January 3, 1913
Harland and Wolff
Despite everything I’ve been through with COSI and knowing what they are capable of, I still couldn’t believe it when I found myself standing beside myself, literally, as this other woman who looked, talked, and acted like me explained everything that had happened to me. It all sounded completely absurd … but at the same time, it made so much sense.
My future self stepped it up a notch and actually took me back in time. We went, and I stood by and watched Tom’s proposal to a third version of myself. The scenario unfolded just as Tom had described it to the O’Reillies at our Thanksgiving dinner. But this was only the beginning.
“I still don’t understand how they can’t see us,” Brynne said, looking on as Andrews proposed to a third version of herself. Brynne kept expecting them to turn and look at her and Future Brynne.
“Does it matter?” Future Brynne asked. “They can’t see us, and that means we can watch whatever we want without any consequences. We could stay here all day if we wanted … but there’s something else you probably want to see more than this.” Future Brynne took Brynne’s hand and activated the link. The light that Brynne, until today, hadn’t seen in nearly a year flashed into existence and once again offered her a corridor to another time and place.
The two Brynnes entered the link and emerged in a church filled with people, all dressed splendidly. They’d stepped out of the link between two of the last pews in the room, and they moved toward the aisle for a better look at their surroundings. A minister stood at the pulpit. Just in front of him and a few paces to the right stood Tom, who was dressed impeccably. He and everyone else expectantly gazed at the sanctuary entrance at the rear of the church.
Future Brynne and Brynne turned around and looked behind them at the entrance. The double doors slowly opened outward, revealing a silhouette in a long, full gown. A pianist at the front of the sanctuary momentarily paused his playing. When he resumed, the tune that reverberated throughout the room wasn’t the traditional wedding march tune “Here Comes the Bride.” Instead, it was a slow piano solo that Brynne didn’t recognize. On cue, the entire audience stood.
“It’s called ‘The Portrait’,” Future Brynne whispered.
“What?” Brynne asked.
“The music,” Future Brynne clarified. “The song is called ‘The Portrait’.”
“It’s beautiful,” Brynne said, staring intently at the figure in the doorway. The figure began to slowly move out of the shadows and into the sanctuary.
“It’s me,” Brynne said, as if she hadn’t already known it would be her. The identity of the figure was confirmed as she moved forward into the sanctuary. Brynne and Future Brynne watched Bride Brynne slowly stroll past them down the aisle toward Andrews.
“I know there’s no way for me to actually feel what she’s feeling,” Brynne began, her eyes still on herself, “but this is a hell of a lot closer than I was before. She couldn’t take her eyes off the sight of herself in that wedding gown.
“This is more than I could have ever anticipated,” she continued. “Thank you for this.”
Brynne and Future Brynne exited the link a final time and stepped into Brynne’s office at Harland and Wolff.
“I have one more question to ask you,” Brynne said.
“What is it?” Future Brynne said.
“Am I stuck here?” Brynne asked. “I mean … is COSI ever coming back for me?”
Future Brynne hesitated. She seemed to be struggling with something internally. Future Brynne’s internal tug of war wasn’t lost on Brynne, and it gave her more reason to believe that she wasn’t going to like the answer to her question.
“I really shouldn’t tell you this,” Future Brynne began. “It’s bad enough that I’m even here showing you any of this at all, but I could really get into trouble for what I’m about to say. I guess I’ve shown this much to you, one more thing might not make a difference.” She paused to consider the best way to say what she had to say, but there really was no easy or good way.
“COSI isn’t going to retrieve you,” Future Brynne said.
Brynne took a deep breath. The sadness that came to her as a result of that statement was immediate and immense. “I’d suspected as much,” she said, fighting back threatening tears. The prospect of never going home had remained a constant possibility in her mind, but despite the growing probability of it, she’d always held out hope that COSI would eventually come for her. Now, it was official and final – she was here, in this life, for good.
“It’s not what you think,” Future Brynne said quickly. “They didn’t give up on you, they know exactly where you are. It’s that they can’t bring back.”
“They don’t have the ability to?”
“No, they do. But there’s … something you’re going to be responsible for that will have a significant positive impact on your future. If they pull you out before that happens, the results are assured to be catastrophic.”
“For me?” Brynne asked.
Brynne shook her head. “But … but … how? I -”
Future Brynne held up her hand, cutting Brynne off. “I can’t tell you anymore. I shouldn’t have said anything, but I went against my better judgment because I wanted you to know that there’s a reason for all of this. There’s a reason for your being here.”
“So, what am I supposed to do, now?” Brynne asked hurriedly. “How do I make sure this significant thing happens? How do I know what it is?”
Future Brynne thought for a moment. “You won’t know it until it happens,” she said. The best advice I can give you is to forget about this. Just live the life you have now. Don’t think about making big plays thinking that’s the way to make this thing happen. I can guarantee you it’s not. Just live your life as it comes to you, and everything will work out like it’s supposed to.”
Just as one mystery had been solved for Brynne, another had begun. She finally had her answer as to her ultimate temporal fate. She would remain where she was. But she’d also learned that she was going to do something or be responsible for something that would, as Future Brynne made it sound, save the world from some type of severe hardship. And she was supposed to just forget about it all and live a normal life?
Not damn likely.