FALLING STARS
Chapter Twenty

April 18, 1933

"You what!?" Jack and Rose Dawson stared at their son incredulously.

"I proposed to Emily," Gregory repeated calmly, "and she has accepted."

"Gregory..." Jack got up from his place at the table and paced around the dining room. "I donít think this is such a good idea."

"Why not?"

"Youíre both too young, for one thing."

"Iím twenty years old, and Emily will be twenty in October. Many people our age are married. You and Mom were married when you were twenty and seventeen."

"That was different."

"How so?"

"It just was," Rose told him, trying to conceal her shock. She had long accepted the friendships between her children and the Hockley children, and had even come to view Emily as something of a daughter, especially since Emilyís mother had left four years earlier, but to have one of her children marry a Hockley--after she herself had struggled so hard to escape from them--was more than she could tolerate.

"Look, I know weíre young, but weíre ready for marriage. Iím sure of it. Weíve known each other for thirteen years. I work hard. You know that. I can support her."

"Gregory..." Rose sighed, trying not to show her true feelings about the matter. "I just donít think it would work."

"Why? Because sheís a Hockley? Thatís what this is all about, isnít it? It isnít about our ages, or my ability to support her. Itís because you two canít stand her father. Mom, I know that you didnít want to marry him, but Emily is not her father, and Iím not you. Whatever quarrels you two have with the Hockleys are none of our concern. Youíve always liked Emily, and you know that sheís nothing like her parents, so why are you raising such a fuss now?"

"Have you really thought about this? Are you sure this is what you want? Thereís a whole world out there, and youíve only seen a small part of it. How can you be sure that youíre making the right decision?" Jack tried to reason with his son.

"How did you know you were making the right decision?" Gregory retorted. "Emily is different from anyone Iíve ever met. Sheís smart, sheís beautiful, she stands up for what she believes in...whether you believe it or not, I love Emily, and she loves me." He stalked from the room.

"Where are you going?" Rose called after him.

"To see Emily. Where else?" The front door slammed behind him.

Rose put her head in her hands. "I never thought Iíd see the day when one of our children would want to marry a Hockley."

Jack sat down beside her. "The Hockleys lost their money years ago. What if theyíve decided that this is the way to rekindle their fortunes? Weíve been lucky enough to not lose much of what we have."

"Somehow I just canít imagine Emily as a fortune hunter."

"Not Emily, no. But I can imagine her father using her for financial gain."

"I donít know." Rose looked at him doubtfully. "Cal seems to have changed since he lost all his money in the stock market crash. Remember what Nathan said, about how he found his father with a pistol in his mouth, ready to pull the trigger, and how he changed his mind when the children begged him not to? He seems to have lived for those children these past four years. If he wanted Emily to marry a man with money, why didnít he marry her off years ago to one of the wealthy young men in this city? The Hockley name is still respected, despite their change of fortune, and he could undoubtedly have found Emily a wealthy husband--probably one with more money than we have. Gregoryís inheritance wonít exactly make him a millionaire--not with five siblings to share it with--and heís not likely to receive an inheritance for years yet. Weíre both still fairly young, and in good health. Cal will probably die before we do, so arranging a marriage between Emily and Gregory wouldnít benefit him at all."

"I wouldnít put it past him to find a way to make it benefit him." Jack was less willing to forgive Cal than Rose was. He had never forgotten how Cal had framed him and left him to die in the sinking ship, or how he had fired shots at himself and Rose after Rose had jumped out of the boat to be with him. They had maintained an uneasy truce through the years, but Jack still didnít trust him. Neither, for that matter, did Rose, but she was more willing to forgive and forget. The thought of having Emily for a daughter-in-law made her uncomfortable, but she realized that Emily was not her father, and could not be blamed for the problems he had caused them.

"We canít stop them," she told Jack, putting a hand on his arm. "Theyíre both adults, and we canít force Gregory to bend to our will."

"We could never force Gregory to bend to our will. Heís too much like you."

"And you. Heís independent, stubborn, and strong-willed, just like we are."

