When Brynne stepped out of the link, she in a lavatory on the Titanic. It had taken longer for her to pass through this time than it normally did, but she attributed it to the experimental nature of this type of link. She was lucky to have come through in such a discreet location. Having passengers see someone suddenly appear out of thin air on the Promenade deck certainly wouldn’t have made her job any easier.
She stood in front of the mirror, looking herself over. Her attire looked flawless; Payton and the COSI wardrobe department had seen to that, though for whom or for what she looked flawless, she had no idea. She didn’t know if she, or her double, rather, had changed anything or if the other woman was still here, even. Upon this small revelation, experienced a short moment of silent panic as the reality of her situation bore down upon her, and she ruminated on just how precarious her situation really was. She was here. Alone. Without a clue about what she would find when she stepped out into the corridor.
Brynne closed her eyes, and took a series of slow, deep breaths to calm her climbing heartrate.
“Are you well, ma’am?”
Brynne’s eyes popped open and fell upon the image of a young stewardess standing behind her in the mirror. Brynne quickly composed herself. Whatever doubts and fears she had, she couldn’t give in to them now. Her mission was at hand, ready or not.
She sighed. “I’m fine,” she said. “I just got a little lightheaded for a moment.”
The stewardess’s concerned expression quickly brightened. “It’s likely all the excitement surrounding the voyage,” she said. “You and Mr. Andrews have worked yourselves ragged.” She took a few more steps so that she was standing directly beside Brynne. “So, you decided to change for dinner after all.”
Brynne tilted her head slightly, glad to finally be learning something about her new situation. That one sentence had told her plenty. It was dinner time, and this stewardess had apparently seen her double before now, as the other Brynne had been wearing a different outfit. But where was this other woman, now? That was the critical question. “Yes,” Brynne said, responding to the stewardess’s observation. “It’s been such a long day, you know.”
“Oh, of course, ma’am,” the stewardess said with a nod and a smile. “Shall I accompany you to the dining saloon?”
Brynne nodded. “I’d appreciate that very much, thank you.”
They stepped out of the lavatory and into the corridor.
“It must be grand eating in such fancy surroundings with important men like Mr. Ismay and Mr. Andrews,” the stewardess gushed as they stepped around the corner and approached the elevators.
“It has its moments,” Brynne conceded. It certainly wasn’t all it was cracked up to be, though, she thought, stepping into the waiting lift car ahead of the stewardess.
“I suppose a lady such as yourself has grown used to it by now,” the stewardess said.
The car began to descend. “I don’t think I could ever get used to all of it,” Brynne said. “Sometimes, its nice to be able to let your guard down and just be natural.” Brynne paused when she heard the other woman chuckle. “What is it?”
“Mr. Andrews said the very same thing just this morning,” the stewardess said. “You two do complement each other quite well.”
Brynne, a bit surprised, looked at the other woman. “Why, thank you,” Brynne replied. “I appreciate the compliment. I’ll be sure to pass it along to Mr. Andrews when I see him.” The stewardess’s statement had caught Brynne off-guard for some reason. Something about it didn’t sound right.
The lift came to a gentle stop, and the attendant announced, “D-deck.” He promptly slid the doors open for his passengers.
“Here we are,” the stewardess said. She hung back, and Brynne stepped out first. “Now, you should be getting along, ma’am. Mr. Andrews will be waiting for you.”
“Of course. Thankyou … ” Not knowing the stewardess’s name, Brynne’s voice trailed noticeably at the end of the sentence.
The stewardess promptly picked up on it. “Mary, ma’am,” she said. “Mary Sloan.”
“Mary,” Brynne said with a nod and smile. “I apologize for my horrible memory. I’m sure you must’ve told me once already today at least.”
“It’s no trouble, ma’am. No trouble at all. It’s been a hectic day.”
Mary left, and Brynne turned and stepped around the corner, toward the first class reception room. She was nervous as hell, but her exterior demeanor was the picture of calmness. She was here without back-up this time, working completely without a net. She breathed in deeply and exhaled. ‘Stay calm,’ she told herself. ‘Keep your cool; you can’t lose it now.’
