My Dearest Margaret,
Words cannot express my admiration for you. No, that’s not right. I’m rubbish at clever persuasion, so I’ll say it plainly. If you will not come away with me, I fear you shall die. Should you survive the terrible things that I can assure you are coming, you will yet be forever changed, forever saddened by memories of humanity strained beyond reason and manners, so desperate to survive that they cease to value any lives but their own. Darling Maggie, it will crush your soul. Please, let me save you.
All my love,
Frederick had burned the first few letters, symbolically drowned the next several, and considered freezing this page until it fell into crystallized shards. Instead, he set aside the ancient ink pen and went to see if the replicator could create a roast duckling even half as good as the one served to him on the evening of April 14, 1912.
Much like his attempts to coax Margaret off the doomed ship, he could not seem to make it work. No matter what, the machine produced something roughly the shape of a duck but with the consistency of rubber. And all his letters seemed woefully incapable of explaining to the lady in question why she should abandon the “unsinkable” RMS Titanic and come away with him.
He feared to tell her the truth, lest she laugh it off. Or vow never to speak to him again. If the captain caught wind of Frederick’s mad story, he might throw him overboard or have him locked away below decks. Either would be disastrous, as the cold water would ruin his time piece, and the layers of metal in the bowels of the ship would affect its locutor. He should still be able to time-jump off the ship before it crashed and sank, but without the ability to set a location, he’d still end up in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean. Providing it was there, of course. It wasn’t always. That could be even more troublesome.
It was clear he would not get any better at writing letters. Or creating a palatable duck program.
“Once more, then, and I’ll make do with what I have.” He programmed the chronometer, inhaled deeply, and pushed the button.
Salt spray hit him in the face. He shivered.
“Mr. Barringsford! You’ll catch your death out here.”
Not I. Frederick turned. “Mr. Mabey, isn’t it?”
“Yes, sir.” The young man smiled. “Shall I fetch your coat from your room?”
“No, I’m heading back in.” Frederick passed Mabey a coin he’d never get to spend.
“Thank you, sir. Very kind.”
If I was kind, I’d find a way to keep this ship afloat. He’d given up trying. The ship was meant to sink and would resist any attempts at thwarting its fate. He could not give up on Margaret, as her fate was entirely changeable.
She was a remarkable woman, so much stronger than he’d expected, so much more driven. And older. Too old for him, she’d said, but he could see in her eyes she didn’t mean it. They’d spent too many nights talking about possibilities and futures for him to risk hers, or his, for that matter, on chance. She’d loved once, deeply. He thought her reluctant to do so again. She was no beauty, yet the more time he spent with her, the more attractive she'd become. He’d never felt such overwhelming emotion before meeting her. A man could do far worse than persuade such a lady to come away with him. If only he could figure out how.
“Mr. Barringsford.” Margaret tilted her head slightly toward him. “You are unforgivably late.”
He pulled out the chair beside her and sat. “I am, and I’ve no good excuse at all.”
“I like you the better for not attempting to make one.” A smile teased at the corners of her lips.
“I do beg your your forgiveness.”
“Begging is occasionally an endearing trait.”
“Is this such an occasion?”
“How very forward of you to ask.” She sniffed and returned to eating.
“That is not an answer.”
“No, indeed, it is not.” She could not hide her smile now.
He sighed. “I withdraw the question and will leave you in peace.”
“I somehow doubt the veracity of your words.”
“Alas, I am not clever enough to fool you.”
She patted his hand. “Few are, dear.”
They engaged in light and pointless conversation for the rest of the meal, and when it was done, he kissed her hand and took his leave. He convinced a stewardess to place the letter in Margaret’s room, and once he’d seen it done, he went up to the deck to await her answer.
Once again, she did not show. Distressed, he watched the iceberg approach, feeling so much colder than that terrible harbinger of death. With minutes left, he time-slipped away.
Morning found Frederick sipping tea, morose.
“This arrived for you.” His father tossed him an envelope. “I’ve not seen a real letter in ages. It’s rather quaint.”
Frederick tore it open.
My Dear Frederick,
You seem to be under the mistaken impression that I am a delicate creature. I am no such thing, nor ever have been. While I did not know what was to come, I thank you for the attempted rescue, though how you expected to manage it remains in question.
As you must know by now, I did survive. You were wrong, darling Frederick. As terrible as that night was, I saw as much grace and self-sacrifice as I did selfishness. When so many souls were lost, how could I dare to believe my own crushed? I did not find you among the survivors, but then you were not listed among the passengers, either. What a great mystery you have given me to ponder. I thank you for that, as well.
If, in fact, I am not writing to a dead man, I ask only this: find yourself a lady, far younger than I, and let her see the fine man I know you to be. That is my fondest wish for you.
With all respect,
Mrs. Margaret Brown
“What is it?” His father asked.
“Nothing. Just a bit of history.”
He folded the letter carefully, carried it upstairs, and laid it in a box filled with newspaper clippings and one very worn photo. He’d not bother to try again. She had no desire to avoid her fate. Perhaps it was time he accepted his own.
Written for the writing challenge Game of Aspects: Redux at Terrible Minds. The random parameters I got were: Time Travel Romance/On Board the Titanic/A Love Letter