Letters to Elise: A Peter Townsend Novella / Page 4

Page 4


I wanted to argue further, but Ezra was impossible to argue with when he’d made up his mind. He’d become tired of my ever growing malaise and was determined to snap me out of it. Once we reached the city, he planned to find a boat to take us away from Ireland, maybe to England or France.

We reached the city two nights ago. Ezra took me to a pub, which is the only way I’d know how truly hard this was him. Ezra kept his emotions to himself as often as he could, but when they became too much for him, he had to find a release.

His best solution for dealing with a depression was to lay with a woman, preferably a human woman full of life with a warm body and pounding heart. I never asked him, but I suspect that he never bit a woman he took to his bed. To be with them was to pretend, for a moment, that he was alive, that he was capable of giving and receiving love with another being.

In the pub, he ordered whiskey, which we both pretended to drink, but most of it ended up on the floor. Women were always enamored with Ezra, and two lovely girls joined us.

The fairer of the two had her eyes set on the Ezra. She hung on his every word, gripping his arm with urgency, and she melted at the sound of his laugh. It didn’t take long before he was renting a room above the pub and whisking her up the stairs.

Her friend would gladly go with me, but I didn’t have it in me. Being with a woman had never been quite the release for me as it was for Ezra. I stayed down in the pub, listening to the girl talk for quite a long while, but eventually, I left to walk the streets alone.

When the sun began to rise, I headed back. We didn’t have much money, so I didn’t want to rent a room of my own. I waited on the stairs until the girl had gone before going into the room. Ezra was sprawled across the bed, contented and sleeping. I stole a thin blanket and made myself a bed on the floor.

Ezra awoke early for the day with an extra bounce in his step. He was still convinced that being around people was the cure for what ailed me. He insisted that we go out to the market while the evening sun was still up, when the market was busy with shoppers and sellers. Seeing people laughing, bartering, living, would be good for me.

I’d wanted to argue with him, but I thank the heavens that I did not. Letting him drag me out to that market was the best thing that’s ever happened to me.

The streets were crowded, much fuller than I’d seen them in the small villages we’d traversed. The sound of voices echoed off the shops that lined market. Chickens and goats were aplenty, making their protests at being sold off for food.

The smell of it was all overwhelming. The thin blood I’d been subsiding on was nothing like this, heady and pounding through the masses. It was intoxicating.

People pushed against me to get where they wanted, their bodies burning like small flames. Children ran into me, shouting an unapologetic “sorry” over their shoulders as they dashed on to play some game.

“See?” Ezra clapped me on the shoulder to draw my attention to him. “This is what life is about.”

“A dirty market?” I asked with a wry smile, but I’d already begun to feel lightheaded.

The combination of the sun, which tires vampyres, and the effects of the market were too much for me. I couldn’t hang onto my sense of hopelessness even if I’d wanted to.

“We will stay in the city for a few more days,” Ezra said, seeing through my attempts at disapproval.

Then I felt something, a sensation I’d never had before. Like a heat in the pit of my stomach pulling me. As if I’d had an invisible thread tied to me all this time that I’d never noticed before, and someone just picked up the slack and began to pull me.

In the din of the thousand voices that filled up the street, I heard one clear as a bell. I turned towards it, not that I had a choice. The thread yanked at me so hard, it was turning me.

“You expect me to let you have that for –” the voice was saying, that clear, perfect girl’s voice lilting with an Irish accent. But she stopped speaking when I turned around, when she saw me.

I couldn’t move or breathe or do anything. The whole world fell away, and she was the only thing I could see.

Her eyes were gray, like a heavy fog that blanketed me, and her skin was white as porcelain. Red flames of hair framed her face, and the pink petals of her lips parted as she stared at me.

I could hear her heart above everyone else’s around her, even though her heart beat much softer and slower. She had the heart of a vampyre, and it sounded strangely exotic against the frantic beats of the humans. It sung to me, calling me to her.

I don’t remember walking over to her. I’m not sure that my feet even moved. It was as if I’d evaporated into a mist so I could float through all the people crowding the street until I stopped in front of her.

A cart filled with tomatoes separated us, and no gap had ever felt farther. We were only a foot or two apart, but I needed to be closer to her. The distance was terrifying.

An old woman stood next to me, trying to push me out of the way to continue haggling over the cost of tomatoes, but I ignored her. I was immovable, like granite. I couldn’t go anywhere unless this beautiful girl asked me to go.

I had never seen anything more lovely than her, and I doubt I ever will again. She was most painful to look at, like staring at the sun, because she was so perfect. She appeared young, maybe sixteen when she’d turned, and she was flawless in a way I’d never seen anyone, not even other vampyres.

“Hello,” she said, her words barely more than a breath. A strand of red hair had fallen across her forehead, and she tucked it back with delicate fingers.

“Hello,” I said, my voice as soft and weak as hers. She’d stolen all the air from my lungs.

“My name is Elise,” she said at length.

“Elise?” I smiled, knowing there had never been a name that sounded more beautiful. “I’m Peter.”

“Peter,” she repeated, and my knees became weak at the sound of it. She turned back, breaking eye contact with more for an excoriating moment as she yelled back over her shoulder. “Catherine! Can you watch the cart? I have to…” She trailed off and looked back at me.

“Will you walk with me?” I asked, filling in the gap.

She nodded once, and another vampyre came over. Her dark hair was tied back in a braid, and she gave Elise and me an odd look.

“Elise?” she asked. “What’s all this?”

“Catherine, I have to go walk with this gentleman,” Elise said.

Catherine tried to press her for more answers, but Elise didn’t have any. She stepped out from behind the cart and walked next to me. We turned down a street, moving away from the bustle of the market. She kept staring up at me, and I down at her, as if we were both afraid that the other would disappear.


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