Hildreth attached the tracker button to the lapel of the vampire’s coat. He pressed his thumb against the center until the device beeped and turned green.
He knelt beside the body.
Will I do this to Ambrose Smith one day? One night? How will it make me feel?
Happy, I suppose.
The Collectors will come and haul away his body to be cremated. Or whatever they do with it.
Elsie came up behind him and rubbed his neck. “The Collectors will be here soon.”
“Do you need me to stay? Mmm. A little higher. Yes. There.” He closed his eyes and relaxed into her hands.
“I’ll be fine. Hildreth.”
“Believe me. Trust me. I only want you.”
He looked up at her and smiled at how her frizzy black hair framed her face.
Images flashed through his mind – snapshots of their future life together.
Waking beside her. His fingers tangled in her hair.
Making breakfast for her. She dressed in her white tank top and sleep shorts. Him in his bare feet.
Hunting with her. Their gold wedding rings shined in the moonlight.
Holding their first born. The first of many.
Growing old together. Their minds filled with memories of joy and sorrow.
“Elsie.” He stood and hugged her. “Elsie.” Everything he wanted to say, everything he loved about her, he summed it up in that one word. That one name. “My lovely, fierce Elsie.”
The tracker button blinked from green to red to green to red to black.
They stayed in their embrace and waited for the Collectors to arrive.
And they arrived.
Right on time.
A dense cloud of luna moths descended on the body, shrouding it with their shapely yellow-green wings.
Hildreth imagined them shrouding Ambrose’s body.
They rose as one, lifting the body into the air.
He imagined them lifting Ambrose’s body.
They carried the body away.
He smiled. And then that vampire would be gone.
But I will not betray her trust.
I will not hunt him down.
If he wants to get himself staked, he can come on over to my house. I will not come to him.
He kissed her head. “Elsie.”
I will never come to him.
Someone tapped Ambrose’s back.
“Pardon me, sir. May I have this dance?”
He turned. An exuberant grin stretched across his face as he recognized the young woman standing behind him. “Anna!”
“Good. You do remember me. I was worried you’d forgotten. It’s been a long time.”
He checked her out. “Apparently.”
“You look handsome.”
He laughed. “It is quite disconcerting to hear you say that.”
“Why should it be? I’ve grown up and so have you.”
“I still remember you as that trouble seeking girl with her two braids.”
She launched into a coughing fit.
Ambrose flagged down a servant carrying a tray of drinks. He took one and escorted her onto the balcony. “Here.”
She took a sip, which seemed to help. “Thank you.”
“Are you unwell?”
She shook her head. “It’s just a bit of a cough.” She smiled. “Don’t look so worried. I’m fine. It’s just a cough.”
“How long have you had it?”
“Ambrose. I haven’t seen you in years. I don’t want our whole conversation to be focused on my health. Or lack thereof.”
“What do you mean? What—-”
“Don’t worry about it. These coughing fits come and they go. It’s all right. I’m alive. That’s all that matters. I’m still alive.” She took another sip of her wine.
“Have you seen a doctor for this?”
She walked over to the balcony’s railing. “I’m still alive. Every day, I’m still alive.”
“Anna?” He came over to her.
She looked out into the night with a smile on her face and tears in her eyes.
And he understood. “You have seen a doctor.”
“What did he…” His heart sank as he understood it all. “How long?”
She shook her head. “I’m alive.” She looked up at him. “Kiss me, Ambrose.”
He took a surprised step back. “Wha…What?”
“Don’t ask. Just kiss me.”
The tears escaped her eyes. “You are very handsome.”
“But…I’ve never kissed a girl before. I have no idea—”
“Just come here and I’ll show you.”
Ambrose opened his eyes.
She died barely a year after that.
Three years after her death, I died.
But I came back to life.
She did not.
He rolled onto his side. How long will I have with Barbara? Will she outlive me? Or will she leave me all alone?
Will I be there for her?
Will I be able to say good-bye?
He reached under his pillow for his phone.
It wasn’t there.
He did a frantic pat around for it.
Only to remember that it was charging up on his nightstand.
He picked it up and dialed her number.
It went straight to her voice mail.
“Barbara.” He laid down and closed his eyes. “Barbara.” His body relaxed. “Barbara. Bar…”
He went back to sleep.