Through the Dark

 

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1

She shuffled along behind her parents, her face buried in her phone. Her best friend back in Utah, Callie, had just gotten home from her date with the guy she really liked and she was desperate for details.

How did it go?

“Hurry up, Marie,” her mother called back to her.

Glancing up, scowling slightly, her eyes moved from the back of her mother’s head to the mammoth of a gray building just ahead of them.

Its shape was unusual and it towered over the tourists flocking towards its front doors. She had no desire to be there. She hadn’t even wanted to come to Ireland, but her parents practically forced her onto the plane and, well, there she was, standing in the shadow of an enormous museum for some ship that sank over a hundred years ago.

She didn’t really even know the story, she just knew that it sank.

“I’m so excited!” her younger sister gushed, skipping back to her. “I wonder if it’s just like the movie!”

Marie rolled her eyes just as her phone binged.

“I’m sure the movie is about as off as it can be,” Marie responded as she opened up the text from Callie.

OMG it was amazing! We went to the movies and saw that new Justice League movie and then he drove around for a while. OMG Mare, it was AMAZING!!!

Smiling to herself, she tapped out a quick reply just as they reached the museum doors.

Sounds fun. Is there going to be a second date?

Marie glanced back up as her sister held open the door for her.

“Thanks, Tara,” Marie said as she slipped into the cool interior.

The room was spacious, with tables and chairs dotted around the room. Pictures of the Titanic, of its crew and some of the more notable passengers decorated the walls.

Trailing after her parents and sister, Marie read Callie’s newest text.

Hopefully but I don’t wanna look too eager, you know??

Yeah

“Ooh!” Tara exclaimed, zooming over to the first real artifact. It was nothing extraordinary, just an old tool kit. “It’s one of twelve tool kits used to build Titanic!”

Marie snorted. It baffled her how her sister could be so interested in some ship that hit the ocean floor a century ago. She was a wealth of information about the ship, its crew, and its passengers. When asked, Tara could even spout off the ships height, weight, how many lifeboats there were and their full capacity. She knew everything and would tell anyone who would listen.

Bing!

How’s Belfast? Gone to the museum yet?

Marie scrunched her nose as she replied.

There now. Pretty boring.

Bet Tara’s in heaven LOL

Marie laughed softly as she replied: More unbearable than usual.

Stowing her phone into her pocket, Marie picked up her pace and caught up to her family, who were all gazing at some black and white picture blown up on the wall.

It was Titanic as it was being built in the shipyard, sitting alongside its sister, Olympic.

“Isn’t it amazing?” Tara sighed dreamily. “Such grand ships only for one to hit an iceberg on its first trip and the other to be taken apart decades later.”

Marie frowned as they moved on.

“Didn’t the Olympic have bits and pieces taken and spread across the world?” Marie asked Tara. It was the only thing she almost remembered from all the years of her sisters’ obsession.

Tara bobbed her head as she leaned in close to another photograph, this one much smaller and framed. It was of the Irish workers who were building the ship, standing beneath the propellers. “Yeah.” She frowned deeply. “Y’know, most people think that this is of the Titanic, but actually it’s of the Olympic.” She straightened and moved on. “There were never any pictures taken of Titanic’s propellers.”

“Fascinating,” Marie said dryly.

Tara threw a nasty look over her shoulder and moved past their parents.

Her phone stayed silent as they wandered through the museum and they slipped through a recreation of the second-class area into an open area with tiled flooring and, as Marie took it all in, had to restrain her reluctant excitement.

The grand staircase wound up to another floor and, overhead, a brilliantly lit wrought iron dome, almost identical to the one Marie remembered from the movie was above her.

“Wow,” she breathed.

Tara bounded forward, her hand trailing along the railing.

“This is amazing!” Tara said, repeating her earlier sentiment. “I’m standing on Titanic’s staircase!”

“Not really,” Marie said, earning herself a sharp look from her father. “Just saying….”

“Leave your sister alone,” Marie’s mother sighed as they ascended the stairs.

They walked into a recreated first-class room and Marie found herself drawn to a photograph behind a glass case.

Glancing down at the little placard in front of it, she read the names then her eyes went back to the two smiling faces looking back at her.

