Wednesday, February 20, 2013
WUTHERING NIGHTS (NINE)
Kate had gone to buy the dress on one of their rare Saturday mornings in Edinburgh. They were sixteen and Kate was determined to drag Heath into town with her to pick up the dress. He pretended not to care because he hated shopping but secretly enjoyed having Kate as his exclusive companion during their journey. He’d grown older and stronger in their years at boarding school. He was managing his condition, and no one except Kate had ever guessed.
The boy enjoyed any excuse for freedom outside the school grounds. He didn’t see Kate at all during school hours. Although he’d hated being sent away at first, he found the regimented atmosphere of sports and lessons suited him more than he ever imagined it would. Being able to climb higher, jump faster, bat harder and kick longer in games gave him an edge and made him popular with other boys, but it wasn’t them he wanted to impress most.
Heath pretended it was an imposition as the note was delivered to his class. He and Kate arranged to meet, catch the bus and have lunch in an old-fashioned tea room (Heath would have preferred lunch at the pub, obviously, but this compromise meant he’d just have to pick the meat off the sandwiches). Besides, to impress Kate, he wanted to go along with her wishes.
Edinburgh on Saturday morning in April was a jostling, architecturally spectacular city. The light was low, like London but the open wind made it pleasantly colder. Heath wished he could have driven the car he’d been saving to buy from the “business” he ran after lights out. All of the boys from his boarding house were involved in a betting game related to the school fixtures. Heath would have been suspended, or worse, if it was discovered they were using real money to bet. The game had been running for more than a year and Heath, as bookmaker, was making a handsome profit. With his winnings, Heath and Kate could have taken a car if he’d been allowed to drive but the school (stupid school that it was in relation to rules) forbade it.
Heath would have ignored the rule, like most of the other rules at the school, if it hadn’t been so difficult to break without being noticed. He was careful not to draw too much attention to himself. Being taller, faster, smarter and better looking (according to Kate) than other boys, made this difficult. Because boys placed less value on looks and more on accomplishment, they didn’t dislike him as much as they would have if they’d all been girls and one outshone the others. Really, his mates looked up to him in a way he was sure they wouldn’t, if they knew the truth. He kept his medication hidden. He kept his drinking supplies (type O in secluded plastic packages from the blood bank) in a locked, private fridge that (as house captain) he had exclusive access to. The school nurse was told as little as possible. She thought Heath had a rare condition and relayed instructions from his doctor without telling anyone or asking too many questions.
Edinburgh wasn’t home to him but he had grown fond of the city. He thought one day he and Kate might live there or maybe New York or London if she had a preference. Anywhere dark and cold but populated would be good. They both liked entertainment and crowds they could blend in to. He glanced at Kate sitting beside him on the bus. Neither of them had their head phones on, preferring each other’s silences to music. He looked at her profile, her perfect features and warm smile, her fragile collarbones...leading to her neck.
He tried to stop the thought. Yes, her smile was beautiful, though he’d never told Kate this but it was her body and soul he wanted to possess, just as she possessed his, in theory. The warmth of her skin, her blood - intangible and unknown - was a perfect mystery to him. He tried to avoid staring longingly at the tiny rippled vein above her shirt collar. Heath inched his hand across without looking at her. When she laced her warm fingers around his gloved ones, as they approached the main cobbled street, the venom in his veins pulsed.
Kate always asked after him in a whisper. How was he feeling? Not too weak or strong? Not tired or sleepy? Weird? (Always weird!) Did he need her to go with him to see a specialist? No.
Heath insisted he was as normal as possible. He wanted no fuss. They were discovering new treatments constantly and he was perfectly fine; he’d be okay…just like her. Only, he knew he was nothing like her. Not really - apart from their obvious physical resemblance which, creepily, made others assume a biological connection that didn’t exist.
Kate smiled. She loved the fact that, lately, her attention seemed to make Heath nervous. It was strange and unexpected and thrilling; he’d agreed to come with her to pick up her dress. They came into town only when they got a leave pass, and she knew Heath disliked shops. There was no way he’d do this for just anyone, least of all Annabelle Hunt. To say Kate wasn’t really fond of Annabelle was an understatement. Kate did not place huge value on female friendship and Annabelle had a job ahead of her trying to befriend Kate. Kate often outshone other girls her age and had been brought up around boys. Besides, Kate was still getting over the fact that the Hunts had been sent to the same boarding school. In any case, Kate felt she had little in common with other teenage girls. Many had tried to befriend her, briefly, only for Kate to discover their real desire was to become close to Heath.
It had taken Kate ages to get used to seeing the Hunts every day at school. She suspected it was harder for Heath who understandably harboured a grudge against them. Kate knew if they ever found out who… or what Heath really was, they’d be shocked. They might even shun him. Kate didn’t want Heath to have to go through that. She didn’t want to give the other girls and boys a chance to reject him. He was hers, Kate thought possessively as she linked her arm through his.
One day he would be fierce and fully grown. By then, there might not be laws discriminating against vampires. One day, Heath might be able to be honest about who he really was. But until then, it would be easier to stay in the shadows. Kate often read marginalized news items with titles like, Blood Stocks Low, and stories about the “threats on the London tube,” and the “new hybrid species of humans” with “unidentifiable blood types”, rumoured to exist. No one had ever come out as a hybrid…or a vampire, for fear of being ostracised.
