In the dismal autumn of 1918 Ginger Gold had vowed she’d never go back to Europe. Yet here she was, five years later in 1923, aboard the SS Rosa as it traversed the Atlantic from Boston to Liverpool.
“Isn’t a dinner invitation from the Captain reserved for very important persons?” Haley Higgins asked.
Ginger propped a hand on her tiny waist and feigned insult. “Are you suggesting that I’m not a very important person?”
“I’d never suggest such a thing,” Haley said lightly. “Only that I’m not aware of your connection to him.”
“Oh, yes. Father used to travel to England once or twice a year for business, and they had made an acquaintance. Of course this was some years ago, before Father fell ill. Captain Walsh recognized my name on the passenger list. It was nice of him to extend an invitation, was it not?”
Haley nodded. “I expect it to be quite entertaining.”
Ginger chose a billowy, violet dropped-waist dress with a hem that ended near her ankles, nude stockings with seams that ran up the back of her slender legs, and black designer t-strap heels. She clipped on dangling earrings and patted the ends of her bobbed red hair with the palms of her gloved hands. She made a show of presenting herself.
“How do I look?”
“Gorgeous, as always,” Haley said. Long since ready, she waited patiently in a rose-coloured upholstered chair. She was the sensible type, having only packed a few tweed and linen suits. She wasn’t much for “presentation.” It made getting ready quick and painless.
Curled up on the silky pink quilted cover on Ginger’s bed was a small short-haired black and white dog. Ginger scrubbed him behind his pointed ears and kissed his forehead. “You’re such a good boy, Boss.” The small Boston terrier’s stub of a tail wagged in agreement.
Ginger finished her ensemble by draping a creamy silk shawl over her shoulders. “Shall we?” Ginger said, motioning to the door.
Boss stood and stretched his hind legs.
“Oh, sorry, Bossy. Not you this time.”
The dog let out a snort of disappointment then circled his pillow before settling and swiftly fell back to sleep.
“I love the sea! Don’t you?” Ginger said as she and Haley walked along an exterior corridor of the ship. She extended her youthful arms and inhaled exuberantly. “It’s one of the reasons I love Boston. So invigorating. Makes one feel alive!”
“Oh, honey, listen to you!” Haley said with amusement. “Your latent Britishness is becoming more pronounced the closer we get to England. Makes one feel alive,” she added, feigning Ginger’s sudden use of an English accent.
Though Ginger considered herself a Bostonian through and through, she embraced her English heritage. After all, Massachusetts was part of New England.
“You’re jolly well right, old thing,” Ginger admitted with an exaggerated English accent. She laughed heartily, bringing a smile to Haley’s normally stoic expression.
“You sounded like your father just now,” Haley said.
Ginger placed a hand on her heart. “Oh, I do miss him.”
“In his honour I shall be thoroughly British for the duration of my time abroad.”
“And you’ll do it charmingly,” Haley said.
Ginger threaded her arm through her friend’s. “Soon-to-be Doctor Higgins,” she said. “We mustn’t keep the Captain waiting.”
“If you insist, Mrs. Gold,” Haley returned then added, “You know, I think he has eyes for you.”
“Pfft. How can you say that? We only met him for a second.” Ginger flicked her gloved hand. “Besides, he’s got a wife.”
“With men like the captain,” Haley said stiffly, “I hardly think that matters.”
* * *
A wide, modern staircase with lush red carpeting led to an elegant first-class dining room on the top deck.
“Posh,” Haley said. “I’m not sure I fit in here.”
“Nonsense,” Ginger responded airily. “You’re with me!”
Haley scoffed lightly. “An accessory? I’m certainly not flamboyant enough to suit your style.”
Ginger laughed, a spritely giggle her husband Daniel once had said reminded him of fairies dancing in a waterfall.
“You are on the inside, my dear Haley. That’s what counts.”
The red carpet continued throughout the restaurant accenting jade green and dusty rose upholstered chairs placed in groups of four around round, brass-trimmed chestnut tables.
“There they are,” Ginger said, and led the way to where their hosts were seated.
