Title Until you Find Better
Word Count 1175
Until You Find Better
I was gnawing my pen.
It seems to help the words come.
I am not sure when I began such slovenly ways. It must have been after school, and after leaving home. Father would have flayed me, to see it. He had loved all that was upright and neat, clean and deliberate. He would not have approved of my cluttered rooms above the commerce of the street. (I could see, from where I sat, where Pup had tracked milk all over the floor. He puts his feet in the bowl, when he drinks.) Father would be sorry to see me working on the Danish play, instead of steady work for promised money. He would be appalled by my waste paper, blots even, sometimes, and words scratched out in my haste. Many times I had chafed and complained, at home. But today I was a man, grown. And I felt my eyes prickle, missing him.
I took the pen out of my mouth, and pressed my brains to work again. After a while the words came.
So I was deep in the speeches of Amleth when I heard the steps outside and the knock. It was a friendly sort of knock, delivered with a fist, rather than a foot or implement. The day had darkened, and I had not noticed. Pup looked up and made a 'woof.' It was a good try, he would be a dog someday. But today he was a baby, and the sound of it scared him so much that he fell over.
I was laughing as I got up to answer the door.
It was Ned Alleyn. I smiled in genuine pleasure, and not just because I could put my work aside. (There are days when I would rather sweep chimneys than write.)
Some people call actors walking shadows. I can see the reasoning. You would think that what you see on stage is not the real man. Perhaps. But in the case of Alleyn, it is the off-stage man that seems to me, the shadow. I like Ned, both of him. Most people do. When he is working he is grand and golden; he is imperious, loud, confident. Everyone wants something of him. I have seen women fighting in the street to shake their tits at him. I have seen men pursue him equally bold. He is a widower. He could have any of them, and no shame. But off-stage Ned is shy, grave. He likes to read. He is careful with his coin. He has plenty now, to be sure, but he is an inn-keepers son. He knows what work an ordinary life is.
His cloak was soaked and dark with rain. He has an old ugly hat. He wears it when he when he walks out, pulled low to hide his face a little. “Saves trouble,” he had said once, when someone asked. Tonight it was soaked nearly beyond saving. I set it by the fire, it could be dried, at least.
He asked after Marlowe and Watson. Now I watched his relief as I told him the scant news that I had. The money he had given had moved them up from the pit, and given them a little food. They would, with luck neither freeze nor starve. We had not enough money to hand to do much more.
I handed Alleyn a cup of ale. The old landlady has a touch for it, it is as good as her porridge. He drank long and wiped his face with his hand.
“That' s very good.” He drew a long breath and gave me his news. His smile had gone, I noted.
Went to see Henslowe. He is low on coin, or so he says.”
“They all say that.”
“Aye they do.” He have a flicker of a smile. “Have you met Henslowe's daughter?
I shook my head.
“Sensible girl. Pretty too.” he moved his feet closer to the fire. “Henslowe says Kit should be acquitted at least. With you to speak for him, it should be self-defense, flat. Watson may take some doing.”
Alleyn gave me a wry smile. Mr Henslowe's affections followed his coin. Actors, whores, pubs, dancing bears... Christofer Marlowe was a proven money maker. Our friend Thomas Watson, less so.
“Henslowe is going to his money man. I don't know him, Skerries, Skars, some name like that.” Allyn pushed his wet hair back from his face. Our talk wandered to other things.
It was another week before they released Christofer. I had seen him at the trial, not since. Then he had been pale, but clean. They had let him wash before his appearance. He spoke up well enough, and stood quiet when spoken about. He looked down almost the whole time, but flicked a look at me when I spoke my testimony. His eyes were brown-green, like the bottom of a riverbed. He was shivering.
They came back for acquittal. I had been almost sure they would. That boded well for Watson too. Still it was another week before I could get Christofer loose. But my mind dwelt often on my poor friend Watson. And it wandered, I must say, as well, to that flicker from the river bottom eyes.
I was waiting when they shoved him out the heavy door. It closed behind him with whuff of air. It was cold in the wind. There was scrim of ice on the ruts of mud, Christofer stumbled, but did not fall. He was wearing only his thin shirt. At least his arms were free now and he could draw them close to himself. The door opened behind him again. I saw him jump at the sound.
A hand tossed his jerkin and his sword, to the mud at his feet. They did not return his purse. I watched him stoop to get them, he was white as dirty paper. His eyes and mouth were weary smudges.
“Marlowe.” He looked up. When he saw it was me his shoulders dropped
“ Kyd, I did not think to see you here,” his voice was low. I could hear the soreness under the brave words.
“I came to see you home.” In truth I am not sure why I was there. I was Watson's friend first. I had just met Marlowe the once or twice. I had wondered myself on the walk to Newgate. But now I was glad of it. He looked so lost.
He gave a short bark of a laugh. “I am not sure I have a home.” He said. “I owed rent on my rooms when I was taken, and now...” His gesture was eloquent.
I put my hand to his shoulder and got him walking, back toward the city, “You can room with me, for now,” I said “Until you find something better.”