Seeing You Again
Mom and Dad drive me to the airport. They walk with me until I get to security. I stop and turn around to my family. Dad puts my bags down and I can tell he and Mom are on the verge of tears.
Even though Olivia and I already said our goodbyes the night of graduation, there’s still so much to say.
“I love you, Liv. I’ll miss you more than you’ll ever know. If I don’t see you again here, I’ll see you on the other side,” I say, hugging Olivia as tightly as I can.
I feel Olivia’s tears on my bare shoulder.
“I’m going to miss you, Paige. I don’t know how to live without you,” Liv says, sniffling.
“You’ll adapt. We’re pretty good at that,” I reply, smiling. Olivia smiles back at me before backing off. Dad comes up to me next and pulls me into a bear hug.
“I’m going to miss you, pumpkin. I know you’ll do great.”
I hug him even tighter than Olivia. I’ve always been closest to him while Olivia is closer to Mom.
“I’ll miss you too, Dad,” I say.
Mom is giving me a weird, knowing look. I can’t tell what she’s thinking. She comes up to me and holds my shoulders, still giving me a strange look.
“If you ever need to talk about anything going on in your life, you can always call me. I know we’ve never been super close, but I’m your mom and I love you more than life itself. I always will, no matter how far away you go,” Mom says earnestly. I give her a strange look. She has some crazy weird mother intuition.
“Thanks, Mom. I love you,” I say.
I look at my family and feel more sadness than I ever thought I would. It’s probably because I have every intention of not seeing them again. They are what I have to lose to be with Theo again. It feels awful, but that’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make.
I touch down in Honolulu early the next morning. When I step out into the magnificently warm day, I know I’m home. At least as close to home as I can get.
I have an apartment already, so I drop all my stuff off there. I wrote down the address of the nursing home Theo lives in.
I don’t know how to feel; nervous, excited? Will he be happy to see me? Will he still be mad?
Either way, it’s something I have to do. There’d be no point in going back to 1941 if Theo won’t forgive me. If he’s still mad at me, I won’t try to go back. If he did forgive me, I’ll give up everything to live my life with him.
The cab stops in front of a nice, homey looking building. It’s one of those nursing homes that looks like separate housing on a street from the forties. I smile to myself as I make my way to the front desk. As nervous as I am about seeing Theo again, I still feel a tingle of exhilaration ripple down my spine.
“Hi, I’m looking for a man named Theodore Evans,” I tell the receptionist. She smiles at me as she types on her computer.
“He’s in apartment twenty-four. He should be in there if you want to go knock on his door. Just sign in, please,” she says brightly, handing me a clipboard. I smile, the nervousness in my stomach growing almost painful, and sign my name.
“Thanks,” I reply with a strangled breath.
I walk along the lines of the apartments. Twenty-one, twenty-two, twenty-three, and there it is. I take a deep breath and knock on the door. I hear shuffling inside and the door opens.
Theo’s just as tall as I remember. His hair has turned white and wrinkles show his age, but he’s just as handsome as he had been the day I met him.
“Hi, I don’t know if you remember me, but-.”
I’m cut off when Theo hugs me. I’m thinking maybe he isn’t so mad at me anymore. Seventy years is a long time to hold a grudge, after all.
After I get over my shock, I hug him back and a million memories fill my mind. Theo lets me go and motions for me to come in.
“Come in, come in,” he says. I nod and walk into the little apartment. It’s also designed like one from the forties would be. It makes me smile.
“Sit down. Would you like something to drink?” he asks. I sit on the couch he has.
“No, thank you,” I say. He sits next to me and smiles.
“You look just the same,” Theo says, touching my cheek. I’m getting teary-eyed.
“I only got back a few weeks ago,” I tell him.
“That time travel thing is so crazy,” he says like it’s normal.
“I had to see you. I didn’t like the way things were left before I disappeared and I owe you an apology and an explanation,” I explain. It’s still so fresh for me. Theo smiles.
