I go to our room after saying goodnight to William and find Paige sitting on the couch reading a book she found in the room. She smiles at me when I walk in. I smile back and sit down with her.
“We should try to shower tonight,” I tell her. She puts her book down and looks at me.
“Trying to stay fresh for William? You know there will be plenty of water to bathe in tomorrow,” Paige teases. I wonder if it’s a good sign she’s teasing about the ship sinking.
“Hilarious. I’m not used to not showering every day and I feel so gross. It wouldn’t hurt to be clean and tomorrow, I’m hoping to stay out of the cold water,” I reply. Paige smiles at my seriousness.
“Okay, let’s find a shower before we go to bed, Little Miss Priss,” she says getting up.
Paige and I walk into the corridor and search for the bathing facilities. We finally come upon one. They’re split, one for men and one for women. We tell the steward we want to take a shower and he lets us in. The showers look weird. All the plumbing is outside the wall.
Paige and I help each other get undressed. I stand under the showerhead trying to figure out how to work it.
It’s the same feeling you get when you shower at a friend’s house or a hotel. You spend a few minutes trying to figure out how to work the damn thing. Then you get super cold water because it’s always backward. It doesn’t matter how right you think you are, you will always turn the knob the wrong way.
When I finally figure out how to turn the shower on, the water is frigid. It takes a while to get warm, but it will never be hot. I figure this is as good as it’ll get so I wash as quickly as I can.
I get out and dry off with a towel. I dread having to get dressed just to go back to our room, but going back in towels isn’t an option. I skip the corset and stockings and just put the dress on. Paige does the same, and we rush to our room before anyone notices.
When we get back to the room, I undress and find my tank-top and shorts to wear. I go to the little washbasin and wash my underwear and stockings. I don’t feel comfortable washing the dress. It looks like the kind of thing that has to be dry-cleaned or something.
“That’s a good idea. We can set them to dry tonight,” Paige says, bringing her own over.
“Let’s switch dresses tomorrow. I feel weird wearing the same thing three days in a row,” I say, knowing it’s silly. Paige just nods as she cleans one of her stockings.
“So, I want to tell William everything,” I say, knowing it’s now or never. Paige says nothing at first and I hold my breath.
“What do you want to tell him? Just about the ship?” she finally asks.
“No, I want to tell him everything. Where we’re from, or rather when, and how we got here. I think telling him about the ship will make more sense that way,” I say. Paige eyes me for a second.
“Sure, but there’s another reason you want to tell him. Why?” she asks, still methodically washing her stocking.
“Paige, I think I’m falling in love with him. I’ve never felt this way before. I thought I was in love with Brad, but it felt nothing like this, and I don’t want to lie to him. I know it’s stupid to feel this way, but I can’t help it,” I blurt.
Paige is silent for a minute switching to her other stocking. I turn around to hang my wet ones up. When I look back at her, she nods.
“Okay, we’ll tell him. Are you sure about him though?” she asks.
It’s a legitimate concern for her to have. We’ve only known the guy for less than two days. All I can think about is my mom’s stupid answer when I asked her how you knew you were in love. She told me you’ll know when you know. It bothered me because it wasn’t an answer and I told her that. She said, ’When you fall in love, it happens slowly. It’s a culmination of a lot of small moments that turn into momentous, life-changing moments, and then there’s this moment when you just know.’
I finally understand what she meant, and I want nothing more than to tell her that. It makes my heart hurt that Mom might be gone forever.
“I’ve never been more sure about anything in my life,” I say with conviction and it’s the truest thing I’ve ever said. Paige just nods at me as she hangs up her things and makes her way to the bed. I follow, and we get under the covers together.
Paige turns out the lights, and I lay there in the darkness looking at the ceiling. A cruel place we live in, huh? I finally find a wonderful person who I love and it’s one hundred and seven years in the past with a terrible tragedy looming that will more than likely pull us apart. Life’s a bitch sometimes.
I lay there in silence, unable to go to sleep. I know the time is coming to decide what we will do, but with that time fast approaching, it makes me so goddamn nervous.
“I’m happy for you,” I tell Olivia and I am. However fleeting this love affair between her and William might be; I’m happy she’s experiencing real love. Now, she really won’t settle for anything less than what she’s feeling now. That is comforting.
“Thanks, Paige. There’s something I wanted to tell you,” she responds quietly. I stay silent waiting for her to continue. Finally, she does.
“I saw my red string again tonight. The other end was tied to William. It happened on the promenade deck when he kissed me.”
I turn my body to look at her, though I can’t see her face in the darkness.
“William kissed you?”
