Simple Twist of Fate

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Epilogue

Grace

I’m not sure when the girls leave, but I’m sleeping one night and wake with a start. I instantly know that my babies had gone home. I don’t know how I know. Call it a mother’s intuition, I guess, but I know my girls are no longer here.

I Googled them and find Olivia had died in the eighties, but Paige is still alive. Her husband died recently, but she still lives in Hawaii. I want to go see her, but I need to convince my husband, Russ, first.

I knew, in the back of my mind, when my daughters left, I’d probably never see them again, but I’d know they were out there somewhere. Knowing one of them is gone from this world forever breaks my heart into a million pieces. You aren’t supposed to outlive your kids.

I try to rationalize that they are old and lived their lives brilliantly, that there is no sadness in a life-ending after all those years, but I can’t help my despair. They’re still my babies no matter how many years they lived.

One night, as we lay in bed, Russ asks me what’s wrong. I want to explain why I’m upset, but for him to understand, I’ll have to tell him where Paige and Olivia went.

So I tell Russ what happened to our kids before and where they are now. He doesn’t believe me at first, but after a few failed phone calls, he agrees to travel to Hawaii with me.

“If I’m lying or crazy, it will just be a nice vacation to paradise,” I say, satisfied before turning and flipping my bedside lamp off.

Within a week, we’re heading to Hawaii. Once we get there, we get a taxi to take us to Paige’s address. The taxi pulls up to a large, white, Victorian-looking house with a wrap-around porch. It looks like it was built several decades ago, but it’s still in great shape.

Nervously, I walk up to the door, but I hesitate before I knock. Russ is still on the fence about believing me, so he knocks when I can’t. An old woman, possibly in her seventies, answers the door.

“Hi, we’re looking for Paige Wel… Paige Evans,” I say, correcting myself. The woman nods and smiles.

“Come on in. She’s in the sitting room,” the old woman replies, motioning for us to enter.

Once inside, I can hear a cello and I smile. I know that’s Paige. We walk into the sitting room and see an even older lady facing toward the window. She looks out at a beautiful, lush garden as she plays with no sheet music.

“Mama, some people are here to see you,” the old lady says.

“Oh,” Paige says, getting up with some difficulty.

Paige seems frail, but when she plays the cello, it’s as if she has all the strength she had the last time I’d seen her play.

Paige finally turns around to see Russ and me. I hear her gasp and Russ mirrors her. He didn’t believe me, but he knows that the old woman is his pumpkin.

“Mom, Dad? What are you doing here?” Paige asks, her voice wobbly with age. I smile so wide, my face feels like it’s going to crack. I rush to her and hug her. She hugs me back as tight as she can.

“When I realized you were gone, I had to look you up,” I reply, looking at her.

“Where’s your sister?” Russ asks. His voice is raspy.

I already told him, but I think he needs to hear for himself. Paige sighs sadly.

“She died some years ago. If you want, I can take you to her grave,” Paige replies. Russ nods. I know he doesn’t dare speak, for fear he’ll break down and cry.

“Oh, I forgot. Hannah, honey, these are your grandparents,” Paige says motioning towards us. Hannah smiles and says,

“Hi, Grandma, Grandpa.”

I didn’t realize she’s Paige’s daughter. She’s beautiful.

“Oh, you’re my grandbaby?” I ask, tearing up. Hannah smiles again.

“Far from a baby, but yeah,” she replies.

“Can I hug you?” I ask. Hannah nods and I embrace her tightly, having thought I’d never see my grandbabies either.

“Does Olivia have children?” Russ asks. Paige nods.

“She had two. Emily and Russell. They died about ten years ago. She’s got plenty of grandkids and great-grandkids running around, though.”

Russ is trying really hard not to break down again, but he can’t help it. Learning Olivia named her only son after him breaks the dam holding back his tears.

“I’d like to go see her now,” Russ says after he pulls himself together. Paige nods, going up to Russ to hug him.

“I missed you, Dad. I didn’t think I’d ever see you again,” she says, her voice thick with unshed tears. Russ grips her tightly and kisses the top of her head.

“I miss you too, pumpkin,” he replies.

Just then, two small children come running into the sitting room. There’s a girl, about four, and a boy, maybe six. The kids run to Hannah and look at Russ and me strangely. Paige looks at them with such love.

“These are my great, great-grandchildren, Blake and Rachel,” Paige introduces. I smile, fighting my tears again. I wave.

“Nice to meet you,” I say to them both. They smile and hide behind Hannah.

“Let’s go see Olivia then,” Paige says, making her way to the door.

“Bye, Hannah. It was lovely meeting you,” I say, grasping Hannah’s hand.

“You too, Grandma,” she replies.

“You’ll have to drive, Dad. I don’t have a license anymore,” Paige says as she grabs her jacket and purse.

Russ smiles and holds the door open for his daughter. Paige shows us to her car and we get in. I sit in the back, with Paige riding shotgun and Russ driving. Paige gives us directions to the cemetery where my baby is buried.

