I write stories like movies. Legally Blonde inspired me to finish law school but I dream of caramel lattes in the morning and travelling to amazing places in the afternoon. The teen fiction on my blog is inspired by the classics Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice. Tweeting @summerdaylight
Friday, May 18, 2012
WUTHERING NIGHTS by Summer Day
From the journal of Miss
Greta Gardner, February 1978
The boy arrived at night, wrapped
in a blanket. He was carried by his adopted father who placed him on the
kitchen floor next to me. His big blue eyes stared out from under his wild
black hair. He shrank from the fire, he shrank from my touch, yet his skin was
cold as ice…
He arrived with a list of
instructions tucked into the pocket of his jacket.
Eats - mostly chicken and oranges
(likes - roast chicken, blood oranges and plums).
Drinks - mostly water and citrus
First Warning - do not let him get sunburnt as
he burns easily.
Second Warning - make sure he wears
his necklace amulet (a parting gift from his biological mother). He screams if
you take it.
Final Warning - do not let him go
out at night alone.
As a small boy (just walking) he
had a tendency to wander off, and many times staff at the orphanage were
unable to find the little fellow for hours. Once, he was found hanging upside
down from the roof of the school gymnasium, like a bat. The only giveaway was
the drip drip drip of juice as he stuffed his baby face with blood oranges.
His file was then stamped "Special
I shook my head as I read this
thinking Mr Spencer had finally lost his mind dragging the mite all the way
back from Spain. It was many years before I learnt the full extent of his
From the notes of Mr Tom Bennett
(lawyer) and visitor to Hampstead Heath, London, Present Day
When I saw the house in the fragile light I
could barely make out the lines of gothic architecture in the morning mist. I’d
heard whispers about the strangeness of that place. I was told that I risked my
life going there; that the owner brandished a gun and roamed the heath looking
for his lost love. Music and chatter, laughter and screams could be heard miles
away in the night. Neighbours said the lovers who’d inhabited Hareton Hall
lived there still, as young and beautiful as they ever were; haunted.
The family, the Spencers, originated in
Yorkshire and could trace their lineage back a thousand years. Their secrets
wove through history and time and family portraits. I held in my hand a
photograph of Mr Spencer, an aristocrat with an interest in archaeology,
returning from a trip to Spain with a small child. Amongst other documents, there was a photograph of the entire family, arriving to greet Mr Spencer and
his newly adopted son at the airport. The family were generationally wealthy.
Mr Spencer had an interest in Botany. Beyond that, he kept to himself and his
study, according to my documents. Within the file, I also retained the marriage
notice of the daughter, Kate. This was long before the family feud that had
ignited decades of dispute.
In the picture was a beautiful mother with
ink black curls. The older teenage boy, Harrison, had a scowl on his face and
headphones on his ears. He appeared tuned out from the proceedings. The girl,
her dark curls tied with an unruly red ribbon, revealed an adorable cherub
face. At six, she peeked out from behind her mother and stole the picture. It
was this child’s face I remembered long after I’d set the image aside.
As I walked along the winding road that led
from Hampstead Heath towards Hareton Hall, I passed another magnificent home,
The Grange. This was a Georgian mansion hidden behind a maze of orange trees as
opposed to The Hall, photographs of which showed gargoyles at its entrance. The
signatures I was required to collect involved the ownership of both properties.
I’d been advised not to try to park along
the icy road that connected the houses on opposite sides of the heath. Instead,
I’d driven to a spot along the frosty lane which meant I had to walk the rest
of the way in the rain. Late afternoon seemed to be losing light but then all
the days were dark now as London turned rapidly into winter. It was not a good
time to walk about the borough. A man had recently gone missing and was yet to
be found. As I was surrounded by street crime in my first position as junior
solicitor at a criminal law firm, I was not perturbed.