It was unnerving. She felt as though she knew them, but she couldn’t place them.

“Roger and Eleanor Mathison,” she read quietly.

“Marie? We’re moving,” her mother called back to her.

But she was unable to tear her eyes away from the photograph and it wasn’t until her mother came over and pulled her away that the spell created by the worn photograph was broken.

Later that evening as she was sitting in bed, Marie pulled her laptop over to her from where she had left it earlier that morning and opened it.

Opening a browser page, Marie typed in “Roger and Eleanor Mathison” and was rewarded with several pages.

Clicking on the first one, the first thing that loaded on the page was the very same photograph that she had seen in the museum.

She stared at it for a while before finally scrolling further down to the article below.

“Roger and Eleanor Mathison of New York City met in the spring of 1911. Roger courted the then Miss Roberts and at the end of the summer, their engagement was announced. The young couple was married in February of 1912 and they booked passage on Titanic as an end to their honeymoon.

“Their movements on the night of 15 April, 1912 are mostly unknown though there are many reports of Mrs. Mathison refusing to leave her husband’s side. The couple perished and neither of their bodies were recovered.”

Marie scrolled back up to the top of the page and stared again at the photograph of the smiling couple.

How terrible, she thought as a wave of strange, deep sadness, to have the world at your fingertips only to have it snatched away before you got to actually live.

Closing her laptop, Marie set it carefully onto the nightstand beside her and cut out the light.

Huddling beneath the covers with the light from the streetlights outside the hotel window shining inside, Marie tried to sleep but it evaded her. Her thoughts were full of Roger and Eleanor. Maddeningly of all, she couldn’t figure out why.

There had been hundreds of people who had died that night and hundreds who had lived. First-, second-, and third-class, there was no distinction. Crew members had sacrificed themselves to save the passengers, yet only two stood out to her. Why?

The next morning after breakfast, Marie took off on her own while her father did some work on his computer and her mother and sister explored the city.

Heading back for the Titanic Belfast Museum, Marie stopped before the great spectacle and just stared at it for a while before heading back inside.

She found what she was looking for easily and stood in front of the photograph, staring down at the unnervingly familiar faces.

Eventually, her eyes shifted right and she found that personal belongings given to the museum from the couple’s relatives were displayed alongside the picture.

How strange that she hadn’t noticed it the day before.

Leaning closer, Marie took in the tarnished pocket watch, yellowed kid-gloves, and a faded letter with worn edges.

The script was difficult to make out and even when she did, most of the words were faded with age.

Reading the description, Marie felt some strange sense of relief.

“Letter from Eleanor Mathison to sister, Rose Roberts”.

“She got the letter then,” she said quietly to herself then straightened, her brow furrowed in confusion.

“What a curious thing to say,” a voice from behind her said.

Marie whirled around and found herself looking at a young man hardly older than she, leaning against the rail protecting the visitors from the recreated first-class suite.

“Who are you?” Marie demanded, stepping away from the Mathison display case.

The man dipped his head, smirking. “Connor O’Brien, at your service.”

Marie narrowed her eyes at him. “Do you make it a habit to eavesdrop?”

Connor’s grin widened. “How can one eavesdrop when there’s nothing to overhear?”

His accent was thick and his russet hair was slicked back, revealing vivid green eyes framed with eyelashes the same shade as his hair. Freckles colored his otherwise creamy skin and the grin that was still playing on his lips was starting to grate on Marie’s nerves.

“Can I help you, Connor O’Brien?” she asked waspishly.

Connor pushed off the rail and strode towards her. He wore a faded, brown leather jacket that squeaked with each movement.

“Aye, maybe you can.” Connor stopped next to Marie, his attention fixed on the Mathison display. “Have you found it strange that you look a wee bit like the lady in this picture?”

Completely nonplussed, Marie looked back down at the photograph – and laughed.

“We look nothing alike,” she told him, stepping away again.

“Aye, but you do,” Connor countered. He looked around quickly then motioned for Marie to follow him.

After some reluctance, curiosity got the better of her and Marie trailed after him. It wasn’t until they reached a door that read “STAFF ONLY” that Marie balked.

“Er, what are you doing?” she asked him as he pushed open the door.

