Wuthering Nights by Summer Day continues... I probably won't post again until next week so I'm adding extra chapters! (*please remember I have used UK English and punctuation to re-tell this classic story... mixed with vampires!)
Thursday, February 14, 2013
Wuthering Nights (chapters Three - Six)
Wuthering Nights by Summer Day continues... I probably won't post again until next week so I'm adding extra chapters! (*please remember I have used UK English and punctuation to re-tell this classic story... mixed with vampires!)
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 strikingly 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.
‘I 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 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 sleeve.
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 because 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. , I hate kisses, unless I’m the one giving them!’ the girl announced, pulling her leg closer.
Heath looked very dejected and turned his face away.
Kate smiled; glad to have evoked such a strong reaction. She was ‘quite the little exhibitionist’, as Greta told her once.
‘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 adopted brother.
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 coins 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 another’s personalities.
‘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 could 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. ‘That will teach her a lesson,’ he thought.
‘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.
It was so cold Greta noticed Kate’s breath first as she entered the kitchen and placed her school bag on the floor. Heath dawdled behind his eye-catching counterpart. Kate was meticulous about her appearance. Her perfect curls lay in bunches behind her ears, tied in royal blue ribbons, the colours of her school. Her long socks were not rippled as other children’s were. In fact, the uniform she wore was in good condition, unstained and nearly uncrushed. Greta looked at Kate again. She knew that after her mother had fled, literally fled the house one night to go gallivanting around Europe with a man she’d met in rehab, Kate had become unmanageable - but bunking school? She really didn’t know what to do about this.
From the moment Kate had been born her Papa had indulged her every childish whim, much to the displeasure of her mother who worried that the child would be spoiled and difficult, like Harrison. Well, he was in boarding school where Kate would surely be sent soon, just as her older brother had been.
As for the “wild child”, as Greta thought of him, he looked completely unkempt – shirt hanging out, hair unbrushed, knees scratched. He ran upstairs to Kate’s bedroom (a converted ballroom) or to his own, the more modestly sized room opposite, to play video games and listen to music. The children would lounge around on the floor (strewn with the striped wrappers of Kate’s favourite boiled sweets) in the afternoons. They ate and listened to music, hardly bothering to even attempt their homework.
Heath had long ago discovered the path around the side of the house, through the kitchen door where the new au pair was standing and peeling potatoes for dinner. He fled past their elderly gardener and crept inside the kitchen, thinking he might sneak past, but Greta was too quick. She grabbed him by the hands.
‘Don’t say “what”, I know what you’ve been doing…or rather not doing.’
‘You just said “what”…’
‘That’s not what I meant…’
‘Said it again…’
‘Oh, you little rascal…’
‘What is it Greta?’
‘You haven’t been to school, have you? You and Kate have been gallivanting on the High Street. I can’t believe you’ve not been detained by police! The meadow must be too freezing even for both of you…scamps. And look at that bruise on your leg, Kate.’
Kate moved behind the bench protectively. She didn’t want Greta to have too much knowledge about the behind-the-scenes household warfare.
‘If that’s Harrison’s doing, I told you to tell me if he ever tries to hit either of you again! He’s twice your age. Honestly, I don’t know what this family has come to ever since your mother left. I’ll be calling social services next…or they’ll be calling me…’
‘Oh don’t do that Greta. I just…knocked into something when I was out riding…at pony club.’
Heath looked at Kate quickly, knowing if they told on Harrison again, it would only make matters worse the next time he came home.
‘I told you to tell me if that older brother of yours so much as raises his voice. He wouldn’t dare do it in my presence. But that doesn’t give either of you an excuse to avoid school. It’s a good thing Harrison is going away to University. By then, he won’t even be coming home for holidays…’
Heath and Kate were too quick. Greta talked on whilst they ate everything on the kitchen countertop behind her.
When Greta stopped talking, Kate took a bottle of fizzy drink and Heath grabbed a packet of Parma ham and they raced up the stairs, rejoicing in the time when their play room was empty of responsible adults (almost always). They had the whole ancient second floor to themselves in the afternoons. They could play their games or crawl outside, along the ledge that connected them to the ground and the road that led them to The Grange. Heath liked to go fishing in the stream and learned to make an open fire and cook the food on it. He was more and more interested in living in this natural, primal way, even at such a young age.
