Chapter 12: Biting Off More Than You Can Chew

The press lined New York pier, photographers jockeying for position so that they could get the best shot of Titanic. People huddled under a landscape of endless umbrellas, and lines of cars waited for affluent passengers to disembark. One of those cars waited to take Brynne to the Waldorf-Astoria. The night of Tuesday, April 17th would have been perfect, had the rain not been falling in steady, heavy sheets.

Brynne couldn’t understand how it had come to this. What had changed? Had her very presence on the Titanic somehow altered everything? If so, how? COSI had researched everything. Her presence alone shouldn’t have caused the ship to survive. She hadn’t changed anything pivotal. What the hell had gone wrong – or right, rather?

When her stateroom door opened, Brynne turned away from the window. She’d been watching the rain outside come down in droves, and now Carmen entered, wearing her overcoat and hat in lieu of the maid’s uniform.

“Are you ready to go?” Carmen asked.

Brynne nodded. “Ready.”

Stewards entered and began to roll Brynne’s luggage out of the room.

“There’s a car waiting to take us to the hotel,” Carmen said once the stewards had left the room. “Room 515. I have to get there as soon as possible because my signature is only about an hour from now, so I’ll be leaving before you. This whole reality is wrong, so I’m not worried about you causing any trouble after I’m gone.”

“Thanks for the vote of confidence,” Brynne said, rolling her eyes.

The stewards re-entered the stateroom to retrieve the last of Brynne’s luggage. Carmen followed them out. Brynne, clutching the notebook to her chest, was the last to leave the room. Her eyes slowly swept the area one last time. All she could think about was how it was a room that wasn’t even supposed to exist anymore.

Once Brynne finally stepped out of the stateroom, Andrews appeared from around the corner, walking her way.

“Mr. Andrews,” Brynne said. “Good evening.”

“And a wet one, too, from the looks of it,” Andrews said. He noted her traveling attire. “Are you looking to spend a little time ashore city while the ship is docked?”

Brynne winced internally. She hadn’t told Andrews about her plans not to return to Britain because she figured she wouldn’t need to. He was supposed to be dead, and what happened to her was supposed to be irrelevant. “Yes, sir,” she said. “Well, the truth of it is that I’m not going back to Harland and Wolff with the rest of the team.

“Did you want to spend a few extra days here and come back on another ship, or on a later crossing of the Titanic?” Andrews asked. “It can be arranged. I know you and Jeremy have both worked quite hard; you deserve a break.”

“No, sir, that’s not what I mean,” Brynne said. “I mean that I won’t be going back to Britain at all. I’m staying here in the States.”

“What? But why?” Andrews asked. “I’ve worked you too much, haven’t I?”

“Oh, no, not at all Mr. Andrews,” Brynne said, struggling to find the right words. He already looked so hurt she didn’t want to make him feel even worse. “I’ve had such an enriching experience working with you and Jeremy that I’m hesitant to even consider it to be work. The fact of the matter is I received a telegram from my home office. They need me back there as soon as possible.”

“Of course I can’t blame them for wanting you back,” Andrews said. “You’ve certainly made me proud to have had you along, even if it has been a relatively short period of time. Will you at least come back and visit us?”

Brynne looked at Andrews for a moment without responding. He was one of the nicest people she’d ever met, in any century, and she hated the prospect of telling him that she would never be able to see him again, ever. He might think he was the reason she was leaving. “I can’t make any promises, Mr. Andrews. My position at the firm keeps me very busy.”

“I understand.”

“I’ll try,” Brynne vowed.

Andrews nodded, a broad smile forming across his face. He extended his hand to her, and she grasped it firmly. “Best of luck to you, Brynne.”

“Thank you, Mr. Andrews,” Brynne said, shaking hands with him. “And to you, as well.”

Andrews walked away from her. As Brynne watched him go, all she could think about was how he wasn’t supposed to be alive.

