Though her mind was not there, her feet knew the rocky way to Whitby Beach, her bare feet, numb from the night’s chill, barely feeling the cut of the rocks underneath them, church bells faintly tolling in the distance.
It still seemed strange, walking alone. All her life, she had followed Lucy around, whether it was for a picnic, or to take the ocean breeze, or to calm Lucy when she was sleepwalking, Mina’s arm gently looping around hers as they made their way back to the house, Lucy holding onto her, body almost swaying in the ocean breeze. Now it was as if she was a shadow that had been cut away from its source.
Jonathan was steady and gentle and scarred; however at this moment, Whitby Bay was hers and Lucy’s alone. She would help him, advise him, nurture him, love him, and he would do the same for her, putting the past behind them day by day, but he was no replacement.
She stood by the edge of the rock, the bitter ocean wind tussling the hair that hung loose across her shoulder and down her back, pulling her shawl close to her in a vain attempt to keep the cold from cutting into her.
“You would have told me to come indoors,” the figure in white said, a faint smile on her face. Mina swerved, only to see the face that had haunted her nightmares for over a year, “Otherwise I would catch cold.”
Lucy was as Mina remembered her, living Lucy, the Lucy who would drag Mina away from her books and her nearly burnt candles and the chalkboard (she had made a point of it, when she first began, to make her handwriting as clear as possible for the children to read, down to the smallest stroke on a ‘t’) and her typewriter and take her to the ocean, where they would watch as ships passed into Whitby Harbour and try to guess where each came from and what their stories were. The Lucy who would excitedly tell her about everything that had happened that day, about her hopes and dreams and dreads, while the two of them had laid in bed together, warmth against warmth, the candle on the end table long since snuffed out.
Mina startled. Her mind had told her that she would find something here, something that was important to her, but somehow, she had never expected this.
Vampires were all too real, but her scientific mind still had to show some skepticism towards ghosts.
“I-” She began, trying to swallow the emotions down at seeing a face that she had last seen in a state of agony as the stake had plunged into her heart, “I am not going to catch a cold.”
“Only when absolutely necessary.” She was perfectly content to settle into a helping role, but sometimes, it became an absolute necessity to assert herself. God had seen fit to grant her a mind, and she saw fit to use it and to trust in it.
“And to think, my darling Mina, that you are an old married woman now.” Lucy dipped her head, her pearl earrings swaying back and forth with the movement, eyes kind, crinkling around the edges, but tinted with regret.
Despite knowing that Lucy would marry, it had been hard to imagine her as the elegant lady of the manor, hosting dinners, commanding servants, and writing long, formal letters on perfumed stationery. She was Lucy , with that little bit of vibrancy and mischief always lurking near the surface.
Married, perhaps, never matronly.
But then again, the choice had never been hers to make. Three men competed for her hand, and she had chosen one, and she had been happy, and Death defeated them all.
Had defeated her , Mina couldn’t help but think of her own body moving of its own accord, her own mind moving against her, so that the best she could do or say was to burden poor, dear Jonathan with a task that he would never have dreamt of to prevent an even more unthinkable fate from befalling her. Her only fortune was that Dracula had revealed his hand too early, and let his own...infatuation, desire (she still didn’t know the term to use and the thought still stirred up too many tangled thoughts and memories for her to know clearly) rule over him.
Lucy, who had been sheltered and saved from every danger this world offered and so could not have possibly been prepared for one that existed outside of it, never had a chance.
“Are you happy?” Lucy asked, voice distant, as she looked out onto the crashing waters, painted a rippling silver in the light of the moon.
“Content,” Mina replied, following her gaze. It was her perfect life, such as she had imagined it, only slightly scuffled and bruised. (Whenever she had imagined her future, Lucy had always been there beside her. She'd imagined the two of them as brides, walking down the aisle side by side with each other, imagined their children being christened in the same church together, or their children running through Lucy and Arthur's estate while the two of them sat down and reminisced, or whiling long hours together on those nights when Jonathan’s job as a clerk might keep him late.)
Lucy chuckled, biting down at her lip. “You haven’t changed at all.”
“Neither have you. Tell me-” Mina began, not able to finish the question that brought her here even without her knowing it. The question that had filled countless nights of fear and regret.
Perhaps death had given Lucy knowledge of the thoughts she couldn’t speak, or perhaps Mina could never hide anything from her. Either way, she folded her arms across her, the sleeves of her white gown hanging off her wrist. “I’m at peace now. You don’t need to play the little mother anymore.”
“I should have-”
Lucy clutched her hand, the engagement ring she’d giddily shown Mina when Arthur proposed digging slightly into Mina’s palm, the gleam of it gone. “You did everything you possibly could.”
“You must surely know what I did. What we -”
“My darling...can one moth in a flame reproach its neighbor for being burned? I know, better than anyone, the feeling of being trapped in the mist and,” she said, and for a second, her voice darkened, a faint shudder running its way down her body. “I know how you fought against him. You were so strong, Mina. You always were. I always had to rather envy you that, you know.”
“There is nothing to envy in me,” the last syllable was cut off by the beginnings of a sob that forced itself out of her throat, her own breath betraying her as each push of her lungs only served to draw it out more. “He gave me a choice, he might have saved your life, if only I’d-”
“What? Given your life and your soul for mine? Mina…” Gentle, delicate fingers raised Mina’s chin up to meet her eyes, stroking the tears away from her face. “You could never have known. And although there is no gesture of love greater than what you offered me, you must know I could never accept.”
No, she wouldn’t. Lucy was too kind to let others sacrifice themselves for her. She would not have wanted to see Mina be pulled into the night for her sake any more than Mina wanted to see Lucy pulled into it for hers. It was the vampire’s most effective method of hunting, pitting one love against another.
Lucy pulled her close, her body warm, living. (After the men had left, she’d gone to the crypt, where...where the shell that had been Lucy was, blood that was and wasn’t her own staining her funeral shroud, and as she lowered her head to press one final kiss against the forehead, it had been as if her lips had touched ice.)
“Goodbye, my dearest Mina. Think of me in your happiest moments only, I should be so horrified if my life was to become a source of nothing but pain. Whenever your happiness is so great that it feels like it might crush you, think to yourself ‘This is exactly what Lucy wanted for me’ and be even happier for it.”
Mina couldn’t reply, sobs threatening to choke her again as her eyes became blurry, but she nodded, and Lucy leant over, a look of absolute serenity on her face, brushing a kiss against her forehead, and as she did so, a warmth like a heated blanket coursed through Mina that was enough to beat back the chilly air as she closed her eyes, hoping to engrave it in her mind.
When she opened her eyes, Lucy was gone, and she was alone among the crashing waves.
“Mina! Mina!” Her husband ran up to her, taking her in his arms. “I couldn’t find you, I was so worried. Are you safe?”
“Yes, dear,” Mina said, running a hand along his arm as she eyed his hair, permanently grayed. Since Dracula, he had become protective of her, seeing a vampire’s gleaming teeth in every shadow.
“Good God, you’ve been crying. What is it? Is there anything-”
Mina was proud that her voice didn’t break, “Everything is fine. Simply-” she thought back to her conversation with Lucy, and against her own inclination, she smiled, “A happy memory.”
Jonathan looked confused as she took his arm, the two of them walking step by step, stride by stride with one another as they made their way back home, with Mina sparing only a single glance to look behind her shoulder.
For a moment, only a moment, perhaps a trick of the moonlight, she believed she saw a solitary figure in white who waved at them, swaying slightly in the breeze before disappearing into the air like the morning’s dew.