Elsie sat Indian-style on the top of the Williards’ family mausoleum. She looked up at the night sky.
Moonlight and millions of stars lit the midnight black and blue.
Such a beautiful night. She closed her eyes and, for a moment, she felt Hildreth’s hands resting on her shoulders.
Startled, she glanced back, but he wasn’t there.
She was alone.
Elsie pulled out her phone and called his number.
Hildreth stretched his arms and yawned.
So mind-numbed bored. If Elsie were here—
His phone rang.
He checked the caller id and smiled as he answered it. “Well. Hellllllllo,nurse.”
“Yakko? Naaaah. I’m totally Wakko.”
“Hey. You said it, not me.”
“What are you up to?”
“Oh, you know the usual cavalcades of fun: Sitting all over your couch with my big, awesome self and getting my dandruff everywhere.”
“Are you keeping the cold compress on your foot?”
“Yep and just having a blast with that.” He turned serious. “What about you? Are you okay?Are you safe?”
“Always. What? You’re worried about me?”
“I know. I shouldn’t be, but I can’t help it.” His smile returned. “I know that you’re worried plenty about me. Because you can’t help it. Elsie Vansing can’t help worrying about me. Elsie Vansing. You are worried about me.”
He heard the smile in her voice as she said, “Oh. my. gosh. You are such an idiot.”
“Hey. Gotta keep the payin’ customers happy. Oh, Elsie. I miss you. I miss being with you. I want to be out there with you, kicking vampire tailsides to the moon and back. On the bright side, I should be up and about tomorrow night.”
“Uhhh, no. You need to stay off your foot for a couple of days.”
He felt like a helium balloon that lost all of its helium. “A couple of days.”
“You should give it a week to properly heal.”
“A week? Oh, Elsie! Come on. A whole week of just sitting here and worrying myself gray about whether you’re safe, whether—-”
“You don’t have to worry about me. I’m fine. I can stand on my own. I can fight on my own.”
“Just take care of yourself. Make sure your foot heals. I don’t want that to become a weak spot. I want you to be able to fight alongside me. I want…Hildreth. I want.”
“I know.” He closed his eyes and, for a wonderful moment, he could almost feel her fingers dig into his hair.
“I’ll come back to you when dawn comes. Hildreth. I will always come back to you.”
Words filled his mind.
Only two words left his mouth. “Be safe.”
“I will. When I come home, I’ll make you breakfast.”
His face brightened. “With a ton of bacon?”
She laughed. “Half a ton.”
He joined in her laughter. “I’m looking forward to it.”
“So am I.”
“I love you. Oh, Els. I love you so much.” He let out an exasperated sigh. “I wish I could say more than that. I wish I could express myself better. I wish I could say what I feel and make you feel it and not…not have my words lock up on me.”
“Hildreth. You jumped out of your second floor window in a fit of reckless abandon—”
ooo. Reckless abandon. He smiled and nodded his head. I love the sound of that.
“—-because you thought I was in danger. Because you wanted to be my hero on a white charger.”
“Hmm. As a hero, do I get a sword or a battle ax?”
“There are no words. No quoted sonnets. No songs. Nor any dirty limericks. Nothing you can say could make me feel your love more than that one action.”
“Oh, I wouldn’t say that. There are words, Elsie. Words of magic and power. Words that will bind me forever to you. But we can’t say them yet. Not unless you want to get unofficially married over the phone. Bleah! No romance there.”
She fell silent.
“Hey. You all right, Vansing?”
“I’m just thinking. That day will come so fast.”
“But right now it’s coming so slow. Could make a guy nuts with its slowness. I want to marry you, Elsie Vansing. I want all of our shared tomorrows to begin.”
“So do I. I love you, Hildreth Mayhew, with all of your faults and all of your charms.”
“Yes!” He pumped his unoccupied fist. “You think I have charms. Huzzah!”
She laughed. “You have more than you think you do.”
“Ohh, I would have to disagree on that one. You see, I think I have oodles and gobs and buckets of charm.”
“And so you do. I’ll be home after dawn.”
“Me and my bum foot will be here waiting for you.”
“Get some sleep.”
“I’ll try. Be safe. Elsie, please be safe.”
“Always. Good night.”