After plunging into the frigid water, I feel a tugging in my stomach and I know I’ll be traveling, but to where?
As the nothingness engulfs me once again, I see my red thread. My body is being pulled forward by my little finger without ever feeling like I’m moving. My thread shortens as I move forward.
I think Olivia must be right about us finding my soulmate somewhere else because this force, Fate or whatever, is pulling me towards the other end of that thread.
I suddenly take a sharp right turn before plunging back into some water. This water is warm and inviting; so very different from the water I fell into.
I break the surface in a panic. When I calm down, I look around, treading water. It’s wonderfully warm even in the water. We aren’t that far away from the beach as I can see beach-goers playing.
I can hear laughing and children screaming good-humoredly. It’s not the same screaming that I heard only minutes ago. This is a happy screaming that kids do when they play.
As I scan the scenery and the people, I notice their bathing suits. I know exactly where we are or, more specifically, when.
“Do you have any idea where we are?” Olivia asks trying to stay afloat. I sigh.
“Yeah, we’re in Hawaii. Estimating from the bathing attire, I would guess the 1940s. Before Pearl Harbor is hit. I bet that’s part of why we are here,” I reply.
Olivia lets out a strangled breath. I think she’s trying to mask a sob.
“I just want to go home. Why do we have to witness this too? There’s not even a discussion. This needs to happen. We probably can’t stop it even if we wanted to anyway,” she says.
Olivia’s right. We can’t risk this not happening. I am sure we can get people to listen to us if we try, but not letting Pearl Harbor get bombed could mean a German or Japanese occupied America if we ever got home. We’ll save more lives in the long run by letting history play out the way it’s meant to, anyway.
“We should swim to the shore. We need to get out of these clothes before too many people see and ask questions,” I say as I start swimming to a less occupied part of the beach.
My legs are tired from the furious kicking I did to reach the water’s surface in the frigid Atlantic and the treading I’ve been doing just to keep me afloat.
I don’t want to swim to the shore, which is at least half a mile away, but Olivia and I can’t stay in the water forever.
I’m also worried about how we’re going to get clothes. We have no money and I don’t want to steal anything, but we can’t expect a nice bystander to help us out the way William did. Different times. Different places. Besides, we sort of know what’s going on now, anyway.
We get onto shore without too many people seeing us and I feel as though I could sleep for a month. Upon standing, my legs are jello. Somehow, I manage to stand and shrug off my coat, which is heavy with water.
I am amazed that somehow my hair tie is still in my hair. My hair is loose and on the verge of coming undone completely, but somehow the hair tie survived.
I pull it the rest of the way out and throw my hair into a messy bun to get it out of my face. Olivia is trying to get her coat off but is having a hard time.
I pull it off her, and she sits hard on the sand. Olivia pulls off her stockings and throws them with the coats.
“We need to find somewhere to get some clothes. If you see a paper with the exact date, let me know. I want to know how much time we have,” I say, tearing off my stockings.
Olivia mumbles something, and we start on the road to find a clothing store. A few people look at us funny. I can’t tell whether it’s from the fact that we are soaked in fancy, torn gowns or that the soaked clothes are like thirty years out of style.
I’m relieved that at least in the forties, women wear bras instead of corsets. They aren’t padded or underwire, but I guess I can’t complain too much.
It doesn’t take too long to find a clothing store. We’re in an area that has many beachfront stores and boutiques. We have, thankfully, dried off enough to look somewhat presentable. We browse through the clothing around the store we picked.
“The sizes are different. I don’t know which ones will fit me,” Olivia says, pulling a dress out, looking at it for a minute, and immediately putting it back. It’s way too small to fit over her boobs.
We grab a couple of dresses in different sizes and go to a changing area to try them on. We go in together and spend the better part of ten minutes trying to get the Titanic dresses and corsets off.
Once we finally do, we are relieved to put on a normal bra. We try on the different sizes and find ones that fits well enough. I don’t want to cause too much attention by being here for an extended period of time.
“We have no money for these. Do you think we will be able to slip out of this store? We can skip the pantyhose and shoes,” I whisper.
We’ll be barefoot as we tossed our shoes overboard when we were running on the Titanic. I should have grabbed shoes before we came in here. It’ll be too suspicious to go back and look for some. Maybe at another store.
