Sunday, May 19, 2013

(#Twelve: The Cottage) Wuthering Nights: Inspired by Wuthering Heights

Chapter Twelve
The Cottage   
   Heath disappeared most evenings at school. Kate knew he went hunting. He’d be back for band rehearsals, he had promised her. He’d been counselled by his doctor. Kate was sure he practised being ‘safe’, which meant only drinking wild animals and never more than he needed to survive. Magenta, drunk in the interim, ensured he was not tempted by humans; nor would he be, unless his vampiricism developed fully. This was a roll of the dice, according to his specialist. They wouldn’t know if he was a full bloodsucker until he reached eighteen. In the meantime, his diet subsisted only of protein, citrus, Magenta and plasma delivered via special order from London once a week. Blood oranges were still his favourites.
    Tomorrow night, the inter-school Battle of the Bands competition was to be held as part of the Sixth Form dance.  Kate and a few others, including Annabelle Hunt, were factored into the front row as audience members or “fake fans”, as Kate joked. Annabelle had made such an effort to be friends with Kate that the girls were now talking and Annabelle had hesitantly been accepted into Kate’s circle of popular girls.
     Those girls were sitting in the front row. The band hoped they wouldn’t be sitting there long. Tonight, they wanted everyone in the room up dancing.  Heath would be lying if he said he didn’t like the fact that a lot of girls paid him attention. He was tall with dark hair and had a “mysterious” look about him. He’d heard Annabelle giggling and whispering about him to his friends once. He still disliked the Hunts but he enjoyed female attention in all its forms and it didn’t pay to display open warfare towards Annabelle’s older brother, Edmund.  He’d tried that in his first year at boarding school and all his privileges had been withdrawn. He hadn’t seen Kate in over a week.
      There was only one girl whose opinion truly mattered to him and she sat front row centre as the band played her favourite cover. Afterwards, everyone rushed off to supper but Heath and Kate had plans.
      As Heath packed away his guitar, the drummer, who fancied Kate, smiled at her.
     ‘Did you like your song, Kate? We played it especially for you…’
      Heath rolled his eyes, jealously. 
      ‘I more than enjoyed it,’ Kate replied but she was looking straight at Heath when she spoke.
     Heath had a good singing voice. He and his band were the coolest – some said most dangerous boys at school – by far. Although Kate was proud of Heath’s ability to assimilate, it had begun to annoy her to see other girls paying Heath so much attention and the last thing she wanted to do was let him know how great he was. That would create too much of an ego problem. 
      ‘I mean, it was better than okay,’ she covered.  
     ‘That was your song,’ Heath said.
       Kate couldn’t help but smile. Heath knew what she liked so well.
        Heath pretended not to care and smiled at Annabelle Hunt as she gathered her things, much to Kate’s annoyance.  Heath made sure Kate noticed how much Annabelle Hunt flirted with him. When he became bored with Annabelle’s conversation mid-sentence, Heath turned from her and walked over to demand Kate’s undivided attention.  Kate paused and glanced into Heath’s eyes. It was obvious to strangers they had a connection that went beyond words.
      When they were alone, Kate tugged at Heath’s shirt and gave him the lamb sandwich she’d made in the kitchen especially for him. They were having a roast today at the girl’s school and Kate knew it was Heath’s favourite. He thanked her, pulled off the lamb, wolfed it down then left the bread. Heath was always starving these days. It was as if none of the food he ate satisfied him.
     ‘C’mon, I also bought us tea…’ Kate had her flask and some more lamb and chicken wrapped in a satchel. Heath grimaced, but realised weak tea kept him hydrated. Kate was always trying to look after him, even though they’d be seeing each other less now that they were both studying for half-term finals.
      ‘You really did rock, Heath,’ she whispered, looking up at him when she said it.  He tried not to beam so hard.  He grew happy and less prideful under her gaze but he held back from saying what he wanted to say. Heath wanted to tell Kate Spencer how much he loved her but he couldn’t. If he told her, he felt sure that she would torture him, use it against him and tease him more than she usually did. It was in her nature to be both a chameleon and contrite. He wouldn’t say the words until he was sure she felt the same.
    They agreed to meet at the cottage to study for their exams. They enjoyed meeting up, just to read and talk like they used to when they lived in London.
    The cottage was a secret meeting place that had been used for decades by the students from both schools. Built into a stone wall that marked the outside gate of the shared sporting grounds, it could only be reached by running (or walking very quickly) far out of sight across the never ending playing fields and through a kind of dugout that led to an even more lush pasture.    