The pair rounded the corner from the main street to the bus stop.
‘C’mon,’ Heath said, pulling Kate’s hand. ‘Let’s get off here and walk the rest of the way.’
‘Okay,’ Kate replied. She wondered if he ever noticed how adoring she was in his company. Kate certainly hoped not. They had never kissed. Heath was worried it might get out of hand and he’d fang her before he controlled himself. He was not yet fully grown and might be so out of control he couldn’t resist and Kate could end up missing a chunk out of her neck or worse.
Kate was secretive about her feelings for him or as secretive as she could be. How could he not notice that she worshipped every step he took, to a degree that both excited and scared her? She was glad to be wearing the jeans and new jumper she’d ordered from a London catalogue. She was dressed fashionably but Heath barely looked. He was too busy hungrily glancing into the eyes of strangers.
Together, they reached the shops in double quick time. These days, Heath seemed to almost merge through crowds. He could look into her eyes, and she would know what he wanted before he’d even said it. They were becoming twin souls.
‘This is good,’ Heath said. ‘The people traffic isn’t too dense. We can get this over with and then have some lunch before they call out the search and rescue dogs for us.’
Heath was always hungry.
‘I thought you got…permission to come,’ Kate said.
‘No…ah, not exactly,’ Heath said. He’d handed in an unfinished assignment and had been asked to stay back on Saturday and complete it. Heath liked to bend the rules and had climbed out the window. Kate shrugged, knowing the teachers liked him too much for him to ever get into serious trouble. She was secretly thrilled he’d risked a further detention for her.
Together, they rounded the corner of a laneway and walked past a fish and chip shop that sold deep fried fish, chicken and… chocolate bars?
‘I’ve always wanted to try one of those,’ Kate said as she walked into the boutique next door.
‘Your every wish must be granted…wait there,’ he said.
Kate loved it when Heath said things like that, flattered her and made a joke of her vanity. He ran into the shop and ordered two battered treats; he returned minutes later as Kate wrapped tightly in her long coat, hovered outside the shop. Heath held two wrapped packages. He gave Kate the first one; a battered chocolate bar with soft caramel oozing in the centre, whilst he chomped on the other - deep fried chicken. Kate’s coat bag was draped carefully over her arm as they sat in the bus shelter and ate hungrily.
‘Mmm… yummy,’ Kate said.
‘Like I said, your every wish is my command.’
‘Nothing but the best for me, hey Heath…’ Kate joked.
‘I thought that was what you wanted…’ the boy said, suddenly worried he had misread her.
‘Of course, this is one of the highlights of my sixteen years…’
‘Mine too…’ Heath said, smiling. Heath had the nicest smile Kate had ever seen, the thickest brown hair and the kindest eyes. His teeth were perfect, (although she missed his little fangs, retracted so long she hadn’t seen them in years). Kate looked away, embarrassed to be caught staring at his mouth.
Moments later, Kate screamed as a bus sped by and the water in the gutter splashed them. In seconds, water pools swirled around their feet and the edges of their jeans were soaked in muddy rain.
‘Oh well,’ Kate said, ‘I suppose they can be dry cleaned…’
Heath looked at her, the warmth of his smile suddenly making even the cold weather feel less inclement. He moved closer. Kate could nearly feel his breath. The boy opened up his coat, snug and larger than hers and enveloped her in its dry warmth. Rain tumbled down from the sky. Heath’s body temperature these days was not cold but he always seemed to need an extra jumper.
‘This is Edinburgh for you,’ Heath said. ‘Quick…’
They moved from the bus stop, which was largely uncovered, to the shelter of the shop front. In the fading afternoon sun, Kate leaned in and kissed Heath, softly on the mouth. Heath was surprised and soon they were covering each other in sweet, warm kisses.
At first, Heath was reluctant. After Kate kissed him he leaned back hesitantly. Heath managed to kiss Kate again without wanting to drain the blood from her neck and felt only mild discomfort in his veins.
The discomfort soon turned to bliss. Being around her for so many years made control possible…just; he’d taken his medication while he waited for her. This “control” was a revelation to him. They kissed again. Heath suddenly pushed her away, feeling the tiny pang of his extending incisors.
‘I’m…sorry,’ Kate said.
‘It’s…it’s not your fault. I’m just…’
‘I know,’ Kate whispered, turning his face to hers.
The boy shyly reached his gloved hands under her coat. Heath pulled Kate closer to him - so close she felt, for a moment, unable to breath. The depth of their affection scared her. She lowered her arms into him, stayed locked in his embrace and just as quickly pushed him away.
‘I…I didn’t expect us to be so…’
‘What?’ Heath said, unsurprised by the extraordinary feelings he felt. Alarmed she might be rejecting him, he suddenly felt his incisors extending again and turned his face away, ashamed.
‘Look at me,’ Kate said. He retracted his fangs fully in that moment before doing so, proving to himself that control was completely possible.
‘I don’t want us to have any secrets. I was going to say…good. Together we are so…’
‘Bad?’ he smiled. Heath leaned in towards her as they waited for the downpour to stop. Wrapped in each other’s arms, they were glad to miss the first bus back to school.