She scanned the room for Andrews, but he’d found her first and was already making his way toward her by the time she finally spotted him.
“Brynne,” he said once he reached her.
“I apologize for my tardiness,” Brynne said.
“Late? No, not in the least,” Andrews said. He began to lead her gently by the elbow toward the dining saloon.
“I hope you haven’t been waiting too long on my account,” Brynne said.
“Not at all,” Andrews replied. “I’ve only arrived just recently, myself. I spent a few moments chatting with Ismay right before you walked in.”
Brynne recognized the tone in his voice instantly. Slightly weary with a hint of frustration. He’d often sounded that way after interacting with Ismay during Brynne’s first trip. Obviously, some things hadn’t changed.
But some things had. Andrews looked down at Brynne and grinned. Of course she’d seen him smile a thousand times before but something, something in his eyes, was different this time. Brynne could only grin back at him weakly as she tried to feel her way through a situation that was growing more awkward with every passing minute.
“Dr. O’Loughlin,” Andrews said as he and Brynne approached an older, uniformed gentleman.
Dr. William O’Loughlin, the ship’s doctor, turned around, grinning beneath a bushy, white mustache. “Mr. Andrews,” he said, his eyes shifting from Andrews to Brynne. “How has married life been treating the newlyweds?” he asked.
He was looking at Brynne, and it took her a moment to register that his question was directed at her. She was married?
“It’s been quite nice,” she replied. Of course, she didn’t know to whom she was supposed to be married, but it was just a detail at the moment, a detail she could figure out later. It might not even be necessary if her so-called husband wasn’t onboard.
“I imagine you haven’t had much time to enjoy it, with the Titanic taking up so much of your time,” O’Loughlin said. “It may not be the ideal honeymoon, and you may be here in an official working capacity, but at least you get to spend it together.”
So, Brynne’s new husband was on the ship and possibly an employee of White Star. She supposed it was possible that her husband worked for Harland and Wolff. In fact, that made a lot of sense, the more she thought about it. She was probably married to the person who’d taken Jeremy’s place, since he was out of the picture in this new, altered timeline. Drawing on her time at Harland and Wolff and the people she’d encountered during her year there, she had a few ideas about who it could be, but nothing was certain in this new timeline. She looked around the room, searching for any familiar face from the shipyard or any unfamiliar face who looked like he might be walking toward them.
“Yes, we’ve been truly lucky in that regard,” Andrews said.
Brynne looked at Andrews. He was looking at her with that strange smile again. It unsettled her. And she didn’t understand why he should care so much that she was able to be with her husband while she worked on the Titanic. At last, she surmised that it probably had something to do with wanting happy employees.
Andrews continued. “I must say that I count myself as extraordinarily lucky, especially over the course of this last year,” he said. “I’ve found happiness with an exquisite wife and a fulfilling career. A man can’t ask for much more in good conscience.”
“I know your lives together will be filled with joy,” O’Loughlin said. “You do make a good match, that’s for certain.”
Brynne’s head snapped to the doctor as she finally realized to whom she was married in this new timeline. But she knew it couldn’t be true … could it? How? Andrews was already married, with a child, no less. It didn’t make any sense.
But there was still a chance that her imagination was running away with her, and that she was jumping to conclusions. Before she acted on any of it, she still needed some kind of confirmation but what?
“Will you be joining us for dinner?” Brynne asked O’Loughlin.
“No, Mrs. Andrews, I’ll be dining with the Captain and Mr. Ismay this evening,” the doctor replied.
And there it was. The final proof. She didn’t know how it had happened, but she was now Mrs. Thomas Andrews. She barely listened while Andrews and O’Loughlin finished the conversation. The doctor left them and walked on to the dining saloon. Andrews offered his arm to Brynne, which she, of course, was obliged to take, as his wife. They began their own short walk to the saloon.
This mission was going to be much more complicated than Brynne could ever have imagined.