Simple Twist of Fate

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The Rest of Our Lives

Olivia

I graduate at the top of my class, thanks to my lack of a social life, and I even get my depression under control. I am, more or less, happy with my life. It could always get better, but I don’t think it could get worse. The worst thing to happen in my life already occurred. The rest is cake compared to that.

I even spend time with my dad. We went flying a few times, and I even went fishing with him. It’s not so gross to me anymore after the hospital at Pearl Harbor. That will always be the most disgusting thing to happen to me.

Paige comes home for my graduation. She’s still going about the motions of her life and I know she’s pouring her hurt into her music, but I think she’s happier to be able to talk to Mom about it all. They were never as close as Mom and I, but Paige still needs Mom. I think this whole ordeal has brought them closer together. They talk every night now.

I move to New York after graduation, and Paige and Mom come with me to help me unpack. We find me an apartment close to where William lived so long ago. Once I’m all settled and Mom and Paige are about to head home, Mom asks to talk to us.

“This is hard for me because you’re my babies, but I need to tell you this, in case I never see you again,” she says. I give her a concerned look.

“Is everything okay?” I ask. Mom smiles brightly at us both.

“Everything is wonderful. I wanted to tell you how much I love you and if I should never see you again, I need you to know that,” she replies.

Paige and I go silent. She must think we’ll travel again before she sees us. Mom goes to the spare room of the apartment where she’s been sleeping. Paige and I look at each other, confused. Mom comes back out with two wooden boxes. She gives one to each of us. They’re beautifully engraved.

“Don’t open them,” she blurts. I let the partially open lid fall.

“Open them if you make it back,” she says trying, and failing, to stifle tears. She can tell Paige and I are confused.

“If you travel again and make it back to William and Theo, respectively, open the boxes. There are letters in there, and I’ve marked each one for the life event they correspond to. If you make it back to them, I won’t see you again and I want to be there, in some form, for your big life events. Promise me you won’t read them until the time is right,” Mom says, full-on crying now.

Paige and I are crying too. I haven’t thought about all the things we will want our mom and dad there for. Mom is giving us two wonderful gifts; her blessing to go back and making all this effort to be there, in some way, for all our big moments.

“We promise,” Paige and I say together, hugging Mom so tightly.

“I love you both so much. Be happy,” Mom replies.

“I’ve got one more thing for each of you,” Mom says, pulling out a long slender jewelry box and a smaller, square one.

Mom hands the long one to me and the small one to Paige. I open it up and inside is my bracelet, the one I lost the night the Titanic sank. I take it out and try to keep from crying.

“Mom, thank you.” Mom smiles at me and hugs me.

“With yours on display at a museum, I thought you’d need another one,” she says.

Paige opens hers next. Inside is a vintage engagement ring. There’s a decent-sized sapphire as the center stone with smaller diamonds on each side. The prongs holding the sapphire in place look like the feet of a claw-footed bathtub. It’s beautifully engraved all along the sides. Paige is speechless.

“It belonged to my grandmother. She died before you were born, but she gave this to me to give to my firstborn. She probably had a son in mind, but I have you. Please use this as your wedding ring and pass it on someday.”

“Mom, I don’t know what to say,” Paige replies.

“Say that you’ll take it,” Mom says. Paige nods, smiling. She immediately puts the ring on her left ring finger.

“I love it. Thank you,” Paige says, hugging Mom tightly.

***

As it happens, I don’t travel for two more years. I have two years’ worth of holidays and other events with my family before I feel that tugging. I hope it’ll take me back to 1912.

I have my box with me at all times, just in case. It’s lucky I do because I’m checking my mail when it happens. The wind starts blowing faster and I’m being pulled somewhere.

I’m suspended in the nothingness once again and I can see my thread just as vibrant red as it had been before.

Just as it did before, I see my thread getting shorter with each passing moment until finally, I’m aboard another ship. I’m wearing a coat, thank God, because it’s cold. I am wearing a dress today, so at least I’m not in shorts and a tank top again.

