Brynne knew they were only doing their jobs, but did the stewardesses have to attend the lavatories at all times? Brynne had intended to open the link in the bathroom she’d first arrived in, but when she opened the door, she found a stewardess patiently waiting there for anyone who might need her services. Out of curiosity, she went down one deck to B-deck and checked both of the ladies public lavatories. Sure enough, she found a stewardess on duty in each of them. Granted, it was early morning, and they probably hadn’t been there all night. They probably only had to be available this early to assist passengers who were early risers. But still, it was incredibly annoying.
Brynne looked at her wrist unit. First light was a little over an hour away, and she didn’t have time to search all the bathrooms on Titanic for one without an attendant. She had another idea, though.
By the time Brynne reached the poop deck, the sun was still an hour away. She’d been right about this part of the ship being deserted at this time of the morning. There was no one around anywhere, not even crew.
Her body facing the stern of the ship, Brynne checked over her shoulder one last time for any sign of others before she pushed back her sleeve and activated her wrist unit. It clicked and beeped for a few seconds. Brynne looked at the large open space in front of her that comprised the poop deck of the R.M.S. Titanic. The air around her crackled, and cracks of light began to form directly in front of her, which Brynne recognized as the initial stages of link formation. She watched intently and waited.
But nothing happened. The cracks of light faded into nothing. Brynne looked down at her wrist unit. It had gone silent and dark. She tried entering a few different code combinations into the device, but it had no effect. The wrist appeared to be dead.
“Shit!” she whispered.
“Can I help you with something, ma’am?”
Brynne whirled around and found William Murdoch, the ship’s first officer, standing behind her.
“Mrs. Andrews,” Murdoch said, trying to conceal his mild shock. He hadn’t expected her to be the woman he’d just heard curse. He wondered what had caused her to utter that type of language. She’d sounded frustrated about something.
“Mr. Murdoch,” Brynne said, taking a calming sigh. “You surprised me.”
“My apologies, ma’am,” Murdoch said. “I didn’t mean to startle you.”
Brynne smiled. “It’s no problem, Mr. Murdoch.”
“Are you making the rounds with Mr. Andrews this morning?” Murdoch asked.
“No, I came out to take in the sunrise,” Brynne answered. “I’ve seen so many sunsets, but I rarely ever take to time to see a sunrise.”
Murdoch didn’t quite believe her explanation, given her recent exclamation, but he grinned all the same. It wasn’t his place to pry. “Well, you’ve picked a top-notch spot,” he said. “It’s one of the best places on the ship to enjoy a good view, in my opinion, especially a sunrise.” He took a moment to survey the view, as if personally affirming his declaration that the poop deck was best for sight-seeing.
At last, he turned back to Brynne, who was trying her best to look serene. Murdoch wasn’t buying it. Something was gnawing at her. “I’ll leave you to it, then,” he said.
“Thank you, Mr. Murdoch.” Brynne watched him go. It had been too close of a call. There hadn’t been much of anything for Murdoch to see, but what if the link had opened as it was supposed to? Murdoch would’ve surely discovered more than just a cursing woman on the poop deck.
Brynne walked over and sat on a bench facing the port side of the ship. The last time she’d been on this bench, she’d nearly been strangled to death by an assailant, the man she’d been searching in vain for this whole mission. She looked out at the ocean. The sun was still below the horizon, but the first light of morning was beginning to gently glow where the sky met the sea.
So, the link hadn’t worked. She hadn’t even been able to get a link to form, and she didn’t know what had gone wrong. She didn’t exactly know all the implications, though she knew at least two possibilities: Either the inability to create a link was a temporary situation caused by some combination of factors, or it was permanent.
Brynne didn’t want to dwell on the probability of the latter. If the condition were permanent, it meant she could be stuck here in this temporal progression for God knows how long. The only comforting fact was that Payton had assured her that COSI would locate her and bring her home.
But there was no guarantee all that would be necessary.
It was far more likely that Brynne’s inability to establish a link was a temporary circumstance, a glitch that could be remedied at some later date. Maybe it was that she was outside or too far away from the original entry point. Maybe she wouldn’t be able to open a link until she reached a certain point in the timeline. It could be any number of things.
That’s what she wanted to believe, anyway. It’s what she had to believe if she wanted to keep herself calm and sane for the rest of this mission.
Brynne closed her eyes. She’d considered herself relatively lucky up to this point. She hadn’t had to live through the nightmarish sinking of the Titanic during her first trip – the ship hadn’t even gone down. But now it looked like she wouldn’t be able to avoid it, unless by some twist of fate, the Titanic missed the iceberg (again). Could it really (not) happen again?
What if I have to watch him die?
Part of Brynne’s reason for wanting to get away from this ship so early was a desire to avoid having to acknowledge Andrews’s fate if the Titanic ended up going down. She knew he would never leave if others remained in danger. He’d ultimately blame himself for the failure, and the Titanic would become his casket.
Brynne closed her eyes at the horrible prospect of being doomed to witness his death; not necessarily directly, but watching the ship sink and knowing that he was on it and knowing his fate was essentially the same thing. A tear escaped her shut eye and rolled down her cheek, and she silently cursed herself for being so weak. After Jeremy, she’d vowed not to become attached to anyone else while on a mission again; yet, here she was, crying because … because …
“What is wrong with you?” she asked of herself aloud.
“Not a thing in the world.”
Brynne looked over her shoulder. Andrews was only a few feet away from the bench. She had been so immersed in her thoughts, she hadn’t heard him approach. He approached the bench and sat, his eyes trained on her hasty attempt to brush the fresh tears from her cheeks.
“What’s wrong, Brynne?” he asked.
“I’m fine,” she replied. She smiled sweetly at him, pasting on a faker-than-fake smile. Andrews didn’t buy any of it, and his skeptical expression was his only reply.