“That was seventy years ago for me. I had a lot of time to think about it and I forgave you long ago,” he says. I nod, twisting my hands together.
“All the same. I want to explain myself,” I say.
“Okay. Let’s hear it,” he replies.
“I fell so hopelessly in love with you. I didn’t know if we would ever make it home and I thought if I had to stay there, I would have been just fine with it. I told you about the time-traveling because I didn’t want to lie to you. I know I did anyway, but everything that happened at Pearl Harbor was history for me. I knew what happened afterward. We tried to help on the Titanic and it happened, regardless. I thought nothing we did would have changed what happened at Pearl Harbor.
“I was also scared not to let it happen. I know a lot of people died and I will carry those deaths in my heart for as long as I live, but you know what was happening in Europe. It’s easy analyzing things with seventy years’ worth of hindsight. I was scared that if the bombing at Pearl Harbor didn’t happen, if it didn’t make World War II personal for the United States, that we would never get involved. If we didn’t, countless more lives would have been lost. It’s not an excuse, but that was my reasoning,” I explain.
“It was a lot for any one person to have on their shoulders, especially someone so young. After World War II ended, I spent many nights thinking about it and you were right to let it happen. It was awful, but we might be speaking German or Japanese right now if you changed something. Time travel is a big responsibility,” Theo says, and a weight pulls off my shoulders. He’ll understand, and that’s all I need to know.
“Well, tell me about your life,” I say as my tears fall.
“I went over and fought in the Pacific for a few years. When the war ended, I came back here. I wanted to make sure you could find me if you ever came back. I made a life for myself. I started my own business offering plane tours of the islands,” he explains.
“Did you ever get married or have any kids?” I ask, not sure if I want to hear the answer.
“Uh, no. I tried dating, but the only woman I wanted to spend my life with disappeared December seventh, 1941,” Theo says quietly. I am crying again. He pulls me to him and hugs me tightly.
“I want nothing more than to go back and spend my life with you,” I say in gasps as I cry.
“There’s nothing to do about it now. Tell me about your life since you’ve been back,” Theo says when my sobs quiet.
“Life is not the same. I’m not the same as I used to be. I’m here to study music. I graduated, but there’s no going back,” I say.
“Going back to what?” he asks.
“My life. So much happened to me while I was gone, and not all of it bad. I mean I fell in love and that’s not something I expected to happen and especially not when I was so young. I grew up a lot in the month I was gone, and I’ve seen so much more than I ever wanted to. Then to try to go back to my meaningless existence as a teenager is just so impossible,” I try to explain.
“Your existence is not meaningless. I used knowing you were out there somewhere, thinking maybe I would see you again to get through some really tough spots in my life,” Theo says. I smile slightly.
“I love you.”
“I love you too. I never stopped, even when I was mad at you,” Theo replies.
It should have been weird because he’s like ninety-nine, but it isn’t. This must be what it’s like when you grow old together. You change and your appearance changes, but to the other, you stay the same as the day you fell in love because you fell in love with their soul, not their looks.
“I’ll be right back,” Theo says, getting up from the couch and heading into a back room.
Theo comes back a few minutes later with a cello case. He hands it to me and I stand to set it on the couch. When I open it, I see the reddish cello Theo bought me the night before Olivia and William’s wedding.
“You kept it all this time?” I ask, incredulous.
“It’s all I had left of you after you left,” Theo replies.
I take it out and tune it up. I play a little and Theo looks at peace. I smile at him as I put the cello back in the case.
“I’ve waited over seventy years to hear that sound again,” Theo says, smiling.
I have to leave after that, but every time I visit him after that, I play my cello. I leave the one I’ve had for a while at home and only play the one Theo bought me so long ago.
I have rehearsals with the orchestra, but most of the time I am free to spend time with Theo. So for a few months, I visit him every day.
The next time I visit Theo, I pull out the cello and play The Cello Song. Theo smiles at the song.
“It reminds me of the first night I met you,” he says, closing his eyes remembering. I smile at him. He always tells me he loves the way I look when I play.
