Tuesday, February 19, 2013
WUTHERING NIGHTS (EIGHT)
Finally, Heath shone the torch on the dusty old shoe box he was looking for.
‘This should satisfy her imagination,’ he thought.
Inside lay a pile of photographs, taken pre-digitally, tied in a bundle with a red ribbon. The photographs were of the Spencers, as children, at the local primary school and playing together on Hampstead Heath. There were more taken at boarding school in Scotland. They had not been looked at or moved for almost twenty years and the top of the box was thick with dust, but other than that, the photographs were in remarkably good condition.
Heath rubbed his arms. He could anticipate need now, the need for his medication, the need for blood. Heath could feel the surge of want and desire in his venom. The tightness in his calves and wrists would move through his body as his strength seemed to decrease physically. He’d neglected his pint of blood this evening, which he always drank before eight pm, but then he’d never had visitors to distract him. He looked at the photograph in his hand.
‘Your beautiful face,’ Heath whispered, fingers tracing the paper outline of her jaw as he held the edge of the torch in his mouth He dropped it when he heard the dog bark and the girl cry out. He rushed down the stairs to the drawing room.
Rain streamed in through the broken window creating a fast-growing puddle of water in the drawing room. He walked over to block the window with a chest of drawers as the girl shrank into the corner of the wall…
‘I… I went to close the shutter and someone tried to grab my hand.’
‘You must have imagined it Katarina. It was the wind and the rain. The winds are strong; it’s so isolated out here. A noise sounds louder than it really is. Shadows seem like people. Now, calm yourself. Here, take a seat and have a sip of your drink. I’ll make some tea.
Katarina sat on the couch, shocked and shaken.
‘How did you do that? Move the chest so easily? Pull down the window as if it was as light as a feather?’
Heath finished his drink and paused.
‘It’s not as heavy as it looks‘
The answer seemed to satisfy Katarina who continued with her description...
‘The fingers, they were so cold…her skin was…white. She wore a nightgown…’
‘Honestly Katarina, you sound like you’ve read too many horror stories…’
‘Suddenly, I feel like I’m living one…’
‘Only suddenly?’ Heath said sarcastically. ‘You wouldn’t be the first to say that. I’m thinking of selling it…. But nevertheless, it’s not safe to leave now.’
‘It’s not safe to stay…’
‘Nonsense…mind plays tricks in here. I’ll take you home the minute the storm finishes or morning comes…whichever arrives first.’
Katarina sighed as Heath smiled and helped her to her feet. Her father had clearly exaggerated. No stranger could have been more welcoming.
Heath smiled again as he settled a mohair rug around the girl. Katarina accidentally touched his hand and was shocked. His palm was as cold as ice. He withdrew his hand quickly and rubbed his fingers together.
‘Thank you,’ Katarina said, pretending not to notice. Little did she know what an effort it was to play nice. Heath had managed to take a few more sips of blood in his bedroom before going to find the photos and was feeling somewhat revived. He had no attraction to this girl’s blood. In any case, it was strange. He hadn’t even thought of drinking her, especially as he was hungry. He’d trained himself to withhold when it came to people he liked or met as friends. Perhaps this came from being “mixed-race”. Heath’s specialist had once considered him that rarest of things; a vampire-human hybrid. Now, he felt more vampire than hybrid.
‘I aim to please,’ he said cheerily, aware how bland he sounded. He handed her the photograph album as he spoke. ‘We open the grounds to visitors in the summer now that…my wife has left and the children have grown up. I usually move to the Southern Hemisphere and enjoy the winter in New Zealand (Heath wanted to add, ‘It’s cold there when it’s hot here and there’s an endless supply of animal protein and blood and no one asks any questions.’) Instead, he used the open house story as an excuse, adding, ‘I was…opposed to it at first, but the visitors bring in extra revenue and I don’t have to put up with them… and, it all goes to a good cause - my charity for abandoned children…’
Her uncle sat opposite her now, sipping his brandy as he discussed the plight of orphans.
How could a man who was involved in charitable causes be as bad as her father had said?
The phone rang. Heath picked up the receiver. He spoke curtly as Katarina poured over the photographs on her lap.
‘That was Linus,’ Heath added, after he hung up. ‘He’s been caught up in the West End and Hinton is working late at the studio. He goes to evening classes sometimes. I just got a text. They don’t speak to me usually. Apparently, I spent too much of my energy on work when they were growing up and now they don’t want to know me.’ Heath rationalized this partial lie as easier than the truth.
Katarina looked intently at the photographs of two children dressed up formally for a family function in the grounds of Hareton Hall. They looked like twins apart from the fact that one was a little taller than the other.
‘That’s us, when I first came to live with the Spencers,’ Heath said.
‘You both look…so sweet,’ Katarina said. ‘I was wondering…why didn’t my father like you?’
Heath paused, wondering how much to tell the girl.
‘He didn’t like me because he thought he was better than me…it’s as simple as that.’
The girl shook her head incredulously. ‘Oh…but my father would never…’
‘It…was different then. Everything was different…’
Heath smiled. Katarina noticed his perfect, white teeth.
‘It’s late, we can continue our…discussion at a later date,’ Heath added, rising from his chair.
It bothered him slightly to have her in the house all night, not because he cared what anyone would think but… well, for reasons which had already become obvious. The house itself…was unreliable, strange… creepy. His desires were manageable. He was determined she would not discover his secret but the girl had made an accurate assessment of hidden forces that swirled through the hall like...ghosts.
‘When was this taken?’ Katarina asked as Heath stood up.
The girl held the photograph of two children, the boy with an untucked shirt, messy hair and wayward striped tie, and the girl, standing up straight with knee high white socks and braids. The boater hat sat atop her perfectly styled hair.
Heath looked at the photo dismissively.
‘First day of boarding school, Greta took us to the train. We each had trunks with our names engraved on them in gold.’ Heath smiled at the memory.
‘Really…I didn’t know you and mother went to school together…’
‘We didn’t…not really. There was a boys’ school and a girls’ school. They shared the same playing fields.’
‘Did you meet up in secret then?’
He suddenly tired of Katarina’s constant questions and wanted someone else to distract her. He didn’t expect her to be so smart, or to like her, even a little. Perhaps she had more of her mother in her than her father…
‘Sometimes,’ he said warily, ‘Kate…your mother…came to my football games…’
The storm howled outside as if to prove a point. Heath walked heavily over to the bay windows and checked the locks from the inside to prevent the incessant rattle which shook the room in the dark. Usually, it drizzled here but tonight was different. Tonight reminded him of Scotland and the stormy night his band played in the school hall for the first time.
‘I like this photograph,’ Katarina said. ‘I’ve never seen it before. Where did she get the outfit?’
Kate stood on the stairs of a ballroom in a beautiful, low-cut, pink satin drop-waisted dress wearing high heels, tassels on the knee length hem and a sequinned choker around her head. ‘It was the school formal, I suppose they call it a “prom” on those American TV shows…’ he said dismissively. ‘The theme of the occasion was 1920s,’ he warmed to the memory, ‘and so…we…the band I was in…tried playing jazz, dressed as gangsters… We thought we were so cool… Your mother…Kate, was determined to be the centre of attention that night…’ Heath looked at the photograph and smiled.
As if reading his thoughts, Katarina said, ‘ ...Wearing that dress, I bet she succeeded.’
Wuthering Nights link: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0087EUMD6