Olivia gives me a sad look. Neither of us has ever stolen anything and I think she’s kind of sad that we’re in a situation where we have to. I am too, but we have no other choice. Better not to dwell on it.
We hang up the old 1912 dresses and corsets on the hangers like we just tried them on and decided against buying them and try to slip out of the store inconspicuously.
A weight is lifted off my chest when we successfully walk out of the store without getting caught and walk a few blocks away.
Olivia and I are walking at a pretty brisk pace, and finally, we slow down. I see a boy selling newspapers and stop to talk to him.
“Can I see that for a second?” I ask the boy.
“Are you going to pay for it?” the boy asks me. I shake my head.
“I’m sorry. I don’t have any money. I just wanted to know the date,” I tell him apologetically. He eyes me for a minute.
“It’s November the fifteenth,” he replies. I smile.
“Thank you. What year?” I ask, embarrassed. The boy looks at me like I’m crazy.
“Have ya been living under a rock? It’s 1941,” he replies and walks away down the street. He probably wants to get away from us. I can’t blame him.
“That gives us twenty-two days until Pearl Harbor is hit,” she says quietly, looking incredibly sad.
If this is part of why we’re here, we aren’t going anywhere for almost a month.
Our parents will be so worried. If we do go home after it’s over, I’m sure they’ll have stopped looking by then thinking us dead or something.
We walk a few more blocks away just to put more space between us and the store. We sit on a curb to catch our breath. I have no idea what our next move is. If the bombing of Pearl Harbor is, in fact, a part of why we are here, then we need a place to live.
I’m about to tell Olivia as much when my stomach growls loudly. Olivia looks at me, a hint of a smile dancing on her lips. God, am I hungry. How long had it been since I ate last? Dinner, I suppose, but I didn’t eat much. The tension of our impending doom twisted my stomach into knots.
I guess food and shelter are our top priorities right now. Just then, a gaggle of women not much older than me comes walking down the street, talking and laughing obnoxiously.
They are nearly past us when one stops and gazes intently at us. I hate the way she’s staring, seeming to judge. I think better than to voice the sarcastic remark that’s running through my mind.
“Where are your shoes?” the woman asks not at all rude, just curious. Liv and I glance at each other real quick.
Telepathically we try to come up with a good reason, but when I can’t think of one, we decide to tell the truth.
“We don’t have any,” Olivia replies in almost a whisper.
The woman gives us a sympathetic look. When the group she belongs to notices she’s no longer walking with them, they turn back and give her a curious look. They slowly walk toward us.
“What are you doing, Evelyn?” another woman asks. The woman, Evelyn, I guess, gives us a resolute look.
“These ladies have no shoes. I think they could use our help to get back on their feet. We have an extra room at the house and I’m sure they could learn nursing skills,” Evelyn replies.
I look at her in amazement. When I thought she was judging us, she was just being kind. I am constantly amazed at the kindness of the people in the past, though I’m sure it’s no more prevalent than in the future. We have just been blessed to find the best of humanity while simultaneously seeing the worst in our travels through time.
The other woman Evelyn is speaking to seems to be in charge of their group. I’d guess they are nurses at a local hospital, quite possibly Navy. Woman-in-charge considers for a moment.
“Do either of you have nursing skills already?” she asks, her voice authoritative. Olivia shakes her head.
“No,” she says quietly.
“Very well. You can stay at our home and come to work at the hospital.”
“Thank you so much,” I reply. Evelyn smiles sweetly at us.
“I’m Evelyn. This is Betty, Mary, and Ethel,” Evelyn says, introducing each woman. Betty is the one in charge.
“We are about to go to a party. Do you want to come? We can head back home so you guys can get ready,” Mary asks, smiling. I don’t know what to say, so I just nod.
Mary and Evelyn help us off the curb and turn in the opposite direction. All the girls, except Betty, chat as we walk, but they don’t require much in the way of replies. For that, I am thankful. I’m not really in the mood for talking.
Olivia joins in the conversation while I pull back a little behind them. It’s the perfect example of our personalities. Olivia is always the one to enter into conversations with people she’s never met. I am always the one who pulls back and walks behind everyone, not speaking unless I’m asked a direct question.