"Sometimes it would be nice if he were a little less strong-willed." Jack sighed, thinking. "But heís right. We arenít objecting because we donít like Emily, weíre objecting because we donít like her parents. Even though Laura left four years ago, I donít think youíve ever forgotten what hell she tried to make of your life, accusing you of trying to steal her husband and turn her children against her."

"I donít think Laura was playing with a full deck. She didnít need anyone but herself to turn her children against her, and as to her accusations about me and Cal--it was almost funny, the way she would suddenly turn very sweet and polite each time we had a new baby, coming over and looking at the newborn. I think she just wanted to make sure that the baby didnít resemble Cal. She always got this triumphant look on her face when she realized that the baby resembled you, and I wouldnít be surprised if she taunted Cal about that fact."

Jack smiled and shook his head, remembering. The Dawsons had had three more children during the 1920ís--Adam, born in 1923; Heidi, born in 1925; and Andrew, born in 1929. Adam and Heidi had both inherited Jackís blonde hair, as had Nancy, while the other three children were redheads, like Rose. For the most part, the Dawsons were proud of their children, although Rose had once commented to her mother that she would have liked to give away two of them--but it was a different two every hour.

"It isnít Emilyís fault that her parents are the way they are, and her mother left years ago. Objecting to this marriage wonít stop it--it will only push them away." Rose spoke quietly, looking at her hands. "I suppose we should have seen this coming--Emily has been chasing Gregory since she was six years old, and theyíve been acting like a courting couple since they were fifteen. I donít think it would have lasted so long if there wasnít something between them. Maybe weíve just been blinded to the idea because Emily is a Hockley."

Jack looked at her. "I think youíre right. Emily isnít responsible for what her parents have done, and--I suppose that Gregory could do worse. Emilyís a sweet girl, and sheís intelligent."

"She inherited the better qualities of both her parents--her motherís beauty and her fatherís intelligence. At least--" Rose smiled, a hint of mischief in her eyes, "--she doesnít sound like a poodle."

Jack laughed, remembering the time that they had speculated on what Cal and Lauraís child would be like. "I think we need to try to look past Emilyís family, and look at her for who she is. If she wasnít a Hockley, I wouldnít have any objection to having her for a daughter-in-law."

"I think we have two choices--we can accept this marriage, and give them our blessing, or we can refuse to accept it, and drive them away." Rose took a deep breath. "I think that we should try to accept it. I donít want to drive either of them away. Gregory is our son, and Emily has become like a daughter to me."

"Iíll try to accept it," Jack told her, sighing. "I like Emily well enough--and I suppose that I can accept her for a daughter-in-law."

"Technically, weíre already related to the Hockleys anyway," Rose pointed out, "because my mother married Nathan Hockley all those years ago. We would be become in-laws to the Hockleys--but weíre already step-relatives, so it isnít too much of a change."

"Youíre right, it isnít."

"So...shall we give them our blessing, and help them get started in their new life?"

He nodded. "Weíll give them our blessing."

*****

Gregory brought Emily to dinner with him that evening. The two of them, as well as Libby, spent a long time sitting in the parlor, listening to the radio and talking. Rose overheard the word "wedding" several times, and surmised that they had already told Libby. She wondered if Cal knew about the wedding plans yet, or if Emily had told her younger brother, or if Gregory had told his other siblings.

The answer came at dinner, when Gregory stood up and made his announcement.

"Emily and I have an announcement to make," he told everyone, pulling Emily to her feet beside him. She blushed slightly and smiled.

Libby grinned widely, already privy to what they were going to say. Gregory locked eyes with his parents for a moment, hoping that they would not challenge him in front of everyone.

"What is it?" Nancy asked, eyeing her grinning older sister, and her older brother, who seemed to be having a hard time finding the words.

"Emily and I are engaged."

"You are?" Nancy squealed excitedly. "Wow! Neat! Can I be a bridesmaid?"

"Me, too," Heidi added. Adam and Andrew just stared at everyone, Adam wondering why his sisters made such a big fuss about a wedding, Andrew not quite sure what was going on.

Gregory looked at his parents, half-expecting them to blow up at him. Instead, Jack spoke quietly and sincerely.

