Burnt Heart

New writing project to tide over the lack of updates for my other two . . .

None fantasy, modern day Beauty and the Beast style story.

Abigayle Hartley is a university graduate with an MA in art, but is currently unemployed and needs a place to live, since her parents have decided that it's about time she makes her own way in life and stop relying on them. When a advertisement for a room to let in a private stately home comes up on offer, it's instantly hard to resist, and after talking and e-mailing the housekeeper she quickly snaps on the offer.

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3. Two

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two

 

 

“. . . And you thought the lions were bad, well they tried to kill my brothers, and for every king that died, oh they would crown another . . .” I sing, somewhat badly, along to Daniel in the Den by Bastille over the gorgeous voice of Dan Smith.

    Both my mother and father are out—they both have a day off work, so I’d badgered them into going on a day-long date out to wherever whilst I stay at home and sing and dance (both awfully) and treat myself to a mini feast of an arrangement of unhealthy food.

    So right now I’m spinning around my room, the music track changed to The Animal Song by Savage Garden because I have my songs on iPod shuffle, singing into a hairbrush the way I used to when I was much younger. Except when I was younger I was usually be wearing my mother’s dresses and trying to act like a grown-up whilst I danced and sang, whereas now I’m parading around in only my lingerie with my hair tied up in a ponytail. Well, I’m home alone so why not dance in knickers and a bra? I, personally, don’t see why not. Besides, it’s what I always do when I’m home alone—just, if I’m downstairs then of course the blinds are shut.

    My room is an odd shape; straight across from my doorway is my bed, a daybed on a slightly raised platform, and to the left of that is the door to my walk-in wardrobe. Down the room to the right is the door to my en-suite, down the right of the wall with my bed is a little turn-in to my balcony which overlooks our small courtyard and garden, and also has views of the river and beach.

    There’s a mix-match feel to my room in regards to my furniture choices, with no two pieces matching. The walls are a lilac colour, with the exception of my bed wall which is papered with a print of a repeating pattern of the Eiffel Tower. Shelves line each wall, each one covered in books and ornaments. My desk is by the door, my cluttered dressing table by the side of my bed in the corner. There are art supplies strewn over the floor.

    I have my music on loud enough that I don’t hear someone knocking away at the front door, but instead it takes whoever to throw the pebbles from the driveway at my balcony window. Someone must really want my attention. I immediately stop dancing and run to the window, but realising I’m still only in my underwear I wrap one of my curtains around myself before opening the window. The chill of the not-quite-spring air slides its icy fingers over my bare arms.

    Jack’s stood in the courtyard near my beloved Mini, staring up at me.

    “The doors open,” I call down. “Just come up.”

    He nods in answer and I faintly hear the door click open and closed. I turn down my music a notch, just for conversation purposes, but it’s still loud enough that if my neighbours we’re in they’d come round complaining about the volume. I blame the concerts and festivals I’ve been to for my love of loud music.

    I shut my window and drape the curtains back over it. I don’t bother getting dressed, mostly because I know Jack wouldn’t stare, but also I’m pretty sure that when we’ve been plastered one time I ran around the house in less—or so he and Di say, I, personally, don’t remember. Still so glad my parents had been away that weekend.

    “OneRepublic,” I hear Jack say, referring to yet another track change. “Nice!”

    I turn to see him stood in the doorway, still wearing his coat and scarf. “It’s on shuffle; it will probably change to a song from Les Mis next.”

    “You’re obsessed with that musical.”

    “No, I’m not,” I say defensively, consciously side-shuffling in front of my half-a-wall of photographs and posters from both the West End musical and the recent film adaptation. “I’ve seen the production four times, and the film I watch at least once a month.  And my copy of the book is just a little worse for wear.” 

    “Just an . . . avid fan, then?”

    I nod.

    “By the way, do you mind not parading around in lingerie?”

