The candlelight was waning, but I took no notice. I couldn't, even as the wax dripped down the holder and threatened to hit my paper--I had to finish this letter; I could not leave it for the morning. With my back hunched over my desk, my fingers cramping after writing for so long, I was beginning to feel like myself again. I didn't want the moment to leave.
"Mr. Thomas?" Elizabeth's entrance had been so subtle I had not heard it; I jumped. "Mr. Thomas, you should be getting to bed soon. It's awful late." I heard her place a dish at my elbow, and I glanced over at it. A half-empty cup of broth.
Elizabeth remained at my side, but I turned her away with a flick of my wrist. She curtsied and left just as silent as she'd come. The door shut, I was alone again.
I sighed and pushed my broth away; when I returned to my quill, my hand was trembling. Your letter found me a little emerging from the stupor of mine which had rendered me as dead to the world as she whose loss occasioned it--
I could not continue; I was too overcome, my heart too full. I threw the quill away and groaned. Would it always be so hard to think of her? So very painful? I rubbed my face with the heels of my hands, pushing the tears back into my eyes.
"Oh, Thomas," she whispered, and I felt those familiar small hands travel up my back. They rested, so very warm, on my shoulders, and I felt her soft lips in my hair. "Come to bed. It is so very late."
I sighed and put a hand over hers. Although it was not there, I didn't let my momentary flash of sanity break my illusion. I couldn't.
"All right, my dear," I answered in a whisper. I stood, and I felt her take my hand to lead me to the bed. Her skin was so soft and warm, even after death. Even when she was only confined inside my mind.
"You can complete the letter tomorrow," she continued. "Now you must rest."
I threw back the covers and crawled myself into my cold, lonely bed. Her hand still held mine as I fell asleep.