The next morning, Brynne was up at the crack of dawn helping Andrews inspect the swimming pool. It was deserted except for Brynne and Andrews, who were working their way through the follow-up inspections they, along with all the other members of the Harland and Wolff team, would be performing for the duration of the trip.
Andrews peered over into the water and scribbled something in his notebook. He looked around the room, up at the ceiling, at the hand rails. Then he scribbled something else.
“Do you think Mr. Ismay will make any changes to your plans for the Gigantic at the expense of safety?”
“Most likely,” Andrews said. He looked at Brynne. “If all goes well on this crossing, ’tis very likely.” He left the swimming bath with Brynne.
“Do you think he’ll want to change even more than he changed on the Titanic?” Brynne asked.
“I wouldn’t be surprised.” Andrews and Brynne walked up the stairs to the next deck, E deck.
“You don’t think he’ll try to get rid of the boats altogether, do you?” Brynne asked.
“He’ll try, but he won’t get very far.”
“He tried to do it this time, didn’t he?”
“The man actually tried to bully the Board of Trade. He doesn’t understand the fundamentals of shipbuilding, but he wants to tell me how to build my ships. I keep tryin’ to tell him you can only push machinery so far. You’ve got to have something to fall back on.”
“Some people don’t listen because they don’t want listen. They don’t want to hear about it until something bad happens or until it’s their necks on the line.”
“Unfortunately, I have a feelin’ that’s going to be the case. ‘Tis unpleasant to think but true.”
Andrews and Brynne walked through the first-class reception room and the dining room. It was still very early, so there weren’t any passengers present while they looked underneath tables and behind curtains. They didn’t spend much time there before moving on to the pantry.
“Dr. O’Loughlin and I were just discussin’ this very thing last night,” Andrews continued, as he scribbled something down in his notebook.
“Who?” Brynne asked.
“Dr. William O’Loughlin. He’s my dinner partner. We were discussin’ this last night. He agrees with us. Bein’ a doctor, he knows that you can’t always rely on machinery.”
“Doctors usually are. And so are engineers.”
They left the pantry and headed for the second-class galley.
“You’re welcome to join us for dinner in the saloon, if you like,” Andrews offered.
“Thank you for the invitation, Mr. Andrews, but Jeremy and I usually dine together in the crew saloon.”
“Bring him along. We’ll make a party of it.”
“Alright. If you’re sure you won’t you or the doctor won’t mind.”
“Mind? Of course not. You come join us for dinner, and bring Jeremy, too.”
“We’ll be there.”
Friday afternoon, Brynne and Jeremy were inspecting the mail hold. It was pretty deserted down there, as usual. The two were chatting away while they checked to make sure that everything was in near perfect order, mechanically and structurally.
When Brynne ran across the car, she had to stop and look at it. She shook her head. “I guess this was before they had rental cars,” she said mumbled to herself.
But Jeremy had heard her anyway. “What was that?” he asked her.
“I was just admiring this car,” Brynne said louder.
Jeremy walked over to where she stood at the car. “It is a beauty, isn’t it?” he said. “One day, I’m going to have one of my own.”
“Are you going to take it with you overseas?” Brynne asked.
“No. I won’t need to because I’ll have a car of my own on both shores.”
“Mr. Big Time High Roller,” Brynne said.
“Not necessarily. Pretty soon everyone’s going to have one of these babies. It’s going to catch on, more people will buy them, and the prices are going to plummet. I bet the cities will be full of large lots where people will be able to walk in and drive out.”
“You think so?” Brynne asked.
“Oh, definitely. And it’ll be something to see. Brynne, we’re so lucky to be alive now. There’s so much progress and technology today that I don’t see how things can advance much beyond where they are now.”
“You never know … “
“For me to believe that things can get much better than they are today, I’d have to see it with my own eyes before I even thought about believing it.”
Brynne turned away from him and began checking some hinges on some of the grates, when a forlorn notebook caught her attention. Why would a notebook need to be packed away in the cargo hold? Surely, it couldn’t have taken up so much space that the passenger couldn’t have carried it with them?
