The freezing salt-water splashed his face as he pushed his tired arms through the surf. He’d been swimming for what seemed like forever---his heart was racing and breath struggled out of his lungs. The soaking wet tuxedo he wore only managed to make it harder for him to propel himself through the water.
Thomas had been traveling from his home in England to a new adventure with his bride-to-be, an American woman by the name of Lorna. He’d gotten her on a lifeboat when the ship had somehow sunk. In the chaos of the night, they loaded the lifeboats with women and children, but they had left the rest of them to flounder. Luckily, Thomas had been a strong swimmer. Although he could no longer feel his arms and legs, he never stopped swimming towards the shore.
Lorna was waiting for him.
The ship he’d been on was magnificent, with stunning wooden decks and a grand staircase that held an angel cherub sculpted on its end post. Thomas had walked those decks when the weather had been fair with his beloved Lorna, and he’d watched all the ladies in their finery as they strolled with their gentlemen. Children played tops while their parents sipped brandy and puffed cigars nearby. The dinners were excessive affairs, with lavish food offerings and rich people showing each other the extent of their wealth. Both unnecessary and entertaining.
Panting, he took a moment to pause as the ocean bobbed him like an iceberg; he let his arms rest. His teeth chattered and his fingers had begun to turn blue, but he was on a mission. He wouldn’t die out here in the blackened sea under the dark and clear starlit sky. He would die an old, fat man in bed with his beautiful Lorna. After forcing a deep breath into his tired lungs, he continued his arduous journey.
When the sun finally broke through the arctic sky, Thomas closed his eyes against the glare bouncing off the clear, flat sea. The ice crystals on his eyelashes brushed his frosted cheeks. The only thing that kept his eyes from freezing shut were the unshed tears that burned within them. His lips were cracked and bleeding from the cold, salty air and sea. He’d once touched dry ice by accident and remembered the frosty burn---the tip of his nose felt as if he’d dragged it across that ice. But at least he could still feel his eyes and nose---his ears were beyond redemption. He had to lift a shaky, frost-bitten hand to them to make sure they were still attached.
He squinted against the sunrays and tried to spot what was left of his doomed luxury liner. All that could be seen through the brightness were white life vests, pieces of broken dreams, and chunks of debris. Alone. Lost. Determined. He forced himself to move again in the direction of what was hopefully land in the distance.
Thomas was the only living thing as far as his tired eyes could see. The water was seemingly too cold to allow the sea life to thrive on the surface. All he’d swum past was an enormous whale, but it paid him no mind as it continued on its hunt for food. A large chunk of ice floated by him, barely missing knocking him out. However, it dragged across his face, and the frozen skin on his cheek ruptured with ease. His face too numb to feel the injury until the warm blood oozed down his face like molasses in winter.
When the sun ticked a little higher into the sky, he closed his eyes and took a deep, lengthy breath. A sudden warmth filled him, and he smiled as the feeling returned to his arms and legs. With a burst of energy, he swam with more vigor than before. Thomas didn’t question why he’d been given this great gift, but with it, he planned to be with Lorna sooner rather than later.
For kicks, he dived under the waves. The salt didn’t burn his eyes as he took in everything beneath the arctic surface. Down there is where life had been hiding. He watched whales, ancient sharks, fish, and creatures galore play out their lives, unaffected by the massive liner sinking into their world only hours earlier. A sea turtle floated by him---relaxed. On the deep sandy bottom, he spotted lobsters, crabs, and other sea bugs crawling along.
Time was fluid under the sea. And Thomas was too concerned with the happening’s in the deep to notice.
Thomas surfaced again and laughed as he saw the shoreline within view. Finally. He’d made it. Somehow, he’d survived the sinking of the unsinkable. Then, with his muscles and skill, had made it all the way to the mainland. Seeing the land made him push himself harder.
He was almost to Lorna.
The waves helped bring him home, and he collapsed onto the wet sand with a grateful sigh. He took an exhausted breath before pulling himself to his knees and yanking off his sodden tux coat. Dropping the coat with a plop, he stumbled up the beach and through a small, unfamiliar town. Although his path appeared aimless, he ended up at the gates of the graveyard. Frowning to himself, he made his way in and weaved through the stones, brushing his fingers over the tops.
In the distanced people dressed in uncommon clothes huddled next to a freshly dug grave. The sun beat down on him, drying his tux with an aching slowness in the chilled breeze. He stood at the iron gate, which held a sign over the arch. He stared at the sign with confusion and rubbed his exhausted eyes. He must have been losing his mind. There was no way they’d be able to create a graveyard for the ship in such a short time. Shaking his head, he continued into the burial ground beyond the gate.
Thomas couldn’t seem to get his lungs to move as he stared down at the tombstone in front of him. He crouched down on his heels and ran a hand over the etched letters. Thomas Paulson died April 15, 1912, on the R.M.S. Titanic. Died? But he wasn’t dead. He touched his cheek as he stood again and glanced around the cemetery. What year was it? Where was he? He watched a fancy automobile speed incredibly fast down a paved roadway. His eyes fell back to the grave and he let the tear he’d been saving fall.
There was a delicate throat clearing in front of him, and he raised his eyes to the sound. Thomas gasped as he looked into the face of his lovely Lorna. She wore the gown he’d met her in with her deep brown hair styled perfectly and her makeup brushed with a light hand. She was the picture of stunning beauty and youth.
“How?” Thomas asked as he stepped around the headstone towards her.
Lorna touched his cheek and gave him a gorgeous smile. She whispered, “better late than never, Mr. Paulson.”
Unbeknownst to the tourists and mourners around them, Lorna and Thomas embraced and faded into the memories of time---together.