The streetlights were little suns, rising and setting through her windshield every hundred feet or so. Esther flipped on her signal and took a right down a residential road. The phone on the dashboard blipped and blinked. With a practiced swipe of her finger, she accepted the notification and let the GPS begin to guide her.
It wasn’t her normal neighborhood, but she’d been tooling around half the night with no rides. Usually the college campuses were good any night of the week; her luck must have just run dry tonight. No drunk frat boys needing a ride to the bar. No packs of girls hailing six Lyfts to get their whole crew to the city. Shit. Was it finals week or something?
Esther had only run this neighborhood a few times before. Her back-up haunt was covered in orange cones and construction equipment sealed off behind cement barriers. The time the rides through those streets took wasn’t worth the money. So, here she was. Accepting a ride in the bougiest part of the city.
She wondered who the person might be. The name on the screen was “Ed R.” so she could take a few guesses. A successful businessman needing to run back to the office. Some rich prick going out to cheat on his wife. So many wonderful ideas. She wondered whether anyone would miss him if he didn’t return that night.
The marker on the GPS glowed pink and she pulled to the curb. A nice house, faux Neoclassical era architecture, pillars and all. Based on the buildings around it, though, she didn’t think it dated that far back. Too many McMansions in the neighboring lots.
A knock came on the back door. She jumped a little, surprised, since she’d seen no one come out of the house. Maybe she’d parked on the wrong side of the street? The person knocked again, and she rolled down her window a sliver.
“What’s your name?” she called out.
“Ed. You the Lyft?”
“Yeah,” she said, unlocking the doors, “It’s open now.”
The man slid into the backseat, sitting on the passenger side. She appreciated that. She could keep an eye on him better that way. Esther touched the screen of her phone and indicated the passenger was in the car. The new destination auto-filled and she put the car in the drive.
Esther didn’t excel in small talk or pleasantries. This would be a relatively quick ride; he wasn’t going much further than downtown, a twenty-minute drive tops, so she hoped she could avoid any conversations about the weather or the city sports teams. She kept the music down, in case he wanted quiet, but she didn’t plan on filling in the silence.
As she stopped at a stoplight, she took a quick glance in the review mirror to see her passenger. They locked eyes and she quickly looked back down. He was staring at her in the rearview. The creep. She wondered again if anyone might miss him if she dumped him in a ditch and looked up in the rearview to lock eyes with him again.
Something clicked. She watched his mouth slowly drop open. Her brow furrowed, trying to figure out what was so unsettling-
A car honked behind her. The light was green. She looked back at the road, confused and unnerved. Where had she seen him before?
Then he spoke, barely above a whisper: “Esther?”
“Edmund?” she asked, her voice higher than usual.
“Holy hell, is it really you?”
Esther opened her mouth a few times to answer but no sound came out. Finally, she put one hand up, palm out. “I’m sorry, I have to stop the ride.”
Edmund made no reply as she pulled into the nearest parking lot. The neon yellow of the Wendy’s sign illuminated her interior just enough so that when she looked back, she saw his golden eyes.
She turned her whole body to look at him, one elbow on her seat. The same ruffled brown hair, the same clean-shaven face. Admittedly, there was some scruff, and he was in a t-shirt not a suit, but it was still Edmund.
“Christ, it is you,” she breathed.
“I can’t believe-“ he started, then stopped. “I thought you were dead.”
Esther laughed. “I thought you were too!”
They both chuckled uneasily for a moment. Then he said, “How did you survive?”
“Same way you did, I imagine,” she answered, running her tongue thoughtfully along her upper teeth, “Wait. Were you in town then?”
He smiled. “I was visiting my parents. And, weirdly enough, when the tavern went dark, I was on my way to visit you.”
Esther slumped a little at that. She hadn’t thought about that night in ages. The tavern going dark had been the first sign something was wrong.
“Why don’t you come into the front seat, Edmund?” she asked, patting the passenger armrest, “Let’s catch up, if you have a minute.”
