“I went willingly,” I assured her. “And Ezra isn’t the type to hold grudges.”
“Perhaps.” She snuggled closer to me, resting her head in the nook between my shoulder and neck.
“Does Catherine hate me for taking you away from her?” I asked.
“A little,” Elise admitted, and then giggled. Somehow, the sound was even more charming when she was sleepy. It had an innocent quality to it that made my heart swell.
With that, she drifted off to sleep. So I beg of you, Ezra, if you cannot forgive me for leaving you now, please at least do not hold it against my young bride. She cares for you, not as much as I do, but as much as she can.
We only wish to make each other happy, but we don’t want to do it at your expense. Let us have a few more weeks to be free and unfettered, and in love and foolish the way only the young can be.
Then I’ll return home. I will work with you to open the business. Elise will work in the gardens and fields of her farm. We’ll build a house together, but the life we build will include you. You are as much a part of my life as my beloved Elise.
I want you to know that. Just because I am married now it doesn’t change a thing between us. I still love you as much as I ever have, brother. And when I return, I will set about proving it to you. I don’t want there to ever be a doubt about my loyalty to you.
I hope things are well with you, and you are checking in on Catherine to make sure she’s alright. Elise has been afraid that the farm will fall apart in her absence, but I assured her that you will keep Catherine in line.
Take care, dear brother, and I will see you soon.
December 24, 1860
To Elise, with all my love –
On this Christmas, I wanted to give you something to show you how much you mean to me, how grateful I am that you’ve let me spend these past eight years with you.
I would buy you a new house, if you’d let me, but I know how much you love this old farm. I’d take you on another trip, if I hadn’t already taken you everywhere you asked to go.
I’ve given you everything I have to give, and so much more. I’d give you the moon and the stars, if you asked for it, but I know that’s not what you need.
Love, my love, is the thing you crave the most. I’ve heard you talk of your family, the stories growing with increasing frequency. Our small home has become too large for you. I hear your footsteps echoing as you walk about during the day, and I reach over to your spot in bed, finding the sheets cold.
When did you stop sleeping? When did this ache begin to fill you?
I offer myself to you, completely, eternally, humbly yours, but I feel it in your touch. In your smile that never seems quite true. A sadness. You miss something. Is it something you lost? Or is it something you never had?
My love, my true, my only. What is that you lack that I cannot give?
I think I know the truth, but I’ve been afraid to speak it. I fear if I form the words, it will become a real. A solid entity that will take over our lives. That will ruin everything I have worked for to create with you.
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.
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.