When she notices me pull back, Betty pulls back too. We walk quietly for a few minutes before I speak.
“I can’t tell you how much we appreciate all you are doing.”
“Some people just need a break and you two looked like you could use one,” Betty replies. I’m not sure why, but her statement makes me tear up.
“Thank you all the same,” I say, then we lapse back into a comfortable silence.
We reach the house within a few more minutes. It’s modest, but it holds quite a few rooms. Mary, Evelyn, and Ethel are already going into their rooms to get something appropriate for us to wear to the party.
Betty comes out of her room with a hairbrush and some pins. I reach up to feel my hair and realize it leaves something to be desired. Betty pulls me over to a chair where I sit obediently as she pulls the brush through my tangled mess of hair. Both Olivia and I could use a shower, but I don’t say anything. I don’t want to delay them from the party too much.
As she’s doing my hair, Betty catches a glimpse of my hand. The cuts on my knuckles are still fresh, but at least not actively bleeding anymore, and the skin on my hand is mottled with blue bruises. It’s pretty much the only physical sign I have that I was even on the Titanic.
“What happened?” Betty asks, gesturing to my hand with her head.
“I punched a guy,” I reply. I see Betty give me a small smile from the mirror.
I watch as Olivia is given a few dresses to try on as well as shoes until Ethel, Mary, and Evelyn are satisfied with her look.
“All done,” Betty says as she hands me a mirror. My hair is pulled up and pinned back in a pretty typical 1940s hairstyle, but it’s gorgeous. Olivia smiles at me as we trade places.
“Lookin’ good,” she says. Olivia sits in the chair while Betty goes through her hair with a brush and I am played dress up upon. Soon, though, we are both presentable and leave the house to go wherever the party is.
I realize I am much more comfortable in these clothes than the ones from 1912, and I don’t think it’s only because I don’t have to wear a corset.
Eventually, we reach some sort of dance hall. Forties music can be heard from the street, and I can’t help but feel excited as we enter.
The place is dimly lit inside, and several couples are dancing in the middle of the room. Many of the men are soldiers and sailors. Some wear uniforms, others wear street clothes, but you can see dog tags peeking out of their shirt collars.
The six of us head straight for an empty table and Betty orders drinks for everyone.
I decide to make the most of tonight, even though I’m not much of a partier. How often can I say I’ve been to a prewar party in the 1940s?
Besides, I kinda feel like I deserve to have a little fun after everything that’s happened this week. I don’t know if Olivia feels the same way.
Olivia looks a little tense, actually, which is weird considering she’s been to way more parties than I ever have.
“Lighten up, Liv!” I semi-shout at her over the noise. She shoots me a dirty look, then it softens, and she smiles. Her head bobs with the music and I smile, hoping she gets a little respite from the new stress in our lives.
We are slowly sipping at our drinks when a few sailors come to ask Mary and Ethel to dance. They happily accept and I laugh as they start to dance some weird dance to the upbeat music. Soon Betty and Evelyn join in the dancing, leaving Olivia and me alone.
Before I can say anything to her, however, a good-looking young man comes to ask Liv to dance. I nod when she looks over at me, alarmed. I give her a small smile and she nods to the man, letting him lead her to the dance floor.
I know she is thinking of William. I’m sure at some point we can find out if he survived the Titanic’s sinking. Even if he did, he’ll be about fifty years old, probably married with a few grown children.
I’m sad for Olivia. She really loves him. Thirty years have passed for William, but for Olivia, it’s only been a few hours.
I am so completely absorbed in my thoughts; I don’t notice the young man that slid into the booth seat opposite mine.
“Hello,” he says politely. I am so taken aback by his presence that it takes me a minute to respond.
“Hi,” I reply lamely. He smiles at me, and he has a boyish look to his handsome face. He’s instantly charming, even with only uttering one word.
The man has dirty blonde hair and beautiful light blue eyes like a sunny Hawaiian day without a cloud in the sky. I find myself smiling genuinely back at him. We both keep quiet for a minute.
“Can I buy you a drink?” the man finally asks.
I still haven’t finished the one Betty got me earlier because it tastes awful. I nod anyway. He smiles again and leaves to go to the bar.