Without a word, Edmund switched seats. When he was next to her, staring at her dead on, a piercing melancholy dragged at her lungs. From the look on his face, he was feeling the same weight in his chest.
“What’re you up to?” she said, trying to wave the feeling away, “It’s been years.”
“Nearly three hundred, in fact.”
“Oh, Jesus, I’m not that old yet.”
They both smiled.
“I’ve been trying to lay low,” he admitted, “Keep myself fed. It’s harder these days.”
“Don’t I know it,” Esther said, rolling her eyes, “I mean, look at me. Driving a Lyft for drunks and ne’er-do-wells.”
“Don’t you need a current license for that?”
“Yeah, but I’ve gotten pretty good at reinventing myself every forty years or so.”
“Gee,” he said, “That’s a pretty impressive cycle.”
“You can explain the lack of wrinkles with the miracle of makeup and Korean skincare routines, these days.”
“Maybe not me.”
“No, maybe not you.”
Both fell quiet. Esther stared at the faded reflection of the neon in the windshield, letting her mind process that it really was Edmund, in her car, now. Not three-hundred years ago on the pig farm.
He broke the silence with, “You know, I wrote you a letter, of all things. Very Pride & Prejudice. I was on my way to deliver it to you when it all happened.”
“Pride & Prejudice, huh? I do quite like that one.”
“I didn’t get it when it first came out.”
“You weren’t a woman. You probably had to wait for gender equality to get a bit further before it punctured your brain.”
“Oh shut up, Essie.”
She laughed, goosebumps rising at the nickname. No one had called her that in centuries. “So. Pride & Prejudice letter?”
If he had had any blood in his cheeks, he would’ve blushed. Esther was familiar with that expression.
“It was to explain why I left and why I never proposed. It wasn’t very good, looking back on it with a modern lens. But at the time, it was very heartfelt and true.”
“I’m sure. And I would’ve toiled over it for weeks, if you’d delivered it.”
Edmund raised an eyebrow at that. “Really? What about your husband?”
She frowned and looked down at her hands. “Ralph was a good man. I did love him. Just, well. Differently.” She looked back up at him and put on her best scolding face. “I really did wait for you, you know. Girls got married at sixteen back then and I waited until I was twenty-two for you to come to your senses!”
“I know, I know!” he said, leaning back his hands up in surrender, “Trust me, I’ve had lifetimes to think about that mistake.”
“What, you really thought about it all this time?” she said, rolling her eyes.
He looked away from her, his eyes landing somewhere between the Wendy’s dining room and her dashboard. A quiet “Yes,” escaped his lips. Her chest grew heavy with the pain of it. Esther sat back and looked into the Wendy’s. A couple, wavering in their seats, enjoyed a meal. A man in the back was on his laptop. The cashier leaned on the counter, eyes glazed over, bored.
He’d really thought about her all this time.
“I thought about you too,” she whispered, “I even tried looking for you, once I’d figured it all out. But I didn’t know where I was going. No one would take me. And, when I did find the university, you weren’t there.”
He sighed. “I couldn’t go back. I was afraid I’d hurt someone on accident.”
“You know,” Edmund said, “I almost looked for you, the next night. I made it to your front step and saw the door open and Ralph in the doorway-“
An uneasy silence hung between them.
He broke it. “I couldn’t bring myself to go any further. I didn’t even check at my parent’s. I just ran.”
“I don’t blame you. It was a mess.”
Edmund turned in his seat and Esther faced him again. His brow was creased, and he seemed to be staring at his nose. She let herself smile a little. After three hundred years, she could still tell when he was puzzled.
“What I don’t get is why?” he said, one hand gesticulating absently, “I’ve never run into the one who turned me again. They clearly ran in a pack. But why take an entire town and make such an absolute mess of it? They didn’t even take the time to drain everyone! Or else we would’ve been dead too!”
Esther smiled and shook her head. “I gave up on trying to understand years ago, Edmund. We’ll never get an answer, now. Any idiot in that pack would’ve died as soon as the towns got too big or the lightbulb was invented.”
