Saltwater stung in his eyes. He could hear his men screaming but couldn't do anything to save them. The Laconia was sinking and he was trapped on her.
The heavy beam across his chest chained him to the ship and he noticed with bitter irony that this was an adequate end for a sailor like him.
The ocean was freezing, the temperature forcing all of the air out of his lungs. He struggled for breath as wave after wave crashed over his head.
He knew that he would die tonight, the water rising without mercy, determined to drag him into its depth. Images flooded his mind and he remembered.
He didn't see her at first when he entered the room. She was sitting on the chaise longue and talking to his brother, her back towards him. Edward stood with a small nod as soon as he noticed Frederick.
“May I introduce you to someone? Miss Anne Elliott of Kelynch Hall, this is my brother Frederick Wentworth.“
Frederick nodded and Anne curtsied slightly, a shy but friendly smile on her face.
That was the moment Frederick fell in love.
He had always been a rational man. He didn't believe in love at first sight and all of that romantic nonsense. He doubted something like that even existed but all of that changed when he saw Anne for the first time. She wasn't a beauty but her eyes and her smile captivated him. When he said his goodbyes later that evening one thing was certain: he would see her again.
“Anne, I love you,“ he shouted loudly so that the whole wide world would hear him. He took her by her arms enthusiastically and looked at her. She was visibly moved by his statement, a delicate flush colouring her cheeks. To Frederick she looked even lovelier this way and he let go of her arms to gently take her hands.
“Anne,“ he repeated, this time so quietly that only she was able to hear him. “I can't imagine a life without you. Anne, my little Anne,“ he continued, “do me the honour and become my wife. Please enter the bond of matrinomy with me.“
He sank to his knees, forgotten all of the romantic exaggeration he had hated for so long.
“Oh, Anne...,“ he sighed, his eyes telling all the things he couldn't find words for.
Anne looked at him and for a fraction of a second he was unsure of her answer. But before he could contemplate any further she smiled at him – happy and content.
“Yes,“ she breathed, her gaze never leaving his, “yes, Frederick.“
Frederick leapt to his feet. He couldn't believe his luck, overwhelmed by the sheer happiness of her acceptance. He hugged her, her small frame warm against his. He didn't care about proper etiquette or if anybody could see them in this compromising position. All he could think of was Anne in his arms and that this was the happiest moment of his entire life.
“I can't,“ she said in a strained voice, “I can't marry you.“
“Anne, what...,“ he shouted despererately.
“We are too young. I'm only 19,“ she explained as if he didn't know already.
“Anne, what are you talking about?“ He tried to hide the trembling in his voice.
“I talked to Lady Russelll and she convinced me that we're too young to marry.“
“I love you, Anne,“ Frederick replied matter of factly. As if this one thing alone was the answer to all her arguments.
Anne's eyes filled with tears. “And I love you, Frederick... but I can't marry you.“
Fredericks heart stopped and anger overwhelmed him. Lady Russelll! This was her doing! She had persuaded Anne to break their engagement. Because he wasn't good enough for her. No title, no fortune, only a lousy sailor with nothing to give but his heart.
“Lady Russelll,“ he spat out her name but before he was able to continue Anne stopped him.
“Don't,“ she pleaded, her small hand on his forearm. “Lady Russelll stands in my mother's stead.“ Her explanation allowed no further argument.
Frederick felt her hand on his arm. She looked sad but determined and he understood that her decision was final, that nothing he could say or do would change it. He wasn't good enough for her and she had broken off their engagement.
He swallowed down all his arguments, freed his arm and turned around. Without another word he stormed off, ignoring her desperate “Frederick“ in order to head back to his brother's parish. He hated Anne Elliot! Hated that she had managed to hurt him so badly. He hated her because she had broken his heart.
When the water engulfed his head he closed his eyes, knowing that this was it. He tried frantically to hold his breath until he couldn't anymore. Water filled his lungs and chased him into final darkness. His last thought was Anne. If God would save him, if he would spare his life he knew exactly what he would do, that he would try everything in his power to get her back: the only woman in his life he had ever loved.
He fell unconscious and death welcomed him.
Life doesn't grant second chances.