I pushed the family photograph, covered in
plastic, deep inside my briefcase along with some handwritten journals kept by
Kate Spencer, the only daughter of the house. There was also one by the
housekeeper, Greta Gardner. Greta’s journal contained a collection of various
yearly expenses and some alarming family details written in the margins. Both
contained valuable information entrusted to me. I noticed The Grange to my
right, a well-kept home, built not far from Kenwood House on the opposite side
of Hampstead Heath. It held some of the allure, yet I suspected hosted none of
the secrets, of Hareton Hall.
The history of the Spencer family haunted
me as I walked. I remembered words and snippets from the bizarre journals, for
example, Heath was described as, "a pale little boy with sharp milk teeth!" This journal scribble was mixed with the photographs I resolved to return to their rightful owner. As I
rounded the corner, I was almost as keen to talk to Greta Gardner, the
housekeeper (and keeper of secrets), as I was to speak with the owner of The
The heath was silent and stark in bare
I’d visited during Summer as a child but
never with such purpose in my step. To my right and to my great relief, I saw
the entrance to a pub. I’d been there with my family once, just after I’d
graduated from university. I decided to warm myself and ask for
Horse and Ale had once served delicious roast dinners and hot toddies. I hoped
it hadn’t changed too much in the intervening years.
I settled in front of the fire, grateful
for the familiarity as I drank my hot, strong mulled wine. When the waiter
asked me if I needed anything extra, I asked him for directions to Hareton
‘Who wants to know?’ The low, gruff voice of
a man, perhaps in his thirties, spoke to me from behind one of the many sofas.
He had a plate of what appeared to be lamb, dipped in gravy and a large pint of
dark ale in his hand. His dog lay lovingly, sleeping at his feet, apparently
unbothered by the smell of roasted meat.
‘Ah, I do.’
‘Really? And who might you be?’
To say he was unfriendly would be an
‘I’m…well, who are you?’
He almost laughed.
‘I asked you first.’
‘I’m Tom Bennett, the junior partner from
Bennett & Sons. I have an appointment at Hareton Hall.’
‘Ah, to see the owner.’
‘Yes, and…who might you be?’
‘I am the owner.’
He didn’t smile. He rose slowly. For a
youngish man, he seemed to carry the weight of the world on his broad
shoulders. He looked like a hard partying insomniac. I offered him my hand and
he took it obligingly. If I was trained to comment on such things, which I
suppose I am, I’d say he was tall and fairly handsome. The air of sleeplessness
hung over him like a cloud. Polite yet unfriendly, he did not smile. He was
unshaven; his dark shirt was unironed but expensive. He stared at me coldly.
The publican scurried off to some far
flung corner of the establishment. One of the lights overhead flickered as the
man moved closer to me. Picking up an implement from the fireside, he stoked
I took another sip of my drink and waited for
him to speak.
‘Ah, then, it’s me you’ve come to see.
Place is empty, except for my housekeeper Greta, a few horses in the stables
and the dogs.
‘Perhaps I could come to Hareton Hall?’
‘It would help if I sighted the property
and it may be easier to talk there.’
‘I am busy this evening. If you had come
earlier as arranged…
‘I was detained. It was further away from
Hampstead than I expected.’
‘Even so…I don’t have visitors at night. I
shall arrange for you to come tomorrow morning. Twenty minutes.’
‘It may take more than twenty
The rain poured down overhead and with it
the darkness of early Winter. For once, I was glad as a young man, not to have
to hurry back to a wife or family.
The man shrugged.
‘Well, it’s getting late. You can stay here
tonight. For free. I own the pub. I’ll send my driver to get you at nine am. We
can finalize the matter then.’
He smiled for the first time at the blonde,
middle-aged woman who entered the room and moved softly behind the bar.
‘This is Greta, she used to be the
housekeeper at Hareton Hall. Raised me as a child, she’ll fill you in on the
story. Look after him Greta; see he gets
a comfortable bed.’
Greta looked at me warily.
He whistled to his dog, a large amiable
Labrador who obviously worshipped his master.
The dog sat up and barked. I think his
owner was used to people behaving in a similar manner.
