Chapter Eighteen

London

Kate whispered in his ear, before he'd disappeared into the night, 'I'll pretend to go along with his plan - three months from now. The twenty-eighth like we planned.'

He kissed her forehead and fled.

Heath's disappearance was a mystery. Where a body had lain in the dark only mist seeped through the glass house as the solitary, crying girl was dragged forcibly back to Hareton Hall and then packed off to Switzerland.

The streets of Soho had been very cold at one am - summer, winter or any other season. It had been two days since he had been shot during his transition (and revived). When he fled Hampstead, after Kate was dragged from him, after she'd whispered the time and date of their wedding, he was speechless. Intent on survival, he disappeared into the Hampstead mist. Heath gorged himself on squirrels and hoped it would tide him over until he could get in to see his specialist, Dr Vincent.

Driving back to The Hall, Harrison was sure he'd seen the last of Heath. Although he suspected a vampire variation, he was sure he'd imagined, in his near drunken stupor, the events that had occurred in the early hours of that morning. It was, of course, Heath's eighteenth birthday. As midnight bells rang out, Heath was becoming immortal, shy of sunlight, wary of mirrors and gradually non-existent in photographs. Fearful of dawn and what he might do, the rest would evolve instinctively, over time. He would forge his own path.

After Kate was sent kicking and screaming to Switzerland, Heath's fees were withdrawn as Harrison had promised and the school was notified that Heath would not be returning.

Meanwhile, Heath's friends from Scotland were in school and he had no local acquaintances in Hampstead or the surrounding boroughs and even if he did, he wanted to get as far away from what he remembered of his childhood, as he could. He had the small amount of money he'd saved from running his school fixtures racket (and winning), as well as the cash Kate had placed in her letter.

'I do remember that,' Greta laughed and then let the story continue as if telling itself…

Heath had a small amount of cash plus the money Harrison had given him "what remained of his father's wish", as a "do not return gift" - one hundred pounds – an insult. It was a great deal less than he'd actually been owed; and none of the legacy left to him by his adopted father.

Heath used the money for supplies. He then spent the second night after riding the tube and sleeping rough in St James Park, in a backpacker's hostel near the West End. He now had real empathy for the homeless and resolved that when he became rich and powerful he would help those less fortunate.

As Heath was transitioning, his body was changing inside, but he never gave up hope that he would land on his feet. He was almost glad to be free of Harrison and The Hall but it was Kate's promise of love that kept him going through those cold, desperate nights.

On the third morning he emptied his pockets and realised just how short of cash he would be, once he'd put down a payment on a room for the week. He went to stay with the older brother of one of his school team mates but it soon became clear after a few nights that he couldn't hide his needs from that family and he'd outstayed his welcome. He slept in the park again but it was freezing. The humanity left in him ensured he still felt very cold.

By now, he'd managed to see his specialist, who'd commiserated with him and congratulated him on his eighteenth birthday. The tests showed a major change in his chemical make-up and it would take a few days for his medication to settle his imbalance. Heath still saw his own reflection in the mirror, still ate food and continued to try to live as normal a life as possible. He slept in more than he used to, the craving for human blood was stronger. The promise of Kate was enough, and all he survived for.

Heath was sufficiently recovered from the first step in his transformation. He'd experienced all of the symptoms: major light sensitivity, pain raging through his veins so badly that he curled up under a tree in St James Park and whimpered in daylight, cravings, chills and sweats. He found a tiny bedsit room in Soho. It wasn't long before he discovered, along with the bad side-effects of transition, that he'd developed the power to move quicker and think faster. He could literally see a massive series of complex numbers and add them up to get the correct result. His mathematics skills had always been excellent but now they were computer-like in their accuracy.

Heath resolved to find a job, perhaps two. He could always work in a restaurant, and then look for something else that would utilize his other skills.

He'd always been good at mathematics at school but now his mind worked like a computer. He thought working in a bank might be a good direction to take. He would apply for an entry level job that required no formal qualifications. First, he needed some fast cash since he'd nearly used up all he had. London was a huge place and although young and now partially a vampire, he did not allow this to deter him. Heath went to a hotel and merged so quickly through the lobby that they didn't notice his trip to the men's room. He used the shower and towels and cleaned himself up. He went outside and walked towards Piccadilly via Regent Street and into Soho, leaving his name at various cafes and pubs along the way.

Although he had no experience, someone was sure to need a kitchen hand. As long as the fumes from the cooking didn't get the best of him, he thought he might actually enjoy working with food. He realised, at least for the moment, night work would be best.