I see hundreds of people looking cold and miserable huddled together on the deck. A man in a ship’s uniform comes walking by.

“Excuse me, could you tell me what ship I’m on please?” I ask as he passes.

“This is the RMS Carpathia, Ma’am,” the man says clocking my wedding rings.

I smile at the man and thank him. The Carpathia is the ship that saved the Titanic’s survivors. It has only been a few hours since I left. I look at the sky and can see dawn winking in the distance.

William and his family will be on this ship. I run through groups of people, looking for a familiar face. The people I’m with look to be of the lower classes. William won’t be here. A hand grabs my arm, stopping me.

“Tank you,” a young woman says in some sort of accent. She has a small child with her. I smile warmly at her. She’s one of the people that I made sure I got on the lifeboats.

“You’re welcome. I wish you a happy life,” I reply, patting her hand. The woman smiles and lets me go. I immediately go on my way to find William. I’m nervous and excited all at the same time.

Finally, I find them; a group of first-class passengers. I search each face until my eyes finally find William’s. I smile hugely and break into a run. I barrel through other survivors.

William turns at the last second and sees me. He smiles and catches me just as I reach him. He hugs me tightly and I melt in his arms. All my sadness, loneliness, and depression from the last few years instantly dissipates. Nothing else matters now that I’m with William.

“Where did you go?” he asks quietly.

“1941 for a few weeks, then back home for three years,” I say.

“I’m glad you’re back,” he replies.

“It’s all I’ve been waiting for,” I respond. William frowns when he sees my wedding bands.

“Did you get married?” he asks, holding me back a bit. I smile widely.

“Yeah, in 1941,” I reply. William’s frown deepens and I laugh, which makes him mad.

“I married you, dummy,” I say, throwing my arms around him and kissing him enough for the three years I was without him. William laughs loudly and pulls me tightly to him.

***

When William and I make it to the place we will call home, I pull out my box. I open it and find a ton of letters, just as Mom promised. Each white envelope has writing on the front of them. ’When you get there, ’ one says. Another says, ’when you get married’, ’when you have your first baby’. I smile at the letters.

“What are those?” William asks me, seeing me looking through the box.

“They’re letters from my mom,” I reply, smiling.

“Your mom wrote you letters?” he asks.

“Yeah. She wanted a part of her to be here for all the big moments I have,” I reply.

“Can you read anything now?” William asks. I nod and take out the ’when you get there’ letter.

Dear Olivia,

If you’re reading this, you made it back to William. As sad as I am to lose my daughter, I am very happy for you. Being a mother is all about letting their birds leave the nest one day. I wish you hadn’t flown so far, but your happiness is always my priority. This includes letting you go. Be happy and be there for your sister when you can.

Love always, Mom

William sits as I read the letter out loud. He smiles at me. I sniffle and he pulls me into his arms.

“Your mom sounds wonderful,” he replies.

“She really is,” I say.

***

William and I marry not long after, and as I sit getting my hair done, I read my mom’s other letter.

Dear Olivia,

It must be your wedding day. I always imagined your dad and I would be there, but we aren’t. Have a magical time anyway. I Googled wedding dresses from 1912 and I can almost imagine what you will look like and, my God, you’re stunning. Marriage is a big step, but you’ve taken that step once before and I know you picked right. Fate brought you and William together and I know your marriage will work. Don’t let knowing you belong together make you complacent, though. Even though you’re soulmates, you’ll have to work every day to make your marriage work. If you put in all the work, you two will grow blissfully old together. Tell William I love him. I know I will never meet him, but if he’s good enough for my baby, he’s worthy of my love too. Have a wonderful time tonight. With any luck, this will be the last time you marry William. Please know Dad and I will love you forever and wish the best for you.

Love always, Mom

I smile at my letter, and I can smell my mom’s perfume. Through the letters, she is here.