Annabelle and Edmund Hunt were the same age as Heath and Kate and their nearest neighbours. They were so stuck up neither Heath nor Kate had ever spoken to them. The blonde girl had poked her tongue out at Kate once during ballet lessons at the local church hall. Neither of the girls had spoken to each another since.
Kate and Heath lived in a world of their own - a world with a secret language and two rooms that adjoined each other with archaic light fittings, tall ceilings and furniture passed down through generations. There was a shabby opulence surrounding their secret society of two. Kate’s room had a canopied bed with cream sheets and a blanket and an old fashioned cream lace doll.
On occasions when the neighbourhood children were invited to tea, the doll’s house intrigued all of Kate’s jealous little acquaintances (mainly from school). But Kate never let Heath catch her staring at the perfect dolls in their pristine world longingly. She knew he’d think envy beneath her.
As he grew older, he became tougher and more boisterous, wanting to be outside more than inside which, Greta reasoned, was only natural in an almost twelve-year old boy. Heath remembered little of his origins. It was as if he’d only ever existed in Kate’s world, something he knew to be untrue. Yet Kate’s father was the only father he remembered. Mr Spencer had been kind to him so he loved him as he loved Kate. But he knew her father was not his real father and that the “blood” running through his veins had some kind of magic in it. He felt different to other boys his age - happier roaming the woods than sitting in a classroom.
Harrison, in his final year of school, was still a problem. Once, when he was home from school for a weekend and Mr Spencer was at a business conference in Brussels, Greta was called away for the afternoon. Kate’s older brother rounded up the children after she left and locked them together in the attic after inviting some of his older school friends round to party. Harrison thought it would be fun to terrify the “little kids”. Neither Kate nor Heath rewarded him with their tears but there had been an all-out fight in the hallway after the children had somehow managed to break the lock. Harrison hadn’t expected this but it was the last time he underestimated Heath’s strength.
When Kate’s father arrived home early, only to discover Heath and Kate amidst a mess of teen partying and chaos, he hit the roof. Mr Spencer packed Harrison off to the strictest boy’s boarding school in the South of England to complete his finals. It was a place where corporal punishment was yet to be banned another reason for the older brother to harbour resentment against the smaller children. They were soon to be packed off to Scotland, to a co-educational school, strict but far less rigid than where Harrison was going.
It was summer by then; Mr Spencer had grown frail just as Heath and Kate grew stronger and taller.
Hampstead was quiet. It was as if the entire borough had gone on holiday. Heath had taken to staying outside but on one particular rainy and overcast day, Kate took an entire chicken and a jug of orange juice out of the fridge and set out lunch in the upstairs playroom.
They sat together, enjoying their meal that last Saturday before they were due to board the train to Scotland. Both Kate and Heath had grown more studious in preparation for boarding school. They even finished reading the required list of books, lying on their backs, in the window seats of the playroom. Kate smiled at Heath - sometimes she thought her father had brought Heath home to be her exclusive friend.
September arrived after an endless summer of reading and night swimming in the indoor pool. The day before they were due to leave for Scotland, bright sun shone through the bay windows. Heath, uncomfortable, pulled his amulet close to his chest. His eyes felt sensitive to the light.
‘C’mon children,’ Greta said, wanting to make their last day at Hareton Hall memorable. ‘Rise and shine. It’s a lovely day. Why don’t we all take a picnic outside and go to Hampstead Heath? School doesn’t start until Monday. C’mon, get dressed.’
The children were excited as they pulled on their shoes.
In the parklands, Greta spread the checked blanket out on the lavender field under an umbrella and the children hungrily heaped food on plates. Heath got bitten by ants but barely made a peep even when Greta soothed his calf with warm tea. The boy had never known such care and in all his young years, never seen a spread of such magnificence. He ate three pieces of turkey, a chicken leg, ham, a left over chop, a slice of bacon and a huge glass of orange juice. Kate and Greta drank tea and ate most of the cucumber sandwiches.