It turned out Greta had quite a tale to
tell as she chatted to me by the fireside that evening. I asked her to identify
her household journal and she was pleased to do so. I marked it "Exhibit A" in my
head; it was to be a wealth of information. I had the journal open on my knee as we
talked. The Spencer crest hovered above us as Greta spoke in detail about the
family she’d once served. Before I retired to bed I could not resist writing
down what she said as I did not want to forget what she told me. As I offered
to pay for my drinks, I was more intrigued than ever about the legends of
Hareton Hall and the fate of the Spencer children who lived there, more than
thirty years ago…
I read from Greta’s journal lying on the
hotel bed. It was written in a firm, definite hand.
1978 - (second entry): We were not sure what country the child originated
from. When Mr Spencer brought him back from his trip, I thought he’d finally
gone mad, like his ancestors. I said, ‘you were searching for fossils, not
people! But he just shrugged and said, ‘well, I saw him on the street and no
one claimed him so I filled in the paperwork, paid a requisite sum (all this
had happened many months previous to the actual collection) and now here he is.
Perhaps the child was originally from Europe or maybe as close as Liverpool?
The "orphan" had papers to say he was ours, signed by a solicitor, no less. He
didn’t speak a word that first night. His bell bottom jeans and shoes were
filthy and caked with mud from the walk along the driveway. Dirt splattered on
my kitchen floor. I thought it was very inconsiderate of Mr Spencer not to have
put clean clothes on him but grown men rarely think of small comforts. The dark haired, six-year-old person stared
at me blankly and flinched when I tried to go anywhere near him. He kicked and
scratched me so hard when I went to take his jacket (where I read the "instructions") that I honestly wondered how I’d cope looking after a child in
such a…state. Harrison, almost eight
years the child’s senior, shoved the boy when he thought no one was looking and
whispered to him before leaving the house, "who do you think you are? Invading
my home like this… I’ll make you pay, charity case!"
Kate, who had always been naughty (a fact
belied by her pretty and innocent face), and never close to her much older
brother or absent socialite mother, became attached to the new boy who we named
Heath and resolved to raise as part of our family…’
It was all rather formal yet strangely
I’d learnt, as a child, Heath Spencer had
no language and apparently very little memory of his origins. He’d certainly
made up for it judging by the detailed and sophisticated legal
correspondence he’d addressed to me personally and which I had spread out on
the desk in my room. Heath’s letters addressed the various ownership and
personal scandals involving both himself and his adopted relatives in almost
forensic detail. Events happened a long
time ago, but the origins and complex story of the properties in question, both
Hareton Hall and The Grange, involved both The Spencer and Hunt
families whose paperwork I now studied. Their generational feuds had been the
talk of the firm, behind closed doors, of course.
According to family tradition, the Spencer
children were sent away to school the year they turned twelve. However, the
friendship between the two youngest children began much earlier, with a
whisper. It was as if Kate was the first to know, although his adopted father
must have suspected. There was something different about Heath.
The first night the child arrived, Kate
wandered up to him when he was left alone in the kitchen and the little boy
hissed at her, baring his tiny, white incisor fangs. Kate scowled then smiled,
moved towards the small boy, rather than rejecting him. As if he were some
exotic pet, she tried to pat his head. The boy, suddenly ashamed of his behaviour,
covered his mouth. Heath had only recently learned how to recede his little
fangs but sometimes they came out when he was frightened or stressed. Kate took
his hand and led him upstairs.
When they were in the play room, she asked
him to explain more. It was their secret, she told him. Kate loved to have
secrets. The little boy didn’t know what to tell her.
‘I was born this way,’ he whispered.
His biological father had kept notes but Mr
Spencer wanted proof. After many secretive tests with a Vampire specialist on
Harley Street it was explained to Mr Spencer that the child had a rare
condition. There was a line of Spanish Vampires from thousands of years ago
that he possibly descended from through his mother. His blood type was unknown.
What they did ascertain was that the child might grow out of his ways and
never fully mature into a "blood sucker" as the specialist called his "breed".
