Letters to Elise: A Peter Townsend Novella / Page 9

Page 9


It’s the stories of your younger sister Charlotte that haunt me the most. You talk of her running down the hall, her feet pattering on the floor, her laughter filling the house, her hair flowing with pink ribbons.

Is that the sound you miss? Is that the color you crave? The one thing that we can never be? A family?

I lived for fifteen years as a vampire before I met you. It doesn’t seem that long compared to forever, but when I think of the days, the long nights I spent lost without you, it feels so endless.

The truth is – the truth you mustn’t ever tell Ezra – is that I think I missed you before I knew you. The absence where you should be had been in my heart the second I was born. Even as a human, I’d denied all potential suitors.

I’d always been waiting for you.

But it wasn’t quite the same for you, was it? Not that I’m doubting your love. I know you love me. I know how deeply that flows within your blood. We are bound together forever, and I know you are as happy for that as I am.

I refer to the life before me. Before you knew me. I don’t think you felt the absence quite as sharply as I did. You had wanted more. You had wanted a life, before it was taken from you. And this is a life that I can never give you.

Love, my love, is something I can give. You have my whole heart, my whole being, and if that is not enough, then I will find you more love. More to have, more to give, more to take.

Our house will be empty no more, and there are only so many visits from Ezra and Catherine we can take. I’ve found you the closest thing to life I can give you – a puppy.

I saw him in the market three days ago, and Ezra’s been holding him in secret until now. He’s a small mongrel, something between a collie and a wolfhound I’ve been told. When I first spotted him, I thought, What an ugly little creature.

But then I looked at him the way you would, tilting my head and seeing past his wiry tufts of fur. I saw the love and the hope and the joy inside him, and I knew that he would belong to you. He was meant for you as much as I was.

I can only pray he helps to fill the hole in your heart, the one that even I cannot touch.

You are my love, my true, my only, my Elise.

Merry Christmas

Peter

January 8, 1863

My beloved Elise –

The waves will not stop crashing. I’ve written you three letters that have gotten swept away to the sea. I meant to write you a cheerful letter, to keep all my nausea to myself, but you see through all my words anyway.

I hate this damnable ship.

Its ceaseless rocking. Its constant dampness. Every bit of it is wet, no matter how low or high I go. Everything smells of mold and filth. These humans are far more disgusting than I remembered them being, but I haven’t had to live in such close quarters with them in a very long time.

Ezra finds this whole thing amusing, but he always does. He’s maddening.

I’ve had to find new and inventive ways to vomit, since I can’t let the other passengers see my blood red emesis. The food here is horrible, as well. We’ve been at sea for over a week, and I’ve yet to eat.

Ezra found himself a nice girl, but it’s harder to hunt here. I’ve spent so much time below deck, holed up in our room looking ill and frail. I’ve heard the crew whispering that they think I’ve got the plague. It makes it harder for me to lure someone down for a snack.

Moreover, the nausea is destroying my appetite. Ezra had no idea that vampyres could even suffer from seasickness, but it is a condition of the inner ear, and I still have ears. The sea is sitting marvelously with him. Too well, perhaps.

He came down from the deck an hour ago, only to disturb me, I’m sure. He spends a great deal of time above ground, and far too much time with his young human companion.

He’s lonely, I think, and has been for some time, but traveling has always made him feel more contented, more human.

“Are you writing her again?” Ezra asked, splayed out on his small twin bed next to the writing desk. He smelled of sea salt and his hair is damp. He always stands right at the bow of the ship, trying to get sprayed by waves.

“You know very well what I’m doing,” I told him, catching the inkwell before it slid off the desk. I’ve lost more ink in this trip than I have in my entire life.

“Isn’t that a waste of time?” Ezra asked. “You’ve already lost three or four letters.”

“That doesn’t mean that I’ll lose this one,” I said, and held the paper tighter, as if he meant to take it and toss out the window.

“Come now, Peter.” He propped his head up on his elbow, staring at me severely with his dark eyes. Sometimes I think he has the same power that you hold over me, the power to hypnotize me into doing anything.

“Come where, Ezra?” I asked. “We’re trapped on this godforsaken vessel for at least twenty-two more days. I can’t go anywhere.”

“You can’t stay holed up in this room any longer. You’re gaunt and pale.” Ezra sat up and swung his legs over the edge of the bed. “The crew is beginning to talk about your condition.”

“Let them talk,” I muttered. “I can’t get them sick.”

“We don’t need any more scrutiny,” he said.

“You’re only concerned that I’ll scare your friend away,” I said, referring to his young companion. She spends every waking moment with him, and I’m presuming the only reason she hadn’t followed him down here is because it’s well after midnight.

“I would prefer if you didn’t chase off dear Aggie, it’s true, but I’m only concerned about your welfare.” Ezra stood up and put his hand on my shoulder. “You’re not looking well, brother. You must eat.”

I would’ve continued to argue with him, but he dragged me to my feet and pulled me out of the room. Ezra took me down the hall to where his dear young Aggie shared a room with her twin brother. While Ezra occupied the girl, taking her up to the deck for a midnight stroll, he left me alone with the boy to do some convincing.

I only feel mildly better after feeding. The nausea hasn’t faded, but at least I’m not so weak. Ezra thinks that if we have to wait a week or two between feedings, we won’t have to branch out farther than Aggie and her brother.

Of course, none of the seasickness even compares to being away from you. I know this is what is best for us, even if it’s hard. For me, being apart is agony, but I know for you to leave the farm that you have loved is the greater agony.

The neighbors have grown too suspicious that you haven’t aged past sixteen in the past ten years, and they’ve become older and wrinkled.


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