She continued on to the first-class exit. Before she stepped onto the gangway, she paused and thought of Jeremy. She hadn’t seen him at all this morning, not since she’d left him before dawn. She hadn’t even left him a note. No doubt, he’d woken up confused to find her gone after such a passion-filled night together. But this was for the best, it really was. He wouldn’t understand, of course, because she had no way of explaining it to him.

With a deep breath, she began to walk down the gangway to the dock, and she filed him, her memory of him, away as part of her past. It was time to move on.

When Jeremy reached Brynne’s stateroom, he found the door open and the interior empty. He stepped into the hallway just as a stewardess approached, intending to enter.

“Excuse me,” Jeremy said, intercepting her, “can you tell me where Ms. Larence is?”

“She’s already disembarked, sir,” the stewardess replied.

“Are you quite certain?”

“Yes, Mr. Bratt. I helped transport her bags to the first-class terminal myself.”

Jeremy nodded and gave a hasty thanks as he began to sprint to the first-class gangway. When he reached the exit, he stood at the gangway, peering out, trying to see if he could spot Brynne. It was no use. The rain was coming down in sheets, and the only thing visible to Jeremy was a sea of umbrellas.

Jeremy slowly descended the gangway, trying to figure out what he should do next. He knew Brynne would remain in the States, but how long would she be in New York? There could be a train waiting to take her to D.C. at this very moment, and she could be on her way to meet it. Or maybe she would be in town for a day or two. Even if she were staying in New York, where would she be staying? There was no way of knowing any of this. Dejected, Jeremy stood at the foot of the gangway. He didn’t care that the rain pelted him and soaked him through.

“Mr. Bratt?”

Jeremy turned at the sound of his name. All he could see was a woman’s form coming down the gangway toward him, her face hidden beneath an umbrella. Finally, she reached him and lifted the umbrella a bit so that he could see her read curls and sparkling green eyes.

“Rose,” Jeremy greeted. “How are you?”

“Wonderful,” Rose replied. “And yourself?”

“I would be doing as well as you if I could find Ms. Larence,” Jeremy said. “I think she’s already left the pier, and I don’t know what hotel she’s staying in while she’s in New York.”

“She’s at the Waldorf-Astoria,” Rose replied. “We had a talk the other night, and she told me herself.”

Jeremy, completely shocked and grateful, looked at Rose. “Thank you, Rose. Thank you so very much.” Jeremy hurried away from the gangway in search of a taxi. Rose walked away from the gangway and found Jack standing a few feet away waiting for her.

/\/\/\

After navigating through the throngs at the pier, Brynne’s taxi eventually arrived at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel, where Brynne made a hasty transition from the cab to the hotel reception desk.

“May I help you, Miss?” the receptionist asked.

“I have a reservation for room 515,” Brynne replied.

“Could I have your name, please?”

“Brynne Larence.”

The receptionist looked down at the register on his desk. “Ah, yes – your lady arrived earlier with your luggage,” he said, handing a key to Brynne.

“Thank you,” Brynne said. The receptionist turned to the next waiting guest, and Brynne turned to leave.

“What took you so long?”

The voice came from behind Brynne. She turned and saw a man standing and reading a paper with his back to her.

“I beg your pardon,” Brynne said to the man.

The man lowered his newspaper and turned to Brynne. “I said, what took you so long?”

Brynne’s eyes went wide because Jeremy Bratt was standing in front of her. “Your lady has been here for quite some time already,” Jeremy said.

“What are you doing here?” Brynne asked. “Aren’t you supposed to be onboard the ship?”

“I know, but I couldn’t let you go without saying goodbye. I had to see you again.”

Brynne shook her head. “Jeremy, I don’t know if this is such a good idea. I’m leaving tonight.”

“Tonight? If you’re leaving so soon, why did you need a room?” Jeremy questioned.

“I don’t have time to explain it all,” Brynne said. “Even if I did, you would never believe it.” She began to walk quickly, trying to get away before Jeremy could say anything else. But he followed her.

“I would,” Jeremy promised, keeping pace with Brynne. “Just give it a chance. Give me a chance. Please, Brynne.”

“Please, Jeremy – go back to the ship.” Tears welled up in Brynne’s eyes. “It will be better that way. You’ll see.”

