Alive and Well
The next morning, I wake up groggy when Betty comes in. I go to sit up and realize how incredibly sore I am. I’ll be walking funny for a few days until that wears off.
I open and close my right hand a few times, and it’s almost the sorest thing on my body. My knuckles have mostly scabbed over, but the scabs reopen every time I flex my hand. It will take a while to heal.
I shove Olivia a few times until she finally opens her eyes. She gives me her typical morning death glare and groans as she gets up. I figure she is probably as sore as I am.
It’s quiet while we dress, but as she is putting her hair up, I notice her bracelet isn’t on her wrist.
“Where’s your bracelet?” I ask. Olivia looks sadly down at her bare wrist and says,
“I lost it right before we went into the water.”
There’s so much sadness in her voice. I understand though; that bracelet has been a part of her ever since Mom and Dad gave it to her.
“I’m sorry,” I reply, and I am genuinely sorry she has lost the bracelet. Olivia nods but says nothing. We finish getting dressed in silence.
Betty gets us set up as volunteers at the hospital where she and the other girls work. They’ll assess our skills and teach us as we go. We won’t get paid at first, but she’s letting us stay at the house as long as we need rent-free.
All the girls are being very generous and I’m thankful. Our trips into the past could have been a lot worse if we had not been shown so much kindness.
Betty and the other girls helped us supplement our wardrobe with old things from their closets the night we had arrived. They set us up with some uniforms for the hospital and gave us some knick-knacks for our room.
Olivia, me, and the rest of the girls get up every morning, go to the hospital, and work all day, then we go home to make dinner together. Our lives go this way for about five days.
On the twentieth, Betty announces her plans for Thanksgiving, which is in a week. We can go where we wish for the holiday, but we are more than welcome to stay at the house. There will be a nice home-cooked dinner with her and the other girls.
Paige and I spent the weekend before Thanksgiving at the house making our room in it a little homier.
The following Tuesday work is slow. There aren’t any serious injuries, just bad sunburns, and other minor annoyances. It makes for a boring day, but I don’t mind organizing and inventorying the medical supplies.
When Betty tells us it’s okay to head home, Olivia and I walk out the front doors. We stop and I take in the harbor.
It’s filled with subs, battleships, and other ships and boats. It’s a beautiful day, seventy-five degrees, with a slight breeze bringing the smell of saltwater to me.
I inhale deeply as I look over at Olivia. She’s shifting her weight from foot to foot like there’s something she wants to say.
“What?” I ask her. She looks down sheepishly and then sighs heavily.
“I want to go to the library,” she replies quietly. I nod, understanding.
Olivia would have gone sooner if she had a chance. The only thing stopping her was that she didn’t want to take any personal time while we were trying to settle in.
I know she isn’t going for the latest books. Olivia isn’t an avid reader. She doesn’t need to escape into the book worlds the way I do.
No, I expect she wants to do some research on William to see what she can find about him.
“Of course. I’ll be at the beach,” I tell her.
I squeeze her arm softly and start walking toward the beach. I look back to see her walk in the opposite direction towards the library.
Hopefully, she finds what she’s looking for. Anything she finds will be drenched in sadness, even if William lived.
I sigh and continue to the beach. When I get there, I sit in a secluded spot where the surf only just hits my feet. The water is wonderful and I breathe in the salty air. I let it out with a sigh of contentedness. Hawaii is where I’m supposed to move at the end of the school year.
I’ve been in love with this place since we visited when I was fourteen. This is where I want to be. Now I’m here for the foreseeable future, and I think maybe it won’t be so bad if we stay.
I don’t know how long I sit there with my eyes closed, taking in the warm air and salty breeze before I hear a man’s voice.
“You’re the cello girl,” the voice says.
My eyes dart open and I see Theo. He sits down next to me in the sand and smiles a crooked smile.
“Paige, right?” he asks. I am momentarily speechless. I’m shocked I’m seeing him again, though I really wanted to. I manage a smile.
“Yeah,” God, that’s stupid. “Theo?” I ask, even though I’m positive it’s him. I’ve only been thinking about his face for the last week.
Theo nods and smiles that crooked smile again. He’s a good-looking guy. He’s of average height and average build. Guys at my high school that look like him hang out with people like Brad. Ugh. I don’t think Theo’s like that, though.
Theo has definitely made a better first impression than Brad or his goons ever did. He has been wonderfully polite and seems to care about my love for the cello. Enough to get someone to let me play theirs, at least.
“What are you doing sitting out here by yourself?” Theo asks, looking out at the ocean.
“Oh, I just thought this would be a nice place to be alone,” I reply.
“Do you want me to leave?” he asks, getting up from the sand.
I grab his hand and pull him back down. I realize what I did when the hand holding lingers.
I quickly let go. Why did I do that? I don’t usually converse with boys with any sort of ease, let alone touch strangers.
“Don’t be silly. I’d love the company,” I say. Theo smirks. It’s quiet for a second.
“Did you and your sister get all settled?” Theo asks.