“Yeah, I guess I underestimated those cosmically programmed feelings. It’s like he was made for me, you know?”
I don’t know how I feel about programmed feelings. Do I want to be told who to love? Part of me feels like rebelling against Fate, but the other part asks, ‘What’s the point?’
“It doesn’t bother you that you’re basically being forced to fall in love with William?” I ask.
“Logically, yeah kinda, but then it’s like everything is falling into place. It’s like coming home from a long trip but I didn’t realize I missed home so bad until I got there. It’s a breath of fresh air after being in a stuffy room. I don’t know how to explain it, but I don’t even care that it’s probably predetermined. I’m just happy I found him,” Olivia explains.
I don’t know if I understand what she means, but I can tell from the way she speaks that she means every word.
“I guess I’ll just have to take your word for it,” I reply.
“If Fate is the force that brought us here, I imagine it will take you where you need to go to find your soulmate. Everyone’s supposed to have one. I think the myth must not be a myth since we saw the strings, and that’s why my feelings for William are so strong even though we just met.”
I consider. The red strings being real doesn’t even surprise me. We’ve time traveled here for God’s sake. What else could have brought us?
I don’t reply and let it rest at that. When I close my eyes, I dream again of beaches and palm trees. I wonder if the dreams mean something or if it’s just a gift to myself to take my mind off the cold.
The lovely dream quickly turns into a nightmare when the beautiful, bright blue water turns dark. I fall into it, going under. It feels like ice daggers stabbing me all over. I struggle to get to the surface as a sinking ship pulls me down. I don’t have a life jacket on and I let out all my breath. I let myself sink into the water.
I wake up, my chest heaving from the lack of air in my dream. I’m freezing and I realize Olivia, being the blanket hog she is, took all the blankets from me.
I get out of bed and go to the water basin. It still has the gross water in it from washing the clothes. I see the jug next to it and stick my hands in there to splash it on my face. The water isn’t warm, but it’s still warmer than the water from my dream and it makes me feel a little better. I go back to bed and fight with a passed-out Olivia for the blankets and try to go back to sleep.
It feels like I only slept for ten minutes more before the sun shines through the little portholes.
Olivia gets out of bed rubbing her eyes. She’s walking toward the door and I realize someone is knocking. It must be William because who else can it be? I get up and go to the sitting room. Olivia is answering the door still half asleep. I look at her and realize we are both still in our shorts and tank tops.
I panic a little, but when she opens the door, it is just William. I get up and pull William in quickly before anyone else can see. That wakes Olivia up and I think the same thing dawns on her. William averts his eyes.
“Should I leave so you can dress?” he asks. I sigh. This might as well be how we tell him the truth.
“Don’t bother, we are dressed. You better sit down,” I tell him. He looks me in the face, but nods and sits on the couch.
“Okay, where we come from, this is appropriate attire to go out in,” I say. William says nothing but gets a better look at our clothes, but he remains respectful.
“America, you mean?” he finally asks. Olivia goes to sit by him and takes his hands in hers. I sit in a chair opposite them. Here we go.
“Yes, but more specifically, the year we come from,” Olivia says hesitating before going on. William squeezes her hand reassuringly.
“We traveled here from the year 2019. We are from one hundred and seven years in the future,” she finishes, looking down at their hands.
I think it must scare Olivia to think William will reject her. He doesn’t though, for how could he, if they truly are soul mates? He just sits quietly for a few minutes.
“How did you get here and why?” he asks at last. Olivia lets out a breath and brings his hand to her mouth and lightly kisses it.
“I don’t know. We were at a museum, and there was this display of the promenade deck. We were just looking at it when we felt the wind and this tugging sensation, then we were nowhere, but we saw these red threads leading here. Finally, we fell onto the deck where you found us,” I say, taking the reins from Olivia for a minute. We’re met with silence again.
“Red thread, you say?” William asks.
“Uh, yeah. Does that mean anything to you?” I wonder.
“Not really. It’s just I saw a red thread on my pinky when I was on the deck with Olivia last night. It connected to hers.” William looks down at his thread-free pinky.
“There’s a myth we learned about called the Red String of Fate. I think it might have been Fate that brought us here, so you and Olivia could find each other,” I explain.
William bobs his head, deep in thought.
“The time-traveling would explain much about your clothing and everything else strange about you,” William says, more to himself than to us.
“Is there anything you want to know about the future?” Olivia asks at last. William laughs, like really laughs. It kind of startles me.
“Oh everything, but I gather we don’t have time for that,” he says. Olivia smiles.
“It’s an amazing time to live in, but it’s been so cool to see history firsthand,” Olivia says. William gives her a weird look.
