Your name is Nancy Astley. You're a young woman from Whistable, Kent and have spent your life shucking and selling oysters in your family's semi-famous oyster restaurant. A narrow, weather-boarded house, painted a flaking blue, half-way between the High Street and the harbour. A bulging sign hangs above the door, that reads //Astley’s Oysters, the Best in Kent//(a title bestowed upon themselves). Inside is a dim, low-ceilinged, fragrant room with tables covered in chequered cloths.
You live comfortably. Well, as comfortably as you can when you have to get up every morning at seven and must share a room and bed with your younger sister, Alice. You have a beau: Freddy. He's sweet and a bit handsome and your family likes him; but you find yourself thinking that you would much rather go to the [[music hall -> music hall]] than spend time kissing him.
Ah, the music hall. It's hot as hell in the summer and nearly freezing in the winter, it's small and rather shabby - it smells of wood and grease paint and spilling beer. Of gas and tobacco and hair oil. It smells like laughter, like applause. It is your favorite place to be.
Alice's beau, Tony, works at the Canterbury Palace Music Hall and so you and her are often able to sneak in to see the shows, free of charge.
One summer night, when it's so hot that nobody wants to eat fried fish or lobster soup, your mother lets you and your sister off work early, to do whatever your hearts desire.
What do you want to do?
[[Walk the beach, it's much too hot out to be stuck in a stuffy music hall. -> walk the beach]]
[[See what's playing at The Palace! There are new shows every week. -> go to the palace]]
If it's too hot for people to want fish, then it's certainly too hot to spend the evening packed like sardines with stragners in a stuffy theater, even if you do love everything about it. There will be other nights to see the acrobats and the singers and the magicians.
Instead, you and Alice walk to the beach and remove your shoes and stockings, wanting to dip your toes in the chill waters. She talks about Tony, a smile tugging at her lips; you don't say much about Freddy.
The sun dips under the horizon and the previously sweltering air quickly becomes unbearably cold. You both rush to put your shoes back on and run home, giggling wildly.
Back home, mother informs you that this Saturday the entire family: Father, Mother, Davy (your brother), Alice, Freddy, everyone, will be going to [[The Palace->family]] to celebrate the weekend.
Of course! Why wouldn't you enjoy your night off at your favorite place? You and Alice get dressed up in your Sunday bests and walk arm-in-arm to the theater, enjoying every cool breeze that passes over your heated faces.
You reach The Palace and find that tonight is the opening night for Gully Sutherland! Alice squeals - Gully is her most favorite comedian! You both rush inside and find seats in the gallery, above the stage. Here, you can see the shape of the stage and the sweep of the seats; and you marveled to see your neighbours' faces, and to know your own to be like theres, queerly lit by the stage lights and with a grin so wide it felt like your face might split.
Acts come and go, each getting more applause than the last as the audience continues to get drunker. You're starting to get impatient for Gully's act when the Chairman (a friend of yours, named Tricky) announces an act new to this theater.
"Ladies and gentlemen," he cried, "a little treat for you now. A little bit of helegance and top-drawer style. If you’ve champagne in your glasses, raise them now. If you’ve beer - why, beer’s got bubbles, don’t it? Raise that too! Above all, raise your voices, as I give to you, direct from the Phoenix Theatre, Dover, our very own Kentish swell, our diminutive Faversham masher ... Miss [[Kitty Butler! -> Kitty]]"
You look up at the greeting and suddenly you are the only one in the audience. Standing on stage was the most marvellous girl you have ever seen. She wore a suit - a handsome gentleman’s suit, cut to her size, and lined at the cuffs and the flaps with flashing silk. There was a rose in her lapel, and lavender gloves at her pocket. From beneath her waistcoat shone a stiff-fronted shirt of snowy white, with a stand-up collar two inches high. Around the collar was a white bow-tie; and on her head sat a top hat.
Kitty Butler... She walked the line between boy and girl. Her figure was slender and boy-like, but also vaguely rounded at the bosom and hips, in a way no real boy's ever was. She strode like a boy, and stood like one, with her feet far apart and her hands thrust carelessly into her trouser pockets, and her head at an arrogant angle, at the very front of the stage; and when she sang, her voice was a boy’s voice - sweet and terribly true.
You look around you and find that your neighbours are all equally entranced by the girl, dozens of pairs of shining eyes gazing at her.
Her set only lasts the customary fifteen minutes, but to you it feels like hours and you never want it to end - seems the rest of the audience doesn't want that either and they cheer and shout her back on two more times. But all good things must end, so for her final number, Kitty sings a gentle ballad about roses and a lost sweetheart; she then pulls out the rose from her lapel and places it against her cheek. As the song comes to a close, she approaches the audience and tosses the rose to a nearby girl, supposedly the prettiest girl in the audience. The people in the crowd go wild and call for Kitty to come back once more, but there are no more encores. And just like that, it is intermission.
