Title: A Glimpse of Stocking
Word Count 844
A Glimpse of Stocking
His gut rolled. And the hollow of his spine prickled as he rose from his chair. Stupid to feel it so. He should be accustomed by now. The sweat was slick under his arms, Kit knew the smell of his own acquiescence. They were done with instructions. What they commanded, would be. He stopped to pick up his cloak, still soaking wet. He had not been long in that little room at all. Ten minutes perhaps, sitting before the desk. They didn't even make him wait anymore. No need to make even the smallest effort to force his compliance. They saved such tricks for the new men. Kit was easy in the yoke. He would draw when given the word of command.
He would have to think of something to tell Kyd. It was the worst possible time to leave the players Kyd could meet with Allyn maybe, talk over the new blocking for Balthazar. He must find something to tell them – and something plausible tell his parents.
His steps echoed as he went, past other chambers, other desks. Thus did the state work, crushingly heavy, and smelling of fear and ink. He wiped his sweaty hands on his jerkin as he walked.
Left and left, brought him to the outer door. He pushed it open, and felt it shut heavy behind him. He tipped his face to the sky. The air was still wet, but far away at the edge of vision the clouds were breaking into blue. There was a dripping somewhere, water plocking into a puddle. In the street a horse wickered, someone coughed.
This was no place to stand dreaming on the doorstep, no matter how grateful the feel of the closed door at his back. There was no reason to be here. Nothing he could say, if he were seen. Best not to be seen, best to move.
The street was muddy. His feet slid. Ahead, in the alley, a man was pissing against the wall. A young man, thin, his head bent wearily, shoulders slumped. He too was wrapped in a cloak, his face muffled. He stood in shadow, his face turned away. Kit saw that one of his sagging stockings was torn at the back of the knee. The dark wool of it unraveling. How does one tear a stocking at the back of the knee? Kit's always wore out at the front.
Who watches another man at such a time? Who watches the world and cannot stop looking? Writers, spies, sodomites? Aye. And Kit was all of those. He asked too many questions, always had. He watched the world too close. The hollow fear in his spine said cross the street. He turned his face away and did so.
This part of the city was quiet, no stalls here with goods, no shops, just homes of the prosperous and the quiet. Churches, flower beds. That and the slap of the wind. It made his skin itch.
He was halfway home, when he heard the hurry of steps behind him. Hand on his pommel, under his cloak. Kit turned.
“It is thee! God's teeth-- Kit!”
“Watson! How dost thou? When--”
“Just released, three days back.”
Watson had always been thin. They had laughed together many times over how he could eat and eat, and still look like a bundle of twigs. And now, embracing him, Kit could feel through the shabby wet cloth, every bone in Watson's back. Their words tumbled together, questions that were good to ask, salted with laughter.
“I feared they had hanged thee. I went back. You would have laughed to see me, trying to get into prison, they would not let me in. They would not tell me anything. ”
“Neck verse.” Watson gave the same old bark of a laugh. “You should have heard me. I was louder though, upon receipt of this.”
He held up his hand, rueful, comical. The brand had burned deep into the pad of the thumb. M for Murderer. The skin was blackened, charred. In time it would scar to an inflexible dead whiteness.
“And once I had come to their notice--” He held out the other thumb “L, for Libel. I have been told to be properly grateful that it was not my face.”
“I thought I'd never thee again.” Kit said. “Come to my lodgings. Tom Kyd is there too. And food.”
“Well then, I would be a fool to refuse.”
And Kit saw how the same smile spread over the sharper peaks of cheek and nose.
All around the dripping sound of water, spring coming. Prison, and winter behind them. Kit thought on Mistress Smith's fish stew, and her good bread. She would tuck Watson under her wing, Tom Kyd would delight to see him. He thought on this, as they turned the last corner for home. He did not, absolutely did not, want to think about Watson's torn and mended stocking.