The photograph is all I have left.
The glass is broken, a bitter reminder of how I had found the photo, of the horror that had greeted me that morning.
Isabelle Cooper had been beautiful, with a sharp tongue and a sharper wit. In the winter of 1858 and the spring of ’59, I’d been courting her. And courting her something fierce. There’d been a few other young men in town chasing after her, but she favored me, of that there was no doubt.
I looked young, only around sixteen years of age, but I had my farm and the Blood lands. Blood Lake, too, was mine, and there were few elders in town who dared to cross me. A few knew who I was and how old.
The knowledge of my age was the only fact to sour me on the idea of marriage to Isabelle. I knew I would outlive her, and on the morning of April 2nd, I went to her home on Washington Street to speak with her.
I would tell her my secret, tell her how old I was. I would tell her I was there when her father was born some fifty years earlier. Of how I had fought beside her grandfather in Stonington, Connecticut against the British in the War of 1812, and how I had stood over the body of his dying father when Loyalists raided in 1781.
I’d known her family since they’d arrived in Cross before the start of the Revolution, though I’d taken pains to hide my identity and age over the years.
But with Isabelle, I would bare my soul. I would lay it out before her and let her make her choice.
I’d faced death and horrors, but the idea of being rejected by Isabelle Cooper as some sort of monster left me shaking, throat dry, and belly in knots.
When I reached Washington Street, clouds rolled across the sky. A great bank of storm heads, thunder shaking the earth and lightning filling the air. And as I beat through the rain towards her home, it vanished.
In the blink of an eye, only the foundations remained, and the storm raced off.
I was left soaking wet and standing in front of what had been her house. A few feet away, glinting in the morning sun, was the photograph.
For years I tried to forget her, and did, for a while.
But how do you forget a woman you loved and wished to marry?