I’m surprised he remembers a comment not even said to him. I smile at him.
“Yeah, just about. We’ll be here for a bit, but I don’t know when I’ll be heading back to Nevada,” I reply.
“You aren’t planning on staying for long?” he asks. I shrug my shoulders.
“I really don’t know. I guess it just depends on the next few weeks. My parents are in Nevada. I feel like I haven’t seen them in a long time,” I say, sighing sadly. I miss Mom and Dad.
“What does your dad do?” Theo asks.
“He was a pilot in the military, but now he flies planes for a commercial airline,” I reply. Theo nods thoughtfully.
“I’m a pilot too. I’ve always loved flying,” he says. I smile at him.
“Are you in the new Army Air Corps?” I ask. Theo makes a face.
“God no! I’m a Navy pilot,” he says with arrogance.
He’s like Tom Cruise in Top Gun then. I’ll never understand why each branch of the military thinks they are better or cooler than the next. My dad thinks the Air Force is where it’s at.
“Joining the Navy will get you out of New York,” I comment. Theo laughs.
“Yeah, well, I thought it might be fun to travel. Made it to Florida for pilot training, then they stationed me here. Just been training until they let us into the war,” he replies.
“At least Florida and Hawaii are both warmer than New York. I love the weather here. The tropical storms might not be too great, but it’s a small price to pay for all the nice days,” I say.
“I don’t miss the snow or the frigidness of New York at this time of year. I make my family jealous with my letters about the weather,” Theo responds. A thought occurs to me then.
“What are you doing for Thanksgiving?” I ask, wondering. Theo shrugs his shoulders.
“I’m sure the base chow hall is having some dinner for us if we want. I might eat with my pilot buddies, head to a beach bar afterward,” he replies.
“You could probably come to eat with us if you’re interested. It’ll just be a small thing, but if you and your friends want to come, I’m sure it would be all right,” I say hoping he’ll say yes and also hoping he says no. Theo smiles widely at me.
“That sounds great. I’d love to,” he replies. I can’t help smiling at his reaction, but I’m also having an internal freak-out.
What if Betty isn’t okay with this? I’ve been staying at her home for less than a week and here I am inviting random guys over.
“Great. It’ll be on Thursday at three o’clock. I can give you the address,” I say, my words much more enthusiastic than I’m feeling.
“Maybe after you’d like to get a drink with me?” Theo asks.
“Sure. I’d like that,” I say. I have no idea why I’m getting involved with someone right now. I never met any guys I was interested in enough to go out with. Why am I doing this now?
I remember what Olivia said about William. She had this same sort of cosmic attraction to William before she realized he was her soulmate. Could this man sitting beside me be mine? That’s what we are probably here for, after all.
A plane flies by and Theo looks up.
“Not a Navy plane,” he says absentmindedly.
“I used to go up in planes like that when I was young. My dad took me and Olivia up in his military plane a few times. It was amazing,” I say, wistfully. It takes me back to easier times.
“Maybe I’ll take you up sometime,” Theo says, looking at me now. I stare into his sky-blue eyes and smile.
“I think that’s against the rules,” I reply. Theo smirks.
“Yeah, maybe, but I’d do it for you to see the island the way I see it every day,” he responds. I give him a weird look. I can’t make sense of my feelings right now. I smile, though.
“I would enjoy that,” I say. Theo smiles at me, and we sit there staring at each other. I don’t know what he is thinking because I can’t even make sense of all the thoughts flying through my brain.
Olivia comes walking up behind us, breaking the moment. She sits down on the sand next to me and smiles at Theo.
“Hi. I’m Olivia, Paige’s sister,” she introduces herself.
“Nice to meet you, Olivia. I’m Theo,” he replies, breaking his eye contact with me reluctantly. I choose that moment to stand.
“Well, I guess we better be getting home,” I say offering a hand to Olivia. I pull her up as Theo brushes sand from his pants.
“I guess I’ll see you Thursday then. What’s the address to your place?” he asks. I don’t have a pen or paper and he doesn’t seem to either. I hesitate.
“Just give it to me. I’ll remember it.”
I give him the address. I can see his mouth moving, committing it to memory.
“See you around, Paige, the cello girl,” Theo says before taking off toward the harbor.
The library is difficult to navigate. I’m used to computer logs, and this library obviously doesn’t have those.
I ask the librarian where I might find some books on the Titanic and the survivors. She finds a few that might have the information I’m looking for.
I take the books she gave me to an empty table and skim through them. I read through the information I already know and find some facts to be wrong.
I could write a far more accurate and interesting account of what happened, I think. Maybe I would someday.
Eventually, I find a list of survivors and I’m pleased to find William’s name on it along with Eliza’s and Breeda’s. Relief washes over me, as does a profound sadness.
Should I call? But what if he moved on with his life and got married? It’s been such a long time for him. William is in his fifties now. We’ll never have a life together, but I need to speak to him, to know he’s okay. I need to let him know I’m fine too.