Afterwards, the children went running to the ponds to feed the ducks. As Greta lay reading a magazine, Kate and Heath discovered the hidden conservatory in a secluded part of the park. It was like being in another world, one far removed from London or Spain or family fighting or anywhere they had ever known - a glass palace with a covered in roof and shards of dappled, muted light (not enough to make Heath’s skin burn). The building was filled with remarkable tropical trees and flowers growing in an adjusted temperature. There were even garden chairs to sit on and stare in wonderment at the magical surroundings. Both children thought the same thing; that they’d found a remarkable secret, a place where they could hide…and meet.
Edmund and Annabelle
This secluded section of Hampstead Heath also led to a hidden laneway that attached Hareton Hall to The Grange. Kate and Heath ran down the lane and it brought them out in the garden of the neighbouring property. They laughed when they saw their neighbours, Edmund and Annabelle, in the distance. Viewed through the low, floor-length windows of the Grange, the Hunt siblings were taking private dancing lessons. Heath had never seen a ballet class and thought the whole thing was hysterically funny. Kate thought it was rather beautiful, but she would never admit that. The Grange was a world beyond billowing cream curtains where all seemed tranquil and safe. When the dance teacher tried to demonstrate with Edmund, how to partner, Heath literally fell on the ground laughing.
‘Who’s out there?’ Edmund shouted, turning towards the window. Heath and Kate crouched out of sight, beneath the sill.
‘Mind you keep your eyes up here while we are dancing,’ the woman, wearing leg warmers and a tight hair bun, scolded him. Edmund reluctantly looked away. Annabelle glanced up when the teacher wasn’t looking and noticed two children. The boy looked vaguely familiar to her, about the same age, running away from the house in the long grass. The girl tumbled in the heather and before long they were laughing and running, fading into the meadow.
If anyone had asked, Annabelle would have described them as the opposite of her and her brother; free. The blonde girl wished she could join them. Instead, her glacial, childish image, secured in tight ballet slippers and pink ribbons, her unsmiling yet lovely face, mocked her in the mirror.
That night, Heath lay awake under the covers of his bed, his school trunk packed, his uniforms tagged with his initials, perfectly starched and ironed. The summer wind outside howled through the trees and rain fell softly on the roof. He could see shadows of the branches outside. A breeze swept through the heath across the pond and along the heather fields. Then all he could hear were the traces of it, and in those traces, a whisper, and in that whisper, the sound of a tap at his door.
Kate came wandering into his room with her hair in curlers as she wanted to make a good “first day” impression at her new school.
‘You look ridiculous,’ Heath said. ‘Go back to bed. You know Greta has warned you about not distracting me now that we are going to be in separate houses at our new school.’
Kate, hurt, turned and walked out of the room. Heath was sorry to have been so mean but how could he explain his issues to Kate? Lately, the desire to sink his teeth into her wrist was becoming stronger. He’d been taking his medication twice a day and was just about to take his evening dose when Kate arrived to tell him her hopes and dreams for the future. She’d gone back to her room, crawled upon her quilted bed and fallen asleep, listening to the storm rage outside her window.
Late, very late that night, the young girl woke to the sound of the screaming trees and the branches thrashing the window pane. She would not be rejected this time and opened the connecting door to find Heath fast asleep.
‘Heath,’ Kate whispered. ‘Wake up.’
‘What’s wrong?’ the boy said, crawling out from the sleeping bag he slept in for security – the one Greta had tried, with little success, to take away from him these past six years.
‘I had a dream about us.’
‘Shh. Go back to sleep, Kate.’
‘I dreamt I was left outside in the rain, freezing in winter. I cut my arm on your window and it bled and hurt and I had to beg you to let me inside…’
Heath groaned. ‘Don’t say things like that Kate. I would never hurt you.’ He moved uncomfortably, the venom sometimes pulsed more strongly in his blood at night, but he’d never told anyone this. ‘Go back to sleep, Kate. It’s almost morning. You know Greta doesn’t like it when you come in here anymore…’ He was due to take his morning vitamins, and then he’d be sure to feel normal for at least eight hours…
Heath rolled over. Kate hovered again and began to cry as she rocked his sleeping bag, forcing him to open his eyes.
‘Heath, Heath, wake up.’ He rolled over unwillingly. ‘Promise me…promise me something.’