They reached the elevator. An operator waited there with an open car. Witnessing the interaction between Brynne and Jeremy and seeing Brynne’s distraught state, the operator, a young man in his late teens, eyed Jeremy suspiciously.

“Are you alright, Miss?” the operator asked Brynne.

“I’m fine,” Brynne responded, stepping into the waiting lift.

The operator strategically positioned himself between Brynne and Jeremy as he asked, “Are you sure? Is he giving you trouble, Miss?”

Brynne looked at Jeremy, agonizing over what course of action. She could tell the operator that, yes, Jeremy was bothering her. He would then have him promptly ejected from the hotel, and Brynne would never see him again. That’s what she should have done. But it isn’t what she actually did.

“No, he isn’t,” Brynne finally said, answering the lift operator. “He’s … a friend. We’re going to take tea in my room.”

The operator looked from Brynne to Jeremy. He still didn’t feel completely at ease about allowing Jeremy into the lift, but if the lady insisted that all was well, he couldn’t argue with her. He stepped aside, allowing Jeremy entry into the elevator car.

xxx

When Jeremy and Brynne reached room 515, they found Brynne’s luggage there waiting, as promised by the receptionist. But Carmen was nowhere to be seen.

“Where’s your lady?” Jeremy asked.

“She must have gone ahead to make sure the transportation arrangements are in order,” Brynne lied.

“Oh.” Jeremy closed the door behind them. “What time does your train leave?”

“I’m not taking a train,” Brynne answered promptly.

“Surely you’re not driving all the way back to D.C.?” Jeremy said.

Brynne shook her head. “No.”

“I don’t understand.”

“I know. Jeremy, there’s a lot that you don’t know.”

“About you?” Jeremy asked.

“About me, about my job, about everything. I could never explain it to you.”

“You keep saying that,” Jeremy said, incredibly frustrated.

“Because it’s true.”

“Well, you can at least try.”

Brynne shook her head. “No. You would have to see for yourself, and that isn’t possible.”

“Why not?” Brynne didn’t answer. Jeremy pressed even further. “Why can’t you show me?”

“I just can’t.” Brynne looked at the clock on the wall. Her time was running out.

Jeremy stepped in front of Brynne and gently put his hands on her arms. “Brynne – show me,” he pleaded.

Brynne looked into Jeremy’s eyes. They were the eyes of a desperate man, willing to do anything, believe anything, if it meant a chance to keep Brynne in his life.

Brynne took Jeremy’s hand and led him to the wardrobe across the room. She pulled the closet door open. The clothes hanging in side were a collection of 21st-century clothing that Carmen had unpacked for Brynne, in case she wanted to change before returning home. There was no time for that now, though. Brynne pushed the clothing aside.

“What are you doing?” Jeremy asked.

“Jeremy, I’m not the person you think I am,” Brynne replied. She pushed the sleeve back on her left wrist, exposing her wristwatch. She activated the link, and light engulfed both her and Jeremy. Brynne turned to Jeremy and took his hand again. Then she led him into the light.

xxx

Rose knocked on the door to room 515 at the Waldorf-Astoria, but there was no answer.

“To whom are you offering your services now?”

Rose whirled around to find Cal standing behind her. “I don’t think it’s any of your business who I’m coming to visit,” she told him icily.

“Rose, I’m willing to forgive you of everything you’ve done over the past week. I’m willing to forget that it ever happened,” Cal said.

“You just don’t understand, do you?” Rose said. “I don’t want to be with you, Cal. I don’t know how much more plainly I can put it.”

“You say that now, standing there in your expensive dress inside one of the world’s premier hotels,” Cal said with a cold sneer, “but will you still feel the same when you’re cold and hungry in some festering alley?”

Rose turned away from Cal, his words failing to shake her, and knocked on the door again. Cal was about to leave Rose to what he was sure would be her miserable life, but something caught his eye. A peculiar light seeped through the small space between the floor and the bottom of the door. Cal reached around Rose and twisted the doorknob. The door to the room eased open.