Captain Walsh was an attractive man of average height and weight with thick dark hair greying slightly at the temples. He stood when he identified them, exuding authority. “Mrs. Gold. It’s a pleasure.”
“The pleasure is ours,” Ginger said, shaking the captain’s hand. His palm was large but soft and he wore a wide ring that brandished a flat section of jade. The sleeve of his shirt slipped past the four stripes on the cuff of his jacket, and Ginger noted a handsome cufflink, a shiny silver piece embossed with a fleur-de-lis.
Motioning to Haley, she added, “This is my companion, Miss Higgins.”
The captain’s smile remained as he offered his hand. “Good to meet you.”
Haley shook his hand with a vice-grip confidence. “Likewise.”
“May I introduce my wife, Mrs. Walsh.” The thin woman on his right wore a dated late-Edwardian smock that was cinched at the waist. Her overly upright posture indicated that she most certainly wore an antiquated corset. She nodded in greeting but refrained from offering a hand or even a smile. Ginger blamed the corset for her poor temperament.
“Nice to meet you, Mrs. Walsh.” Ginger took the seat next to the captain while Haley positioned herself beside his wife.
“Please let me express my appreciation at your kind invitation to join you on our first night,” Ginger said. “I’m sure these seats are much coveted!”
“It is my delight to have the daughter of Mr. Hartigan on board. Your father was a respectable gentleman, and I’m honoured to have known him. I only wish he were alive and with us here today.”
“As do I.” Ginger patted Haley’s arm. “Miss Higgins, his personal nurse through his last years, showed him the compassion and respect he deserved. She was also a tremendous comfort to my little sister and step-mother. I really don’t know what we would’ve done without her.” Ginger’s praise of Haley was sincere, but she also hoped a good character reference would erase any prejudice forthcoming due to her friend’s unorthodox attire.
“How fortunate that she could accompany you to London,” Mrs. Walsh said with a crisp English accent.
“Indeed, it is stupendously good fortune,” Ginger said. “Just as I was making plans to attend to my father’s London estate, Miss Higgins learned she would continue her medical training there.”
Mrs. Walsh looked astounded. “A lady doctor?”
“Many doors are opening for the modern woman, Mrs. Walsh,” Haley responded. “In fact the institution in question is the London School of Medicine for Women.”
“But why London?” Captain Walsh asked. “Though, I’m the first to acknowledge how fine the city is, surely there is a prestigious facility in America?”
“Yes, of course,” Haley said. “I completed two years at Boston University before enlisting in the war.” A shadow flickered behind her eyes, “You could say I was ready for a change of scenery.” The catalyst for change was Haley’s fiancé, who, despite potential social repercussions, had unceremoniously broken off their relationship to pursue another woman.
Before the captain or Mrs. Walsh could probe further Ginger interjected, ‘‘Miss Higgins served as a nurse during the war, both in France and England. She developed an affection for London, didn’t you, old girl?”
Ginger giggled at her use of the English parlance, and Haley smirked. “I did, indeed.”
A waiter took their drink order and when he returned Ginger accepted her glass of fine French wine with relish. “Even though we’re no longer in the States, I can’t help but feel guilty.” She cast a slight glance over her shoulder and giggled. “I half expect a federal prohibition agent to arrest me any minute!”
“You are quite safe,” Captain Walsh said with a smile. “This vessel is under the command of His Royal Highness who, on occasion, happens to enjoy a drink or two.”
Ginger sipped daintily as she allowed the fruity sensation to tingle her mouth before swallowing. She sighed with contentment.
Mrs. Walsh attempted to pick up her glass, but the captain moved it out of reach. “Not for you. You know what happens when you drink too much.” Mrs. Walsh’s lips pursed in anger, but she stayed silent.
Ginger and Haley shared a look. If the captain was watching out for his wife, he certainly wasn’t subtle. Ginger could feel the heat of Mrs. Walsh’s embarrassment reach her from across the table.