You find yourself thinking that there would be nothing more wonderful in the world than to recieve a [[rose->after show]] from Kitty Butler's hand.
<img src="http://gallery.yopriceville.com/var/resizes/Free-Clipart-Pictures/Roses-PNG/Transparent_Beautiful_Red_Rose_PNG_Picture.png?m=1421363205" width="500" height="300" alt="Two foxes">
Saturday arrives and your family (plus many friends you encountered along the way!) shuffles into the theater. Your seats aren't the greatest, but it's difficult to find a dozen good seats together. If someone wants to get a message passed along, it must be passed, in a shriek or a whisper, all along the gallery, from cousin to cousin, from aunt to sister to uncle to friend, disturbing all the rows along the way. You feel utterly embarassed.
Freddy places his hand over yours, but its effect is the opposite of the comforting caress it was meant to be.
The first performer walks out and your family, the entire audience, goes wild. You, too, perk up as the singer started his song.
The night continues and your annoyance soon melts away, as you find yourself enraptured with every act. Finally, the Chairman encourages everyone to settle down so he can announce the next act.
"Now, would you all please help me welcome the wonderful Miss.[[Kitty Butler-> Kitty]]!"
After the show ends, you make your way out into the cool night air and decide right then that you must see Kitty again.
So you return the next day. And the next. And the next. You sit in the same seat every time.
Your family teases you for wanting to see Kitty so often, but you don't care. You sing her songs under your breath as you work on the oysters and try to imitate the steps you see her do while you sweep the floor.
You return to The Palace once more that night - Kitty's act seems to get better every time you see it. Tonight, however, would be the performance you'd never forget because tonight, when Kitty sings her final song, she takes her rose and makes eye contact with you before gently tossing the flower into your lap. Your heart beats wildly in your chest, threatening to escape, and continues to do so as you move to leave the theater, cradling the flower delicately in your palms.
Just before you leave to catch a train home, you hear Tony call your name.
"Hey, hey," he says breathlessly, "someone’s merry, and I know why! How come girls never look so gay as that, when I give them roses?" You blush.
"What do you want, Tony?" You ask.
He smirks. "Miss Butler would like a word."
[[Go with Tony.->talk to kitty.]]
[[Go home.->go home.]]
You follow Tony down a dimly lit hallway in the back of the theater. You pass many of the performers you saw that night as they leave to go home, and you notice how different they all seem from their stage personas. You wonder if Kitty will be different as well.
Tony stops in front of a door marked with a brass '7', the only feature distinguishing it from the several other doors along the hallway. Tony knocks and a silvery voice welcomes you in.
Kitty sits in front of a vanity, perhaps removing her stage makeup, but turns to greet you when you enter. "Aha!" She says, "my mystery admirer! I was sure it must be Gully you came to see; then someone said you never stay beyond the interval. Is it really me you stay for? I never had a fan before!"
"I do like your act," you say, "Tony lets me in for nothing, but I would pay to see you if I had to! I like your act so very, very much."
Kitty smiles and you both continue to talk as she removes her makeup and smokes. She sings a song about an oyster girl when you mention where you work.
[The Oyster Girl]<c1|
(click: ?c1)[(open-url: "https://youtu.be/NvL4zQ3QHYY?t=20s")]
//As I was going down Bishopgate Street,
An oyster-girl I happened to meet -
Into her basket I happened to peep,
To see if she’d got any oysters ...//
You study her face and find that underneath her makeup is a splattering of freckles. You smile at this discovery.
But too soon the time for the theater close arrives and you and Kitty must part ways. "Thank you, Miss Astley. For coming to see me. Perhaps I will see you again?"
You nod, blushing, as she lifts your hand to her lips. But the moment is ruined when you realize that you must smell dreadful!
"Oh!," you cry, ripping your hand away from her, "Surely, I smell like a herring!"
She smiles, taking your hand back in hers, "Not at all like a herring. But perhaps, maybe, like a [[mermaid.->visits continue- revise]]"
You gape at Tony. Kitty Butler wants to speak with you? Why? She was amazing and beautiful, and you're just... an oyster girl.
"Oh, Tony, I can't! She would be grossly disappointed of me. And what if she's not as wonderful as I make her out to be? It would ruin everything! No, Kitty can never become anything more than what she is to me right now. And I can never be anyone more than the girl who comes to her shows every night. Thank you, Tony, but I must leave."