I have a beautiful wedding and it’s the best night of my life. Standing up at that alter saying ’I do’ with William standing across from me, has been the single greatest thing ever to happen to me, both times I’ve done it.

***

As the years pass, I write letters to Paige about everything that’s happening. I’ll keep them and give them to her when I see her again. If for some reason I don’t make it, I’ll find some way to get them to her. She needs to know that my life has been amazing.

In 1914 we have our first child. It’s a girl and we name her Emily Paige. One night as I rock our daughter, I pull out Mom’s letter.

Dear Olivia,

You must have had your first baby. That’s such a scary and amazing thing, isn’t it? When I had Paige, I was so terrified I wouldn’t be a good mother, but I think I did a pretty good job. We raised beautiful, smart, and kind young women, and I know you’ll do well. All I have to go on is that one picture I saw of William, but I imagine your baby being every bit as beautiful as you. Raising a kid in any time is difficult, and it’s such a big job and there’s no handbook or instruction manual. There will be times when you don’t know if you’re doing anything right, but trust me, you are. As long as you love that kid with all you’ve got, that kid will love you like no other. There were times when I would look at you when you slept and I would be filled with so much love, I felt I couldn’t breathe. I still feel so much love I can’t breathe when I think of you growing up. I know you’ll be a good mother and you need to know it too. Every time you think you are failing, look at this letter and listen to me when I tell you, you’re not.

Love always, Mom

In 1917, we have our second child. It’s a boy, and we name him Russell Theodore. We have no more kids after that, but we live blissfully together. I speak often of Paige and our lives together with my kids.

Whenever they ask about her, I tell them we’ll see her in 1942. We’ll make our way to Hawaii when I know she’ll be there; after the bombing.

Mom’s letters continue, and it feels like she thought of everything. Every little thing she thought I would need my mom for, she wrote a letter. One of her letters is titled, ’When you’re missing me for no reason at all’.

My life continues though, and it’s every bit as amazing as Mom said it would be. William and I fight sometimes, which is to be expected because we’re from two very different worlds. There’s so much that’s different, and it causes rifts when it comes to raising our children. Mom has letters for that too. Still, our lives are happy.

***

So we live. Our children grow and are soon old enough to go off on their own. They don’t go far, and Emily lives with us until she finds someone she wants to marry. Every year we get closer to the time I’ll see Paige again and every year, our family gets bigger.

When it’s finally time to go, we take a plane to Hawaii. It’s the first time Emily, Russell, or any of their kids have been on a plane and they’re amazed by it. I smile at William and try to see their amazement through their eyes.

When we touch down in Hawaii, I grow very nervous. I’m nearing fifty and my kids are older than Paige will be with kids and spouses of their own.

I’m not exactly sure where she’ll be. If she traveled the same as me, she would have arrived maybe December eighth.

Paige will have been here a month already. I try to remember places we frequented when we were here for those few weeks.

My family and I head to the beach first. I see her by some rocks we often sat at. She’s sitting with someone and I hope it’s Theo. I smile and we make our way over to her. She looks just the same as when I saw her last at Christmas so many years before.

Paige turns at once and sees me. Her eyes light up and she runs to me. I open my arms for her and she falls into them.

“We made it, Liv,” Paige says as she hugs me. She’s crying now. I smile and hug her tighter.

“Yes, we did,” I reply. Paige pulls back to look at me.

“How old are you?” she asks. I grimace.

“Forty-seven,” I grumble. Paige laughs hysterically and I wait for her to stop.

“You remember William,” I say, pointing at him. She smiles warmly and goes to hug him.

“Theo, come here!” she calls. Theo comes over, looking just the same.

“Olivia?” he asks. I smile at him and nod.

“In the flesh. You remember William?” I say.

“Hey, William, how’s it going, man?” Theo says, shaking William’s hand.

William looks uncertain. I told him about everything that happened when I was in 1941 the first time.

“When I went back to 1912, the timeline changed for him. He hasn’t met you or anyone here yet,” I explain.