For a while, I’m not so sad. It doesn’t seem like this life will be so bad. It’s not the same, but he’s still here and that’s all I need.
Olivia is thrilled to hear all about it. I know she’s happy for me, but I can also hear the sadness. She had her time with William in 1941, but it’ll never happen for her again. I am sorry for that.
One day in August, after several months of visiting Theo, I walk up to the front desk to sign in. Instead of receiving the usual smile, I am met with a sad look.
“Is something wrong?” I ask, fear gripping me. The receptionist shakes her head.
“Mr. Evans passed away last night in his sleep,” she says softly.
My world is collapsing. I fall to the floor and start hyperventilating. My vision darkens around the edges and I think I might blackout. I feel a hand on my arm, but I can’t tell who it is. I’m vaguely aware that I’m being led somewhere. I’m lowered into a chair, I guess. I don’t know how long I sit there before I hear a voice.
“I know you were close to Mr. Evans. He was so much happier since you’ve been coming to see him. He never married or had kids. There was no one else to visit him. Just know you made his last months better,” a woman says.
My breathing slows and I gain control of myself, but I can feel the despair swallowing me again. I’ve lost Theo for good.
“He left you a letter in case he didn’t see you again,” the woman says, handing me an envelope.
I can’t bring myself to open it, not yet. I walk home, lugging the cello with me. The receptionist was instructed to give it to me by Theo.
I can’t think about anything but Theo. Would it have been better to never see him again? I was given a respite from the sorrow I’ve felt in my life since I came back. Would it have been better to not have that? I’m thinking maybe it might have been because losing him again so permanently hurts so much more than I could have thought possible.
When I finally get to my apartment, I sit on my bed. I decide it’s time to open Theo’s letter. I recognize his scribbly cursive, but it has a shake to it now.
I am an old man, and I have lived a long life. I wish it had been more fulfilling in some areas. There were a lot of things I wanted to do, but there would have been no point in doing them without you. My life was still a pretty good one. I can feel my time on Earth is coming to an end. I’m glad I held on long enough to see you again. I can’t begin to tell you how happy I was seeing you again after so long. The best days of my life were spent with you, however fleeting they may have been. You are just as beautiful as the day I met you. You have made my last months of life so full; full of happiness, full of laughter, and especially full of love. I have loved you for seventy long years and I will love you from where ever I go after this, but I need you to do a few things for me. Don’t grieve that I am gone. My life was long, there’s no sadness in it ending now. I know you were happier these last months than you were since you got home. There is no guarantee you will make it back to 1941. If you do, I will be there to love you and live the life we were supposed to, but if you do not, try to find happiness in the life you have. You have a wonderful gift for music. Use it to fill up your life and please try to find someone to love. I know I never did. You were it for me, but I don’t have to be it for you. Get married, have kids. Do everything I didn’t do in my life. Find some meaning in your life beyond me and everything we will never have. Please be happy. I love you.
With all the love in the world,
I spend a good few hours holding on to that letter, reading it, and rereading it, all the while crying over everything I’ve lost. I call Olivia. My voice is thick from all the crying.
“Hey, Paige,” she answers.
“He’s gone, Liv,” I manage to get out before more tears came.
“I’m so sorry. I’ll fly out to see you,” she says.
We speak some more, but I’m happy I won’t have to grieve alone. I put in my headphones and turn on my Spotify playlist. When it lands on There You’ll Be from the Pearl Harbor soundtrack, I immediately break down in hysterics. The lyrics hit way too close to home and they would have been bad enough, but it’s so much worse after losing Theo again.
I immediately delete the song, never wanting to hear it again. It’s a good one, but it only reminds me of Theo and all that we once had and would not have again.
I get a letter from the nursing home that there is no one to claim Theo’s body. No family or friends were still alive. I ask them if I can and they release his body to me. Theo changed his Will to leave everything he had to me. He made me the beneficiary of his life insurance policies. That at least leaves me enough money to give him a nice funeral. I don’t know whether he wanted to be cremated or buried. It was never a conversation we thought to have.