“I work here,” Connor explained as he stood aside to let her through.

“Do you often lure girls to the off-limits staff areas of the museum?” she asked, planting her feet and crossing her arms as she glared at him. “I’m leaving. Nice meeting you.”

She turned to walk away but Connor caught her upper arm and she whirled around, ready to fight him off, when he released her.

“There’s something back here you ought to see,” he said, his tone serious. “Some more Mathison artifacts that don’t fit in that case.”

Marie tried to figure him out, but all she could see in his eyes was the sincerity.

Sighing, she caved and stepped into the staff area with Connor following close behind.

Slipping past her, Connor led the way to a back room filled with shelves upon shelves laden with boxes that were all labeled.

Connor picked up his pace and Marie practically had to run to keep up with him.

“Mathison, Mathison, Mathison,” Connor was muttering as he scanned the labels. “Ah, here it is.”

Reaching up, Connor pulled down a heavy looking wooden crate and, setting it gently on the concrete floor, pried the lid off.

Marie came up alongside Connor and the box and crouched down as he began sifting through.

“Sorry, but there’s one thing in particular that I’m looking for,” Connor explained as he dug carefully around the objects.

Inside there were letters sealed in a plastic bag, several pairs of shoes, both men and women’s, a frayed hat, a man’s overcoat, several folded dresses, and even opera glasses.

With a triumphant shout, Connor withdrew a manila envelope and settled down onto the floor.

He removed what was inside and revealed more photographs.

“Look, I know you don’t believe me, about you lookin’ like her, but honest, you do.” Connor rifled through the pictures until he pulled one free and handed it to Marie, who took it gingerly between her fingers and stared down at the face.

He was right. Eleanor Mathison looked strikingly similar to her. The only difference was that Marie could tell Eleanor had brown eyes while she had hazel eyes.

“So?” Marie asked, handing the picture back. Chills ran down her spine and gooseflesh erupted all over her body as Connor took the picture from her. “Why should I care?”

Connor shrugged as he put the picture back in the pile. “I just thought you’d find it cool, that’s all.”

“Well I don’t.” Marie stood and rubbed at her arms, unable to get rid of the chill. “C’mon, let’s get out of here.”

Connor dropped the pictures back into the envelope, but as they slid inside, one fell to the ground and Marie, more than ready to be out of the room, stooped to pick it up when a freezing gust of wind blew over her.

Stumbling back, eyes wide with fear, Marie looked up at Connor, who stood frozen in place, his eyes mirroring the fear she felt.

Shaking it off, Marie retrieved the fallen photo and felt an electrical shock as her fingers touched the edges of the picture.

“What the hell?” she said, retracting her arm. The tingling sensation coming off from the shock had made her more than a little uneasy and she almost didn’t pick up the photo, but reason overtook her and she snatched it up.

Shoving it back at Connor, she said, “I’m leaving.”

Connor’s finger’s brushed hers as she handed it back and suddenly, the earth was falling as Marie was pulled upwards.

She screamed, but she couldn’t hear her own voice over the roaring filling her ears.

Beside her, Connor was still clutching the photograph, but his eyes were squeezed shut, his mouth clamped down as they sped along.

They landed in a heap and Marie disentangled herself from Connor, dazed and dizzy.

Getting to her feet, Marie tried to place her surroundings but couldn’t.

“What the hell is this?” she demanded as she took in the white and green walls with gilded wall sconces illuminating the room. She whirled around. “Where are we?”

Connor was standing in the doorway, his hand clutching the door handle as he stared out into the brightly lit corridor beyond.

“Connor, what’s going on?” Marie started forward – and nearly tripped.

Looking down at her feet, she felt her breath leave her body as she stared in confusion down at the deep blue dress covering her feet.

Looking back up, she realized that Connor was no longer wearing his leather jacket and jeans, but rather a tuxedo. His russet curls were still slicked back, but in a different fashion than she recalled.

“Connor?” she said, her tone pleading as she stepped forward carefully so as not to trip on the hem of the dress. “What’s going on?”

He turned to face her, face pale and eyes wide. “Well…we’re not in Belfast anymore.”