I’m fighting a wide range of emotions. I’m sad for all the time I didn’t get to spend with my children, but I knew that would happen. I gave them my blessings to go, but now it’s so real.

I’m so happy to see Paige again and to know she’s lived an amazing life. She has so much family surrounding her. I’m also very heartbroken that Olivia is gone from this world and has been for most of my life.

We arrive at the cemetery, and Russ helps Paige out of the car. She guides us to Olivia’s headstone. This is it, the final resting place of my child. I struggle with my emotions and try not to cry. Russ touches the stone.

It reads, Olivia McCarthy 1895-1985. Of course, that isn’t when she was born, but they couldn’t put her true birthday. Next to her stone is another. It says, William McCarthy.

“Was William her husband?” Russ asks Paige. She nods, looking longingly at Olivia’s headstone.

“Yeah. He was a good guy. I think you would have liked him. He was smart, kind, and treated Olivia well. He helped us out when we first traveled with no questions or expectations.” Russ nods and sits on the ground.

“I should have brought flowers for her,” Russ says sadly.

I sit next to him and put my hand on his shoulder. He grabs my hand. For a small eternity, we sit and mourn our daughter. Paige hangs back, letting us have this moment.

I know this must be hard for her. Olivia has always been her best friend, and they had a whole lifetime together that we weren’t a part of. I hear her sniffle and get up to hug her. She holds me tightly and cries.

“Your husband died not too long ago, didn’t he?” I ask, remembering the obituary.

“Just a few weeks ago. He’s not buried here though,” Paige replies. Russ gets up and hugs his daughter.

“What was his name?” Russ asks. Paige looks up, her eyes red.

“His name was Theo. Theodore Evans. He’s the love of my life,” Paige replies.

“What was he like?” Russ asks. Paige smiles at the memory.

“He was from New York. He joined the Navy and was stationed here. He was a pilot too. He was funny and sweet. The first night we met, we were in a dance hall. I mentioned I played the cello, and he got a guy in the band to let me play for the hall. He was always doing stuff like that, always supporting my passions,” Paige tells us.

“He sounds wonderful. I wish I’d met them both,” Russ replies, holding her again.

“I don’t know how many times over the years I wished you and Mom were there. The letters helped, though,” Paige says, smiling at me.

I fight the tears that are threatening. I wrote all those letters as a substitute for my absence and I’m thrilled they brought my girls some comfort. I still wish, more than anything, that I could have been there for all those events.

Paige reaches up and wipes her eyes. I catch a glimpse of the ring I gave her. It’s loose against her aged finger, but it’s there. I smile.

“You’re wearing my grandma’s ring?” I ask. Paige looks down at the ring fondly. There’s a simple band accompanying it now.

“I haven’t taken it off since you gave it to me, Mom. It’s been there for everything; my wedding, all the miscarriages, the birth of my only child, all the deaths. It was like you were here with me somehow,” she replies.

“I want to hear everything. Tell me all about your lives,” I say.

“Let’s go back to my house. I’ve got photo albums,” Paige says.

Russ and I nod and head back to the car. Russ helps Paige up the small hill. When I get to the crest of the hill, I look back at Olivia and William’s graves. I smile, knowing they lived good lives, full of everything they wanted.

When we return to her house, Paige takes us to the living room and asks Hannah to get all the photo albums. Hannah comes back with several and lays them on the coffee table.

Paige sits in the middle of the couch with Russ and me on either side. She opens one up and it begins Olivia’s life. The first photo is of her and William on their wedding day. Olivia wore her hair up and has on a beautiful wedding dress. The picture isn’t in color, but I can see her bracelet on her wrist. She’s just as gorgeous as I pictured she’d be.

There’s a picture from the same day with two other women.

“Who are they?” Russ asks, pointing to the women.

“William’s mom and sister, Eliza and Breeda,” Paige replies.

“Breeda?” Russ asks.

“William was from Ireland. He was going to New York on the Titanic after his dad died,” Paige explained.

Russ nods in acknowledgment and we continue to look at the albums. There aren’t only pictures. There are letters and small keepsakes.

“Olivia wrote me letters all the time, in case she didn’t make it to 1942,” Paige says.

The first letter is several pages describing her wedding. When Paige turns the page, there’s Olivia with a baby. It’s hard to tell if it’s a boy or a girl.

“This is Emily. She was born in 1914, and this is Russell. He was born in 1917,” Paige says, pointing out Olivia’s children. The pictures and letters continue, chronicling Olivia’s life.

When we get to the second photo album, it begins Paige’s life. These pictures are still not in color, but you can see palm trees and beautiful beaches. Olivia shows up in these pictures, but she’s older than I am now.

Paige looks the same as when I saw her last. These pictures show her beach wedding and Olivia’s grandchildren, then one of Paige, Olivia, William, Theo, four other girls, and three men.

“Who are they?” I ask, pointing at the unknown people. Paige smiles.

