

Ben picked up a crate and threw it at the gate. They could see the keys hanging on the wall. He tried to grab them but they were just out of reach. He threw another crate until finally, the cheap lock broke.

“Aaliyah!” Laura cried, noticing the young girl hurrying down the steps.

“What are you doing down here?” Ben asked.

“I came back down when my parents went to the lounge to find my other doll.” Her nose was red like she had been crying.

“Take Laura and get yourselves to a lifeboat. I’ll take the keys and unlock the other gates without guards.”

Laura protested leaving without her father or Ben and hugged him tightly. Eventually, she let go and ran upstairs with Aaliyah, holding her hand.

The crowd was thick on the top deck. Too many people blocked their way. Her head spun as people hurried past them in all different directions. Suddenly, a man picked them up and pushed through the crowd.

“Dad!” cried Aaliyah.

He carried them toward the lifeboats.

“Women and children only, sir,” said the man standing at one of the lifeboats.

“I’m carrying children. Now for goodness sakes, let me on!”
--

Once they were a safe distance away, the sailors stopped rowing and Laura glanced back at the ship. It was a sight that broke her heart. Screams cried out as the ship began to buckle and break apart. The sea that once seemed quiet began to roar. People began to panic and jump into the freezing water below. She couldn’t bear to watch.

“You found Hope,” whispered Aaliyah noticing for the first time that Laura had the doll tucked under her arm.

Laura handed Hope over to her.

“Why don’t you hold onto her,” encouraged Aaliyah holding her other doll, Irene, close to her.

Laura clutched the doll to her chest. Her mind began to numb with the heartache that she tried not to feel as the icy air stung her ears and burned her eyes.

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The Carpathia came and picked up any live survivors. Laura frantically searched for her father and Ben on board. Fear grabbed her heart and panic filled her head. She let out a sob she had been holding in.

“Laura!” a relieved cry sounded from the corner.

Odin scooped his daughter up and embraced her in his arms.

“I was terrified I’d lost you Daddy!” she wept into his shoulder.

“It’s all right. It’s all right now,” he soothed her, but Laura could hear the emotion in his voice.

“Daddy, where’s Ben?” Laura asked tentatively.

“I’m not…” Odin was cut short by the sound of sorrowful sobbing.

It was Ben's mother. Laura knew it wasn't good news. Tears welled up in her eyes once more as her father held her, knowing that she had lost a very close friend and he a comrade.

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“I’m gonna miss you,” said Aaliyah.

“Me too,” whispered Laura. And, with a little more strength, “Here’s your doll back.”

She offered Hope back to Aaliyah.

“Why don’t you keep her. You lost your doll and I still have Irene. Besides, it looks like you need a little hope more than I do.”