“Cool? I don’t understand the word in that context.”
I laugh, and he looks at me with the same look.
“It’s a slang word that you use when something is agreeable or, like, worthy of approval. I don’t know. It’s been a common word to use since before I was born. It’s hard to define. People just kind of know what it means,” I try to explain, but it’s hard.
“What year were you born?” he asks. He probably never thought about our ages before.
“I was born in 2001 and Liv in 2002,” I say. William nods and seems to do math in his head.
“Seventeen and eighteen years old,” he says a little breathless.
“Is that a problem? How old are you?” Olivia asks sounding concerned.
“I’m twenty-two years of age. Seventeen is quite old enough to get married and have kids. Is it not the same in your time?” he asks, tightening his grip on Olivia’s hand. She looks relieved.
“You can’t get married until you turn eighteen, well you can, but there’s a lot of stigmas attached if you do. Besides, we’re still in school at this point so most aren’t getting pregnant except by accident,” I say. William seems to take it all in stride.
“There’s something else we need to tell you and it’s important,” I say looking at Olivia. She nods at me and took over. This is her area of expertise, after all.
“Tomorrow night at about eleven forty this ship will hit an iceberg. The lookouts will see it, but it’ll be too late to turn all the way so it will scrape against the side. This will cause enough damage that the ship will sink. It will go under at two twenty a.m. on the morning of the fifteenth. They won’t take it seriously until it’s too late and there aren’t enough lifeboats for everyone. The lifeboats that are launched, launch half-full. Anyone who goes into the water will die within a few hours if they aren’t rescued. Eventually, a ship will come to save the survivors, but one thousand five hundred people will die before that happens,” Olivia explains, trailing off at the end. William says nothing for a long time.
“Why haven’t you warned anyone?” he asks, suddenly angry. He pulls his hand from Olivia’s grasp and stands up.
“Who would believe us? It should be impossible for us to know this will happen,” I say calmly.
William paces the room a few times before sitting down and taking Olivia’s hands again.
“How do we stop it?” he asks as his thumb rubs circles around the space between Liv’s pointer finger and thumb.
“If you could get the captain or crew to listen to you, maybe you could stop the ship from hitting the iceberg. It’s more of a matter of should we stop it. Should we change history without knowing the effect it will have?” I reply. Olivia stays quiet. The look William gives me is one of absolute horror.
“What could you possibly mean by that? How could you let that many people die if you knew how to stop it?” William all but yells.
“Think about it from our perspective. This is something that happened nearly a century before we were born. It brought about change. After this disaster, countries required ocean liners to have enough lifeboats for every single person aboard,” Olivia tries to explain, but William isn’t getting it.
“So because it didn’t happen to you, it’s okay?” William asks.
“God no, but what if we save every person on this ship that’s supposed to die? Then we have generations of people who are never meant to be born. How will that change everything that happens in the next hundred years? If we ever got back, would it even be the same as when we left? The future could be changed and maybe not for the better,” Olivia says looking him in the eyes, pleading for his understanding.
“This is why people shouldn’t time travel, but for reasons we can only guess at, Paige and I did. Now we have this burden of knowing what will happen tomorrow night and the choice of whether we do anything to stop it or not,” Olivia finishes, her eyes pleading with him.
“I understand your predicament, but what if you were sent here to change it?” William asks.
I hadn’t thought we might be here to change anything since we thought we were brought here for another purpose. Maybe trying to stop this ship from sinking is a part of all that. From the look of surprise on her face, Olivia hadn’t thought of it either.
We are all sitting quietly on the couch when my stomach rumbles loud enough for everyone to hear.
“Maybe we should finish this discussion after breakfast,” William suggests, getting up to leave our room. I get up with him and walk him to the door.
“We’ll be just a minute, okay?” I whisper as I smile up at him. William looks down at me with tenderness despite everything we’ve told him.
He kisses me on the cheek and leaves without a word. I sigh and go back to the bedroom to get ready. Paige follows me. She laces up my corset in silence.
“Do you think he’s right? Do you think we were sent here to change things?” she asks. Paige jostles me as she pulls the strings tighter than she usually does. She’s obviously preoccupied.
“I don’t know, but I’ve been struggling with letting this play out the way it’s supposed to. I would feel all those lives are on us for not stopping it. Maybe with William’s help, we could, or at least make some kind of difference,” I tell her. Paige pulls the strings even tighter, and I grunt. She notices and loosens them.
“Sorry. What if we save someone and they have kids they weren’t meant to, and that child decides to be a Nazi during World War II? He could be exactly the person Hitler needs to win the war? How will our lives be when we get home?” Paige asks, exasperated.