Thankfully, the meal arrived, dissipating the situation. Ginger’s mouth watered at the sight of roasted lamb with mint sauce, roasted potatoes and buttered green beans. The smell was heavenly. The chief cook, a rotund man with a ruddy complexion and dark eyes, hovered beside the captain, waiting for his assessment.
The captain made a point of chewing well, and followed the morsel up with a sip of chardonnay. “It’s good, Babineaux.”
After her first bite Ginger added enthusiastically, “Simply delicious!”
Babineaux nodded, then cast a glance at Mrs. Walsh. A look passed between them as the woman nodded her approval allowing for a smile. Had Ginger imagined it, or had something more meaningful than a culinary rating been communicated?
A beautiful woman sat at a table across the room. Ginger recognized her as Nancy Guilford, the famous American actress. In her company were several gentlemen—one Ginger thought to be particularly dapper—and a middle-aged female companion. Ginger admired Miss Guilford’s exotic long-waist ocean-blue, oriental gown trimmed in fur. Her wavy blonde bob exposed diamond earrings that glistened in the electric light, and her lips were thick and bright red.
“Patty, darlin’,” Nancy Guilford said with a loud, New Jersey accent. Her voice was surprisingly nasal. Not at all what a person would expect from such a beautiful and sophisticated face. “Hand me my ciggies.”
Her companion delivered a silver cigarette case, which Miss Guilford opened with long graceful fingers. She placed a cigarette into an ivory-coloured holder and held it to her lips. One of the men (not the dapper one, Ginger was happy to note) rapidly produced a brass lighter and offered a flame. Miss Guilford inhaled then let out a long stream of smoke in the captain’s direction.
Though it was a simple, routine, everyday activity—a mere inhale and exhale—Nancy Guilford had made a compelling performance out of it. Even if someone present hadn’t recognized the actress, her flair and charisma commanded attention. Ginger was sure the entire room noticed her. Mrs. Walsh, in particular, seemed agitated. She glared at the actress with jealousy and suspicion in her eyes.
Ginger didn’t think Mrs. Walsh paranoid in the least. The blonde stared shamelessly at the captain, going out of her way to present a creamy, bare calf when she crossed her legs.
The captain pulled at his collar and pretended not to notice. The four of them returned to polite conversation, interspersed with comments on the quality of the meal and the splendour of the dining room.
Throughout the meal the captain, when his eyes weren’t straying to the glamorous actress, watched Ginger in a way that left her feeling slightly uncomfortable. She feared Haley’s assessment of him was all too correct.
“That was an interesting evening, wasn’t it?” Ginger said to Haley when they returned to their stateroom.
Haley agreed. “It was.”
Ginger began the process of undressing, motioning to Haley to assist her by unzipping her dress. “The actress had eyes for the captain, and the chef—did you see the way he watched the captain’s wife?”
“A convoluted affair.”
“Great entertainment, though, wouldn’t you say?”
Haley nodded. “I would.”
Ginger couldn’t rest until she’d finished unpacking. Disgruntled, she stared at her three large trunks, four suitcases, and a dozen hat boxes. Of course it wasn’t necessary for her to unpack everything for a five-day journey, but if she didn’t the odious smell of pine and mothballs would most certainly be ingrained in the fibres of her wardrobe before she reached London, and that just wouldn’t do.
“Molly usually cares for this,” Ginger said. “Her fear of deep water was too great a barrier and she refused to accompany me. I guess I can’t blame her for that.”
“I could assist,” Haley said, “though I’m not much attuned to fashion.”
“Your help would be much appreciated!” Ginger said. “The only skill required is the ability to arrange garments on a hanger. Day dresses together, starting on the left in the wardrobe, followed by tea dresses and evening wear.”
“I’m afraid I don’t know the difference.”
“Really, Haley?” Ginger wasn’t sure if her friend was serious or in jest. “Very well. This is a day dress.” Ginger held up a simple streamline cotton frock in a bright gingham print. She opened up a second trunk and rummaged through the contents to produce an elegant dress with layers of cream chiffon with a wide black sash and taffeta bow. “This is a Jeanne Lanvin, suitable for afternoon tea or semi-formal dining.”
“Who’s Jeanne Lanvin?”
