A/N: A modernized Wuthering Heights-one-shot done for English. Lots of time spent studying maps on Google Earth for it. It doesn't really have a plot though; mostly it's just random speculations. But I got a good grade for it so I'm happy.
Of course I can't make you review but if you do, I'll be extremely pleased.
Since my teacher read it, it shouldn't have many errors but I apologize if there are any.
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That's it! It's time to take matters into my own hands if I'm not to go stir crazy because of their stupidity and pigheadedness.
But forgive me, dear reader; I forgot my manners in all the irritation. Let me first tell you about myself and then I'll start at the beginning.
My name is Ellen Dean but please call me Nelly. I was born in the small town of Ilkley not far north of Halifax to very poor parents. Very early I was taken into foster care by a rather wealthy widower who lived on an excluded farm several miles away from town.
His name was Mr. Earnshaw and he had two young children, Hindley and Catherine, both younger than me. They were ten and two years old when their father took in another hapless child; a little boy he found on a trip to Ilkley. He was probably about Catherine's age, with a dark skin complexion and black curly hair. We were going to call him Cunliffe because he was found on Cunliffe Road but Catherine couldn't say it correctly so instead we just called him Cliff.
Who knows what made Mr. Earnshaw adopt him? Perhaps he felt that after his wife's passing, he hadn't been the greatest father to his children and now he was trying to make amends with the little orphan. At any rate, Hindley was not pleased with the attention Cliff got at his expense so he bullied him most of their childhood.
We were home schooled for the first years but then when Hindley went to a public school things temporarily got better –except that Mr. Earnshaw became very isolated and distant. Post-trauma-depression, I should think, after losing his wife.
With Hindley gone, friendship blossomed between Cliff and Catherine. They ran about, neglected their studies and pulled pranks on every unfortunate soul that crossed their path. For instance, I remember one time they mixed white pepper with the sugar Mr. Earnshaw and I used in our tea. Another time, they managed to capture five live wasps into a jar which they then released in the cabinet under the stairs where the washing tools and vacuum were kept and when the woman, who always came to clean the house, opened it… well, Mr. Earnshaw had to find a new cleaning lady.
Because of this isolation, the two rascals retained their childish 'innocence' longer than most of their peers and the awkwardness of adolescence was lost on them. But eventually, Mr. Earnshaw realised he needed help to work out his problems so we relocated to Halifax and went to public school –i.e. not Mr. Earnshaw, of course; He just went to a therapy.
In school, Catherine befriended a girl called Isabella Linton. I don't know much about this time from first hand experience as I was starting at the University of Huddersfield at the time but both Catherine and Cliff have told me enough to know, more or less. Adolescence finally kicked in and things got awkward. Apparently, Catherine's social circle didn't approve of Cliff for some reason and she –crumbling under peer pressure, I suppose –ceased to communicate with him, at least in public.
She and her friends strutted around in all their vanity, always looking like they had stepped out of the pages of Vogue, rarely seen without a shopping bag in hand and everybody admired them.
Meanwhile, Cliff cut himself off from everyone and buried himself in his studies, using his repressed anger to fuel his drive to excel. He graduated with top grades and went to London Business School. Cathy, on the other hand, repeatedly flunked her classes and was stuck in Halifax.
They both contacted me frequently to get news of one another and in my vacations from pedagogy studies, when I went to visit them, all they could talk about was Catherine this and Cliff that.
Catherine decided not to go to university but she was fortunate enough to get a job at a fashion store. She works there still and has an on-and-off relationship with Edgar Linton, Isabella's brother. Cliff, however, has finished university with a master's degree in business administration and marketing and now works for an investment company in London (I became a teacher at a primary school here in Halifax, if you want to know).
They haven't spoken to each other in person for three years and for all that time I've been some sort of a middleperson in their interaction. Recently, they've been bombarding me with questions about each other's personal lives. Ever since Catherine nervously announced to me that Edgar was pressing her for a 'level update' in their relationship (which I decipher as 'matrimony' in more conventional language), I must remember every word she says about the subject to repeat to Cliff when he calls me and demands to know what the status is –currently, rather irresolute –or if she has given Edgar an answer.
Then, the other day, I was at a teachers' convention, listening to a very interesting lecture about attention-deficit disorder when my mobile began ringing loudly (well, I guess someone would say it's my fault for forgetting to put it on 'silent' but that's not the point!). I blushed crimson as everybody stared at me and while I had to dig for the mobile in my bag –which took a good long while –and run out of the room into the hallway, it never stopped ringing. -And to my further mortification the Rolling Stones' 'Satisfaction' was my ringtone. I'm positive I saw that man who sits in front of me (James Wood, was it? –I can't remember), shaking with laughter.
The caller turned out to be Catherine. She was in panic because Edgar had –once again -been enquiring about her answer to his proposal. You'd think a fella could take a hint, after four times of receiving: 'I'll think about it.'