“If,” I mumble. Paige stops what she’s doing and turns me around.
“What did you say?” she demands.
“If, Paige, if we get home.”
Paige closes her eyes and turns me back around to finish.
“You’re right, Liv, but what if this doesn’t happen and they never enforce the lifeboat regulation or any of the other changes and it takes some other disaster later to make that rule? What if that one is worse? Those lives will be on us,” Paige says kind of pleading at this point. I don’t think it’s that she doesn’t want to save everyone, but all the uncertainties if we do.
“Either way, there will be lives lost on our conscience if we don’t try,” I breathe. Paige lays her head on my shoulder and sighs.
That is all Paige says then it’s quiet again. I think her mind is as made up as mine. She just doesn’t like our lack of options.
“Looks like we’re going to stop the Titanic from sinking,” Paige says then turns so I can lace up her corset.
When Paige and I finish getting ready, William still isn’t back. We walk out into the corridor and head to breakfast. We don’t see him on the way either.
This will be weird. We haven’t had a meal without William since we landed here, but I guess today we eat alone. As we’re eating Paige says,
“So if we’re going to stop this thing from sinking, we need to come up with a plan.”
I haven’t gotten very far in my thought process beyond telling William about it. I don’t know what we will say or to whom we will say it.
“Well, we could tell someone to turn the ship at like eleven-thirty. I saw somewhere that it was a mirage that stopped the lookouts from seeing the iceberg. Usually, they are visible like fifteen minutes before you would hit it so they have enough time to move, but this mirage hid the iceberg from view,” I explain. Paige looks confused.
“A mirage? Like in the desert? Aren’t those supposed to show things that aren’t really there, not hide things that are?” she asks. I nod.
“Traditionally, yes, but this mirage is caused by cold weather. People see, essentially, a fake horizon, and whatever is on the real horizon is hidden by the mirage. The lookouts saw the fake horizon with nothing but ocean ahead of them,” I explain as I remember more about the documentary I watched on the subject.
Paige is nodding, her eyes fixed on the table in front of her.
“Okay, but how do we get anyone to listen. These people will see with their own eyes that there’s nothing out there. How are we supposed to explain something that took people a hundred years to even decide was a factor in the sinking?” Paige asks finally looking at me.
“I don’t know. We can hope Captain Smith will take us on faith,” I say sounding hopeless even to myself. Why would anyone listen? Paige lets out a sigh. I know she’s on the same thought process.
With some sort of plan, however small it might be, we are ready for what tomorrow will bring. Maybe not ready exactly — how can anyone ever be ready for something like this — but a little more prepared at least.
I’m walking along the outside deck by myself taking in the fresh air. I look at all the passengers as I pass feeling sorry for them. A good many of them will be dead in less than forty-eight hours. What more can I do? I suppose if the ship still sinks, I can try to get them to put more people onto the lifeboats, maybe where they reach capacity. Maybe I can get more women and children on those boats.
As much as I know about the Titanic’s sinking, there are still so many uncertainties.
I’m staring off the deck into the water. How harmless it looks right now in the daylight. It looks as though it’s as warm as the Pacific, but I know it’s maybe thirty degrees. How looks deceive.
I feel a hand on the middle of my back. I turn slightly to see William in my peripheral vision. He stands next to me and I lay my head on his shoulder.
“I’m sorry I disappeared,” he whispers. I smile at his touch and the Irish lilt of his voice.
“It’s okay. We threw a lot at you,” I say just as quietly. William pulls me closer, and we sit silently, enjoying the warmness of the day and each other’s company.
“What were you doing, anyway?” I ask. William sucks in a big breath and holds it for a moment. He lets it out with a big sigh.
“Trying to make sense of what you told me. Trying to decide what we might do to stop this calamity, or at least minimize the casualties,” he replies.
“Paige and I were doing the same,” I tell him. He glances down at me.
“Did you come up with any good ideas?” he asks. I laugh a little.
“Tell them at like eleven-thirty that they’ll hit an iceberg soon and to move a little. It’s not a good idea. The only other thing I can think of is to have them hit the iceberg straight on. We would get to New York a few days later, but the ship wouldn’t sink,” I say. It’s a fat chance Captain Smith or any of his officers would let the ship hit head-on.
“I’m not sure we could get them to do that. We can try though. We must do everything we can,” William proclaims. I am so glad he’s here, that Paige and I don’t have to face this alone.
“Just make sure Breeda and your mom get to a lifeboat right away. If they wait too long, there are no guarantees,” I tell him. He nods at me but says nothing.