"Congratulations, you two."

"Thank you, Mr. Dawson," Emily told him. "Gregory was worried that you wouldnít accept it. My father certainly doesnít like the idea, but heís trying to accept it."

That cleared up one question in the minds of Jack and Rose--Cal wasnít behind Gregory and Emilyís decision to marry. It truly had been the choice of the two young people.

"Have you set a date yet?" Rose asked.

Emily shook her head. "No. I was hoping...if you and Mr. Dawson accepted the idea of Gregory and me getting married...that you would help me plan the wedding. Libby is already helping," she added.

Rose smiled. "I would be honored to help," she told Emily. "We can even help pay for the wedding," she added, glancing at Jack.

He nodded, a bit hesitantly. He knew that the Hockleys didnít have much money these days, and Gregory, while he worked hard, was struggling to make a name for himself in the art world, and didnít have much money, either. Gregory worked at the art gallery with his father when he wasnít practicing his art, but money was tight there, as it was all over, and Jack didnít pay him much. It was enough to live on, but not much more.

"Oh, no. We couldnít accept that," Emily told them.

Jack put up a hand to silence her. "We insist."

Rose smiled at him, proud of the way he had accepted their sonís decision. It hadnít been easy, she knew, and she had had difficulty accepting it herself, but they had both come through. They would be proud to have Emily for a daughter-in-law.

"Do you think that two months is long enough to plan a wedding?" Emily asked. "I was thinking that June might be nice--June twenty-first, the longest day of the year. What do you think?" she asked Gregory.

"If you can plan a wedding by then, I think that would be a good date." Impulsively, he kissed Emily on the cheek, making her blush and his siblings giggle.

Adam sang under his breath. "Gregory and Emily sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G..."

"Be quiet," Nancy hissed, poking him in the arm. "Itís rude to sing at the table."

Everyone laughed, breaking the spell. "I think two months is long enough," Rose told Emily, "especially with three people to plan the wedding."

*****

After Gregory had walked Emily home, he saw his father standing in the yard, smoking a cigarette and gazing at the stars. He came to stand beside him.

"Dad?"

"Hmm?"

"Thank you for not making a scene at dinner. I know you and Mom donít like the idea of my marrying Emily--"

"We talked it over, Gregory, and we realized that our real objection was to Emilyís father, not to Emily herself. She isnít responsible for the animosity between us and her father. After thinking about it, I realized that I would be proud to have Emily for a daughter-in-law, if only she wasnít a Hockley. But she has no control over who sheís related to, or over what they do. As your mother pointed out to me, weíre already related to the Hockleys, because your grandmother married Emilyís grandfather. When I congratulated you at dinner, I meant it."

"Why do you and Mom dislike Mr. Hockley so much?"

"Itís a long story, going back to when we were young and your mother was engaged to him."

"He really doesnít seem like that bad of a person."

"I suppose he has his good qualities," Jack conceded, "but they can be hard to recognize."

"Heís been a much nicer person since Mrs. Hockley left."

"Maybe, but I still donít know. We never liked each other. The first time we met, he tried to have me arrested for attacking your mother."

"He thought you attacked Mom? Why?"

"She almost fell overboard on the Titanic, and when I pulled her back, we landed in a...compromising position. He immediately jumped to conclusions, as did the seamen who found us. Your mother defended me, and he let me go...but he didnít like me even then. I think he knew I was a threat to his relationship with her."

"And he was right, since Mom married you."

"She wasnít very fond of him, either, although I think sheís grown more tolerant as the years have gone by." He paused, taking another drag off of his cigarette. "Gregory...you donít have to marry Emily, do you?"

"Have to? No. We don't have to get married. We just...we love each other, and we want to get married. Weíve been going together for five years, and...itís time. We want to make things permanent."

Jack nodded. "Being married isnít always easy--your mother and I have had our share of disagreements over the years--and it takes a lot of work to make things right, but if youíre with the right person, itís worth it. I hope Emily is that person."

"Thanks, Dad. I think she is." Gregory turned to go up the steps.

"Good luck, son."

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