   I stick my tongue out of him and move over to my chest of drawers, pulling out a pair of jeans and a Doctor Who top, and shrug both of the articles of clothing on. “You’re gay, so I’m not a distraction. Better now?”

    “Yes. And I must say, I appreciate the image on your top.”

    I glance at my top in the reflection of my full-length mirror, realising with a lump that I was wearing my Eleventh Doctor’s top. “I’m still not over last Christmas’s special.”

    “I never would have guessed.”

    I shake my head to dash away my thoughts.

    “By the way, since when did you waltz in skimpy lace?”

    I shrug. “Since I got body confident. But I only do this when I’m home alone, and never naked.”

    “When did this breakthrough happen?”

    “A couple of months after I called it off with Scott,” I say, re-tying my hair back up.

    “Ah, Scott,” Jack murmurs, half-to-himself I guess. “Human-sized talking arse. I remember him well . . . those abs!”

    I pick up a throw cushion from the floor and hurl it, hitting him in the face with such a force that he’s knocked backwards on my bed. “Don’t you daydream about my dick of an ex. Not that I care, but I’m sure Marcus would be offended.”

    Jack throws the cushion to his side and sits back up, a smirk on his face. “Marcus isn’t here; instead he’s busy working—bless him.”

    “And you’re here because?”

    “My mum let me have the day off work—I’ll tell you, it’s still weird to be working at her business, it’s turning into a family affair.” Jack’s mother is the owner and manager of the nearby lodge park, a successful and profitable place which my mother helped design. Jack helps out with the activities on offer there, from rock wall climbing and archery, to golf and being a pool lifeguard. “And I did tell you I was coming round today, for a catch up.”

    “I didn’t hear you properly when you shouted whilst I was leaving, I thought you had said you were coming here but I wasn’t sure.”

    “You should learn to listen.”

    “You should learn to tell me things before I leave!”

    “Touché.” He collapses back down on my bed, before taking something out of his pocket and throwing it at me. “I brought you something,” he says as the paper hit me in the face.

    “Ouch!” I mutter, hoping I haven’t now received any paper cuts on my face—I will not be happy about that. I pick the rolled paper up from the floor and unravel it. “Wow, you brought me an article on a stately home, how thoughtful of you—I’ll go put it in the box labelled ‘Stately Home Collection’.”

    “You have one of those, don’t you?”

    I nudge a box on the floor behind me with my foot. “Nope, of course I don’t. Don’t be stupid!”

    Jack raises his eyebrows. “Sure, I believe you.”

    I take occupancy of my spinning chair in front of my computer desk, and spin so that I’m facing Jack. “So, why on earth have you given me an article about a Stately Home?”

    “It’s not strictly-speaking an article. Read it.”

    I grab my reading glasses off of my desk and push them up on my nose so that I’m able to read what it said. “So, you’ve given me a property to let page? Or, more correctly—a room to let?”

    “In a Stately Home.”

    “Jack,” I say, when I finally realise what it is he’s actually getting at. “The idea is great but—”

    “You’ve always said you wanted to live in a Stately Home, I just thought . . .”

    “I wouldn’t be able to afford it, I don’t have a proper job—my art only sells for between twenty and ninety pound and I only receive half of the profit.”

    “You could get a job in the nearest town or something.”

    I raise my eyebrows. “Are you trying to get rid of me?”

    “Of course I am—I didn’t want to tell you but you kind of bore me and I hate you.”

    I smile. “I hate you too.”

    “I’m glad we established that.”

    I bring up my knees so that I rest my heels on the edge of my chair, and rest my crossed lower arms on my knees. “I don’t even know where this Roderick Hall is.”

    “It does say it’s south of Bodmin.”

    “Nearest town?”

    “Well . . .” He takes the paper from me and skid reads it again. “Lanlivery and Lanivet, but they’re actually parish villages.”

    “I . . . I have to say I’ve never heard of either. I’ve probably passed through them, but I’ve never paid attention.”