Olivia gets in the next day. I pick her up from the airport and meet her at the baggage claim. She runs to me and hugs me.
“I’m so sorry,” she says. I return the hug, happy she’s here so I don’t have to do everything alone.
“Thank you for coming. I don’t think I could handle this on my own,” I say, my voice thick.
We leave the airport and head straight for the funeral home. I’ve never been in one, and I’m kind of creeped out.
The funeral home director goes through the options with me. I decide on a nice but inexpensive coffin. There’s an available plot at National Memorial Cemetery. A lot of people who died during the attack on Pearl Harbor are buried there. I think Theo deserves to be there too.
Olivia helps with all the arrangements. We schedule his funeral five days from that day. We go to the paper after that. I write an obituary for him. There isn’t much I can say. I write about his service in World War II and a little about his life after. He’s only survived by Olivia and me.
We go shopping after that for something to wear. I don’t know if there will be anyone at the funeral besides us, and that makes me sad. Theo deserves so much more than that. He deserves to have his widowed wife and adult children there with their spouses, dozens of grandchildren, and quite possibly great-grandchildren.
Theo never had any of that because he fell in love with me, a time-traveling girl from a time too far from his own. I’m still grateful for his love. It’s the best thing to happen to me, regardless of the sadness I’ve felt because of it.
The funeral is a nice affair. The weather is good, and a priest came to say a few things. People came; no one he knew, but they saw a WWII vet died and some wanted to honor him.
I feel better knowing there are people here. I give a eulogy, but it’s nothing close to what I want to say. It won’t make sense for an eighteen-year-old girl to be saying such things about a ninety-nine-year-old man. All in all, it’s as nice as I could have hoped.
After everyone leaves, Liv and I sit at his plot for a while longer. She stays with me and comforts me while I cry. I’ve never been more thankful for her presence than I am right now.
“Thank you for being here with me,” I say.
“There’s nowhere else I would rather be right now,” Olivia replies.
We walk back to my apartment in silence. When we get back, we sit together on the couch.
“So what’s next for you?” Liv asks. I shrug because I have absolutely no idea.
“I don’t know. Keep up with the motions, I guess. Maybe if I get lucky, I will feel that pulling in my stomach and the wind blowing me to a time I could be happier,” I say. Olivia smiles slightly at me.
“Yeah, me too,” she replies. Liv has to go home as school will be starting in a few days. I have to start living my life again, as it would have been if I’d never gone back in time at all. I put everything I have into my music. I practice more often than necessary and put in all my hurt, sadness, and loneliness into every performance.
I’m playing better than I ever have before. It’s still only barely keeping my depression at bay, but I’ll try to do what Theo asked of me. I’ll try to find some happiness in the life I have.
School starts, and while everyone is feeling the excitement of it being their last year in high school, I am hollow. The whole summer, I’ve been trying to take Mom’s advice and find my place in my new life. It’s been so much harder than I thought it would be.
Hanging out with a few of my better friends and listening to their petty high school drama doesn’t hold the same appeal for me as it once did. I don’t have a boyfriend to make the time pass.
The night before school, my mom comes to my room. I’m trying to decide what to wear for my first day of senior year.
“I think you should wear that one,” Mom says, pointing to the nice summer dress I have in my left hand.
“I was thinking that too,” I say, putting the other option back in my closet. Mom sits down on my bed and I know a talk is coming.
“I know how hard you’ve tried to find your place here again and I’m glad, but you still seem depressed. No judgment, but maybe it would help you to talk to someone, like a counselor, about exactly what’s wrong. You can always talk to me if you want to tell me the whole story, but if you don’t feel comfortable, I could find someone,” she says. I want so much to tell her everything, but I don’t know if I can.
“I want to tell you everything more than anything in this world, but I’m so scared you will have me committed,” I reply. Mom looks shocked.