You run out of the building before he can protest, hoping you don't miss your train.
Eventually Kitty leaves The Palace, on to bigger and better things. You see her name in the paper every so often - she ends up marrying her manager, Walter. You feel a pang in your chest when you read ''that'' headline. You wonder what would've happened if [[Nancy Astley did get to meet Kitty Butler that night...->after show]]
You continue to visit Kitty nightly, and your friendship grows with each passing day. She insists that you call her Kitty - no longer "Miss. Butler", and she asks if she may call you 'Nan', for Nancy is what everyone else calls you.
Kitty's dressing room becomes your second home. You get to know every inch of it: her vanity wracked with age, her faded old cigar box which held her sticks of grease-paints, her rack of costumes - oh her costumes! You become so intimately familiar with Kitty's costumes that she proposes you become her official dresser.
<img src="http://historyoffashiondesign.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/PICT0077.jpg" width="500" height="500" alt="Two foxes">
You'd come to Kitty's dressing room before the show to help her change and get ready, stay there while she performs (you can hear her music through the theater walls), and see her once again after the curtain dropped to change her back into a girl and press whichever suit she wore that night.
[[Become Kitty's dresser.->accept dresser]]
[[Don't become Kitty's dresser.->refuse dresser]]
You accept Kitty's proposal without any hesitation. She performs, you dress. She sings, you iron. She amazes audiences, you tidy up. And when it's all done, you get to spend time with Kitty. You couldn't have asked for more.
Your friendship with and feelings for Kitty grow even more as the days tick by - you even find yourself laying awake at night thinking of her. You wonder if Alice can see the pinkness of your cheeks in the dim lighting.
Your family insists that you invite Kitty over for an afternoon tea, so you do and she happily accepts, but you fret over what she will think of your family, your house, your entire life.
But, as it turns out, you had nothing to worry about. Kitty is enthralled with everything you show her, as her childhood differed greatly from your own. She charms everyone in your family and even enjoys some of your famous oysters (after getting your help with opening them correctly). You realize that you're falling in love with her all over again.
Later, Kitty pulls you aside, saying she has something important to tell you.
"You see, Nan, Tricky, at The Palace, has offered to extend my contract through the new year."
"Oh, Kitty, that's wonderful!" You exclaim.
"He wants me to stay on, but I've turned him down."
"Turned him down? But why?"
"My manager, Walter Bliss, has offered me a contract at a music hall in London! He says I'm so good that I could find fame and fortune in the city!"
You smile a sad sort of smile. You're happy for Kitty, but rather sad for yourself. Kitty sees this and exclaims,
"Oh, Nan! Don't look so sad! I meant to ask you to come with me, to London. Come as my dresser, Nan. It's why I've been trying so hard to impress your family, so they'll allow you to leave with me."
Your face erupts into a grin, "Oh, Kitty, of course I want to come with you!" You both fling your arms around eachother in a fierce embrace and laugh with pleasure, hearts bursting with excitment for [[what the future holds.->To London!]]
You tell Kitty that you couldn't possibly be her dresser, that you'd surely find a way to mess everything up. She looks saddened by this, but respects your descision.
Kitty continues to wow The Palace's crowds and you continue to grow more fond of her as the months pass by. Her contract is extended several times, but sooner than you would've liked, she is offerent a contract at large theater in London - the Star Music Hall. Her manager, Walter, insists that she go, and you can tell that she wants this as well.
You and Kitty share a tearful goodbye at the train station, several packed bags sitting at her feet.
"Oh, Nan! Please tell me you'll write!"
"I will, Kitty! I promise you."
And you do. But Kitty moves house so often that you eventually don't know where to address your letters. Your collection of letters from her sit quietly at the bottom of a drawer, collecting dust.
[[Just think of what could've happened, had you a reason to follow Kitty to London.->visits continue- revise]]
Your parents aren't ecstatic about your desicion to go with Kitty to London, but they can see how important this is to you and could not bear to see you heartbroken, so they give you their blessing.
Your goodbyes with your family are somber ones, but those feelings don't last for very long after your train pulls away, as the thrill of being with Kitty overtook you.
Your father hands you a small sack just before your train pulls away, you open it to find coins - six sovereigns. You know it's more than he can afford to part with, but it's too late to shove the bag back in his hands so, instead, you shout your thanks out the window to his rapidly receding figure.
In just an hour you arrive at Charing Cross, the first step towards your [[new life.->more London]]
Mr Bliss has flagged down a carriage for the two of you and, being the gentleman he is, assists you inside. You feel safer in the carriage, if a bit queer from sitting so close to Mr Bliss.
