Pushed along by the crowd behind her, Maggie had no choice but to keep climbing, emerging onto the boat deck terrified, shivering uncontrollably with the cold, and separated from everyone from her group other than the four who stood with her. The emergency rockets being fired into the sky sent a bright red light across the ship, which was now audibly creaking and groaning under the strain of the water flooding the lower compartments.
Maura Brennan stared wildly at the unfamiliar faces emerging from the ladder behind them. "Maggie, where are the others? They were right behind us."
"They got pushed back. I don’t know. I don’t know where they are." Maggie’s fear developed into gasping tears then, the enormity of what was happening suddenly hitting her. "I don’t know where they are, and I don’t know where Aunt Kathleen is either."
Grabbing her arm, Harry pulled Maggie and the others he had managed to bring up the ladder toward a lifeboat. "It’s women and children first," he told them. "The men will follow."
Maura Brennan grasped Harry’s arm. "What in God’s name d’ye mean, women and children first? Can we not all go together?"
"Officer’s orders, miss. Women and children first."
A terrible silence fell over the group then. Maggie looked at all their faces as an officer manning the boat started shouting at them urgently.
"Everyone in, miss. Come on, everyone in, right now. There’s room for a few more."
Seeing that Maura was pregnant, he ushered her toward the boat, pushing Eileen and Maggie with her. A surge of passengers behind them caused them all to be pushed forward, their legs crushed momentarily against the hard edge of the lifeboat. Some men tried to clamber aboard. A shot rang out. Maggie turned to see the officer waving his gun in the air.
"Get back, men. Get back and wait your turn."
Amid the confusion, Maura Brennan stood perfectly still, a determined composure and certainty about her. "I’ll not go," she whispered. Maggie stared at Maura, who stood at the edge of the boat. "I’ll not go without Jack. I will never go without Jack."
Next to her, Eileen started to sob desperate tears. "I’ll not go either, Jack. I’ll not leave my brother standing here. I’ll not leave you to drown."
As the women hesitated, their seats were gladly taken by others.
The officer pushed Maggie forward. "Miss, one seat left. I would take it now if I were you, before it’s too late."
Maggie hesitated, looking wildly from one face to the other, at young Michael Kelly’s face streaked with tears.
"Let the boy in," she said to the officer, pushing Michael forward. "Let him go in this boat. He has a mammy at home."
"Women and children first, miss. He can go in the next boat."
"But I can’t go alone," she cried, clutching at Maura’s thin coat. "I can’t leave you all here. And what about the baby?" she added, conscious of the life growing within Maura’s belly.
http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/97a55e23/" rel="nofollow">a Rafflecopter giveaway