Even then, he had to drag me from you. I fought him, wanting to crawl down in the earth and lay with you until death took me too. By then, I’d begun to sob, but I scarcely noticed. All I saw was Catherine lowering you back into the hole, and I couldn’t bare it.
“No, Ezra!” I shouted, trying to rip his hands off me. “I need to be with her! Let me stay with Elise!”
“Peter.” Ezra’s voice was calm but firm, and his arms around me were marble. I couldn’t break free from his grip. “Peter, she is gone. Now let her rest in peace.”
“You don’t understand,” I said, still fighting him. “I can’t live without her. I am nothing. Just let me lie with her. Let me die!”
Ezra put his hands on the sides of my head, forcing me to look at him. He gripped so tightly, it felt as if my skull might fracture. His eyes were dark, penetrating through my despair. I put my hands over his, not pulling them away, but merely hanging into him, hanging onto the small bit of sanity he gave me.
“I am sorry, Peter, but I cannot,” Ezra said. “I can’t let you die. Elise would not want you to simply give up and die. That does nothing to honor her or the time you spent together. For her, you must go on.
“And if that’s not enough, then please, I beg you, go on for me,” he said. “It’s selfish, and I know it, but you are the only thing I have tethering me to this world. I don’t know that I could survive without you.”
It wasn’t sense he was able to knock into me but devotion. Ezra and I shared a bond – still share a bond – that is made in blood. Without you, we are left for each other.
So, for him, I lived. I let Catherine bury you, and I crawled into the bed we once shared. The blankets still smelled of you, of us. I clutched onto them, holding them to my mouth to keep from screaming.
When I slept, I dreamt of making love to you as the sun rose through the windows. It warmed our bare skin, but we didn’t mind. We didn’t even notice. We were too wrapped up in each other, your arms around me, my lips on you.
I still remember everything about you with such perfect clarity. The way you tasted and smelled and felt. The way you laughed, and the crooked way you smiled. The way you still blushed when I told you how beautiful you are. The way your hair tickled my face when I wrapped my arms around you and held you to me as we slept.
Catherine took me to the town where you died, and we found a few vampyres, but not the ones that killed you. We stayed around for a few days, hoping to find them, and Ezra prevented me from starting pointless fights. When we left, I felt impotent and lost. I couldn’t save you. I couldn’t even avenge you.
I couldn’t stay in the house we’d shared any longer, so we left almost as soon as we returned. I took Hamlet with me, although he isn’t the same dog he once was. Living in town without much land won’t bother him. He doesn’t need the room to run anymore.
Catherine is staying on at our house.
“What about the townsfolk?” I asked before we left.
“Let them talk.” Catherine waved me off. “Let them all think I’m an ageless witch or a demon temptress. It doesn’t matter. I won’t leave. It’s not right for me to give up this land, not with Elise still here.”
“You will take care of her, won’t you?” I asked.
“I always have.”
I left Catherine in charge of you, once again. Maybe I should’ve stayed on with her, kept the land for you. But I don’t think I stood a chance of surviving in that house, surrounded by all those memories. I had to leave it all behind, if I wanted to stay with Ezra.
I still don’t know what I’ll do without you. But I will go on.
All my love, always and forever,
June 20, 1864
It was Ezra’s idea to join this war, but I don’t disagree with the decision. He thought it would do me well to fight for something instead of sitting sullenly in the apartment. He was an avid supporter of the cause before convincing me to fight with him, and he would’ve taken to arms even if you were still with us.
Most of the soldiers here are fighting over land, even the ones on the Union side, but Ezra’s always been an abolitionist at heart. He spent almost a century as a slave, and though he speaks very little of it, I know it haunts him still.
He does an amazing job of rallying the troops. In the mornings, when we rise for battle, he gives elegant speeches about the evils of other men and what we must do to defend good. They fight valiantly for him, and we’ve done well because of it.
So much of our work takes place during the day, and that has been a struggle for Ezra and me. Eating is also difficult, at least when we’re not among the enemy. The time spent in the sunlight requires us to eat more to stay in control of ourselves. Ezra has been alternating between several of the nurses that are caring for the injured soldiers, but he doesn’t want to weaken them too much.
I prefer waiting until we find Confederate soldiers. Sometimes, that means I will travel at night alone, away from our base, until I come upon someone that I don’t mind gravely weakening. I don’t kill them – not unless we are doing battle, and then I only use my gun. Drinking blood until death has never sat well with me, and it reminds me too much of the time spent in Ireland.
The one good thing about the war is that we are all alone here. Every man here – boy, really, since most are hardly more than children – has left his family, his wife at home. For most, this is the first time they’ve spent away from their home.
When I am with them, I can pretend that you too are left at home, waiting by the window for my return. We can commiserate about our homesickness, and I feel something close to human. Something closer than I have since you were alive.
Last night, as I tried to settle in my blankets to sleep, Ezra came in. He was fresh from eating, full of life, and he lay down in his bed near me. The camp had gone silent, but sleep never comes easy for me at night.
“I heard you talking to the soldiers,” Ezra said, his voice low so anyone nearby wouldn’t be able to hear. I had my back to him, and I didn’t respond. “You were speaking of Elise.”
“Am I not allowed to?” I asked, tensing already.
“You talk of her as if she is alive,” Ezra said, avoiding answering my question.
“I speak of her however I would like.” I pulled the blanket up more around me, even though it was warm inside the tent. “She is my wife. It is my right.”