Sunday, May 19, 2013

(#Fifteen: Shadows) Wuthering Nights: Inspired by Wuthering Heights

Chapter Fifteen
     And here I sat, the daughter of such a woman. I was quite surprised, I admit, at the evident depth of affection between her and Heath and quite annoyed at how meanly Heath had spoken of my loyal, kind and loving father.  It was hard to get over the disloyalty in my mother’s letters, but I tried to justify my reading of them in the name of “research”.
     Greta walked into the kitchen light and she relayed to me the story of Kate and Heath’s parting. As we sipped tea and I waited for my cousin Hinton to emerge so we could go and work at the studio like we planned...
     This is what Greta told me:
    ‘When Heath arrived home he was ignored by Harrison who had brought his new girlfriend with him. Heath was just counting down the days until he and Kate could go back to school. Harrison had other plans. He’d withdrawn the fees for both children for their final semester of school. They had no say in the matter.
      Heath couldn’t have cared less about boarding without Kate close by and Kate had never been academic. When we arrived back at The Hall, Heath discovered Kate in a heap, on the couch, crying over her father’s old photographs. When I went in to take them some tea, they were huddled together so close; I thought no one would ever tear them apart. Heath was also distraught. Your grandfather had been the only adult (apart from me) to love him and take care of him.
   When the news had arrived, the worst, Kate and Heath were left alone. Heath hugged Kate in the child’s playroom while she wept and he unsuccessfully tried to hold back tears for the only man who had ever been a parent to him.
    After, we all sat in the old playroom as the news from a television blared on in the background giving us all a good excuse not to talk. Repeat images of political unrest in other parts of the world were on replay in a documentary. It was an irony not lost on any of us, for it was obvious, our world within Hareton Hall was crumbling.
     I agreed to stay on to try to protect the youngster Hinton and Harrison was seemingly civil to Kate throughout that week. He had more important plans to occupy his mind. We were stunned to discover he intended to install his new girlfriend Frances, as his wife, (they married at a registry office the following Saturday). 
     At first, Franny was warm towards Kate and barely civil to Heath, (taking her cue from Harrison). Once she’d married Harrison, she lost interest in everyone else in the house, including her younger brother, and took to going on long walks across the heath. Hareton Hall has that strange effect on people or maybe it was the revelation that her new husband wasn’t all he seemed. Sometimes I’d hear him yelling at her in the night and would place my hands over young Hinton’s ears. I thought it a blessing that Kate was to be sent away but it was mean of Harrison to cancel their fees for the final term.
     Kate’s older brother had made plans to conquer and divide the two younger “shareholders” as he thought of them. He’d never really been able to control Kate. Although there had been a vast inheritance left to both the younger Spencers, Harrison made sure that Heath’s share was written off to various expenses. Heath and Kate were still minors, after all. The shares that remained were left to be invested in the family trust and managed by Harrison on behalf of the two teenagers.
     Harrison insisted that Heath make his room in the basement and groom the horses every morning. Heath did so, happily in fact, preferring to be outside rather than anywhere near Harrison. I asked when Heath would be enrolled back in school but Harrison seemed to think that was nothing to be concerned about. I feared the worst; that he intended to throw Heath on the street the moment he turned eighteen the following week.
    Both Heath and Kate were not unaware of the plot against them as they took the horses to be exercised on the heath that last cold, autumn day when Heath was still in my care. Kate was in a near dreamlike state with her grief having marked a serious return to study as nearly pointless. ‘After all, how many artists need an academic education, Greta?’ she asked me. Really, Kate was delusional.
     Instinctively, Heath, who had never trusted Harrison, knew there would be changes at Hareton Hall and he suspected his plans for university would be delayed in some way without access to the necessary funds. He needed money to hire a lawyer and by the time he had that he knew the funds would be siphoned off. He just hung on, taking his medication as scheduled, accessing his secret supplies to normalize his blood, and all the time wanting to rip Harrison to shreds. He hung on for Kate, waiting for her to turn eighteen so they could run away and never be under the control of Harrison again. If they ran off too soon, Harrison would inform the authorities that he suspected Heath was a vampire. Though not illegal, it would officially be a mark against him for life. There was so much discrimination. For example, vampires had to get permission to hold certain jobs and human-vampire marriage was discouraged.      
