“I’m not arguing that.” He paused, exhaling deeply. “I am only worried for you.”
“How is that anything to worry about?” I asked. “We are in the middle of the war, but words I choose to use to describe my wife are your concern?”
“This war is temporary,” Ezra said. “We are not.”
“Just because we are still here doesn’t mean we always will be,” I reminded him.
“Peter.” The blankets rustled next to me, so I knew that Ezra had sat up. “I don’t want you to get caught up in the stories you tell the other soldiers.”
“I know the difference between fact and fiction,” I snapped.
“Do you?” Ezra asked, his words gentle. “You still write to her at least once a week.”
I’d been trying to keep these letters secret from him, but Ezra sees everything. He has a way of knowing things I haven’t even uttered. Sometimes, when I’m thinking of you, he looks at me, and there’s something in his eyes, and he knows I’m thinking of you.
“What would you have me do?” I asked as I sat up. I tried to keep my voice low so others wouldn’t hear, but my irritation made it hard for me to keep quiet. “Would have me pretend she never existed?”
“Of course not.” Ezra looked appalled in the darkness of our tent. “I’m not asking you to forget her. But she’s been gone for over a year, Peter, and you still talk to her. I here you whispering her name all the time.”
“So what?” I asked, but my cheeks reddened with shame. “What if I talk to Elise? What if I pretend that she’s still here? What does it matter?”
“You have to heal. You have to get past this,” Ezra said. “I lost my wife and children a long time ago, and I know how terrible this pain is. You should mourn the ones you love, remember them, but move on with your life.”
“What life?” I hissed. “I’m the undead.” I sighed and shook my head. “I am only here for you, Ezra. I am alive because you want me to be. If I must live in my delusions to stay here, then so be it. Do not ask anymore of me. I cannot give it.”
“I was hoping this war would give you a purpose,” Ezra said at length. He lay down, watching the shadows on the tent from the fire in the center of camp. “Something to fight against, if not something to fight for.”
“I fear I’ll never have purpose again,” I said, laying back down.
“As do I,” he admitted.
Part of me knows that he is right. That this isn’t the best thing for me to do, but I don’t know what the best thing to do is. I don’t know how to survive without you.
Since I began writing you last fall, it’s gotten easier for me. The attacks, where I fall to my knees and sob or throw up, have almost completely stopped. I sleep better, although I still dream often of lying in our bed.
I am sitting in the shade of a tree, trying to escape the hot Georgia sun. We’ve stopped to rest for a spell, and many of the soldiers are sleeping, eating, or writing home. Ezra is smartly sleeping, but I am writing you. The way I do on every break. At every chance I get. As if I believe you will receive these letters.
The other soldiers tease me about you, about my devotion to you. When we have a chance to stop at taverns, most of them will bed local women if they can. But I never do. The idea of being with someone that isn’t you repulses me. I can’t imagine the prospect.
Elise, I swear to you, I will never love anyone but you. I cannot even fathom the idea.
But this war has given me some kind of direction. When I am fighting, I hardly think of you. My head is in the battle, even if my heart remains with you. Being a soldier might be the only that makes sense to me.
It’s not that my life has meaning, but what I am doing matters. Because of what we are, Ezra and I have great advantages to help the other soldiers. We can hear and see things before they do and let them know when enemies are approaching. We are stronger and much harder to hurt, so we can take bigger risks.
A lot of our time is spent protecting our battalion, as opposed to simply fighting the Confederacy. But I prefer that. I prefer to know I am saving someone than killing them. In my lifetime, I will see far more death than I can possibly imagine, but I would like to put it off for as long as I can.
We are moving on again, so I must cut this short. But I will write to you again, and again, and again. No matter what Ezra says.
All my love –
December 12, 1901
Oh, Elise forgive me. The mistake I have made feels too horrible for me to even write. I am drunk, and I know I am drunk. We came to Russia to get away, to hide in the cold and drink too much blood, and oh, how I have drunk too much blood. I simply couldn’t take it anymore. The life we’re leading felt so artificial, and I didn’t want to take Ezra along with me. I wanted him to stay behind, to keep running the business, but he refuses to leave me. I feel so much like Cain must have felt with Abel. Not that I want to harm Ezra, but this feeling that I am his keeper. Or he is mine. That we are meant to watch over each other, but Ezra is good and pure, and I am of evil and will drag him down with me.
Elise, Elise, Elise, what I have done?
We never should’ve left America. Ezra was doing so well in Chicago. He ran a factory and owned a share in the railroads, and we were doing well, it felt all too well. He’d even started to date a young woman named Abigail, and I’d never known him to actually court a woman. He’d only see them for a night and then move on, but something about Abigail struck him. And something about it struck me too. Seeing him happy and in love, building a life. It was raw in a way I hadn’t expected. I told him to stay. I begged him not to leave, to stay with Abigail, turn her into a vampire, and they could live happily ever after. Without me.
But he refused to be apart from me. He chose me over her, and I think I’ve begun to hate him for that. He’s so dependent on me for his happiness, and it’s too much pressure. It’s too much on me. I can barely survive and make myself happy. How am I supposed to do the something for him I can’t do for myself? Why does he need me so much? Why can’t he let me go?
I don’t know what I’m saying or what I mean. I don’t want to leave Ezra. I love him, more than any man has ever loved his brother. But sometimes it’s unbearable. Loving anyone, being loved. It would so much better if I could simply be alone, if he would let me die.
But he won’t and I refuse to be the one to destroy him. I will not do to him what was done to me. Or at least that’s what I tell myself, what I’ve promised him. But I don’t know how much my promises are worth. My word means nothing.