“Oh, yeah. Time travel, am I right? I’m Theodore Evans,” Theo says, introducing himself for a second time.

“William McCarthy. Yes, time travel has been quite strange. I am thankful for it though.”

“Oh me too, brother,” Theo replies, looking lovingly at Paige.

“These are our kids, Emily and Russell.” My kids walk up now and introduce themselves to Paige and Theo.

“I have a niece and nephew?” Paige asks.

“And great-nieces and nephews,” I say, introducing my grandchildren as well.

“God, they’re older than I am,” Paige gushes. She hugs my kids and grandkids tightly, like she’s known them their whole lives.

Things are perfect now. I made it back to William; we lived a wonderful life together, with more to come, and I have Paige again. It’s not the life I originally envisioned for myself, but it’s the life I’m supposed to have.


Paige

Two years after Mom gave me her box of letters, I feel the telltale signs of time travel. I make sure I have my box and say a silent goodbye to all the things I’m leaving behind, but I know better things are waiting for me.

I touch down in the same place I disappeared. I smile as I feel the warm breeze on my skin. It’s ruined by the sharp smell of burning. It’s still the same day.

Someone walks out of the hospital. I look over and I see him. I smile and run to Theo. He’s probably still pissed at me, but I have all the time in the world to make it right. I know he’ll forgive me.

Theo turns just as I reach him. He instinctively holds out his arms to catch me so I won’t fall. I hug him tightly, though he doesn’t return the hug.

“Look, I know you’re mad at me, but I haven’t seen you for three years since you died and I love you,” I say in a rush. Theo pulls back and looks at me.

“Where have you been?” he asks a little sharply.

“I went home to 2019. I have been there for three years waiting and hoping to come back,” I reply, feeling tears starting.

Theo’s anger momentarily dissipates. He pulls me back into a hug and this time he hugs me back and speaks into my hair.

“I didn’t know where you guys went or if I would ever see you again,” he replies. I smile, knowing my home is in these arms.

“I found you there, in 2019. You were ninety-nine, but I found you,” I say, sobbing. I’m just so happy to be with him and to know that he still cares.

“You need to explain things, but I’m glad your back. I love you,” he says, finally kissing me. Once his lips meet mine, I know my life is complete.

The day after I get home, I go to the little house that had been my home so long ago and found Ethel sitting on the porch writing a letter.

As I approach the stairs, she looks up and squeals so loudly she could have broken glass. She jumps up and runs to me. Evelyn, Betty, and Mary run out the front door to see who’s murdering Ethel. After a moment of stunned shock, they too run to me and give me the biggest hug.

“You’re home! Where did you go?” Evelyn shouts. I smile and my heart is so full of the love I feel for these girls. It has been far too long without my friends.

“Where’s Olivia?” Mary asks in her mousy voice. My smile falls only slightly. I can’t be sad when I know she’s living her best life.

“Let me tell you guys a story…” I reply smiling.

Any doubt I had before that this is truly my home is gone now. Between Theo, Daniel, and these girls, I have a family and that’s the next best thing to having Mom and Dad.

Theo is mad for a little while, but I explain things to him and I know he’ll understand when things get worse in the years to come before they get better.

***

It’s only a month later that Olivia and William come with their kids and grandkids. She’s older, but I’m so happy to see her and the perfect life she built with William. It’s like all the dreams we never knew we had are finally coming true.

Daniel, Evelyn, Ethel, Betty, Roger, Rodrigo, and Mary all know of our time traveling by the time Olivia gets to Hawaii. They hung back during our reunion, but don’t wait long before rushing her and William with hugs and well wishes.

Olivia is startled by their presence, but I explain that they know everything. They welcome Olivia back into the family we built for ourselves as if no time has passed. For them, almost none has, but for Olivia, it has been a little over thirty years. William has to be reintroduced to everyone since his timeline changed. How extremely confusing time travel is.

