Mina lay in bed on Christmas Eve, trying to ignore the ache in her chest at the thought of tomorrow.
Christmas used to mean Lucy. Mrs. Westenra had invited Mina into their home to celebrate every year since the girls had met. They’d grown together from children just old enough to know they should act ladylike and contain their excitement into young women who did as much as Mrs. Westenra to prepare the house and get things in order. Mina remembered singing carols, improvising harmonies while Lucy sang soprano, filling the house with music as they made ready. She remembered Lucy concentrating as they worked together to string garlands around the tree, brow furrowed, tongue poking slightly out of the side of her mouth in a way that somehow managed to be adorable.
Their last such Christmas had had an element of finality to it. They’d both known that by Christmas next year, Mina and Jonathan would likely be married, celebrating in the household they’d established together. There’d been a sense, faint but detectable, of coming to the end of an era.
But there’d been excitement, too. Joy for Mina’s future. Her first married Christmas was supposed to be a happy thing, cause for celebration.
Lucy was dead, just as her adulthood was beginning. And Mina was... hollow.
Even with Jonathan lying beside her, resting one hand on her waist as he breathed softly and evenly.
She knew now. How much darkness there was in the world, and how easy it was for anyone, anyone at all, to fall into it. She had escaped that fate by a hair’s breadth, and by the sacrifice of a good man who should never have died so young.
She shouldn’t be here. Not when Lucy and Quincey were dead. It wasn’t fair.
She’d been there, when Lucy’s trouble began. She hadn’t known, hadn’t been able to do a thing to stop it. She’d left. She’d left because Jonathan had needed her... but Lucy had too, and Mina hadn’t been there.
And Quincey only died because he was trying to save her. True, they’d been hunting Dracula before she’d been bitten... but maybe, without the pressure of time, they’d have been able to come up with a better plan. One that wasn’t so risky.
And why did the monster come after her in the first place? He’d never made Lucy drink his blood, and didn’t seem interested in bringing her with him... he just turned her loose to terrorize the local children. But Mina... Mina he’d seemed to want.
Maybe it was just revenge against her friends. But maybe...
What’s wrong with me?
Mina felt a tear slip down her face.
It wasn’t the first time the question had occurred to her.
I need to go outside. Get some fresh air.
Mina looked out the window at the snow, swirling in the moonlight. Heavy snow had fallen already, and more was coming down fast.
This is a bad plan.
I just need to clear my head, that’s all.
For a moment, a cold shudder ran down Mina’s spine as she considered the thought that the desire to go outside might not be her own. But no, he was gone. They’d made sure of that. And she thought she’d know if another vampire had found her—she did, in fact, inspect her neck on a fairly regular basis.
Besides. She knew what that felt like. It wasn’t this.
Feeling dimly and disconcertingly like a spectator observing her own body, Mina gently removed Jonathan’s hand from her side, got out of bed, dressed, and stepped out into the storm.