“Maybe we can bribe the telegraph guys to let the other ships nearby know something is happening and they need help. If the Carpathia could have gotten here even two hours sooner, they could have saved so many lives,” I say turning into him.
William puts his arms around me in a tight hug and it feels so nice to be embraced.
I look up at him, and he smiles at me. The most important thing I can do, if nothing else, is to make sure William lives. He must live.
After breakfast, I go back to our room trying to rack my brain for something we can do. Olivia says she wants to go for a walk alone though I’m sure William will probably catch up with her. That’s a good thing. Whatever happens during the sinking, it could very well be the last night they spend together.
I can think of no better alternatives to stopping Titanic from sinking other than what Olivia and I discussed at breakfast. Will Captain Smith even allow us an audience with him? Will he entertain any of our requests? I just don’t know.
I have a thought then that makes my heart freeze. What if we convince the captain to change course enough to miss the iceberg, but we hit another one anyway and a worse tragedy occurs? That will be solely on Olivia and me. I’m not sure I can take the guilt of killing so many more because we messed with history.
I sit down on the bed feeling as though I might hyperventilate. Going back in time is super stressful. They don’t show that in the movies. Stepping on a butterfly might not mess with the future, but whatever we decide to do definitely will. I don’t want that much power.
Not for the first time, and probably not for the last, I wonder why this was happening to us. Why do things like this never happen to established adults who might know what to do? It always happens to preteens and teenagers. I know I’m technically an adult, but I don’t have enough life experience for this shit. I sigh feeling, once again, like my corset is too tight.
Olivia and William walk through the door then and cut off my pity party. I want to get on with whatever we are going to do, but I don’t think we can do anything tonight. Any course of action will have to happen hours before we hit the iceberg.
“What should we do tonight?” I ask when they sit down in the parlor. Olivia shrugs.
“I suppose you could tell me about the future. We can’t do anything about the sinking until tomorrow, anyway,” William replies. I smile.
“Sure. What do you want to know?” I ask. William thinks a minute.
“I’m not sure. Tell me about your lives, I guess.”
“Well, our dad was in the Air Force. It’s a newer branch of the military. Soon, planes will carry people all over the world. The military uses planes to transport soldiers and they use them in war. Our dad was a pilot. He was stationed in England when we were born,” Olivia explains. William looks at her in amazement.
“When our dad retired from the military, we moved to Las Vegas, Nevada. We’ve lived there ever since,” I finish.
“You said you were still in school?” William asks.
“Yeah. In the United States, most people go to school for twelve years, usually graduating at about eighteen years old. Most people then go on to college to study whatever they want. In the 1920s, women win the right to vote. In the forties during World War II, most women have jobs because all the men are fighting in the war,” I reply.
William looks impressed at all the information we are throwing at him.
“That is incredible. You said World War II happens in the forties. When is World War I?” he asks. I look at Olivia.
“It will start in Europe in two years and last until 1918. America won’t get involved until 1917. Around this time, America is trying to be an isolationist nation. They try not to get involved in foreign affairs, but both world wars end quickly once America enters,” I tell him.
“A lot of awful things will happen in the century to come and there’s not a lot of peacetimes,” Olivia says sounding sad. William nods slowly.
“What do you do for fun?” he asks, changing the subject to a less depressing one.
“I hang out with my friends. We go see movies,” Olivia says. William gives her a confused look.
“You mean the picture shows?” he asks.
“Yeah, they’re in color now and have crazy special effects. They look so real. There’s a few about the Titanic,” Olivia replies motioning around her.
“And you, Paige?” William asks. I am a little taken aback. No one is usually interested in me enough to ask about my hobbies or passions.
“I play the cello,” I say.
“Do you play well?” he asks. I’m about to answer, but Olivia cuts me off.
“She’s incredible. She’s always so modest about it, but she’s amazing. A university in Hawaii offered to pay for her tuition so she would play for them,” Olivia says.
I feel my cheeks heat with embarrassment. I’m uncomfortable with my sister’s praise. I know I’m a good cellist, but it makes me self-conscious when others gush over me.
I smile slightly, and William gives me a smile that tells me he understands how I feel. I really like William, and I regret that tomorrow will most likely be the last time I see him.
The rest of the evening goes much the same. The three of us sit and talk about the future and William tells us about his life in Ireland.
Olivia and I have been to Ireland once, and it’s a beautiful place. I am a little more partial to Scotland, though.
After dinner, William asks Olivia to go on a walk with him again. She agrees, and I go to bed. I hope they have a good night because it will be our last one aboard the Titanic.