Ginger stilled. “Only the most innovative, new designer in Paris!”
“Oh, of course,” Haley said dryly.
“And this evening gown…” Ginger said with a lilt to her voice, “…is a Coco Chanel, perfect for a night of dancing.” She held up a sleeveless, straight-line dress made of rayon that shimmered with layers of sheer crepe silk against her body. The skirt shimmied when Ginger swivelled her hips and had a shocking hemline that ended mid-calf. “Surely you’ve heard of Coco Chanel?”
Haley shot her an exaggerated look of offence. “I don’t live under a rock.”
Ginger laughed. She held a deep affection for her travel companion. They’d met in France during the war. Nurse Higgins had single-handedly saved a colleague of Ginger’s from certain death—the man had had an unfortunate encounter with a sharp German-made blade. Ginger had introduced herself as Mademoiselle Antoinette LaFleur. Her French citizen persona was so convincing that Haley’s jaw nearly hit the floor when they were reacquainted after the war in Boston. When it became apparent that her father needed personal care Ginger specifically sought out Haley. To her credit, Haley accepted Ginger’s explanation that Mademoiselle LaFleur was created for the war effort. “She” ended when the war did—and Ginger was unable to speak about it further.
Boss’s head bobbed, and he stretched out a small black paw from where he slept at the bottom of Ginger’s bed. He yawned in greeting, then promptly closed his eyes and emitted a soft snore.
Ginger changed into her nightwear—a satin, jade green one-piece teddy trimmed with champagne-coloured lace. Haley changed into a plain white camisole and matching bloomers, and unpinned her curly, long brown hair, which had been twisted up at her neck to create the illusion of a wavy bob. Sitting in front of the dressing table mirror, she brushed out her hair and spoke to Ginger’s reflection.
“Are you ready, Mrs. Gold?”
“Ready for what?”
“For your new life in London.”
“It’s been ten years since I’ve stepped foot there.” Ginger’s last foray to England had been on her honeymoon in 1913. All of her work during the war took place on the Continent. “I hardly know what to expect.”
“The world seems to have changed on a dime,” Haley returned. “I imagine we’ll both be surprised.”
“Surely, you must be excited to continue your medical training,” Ginger said, secretly envying her friend. Ginger’s years studying at Boston University were among her favourite memories. She loved the academic atmosphere and enjoyed time spent with her fellow students. Her studies in languages and maths had turned out to be of particular use during the war, but now Ginger felt at a loss at what to do with her time.
“Yes,” Haley admitted, “but I think I’ll miss Boston.”
Ginger twisted a short strand of hair around her index finger to reinforce the curl that turned in towards her cheek. “I’m not sure I’ll be away long enough to miss it.”
“Oh?” Haley paused mid-brush. “Do tell.”
“I might just sell Hartigan House and return to the States. Even though I was born in England, I was only eight years old when Father married Sally and relocated. I’m afraid I’m rather American.”
“Indeed, Ginger, you are very American.”
“But, as you know, I can be as English as the next Brit when I set my mind to it. Father remained thoroughly English until the day he died.”
Haley returned the brush to the dressing table and climbed into her bed. “You are culturally versatile.”
“I won’t miss Sally one bit,” Ginger continued, “though I might become sentimental over Louisa.”
“Your half-sister is … memorable.”
“She’s spoiled, obnoxious and unbearable is what you mean.”
“I would never say it.”
“I’ll enjoy London, I think, for a while,” Ginger said as she burrowed deeper under her covers. “But then what will I do with myself?”
“I’m sure there will be plenty to entertain you.”
“To begin with certainly, but then what? At least you have your career. Boston is my home, but with only Sally to welcome me back, well, it’s just not that inviting.”
“So, you’re divided,” Haley said. “Stay in London where you don’t know anyone besides me and risk boredom, or sell Hartigan House and return to Boston where you have a social circle. But due to that same social circle, you would be obligated to live with your evil step-mother.”
“Precisely. Haley Higgins, you are so perceptive.”
“It’s a skill required of my profession.”
