Sunday, May 19, 2013

(#Thirteen: Linus) Wuthering Nights: Inspired by Wuthering Heights

Chapter Thirteen
     Katarina woke in the living room but she did not feel refreshed. The girl stepped quietly past her sleeping cousin and headed upstairs to retrieve her shoes. Much to her surprise, a shard of sunlight was shining through the floor length window of the room. The storm had subsided, leaving a wreck of mud and branches across the grounds of the estate.  The girl pulled on her jumper and brushed her hair. The ancient brush looked like it had been passed down through many generations of the Spencer family. Katarina discovered some toothpaste in an old-fashioned bathroom. Upon scrutiny of her image in the mirror, she changed her mind and decided to take a shower. Katarina leaned in closely to the mirror, noticing the dark circles under her brown eyes, betraying her lack of sleep.
   ‘Hello, how are you?’
   The voice made her jump.
   ‘You might have knocked.’
   ‘Oh, no need to cover up. I’ve seen it all before,’ Linus said breezily. ‘I work in a theatre – stage management. You look as if you’ve seen a ghost.’
     ‘Is that meant to be a joke?’
     ‘Oh, you noticed it too…’
     ‘Last night, curtains moving, lights flickering, noises in the dark…’ He made a strange horror movie noise and laughed.
    ‘There was a woman…a stranger trying to get into my room…’
    ‘Oh people have been saying stuff like that for years…’
    ‘You’re not going to tell me…’
    ‘Oh, I’m here to tell you, it’s all true. I’d never bring my friends home. Place is seriously haunted…’
     Kat didn’t know if he was joking or not, nor did she know what to say in response to Linus’ quick wit and even quicker turn of phrase. She decided she had no choice but to run with it. She smiled - at least it felt safer with another human being in the room.
   ‘But enough of the gloom and doom, I’m interning in a theatre on the West End. I’ll get you a ticket to come and see the latest show if you like. It’s pretty good. I also organise dance parties on the weekends. Father does not approve, as you can imagine. What about you?’
    ‘I like music and…painting. I go to Art College and take photographs.’
    Linus held out his hand to Katarina, and she shook it.  
   A boy with what could only be described as wild hair and the appearance of an 80’s punk, smiled back at her in the mirror. He messed his hair with his hands. 
   ‘So, do you like my new look?’ Linus asked.
   ‘It’s…interesting but I never saw your old one.’ Katarina replied.
   ‘You must be Kat, Heath’s niece, the one we’ve never met. I have the illustrious honour of being Heath’s son. How is the old man?’
   ‘Well, he’s not very…old.’
    ‘No, I know. But I’m guessing he’s still pretty grumpy.’ He pulled a face. ‘I always try to get out of the house early. Father hates the fact that I go off to Brighton with my mates every weekend and can’t stand the thought of working in his stuffy financial firm. But he was so young when he had me. Really, his idea of becoming a parent at this point in my life is a bit of a joke… Mind?’ Linus took Kat’s tube of toothpaste.
   ‘I brought my own toothbrush,’ Linus said reassuringly.
    Katarina laughed.
   ‘Oh, I’m going to write down my web page. We should stay in touch. Heath is sure to lose it at some point this morning, or he might already be out with the horses. In any case, you’re going to want to run away from this house and never return…just like all the women in this family do...’
    ‘Surely, they didn’t all run away. Not all of them.’
    ‘Yes, all of them,’ the boy said regretfully.
    ‘I’m sorry… I shouldn’t have…’
     Linus quickly changed the subject.
    ‘Get dressed. We’re meeting Hinton for breakfast; he likes to sketch in the cafe.  Sometimes I think he’s aiming to draw every nook and cranny in Hampstead. He and I don’t really get on. So, it’ll be quite funny to turn up at his favourite breakfast hangout with you in tow. He takes all his notes and paper to draw people there. He’s obsessed with capturing their images. I’m sure I can’t see any point in that…’ Linus said breezily.
    Linus talked on and it was hard not to like him, with his easy way and humorous take on the world. 
    Greta called upstairs, ‘and what would you both like for breakfast?’
   ‘Nothing darling,’ Linus said theatrically. ‘I’m taking my cousin out. You’re welcome to join us,’ he added.
    ‘No Linus, I only popped in to drop off the groceries,’ Greta said warily.
    ‘Bring you back one of those lovely frosted buns from the French bakery for morning tea, then, eh?’ Linus said, dragging Kat down the stairs with him.
     ‘Oh, have you said goodbye to your father?’
     ‘Goodbye? We haven’t said good morning. He’s out with the horses. Tell him I’ll see him tonight.’
     Greta rolled her eyes.
    ‘And with a bit of luck,’ Linus said under his breath, ‘he’ll be asleep by nine pm.’
     Katarina laughed.