‘Alright, I promise, now go back to sleep.’
‘Promise me, if that ever happens, you’ll let me in.’
‘Heath smiled and shook his head sleepily, ‘I promise. Now go back to bed.’ Heath took his capsules from the bedside table and gulped them down in the morning light.
Kate crawled beside him, dragging her blanket around her, as he turned over. The girl gained comfort from her nightmare only when she managed to rest her head in the crook of the reluctant boy’s shoulder.
Katarina – Present Day
After a relatively comfortable sleep and the beginnings of an unusual story told to me by Greta Gardner as I sat by the fire in the owner’s favourite chair, I was more than intrigued. I finally visited The Hall the next morning, cited the property, spoke briefly to the owner regarding matters of importance and took down the details required. I was then, surprisingly, invited to dinner at the pub the following week to finish up our business. As I drove out of the gravel driveway and slowly passed the pub, I saw that it was closed for the morning. I imagined the fireside warmly lit in the evening and the owner, who harboured his own secrets, sitting in my place…
That evening, Heath sat in his favourite armchair, reading the newspaper with more interest than he usually showed. He had the look of a burnt out rock star in his late twenties, still handsome and relatively young. He called his dog to heel and turned to sit at his chair near the fire. Greta was nowhere in sight; she’d gone home earlier to take care of her own children. A barman had taken her place.
Heath was sipping ale and still reading the newspaper when he heard a gaggle of shrieking teenagers who instantly irritated him. It was legal to drink at eighteen but he wondered why - girls dressed like tramps in denim shorts and black tights chugging down alcohol was a negative result. He should have imposed a dress code, he thought gruffly. Society had really gone downhill since the nineties. Then he remembered some of the looks of that era were pretty bad, too. He must be getting old, he thought, although no one would have known it. His face was harder but retained the handsome, boyish features of his youth. Recently, since turning thirty-nine, he’d felt quite ancient. Yet many of his business associates assumed he was much younger than he really was. There was no point in an explanation, revealing the secret of his youth.
He resigned to gruffly patting his dog and when he looked up the teenaged girls began joking around, making more noise than before. One of them, with long blonde hair and too much black mascara, waved at him. He turned away and stoked the fire. He wondered where their parents were and felt annoyed that his candle-lit lair was being infiltrated by the local riff raff. He looked back at his paper and shook his head.
His own son, annoyingly public school educated and hopelessly addicted to clubbing and drinking and smart-mouthing him, would no doubt have tried to chat them up. Heath had mostly, throughout his bizarre and unexpected life, been interested in people who at least seemed the same age as he really was. Since school, he’d felt people who hadn’t lived as much of the journey as he had, had less to teach him. There was also the inevitable problem of his lack of ageing. People had started to notice. One of his old school acquaintances had asked him if he was on human growth hormones.
Hard living had taken its toll but Heath would never look older than thirty. His specialist told him that, realistically, he shouldn’t expect to physically age more than twenty-six years (the age when his bones stopped growing and his venom fully matured). His sleeplessness kept him looking closer to thirty. The only thing that could finish him was a prolonged dose of sunlight or a stake through his heart, but agelessness, immortality was becoming a problem. His friends and associates looked a decade older. The longer he stayed in Hampstead, the more the whispers grew until they became openly hostile questions.
Heath flicked past the entertainment section in the paper, highlighting yet another vapid celebrity. His gaze then rested on the financial columns of the newspaper.
Normally these articles would have bored him but since the most recent financial crisis, he’d found them a lot more interesting. The companies he’d bought and discarded prior to 2008 had made him very rich, even richer than the acquisition of land and residential property. He was so wealthy that he only kept the Hampstead house out of sentiment. Just the thought of being nostalgic at his age, when some were just beginning family life, made him question his own sanity.
The candle on the low table near him flickered and his dog barked, unexpectedly, causing Heath to look up from his paper; what he saw made him catch his breath for the first time in years.
The hair was lighter and straighter, but the face and body were the same. Her eyes were identical. Dark brown and large with long black lashes, hiding secrets he had only learnt once: same height, same face, same voice. His breath was taken away with a low sigh and he knew if he didn’t speak to this woman… who was barely more than a girl, he would regret it forever. Still, it would take another drink to work up the courage.