    The dwelling had been uninhabited for at least a decade. The hut had been built in the curve. High on the hill, it lay abandoned when no one had bothered to demolish it. Most of the students knew of its existence and it was the “go to” place for midnight feasts… and lover’s meetings.
    By the time Kate arrived, windswept and dishevelled, Heath had caught her up.
    The interior of the cottage had recently been renovated by teenagers. There was evidence of junk food and discarded games, posters tagged on walls, various blankets and duvets rolled into a cupboard, and a well-used fireplace. It was the perfect spot for a winter picnic.
  ‘Reminds me a little bit of Hampstead,’ Kate said, looking out the window.
  ‘Scotland reminds me of nothing in the South. It’s…lonelier…wilder,’ he said, rubbing his mouth when Kate couldn’t see. He suddenly needed his incisors filed but he wasn’t going to admit it. Only Heath could feel the sharp tips of the teeth inside his mouth, reminding him of his true nature.   Kate placed the food on the red checked table cloth over the low coffee table as Heath lit the fire. The boy hungrily demolished the roast chicken from Kate’s satchel as the girl looked on in amusement. She spread out the board game on the floor. The pair of them began playing Scrabble in their usual competitive way until Kate, bored with the game, messed up her side with the pieces tumbling across the floor amidst a cloud of laughter.
   ‘This is such a boring game,’ she said. ‘I’ve never understood why I can’t make up words… ’
    She leaned over towards him. Heath felt unexpectedly nervous, but tried to act cool.
   ‘What sort of words?’
   ‘Oh, you know. Words they don’t teach us at school…’ Kate smiled wickedly then changed the subject.
    ‘I am so bored with classes but I can’t wait to see your band perform tomorrow night. I miss Hampstead. I miss the glass house where we used to go… to hunt for food…and flowers…’
    Kate loved flowers. She’d even given Heath some edible ones once, when he was little, which he’d duly tried to eat. Kate rolled onto her back and stared up at the low beamed roof. Heath looked bashful. The fire flickered, creating artistic shadows of the pair on the inside of the cottage. 
    ‘I think we should play a different game…’  Kate said.
    Heath looked at Kate incredulously, as he turned the page of his History text. He hadn’t expected this.
    Kate reached over and stroked his hair. He could still feel the touch of her fingers, moments later. Overwhelmed, he took her hand in his and used all of his willpower to stop himself pulling her to him and fanging her. He didn’t want to mess things up with Kate before they were ready. Heath ached for her loveliness; she was part of him more than anything or anyone ever could be or would be. When he thought of his biological family, he was dismissive of them. He didn’t remember their faces. Besides, they had abandoned him when they discovered he was a bloodsucking freak; just as his friends would probably turn on him, if they knew the truth.
    He dropped his pen and changed the subject. ‘What…what are your plans for next year?’
    Kate laughed… ‘Okay, we’ll play your way. Let’s see, if I wasn’t going to be a famous painter, do you know what I’d be?’
    ‘I don’t,’ Heath replied as she plaited her hair into a braid.
    ‘Well, I love my horse so…I’d be a vet…and save the animals…’
    ‘You’d have to study hard for that,’ Heath said sarcastically, glancing back at the words on his page. 
    ‘What, don’t you think I’m capable?’
     Heath knew Kate could do anything she set her mind to, starting with gaining access to the school kitchen when he couldn’t, but it wouldn’t pay to compliment her right now. She was far more confident than he was.
     ‘It’s not that,’ he hedged. ‘I’m just not sure if you have the dedication,’ he replied, turning his head so she couldn’t see his smile.
      ‘Oh, you…’
       He reached over and caught her hand. Kate looked up at Heath with a devotion she quickly hid with words.
  ‘Let me get closer to the fire. It’s freezing in here…’ Kate said.
    Heath moved closer to her, closer to the flames which were weak, but turned and crackled forming a strong light. 
    Heath made the first move. He put his hand on Kate’s hair and she held his gaze.
    ‘Run away with me Kate.’
     Kate laughed.
    ‘When? Where to?’
    ‘When we’ve finished school, after we turn eighteen. We could go to Prague or Paris or Spain.’
    ‘What with?’     
   ‘We’ll get jobs…’
   ‘I can’t just abandon everything…my family…’
   ‘Apart from your father…they’ve abandoned us…
    Kate considered this for a moment.
    ‘I know. Harrison is…not to be trusted and mother lets him sign everything. He controls all her assets after she and father separated. She even signed half of the house into his name. Mother never did like responsibility.’ Kate reached out to Heath and he leant over and kissed her wrist, softly, again.
    Kate opened her eyes wide, suddenly seeing the future.