Marie pushed past him and stared out into the corridor beyond. It was full of richly dressed men and women, most of whom acknowledge Marie and Connor with a slight nod of their head as they walked by.

“Then where are we?” she demanded.

Connor stepped back into the room and sank into a plush chair.

Turning to face him, hands on her hips, Marie said, “What is this? Where are we?”

Connor ran a hand over his hair but still didn’t answer.

“Connor!” Marie cried.

Titanic,” he said quietly and Marie stepped closer to hear him. “We’re on Titanic.”

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2

Marie stared at him, unsure if she heard him. She couldn’t fully wrap her head around it, but she could feel the fabric of the dress brushing against her skin, could feel the tightness of the binding corset strapped around her torso.

Feeling light-headed, Marie spotted a mirror across the room and made for it. The reflection that greeted her shocked her.

She was herself, that much she could tell. But the high-necked lace collar enclosing her throat and tickling her chin had her tugging uselessly at it and thinking otherwise. Her hair was twisted up on top of her head and held there with a jeweled comb that poked painfully at her scalp.

“How is this even possible?” Marie said, stumbling back to where Connor sat slouched in the chair. “What happened? How are we here?”

“Would you just…be quiet!” Connor barked and Marie fell silent.

After a while, Connor got to his feet and closed the door before turning back to look at Marie.

And then, to her complete and total surprise, he started laughing.

“What in God’s name is so funny?” she wanted to know, irritation prickling through her.

“We’ve gone back in time,” he said, still laughing. He bent double, cackling madly before he took a deep, sobering breath and straightened. His eyes still glinted with mirth and his cheeks were pink. “God, I don’t even know your bleedin’ name and now we’re stuck on a damned ship that’s going to sink!”

“Marie,” she said and Connor stared at her. “My name is Marie Summers. I'm from Utah and I'm about to start my last year of high school.”

He smirked. “Nice to meet you, Marie Summers of Utah.”

Tears threatened and Marie swallowed them back as she turned towards a round window.

Peering out, she found herself looking out at the sea glittering under the lights given off by the ship.

“Well, what day is this?” she asked after a while.

“It’s hard to tell,” Connor said, “but judging by the fact that the clock on the mantelpiece over here says that it’s nearly midnight tells us that we’re about to find out if it’s the night or if we still have time.”

She closed her eyes and hugged herself tightly. “What time did it hit the iceberg?”

“Twenty ‘til midnight,” Connor answered immediately. “We’ll know in three minutes.”

The wait was tense. Fear had Marie’s heart racing as she kept her eyes closed. Finally, Connor let out a sigh of relief.

“It’s not tonight,” he announced and Marie felt her body sag.

“Well that’s something.” Turning to face him, she said, “So…what now?”

Connor had moved over to a cabinet and found a class of amber liquid, which he was currently pouring himself a healthy dose of.

“Now we wait.” He replaced the decanter of brandy and settled back down in his chair. “We won’t make it obvious that we’re not actually whoever everyone thinks we are. Let’s hope that today is Wednesday and that we’ve got plenty of time before this ship goes down.”

Marie groaned and arched her back, the unfamiliar tightness of the corset restricting her breathing.

“Well if it’s close to midnight, shouldn’t we go to bed or something?” Marie wondered then blushed furiously when she realized that there was only one bed.

“I’ll sleep out here,” Connor offered and Marie smiled gratefully at him. “But first, you’ve got to get dressed for bed.”

“How the hell am I supposed to do that?” Marie was desperate to know. “I can’t even begin to know how to get out of this stuff.”

At that moment, there came a knock on the door and a woman’s voice called through.

“Is there anything else I can do you for you this evening, Mr. Mathison?”

Connor got up and opened the door.

“If you could help her get ready for bed, that would be greatly appreciated,” Connor said as the stewardess gazed up at him.

She was frowning slightly, but she curtseyed and walked over to Marie while Connor excused himself and slipped out of the cabin.

The stewardess was quiet for a while and it wasn’t until Marie was safely in bed that the stewardess finally spoke.

“Your husband, Mrs. Mathison,” she began, looking extremely nervous, “has he always been Irish or did I simply not notice earlier?”