    “They are only small.”

    “That probably explains why,” I mutter, half to myself. “I’ll tell you what, I’ll make a phone call and enquire.”

    He lurches forward and places a hand on my shoulder, lowering his face to look me in the eye. “I care only for your happiness.”

    “You just want to get rid of me? I don’t see why—you’ll be lost without the perfect fabulousness that is moi!”

    He furrows his eyebrows in question, in a ‘yeah, yeah, sure’ expression. “I’m sure I’ll survive. I’ll just find another half-Chinese, half-Scottish woman to be my best friend—you’re easily disposable!”

    I put my hand over my heart and feigned shock. “You know how to break my heart, don’t you?”

    “Yes. I’m very cruel and evil. Now,” he says before tumbling off of my bed and onto the platform on his knees, reaching down for one of the boxes in a line by the front of it. He picks up the one that both he and I know contains all of my DVDs. “I say we have a lazy DVD day.”

 

+

 

Ten minutes later, after raiding the kitchen for all snacks and sweets, we lounge across the L-corner sofa as I skip through the host of trailers that come with all DVD discs on the 52” flat screen. There are bags of popcorn and crisps and sweets strewn across the top of the coffee table, as well as cans of Cola and my entire collection of Marvel DVDs. Which is a highly extensive collection.

    I always say I will castrate any man who dares to say that I only watch Marvel films because of the actors, that may be a tiny amount true but I don’t have a stack of comics in various boxes for nothing—some belonged to my father, like hand-me-downs, but the majority I’d bought myself.

    “Ugh, I’m going to get home a stone heavier at this rate,” Jack says, gesturing wide with a hand to the assortment of the table. He’s laid out across the right side of the sofa, his feet on my lap as I’m nestled in the corner, with a large bag of Doritos on his chest.

    “You need it, willow boy,” I murmur, leaning forward to grab a can of Cola.

    “Hey!” he remarks, swatting me in the arm with a cushion, hard enough that Cola splashed onto my top.

    “Hey to you too! You’ve just ruined my top!”

    “You have plenty of others.”

    “I only have two other Doctor Who ones, and this is my favourite!”

    “Go change into one of your tops from another fandom.”

    I huff and knock his feet off my lap to stand up, placing my can on the table and pausing the movie with the remote. “No watching the film until I come back down. And if I can’t get the Cola out of this top, I will end you!”

 

After chucking my top in the washing machine and running upstairs to put another one on, a Game of Thrones one this time, I race back downstairs and walk back into the living room. Jack is staring at the still paused TV, munching away on popcorn now.

    “What, did you finish that whole bag of Doritos or something?” I ask, skirting around the coffee table and taking back residence of my spot of the sofa.

    “No, it’s over there—look,” he replies and points to the bag in front of him. I roll my eyes. He glances over at me and murmurs, “Hear me roar” before imitating a lion’s roar.

    “You’re an idiot.”

    “You’re wearing your House Lannister top, and you know I do a lion’s roar every time you wear it.”

    “Yes, and it’s very annoying.”

    Jack laughs and shrugs. “You should wear your House Tyrell or House Targaryen one around me then.”

    “I’m sworn to House Lannister on Game of Thrones: Ascent.”

    “I know. I’m sworn to House Greyjoy.”

    “Not my most favourite House. But, of course, no one can ever be as bad as the Frey’s or the Boltons.”

    “I know,” he says, “it’s part of why I chose Greyjoy.”

    I roll my eyes and settle back down as I press the play button and the movie resumes, and place a finger to my lip to tell Jack to keep shush.

 

+

 

Five hours later, two-and-a-half movies in (we are still watching Captain America: The First Avenger) my parents arrive home. Jack and I are still sprawled across the sofa, both completely focused on the TV as Steve wakes up in the 21st Century (though I had been crying over Bucky and I’m pretty sure Jack is staring at biceps that Steve Roger’s top cannot contain, which I’m secretly staring at too), when they enter the room and my mother shrieks at the mess we’ve made. I start and spring up onto my feet, realising that, yes, the room is a little messy, and also the end credits to Captain America are rolling.