Out of the corner of my eye, I see Olivia give me a quizzical look, but I ignore her. The man comes back and sets the drink in front of me. It looks fruity, and I’m hoping it tastes better than the one I have.
“Thanks,” I say loud enough for him to hear me.
“You’re welcome,” he replies.
“My name is Paige,” I say, for lack of anything else.
The guy smiles again at me. The smile lights up his eyes like the sun came out from behind a cloud. It gives him a carefree, approachable air.
“I’m Theo,” he replies. I stick my hand out to him. After a beat, he shakes it.
“Very nice to meet you, Theo,” I say, smiling at him. Out of nowhere, I ask, “Do you want to dance?”
Theo gives me a surprised look, then says yes. I stand and he leads me to the dance floor.
Why did I ask him that? I can’t dance. I keep surprising myself during this short conversation. I’m never the first one to ask someone’s name, let alone if they want to dance. What the hell is going on with me?
As soon as we get to the dance floor, the song changes to a slower one. I sigh. Of course, it changes as soon as I ask him to dance.
I’ve never slow danced with anyone before. I never went to school dances with Olivia. I stayed at home and practiced my music. I often wrote songs to play on my cello.
I give Theo a nervous chuckle.
“I’m sorry. I’m not sure I’ve ever danced like this before,” I apologize
“That’s all right. I’d be happy to teach you. First, you put your right hand on my shoulder and my left hand goes modestly on your upper waist. Your left hand goes in my right and we slowly move from one side to the other. I must warn you though. I’m not the best dancer there ever was, but I probably won’t step on your feet,” Theo finishes with a wink.
Theo and I sway to the beat of the music. It’s not going badly at all.
“Tell me about yourself,” Theo says into my ear after about a minute of just dancing. It makes it easier to talk to him when he’s not looking at me.
“Not much to know,” I reply, cryptically. He chuckles softly.
“Where are you from? You’re tan enough to be a local,” Theo says. I laugh at that.
“I’m from Nevada, but I’ve always wanted to live here,” I reply.
“You were born in Nevada then?” he asks.
“Um, England, actually,” I reply. Theo lets out a whistle of mock appreciation. I laugh despite myself.
“Seems you’ve been around,” he says.
“I suppose you could say that,” I say, smiling, though Theo can’t see.
“What about you?” I ask.
“Oh, I’m from New York. I’m about the furthest I can be from home, but I like it here,” he replies. Now that I think about it, he does sound like he’s from New York, but only slightly.
“What do you do for fun, Paige?” Theo asks me.
“I don’t get out much. I sort of just stay home playing or writing music,” I reply somewhat embarrassed.
No one besides William ever asks me about my hobbies, and if they do, they make fun of me for being that girl when I answer. I spend a lot of time alone at home or in the music room at school with my cello. Lugging it around made for even more jokes. I was lucky no one had ever broken my cello. I’d known other cellists who had had theirs broken or damaged from bullies. Decent-sounding cellos aren’t cheap, and my parents had already bought several as I grew. I am finally in a full-sized cello and won’t need another one for a while.
“Intriguing. What instrument do you play?” Theo asks, sincerely fascinated. I clear my throat and say in a low voice,
“Cello. I’ve, uh, played since I was about five, I guess.”
I remember the baby cello I received after a year of practicing with a borrowed one, and it leaves me with a feeling of pure joy.
“Are you any good?” Theo asks.
“Yeah, I mean after thirteen years of playing, I’m pretty good, but I’m no Yo-Yo Ma,” I say then clamp my mouth shut.
Oh shit, what did I just do? Yo-Yo Ma won’t be born for another fourteen years. I hope Theo will forget that comment and not look into it further. I need to be more careful with what I say. Things just come out so naturally when I talk to him. It’s beyond weird.
I’ve always had trouble talking to other people, all people, except for Olivia.
“Would you give me a demonstration?” Theo asks slyly.
God, I wish. Obviously, my cello is not something I brought on this trip with me. It’s safely seated on its stand in the corner of my bedroom. It would have ended up at the bottom of the Atlantic had it been with me, anyway.