“It’s still frustrating.”
“Yeah, I suppose.”
The conversation lapsed. Edmund turned his perplexed expression towards the dining room, the golden light washing out his pale skin. It was a shame. She’d always liked his tan. His jawline hadn’t changed though, still firm and square. The slightly too-small ears. All he was missing were his baby blues.
“So what was the reason?”
He turned back to her. “Hm?”
“The reason you left. The reason you didn’t propose. In the Pride & Prejudice letter.”
“Oh,” he said, quieting. He turned back to the dining room. “It’s stupid, now. But. I was afraid if I didn’t go to university, I never would. That if I married you and had children, it would keep me from understanding the universe and helping humanity. That I couldn’t be stuck living on a farm my whole life.”
She grinned. That sounded just like the kind of silly, dramatic thing he would’ve wrote once he saw her settled.
“Obviously, had I known I was going to be alive for the rest of blasted eternity and that my entire concept of the universe and its laws was false, I wouldn’t have bothered,” he said, chuckling darkly, “At the time, though, it seemed very serious. And I did emphasize how much I felt it was a sacrifice. How hard of a decision it was. And how selfish I felt making it.”
He turned back towards her to see her grinning. He smiled sheepishly back.
“Hindsight is twenty-twenty, Edmund,” she said, patting his knee, “I forgave you a long time ago.”
A ding reverberated from his pocket. He muttered an expletive and she watched as he fumbled for his phone and let it light up the car.
Oh right. The car.
“Oh geeze, I’m sorry, you had somewhere to be,” she said, turning the key to start the engine.
“No, no, no, it’s fine, it’s really nothing.”
“Well you hailed a Lyft for a reason, are you meeting someone?”
He threw his seatbelt on with one hand, trying to respond to the text in the other. “Yes, well, no, but-“
A pang of jealousy shot through her as she pulled out of the parking lot. He was avoiding the question. It seemed silly to be jealous- it’d been centuries. Of course he’d seen other people, who wouldn’t? She had. They both thought the other was dead.
“Esther, slow down.”
Her eyes flicked to the speedometer and realized she was going forty-five in a thirty. She took a deep breath in and took her foot off the break. Edmund let out a little laugh.
“You haven’t changed,” he said.
She pursed her lips.
“Esther, I’m just grabbing dinner.”
“With a date, I presume?”
“I mean, if you want it to be.”
Her mind blanked. “What?”
“Esther,” Edmund said, the streetlights flashing on his face, “The girl I’m meeting was supposed to be my dinner.”
Realization sank in.
“So, I’d ask you to join me, but I don’t have enough for two,” he said, “If you’d like, though, I’m sure we can scrounge up a couple of people out for a nighttime stroll through a quiet park.”
“Aw, a picnic.”
She bit her bottom lip. Then, “Listen, I know we just caught up and all, and clearly it’s been a while. If you’re seeing someone right now, I’m happy to just drop you off.”
“Esther, who on Earth do you think I’m seeing?” he teased, “You think I found a harem of vampire ladies or something?”
“I don’t know!” she said, throwing one hand up, “I’m trying not to make you feel forced to take me on a date just because we knew each other in 1722!”
“I would like nothing more than to spend an evening with you, Essie.”
She hit a red light and stopped. Esther turned to look at him and his face was open and sincere. He put one of his hands on her leg and she felt the goosebumps return.
“Alright,” she said, using a practiced finger to end the ride, “On one condition.”
“And what’s that?”
“You have to promise it’s not just one evening. We’ve been without each other for three lifetimes and I’m not sure we can say everything we need to in just one night.”
He patted her leg, his thumb stroking the outside seam of her jeans. “Deal. I’ve got a few openings in my schedule for the next few forevers.”
You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.
Aw, I love it. Long - LONG - lost loves and vampires, too. You captured all kinds of explanations in this short piece. I'm satisfied and want more at the same time.
Thank you so much! :) I'm glad you enjoyed it.