Dinner for Four by Angela Caldin

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Edward and Jane Rochester

Catherine Linton and Heathcliff

The Rochesters arrived first, Jane leading the way, while her husband’s right hand rested on her shoulder as she guided him towards the table. At his heels trudged a long-haired black and white Newfoundland dog, loyally glued to its master. Jane apologised for the dog and said she hoped it would be acceptable for Pilot to lie under the table as he was too old to be left alone now. They sat down at opposite sides of the round table and Pilot flopped on Edward Rochester’s feet.

A few moments later, the door was flung open and Catherine Linton, a few months’ pregnant with Edgar Linton’s child, came bursting into the room.

‘It’s so good to be here’ she exclaimed, ‘So good to get out and about. Edgar’s away on business, so he can’t keep me cooped up inside and I can get Heathcliff to come out with me.’

Behind her, a tall, dark, brooding fellow entered the room looking sullen and bad-tempered. He eyed the other guests with something akin to contempt, but Catherine led him to the table where she sat him down between Jane and Edward before installing herself on the chair opposite him.

Resting her elbows on the table and cupping her chin on her hands, Catherine looked Edward Rochester up and down.

‘You look as though you’ve been through the wars’ she observed.

‘I was in a fire’ he replied, ‘lost my left hand and my eyesight.’

Cathy responded in a husky voice ‘It makes you very attractive, dark and interesting, but damaged, just my type.’

‘Shut it Catherine Earnshaw’ growled Heathcliff at the other side of the table, ‘remember you’re here with me.’

Jane pursed her lips and positioned her wrists correctly on the table. Heathcliff eyed her up and down with blazing black eyes.

‘You should let your hair down; wear something that doesn’t have such a high neck. You’re a very good looking woman.’

Jane flushed a deep red as the physical bulk of Heathcliff leaned towards her. She felt the pull of his powerful body and his even more powerful personality. Edward Rochester reached for his wife’s hand.

Cathy snapped ‘Heathcliff, by the same token, you’re here with me, and just because I’m pregnant doesn’t mean you can flirt with any woman you meet.’

‘I’ll do exactly as I please,’ snarled Heathcliff, ‘just as you’ve always done, running after any man who has a big house and a smart set of clothes.’

In their heavenly writing attic, Charlotte and Emily Brontë looked at each other in consternation and distress.

‘I warned you about this’ said Charlotte, ‘I told you that Heathcliff was just too unpleasant and bad to be a hero. You’ve made him far too cruel to the women in his life and now he’s starting in on Jane.’

‘Well, I told you you’d made Jane Eyre just too moral and pure for words, but at the same time quite steely and controlling. She could only really marry Rochester once he was handicapped and had to depend on her. It’s just not normal or natural, no wonder she’s attracted to a red-blooded male like Heathcliff,’ said Emily. ‘And look at the way Rochester is responding to Cathy. He clearly would like someone a bit less straight-laced.’

The four Brontë creations ate their way through roast beef with Yorkshire pudding followed by apple pie and custard. Pilot contented himself with some scraps of fat and gristle. The conversation settled down to range over the management of large estates which Cathy and Rochester found interesting and the relevance of the bible which Jane and Heathcliff fought over keenly. By the end of the evening, Jane had undone the top two buttons of her high necked dress, Heathcliff had smoothed down his wild black hair to look more respectable and Cathy had taken Edward’s hand and run it over her fine features so that he would remember her striking beauty. After the last wine glass had been drained, Jane and Edward repaired to Thornton Hall, invigorated and excited, while Cathy and Heathcliff returned to Thrushcross Grange to bicker and fight their way through the rest of Edgar’s absence.

Charlotte heaved a sigh of relief: at least her creations had weathered the temptations of the evening to return together to the marital home to continue their blissful union in which, Charlotte was sure, no cloud troubled the clear blue sky of their relationship. Emily smiled her enigmatic smile as she followed Cathy and Heathcliff home: what an amazing couple she had created; they couldn’t live together and they couldn’t live apart, they fed on one another and drained each other dry, they were the ultimate warring, passionate pairing, desiring but desperately dangerous. They had nothing but death and despair in front of them while the Rochesters, she felt, had dryness and dreariness. Really, Charlotte could be so boring and predictable at times; she should get out more onto the savage moors.

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