    “Hi,” I say. “I wasn’t expecting you back so early . . . what time is it?”

    “Six,” my mum mutters.

    Jack glances up at and, realising that my parents are stood in the doorway, stands up. “Oh, hi. Um . . . I should really be getting home.”

    “Nonsense,” my mother smiles, “we bought takeout, enough for all four of us.”

    “What takeout?”

    “Chinese,” my father says, his faint Scottish accent prominent. “Since the oven and hob are broke.”

    I feel myself grin when my dad waves the large bag in the air. “You better have bought me some Dongpo pork.”

    “And dumplings.”

    “And, of course, noodles and stir fry,” my mum murmurs.

    “Hell yeah,” Jack and I say at the same time.

 

+

 

Jack left after we’d eaten. Well, my father had given him a lift because Jack had come on the bus instead of in his mother’s car. Jack doesn’t drive often. After I’d taken a shower and changed into my winter pyjamas, snowflake print pyjama lounge bottoms and a plain black top, I’d come back downstairs and tidied the living room before plonking down in my section of the sofa with my tatty copy of Jane Eyre.

    “Have you had any more thought on living accommodation?” my mother asks as she sits down in the tub chair near the bay window.

    I place my book spine down on my lap and roll my neck, looking over at her. “I have, actually. I’ve found somewhere.”

    She perks up at that. “Really? Is it a house? An apartment?”

    Um . . .

    “It’s neither of those,” I admit, shifting in my seat so that my legs are tucked beneath me. “It’s more of . . . a room, really.”

    “A room?” She doesn’t look impressed. “In like a shared house or . . .?”

    I run a hand through my hair. “Well, I guess you could say that . . .”

    My mother narrows her eyes in suspicion at me. I just sigh.

    “It’s a bedroom in a Stately Home, a room to let. Now, I know what you’re thinking. It’s owned by strangers. What if the owners are actually mass-murdering psycho’s? What if they’re members of a satanic cult? What if they’re cannibals? What if they don’t have Wi-Fi? What if they don’t like Marvel?” Because, let’s face it, I’ll die if the last one is true.

    She’s silent for a few moments before saying, “All those we’re . . . sensible questions, and then came the Wi-Fi.”

    “Wi-Fi is very important when it comes to my wellbeing. How else am I gonna illegally watch films and TV shows?”

    “I did not raise my daughter to illegally watch films and TV shows.”

    “No,” I say, a smile twitching at my lips. “Society did. And this conversation has gone off course—I am going to phone the number of this home tomorrow morning and ask several questions.”

    “The first of which will probably be ‘is it haunted?’”

    “Oh, hell yeah. I ain’t staying somewhere where I’ll wake up in the night and there’ll just be someone stood at the end of my bed.”

    My mother let out an exasperated sigh and drops her head into her hands. “Of all the things,” she mumbles, “you’re worried about ghosts.”

    “I am highly superstitious.”

    “And don’t I know it.”

    I grin and glance at the TV before looking at my mother again. “Can I put X-Men on?”

 

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A/N: I've finally updated this thing! Are you proud of me? I'm proud of myself. I put off finishing it for ages, because I was focusing on Her Highness and Heart of Ice. 

So, this is set this year, 2014, but I started writing it last year and I was so convinced it was going to snow in England this March that I wrote that it did . . . It didn't. It just rained. Like all of March. It was awful. Let's just pretend it snowed so I don't have to change it right now, okay? Okay.

Also, since it's set this year, there will be many references to events and films and books released this year. Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which will be mentioned next chapter. And as it progresses, because I'm looking to fit a year into a 20-something chapter story, there will be things like X-Men: Days of Future Past, Barricade Day, among other things.  

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