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.

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.