Against all odds of surviving the voyage, the fashionable young woman had eagerly purchased her ticket for passage to
on the Titanic.
Benumbed by the boarding experience, her ears ringing with the babbling colloquy of fellow passengers competing to be heard above the fanfare of orchestral strains, Aoefa McFee accompanied the steward to her cabin—albeit inattentively—where she set about to unpack the hat cases and Belles Malles her betrothed had obtained for her.
Could she be more fortunate the girl wondered, as she took inventory of her trousseau; the embroidered net wedding gown, limerick lace veil, and wool crepe walking suit, all of which had been custom ordered, filled her with tremendous pride, and not a little wonder at the way her life had changed over the previous year.
Disturbances of sleep—dreams of fading lights and frigid waters—lay forgotten, buried within her subconscious as she worked to find space for each precious gown within the luxury cabin.
Everything I need is here, she mused. Fans of every description, folded and pressed together, rested in a brightly painted wedge-shaped box. Gloves of doe-skin, lace and hand-painted silk—a pair to match every carefully chosen ensemble—awaited her fingers to provide shape and form. Hats from the millinery salons of
each a sculptural marvel, lay in readiness to herald her social status for
seasons to come.
Ibsen’s play, The Doll House, came to mind; an intrusion on her thoughts that seemed to occur each time she contemplated marriage to the wealthy stranger who had convinced her to make a new life with him. Jackanapes were the only fellows interested in her back home, she thought.
was no hotbed of romance, or common sense for that matter. Legends and
superstitions were more the order of the day there. Kilkenny County
“Marriage proposals are one thing,” she’d been told by her mother and her aunties, “but to accept a lock of hair from a lover is certain to bring disaster.” Now that she was alone, memories of such pronouncements gave her pause.
Overcome by momentary dread, Aoefa McFee yanked a pearl-studded locket from beneath her collar, breaking the fine gold chain that had encircled her neck for months.
Perhaps the step she was taking was ill advised.
Quarterdeck activities accelerated, as preparations for launch neared completion. Rumbling engines chugged to life from somewhere below. Soon it would be too late.
Trembling fingers secured a winged hat to Aoefa’s upswept raven curls.
“Understand this,” her mother had said, “I’ll not be there t’assist ya when the babies are born.”
Vacillating scenes appeared and disappeared before her mind’s eye like expanding soap bubbles blown from a straw: Mother and Da waving goodbye, her husband-to-be promising love and devotion, siblings wishing her good luck through tear-stained faces. Would she be able to live with herself, no matter what her decision?
Xenophobia overcame her suddenly like a wave of poisonous gas. Yggdrasil images swirled before her eyes.
Zombie-like, she progressed through the torrent of travelers, not bothering to excuse herself as she bumped against women with wide-brim hats and long-rod parasols, until, having made her way back whence she had come, Aoefa McFee, her chest heaving with breathlessness, exited the ship to leave her carefully planned future behind.