“I don’t have a cello anymore. I had to leave it behind,” I reply sadly. Theo could make his own assumptions based on that semi-truthful response.
“I know the band has a cello with them. You could perform for the hall,” he says, excited.
I glance over at the band. One guy has a bass in his hands, not quite a cello, but it won’t surprise me if he has an actual cello too.
Before I can answer him, however, Theo is already heading toward the band. He taps the bass player on the shoulder and leans in to say something in his ear. The bass player nods.
When the lead singer of the band finishes the song, the bass player says something to him. The lead singer nods as well, and I look on in horror as I see the band agree to let me play.
Theo enthusiastically motions me over to the stage. I swallow the lump that is growing in my throat and trudge over. Others in the hall are watching me now.
“Thomas here has agreed to let you borrow his cello and play something for the hall while they take their break,” Theo proudly informs me.
Thomas comes up, handing me his cello.
“I’ve already tuned ’er for ya. Have at it,” Thomas says gruffly.
Another member of the band situates a chair in the middle of the stage for me to sit at. I breathe in and head for the chair. I sit down and adjust the cello until it’s comfortable.
I look down at this beautiful instrument. It’s worn, used, and definitely loved. A smile creeps on my lips as I run my hands silently over the strings.
I look out at the crowd, wondering what I should play. The Game of Thrones theme song crosses my mind and I bite back a smile. No, something else.
I close my eyes as my fingers fall familiarly onto the strings. The bow is already rosined and ready to slide across those strings.
I take one more deep breath and move the bow as my fingers fall on different parts of the strings to make the right notes fill the room.
The hall is silent as those first few notes fall upon them. I continue to play with my eyes shut, not wanting to see the crowd. It feels wonderful to play again, my muscle memory taking me where I need to go.
The Cello Song is what I play. It’s my favorite song to play on the cello.
I peek out to the crowd and I can see Olivia with a smile on her face as she watches me play. I smile at her as pure ecstasy flows through me. I only feel this ridiculously happy when I play.
For these few minutes, I forget about everything that happened to us. I forget that we might never make it home. I forget everything but the song.
As the last note rings out into the silent hall, I open my eyes fully to see everyone standing perfectly still. They are just staring at me, and I’m not quite sure how to feel.
All at once, the crowd erupts into applause; Olivia clapping the loudest. I get up from the chair and bow awkwardly before handing the cello back to Thomas.
“It’s a wonderful cello. Thank you for letting me play,” I tell him. He smiles at me sweetly.
“You played ’er better than I ever could,” he replies, putting it gently back into the case.
“I don’t know about that,” I say, feeling self-conscious. He looks at me sternly.
“You are the most amazing cellist I’ve ever had the pleasure to listen to. I know that might not mean much since I haven’t heard many, but all the same,” Thomas says. I smile at him, feeling so wonderful.
“Thank you so much, Thomas. That means the world to me,” I reply.
Theo is standing off to the side with a big smile on his face.
“I’m glad I made you play. That was incredible,” Theo says.
“Thank you for pushing me. It feels like a lifetime since I’ve played, and I haven’t felt that good in a long time. For a minute there, I forgot about everything,” I reply thankfully.
Theo does not understand what he’s given me. He smiles again and walks me back to the table.
The girls are already there singing me praises. I tune it out.
“I always love listening to you play Paige, but something about this time was different. It was magical,” Olivia says, coming to hug me. I bite back the tears that are threatening.
“Thanks, Liv,” I reply hugging her. Betty’s voice grows louder, hushing everyone.
“It’s time to go home. We’ve got to get Paige and Olivia settled.”
Everyone grumbles, saying goodbye to the men they were dancing with. I turn to Theo.
“Well, I guess it’s time to go,” I say shyly. I don’t know what else to say. It’s not logical, but I want to see him again. I have time…
“Will I see you again?” Theo asks. I smile, elated he wants to see me again too.
“I’ll be around,” I reply, and he smiles widely.
“Goodnight, Paige. This was an interesting night,” he says.
“Goodnight, Theo, and thank you,” I reply before turning to follow the other girls out of the building.
Paige is walking slower than the rest of the group. She seems to be deep in thought. I slow down until I’m walking beside her. I say nothing at first and neither does she, so we walk quietly. Finally, I speak,
“You were really good tonight. The University of Hawaii will be lucky to have you play for them,” I say.