“And yet, you’ve managed to not help me at all. I’m no closer to an answer.”
“Dear Ginger, you’re young, beautiful and an heiress, ergo there’s a good chance you’ll meet an eligible bachelor or two. That should keep you entertained. Unless, of course, your feelings for Mr. Wellington go deeper than you let on.”
Mr. Wellington was a successful accountant, born and raised in Boston, and a long-suffering suitor. He appeared out of nowhere just days after her official period of mourning over Daniel had ended. A man of virtue and good ethics, any woman would’ve jumped at a chance to marry him. His look was plain but not homely, his skin quite pale and his stomach a little paunchy—due likely to a sedentary lifestyle lived indoors—but not overly so. He valued order and logic and approached life with similar sentiments, having very little appreciation for passion or spontaneity.
The complete opposite of Daniel in every way.
She turned his offer of marriage down in the end, and though she hated to hurt him, she knew they would never make each other happy. Besides he wanted children and that was something she just couldn’t promise him. Mother Nature had seen to that.
Ginger’s mind drifted momentarily to the dapper gentleman she’d witnessed at Miss Guilford’s table. Here was a well-dressed man with intelligent eyes that sparked with passion. Ginger played with the gold ring on her finger, which was her habit, then stopped suddenly with a flood of mortification. How could she polish her wedding band whilst pondering the good looks of a stranger!
Boss, sensing his mistress’s emotional need, crept to her side as she slipped under the covers and nuzzled her neck. Ginger whispered, “Oh Boss, you’re such a peach.”
She and Haley spent some time reading with the help of the electric lamps beside their beds—Haley with a medical textbook and Ginger with a new Agatha Christie detective novel.
Ginger could have booked separate rooms, but she didn’t mind the company, especially with her maid Molly staying behind. She gave Haley the option, but Haley wasn’t one to take advantage because Ginger had money. She’d expressed her gratitude on having her passage to London covered in the deal.
Eventually, Ginger’s eyes drooped. “I’m ready to call it a day,” she said.
Haley flipped the switch next to her bed and the electric lights extinguished. “Sleep well, Ginger.”
“Sleep well, Haley.”
Moments later, their peace and quiet was interrupted by a loud zipper sound.
“Boss!” Ginger shouted.
“Dear Lord!” Haley said. “Light a match!”
The next morning Ginger dropped a copy of Pearson’s Magazine on the table next to her cup of coffee and crumb-laden empty plate. It was opened to the crossword page, with every square filled out in pen.
“They’re far too easy,” Ginger said.
Haley rolled her eyes. “You say that every time.”
“It’s true every time.”
“Then why do you do them?”
“I’m hoping one day, I’ll finally be stumped.”
Haley paused before saying, “I doubt that’ll ever happen. Maybe you should craft them yourself?”
“Now that’s a thought. Still, I’d forfeit the challenge of completing them since I’d already know the answers beforehand.”
A waiter returned with a trolley to top up their coffee and to offer another round of fresh croissants and bread. Ginger and Haley had already filled up on the English version of breakfast—bacon and eggs—and requested coffee only.
“I suppose we’ll have to switch to tea once we’re in England,” Ginger said.
“I think not,” Haley said as she added a healthy dose of cream and two spoons of sugar to her black brew. “My problem will be finding a cup that is strong enough to suit me.”
“I love a good cup of coffee, but there is something charming and sophisticated about their fascination with teatime. I quite like holding dainty china cups with my little finger extended.” Ginger demonstrated as a lark.
“You’ll fit right in, Mrs. Gold.”
“Actually, the English frown on the pinky.” Ginger giggled and Haley joined in with a begrudging half-grin.
“Are you going to see your in-laws?” Haley asked carefully. She sipped her coffee and kept her eyes averted.
“It’s okay to talk about them,” Ginger said, noting her friend’s discomfort. “And about Daniel.”
Haley caught Ginger’s eyes but merely nodded.