“I would never. I can see you’re in real pain and if telling me what happened makes you feel better, I want to do that for you.”
I look at her and see the sincerity in her eyes. I decide that I’ll tell her everything. Whatever happens, happens.
“Like I said before, it started that weekend you and Dad went away. Something extraordinary happened to Paige and me…,” I start.
I tell Mom the whole story, every single detail. To Mom’s credit, she sits and listens to my every word and holds me when I cry, without any sort of judgment. When I finally finish, Mom is silent.
“That really happened to you?” she asks. I swallow the lump in my throat.
“It did, and Paige and I thought it was Fate that took us. There’s this old Chinese myth called the Red String of Fate. Mom, I saw my thread when we were traveling and it was connected to William. The only reason I could think that we traveled was because my soulmate was back in 1912,” I reply.
I hold my breath, waiting for her to tell me I’m crazy. Mom just smiles sweetly at me, though.
“I believe you, baby. Everything makes so much sense now,” she replies.
I look at Mom with a startled expression. It’s kind of strange to me that everyone we’ve told about the time-traveling seemed to believe it. If the roles were reversed, I don’t know if I would believe such a thing if it hadn’t happened to me.
“What? You thought I wouldn’t believe you?” Mom asks.
“Who would, Mom? It’s crazy,” I reply.
“Well, William believed you and so did Theo. Why wouldn’t your mother?” she asks.
“Can you tell me the real reason you visited your sister? She sounded terrible the last time I talked to her. I think she was trying to hide it, but she didn’t do a very good job,” Mom asks. I sigh.
“She found Theo, Mom. He was ninety-nine and in a nursing home, but she found him,” I say.
“That’s wonderful,” she replies. I nod and continue.
“Yeah, but he died, and he didn’t have any family. He never got married or anything, so he left everything to Paige. She had to arrange his funeral and everything.” Mom gives me such a sad look.
“Oh my. She had to go through that and I wasn’t there,” Mom says on the verge of tears.
“She had me, Mom. She wasn’t alone,” I reply, and she nods, hugging me tightly.
“You’re right. Maybe you could tell her I know so she feels like she can talk to me.”
I heave in a breath, and it’s a wonderful feeling to have told Mom everything.
“I wish I was there to see you get married,” Mom says wistfully.
I get up from the bed and go to my jewelry box. I pick up the box that holds my wedding rings and the single picture I have of William. I sit back down next to her and hand her the box. Mom opens it slowly and gasps at the contents.
“These are beautiful, Olivia,” she says, taking them out.
It’s hard to look at them. I haven’t gotten them out since we came home. It’s too painful. I glance at them and away.
“What’s wrong?” Mom asks when she sees me look away.
“One of the hardest things I’ve had to do since I got home was taking those off and put them away,” I reply, tears streaming down my cheeks again.
My mom smiles sadly. She picks up my left hand and puts them back on my ring finger. I look at those beautiful bands and start sobbing.
“They belong right there. Don’t take them off again. I understand what wedding bands mean to a person,” Mom says, holding my hand.
“This is William,” I say, handing her the picture. Mom looks it over and smiles.
“He’s very handsome, Liv,” Mom says. I smile at the picture.
“Yeah, he was,” I sigh. She pats my hand and then gets up from my bed. There’s nothing more to say.
“Thank you,” I say. Mom looks back.
“Of course, honey. That’s what I’m here for. I will always be here for you to trust and confide in,” she says before leaving down the hall. I wonder if she’ll tell Dad. I kind of don’t think so.
Delete Created with Sketch.
I go through the motions of school and try to find a place again, for Mom. A lot of people glance at the ridiculously expensive rings on my finger, but no one asks me about them. I think everyone in the school can sense something is different, but I get through it, day after day.
Mom trusted me enough to believe me, and it’s the least I can do for her. Knowing my mom knows everything and believes me, no less, makes the prospect of leaving her for good so much more heartbreaking, but Mom would want that for me. I know she would.