The girl, in her long cream scarf looked up and matched his gaze. In the minute it took for Heath to decide whether to speak with her, the band played that song Kate loved….
‘It’s my favourite,’ Kate had said, laughing as she swapped earphones and grabbed Heath’s hand in the clandestine meeting they’d had in the ten minutes before morning classes started. ‘You can’t imagine how much I love this song,’ she added, dragging him through the school hall making a sunny spectacle of herself…wearing way too much eyeliner to get through the day without detention.
The girl was the image of Kate, yet not Kate. She ordered a fizzy drink but a pint of ale was placed in front of her. She glanced around the room, noting Heath’s drink which had somehow been swapped with hers. The waiter was clearly not paying attention. Heath wondered if he’d finally lost his mind as the girl’s stare intensified. She looked back at the barman. Oblivious to being studied, Kate’s double wore a jaunty beret on her dark hair and had a colourful smile on her lips as her friends toasted her birthday.
‘Happy eighteenth Katarina!’ they yelled in unison.
Heath remembered the date. He was reminded every year.
In that moment, he hesitated to approach her and instead, glanced down at his paper. Moments later, as Heath read wearily beside the fire, a voice said, ‘I think we’ve been given the wrong drink.’
Heath could not resist a question as he looked up at her shiny adolescent face and she replaced the cocktail glass in front of him with the ale.
‘You’re not… it can’t be… Kate Spencer’s daughter?’
‘Kate? Oh, you mean my mother Kate?’
‘I suppose so. I’m Katarina Hunt. This is my birthday, obviously,’ the girl said, glancing back at her friends who hovered near the bar.
‘I know,’ Heath said, surprised anyone would think he could forget such a thing.
‘My father and I live just across the Heath. I’ve seen your photograph in the newspaper. You must be…my uncle?’
Her statement was so loaded Heath didn’t know where to begin.
‘Yes. You…you are my son’s cousin.’
‘My cousin… that’s right… big family secret, no one speaks about it. None of the family even speaks to each other, clearly. How is it possible you don’t look a day over thirty?’
‘It’s…the dark,’ Heath replied.
She made a joke of it as only the young can. She was looming at the table now and had the audacity to pat his dog on its shaggy head. Heath’s pet beamed from all her attention, a fact that Heath found mildly irritating.
‘Do I… do I look like my mother?’ the teenage girl said as the fire flickered.
And then it occurred to Heath, that instead of answering he could make her an offer she’d find difficult to refuse. After all, it was not too late and it was the girl’s right to meet her cousin and see her mother’s childhood home.
‘Why don’t you come back with me… to Hareton Hall? Her portrait remains on the wall. I’m headed there now. You can meet your cousin. There are also some photographs you might never have seen from…before. I’m sure your…father…won’t mind.’
Katarina’s eyes flashed and Heath saw a great deal of Kate’s personality once again. It almost scared him, but not quite.
‘Heel,’ he said to his dog who’d started yapping excitedly (again) and was obviously beside himself at the smell of new company.
‘Behave yourself,’ Heath growled.
‘Well, my friends…’
Katarina glanced back to the bar as the tall girl with blonde hair wandered over and gave Heath a bemused smile. Katarina introduced them to each other.
‘Oh, so this is your uncle, Katty?’ the girl asked in disbelief, as if to say, yeah, right, he’s way too young and hot.
‘Kind of…we’ve only just met…’
Katarina’s friend stifled a giggle as if she didn’t believe her but either way, she didn’t care. If Katty wanted to chat to this hot older man, that was her affair.
‘Well, the night is young and so are we but we have to be going, early game tomorrow and all that. Are you coming with us Kat?’
At that moment Heath wore his most amiable expression.
Katarina knew she might only get this one chance to discover all she could about the people she’d only seen once or twice in old photographs.
The man in front of her was young and extremely handsome, yet so hard and cold. Something in her desired to visit his world, meet the cousin she’d never met as a child, see the house where her mother had been raised, learn the secret her family had kept for a generation.
‘No,’ Kate said. Then she looked at Heath and added, ‘I’m coming with you…’
Amazon link: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0087EUMD6