“It’s only Daniel’s grandmother Ambrosia and his sister Felicia who are left, you know. So much tragedy in that family. His parents died in a carriage accident leaving Daniel and Felicia orphans when Felicia was still an infant. His grandfather died of heart failure before Daniel was even born. When we returned for our honeymoon in ’13, Ambrosia was the Lady of Bray Manor and Felicia was only eleven.” Ginger frowned. “Daniel was always concerned about his sister not having a proper mother to raise her. Daniel felt terribly guilty about leaving her behind when he came to Boston. I don’t think he meant to stay as long as he did. And then the war called him.”
“I thought he crossed the Atlantic specifically to meet you?”
“Well, he was after the Hartigan money. Before his father died, he’d strapped the family with gambling debts, and Daniel did what he felt he had to in order to save Bray Manor.”
“He married you for money?” Haley was unable to keep shock from lacing her words.
Ginger eyed her over her cup. “It’s not unheard of, you know. My father was in favour. Daniel didn’t have money but he did have a title.”
Haley slammed down her half-empty mug. “What? How could you’ve kept that from me?”
Ginger lifted a shoulder. “As you well know, Americans find British titles pretentious. You do better in business without them. Self-made men are more esteemed than those born into money. Even though Father greatly admired Daniel’s title he never introduced him with it. Besides, Daniel and I ended up falling in love, so it all became a moot point.”
“Do you have a title?”
Ginger let out a small breath and murmured. “Lady Gold. It’s a courtesy title because my husband was a viscount. Lord Daniel Livingstone Gold.”
“That makes you a viscountess!”
“Shh! There’s no need to draw attention.”
“But, Ginger.” Haley couldn’t keep the chuckle out of her voice. “You’re a Lady.”
Ginger squinted her eyes. “Mrs. Gold will do just fine, thank you very much.”
The table next to them became occupied by an older couple who seemed to be feeling the effects of the time change already, or perhaps were among the unfortunates whose stomach failed to cooperate with the ocean crossing. He was wispy thin, as if he ate nothing at all, saving all for his stout and top-heavy wife. Her hair was white as a sheet, yet styled expertly with marceled waves. Her maid undoubtedly hadn’t refused to accompany her. Though the woman’s size dictated that her clothing was specially made, Ginger noted the quality of the fabrics and the modern design.
“Mrs. Fairchild,” the woman said in way of introduction. “Residing in London.” She tapped the leg of her quiet husband. “Mr. Fairchild, poor man. He has a gippy tummy. I insisted on visiting New York for our fiftieth wedding anniversary, I was born there you know, but it’s changed so much, you see, I hardly recognized it. Made me nearly burst into tears. This trip has been such a frightful disappointment.” She paused to catch her breath then asked, “And you are?”
Ginger smiled. “I’m Mrs. Gold and this…”
Mrs. Fairchild’s eyes darted to Haley and she gasped with indignation, “You’ve brought your maid to breakfast?”
“No, no. This is my companion, Miss Higgins.”
Haley, who was thumbing through Ginger’s magazine, held it up to conceal herself and made a face. Ginger held in the giggle that threatened to burst forth. “She’s a nurse.”
“A nurse?” Mrs. Fairchild said. “Oh, well, that explains things, then.”
“Miss Guilford would like honey, not jelly, and beef, not ham.” The loud New Jersey accent of Nancy Guilford’s assistant carried across the room and claimed the elder woman’s attention.
A young waiter with hair as red as Ginger’s said, “Will Miss Guilford be joining us soon, Miss Applebalm?”
“No. She has a headache and asked if I could bring breakfast up for her.”
Patty Applebalm’s thin lips were pursed in determination. “And coffee, not tea. Miss Guilford doesn’t like tea. And extra sugar, if you don’t mind.”
“You and Nancy Guilford have something in common,” Ginger said to Haley.
“Perhaps when it comes to coffee,” Haley admitted, “but when it comes to clothes, she’s all yours.”
“I do adore her sense of fashion, though I think she’s harder on her help than I am.”
“Agreed,” Haley said.
Ginger sighed. “I think I’ll miss Molly.”
“I’m sure she’ll miss you too.”
Ginger and Haley remained transfixed by the actress’s assistant. “What do you think of Miss Applebalm?” Ginger asked.
