Title:The Air of the New Day
Word Count 876
Kyd and Marlowe
I worked, until my eyes burned, and it wasn't worth the candle. Then I blew the light out, and climbed into the bed beside him. He was turned away, facing the wall, in the deepest of sleep, where even dreams do not follow. I settled onto my back, stretching my legs in comfort.
Kit was breathing light, but I could still hear him, and the sound took me to the past. I had had a little brother, for some time, until the year a bad throat took him. He had slept the same way, his inert heat, curved away from me, trusting. And it made the bed warm.
After some time I slept too, dreamless as far as I can tell.
When I waked Kit was sitting at the window, looking out at the street. He was still dressed in my landlord's dead husbands clothes-- but in the light of morning he looked better.
Someone was hammering on the door. Kit gave me a glance, got up to answer.
The boy was damp with sweat, fair hair stuck to a flushed face. He was heaving with breath, hands to his ribs. “Got a cramp--” he gasped. “Men said three pennies if I-- run...” He held the letter out, still gasping.
I saw Kit pat at his pocket-- but the boy shook his head, and we heard his running steps away again.
Kit looked to me and gave a rueful laugh. “ I don't know what I am thinking. I have no coin to give him-- these are not even my own trousers. I hope he gets his pennies.”
The letter was of fine paper, thick enough to stand the weather of the road, and to be opaque. It was sealed with heavy red wax. Either it had escaped the attentions of a censor, or they had taken the time to repair their prying. Unusual. Most of the mail I received came to me flapping open, or resealed clumsily.
He split the seal with a slide of his thumb. He was close enough that I could see his eyes go down the page. His mouth tightened as he read, and I could see the riverine eyes flick and flick.
“From my patron. He sends for me.” He said, though I had not asked. “Thomas Walsingham. I am to go to Scadbury tomorrow.”
I knew the man, vaguely. My mind called up a narrow face, handsome, young and fair. Wealthy too.
“Have you a horse?” I could not imagine it, somehow. But Kit shook his head.
“He'll send his man with one in the morning.” Kit ran his hand over the letter thoughtfully.
“I should go to my old rooms in Norton Folgate first. I may have lost my rent, but my things will still be there-- at least I hope so. My clothing. My writing. I have some things half-completed. And I have a little money there too-- or I did.”
Of course he had things half-completed, I thought. How not? We all do.
So I dressed and walked through the chill air to Hog Lane again. There was a fine sleet falling, too soft to sting the face, almost back to being rain. Shining beads stuck to the wool of our cloaks, and were caught, like dew on a spider web. In time, the damp would soak through unpleasantly. I pulled my hat down, but Kit cut his eyes at me, quick, and he removed his hat, and lifted his face, like a child, for a kiss from the sky. Well, I thought, he had missed the fresh air.
Kit's room was small and untidy, stooped under the attic beams, dark with the stain of smoke. It would have been warm, at least, in winter. But I could see the plaster gone soft, by the window where it met poorly, and it gapped, and the rain came in.
They had kept his things, as he had hoped. He had a small chest to put them in. It was battered and worn, hinged with thick leather and cobblers nails. Someone had spelled 'C.M.' too, with little nails which must have shone once.
Kit saw me looking and smiled again. He ran his hand over the chest's lid. The wood was sanded soft, the edges rounded with care.
“I have had this since I left home. My father made it-” he said. “He was a cobbler;” He looked at me, “Not a gentleman.”
Kit had amplified that for me, I realized. Here was the gamecock again.
“Does your father still live?” I asked. He was folding his shirts, I saw his chin dip as the fight left him.
“Yes, and my mother. In Canterbury. Do yours?”
“No. I lost them last month.”
I felt my throat close, I blinked. His hand on mine was quick and warm. “Sorry Tom,” He said.
I nodded, quickly like a stupid puppet. I gestured at the papers, heaped on the table, spilled to the floor. This was where his meager money went.
“I'll stack these, if you like.” I said. And so I did.