   ‘Yes, let’s do it. Let’s go to Spain. I’ll study art and design, though I once thought Paris might be the place for that. Never mind, I’m sure they have good design schools in Spain and you can…start a band… only we’ve no money, not a cent. It’s just a fantasy, Heath. Ten minutes in another country without a roof over our heads and we’d be fighting all the time. And…’
    ‘What?’ He wanted her to say it but she wouldn’t.
    ‘…and liking each other less…’
    ‘I could never like you less, Kate. There is no such possibility.’
    ‘Because I love you.’
     Kate liked it when he spoke like this, but it worried her. ‘I know,’ was all she said.
     What she should have said, and what she later regretted not saying was that she also loved him. It was obvious. Her journals were testament to this. Each one covering a year in their lives together, written in schoolgirl writing, with train tickets and photographs taken on her polaroid when Heath was least expecting it, pasted into the pages. She kept the most recent one hidden under her bed.  Her favourite photograph was one she took of Heath in his navy blue school blazer standing on the playing fields with a bemused look on his face, just as he realised she was the culprit – the school photo journalist.
     Kate glanced longingly at Heath after he’d kissed her again. She looked into his perfect eyes and felt the hard cut of his arm muscles. This boy, soon to be a man, was everything to her. He was her whole life, the male version of herself. She knew to be wary, though - family neglect had taught her this; not to let him know her entire being was his to do with as he pleased. Kate sat up and glanced down at her shoe, resolving to change the subject.
     Heath loved that about her - the two versions. In this version, Kate had fresh colour rising in her cheeks. He wanted to be closer to her, to touch the vein in her wrist, her neck, to kiss her lips, but he didn’t dare move.
     ‘I think you should take your studies more seriously, never mind about me. I could never love a man, who didn’t know at least as much as me,’ she joked as she packed up the chess pieces.
    ‘Well, then, there are a great many men for you to love,’ Heath replied with a raised eyebrow.
    ‘Oh, you…’ Kate threw one of the Scrabble pieces his way.
    Heath laughed in return, loving that he could get to her so easily.
    He had applied to various universities but he wasn’t sure what he wanted. Beyond Kate’s love, nothing. He’d gone through the motions, telling no one before now that he’d considered applying to Oxford.  He’d organised teachers he knew would give him good references and because his marks were flawless, he had a reasonable chance of being accepted. He just had to pass the interviews. He’d studied every evening when he wasn’t with Kate, and when he was, he studied late into the night. He wanted to achieve more than anyone he knew. More than anything, he wanted Kate to be proud of him.
    They read some more and fell asleep beside the fire. When they woke the next morning, fully clothed, wrapped together under a pile of blankets, it was morning.
   ‘C’mon,’ Kate said, dusting off bread crumbs from her skirt, ‘we don’t want to miss chapel or they will notice and maybe stop me going to the gig tonight. Someone could report us…’
    Heath rolled his eyes. ‘You mean Hunt…’   
    ‘Really, he’s not that bad. I think he wants to be your friend. Actually I think Annabelle is quite keen on you. You better be careful, Heath. Those secretive, silent girls are the worst with their little schoolgirl crushes…’
    ‘Is that what you have on me?’
    ‘Silly, I’m not the silent, secretive type…’ Kate said.
    It wasn’t the answer Heath wanted to hear.
    ‘Well, you never had to be…’
    Heath turned with the coat and handed Kate her scarf.
    ‘How can you joke like that Kate?’
    ‘What? I’m just kidding.’
    ‘How could you think there is anyone for me apart from you?’
    ‘I…I think you like me…too much. It will distract you from getting good marks in your finals.’
    ‘Am I hearing things? Listen to yourself Kate. I don’t “like” you too much. There is no “like” here.           
    Kate looked away, aware of the depth of her feelings for the handsome boy that stood opposite her. Over the past year, he’d grown a head taller than her. She had to look up in the morning half-light to meet his eyes. Again, she looked away.
    ‘Look at me Kate.’
    ‘I know most girls think you’re hot…’
     ‘Oh, so you’re saying you don’t?’
     ‘Those girls don’t know you, like I know you…’ Kate said slowly.  Before Kate was forced to answer, the door blew open as one of the younger students arrived, out of breath. ‘Come quick,’ he said, ‘… they’re taking the register. They know someone broke into the kitchen last night and stole some chickens and the headmaster is going ballistic…’
      Kate giggled while Heath grabbed their coats as they prepared to run. It would be wiser to attend roll call, or else it would be completely obvious they’d been out all night; and then Mr Spencer would be informed, or worse.