Marie tried to look stern despite feeling anything but terrified. “Of course he is. Why on earth would you think otherwise?”

The stewardess turned red. “Beggin’ your pardon, madam. It was my mistake.”

The stewardess curtseyed and was almost out of the door when Marie called her back.

“What’s your name?” she wanted to know and the stewardess looked a little annoyed.

“Miss Jessop, madam,” the stewardess replied.

“Good.” Marie looked at her a moment longer, hoping she looked every bit the first-class lady that she was supposed to be. “Well, I would like you for you and only you to dress me until we reach New York. Is that understood?”

“Yes, madam.” Stewardess Jessop curtseyed once more then darted from the room.

Sinking back into the pillows, Marie stared up at the ceiling above her.

What would her parents think? Did they know she was missing yet? What was going to happen if she didn’t get back to her own time before the ship sank?

Eventually, she dropped off to sleep and when she awoke the next morning, it took her a moment to open her eyes.

“You are back in the hotel. Tara is about to come in and wake you up.” But still, Marie kept her eyes firmly shut despite the bright sunlight pouring into the room. “You are in Belfast, not Titanic. It was a dream.”

When she opened her eyes, she nearly cried.

The sunlight lit up the cabin and was falling across the foot of the bed. On the sofa across the room was Connor, clad in maroon striped pajamas and fast asleep with an arm thrown over his eyes as soft snores interrupted the otherwise quiet morning.

“Dear God,” she whispered as she sat up. “It’s not a dream.”

Getting out of bed, Marie stepped over to the window and looked out at the passing ocean beyond the porthole.

How much time was left? she wondered again as she turned back to look at Connor. Were her parents worried about her?

At the knock on the door, Marie nearly screamed as Connor shot up on the sofa, alert.

“Who’s there?” he demanded, getting up and crossing to the locked door.

“Stewardess Jessop,” came the reply and Marie sagged in relief. “I’m here to dress Mrs. Mathison.”

Connor looked back at Marie. “They think we’re the Mathison’s.”

“And she thought you were American,” Marie pointed out.

“Yes, the men last night thought the same, too,” Connor said with a wolfish grin, revealing perfectly straight teeth. “S’ppose I’d better brush up on my American accent, eh?”

“She thinks you’re Irish now,” Marie said as she pulled on a silk robe before crossing to the door, pushing Connor out of the way and opening it. “Good morning.”

The stewardess strode briskly in, curtseyed to them both, then made straight for the wardrobe.

“What would you like to wear today, madam?” Stewardess Jessop asked as she perused the wardrobe. She withdrew a pale green dress and held it out. “Perhaps this, madam?”

Shaking her head, Marie walked back over to the bed and sat on the edge while Connor disappeared into a bathroom.

“Something else,” she said and Stewardess Jessop replaced the pale green gown and removed a purple one, which Marie immediately fell in love with. “That one, I think.”

She tried to sound casual, but she wasn’t sure she succeeded because the stewardess gave her a curious look as she removed the nightgown and helped her into, first the corset then the dress.

“And your hair, madam?” Jessop prompted when Marie was finally dressed.

She wanted to pull the corset off, but she had to force her expression to remain neutral as the sensation of her lungs being compressed threatened to suffocate her.

“The Gibson girl,” Marie replied as she settled down into the chair at the vanity.

She looked over the jewelry Eleanor Mathison owned and felt flabbergasted at the wealth spread out casually before her.

There were rubies and emeralds and diamonds and onyx and sapphire, all different yet all beautiful.

“I would suggest diamonds, madam,” Jessop said as she worked on Marie’s hair. “It would suit the dress better. And perhaps that brooch there, with the sapphire in the middle.”

Marie picked up the diamond-shaped brooch and observed it.

It sparkled under the morning sun and Marie was dazzled by it.

She had never been surrounded by so much wealth in her life – and it wasn’t even hers.

After pinning the brooch on, Jessop declared herself done and excused herself just as Connor came back in, freshly bathed and clad only in a towel.

Marie blushed furiously and turned away.

She had certainly seen her fair share of shirtless boys before, but she had only been that close to one who was almost as equally naked once and that affair had ended badly.