Brynne reached out and picked up the small, leather-bound book. She opened it, and her eyes went wide. This was it – the notebook. The notebook. Why hadn’t it been where it was supposed to have been. And who had moved it down here? She’d been discretely searching for it ever since she’d failed to retrieve it on her first try. That had been nearly two days ago.
“Find anything interesting over there?” Jeremy asked.
Brynne slapped the book shut and turned to Jeremy. “No,” she answered. “I was just double-checking something on this gate. Everything looks to be in order, though.”
“Thank goodness,” Jeremy said with a tired sigh. “I was afraid you’d found something down here that needed some attention. We’re all done for now, and I don’t think I can stand being boxed in down here any longer.”
“Why, Mr. Bratt, you aren’t claustrophobic, are you?” Brynne asked, smiling.
Jeremy didn’t answer, but the look on his face, though equally jovial, hinted that Brynne’s quip might have hit a bit close to home.
The pair exited the cargo hold. As the door slammed shut behind them, they ascended ascended a long narrow staircase and eventually emerged on the third-class promenade.
“It feels so good to be done for the day,” Jeremy said.
“We’re actually done early for a change,” Brynne added. “Do you have anything special planned for tonight?” They walked over to the railing and faced the sea. Many of the passengers present watched Brynne and Jeremy with curiosity, probably trying to figure out why they were in a third-class area. Judging from their clothing, they were not likely to be traveling on third-class fare. The passengers thought it equally odd that these two misplaced souls didn’t seem to notice that they weren’t supposed to be in third-class.
Jeremy leaned forward and rested his elbows on the rail. He looked out at the water. “What would I have planned?” he said in response to Brynne’s question. “I was anticipating having to work. What about yourself?”
“Mr. Andrews invited me to dine with him at his table in the saloon tonight,” Brynne said. “He said you’re more than welcome to join in, too, if you like.”
“Let’s see – dinner alone in crew quarters or second-class, OR dinner with my boss and my charming colleague in first-class,” Jeremy said, feigning indecisiveness. “That really is a tough one.”
“I’ll see you tonight, then,” Brynne said.
“Yes. I could come by your stateroom and escort you to the saloon,” Jeremy offered. “If that would be to your liking, I mean.”
Brynne nodded. “That would be more than acceptable.” She gave him one more smile. “I’ll see you in a few hours.” And she left him at the railing.
Jeremy and Brynne descended the Grand Staircase to the first-class reception room. It was the first time Brynne had seen the landing as it was meant to be seen, with scores of people in fabulous clothing floating down the opulent staircase to the sound of a stringed ensemble in the reception room. The music wafted up to meet people as they descended from higher decks.
“Do you see Mr. Andrews?” Brynne asked.
Jeremy’s eyes quickly scanned the reception room before they reached the last steps. “Yes, there he is,” he said. He stood across the room with another man. He cleared the last steps with Brynne, and they began to meander through throngs of the ship’s upper crust, who had gathered in bored anticipation of dinner. This may have all been a new experience for Brynne, but it was now Friday night. This was the third night that most of these people had gone through the nightly dinner rituals. It was old news to them by now.
Andrews spotted Brynne and Jeremy before they arrived. He turned to his companion, Dr. O’Loughlin. William O’Loughlin was an older man, slight in physique and stature. He had a full head of hair, though it had long ago turned white, and round spectacles rested on the bridge of his nose.
“Here are two of my people, now,” Andrews told him. “I was telling you about them earlier.” He and O’Loughlin watched Brynne and Jeremy’s approach from across the room.
“Thank you again, Mr. Andrews, for inviting us to join you for dinner,” Jeremy said. He and Andrews shook hands.
“Jeremy, Brynne – I’d like you to meet Dr. William O’Loughlin,” Andrews introduced. “Dr. O’Loughlin, this is Mr. Jeremy Bratt and Ms. Brynne Larence.”
Pleasantries were exchanged all around while hands clasped in greeting.
“Well, now that our party is all here, why don’t we find our table and take our seats?” Andrews suggested.
“Mr. Andrews has been telling me a great deal about the work that the two of you have been doing,” O’Loughlin said after the first course had been set out before them on the table. “It’s very impressive, the amount of work you’ve been able to take on. What intrigues me most is you, Ms. Larence.”
