Friday, March 1, 2013


Chapter Ten


     ‘It’s late… ’ Heath said, changing the subject as Katarina took another sip of tea.

     It was past midnight and the storm hadn’t subsided.

     ‘Do you mind if I stay the night?’

      Heath was mildly surprised but glad he hadn’t had to make the suggestion.

     ‘Of course not, I don’t know when or even if the boys will be home, but there are six guest rooms and Greta should be in at eight in the morning. Take your pick. I’m just going to stay here by the fire, go through a few papers. I have a business meeting in the City tomorrow. Even though it’s Saturday, some of the foreign markets don’t sleep…’

     ‘Mmm…’ Katarina said. Normally she would have felt odd staying in a stranger’s house. Before it was her uncle’s it had, after all, been her mother’s. Kat was surprised Heath had become so traditional. He’d once dreamed of being a rock star according to a letter her mother had written (the only one that she had been allowed to read and keep).   

    Katarina gazed at her mother’s portrait in the hallway. How was it possible to look so similar to a person you didn’t know?     

   ‘Thank you. I just texted my father and he thinks I’m staying with my friend - the girl you met in the pub.’

   ‘Blonde one, long hair?’

   ‘Yes, that one,’ Kate regularly excused Stacey’s flirtatious behaviour.

    Heath nodded, making himself seem more amiable than he was. He tried to imagine he hadn’t dreamed of sinking his teeth into the blonde girl’s neck and draining her until she shuddered.

   ‘I was wondering if I could sleep in my mother’s old room?’

    Heath hesitated, but he knew refusal would put her off guard.

   ‘Well…um, I don’t think Greta has the bed made up…’

    ‘Which one is it?’

    ‘First right, top of the stairs, but…’ He could feel his muscles tightening; he needed his medication and perhaps some protein from the larder…

     ‘That’s okay; I’ll just take this…’ Katarina gestured to the checked mohair blanket that had been wrapped around her. Before Heath could utter another word, she said good night and was bounding half way up the creaking staircase, two steps at a time, revealing her youth.

    It would be a long night, Heath thought, as he finished his pint of Magenta and took some extra capsules. The storm water pelted down on the sill in the drawing room as the lights suddenly flashed. The dog jumped up and howled. His ears were alert to the unfamiliar sound of music playing from Kate’s old bedroom.

     ‘Settle,’ Heath warned.

      The dog nuzzled his head under his paws and softly growled instead.  He sensed a person approaching.

      Outside, Hinton, Heath’s adopted son, walked alone towards the house. He was grown now, hunched over his plastic-wrapped package. It was his latest completed canvas, carefully covered. Hinton had lived at Hareton Hall since his sister, Frances, had arrived with him in tow eighteen years ago. Now he had no family but Heath and Linus. The boy wore a blue scarf, brown coat and ski hat pulled down over his ears. He’d been in central London finishing his Art History class and then he’d stayed on to assist the tutor during a photography lesson. Hinton was one of the best students at Art College and made extra cash tutoring. The class had been developing film (in a dark room during their lesson in pre-digital camera work) and some students had then decided to go into the West End for drinks. Before he knew, it was almost daybreak.

    The boy hated going home. His uncle was legally his adopted father but Hinton always called him Heath. Before Hinton went off to class, Heath had been in a surlier mood than usual and was always on at him about “making something of his life” and going to work in the City at the family firm. Hinton couldn’t believe he expected so much of him when he expected absolutely nothing of his own son. Linus, who was blonde like his mother, did little else except socialize and run dance parties in abandoned fields.

   Heath and Hinton had countless arguments about Hinton’s “lack of direction.” Hinton knew Heath liked to keep his family close by and didn’t want either of his sons to leave home before they had finished studying. He was a difficult and unsociable parent but he was the only parent Hinton had since his own had died shortly after his birth. Franny had raised him until her desire to flee The Hall after Harrison’s death overcame her. Hinton was in school then and The Hall became his holiday home. Greta, who had children of her own to care for, only came in three days a week now.

   Heath rarely trusted new people enough to actually employ them so when staff left, they were not replaced. Over the years only Greta remained. Hinton couldn’t really believe how he’d been trapped into his adopted father’s lair, especially since Heath had never actually been demonstrative towards him during his childhood. But then, he’d never shown much love to his own son, either. Slowly, Hareton Hall had become his home. And it was all because of her, Hinton thought. As he neared the house, the first picture to greet him in the hallway would be Kate Spencer’s.

     Hinton was sceptical about love partly because of the rumours that connected her to his adopted father. Besides, Hinton was nineteen and had a reputation to uphold. He enjoyed “playing the field” as Heath used to say in the old days. Since Art College had more female students than males, the odds were definitely in his favour. Even so, Hinton couldn’t wait to get out of Hampstead for good. As he walked up the drive, along the old stone road, shivering in the early hours of the morning, he considered the merits of leaving London. The borough was freezing and the cab from the station would only take him so far along the icy road now that the storm was subsiding. He often took the bus. There was nowhere to park in central London anyway and he hated asking Heath for money.