I don't know where Cliff gets his information from but, coincidence or not, he called me that very night and told me he was in town and then asked –as usually –about Catherine. I couldn't really tell him anything new; she was still undecided and that calmed him for the time being. Then I made some enquiries about his business in town and the duration and location of his stay. After I had hung up, I began my planning.
Because I had just about had it with those two.
I don't believe I will be punished in the afterlife even though I lied a little -but I never would have gotten them to come if each hadn't thought the other had caved in.
Now, finally –Finally! –this wretched long-lasting strife will be solved, if all goes as I hope.
A few minutes ago the doorbell rang and since I had been waiting at the door, I was quick to let Catherine into my tidy, little flat.
"Well," she huffed as a greeting and swung her over-sized designer handbag over her shoulder before continuing: "Let's get this over with," and failed miserably to sound impatient and indifferent.
"Yeah…uh…Cliff isn't here yet," I said.
Catherine pouted at me. "I thought he was 'so desperate to see me.'"
"Well…ah…eh… he-he probably got lost; he doesn't know Huddersfield so well," I improvised. I'm such a pathetic liar.
"Uh-huh, let me know when he comes," she said, dismissing me like a servant and sailed into my living room. I winced at the sound of her stilettos clicking on the parquet until I heard that she was out on the balcony. Perfect.
–And now I'm waiting for Cliff –ah, there goes the bell!
Soon, Cliff is inside and I'm rather startled. The last time I saw him, he always wore hooded sweatshirts over his long, untrimmed hair and tried to make himself look as invisible as he could but now here he is –the size of the bleeding Eiffel tower, impeccable black hair, so short that now his dark brown eyes really stand out from under thick brows. He is wearing black suit with a tie and has his long coat neatly folded on his arm but his lips seem to be permanently pursed into a scornful pout and I can just picture the smug sneer it would turn into if the sides of his mouth stretched a bit upwards.
"Good evening, Nelly. How are you?" he greets formally and I know he has no interest in the answer, his eyes are already skimming around for the subject of his real interest.
"She's out on the balcony," I answer his other question, the one he didn't ask verbally. "She's been waiting anxiously for you," and I don't think I am lying. "This way."
I show him the way into the living room and from there he finds his way to the small balcony.
"Good evening, Catherine," I hear him greet her in the same formal manner, his voice deep and smooth. I suddenly feel strangely excited. "Well then. What did you wish to talk to me about?"
"Me?" she repeats, sincerely aghast. "What are you talking about? You asked to see me."
"That is not true," his formal tone falters a little.
-"You said that 'you couldn't bear the agitation of not hearing my voice for so long'."
-"Those words never came from my mouth."
-"And you said you 'had to stop me from making the biggest mistakes of my life that would ruin us both'."
All right, so I went a little overboard with the drama.
-"I said no such thing!"
-"Well, you must have even if you can't admit it now!"
-"I did not."
-"Did n… I refuse to be drawn into this ridiculous farce of a conversation. If you have nothing sensible to say then I have no business here."
-"Well, if you said none of that, then how did Nelly…"
A deadly silence follows the dawning realisation.
Blast! Bugger! Bloody bollocks! I scramble for the door with my heart in my throat and manage to wrench it shut and lock it before Cliff gets a proper hold of the handle. And now there are four dark eyes lividly staring me down through the glass.
"Nelly," his voice is smooth as ever and I hear it through a slightly open window next to the door, "You know I can break down the door."
"You wouldn't. You're not that desperate to lose your company," I say more confidently than I feel.
Cliff turns away from the door with a low growl. He leans out of the railing and looks around. "No fire ladders?" I hear him murmur.
Catherine sighs heavily and sits down on a plastic chair in the corner of the balcony. "You're being childish, Nelly," she rebukes me.
Oh, I'm being childish? I won't even grace that hypocrisy with an answer.
On hearing no sound from me, she pulls up a book from her bag and tries to read even though is a dark, chilly, autumn evening.
Cliff stands still as a shadow, his arms dangling over the railing while Catherine sits with her long, slender legs crossed and the book on her knee and for a while it looks like they're not going to use this perfect opportunity I've given them.
The silence is tense. It's a war of wills and I know how competitive they both are.
Cliff gives in first. He turns around. "What are you reading?" he asks softly.
Catherine doesn't look up, her long, dark, curly hair covering her face. "Nothing. An 19th century romance novel. You'd hate it."
She looks up. "You always hated romance novels."
He shrugs. "Because they all ended badly."
"I mean, if they ended happily they were usually clichéd and soppy but if they ended sadly they were cruel and unfair," he says.
She rolls her eyes. "How else could they end?"
He pauses for a minute. "I don't know. Maybe it's just that… things that used to be surprising -everything has become so predictable. If there could be a middle way between happy and sad…" his thoughts are coming out in a disorganised way that makes no sense so he gives up.
A moment later he tries to initiate another conversation.
"So… which kind of a story would we be in?"
-"Happy or sad, you mean?"