I can’t imagine having to wait thirty years to find out if he’s alive. William won’t know my fate. Maybe he hoped I’d made it home.
I close the books and ask the librarian how I might get someone’s phone number.
“Just dial the operator and tell them the name and city they live in,” she replies.
“Thanks,” I say, checking how much change I have. I’ve never used a payphone.
I walk outside and find a phone immediately. I put some coins in and dial zero.
“Operator. How may I direct your call?” says a man’s voice.
“Um, William McCarthy, New York City, New York,” I reply, hoping he still lives there.
“One moment, please,” came the voice.
There’s silence then ringing. I’m getting nervous. What if he doesn’t answer? What if he does?
“Hello?” says a woman’s voice. My heart sinks to my feet. It must be his wife. I swallow the lump in my throat and in a thick voice, I say,
“May I speak with William McCarthy, please?”
“May I ask who’s calling?” she says.
“Tell him it’s Olivia Wells, please.”
“One moment.” There’s silence for a minute, then I hear his wonderfully rich voice. It immediately makes my heart jerk and thunder.
“Hello?” William’s accent isn’t as thick as it once was, but the voice is his. I’m so happy, I almost start crying.
“Hi, it’s me,” I whisper, hoping he’ll know who it is. There’s a small gasp.
“Olivia? Where are you? Where have you been?” he asks quickly.
“I got here, in 1941, ten days ago. I’ve been trying to get settled. I don’t know how long we’ll be here and it scared me to find out if you were alive, or if you’d gotten married,” I reply.
“It’s been a little over a week for you since the sinking?” William asks. I nod then realize he can’t see me. I clear my throat.
“Where are you? I want to see you,” he says.
“Hawaii. I don’t know if that’s a good idea. What about your wife?” I ask.
“What wife? I’m not married,” he asks, confused. My heart unclenches.
“Who answered the phone?” I ask.
“She’s my housekeeper,” William replies.
I laugh. Of course, he has a housekeeper. I should have known. He is filthy rich and I don’t imagine he’ll have lost it in thirty years.
“You’d really come to Hawaii to see me?” I ask.
“Well, yeah. I mean, I’ll fly. I don’t do boats anymore,” he replies, humor in his voice.
I chuckle at his off-handed joke. Nothing matters, as long as I’m with him again.
“I’ll give you the phone number for the place I’m staying at. Let me know when your coming. I don’t know how long we’ll be here, but I think it will be at least until December seventh.”
“Ah yes, I’ve been waiting for this. The war in Europe has been going on the last few years, but I’ve been waiting for the event that sends America,” he replies.
“Japan will bomb Pearl Harbor on December seventh,” I say flatly.
“You need to leave then,” William replies, suddenly frantic.
“I don’t think I can. Whatever force that lets us time travel brought us to this time and this place for a reason, like it did with the Titanic. We have to be here for… something, but I expect Fate brought us here to find Paige’s soulmate,” I reply.
“I’m coming there. The least I can do is be there with you,” William says, resolved.
I momentarily panic. I want him as far away as he can be from the pending disaster, but I know he won’t let me face this without him.
“Let me know when you’re coming,” I say.
“I’ll set it up now. I’ll call you before I leave. Please be careful, Olivia,” he says.
“Okay,” I say almost breathlessly.
“And Liv?” My breath comes faster at the sound of my nickname coming from his deep voice.
“Yeah?” I’m almost breathless.
“I love you,” he states simply like it’s as true now as it was thirty years ago. I smile into the receiver.
“I love you too,” I reply before hanging up.
I leave and go to the beach to find Paige. I have to tell her what happened. I didn’t go into the library expecting to come out having spoken to William.
When I get to the beach, Paige is talking to Theo. I smile to myself as I walk up to them. A hundred bucks, he’s Paige’s soulmate.
I introduce myself to Theo. He seems nice enough, but I have to see them together longer to make sure he’s worthy of my amazing sister.
Paige invited Theo to Thanksgiving dinner. Even though it’s absolutely ludicrous that either of us should find someone here, in this place and time, I am happy that she’s finally interested in someone.
God knows Paige Wells doesn’t need a man. She’s a strong woman who will do just fine on her own, but I know she doesn’t want to grow old alone either.
I hope William makes it in time for Thanksgiving too. Holidays should be spent with the people you love.
I wonder how I’ll explain William being so much older than me. Maybe the age difference doesn’t hold the same taboo here as it did in 2019.
“I talked to William,” I say into the silence of our walk home. Paige stops dead and stares at me.
“You did? He’s alive?” she asks noticeably happy to hear the news. I smile, remembering his voice.
“Yes. He’s living in New York. He never married, and he’s coming here,” I blurt, elated.
“He’s coming to Hawaii?” Paige asks.
“He’s still William, no matter how much older he is,” Paige says, mirroring my unspoken thoughts.
It’s silent again for a bit and we are almost back to the house.
“At least we won’t have to face this alone,” Paige says at last before we walk into the house.
I stare off into the distance, hoping William makes it safe and soon. My heart races at the thought of seeing him again.