He also warned Mr Spencer, "tell no one." Fearing society would reject his new
son, Mr Spencer agreed.
Heath was told his cravings for blood would
not reach full maturity until he did (at around eighteen) and in the meantime, he could be easily sustained with a diet high in protein and iron. He would
keep ageing until then. The venom in his blood, being diluted, would give him
protection from sun and allow his image to appear in photographs and mirrors.
Kate’s father had been assured by the Vampire specialist it was completely safe for him to go to church and be around other children.
Mr Spencer was given a list of instructions
similar to the ones the boy arrived with; that he had to be careful of the
child’s fair skin in the sun, (although a small amount wouldn’t hurt as long as
he took his daily supplements and wore a pendant protecting him from
daylight). According to the notes,
the child’s mother was horrified the baby had crackled and almost burnt in the
light. Heath had also tried to bite her when nursing. Finally, unable to cope,
his mother had left him with Spanish nuns when he was just three months old.
She had placed the protective amulet around the baby’s neck along with a kiss
as she broke down and put him in a basket outside the gates of the orphanage.
As he grew, incorrigible, the child daily escaped and ran himself ragged along
the Spanish streets. That was how Mr Spencer found him, pale and hungry for
protein, like a wild kitten.
After the child arrived at Hareton Hall his
incisors were painlessly filed down during regular ‘check-ups’ at the family
dentist and life resumed as normal. Life for Heath was a regular routine of
‘vitamin’ taking, avoiding the sun, wearing his amulet (even in the bath) and
craving roast dinners (his favourite). The child was deemed eccentric and wild but no one except Mr Spencer, Kate and Heath knew he was actually "different". He had cravings for cooked, red meat, a desire to sleep half the day and stay up all night, but
those were habits and slowly, Heath conformed to the ways of the household.
On one occasion, he had been caught off-guard
when Kate’s mother had walked in on the child playing with his train set and
Heath, suddenly frightened, sensed an intruder. He turned around and hissed,
before realizing the full impact of what he had done. His new mother fled
from the room screaming, "He’s not normal! He’s just not normal!" Heath tried
to apologize but the woman wouldn’t listen. She packed her bags but when she
tried to take Kate with her, the little girl refused to go.
After Kate’s mother left Hareton Hall, her
father withdrew from the world. Mr Spencer retired from normal life and began
to live in relative seclusion. He went for long walks during the day and took
trips abroad, collecting plants to study and write about in his home office.
Growing up, Kate and Heath ran wild. As the years wore on, Mr Spencer became a
hermit and slept often, worked in the garden and read the bible fireside in the
afternoons. One by one, the staff began to give notice, except the
housekeeper, Greta, who’d been with the family since she was fifteen. Greta had
more to do than keep track of the wayward children who were soon expelled from
the local primary school for "non-attendance, unruly behaviour" and (worst), "attempted biting," something Kate hotly denied as Heath looked on sheepishly.
Although Greta knew Heath was unusual,
he’d managed not to reveal his secret to her. There had to be something wrong
with him, Greta thought, but nothing that boarding school wouldn’t fix.
Besides, no one was perfect.
Although Mr Spencer felt especially partial
to his youngest children, he began counting the days until they were old enough
to be sent to Yardley Mansion School in Scotland, a Spencer family tradition.
Perhaps they would learn something useful about discipline in such a prestigious establishment. After all, it would be nearly
impossible to escape lessons there and Heath’s condition seemed almost entirely
under control, his penchant for roast dinners aside. But after all, who except
vegetarians, did not like a good roast?
When Heath grew stronger (useful against
Harrison) and his inclinations grew rougher, he hid them and learned to control
his desire to sometimes nip Kate on her leg or arm. In fact, he’d be horrified
if she knew he once imagined tasting the pretty little vein in her wrist.
He’d educated himself. He knew biting was
wrong and never in a billion years would he wish to hurt the person he loved
most in the world. Heath religiously took his supplements, wore his amulet and
kept himself sustained with his favourite juice and meat. As he grew older, his
cravings were not subsiding quite as easily.