None of that mattered to anyone, though. I’ve come to find out that’s what a real family is. Obviously, it’s your mom and dad, brothers and sisters, and all the other family you may have, but family is also what you make it. When you have no others, you can always find an amazing family with the friends you make. It’s not about blood; it’s about love.

Theo and I get engaged not long after and we’re married. Mom has a letter for that. We have a beautiful beach wedding, just like I dreamed of.

In their advancing age and with their kids living lives of their own, Olivia and William move to the island. I’m overjoyed I have my sister here with me for the wedding and with Theo being gone. He has to go fight in the Pacific. I worry every day, but I know he lives through this war relatively unscathed. Besides, I have Olivia and William with me.

When Theo finally gets home in 1945 after the war ends, we try for two years to have a baby. I don’t handle pregnancy well and I lose most of them. Olivia is there with me through all the devastation of losing each baby I give my whole heart to, and I’m grateful. It’s like Mom knew this would happen because she has a letter for it.

Dear Paige,

I know this is a hard time in your life. Miscarriage is one of the hardest things I’ve ever gone through. I had one before you and one after Olivia and both ripped my heart out. I know the toll it takes on your body and your heart. I wish I was there to hold you and tell you it’s okay to cry, that it’s okay to not be okay. I can’t be there, but I am confident Liv is. It’s okay to be sad about this. I am confident you will be a mother before long and when that baby is finally born, it will be all the sweeter after so much heartbreak. You will come out the other side of this stronger than before. You are so much stronger than you know, baby. I love you so much.

Love always, Mom

Finally, the last pregnancy before I call it quits, Theo and I become parents to a little girl. We name her Hannah Grace after Mom. Mom’s name was Grace. Our Hannah is born in 1947.

***

The years progress, and though Hannah is our only child, she’s the light of our lives. I didn’t think I could love someone with so much of myself and still have room for the head over heels love I still feel for Theo after all these years, but I do, just like Mom said.

The heart will never be full. It will just keep stretching to fit all the new love you gain over the years, Mom had said in her letter for me to read when I had Hannah. She was right.

In 1982, William dies. He’s been battling cancer and the hospitals aren’t up to the same standards as they will be. Still, William lived a long life, and because Olivia made it back to him, a happy one. Olivia is okay considering it all. She has great-grandchildren now, but it’s not too many more years before the angel of death comes to take her home too.

Olivia dies in May of 1985. Theo and I are in our sixties and we have a few grandchildren too. It’s hard losing my sister, much harder than I thought. Once, she was younger than me. I was supposed to go before her, but since she aged beyond my years, she sort of took up the big sister mantle.

When we first were together again, she was Mom’s age. Sadness does not rip me apart though, because how can you be sad when someone has lived such a wonderfully full life with so much love? Besides, Mom wrote a letter for that too.

Dear Paige,

I know losing Olivia will be hard. She’s your baby sister and your best friend. Even though she’s the older one, she will never stop being your younger sister. You and Liv were always so close and I hope you stayed that way even with the ridiculous age difference. I hope Liv was there for everything I was not. Olivia had her time without you, and now it’s your turn. It won’t be easy, but you will get through it. You still have a lot of life left and it will be so fulfilling even without Olivia to share it with. She loves you so, so much. Please know that. I love you too.

Love always, Mom

It’s hard without Liv, but I’ll get through it. It’s difficult and I miss her a lot. The loved ones left behind don’t have much of a choice than to keep living their lives. So that’s what I do. Having Theo and all my family helps, and boy, do I have a lot of family.

***

Years go by, and Theo and I go on to have great-grandchildren before we die. Theo dies when he’s ninety-nine of the same thing he died of in the other timeline. The difference is he’s not living alone in some nursing home.

My husband dies at the house we built for ourselves and poured years of happy memories into. He dies with me by his side and his daughter, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren surrounding him.

This time, Theo dies having everything he didn’t have before. He has a wife and child, a whole family who loves him dearly. He had a life so much more fulfilling than most people could hope for. He had a life full of happiness, laughter, and, most importantly, love. And so did I

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