“Is she devoted or disgruntled?”
Haley thought for a moment then answered, “I’d say devoted.”
“I’d have to concur,” Ginger said. “She has a bull-dog intent on meeting Miss Guilford’s requests, and when she looks at Nancy, I swear she appears sentimental.”
Haley nodded. “I noticed that too. Perhaps Miss Applebalm is more than a simple hire.”
“History between them?” Ginger asked.
“That’s my guess.”
“I’m going to say she’s Miss Guilford’s aunt,” Ginger said confidently. “One orphaned, one childless. Raised Nancy Guilford as her own.”
“That’s quite the guesswork,” Haley replied.
“It’s what I do when I’m bored.”
Mrs. Fairchild leaned towards them, her bosom sprinkled with crumbs. “You’re quite right, Mrs. Gold. I knew the Applebalms in the old days, poor as dirt. Young Nancy’s mama died when she was little and with no papa, her aunt, Miss Applebalm, loved her like she was her own. Would do anything for that girl, I reckon, anything.”
Ginger found the quality of the older woman’s hearing surprising and unnerving. She must remember to lower her voice in the future. She pushed away from the table and whispered to Haley, “I should go see to Boss. It’s time for a trip to the kennel.” Though Ginger managed to get around the rules about leaving her dog in the kennel, he still needed opportunity to “do his business.”
She spoke kindly to the Fairchilds before leaving. “Good day. It was a pleasure to meet you.”
* * *
Instead of heading immediately down to steerage, Ginger coaxed Boss up to the bridge deck which availed the best view. Pausing to enjoy the sunshine, Ginger leaned over the smoothly polished mahogany railing and watched the white swathe of waves that broke off the hull of the SS Rosa as she cut her path through the Atlantic.
The summer sun glinted off the sea, a glittering expanse as far as the eye could see, and a strong breeze fluttered the skirt of Ginger’s blue dress around her calves. She used her free hand to hold onto her straw sun hat while tipping back her head to look up at the towering black and red painted smokestacks in the centre of the ship. They were even more impressive up close.
“I’ll have you arrested for insubordination!”
Ginger recognized the angry voice and turned in time to see the captain and Chief Officer MacIntosh broach the top of the steps on their way to the bridge.
“You rotten bounder!” MacIntosh shouted, traipsing a few steps behind.
Captain Walsh spun on his heel and jabbed MacIntosh in the chest. “You’ll be lucky to get a job as a bloody seaman after I’ve finished with you.”
They’d been so consumed with their argument they hadn’t noticed Ginger standing there.
That was until Boss, noting the tension, barked. Ginger scolded herself for not giving her pet the sign to stay quiet.
The captain and the chief officer’s attention turned to Ginger.
“Oh, hello,” Ginger called in an overly loud voice. “I didn’t hear you there. I hope you don’t mind that I came up to enjoy the view. Such a lovely day isn’t it? I’m sorry I can’t stay longer, but I have to return my pup to the kennel. I know, I know, I’m not supposed to remove him from steerage, but I have tendency to get my own way.” She smiled widely and batted her eyes. “Please don’t be angry with the boys in charge.”
Captain Walsh relaxed into his professional demeanour and smiled as he approached. “Of course, Mrs. Gold, you are welcome to the entire ship. And we will ignore the kennel boys their indiscretion this once.”
“Thank you,” Ginger said, tugging on Boss’s leash.
“Do enjoy the lovely weather,” Captain Walsh said. “I’m afraid we’re in for a change before we reach England.”
“Oh? Nothing serious, I hope?” Ginger’s stomach clenched at the thought of severe weather striking the SS Rosa mid journey.
Captain Walsh responded with reassurance. “We’ll be fine.”
“Very well. Good day Captain!” She looked for the chief officer to offer a polite salutation, but he was no longer there.
Ginger found herself speed walking down the decks to steerage. The argument she’d witnessed, and her subsequent performance caused her heart to race. Before she reached steerage and had to talk to the seaman who monitored all who came and went, she stopped to gain her composure.Five years out of operations had made her soft.
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