“That’s Betty, Mary, Ethel, Evelyn, Daniel, Roger, and Rodrigo. Betty and the other girls let us stay with them. Daniel was Theo’s best friend. He died a few years ago. He lived just down the street. Rodrigo and Roger worked with Theo and Daniel. They married Evelyn and Ethel respectively a few years after Theo and I married. Not that it was legal for most of their lives, but Betty and Mary remained partners until their deaths eight years ago. They were our family when we didn’t have one anymore. I’m the only one left,” Paige explains. I remember hearing about them when Olivia told me their story.

I can hear Paige’s sadness in her voice. It must be hard watching all the people you love die and being the only one left. I can only imagine the loneliness she must feel.

The next picture is of Paige’s daughter when she was just a baby and Theo in his Navy uniform.

“This is my Hannah Grace the day she was born,” Paige says running her hand across Hannah’s face.

I look at Paige, honored she named her daughter after me. I look back to Paige and can see a wide range of emotions on her aged face. There’s fondness at the memories these pictures evoke and a lot of sadness.

The pictures progress and change with each passing decade. The photos transition into color and the clothing style changes. Paige and Olivia’s friends appear in a lot of them. They must have all stayed on the island and stayed friends throughout the years.

Everyone in the pictures got older until, eventually, William stops appearing, then Olivia, Russell, and Emily, then one by one all their friends. Children got older and new people appeared. New babies grow older each year.

It’s sad to see people in one photo and then have them gone in the next. At the same time, it’s exciting to see the additions until the family grew so large it was hard to fit them in one photo. The saddest thing of all is the fact that Russ and I are not in any of them.

“Can we take a picture with you to put in this album?” I ask. Paige smiles.

“I’ll do you one better. I’ll get all the family we have on the island over here tonight for dinner. We’ll take tons of photos,” Paige says, picking up her cell phone.

She messages everyone in Hawaii to come for dinner because she has some people she wants them to meet. It seems the whole family knows of Paige and Olivia’s time-traveling adventures. They never tried to hide it or lie. I guess honesty is the best policy.

Hannah’s son arrives first to pick up his kids. Blake and Rachel are his. His name is Jonah, and he’s handsome, tall, and polite. He greets us warmly, and it’s like we’ve been a part of his whole life.

Others come until the house is full of people talking and laughing. Loud noise comes from the kitchen and it smells delicious. Paige has a huge, long dining room table big enough to fit everyone here tonight.

When everyone is seated at the table, Paige, at the head, stands up and welcomes everyone. She explains why she called everyone here and asks that everyone take pictures of tonight and get them to Hannah to put in the albums.

It seems like Paige made pictures an important thing in her family so they could document their lives and I’m grateful for that.

After dinner and dessert, Paige graces us by playing her cello. Her playing has always been exceptional, but with seventy more years of practice, she’s phenomenal. She plays a melancholy song that brings tears to my eyes.

It’s getting late and everyone goes home, leaving Russ and me alone with Paige.

“I’m glad you guys came,” Paige says as we sit on the couch. We’ve been talking for the better part of an hour.

“Me too, baby,” I reply, getting sleepy. It’s been the most wonderful day I’ve had in a long time.

“I want you to take the photo albums. We all lived that, but you missed out. Take them please,” Paige says.

“Thank you, pumpkin,” Russ replies.

“I love you guys more than you know. My only regret in life was that you weren’t with me,” Paige says.

“I love you more than my own life,” I say, pulling her close to me.

“I love you, pumpkin… always,” Russ echos, tears threatening again.

Russ and I help Paige up to her bed. She has a magnificent canopy bed. She only lies on the left side despite having the whole bed to herself. I can only imagine how she feels when she sees that empty side. If Russ died, I know I couldn’t bring myself to sleep on his side.

Russ tucks her into her covers like he did when she was little. I think it makes him happy to do it again.

“Goodnight, Paige. We love you,” I say as we turn out her lights and shut the door behind us. Paige has guest rooms to spare so Russ and I pick one and go to sleep.

***

That’s the last time we see our daughter alive. She died in her sleep during the night. It breaks my heart when I go into her room the next day. It’s late in the morning and she’s still not up. I see her pale, cold body lying serenely. She could just be asleep, but I know better.

My world shatters, but I have to be grateful for our last day together. It had been a good one. Perhaps this is what she was waiting for all along; to see us one last time.

We bury her next to the love of her life and so many people came. It isn’t just family either. You can tell she was a fixture in her community and that so many people loved and respected her.

I can’t bring myself to be devastated by her death because her funeral is evidence that she lived an extremely long, full, and happy life. It’s exactly the thing I wished for my girls the day they were born and they did. I can’t be sad about that.

Instead, I adopt a thankful attitude, and I am thankful for my girls and their husbands for making their lives extraordinary. I am thankful for all the family Paige and Olivia gave to us and I am thankful for the one last day I had with Paige. I will see both my girls again, but not yet.

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