“I wanted to see the sunrise,” Brynne said. “I came out here to watch it, and I started thinking about how unbelievably happy I am here, with you, on this ship.”
“Even with all the nonsense caused by Ruth Bukater?” Andrews asked.
Brynne nodded. “I guess thinking about it all evoked some feelings.”
Andrews fished into his jacket pocket and brought out two gold rings, one of them adorned with a respectable diamond. “I found these on the table in the room.”
Brynne looked down at the rings in Andrews’s hand. “I must have left them there this morning when I was getting dressed,” she said.
Andrews picked up Brynne’s left hand and slipped the rings onto her ring finger. He then stretched out his arm and rested it across the back of the bench, inviting Brynne to move in closer. She leaned against him, resting her head against his sturdy shoulder.
The sun began to slowly rise. Brynne inhaled sharply at the sight. The light bled into the clouds hovering just above the horizon, painting pink, blue, and orange across the sky. Brynne loved sunset, but she hated how she always missed out on sunrises. Now, one was unfolding before her very eyes. She was completely at peace in this moment, and she wished she could stop time and remain frozen in the here and now forever. It was so uncomplicated, not anything akin to what her life had become in the last two years.
Brynne sighed. “I guess we should get a start on the day,” she said, sitting upright.
“Let’s enjoy the sunrise for a little while longer,” Andrews suggested. “The work will be there to finish later today and tomorrow and the day after. Let’s take advantage of this moment now.”
Brynne grinned and repositioned herself against Andrews. They remained like that, watching the sea and the sun until the first passengers of the day began to appear on deck. If only it were true, what Andrews had just said. But it wasn’t. Not for him. There would be no tomorrow or the day after for him.
Brynne could not keep the next tear from falling.
“I’ll see you at lunch, then?” Brynne asked, rising from the small table she and Andrews had shared in the saloon. Breakfast was over for her and Andrews and many others as well. Many were leaving, and stewards were beginning to prepare the saloon for worship service.
“Lunch,” Andrews repeated. “Yes.” Now it was he who appeared distracted. Brynne didn’t think twice about it, though. He was often preoccupied with details about the ship.
“You can pick where, it doesn’t matter to me,” Brynne said. She and Andrews walked toward the saloon’s aft entrance.
“Brynne – I know this trip hasn’t been the most pleasant,” Andrews said.
“This isn’t supposed to be a pleasure cruise,” Brynne said. “I’m not a passenger. I’m not here to have fun, I’m here to work.”
“And you’ve been doing an excellent job. But don’t you think you deserve a little rest?”
“Are the others taking a rest today?” Brynne asked, referring to the other members of the Harland and Wolff group onboard.
“No, but their situation is different than yours. They haven’t had to deal with the same pressures that you have.”
Brynne didn’t have a response. She knew Andrews’s reasoning was sound and that he spoke the truth. But that didn’t stop her from trying to come up with some type of rebuttal.
They left the saloon and entered the crew area adjacent to the first- and second-class galley. “What would you have me do?” Brynne asked. “Loaf about all day?”
“Honestly, yes,” Andrews answered. “I want you to relax today. Go spend some time in the Turkish Bath, maybe watch a squash match or two, read a book.”
“I can’t do that.”
“Of course you can. It’s easy enough if you give it a try.”
Brynne nodded slowly, as an idea formed in her head. “You’ve changed your mind.”
“About me. About having a working wife,” Brynne clarified. “Now that you know what kind of reaction to expect, you’re embarrassed, and you want me to be a regular wife.”
In a swift movement, Andrews kissed Brynne with an intensity that threw her off-balance and sent her stumbling back a few paces. The members of the galley staff who weren’t busy (but probably should have been) with preparations for the religious service paused to stare at the amorous couple. Andrews didn’t seem to notice. He reached out and caught Brynne around the waist, pulling her body tight against his. This was definitely not the behavior of a man ashamed of his wife.
“Do you still think I’m embarrassed?” he asked, his face still mere centimeters from hers. She shook her head ‘no’. His embrace relaxed. “I’m just trying to look out for you, Brynne. I don’t want you worrying yourself to death over any of this. You need your rest. You deserve it.”
Brynne looked up into Andrews’s deep brown eyes and felt the butterflies in her stomach speed up exponentially. She was swooning because of him– again – and she saw no use in trying to fight it.
Brynne had told Andrews she would go spend some time enjoying the ship’s amenities, and she did go have a peek at the Turkish bath, swimming bath, and squash court, even though she’d seen them all before. But after those little diversions, she went back to the stateroom, where she spent the rest of the day trying to figure out what was wrong with her wrist unit and how she might be able to fix it. She’d stopped to go meet Andrews for lunch in the Cafe Parisien, but she’d returned to the stateroom immediately after to resume work.
Andrews returned to the stateroom around 6:00. “Are you sure you don’t want to come with me?” he asked about half an hour later. He slipped into his jacket as he finished dressing for dinner. “I promise it will be better than last night. We’d be with the Dicks and Dr. O’Loughlin. No Ismay, no Hockley, no Ruth Bukater.”
Brynne couldn’t spare any time to go to dinner. Her time was beginning to run out, and she needed to repair her wrist unit. “I’ll be fine here,” she said. “I feel like I need to rest some more in the room.”
“I’ll tell Mary to have a meal brought here to you, then,” Andrews said. He left just before 7:00, and Mary Sloan, their stewardess, showed up at around 7:15, ready to take Brynne’s order.
By 8:00 that evening, Brynne was still unable to repair her wrist unit or establish a link. Maybe it was still too early. But how much longer would she have to wait? In less than four hours, the ship would hit the berg. In less than seven hours, she would be gone … if the original timeline had been restored.