Heath was closer to Kate than anyone. Apart
from Kate’s father, whom Heath regarded warmly, she was the only friend he’d
ever had. Well, except for Greta, who, after a faltering start, grew to look
upon Heath with great fondness. At
first, Heath didn’t like Greta. She was always huffing and puffing in the
kitchen about the extra work and ignored him when he asked lots of questions
until he stopped talking altogether and then she said things like, "has the cat
got your tongue, young man?"
Harrison was at home for half-term
holidays when the children started playing a particularly savage game of
sardines. Heath had been caught running through the attic by Harrison and was
beaten with a stick. Heath then (unsuccessfully) tried to drive his homemade
stake into the older boy’s leg. After witnessing Harrison’s cruelty, Greta had
become Heath’s ally. She told Mr Spencer who reprimanded Harrison for picking
on the smaller child and withdrew the older boy’s financial privileges for a
month. Harrison was angry. The boy was half his height but twice as strong.
‘I’ll get you back for this, charity
case,’ the older boy said as he once again hit Heath when nobody else was
about. There was enough force in that clip to make Heath’s ear bleed. Heath
bared his teeth, just waiting for his strength to take over. Kate swiped her
elder brother back and before long the three of them were wrestling, pushing,
kicking and shoving each other until the little girl was almost squashed in the
pile beneath, leading the two boys to start fighting all over again. Finally,
when Heath bit Harrison on the wrist and spat out the taste just as quickly,
and Harrison called him a "little animal," Kate screamed so hard Greta had to
race up the stairs to break them up.
Harrison would have been sent back to
school to suffer the long weekend alone before term started, but Greta
noticed spots on all three children as she was sending them out of the room
separately. They had developed chicken pox which Harrison blamed on the local "state school scum" who were friends with Heath and Kate.
‘Oh be quiet, Harrison!’ Greta warned. ‘I
think it is far more likely that you carried the chicken pox back with you from
that posh boys’ school your father pays the earth for…’
Chastened, Harrison went back to bed
moaning and demanding more sympathy. Both Harrison and Kate, spoiled before
their mother left, demanded to be waited on hand and foot but not Heath. He
had lain there, expecting very little sympathy (eyeing the specially delivered
basket of blood oranges), sleeping most of the day and happy to gnaw on a
chicken leg when it was given. Because of this, Heath had won Greta over and
she kept the best treats for him, fruit and sandwiches for his lunch (the boy
always left the bread and ate the meat), fussing over him like a young mother.
This too, bred Harrison’s resentment. Heath, for the first time in his young life,
basked in the adoration the females of Hareton Hall gave him, and he grew into
a tall, robust child who Greta predicted would be, "a real lady killer one
At eight years old, that day hadn’t quite
Kate and Heath
After Mr and Mrs Spencer separated, Hareton Hall was
never the same.Mutual loneliness,
secrets and headstrong natures had drawn Heath and Kate into an alliance. The
days went by and as they grew together, the children craved freedom.
One cold day in November, Kate and Heath, lay side by side on Hampstead Heath making starfish in the
snow. There was no sun as usual. Their arms and legs reached out forming
windmills in the ice, so that their fingers almost touched.
‘Kate?’ the small boy asked as he sat up and
wrapped his scarf around his neck and ears. He had dark hair and blue eyes and
was as striking and good looking as the girl, with her midnight curls and icy,
reddened cheeks. Both of them had perfectly white teeth from their frequent
trips to the dentist and Heath, in eighteen months, had learnt how to control
his fangs, perfectly. Now that he was a little older, he never revealed them in
public and they didn’t need to be filed anymore.
‘Yes,’ she replied.
wish Harrison would stop picking on us.’
‘Me too, he’s…mean. Every time he comes home
from school I dread it. He takes over the house and pinches me and locks me in
my room when no one is about. Ever since mother…I can’t say the words,’ she
said as she put her small hand to her mouth and Heath noticed a small tear
drying on her face. The recent abandonment of Kate by her mother had not overly
concerned Heath, since the woman had had nothing to do with him on a daily
basis and had shown little interest in his upkeep. But he understood how it
felt to be left and reached out to commiserate with Kate.