Paige shrugs, but a smile appears on her face. I know how much playing tonight lifted her spirits. Mine isn’t quite as lifted as hers, but seeing her so happy makes me smile.
“That’s if we ever get home. I’m not even sure that’s possible anymore,” Paige begins. “I haven’t noticed how much I missed playing until I actually played. I guess I haven’t had a lot of time to think about it,” she finishes.
“It’s who you are, Paige. It’s not all that you are, but it’s a big and important part,” I say, smiling. “By the way, who was that handsome man you were flirting with?”
Paige looks at me nervously. She’s never been big into boys, so this is a real treat for me to see.
“Theo. He’s just a guy I asked to dance,” Paige replies. My eyes widen.
“You asked him to dance?” I ask, incredulous. She nods sheepishly. I smile and nod in appreciation. “Good for you.”
We get back to the house we’ll be staying in for the better part of a month.
I had a brief panic attack when Paige told me the date, but it is what it is. I suppose it gives me some time to research William, though I’m not quite sure I want to know what became of him.
Betty gives Paige and me the extra room to share. It’s already set up with two beds. I’m glad for that. I love my sister, but I’d rather not have to share a bed with her. We haven’t shared a room, much less a bed, in all our lives until we landed on the Titanic.
“We will give you guys a few outfits from our wardrobe for now until you can make enough money to buy your own,” Evelyn says, looking to the other girls for confirmation that she’s telling the truth. The others nod enthusiastically.
I smile, hoping it radiated the appreciation I’m feeling. The kindness of people is still shocking to me.
“Thank you for everything,” I say to them all.
They smile with kindness and go to their rooms to get the clothes for us. Included are some dresses, shoes, nightclothes, and some accessories.
With that, Betty announces bedtime, and we all go to our rooms. Paige and I get dressed in the nightgowns and pick our beds. We turn out the lights and all is quiet for a few minutes.
“Liv?” Paige asks from the darkness.
“I know there hasn’t been a lot of time to process what happened to us last night. It was a lot for any one person to go through and I know it’s been a long day, but I want you to know that it’s okay to not be okay. You’re allowed time to grieve for what you’ve lost, and it’s okay to be traumatized by the sinking. You don’t have to pretend. Not with me at least,” she says.
I don’t realize it’s something I need to hear, but once Paige says it, it’s exactly the right thing. I can’t help the waterfall of tears falling from my eyes. I have had no time to think about all that happened to me. I survived the sinking of the freaking Titanic and the next morning, here I am in Hawaii in 1941. It’s a lot to process, and it means more time away from my home and parents.
“Thank you, Paige,” I reply. It’s all I can think to say, but it doesn’t cover how grateful I am for her words and her.
I don’t know what I would have done on this journey without her. She has always been my rock throughout our lives. She has been the one constant that never changes and is always there for me no matter what. I have never been so grateful for my sister as I am right now.
It’s quiet after that, and I soon drift to sleep. The nightmares start almost immediately. They’re broken, distorted scenes. I see images from the night before.
I feel the cold and I hear the screams. It’s like I can only see things in thirty-second clips. I see faces of people I met or helped, then they’re gone.
I see Captain Smith looking down at me when he realizes the ship is going to sink. Instead of staying silent, he speaks to me in a raspy voice that doesn’t belong to him.
“This is your fault,” he rasps, then the next image flickers into focus. It’s William this time. He isn’t looking at me with love, though. Pure disgust washes over his features.
“You could have stopped this. You didn’t try hard enough,” William says in a voice that isn’t his either.
I want to run to him to tell him I’m sorry and that I tried, but it goes back to a flip-book of the night’s events until finally, I am falling into the water.
I wake up sputtering, feeling like I’m drowning again. I heave air into my oxygen-starved lungs. Paige wakes from the bed across the room.
“Are you okay, Liv?” she asks worriedly. I’m still panting.
“It was just a bad dream,” I reply.
I see Paige’s silhouette nod and turn back around in the moonlight. I do some yoga breathing exercises to lower my erratic heartbeat. I closed my eyes and slip back into an uneasy sleep.