The first time he'd walked out in broad daylight (and London was mostly overcast, even in summer), his skin crackled, far worse than it had when he was a child. Then, he realised he'd forgotten to wear his medallion. He placed it around his neck after that, never taking it off, realising it contained the power to help him live a relatively normal life.

After he'd secured a job in a café, he applied for a job as office cleaner in one of the huge banks in the City. It wasn't much but both jobs gave Heath hope.

Meanwhile, he studied the stock market, hoping to one day make enough money to put a deposit on a flat. In those weeks, applying to finish school by correspondence, (something Heath once planned to do), went by the wayside.

It was during this transition phase in his life that he turned a corner one day and walked straight into Annabelle Hunt, rugged up in a cherry red overcoat exiting the building where her Soho art class was held. Displaying a previously unrecognised knack for rebellion, Annabelle had insisted on attending day school in London so she could go to Art classes at college in the evening. Her family had relented because Annabelle had so rarely been passionate about anything (apart from Heath) in her young life. As the girl had turned eighteen she had some say in the matter.

'Anyway,' Annabelle said, 'school was so lame once you and Kate were gone. There was no one interesting to talk to at all, except my brother, and he's hardly exciting.' Annabelle added in a rare display of personality as they sat together in the student coffee shop where Annabelle had insisted on dragging Heath.

Heath nodded. 'Ah, something we both agree on,' he added sarcastically.

Annabelle smiled self-consciously.

Heath had been resistant to sit with her at first, but strangely, seeing Annabelle reminded him of Kate, and talking to her was like old times.

'You look so different,' Annabelle said, peering into his eyes. Heath looked away.

'I have her address, you know,' Annabelle added as she stuffed her contact details into Heath's palm and kissed him on both cheeks in her European way. Heath agreed to stay in touch and that is how Annabelle became Heath's unlikely ally.

In his spare moments, Heath studied the stock markets. He learned a lot from the discarded ledgers thrown in the waste paper baskets he emptied at the firm where he worked on week nights.

After working in a pub during the day, he managed to put a deposit on a tiny bedsit. The plan was to save enough money to finish school at a Sixth Form College the following term then fill out his university entrance forms for the next year.

Annabelle had contact with Kate through mutual school friends and reconnected with Heath to let him know she would be delivering the cards and letters Kate posted to him, care of her. These postcards would have gone "missing" if they'd been posted from Switzerland because Kate was not allowed to send mail to anyone that Harrison, her guardian, hadn't agreed to. The "society" Hunts, were on his list.

Surprisingly, Annabelle had agreed to act as a go-between for the lovers. Heath hoped Kate would go to university with him. Although he knew she had her heart set on Art School in Florence, London was 'a better option' she had written, 'considering their finances.' Heath smiled when he read her note, as Annabelle looked on pensively. She quite liked playing the go-between. It suited her surprisingly humble nature, Heath thought, underestimating her, not for the first time. He knew Kate would be making the best of a presumably bad situation in Switzerland and he worked away the days before he'd get the chance to see her again. They re-confirmed the date of their rendezvous in their letters.

Sleeping rough in St James, hunting squirrels for food - those days were a distant memory - yet hard living had almost suited him.

He was young, verging on immortal. He could easily stay out all night and work all day but he rarely spoke to other people nor was he interested in other girls. He'd taken Kate's red scarf; she'd left it in the stables in a rush, and now Heath kept it in his pocket. The wool was warm and smelt of her perfume.

His own bedsit, although grungy, was like a palace to Heath after the turmoil of Hareton Hall. In preparation for Kate's visit, Annabelle had insisted on buying lengths of material and decorating the windows. Occasionally, she wondered what it would have been like had Heath returned her infatuation at school but her new boyfriend, Toby, was good for her. He was also studying Art History. She knew she was in a better place with a man who could reciprocate her feelings. It was enough, she thought, just to be near Heath but Annabelle did not underestimate how important his new friendship was to her.

Heath was excited as the day drew nearer. He walked past the place Kate had arranged to meet him many times that week. On the second occasion he was sure he'd seen her, but then the girl turned around and her eyes were nothing like those of the woman he loved. Kate had promised him. Kate would be there. Promises were everything. A promise was all they had. The walls of his room were pasted with the old-fashioned post cards Kate had sent him every day for a week.

Through all of this, Annabelle had been the conduit. A secretive message relayed from a secret meeting in St James Park. She had even tried to stuff money in Heath's pocket while he waited for his first pay cheque. It was enough to give Heath and Kate hope since neither of them had telephones and the internet was barely in use.

The sun shone in London as Heath waited for Kate and their reunion drew near. He'd been holding down two jobs and with a roof over his head, was filled with hope for the future.