    ‘He was…quite the gentleman around me.’
    ‘Oh, that’s just because you don’t know him… yet.’
    ‘I get the feeling our families never wanted us to meet,’ Kat said as they walked down the sunny driveway, slippery from last night’s hail storm.
    ‘Here, take these.’
    Linus handed Katarina a pair of gumboots. They both carried their shoes in their hands.
   ‘The calm after the storm… C’mon, I know a shortcut,’ Linus said enthusiastically.
    ‘Near my house?’
   ‘Something like that,’ the boy said as they walked through the sunken garden, across the heath, towards The Grange and past the private, hidden glass conservatory that was tucked behind the Summer House. 
   ‘My father used to come here… with your mother, when they were children.’
   ‘I know,’ Katarina said. ‘I’m reading her journal. I found it under the bed last night.’
    Linus looked shocked. ‘Oh, that must be another one,’ he said, reaching for the diary.
   ‘Not until I’ve read this one,’ Katarina replied. ‘I’m only on page eighteen…but sometimes I think this is the place she was happiest.’
    Her cousin shrugged. ‘Just up ahead, past the conservatory on our left, past the fancy house on the corner, is our café.’
   Linus took Katarina’s arm and she suddenly felt adopted by her cousin, like a new best friend.   
   Linus pulled a face as they removed their muddy boots at the door of the café and replaced them with their own shoes. ‘There he is, sitting all sullen in the corner table. And in about ten seconds, Hinton will… look up.’ As if on cue, that’s what happened. Linus and Katarina laughed. Hinton didn’t smile. He scowled and hastily gathered his sketches.
    Hinton was just as unwelcoming and monosyllabic when they sat at the table with him. He’d already eaten a plate of bacon which Kat thought was really unhealthy. Katarina ordered tea and poached eggs with toast and Linus ordered muesli with strawberries and yoghurt. A jug of blood orange juice was placed on the table and Hinton guzzled two glasses. He then proceeded to wolf down a second breakfast of eggs (he left the toast on the side) as he sketched the interior of the café, practically ignoring Linus and Katarina, who couldn’t get over the difference in his personality from the previous night.
    As he looked up briefly from his sketches, Hinton barely nodded. Nevertheless, Katarina, was in her element, surrounded by new family. Her two cousins seemed to be far more interested in themselves and their plans that her, but Katarina didn’t mind.  Hinton had an exhibition to prepare and Linus started chatting about the play he was stage managing. When the sun shone through the window, Hinton shifted from the direct light and began to get restless as he shuffled his papers. Katarina was keen to get back to her mother’s diary, but was wary of appearing (unlike her cousins) rude. Besides, it felt nice to be amongst what were for all intents and purposes, her family.
    As they finished their breakfasts and she read the paper, Katarina noticed Hinton peering at the words on her page. She looked up and sounded out the word, incandescent. Hinton looked away.
    ‘Do you wear glasses, Hinton?’
    ‘No,’ Hinton replied taking offence through a mouthful of bacon. He chugged down the rest of his orange juice then began gulping his coffee. His hunger seemed to have no end.
   ‘Oh, don’t mind him Katarina. Hinton always wolfs down his food, don’t you Hinton?’ Linus said with a mocking smile.
    Hinton raised an eyebrow, apparently used to his cousin’s humour. Meanwhile it was obvious Hinton had woken up on the wrong side of the bed, or couch as was the case the previous night. Katarina tried to make small talk but Hinton stopped drawing, folded his sketches and announced quietly that he had to go to college to work on his portfolio.
     Katarina wanted to say, ‘I’ll come with you,’ because she had planned to do the same, but she felt she didn’t really know him well enough (except by reputation). From the way he was behaving it appeared he would not want her to accompany him. Hinton got up so quickly, he even left the scarf he was wearing, (her scarf, strangely enough), by her seat. He didn’t want to give her an excuse to return to Hareton Hall.
   After he left, Linus stirred his coffee as he spoke. “Oh, never mind him, Katarina. He’s always more sociable in the evenings. Take no notice. I’m glad we met. Besides, it’s obvious he likes you. I would too if we weren’t related…’ Linus smiled dramatically. 
    ‘Well, I suppose I should also be going…’
   “Nonsense, you’re coming with me to Portobello Road to buy new outfits before I go to my rehearsal. Then we’re off to Camden town tomorrow and tomorrow night, in honour of having found you again, we’re going to cook a feast and have some friends over for dinner. I have it on good authority that father will be out.’
    Linus opened up the newspaper and sure enough, inside the lift out, there was a picture of Heath, in a dinner suit standing with his most recent girlfriend. She was also a company director and the daughter of a media mogul. Heath was announcing a charity ball that would be sponsored by the family company, Heath & Sons, that evening.
