The Book Box

6 Jun

Next in line on the GSP Legends Promo is Roberta Branca.



Writing fiction has been my pleasure, pastime, and pet peeve since childhood. I am a review editor for the online publication BewilderingStories. I am currently part of a writing group, Great Bay Writers, on the New Hampshire Seacoast. The Book-Box was originally created for an open-participation project known as Art Spark. My first published short story was published in the July, 2009 issue of The Litchfield Literary Review. I have a second publication pending in Bewildering Stories. I work as a reference and instruction librarian at Hesser College in Manchester, NH. My past writing experience includes journalism and technical copywriting and editing.

Her book that we are highlighting today is The Book Box.



This short story blends history with the supernatural, set in the icy waters of the North Atlantic during the sinking of the Titanic. A young mother clings to her child as she watches the sinking, haunted not by her husband who surrendered his life but by the nanny and former wet nurse who was brought on the trip for her own salvation.


 Darts of arctic air puncture my skin through layers of underclothes, dress, coat, and wool blanket. Ari huddles against my bosom, his small arms wrapped tightly around my waist. Like my fellow passengers, I try to limit my movements so as not to rock the boat further. The waves around us all seems to defeat our purpose.
    Children in ours and other boats cry, “Where is papa? Where is papa?” At age two and six months, Ari rarely strings more than two words together. He cries pitifully, kitten-like.
    Wrenching metallic bursts of noise cover the distance between lifeboat and ship; the mournful sound defies human language. Ari screams. Far ahead, the bow disappears beneath the surface. The stern stands on end. My body trembles. I clutch Ari, press his head into my shoulder and bury my face in his warm body.
    The stern founders slowly as if it were being sucked down into quicksand and not water. Through the fog a geyser of water, salt spray and dense mist rises from the roiling sea at the spot where the bow disappeared. I cannot peel my eyes from this spot. Was my beloved John dragged beneath the waves in the stern of the ship? Or was he stricken instantly when hitting the icy water? Or trapped within the towering, upright bow?
    I think I hear my name, then Ari’s name. I shake my head, causing ice-cold tears to slide around my cheeks.
    So I look. The column of mist swirls and shifts. Chilled air shoots through my chest, making my heart stop. The spray is no longer spreading outward, but gathering itself. A distinct form emerges. A human, but it is not my John. The cold air feels suddenly heavy. It wraps a tight band around my head as the slim figure of a woman flickers and grows solid.
    She is looking out, away from the wreckage. I know the long, blonde hair; the trim figure; the youthfully plump cheek. She is wearing my coat, the brown wool. Sheila!
    My throat constricts. Spiteful sparks ignite in my chest. Horrific winds rush in my ears, through my head. Real winds? Or a tormented mind? Then finally the shame that always silences my spite.
    Sheila turns toward me. The band around my head tightens, a dull pain begins to form. The boat rocks as passengers struggle, and fail, to still themselves. Ahead the great ship is still sinking, but my eyes are locked on Sheila.
    It was only hours earlier that John and I gave Sheila that coat. In this moment it seems like years ago, for all that has been lost. John and I were dressing for dinner with friends, important business connections. I was not looking forward to the company. As John helped fasten my necklace, I stared at my reflection in the mirror. I looked as wan and joyless as I felt.
John, as always, was patient and compassionate. “It’s only for two hours, darling. Stewart’s wife is excellent company, I hear.”
    This was no comfort to me; it only meant I would be pressured into conversation I had no interest in. Lady Harrington was twenty years older, richer than I by several million pounds, and had five grown children. I had nothing of interest to contribute; she had much to say but little I was in the mood to hear.
    There must have been a knock at the door, though I was still lost in my own thoughts, because John left my side to cross the room. I offered no facial expression or verbal greetings of welcome as Sheila was ushered in. John took her pathetically thin coat from her.
    “Ari needs a bath tonight, Sheila. He has had his dinner already.” I tried not to sound cold. I knew I had failed by the sharp look John gave me. He turned his back and hung her coat in the closet.
    “This coat is too thin for Arctic air, Sheila. It won’t serve you well during an American winter, either. You should have told us it was all you had before we left London.”
    “I’m sorry.” The girl said and looked at the floor.
    “Liv,” John said. “You have three coats with you. Surely you don’t need all three on this boat. Why not give one to Sheila, and replace it when we get to New York?”
    John was too quick to offer my belongings, but I hid my annoyance and forced a smile. “Of course. You may take my brown woolen when you leave tonight, Sheila.”
    Later, as she shrugged into a coat I wore perhaps once or twice a year in London, I suppressed yet another unpleasant emotion: pure spite. Once again, something of mine was handed over to this girl.I still have not forgiven the girl for the first role she played in Ari’s life: wet nurse.  



One Response to “The Book Box”

  1. chalaedra June 7, 2013 at 1:15 am #

    Reblogged this on Chalaedra's Weblog and commented:

    A young mother clings to her child as she watches the sinking Titanic and relives the events leading up to the moment in which she finds herself. The Book Box, a short story by Roberta Branca. Available from Amazon, other fine eBook vendors and Gypsy Shadow Publishing at:

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