I’m not even sure why I’m writing this. It’s not that I believe that you can get letters in heaven. I’ve been unable to stop talking to you, even though I know that you’re no longer there. I spent so long telling you all my thoughts and hopes and fears, and a little thing like death won’t stand in my way.
Catherine sent me a letter, telling me what happened, and I didn’t even read it through. As soon as I opened it, I knew something was the matter. My hands trembled so badly, I could scarcely read it. When I saw the words Elise is dead, the world fell away from me. Everything went black.
Then I heard screaming. This horrible, tortured yelling so loud it hurt my ears. It took me a moment to realize that it was coming from me.
My vision blurred so badly from the tears, I couldn’t see anything at all. I knelt on the floor, my hands clutching my sides, and I’m not sure how long I stayed that way. I might still be that way if not for Ezra.
“Peter, it’s alright,” Ezra said, and he wrapped his arms around me.
I fought him, though I’m not sure why. I hit and kicked at him, but he wouldn’t let me go. He held me tightly to him, without saying a word, until my wailing and fighting had stopped.
Eventually, after a great while, my body simply gave up. I lay limply against him, unable to move or think or cry. A numbness had settled over my body and my brain, and for that I was grateful, but I wished it had reached my heart.
My heart had been torn to shreds. Nothing even compared to the pain I felt, to the pain I still feel. It’s a gaping wound inside my soul, a horrible burning torture that never ceases.
It’s strange because I’ve grown fond of the constant pain. It’s the only thing I have left of you, like I am carrying you inside me.
There are moments even still where I think that I’m alright. Not alright in the way I was before, but if another person saw me, they would think that I was alive. I can pretend at least to exist, even though there’s nothing inside me.
I’ll be doing something menial, like washing my clothes or helping Ezra with paperwork, and then it will hit me. This sudden realization that you aren’t alive, that I won’t ever see your smiling face, or touch your soft skin again.
The hole inside me is ripped open anew, and my knees give out. I collapse to the ground, sobbing uncontrollably. And there is nothing I can do to stop it. It comes in waves, whenever it pleases, and it only fades when I became too weak.
Many nights I awake with fresh tears on my face, my throat raw from screaming. I don’t remember it, and I suppose it is better that way.
Ezra watches me constantly and almost never leaves my side. He fears I will do something rash, something to end my own life, and he is right to worry that way. I want nothing more than to be with you in the next life, or at the very least, end the loneliness of this one. How can I be if you aren’t?
But it’s the look on Ezra’s face, the broken terror simply thinking about a life without me that keeps me here. I am still bound to him. The small part of me that didn’t belong to you still belongs to him. He is my maker, my friend, my brother, and I cannot leave him, no matter how much it pains me to stay.
The first month without you was a horrible blur of blackness. I did nothing. I couldn’t. I lay in bed, refusing to eat, to move, to breathe. Ezra sat by my bedside. When I’d gone too long without eating, he poured his own blood into a goblet, and forced me to drink it.
I could taste his love, and his terror over what had become of me. It was that that pulled me out of bed.
I died when you died, Elise. I feel that absolutely in my heart. I even know the moment you left this earth. When I was walking on the street, my heart ripped in two, and I threw up on the cobblestones. That was the moment you died. I know that now.
Every moment since then, I’ve existed. I do the things other living creatures do – I talk, I breathe, I go about my day. People see me, and they think that I am live. But it’s all an illusion, a parlor trick. I am not here.
Once I began to function again, at least on a physical level, I knew I had to come back to Ireland. I had to see you. As horrible as I felt, as much as I knew you were gone, I had to see it for myself, or it would always just be a nightmare.
I would want to believe it was a nightmare, that you were wandering the world somewhere, and it would only be a matter of time until we were reunited. At times, I thought it would be easier that way, to simply pretend you were waiting in Ireland to join me.
But I needed to know that you were gone. The possibility of you being alive would haunt me much longer than the certainty of your death.
Ezra got the business set up to run without us, and as soon as we could, we boarded a ship. The weeks at sea were horrible. I remembered the last time, only a few short months before, I had written you countless letters to ease my sickness. This time, I had no such reprieve.
I was born in America, and I’ve lived most of my life there. But landing in Ireland felt like coming home. This is my home, Elise, and it always will be. The fresh green smell of the earth suffocated me with how much I missed it here, how much I missed you.
When I arrived at our house, just after sunset, I still expected you to come walking out of the door to greet me, with Hamlet bounding at your heels. Instead, it was only Catherine, and Hamlet trailed slowly behind her, wagging his tail.
Catherine showed me where she buried you, all the while apologizing for what had happened to you. I hardly heard anything she said, though. Her voice became background noise, like a babbling stream.
I fell to the ground, to the patch of earth in your garden where Catherine buried you underneath blue wildflowers. She may even have tried to stop me, but once my fingers dug into the dirt, I couldn’t stop. I tore up the ground.
As soon as I got to you, I pulled you from the earth, and holding you in my arms was so much worse. I’d seen human bodies before, seen what death does to them, and I was unprepared for what it had done to you – nothing.
Your skin was still smooth porcelain, smudged with dirt from the ground. Your body was still soft, feeling as much like flesh as it ever did, except that it was ice cold now. The wound in your chest left the dress covered in dried blood, but otherwise, it looked as if you were sleeping. The insects and creatures of the ground hadn’t even touched you.
I brushed the dirt from you hair, watching you as the moon hit your face. You looked as beautiful as you ever did. I sat that way for a long time, cradling you to me, and I would sit that way still if Ezra hadn’t pulled me away.