    Meanwhile, Harrison had cancelled the cheques Heath had sent to apply for university and it was too late for him to enrol to finish the school term at the local comprehensive. A scholarship was out of the question until the following year. Heath turned eighteen in a matter of days and Harrison would no longer be his court appointed guardian. Kate and Heath tried not to think about the family tensions as they rode together that day. 
    Kate had started eating again, having lost her appetite for a week and I had wisely packed the picnic basket with a lunch of their favourite things. Kate had put in a bottle of apple cider for after and her favourite mohair red checked blanket. Harrison was busy planning his next party for his new wife and to impress future investors in the various businesses he had purchased. He’d also taken to drinking in the afternoons (not a good sign). Kate’s older brother was only too happy not to be bothered with the younger members of the household as long as they were out of his sight.
    Hampstead Heath was dotted with people on that autumnal Saturday; mother’s pushing babies in prams, small children running and playing games with kites, picnicking groups. These appeared to be fully functioning families, Kate was thinking, unlike hers. The pergola offered beautiful views across Hampstead and there were artists sketching near The Hill Garden as Kate and Heath strolled. They walked with their horses for about thirty minutes to reach the hidden garden and Glass House. Near the fish pond at the far end of a small alcove, there was a lovers’ bench with panoramic views of North London.
     They placed a blanket on the ground after they’d found water for the animals. Kate placed the food in the centre, while they talked and enjoyed the spread of chicken, potato salad, coleslaw, tea and crusty French bread that lay before them. Well, Kate did. Heath only ate the chicken – all of it.   It was to be their last carefree day. As if to recognize that fact the sun hid in shadows behind the clouds as they talked, finally spitting down in tiny drops of rain. They had to quickly pack up all their belongings and head for the hidden, glass arboretum. As children, escorted to a night fair, they had once seen the stars in the evening sky from the same spot.
    ‘Do you forgive me for what I said, the night of the dance?’ Kate asked. ‘You should have stayed to hear the rest.’
  ‘Of course, Kate, tell me again,’ Heath said as he brushed her hair with his fingers.
  ‘Well,’ Kate said, sitting up. ‘I added, after you left, that actually, you are rather…strange looking and maybe not quite my type…’
    Heath laughed, looked irritated, then despondent but as he got up Kate pleaded with him, ‘I’m joking. Look, I found our initials that we marked into the tree when we were children. Here they are, bigger than before, clear as if they were carved yesterday.’
    Sure enough, the initials of the pair were hidden at the base of the tree in a place only they knew to look. The letters were a legacy of their youth.
   ‘You see, I knew even then. There is no one else for me…and it is true. In this world or any other, I have known we were meant for each other…forever.’
     Kate placed her finger to his lips.
    ‘We don’t know what will happen, yet. We’ll find out tomorrow.’
     Tomorrow was Heath’s eighteenth birthday. Kate’s was three months later. After that, they planned to run away together and get married. They thought by making it all official, it would be difficult for Harrison to separate them. As the rain spat down upon the glass roof, Heath leant over the seat they shared and kissed Kate, pulling her closer. 
     ‘Kate Spencer, will you marry me?’
     ‘Yes,’ she said, confidently, after they kissed.
     ‘I don’t have the ring with me. It’s being made…so this is the informal proposal part…’    They’d been whispering about getting married for weeks. Once they were of age, they could sever all ties with Harrison and make their own decisions. Kate had already spoken to the vicar who had known her since childhood.