That first night, after Mrs Spencer left,
Kate and Heath had played with the train set until, eyes heavy, they fell
asleep together on the floor. Greta had placed a pillow under each small head.
Ever after, they slept near each other or on opposite sides of the wall. They
made hand puppet shows in the moonlight on the walls of the play room and Heath
always let Kate win at games.
‘Don’t cry,’ Heath told Kate that day in
the Hampstead meadow. ‘You have to be strong. If you cry, your tears will turn
to crystal in this weather and freeze on your face. Imagine how awful that
would look. Yuck.’
Kate laughed. ‘Perhaps it’s for the best.
You can save my crystal tears in a jar,’ she joked.
‘I don’t like it when you cry,’ Heath said,
wiping the tears from her face.
Kate sat up and sniffed into her coat
The boy took her mittened hand.
‘Never cry again, Kate. We must be stronger
than that. Stronger than them.’
‘Stronger than this?’
Kate rolled up the edge of her jeans to
where her knee showed the beginnings of a scab and a remarkably deep bruise.
‘It happened when Harrison kicked me ‘cos I
wouldn’t give him the riding whip father bought me for my birthday. I was
afraid he’d whip Hero too much.’
To her surprise, Heath moved forward,
leaned over her leg, touched the scab and moved closer, almost as if he was
going to lick it.
‘That’s gross,’ Kate said, ‘you were going
to kiss it better like Greta would. Yuck, I hate kisses, unless I’m the one
giving them!’ the girl announced, pulling her leg closer.
Heath looked very dejected and turned his
Kate smiled, glad to have evoked such a
strong reaction, she was "quite the little exhibitionist," as Greta told her
‘I’m only kidding! Gotcha…’ Kate smiled.
Heath grudgingly turned to face her.
Kate covered her knee and changed the
subject. ‘I heard you playing guitar this morning. I can hear you from my room
when I wake up. You play much better than Harrison.’
Heath beamed with pride. He wasn’t used to
hearing praise before he’d moved to The Hall. His only real problem was his
As if reading his thoughts, Kate said, ‘never
mind, we’ll get Harrison back one of these days. C’mon, I’ll race you to the
bus stop. I found some change in Harrison’s coat pocket when he was sleeping.
Now we can go and buy sweeties…’
Heath didn’t want to disappoint her with his
unnatural lack of desire for sugary lollies.
Instead, Heath picked up a stick and used it
to plough through the snow quickly. He withheld the urge, like small children
sometimes have, to bash the flower beds because he was fairly sure Kate
wouldn’t approve. In this way, the children civilized and complimented one
‘One day, when we’re grown up…I’ll take care
of you, Kate,’ he said.
‘Silly, you take care of me already…’
‘When we’re grown up we’ll get married.’
‘Even sillier, we’re brother and sister.’
‘Not really. We’re not actually related.’
The boy was annoyed his suggestion had not
been taken seriously. He reached into his pocket and dragged out a remarkably
fresh, although slightly crumpled, wildflower.
‘I’ve been saving this all morning to give
to you,’ he said, handing her the daisy.
‘Thank you,’ she said, dismissively. Kate
was already thinking about how easily they would avoid going to school and go
straight to the sweet shop instead.
The boy picked up his brown leather
satchel and headed to the bus stop, ignoring Kate as he walked past her,
teaching her a lesson.
‘Stop! Now you are being the silly one,’
the girl said, ‘…we both know we’re not really brother and sister.’
Heath smiled at Kate as she took his hand.
The frozen winds played with their hair and both children forgot their
conversation as they ran to stop the bus as it moved forward. The little boy
was amazed at how fast he’d begun to run, almost merging in double quick time
across the meadow. He had to wait at the bus stop for the girl to catch up.
*Readers Please note - UK spelling/punctuation has been used in this excerpt of WUTHERING NIGHTS.