“Cal!” Rose scolded.

But Cal was already inside the room, moving toward the oddly lit wardrobe.

“Cal, don’t!” Rose said.

“What is this?” Cal managed. He walked toward the closet. “I’ve never seen anything like it before.” He stood directly in front of the open wardrobe now.

Rose followed him into the room. “Cal, Ms. Larence isn’t here,” she said. “We shouldn’t intrude like this.”

Cal ignored her. He was too busy searching for the light source. But he could find none. He stepped into the wardrobe, sweeping his hand around, trying to find the light bulb or a switch or something, but there was nothing to find. He couldn’t even find the back wall of the wardrobe, which truly puzzled him. He thought he would come to it eventually. He had to, and then, he reasoned, he would be able to locate this elusive light bulb. He had to. So, he kept stepping further and further into the closet until Rose, now standing at the open doors of the wardrobe, could no longer see him.

“Cal?” she called out. There was no answer. “Cal?”

Rose stepped into the closet. This was ridiculous, she thought. Cal had to be somewhere in there. A closet could only be so big. It had to end somewhere, and Cal couldn’t have simply disappeared into thin air. Yet, here she was, already several feet into the closet, and she saw neither an end to it nor Cal. She also realized that the light now completely surrounded her. She looked over her shoulder. She could not even see the closet doors anymore.

What was going on?

xxx

Brynne and Jeremy stepped out of the closet and into Brynne’s 21st-century bedroom in Washington, D.C. As promised, Drew Bell was there, waiting for her return. His face clearly registered surprise at Jeremy’s presence.

Jeremy looked around the room, completely disoriented. “Where are we?”

“This is my bedroom,” Brynne said. “In my apartment.”

“Brynne, what’s going on?” Bell asked, alarm rising in his voice.

Brynne looked at Bell. “Drew, this is Mr. Jeremy Bratt,” she began to say calmly. “Jeremy, I’d like you to meet Agent Drew Bell.”

Bell and Jeremy shook hands warily. “Nice to know you,” Bell said.

“Agent?” Jeremy said. “Like a travel agent?”

Bell shrugged uncomfortably. “You could say that.”

“Drew,” Brynne began again, “Jeremy is an architect. Like me. He’s been working with Harland and Wolff for the past two years, helping design the Titanic and the Olympic.”

Bell didn’t want her to say those words. He’d been afraid that she would say those words, but he’d hoped that they wouldn’t come out of her mouth.

He shook his head. “No, Brynne. You didn’t.”

“This probably isn’t as bad as it seems,” Brynne said.

“Yes, it is!” Bell exploded. “How did you get him into a lifeboat?”

“Lifeboat?” Jeremy repeated.

“He didn’t get into a boat,” Brynne said. “No one did.”

“I’m not quite understanding,” Bell said.

“There wasn’t any need for lifeboats,” Brynne said. “The Titanic didn’t sink.”

Bell just stared at Brynne, speechless. Then, “What?”

Jeremy’s eyebrows furrowed. “Sink? She docked in New York only a few hours ago.”

“Brynne, what the hell happened?” Bell asked. “You went back for one thing, one little thing, and you end up changing something this big? How does that happen?”

“I don’t know. I did everything by the book, Drew, I swear.”

“Yeah, except bringing someone back,” Bell said, pulling out his cell phone and dialing a number. “I’m pretty sure the rulebook covers that one.”

He placed the phone to his ear. “Payton? This is Bell. We’ve run into a little problem.”

The three of them looked at the closet as the link activated again. Bell looked to Brynne, who shook her head, equally confused.

“I didn’t activate it,” she said.

They all watched the closet expectedly. Caledon Hockley emerged from the light, followed by Rose DeWitt Bukater.

Payton was still on the line, but he was going crazy trying to figure out what’s going on because Bell had suddenly gone quiet. “Bell? Bell, what’s going on? Bell?”

Bell swallowed, his tongue and throat having taken on the consistency of sand paper. “Payton,” he said, “I think our little problem just got a whole lot bigger.”

 

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