    ‘Mmm… sons,’ Linus mused, ‘how optimistic. I think that means me… and Hinton, though I don’t think we were quite what father was expecting.’
    Linus leaned in close ‘You know Hinton can barely read, don’t you? That’s probably why he left suddenly.’
    Katarina looked surprised. ‘What? I thought there might be something wrong with his eyesight…’
   ‘Oh, he sees clear as day; he can practically see in the dark. It’s just that father was… well, he raised him to ride and take care of the animals. He was home schooled by Greta when we realised everyone was just going to make fun of him at regular school. It was terrible. Keep this to yourself. Father hates it when I talk about the family publicly but there’s always been a lot of tension between us,’ Linus stated matter-of-factly. ‘I mean, he’s not exactly thrilled with my choice of…career but at least I’m literate.’
     Linus went beyond the insinuation that Hinton was not. ‘Oh, he’s clever. It’s just that he has dyslexia and never really had it diagnosed properly and now… he’s too embarrassed to ask for lessons.’
     ‘Well, I was good at English at school. Maybe I could help him. He seems so clever. It’s hard to believe he can’t read…’ Katarina said.
   ‘Maybe… Hinton’s unsociable. I’ve tried and he won’t talk to me. We just don’t really like each other, I suppose. I mean, we’re not blood relations but we were raised together. Sometimes it’s just the way things are…’
    Katarina resolved in some way to help her adopted cousin as she sipped her tea, constantly entertained by quips from Linus.
   When the waiter came and Linus, ever the gentleman, reached for the bill, Katarina couldn’t resist…
   ‘By the way, last night, I saw something… well, someone. It was a person, I’m sure of it. A woman tried to get into the room as I slept. I didn’t see her face clearly in the dark but…’
   ‘Is that why you screamed?’
    ‘Yes… ‘
    ‘Perhaps it was a nightmare. Being too much in father’s company will do that to a person.’ Linus replied, always the joker.
     ‘No… I mean… a woman… I didn’t see her face. I saw her hand reach through the window. It was so real, I could almost touch her fingers…’
   Linus shivered. He let the silence hang between them for a moment until he spoke…
   ‘It’s her again.’
    ‘C’mon, we’ll talk outside.’
     Linus offered to pay the bill and they walked out towards the tube station on Hampstead High Street.
    ‘I’m not sure it’s really my place to say and I’m not exactly sure what you saw but…’  Linus glanced over at his cousin with a serious expression on his face…
    ‘Go on…’
     ‘Well, Father should have warned you… but it looks like it’s up to me, as usual. Hareton Hall is a freak show.’
    Katarina just looked at her cousin; she didn’t know what to say. Of course, she hadn’t believed in haunted houses before. But then, she had never confronted the possibility of their existence until last night. She suspected some more answers might be locked inside the cover of the diary she now kept.  They changed trains. The underground was semi-empty this morning. When the tube stopped at Notting Hill, they walked to Linus’ car. He’d parked it outside the station when he couldn’t drive home the previous night.
    ‘Jump in, we’ll go to the markets then I’ll drop you home. Oh, I almost forgot, there’s an old school yearbook with empty pages at the back that your mother wrote in extensively. I’d been putting my stuff in storage, preparing to move into a flat in Bayswater but I took this by mistake from the wardrobe. I was going to put it back but I think you might like it. It’s in the back seat. I found it a while ago and kept it, so it wouldn’t be amongst the things you already have. You could add it to your… investigation. I was never terribly interested, to be honest, so I didn’t bother reading it. I just flicked through the photos. Oh, but I wouldn’t tell father. He’s very secretive about that part of his life, the part he spent with… your mother.’
    He reached in and handed Katarina the package.
    Kat took the album possessively and opened a page that contained letters stuck into opened envelopes. They were undated and the post stamp was unclear. Kate’s childish handwriting but sophisticated language described a pre-holiday dance where Heath’s band was due to perform. I’m so excited for The Battle of the Bands, was a sentence that stood out. Her mother had even stuck a small piece of the pink voile from her dress on the page as a keepsake. Katarina ran her fingers over the material. After the first ten pages, which were obviously written by her mother, there was another letter signed by Heath.
    ‘Does your father know we have this?’
    ‘I doubt it,’ Linus said. ‘All of this was so long ago. Most of it is undated but they must have been written over twenty years ago - way back in the nineties. Anyway, father has no idea what is in every nook and cranny of the house. Probably forgot he ever wrote this stuff. It’s bizarre to read. Your mother must’ve stuck the letters in there. Hard to believe people actually wrote letters back then…’ Her cousin trailed off.
    Katarina, finding them impossible to resist, stuffed the notes in her bag.
    As Linus turned on the ignition, Katarina suddenly wished she was alone at The Grange to ponder her mother’s words in detail.