Title: Wise Love
Word Count 975
He lay in his bed, alone, in his chamber alone. His parents had gone up the stairs and settled in their bed hours ago. He heard again, as in childhood, the bird ruffling sound of them settling for the night, their voices indistinct, rising and falling in the oldest song Kit knew.
His chamber was a wedge of space under the eves. It had a window that faced George's lane. It was warm in winter, the chimney went through it. The bed was short and narrow, but that was all right, Kit was short and narrow too. There were shutters-- but they undid from inside of course. This had always been his bed. His bed first and last, Matt's bed for five years. There was a window above it. A small window just the right height for a kneeling boy to rest his arms on the sill and look out . Many nights Kit had knelt there on his bed and tracked the rising moon. he had stayed awake late listening to the drunks wobbling home from the Vernicle tavern.
The window was fine for exit too, after he had been sent up to sleep. There was a tree beside the house that he could scramble onto. An easy drop for a boy of nine or ten. Some nights he had sat in the tree for hours, thinking, watching the night tuck the city in sleep. His people, his street, everything loved and known, everything confining and irritating. So different under the press of the night sky. He had puzzled over that, some nights.
He had gone to the school down the street when he was quite small. He had learned his horn-book, and come home after that to sort leather for father. He had been twelve when his father's fortunes improved. John Marlowe had been able to take an apprentice. Matt had come.
Looking back now was like peeking through smoked glass. He had been too young at the time to see it as it had been, memory changed with the years. He had seen it, then, with child's simplicity. Father, who knew how to do things, had gone out one rainy morning and bought a boy. He had picked the one he wanted from a clot of orphans disgorged in the town square, shivering and stunned by the journey from the North.
Kit had been eating porridge when the boy came home with Father. It was raining hard, and Kit was eating as fast as he could, reading at the same time, already almost late to school.
The boy was taller than Kit. He kept his gaze down, chin down. He was soaked to the skin. He had yellow hair, pale even soaking wet. That was the first thing to notice. Kit could see that it was the kind that would dry into thin silk. Jane had hair like that, not the thick tangle that Kit's hair wanted to be, but straight silk, impossible to keep a ribbon in. She complained of it often. Well, boys didn't wear hair ribbons, so that would be no problem. This boy had extraordinary ears. They were bright pink from the cold, and they stood out from his head, poking through the wet hair. Kit , scraping his bowl, thought that the new boy looked like a mouse.
“He's so young, John--” Kit's mother said, not unkindly, but a rebuke for all that.
“He is thirteen, Kath. I wanted a young one,” John Marlowe had said. “I can train him up from the start with no bad habits.” He had given the shivering child a clap on the shoulder. Kit watched his mother clamp her mouth shut and take a long breath in through her nose.
“What is your name, child?” She asked.
“Matthew, madam.” Kit thought that the ears were actually shaking.
“Well, since you are here, lets get you dry and fed.” She had said.
It had been wicked old February, damp and cold. Just past Kit's birthday. Many men would have made the new boy sleep in the donkey shed. John Marlowe was not that kind. The end of the day saw a straw pallet on the floor of Kit's room.
So Kit studied Latin, and later other things, Matt worked in the cobblers shop. Kit would keep learning, for the next seven years and more with no end in sight. He would learn by repetition, by recitation, by the rod. Matt would learn by doing, and become a cobbler at the end of it all.
But Matt had taught Kit things too. Not that first shivering winter, not the first year, but soon enough. By the winter that turned them fifteen and sixteen the little pallet was gone. Kit could not now remember when they began kissing, but Matt taught him that and they learned the rest together. Kit began to look forward to the end of the day with a kind of greed.
He could not lie in this bed, even now, without remembering. The sweet need of it all, now melted into memory. How simple it all had seemed. How stupid to weep over it now. Kit the spy, Kit the poet who who never wrote of shoes. Master Marlowe the success. Foolish to weep for a cobblers 'prentise. Matt in the ground now, these past seven years. Kit had been eighteen when Matt had drowned. He had already been far away.
Foolish to weep now, but love is foolish, even first love, which is the wisest of all.
Kit wiped his face, and turned his thoughts to the day ahead. It was going to be tricky. After some time he knelt up on the bed and rested his arms on the windowsill.