She thinks. "I don't know. I don't think there is a place for us in this kind of stories. It seems to me that they only have two types of love; the romantic type and the noble type. It's kind of like what you were saying; the stories with the happy endings usually have the romantic love and the sad one have the noble love. The romantic lovers will be with each other at any cost whereas the noble lovers will sacrifice their love for a greater purpose."
"Like in Casablanca?"
She chuckles. "Yes, something like that."
-"Which were Romeo and Juliet then?"
She ponders again. "They thought they were being romantic but then they turned out to be noble," she replies after some thought.
"You don't think we could have that kind of story?" he persists.
She shakes her head. "Impossible. You'd be a poor, classless orphan and I'd be a rich man's daughter and you'd be my servant and we wouldn't be allowed to play together."
-"Sounds like good love story material to me."
-"And then we'd be frustrated because of our differences and we'd take it out on each other. Then you'd die a horrible death in a duel with my rich and handsome but purely evil suitor."
-"Not a chance."
-"Besides, you're far too dark and scary. They weren't very tolerant with devilish gypsy-offspring such as yourself back then," Catherine grins.
"They weren't tolerant with big-mouthed women either," Cliff shoots back.
-"And your name is too curt to fit any decent romance; you'd have to be renamed; Heathcliff."
"What? Heathcliff? That's not even a name. And what would my last name be, I wonder? Hillmound?" he says at the same time as she suggests:
-"Hillbluff –No! I know! Hillslobe."
At that point they are bursting out laughing and the sound is so endearing, I feel my own mouth twitch. The laughter fades but the silence is no longer tensed.
"I never thought I'd have time like this with you again," Catherine confesses.
"We probably owe Nelly one," Cliff agrees.
"Don't let her hear that or we'll never hear the end of it," Catherine warns.
I smile to myself. Oh, no, certainly not. You can count on it.
"Cathy," Cliff suddenly sounds agitated. "This Edgar-fellow… What's he like?"
"He's like…" Catherine sighs deeply. "He's like one of those romance novels."
"He can't surprise you?"
-"He tries but he has become so consistent with his surprises that they've become predictable."
-"But… do you really want to be surprised?"
-"You couldn't surprise me either, Cliff," she answers, catching his train of thoughts.
-"Would you need that? If I…"
-"If you what? If you just loved me with all your heart, wouldn't it be enough? I don't know. Things rarely ever work out that way. I always thought it was going to be just like that when I was younger but what happened?"
-"You changed," Cliff says in a low voice.
-"I changed? So what? Why couldn't you change with me?"
-"Those people fawned upon you and… there was no space for me."
There is a pointed pause.
"Wait… you're saying you changed just to see how I would react?" Cliff asks incredulously.
Huh? Pardon? What did I miss?
"No, I'm saying I adjusted but would it have killed you to stand up and fight a little?" Catherine asks back in an icy tone.
For a second it sounds like Cliff is crying. But that can't be so these must be wheezes of fury.
"You wasted all our teenage years to provoke me?"
-"No. You wasted them on sulking. I gave up and moved on," she moans in resignation. "Oh, see? This is why we don't work. Our tempers are too alike. We'd drive each other mad."
Cliff ignores this. "When I tried to reach out to you, you avoided me every chance you got or you just laughed. You practically said you were ashamed of me. So how can you say I didn't fight when you didn't look? And what resources did I have? I couldn't challenge my rivals to a duel or run off with their sisters to stain their family honour or whatever it was they used to do. You didn't leave me a choice."
My goodness. How do they make it so complicated?
"For the crying out loud!" I explode at them through the window. "You make it all sound like you're some epic lovers in a tragedy where nobody can question their decisions or start over. Yes, if you were born in the 18th century you probably wouldn't be able to go back and make up; pride would forbid you. But you're living in the 21st century and you have all the options in the world; you have girlfriends and boyfriends that don't necessarily need to become wife and husband, break-ups and make ups, rash weddings in Las Vegas and divorces the next day. You're equal, despite differences in ethnicity, education and gender and you have the freedom of choice -so use it and get the hell over yourselves!"
Blast! My mobile is ringing. Where is it? Ah! There!
"Hello? Nelly? Oi, listen, I'm sorry to call so late but I had to before I lost me nerve so…Oh, I'm sorry, it's James," a rushed, noticeably nervous voice says.
My silence probably equals a blank stare.
"James Lockwood… From the convention the other day…"
Oh! The funny one.
"Yeah, hi, can I help you?"
"Well, eh, I was wondering if you were busy… if you wanted to go out, grab a drink or go for a walk or…ah… something," he finishes rather lamely.
But as it happens, I'm in the mood for some fun so we plan a meeting in about half an hour. I quickly put on better clothes and apply a little make-up and find my purse and what am I forgetting? Oh, yes, my two hostages. I hurry to the balcony door and unlock it, wondering if they reached some sort of conclusion.
"You know, instead of thinking 'Who loves whom more?' your main concern should be that you're legally siblings and your relationship would be incestuous," I say absently as I bustle to the front door but leave the other door open.