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Elijah nodded, his hands trembling as they caught up to Charlotte and Daniel. It seemed that Daniel wasn’t faring much better than he was. Charlotte was nearly pulling him through the cemetery. Neither of them were bothering to make small talk now. They walked over the snow, passing headstone after headstone until finally Charlotte stopped in front of one near the back of the small graveyard. The stone was rough, the name Eliza H. Clay displayed across the front. She had only lived 21 years, from 1802-1823.
Charlotte and Daniel stood for a moment in front of her grave in silence before Daniel said a word. His voice was strangled, as if each word cost him, and Elijah felt the weight of his torment like a physical pain in his chest.
“This is unnecessary.” whispered Daniel. “It’s been two years.”
“She was your fiance and your first love.” said Charlotte quietly. For the most part she looked calm, that same determination setting her features. Elijah couldn’t imagine what this might be costing her. “You couldn’t even go to her funeral.” she whispered. Daniel’s chest was heaving as he fought for control. Elijah could feel the struggle as he blinked rapidly. Next to him, Daniel’s spirit watched the scene before him. He looked entirely unaffected by the pain his counterpart was enduring .
“I won’t let her be taboo, Daniel.” she said gently.
“I can’t…” whispered Daniel. Tears were flooding his eyes now, spilling down his cheeks.
“Yes you can.” she said. “It’s why we’re here.”
Daniel was shaking his head, but the words were spilling out of him anyway, as if they had only been waiting for permission. “It was always her.” he said. “From the moment I saw her until the day she died. She was my soulmate, Charlotte. When she got sick I never dreamed I’d lose her. I never thought I would have to watch her wither away! It’s like a nightmare and I can’t wake up. Two years later and I can’t wake up.” He sank down, first to one knee and then both, his hand pressed against the name on the headstone. “I wanted to give her my name. As she was dying, I begged her to marry me, but she refused. She said she couldn’t let me become a widower at the age of twenty one.”
He covered his face with his hands, trying to choke back the sobs and breathe. Elijah felt tears rolling down his own cheeks as he realized the depths of Daniel’s desolation.
Daniel caught his breath for a moment, still looking at the headstone. “I would have happily been a widower, if only Eliza could have been my wife. Even if it was just for a day. I would have traded a thousand days for one day with her in marriage. Why wouldn’t she let me marry her? Why did she have to die?” Daniel seemed to remember that Charlotte was there. He looked up at her, his eyes swollen and red, his face white. He hung his head in shame, hunched over in the snow shivering. “Charlotte.” he said her name with such wistfulness, such pain. “I do love you. That’s why I married you, because you were a light in the darkness. But she was my soulmate.”
Charlotte had remained still as she watched her husband come to pieces, her face inscrutable. Snow was collecting in her hair, on the shoulders of her jacket. She looked down at Daniel, even though he had no strength to look her in the eye.
“Now you know.” muttered Daniel. “Now you know the worst of me. I will never love you as much as I love a dead girl.”
Elijah found himself shaking nearly as badly as Daniel was, terror running through him. A pure, deep fear of judgment, of a sentence about to be laid down. Charlotte breathed deep, looking at the sky before taking a few steps forward. She was practically standing over Daniel, who didn’t dare look at her. She sat down next to him.
“Say something.” said Daniel.
To be continued!