Letters to Elise: A Peter Townsend Novella / Page 7

Page 7


I don’t understand it, but that might be because of how quickly I left mine. I left my home one morning in the spring to fetch a doctor for my sister, and I haven’t been back in almost twenty years.

I don’t have a home, not in the sense of house or land. You are my home. Wherever you are, that is what home will be.

My hands are trembling as I write. I feel strange and giddy, reminding of a time when I was a small boy. My father’s mare Helena was giving birth, and I stayed out in the stables all night with my father and older brother Daniel. They told me to go back in, but I refused.

I remember so clearly the moment when the foal’s legs emerged from the mare. The smell of the straw, the way the lantern lit up the barn, the sound of our stallion Lysander neighing.

It was in that moment, I realized something amazing was going to happen. A creature would be alive that wasn’t before, and nothing could be more magical than the creation of life. I trembled with excitement and expectation.

That is how I feel right now. In an existence so full of death – dependent on it really – this is the only thing I’ve ever done that has felt like creation. We will begin a life together. We will cease to be two people and become one.

I will not be able to sleep until I see you again, until I can take you in my arms and press you to me. Until I know that you are mine, now and forever, before God and the earth, you belong to me as I belong to you.

Your everlasting groom-

Peter

July 8, 1853

My dear brother, Ezra,

I meant to write you sooner. I truly did, but you know how honeymoons go. I’m so very grateful that I waited to wed Elise until I had enough money to travel this way. Although I’m certain that the two of us would have been as happy any place, as long as it had a bed.

Oh, brother, forgive me for being crass, but I’ve had no one to speak of this with. Our wedding night – there aren’t words. This wasn’t the first I lain with a woman, although this was my first time with another vampyre, but it was nothing like I remembered it being.

In the mornings, after a woman had shared your bed, and I would see your face, I would think that I must be doing something wrong because I never looked like that. And maybe I was, but I finally understand the sublime, exhausted expression you always wear.

After the wedding, we barely made it to her room before our clothes were off – and I’m certain that you heard us, you and Catherine were so near, and for that I apologize. But that was a moment I couldn’t contain myself.

I’d never felt so out of control, unable to stop myself, and I was so grateful for it. When Elise and I are together, it feels as if we are one. I can feel her emotions inside of me, as if they are my own. I’ve spent my whole life fragmented, living as half a being, but I never realized until I was with her and she made me whole.

These past two months have been a blur, a haze of happiness and pleasure. I’m not sure how long it took for us to get to Paris, and I don’t really remember much of the journey. We stopped every chance we could, renting rooms far more often than we needed to, but it was hard enough for me to keep my hands off her.

I am her humble servant, and I worship at her feet nightly.

When I first turned, I felt as if I belonged to you. Did I ever tell you that? There was this sense that you had created me, that you owned me, and I felt like a slave to you. Not that you ever treated me as such, but it was something in my essence that told me that. Something inside me saying, “You belong to him. You do his bidding. That is why you exist.”

And I did, without complaint. I was happy to do it, and I still would be. If you asked anything of me, I would gladly do it. Your unending friendship is the thing most valuable to me this life, other than my wife, of course.

I feel that way with Elise, only stronger. I’m so grateful she allows me to be with her, that she lets me touch her and share her bed. I know that I don’t deserve her, no matter what our blood says. She is far too good to me, so pure and virtuous. So I spend every waking moment trying to make it up to her that I’m not nearly as perfect as she.

My Elise, my beloved…

We went to the opera house the last night we were in Paris. Most of our trip had been spent inside our hotel room, but we’d done some sightseeing. Elise had never been to the opera before. She’d never even been out of Ireland, and she’d grown up very poor.

Until I met her, she could barely read. I don’t understand that part exactly. As you know, I grew up with hardly any money, but we could all read. My father was a great admirer of Shakespeare, and he read to us as often as he could. My siblings and I spent hours acting out his plays.

Father always adored A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and we performed a loose version of that once a year. My younger sister Caroline was always Puck, but being a trouble maker suited her fine.

When I told Elise of these stories, she could hardly believe me. I went to a small bookshop in Paris (I’m indebted to you for forcing me to learn French all those years ago), and I bought up all the Shakespeare they had.

Elise and I lay in bed. The room would still glow, the way it always seemed to afterwards. The sheets were satin, so soft and light they feel like nothing on my bare skin.

It was in those moments, when we were too drunk on love and too tired to move, I’d pull out a book. Elise lay next to me, her arm resting on my stomach, as I begin to read to her, telling her the tales that Sir William wrote long ago.

She stared at me with eyes so wide and bright, I always had to hide my laugh. She gazed at me with such wonder and adoration, it’s as if she thought I wrote the stories myself.

It’s because of this I insisted we go to the opera house. I’ve seen how much simply hearing the stories captivates her. Seeing something performed on stage would amaze her.

Elise can only speak a few words of French, despite my efforts to teach her. She loves hearing it spoken, but she claims her accent butchers it too much, so she refuses to learn. I think her Irish burr warms the language, but she won’t be convinced.

Even with that, I took her to the opera at Salle Le Peletier. It was a performance of Le prophète, and we had balcony seats. In the beginning, I tried to translate for her, but eventually she held up her hand to silence me.

“You don’t need to tell me,” Elise whispered, as not to disturb the other patrons. “I can see it on their faces.”

By the time the opening number had ended, Elise had begun to weep. I put my hand her arm, concerned that something was the matter, and she shook her head, dabbing at the tears on her cheeks.


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