     Heath and Kate had been planning to elope for weeks but recent family events had hastened the proceedings. Kate put her arms around him and they hugged. Together, they fell onto the ground, laughing. The girl rolled on top of him; she was very strong and athletic and had him in a gridlock, on his back as he tried to shake her off, all the time trying to kiss her beautiful neck.
     Later that night, Kate wrote in her diary that her wedding to Heath would be a triumph of love and hope over reality.
    ‘I need to hear you say it, Heath. What I’m about to do - run away with you - means my family will disown me and we can’t ever behave like we did at the dance. There can never be…misunderstandings that we can’t fix.’
    ‘How can you doubt me for a second, Kate? You are my family now and I am yours. I have never loved nor will I love anyone the way I love you. You are everything to me. You are my world…and the only reason I’m here. I would have bolted a million miles away from Harrison by now if it didn’t mean I’d miss you so much…’ Suddenly the blood in Heath’s veins surged. His mouth felt dry. He recognized the taste of venom in his mouth.
     ‘Of course, I’m worried. Dr Vincent has told me that it’s unlikely I will revert but I may evolve. On my birthday, the day I reach ‘full maturity’ as he put it, we don’t know what will happen.’
    ‘Whatever happens,’ Kate said, ‘I promise to be there.’
    ‘Kate, I could start off mild…and then if I transition, I may become… uncontrollable.’
    ‘I love you, Heath.’
    ‘I love you too, Kate.’
    ‘That’s all I need to know.’
     Heath covered Kate in kisses as she laughed and brushed the ground off their clothes. 
    ‘I’m glad we’re making it official,’ Heath said.
     Kate smiled.
   ‘We only have to wait until three months after your birthday, it’s all arranged.’ Kate said.
     Heath hesitated, ‘Remember, neither of us knows what…my condition will mean…’ Just now, he’d nearly lost control and kissed her a little too close, too deep.
    ‘I accept you, no matter what. But,’ she joked, ‘if you think we’re too young…’
     Heath’s face dropped. ‘You mean you’re not sure?’
    ‘Yes, of course I’m sure. I just want to try to smooth things over with Harrison. It will be easier on us.’
    ‘Listen to me Kate, there is no “smoothing things over” with Harrison. He means to make our lives as difficult as possible. Harrison cannot be trusted. He will not help us and he will not help you if you try to make it up with him. You remember how he used to treat us as children? The hours where he would lock me in the basement and put you in a cupboard before father came home and discovered him? Don’t you remember his callous behaviour, the cruel beatings?’
  ‘Yes, of course I do. He was always jealous of how much father doted on us. He was jealous of how much you and I loved each other. He called our desires…unnatural. I often wondered what he meant since he was never told about your…condition.’  
   ‘I assumed he meant because we were raised together, but that hardly applies now.’
   ‘Harrison is practically my only family… apart from you. I always thought once he got over his teenage phase… you know he really went off the rails at boarding school, going to wild parties, indulging in bad behaviour. He brought all of that home with him. I just thought he might change.’
   ‘It’s his nature, Kate. Some people don’t change.’
    ‘It would be easier… if he did.’
    ‘You mean, it would be easier for us… financially.’
   ‘Well, yes. I am used to having nice things and a comfortable house…’
   ‘Those things aren’t important…’
    ‘I know but…’
    ‘You’re not listening to me, Kate. I will give you all of those things… and more…just not yet.’
    ‘We’re so young, Heath.’
    ‘Do you doubt me Kate?’
    ‘No, no I could never… I love you Heath. I would run away to the moon with you, but just give me these few days to try to smooth things over…then we’ll leave the moment I turn eighteen, either way. I promise.’
   Heath looked down at his shoes as Kate stood up and shook the blanket. She reached over and kissed him softly then ruffled his hair like she used to when they were children. He took her wrist and kissed it as if he would never release her from his touch.
   ‘I am yours, forever,’ Kate whispered. ‘Sometimes it scares me how much I love you. It is as if I have left my own self and you and I are complete, only when we are together.’
    They merged under the fading clouds as the shadows of two lovers became one in the dark.