Connor, seeing her discomfort, grinned but made sure he got dressed out of sight. When he came back in, the faint scent of cologne in the air around him teased Marie's senses and she had to force herself to keep her eyes off of him.

“I must admit,” Connor said after a moment, “the Edwardian era suits you.”

“Likewise,” Marie said stiffly, getting to her feet.

Another knock on the door had Connor swearing colorfully under his breath before he answered it to reveal a steward with a cart in front of him.

“Stewardess Jessop said you were awake and in need of breakfast,” he explained as he rolled the cart in. “Fruit, coffee, tea, toast, eggs, ham, bacon. Whatever you like.”

He gave a slight bow and backed out of the room, closing the door softly as he left.

“I’m starving,” Connor exclaimed as he attacked the cart. He loaded up a plate of bacon and eggs and settled down to eat. He patted the spot across from him. “Come eat, darlin’. There’s plenty to go round.”

Marie narrowed her eyes at him, but allowed herself some fruit and coffee though she refused to sit. Instead, she kept her plate in her hand and plucked the sliced fruit off as she stood staring out of the window.

“Did you ever figure out what day it was?” she asked him.

Connor swallowed his mouthful of egg then said, “It’s Thursday mornin’. We’ll be headed to Cobh and stop there until about one.”

Marie frowned. “Cobh?”

Connor looked apologetic. “Sorry. That’s what it’s called today. Or the future,” he corrected then shook his head. “Either way, we’re on day two, so we’ve got three more days ‘til this ship hits the ocean floor.”

Appetite gone, Marie put the plate back down on the table and moved to where a stack of round boxes sat next to the wardrobe.

If there was one thing she remembered about society before the First World War, it was that hats were a must if one was going outside in the sunlight.

She ended up choosing a modest looking straw hat with large white fake flowers.

After pinning it in place, Marie made for the door.

“We’re you plannin’ on leaving me behind, Mrs. Mathison?” Connor asked, clearly enjoying himself.

“Yes,” Marie said harshly.

Connor groaned as he got to his feet and followed after her.

“We should figure out a story,” Connor said as they made their way towards the Grand Staircase, which was already filled with early risers.

“The story is that the Mathison’s were married in February and this is their return trip home,” Marie said quietly so as not to be overheard. “They died, both of them, and neither bodies were recovered. Eleanor has a sister, Rose, but I don’t know about Roger.” She looked at him sheepishly. “Sorry. I didn’t get to do much research on them before I was pulled back in time.”

Connor shrugged, digging his hands deep into his pockets. “I don’t care very much either way.”

“Ah, Mrs. Mathison,” a woman at the foot of the stairs greeted Marie cheerfully. She was tall, not terribly attractive, but Marie could feel her very presence was commanding. “I was just asking about you.”

Marie forced her lips to curve as she approached the woman.

“I am here now,” Marie said, trying to make her voice sound haughty. “What may I do for you.”

The woman grinned. “I was merely wondering if you would like to walk the promenade deck before we reach Queenstown.”

Marie looked back at Connor, as if for confirmation.

“I’ve got things to see to,” Connor said, his tone dismissive. “Do what you please.”

The woman grabbed up Marie and pulled her up the Grand Staircase, all the while chatting along mindlessly.

“Did you know that the new Mrs. Astor is pregnant?” the woman asked as they passed C Deck.

Marie cleared her throat. “I did.”

“What a scandal,” the woman sighed disdainfully. “I cannot think of why Mr. Astor should divorce his perfectly good wife for that tart.”

“I am sure Madeleine Astor has qualities that we do not see,” Marie hedged as a steward opened the door out to the Promenade Deck.

The woman snorted. “Youth is the only quality she possesses.”

Unsure of what to say, Marie remained silent as they slipped along the crowded deck.

“There are far more people out this morning than I anticipated,” the woman observed, pulling Marie to the deck chairs. “I suppose they are excited to be on this famed vessel.”

“The Unsinkable Titanic,” Marie added and the woman beamed.

“Not even God himself could founder this creation,” the woman said proudly and Marie turned away, not at all certain that she could keep her expression blank.

It was one thing, she thought as the ship sailed along the Channel, to live in the future and know of the past. It was another entirely to be in the past and know the future.

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