“Is that so?” Brynne asked.
“Yes. How did you end up with a career in ship design? You must get this question all the time. I hope I’m not being too forward.”
“No, not at all,” Brynne said. “I’ve always been interested in structures.” She looked down at her plate briefly, as if reminiscing. “Even as a child. I found them fascinating. With a little luck and a lot of hard work, I made it through university and found a company in the States to apprentice with. After a few years as an apprentice, I began to work for that very same company as a bona fide architect.” She looked up from her plate again, making eye contact with Andrews, then with O’Loughlin. “Now, originally, ship design wasn’t my goal, but fate has a way of dealing in life so that we often end up where we don’t expect to, for it was completely by chance that I landed at Harland and Wolff. I was attempting to send some designs to my sister, who was staying in England at the time, but they must have been delivered to the wrong address by the post, that wrong address being the offices of Harland and Wolff.”
Brynne finally looked at Jeremy. “I’ve never been so happy for postal incompetence.” Their eyes were stuck together, and something unspoken passed between them.
The whole spiel had been a complete load of nonsense, but no one else besides Brynne knew that. Telling them the truth, that women had comprised nearly 50 of her graduating class, was not an option.
“That is quite a journey,” O’Loughlin said.
“Sometimes, it’s difficult for me to believe that it actually happened,” Brynne said, her eyes still on Jeremy. His face bore a look that, at first, she thought she had never seen on him before. But she soon realized that she had seen it before. It was the same look she’d seen on his face when they’d first met. It was a subtle look of surprise and awe. Not that his jaw was hanging open to the table or anything, but it revealed itself in his eyes.
“It’s turned out to be a wonderful blessing,” Brynne concluded. She looked away from Jeremy shyly and hoped that she wasn’t blushing.
“I’m glad we had dinner with Mr. Andrews and Dr. O’Loughlin,” Jeremy said. He and Brynne walked the first-class promenade with the other post-dinner strollers.
“Me, too,” Brynne said. “They’re good people.”
Brynne and Jeremy walked a little longer in silence. They moved to the railing and stopped walking.
“It’s so beautiful out here and peaceful,” Brynne said, looking out at the endless darkness.
“It’s like a dream,” Jeremy said. Brynne turned to him. She hadn’t expected something like that to come out of Jeremy Bratt’s mouth. It sounded much too syrupy for his character. Mr. Bratt was just a bundle of surprises tonight. First, there had been the look on his face at dinner, and now the sentimental language.
Jeremy continued. “That’s one of the reasons I like this crossing,” he said. “It’s so peaceful sometimes.” He pointed out to the darkness that extended before them. “Look at that – you can’t even tell where the sky ends and the sea begins. Everything goes on forever in all directions.”
Brynne looked at Jeremy, and he looked at her. His brown eyes twinkled like two stars. He looked like he wanted to say something, and that scared Brynne because she already had an idea of what he might say. She turned back to the water and focused on the sky. But Jeremy didn’t look at the sky or at the stars.
“Look at those stars,” Brynne said. “It looks like someone took a big blanket, poked a million little holes in it, and held it up to a light. The stars are what you get when the light seeps through the holes.”
Finally, Jeremy turned away from Brynne. He looked at the stars briefly, then at the water. But he couldn’t help it; he had to look at Brynne again.
“What are you going to do while we’re in New York?” he asked her.
“Well, I’m not staying for very long,” Brynne said. “I’m leaving for D.C. almost immediately.”
“D.C.? You’re not coming back to Britain?”
Brynne shook her head and answered, “No.”
“I’m going back to my old job. I can’t really explain it all to you. I just have to go back.”
Jeremy sighed and leaned forward, resting his elbows on the railing. “Andrews isn’t going to like this.” He looked at Brynne. “You’re one of his best, you know.”
“So are you,” Brynne reminded him. “I know you’re going back to work on Gigantic, but what are your plans after?”
“I don’t know. Maybe I’ll go back the States.” Jeremy looked out at the inky water. “I could track you down and visit you.”
“I’d have to find you,” Brynne said with a smile, “because you wouldn’t be able to find me.” She didn’t dare explain to him why, but it didn’t matter because that situation would never occur.