You press your face against the window to gaze out at the buildings of the city you've only heard stories of before. Walter points out various sights as you pass them: Trafalgar Square, the fountains, and the lovely, bone-coloured front of the National Gallery. Her Majesty's theater - his father saw Jenny Lind, the Swedish Nightingale, make her debut there, you know! The Haymarket, The Criterion, the Prince's Theater... dozens of theaters and Walter seemed to have a story about all of them.
You cross the river and watch as the streets become greyer and quite dull. A little later and the houses become shabbier, each one seemed dingier than the last. You wonder when you will leave these dreary districts and reach your new home of Greasepaint Avenue. When Kitty told you the name of the street, your imagination delighted you with images of a street set out like a make-up box, with narrow, gilded houses, each one with a different coloured roof; and yours would be number 3. As the carriage continues it route, however, those images begin to fade.
[[At last, you turn into the street known as Greasepaint Avenue->Greasepaint Avenue.]]
You have to turn your head in order to hide your disappointment of the grey, flat roofed house with soot-stained curtains. You know now that your image of a fairytale-like row of houses was a foolish one. You even note that this street looks almost the same as some of the streets back home in Whitstable, but it is unfamiliar and therefore slightly sinister.
Inside, the house grows more cheerful. Your new landlady, Mrs Dendy greets you at the door as if you were an old friend. She welcomes you in with a smile and a kiss on the cheek for Walter; her voice reminds you of a slice of Christmas cake.
The hallways are lined with pictures and photographs. Mrs Dendy tells you that each photo is of an old tenant of hers, everyone who lives here is a performer of some sort; you look closer and spot a few people you recognize - acts that have come through the Palace and faces in the newspapers. Incredible! So many artistes have stayed here with Mrs Dendy as their host - and now you will, too.
Mrs Dendy shows you and Kitty up three flights of rickety stairs to your room. The room is but a tiny parlour with a pair of ancient, sagging armchairs set before a hearth, and a shallow, old-fashioned dresser. Beside the dresser is another door, leading to a second chamber which a sloping roof made even smaller than the first. You and Kitty step into its threshold and stand, side by side, gazing at what lay beyond: a wash-hand stand; a lyre-backed chair; an alcove with a curtain before it; and a bed - a bed with a high, thick mattress and an iron bedstead, and beneath it a chamber-pot - a bed rather narrower than the one you're used to sharing with your sister at home.
It dawns on you that, while living here, you'd have to share a bed with Kitty. You don't know if you'll be able to survive the night with her body so [[close. ->The Star]]
The following evening, you and Kitty travel to the Star, as it is her debut night! The act she follows is a popular one and the audience welcomes her less-than-enthusiastically, one person even shouting, "Bring Nibs back on!", refering to Nibs Fuller, the comedian Kitty replaced. But Kitty, clever Kitty, just shouts back, "Why, does he owe you money?" Getting a peal of laughter out of the crowd.
By the time she reached the end of her act, the audience was attentive and appreciative, sending her off stage with a respectable round of applause.
Kitty quickly gain popularity at the Star and you couldn't have been more pround. Her repertoire expanded, too. Now she wasn't just a chap in lavender gloves, she also took on the role of a sailor boy, a king's guard, a policeman, a prince!
You send postcards home on a fairly regular basis, telling of your adventures in the theater, boasting of Kitty's success, but as you ge busier the letters grow more and more infrequent and the tone of the ones you recieve become more and more annoyed. Eventually you stop writing all together.
Kitty is signed on at more theaters and soon she's so overbooked that she's forced to turn offers down! And yet, you all just can't seem to find the thing that will bring her over the top. She needs ''it'', but you can't figure out [[what ''it'' is. ->what it is.]]
One afternoon, before a routine outing with Walter, Mrs Dendy proclaims, "My word, Kitty, but Walter must be expecting marvellous things of you! I’ve never known him spend so much time with an artiste before. Anyone would think he was your beau!"
You first think it's merely a joke, but then you notice Kitty's blush, the way she turns her head away, and your heart sinks. After that, you wonder how you never noticed before how in love Walter was with Kitty.
You saw everything now, saw the dampness of the looks he sometimes turned upon her, and the awkwardness of the glances which, more hastily, he turned away. You see how he seized every foolish opportunity to kiss her hand, or pluck her sleeve, or place his arm, heavy and clumsy with desire, about her slender shoulders. You wonder how you never saw it before.
And yet, you can't find it in yourself to hate Walter. After all, is his [[passion]] not your own?
The days get colder and colder and soon Christmas is upon you. You considered going back home to Whitstable for the holiday, but the thought of leaving Kitty all alone in the city breaks your heart.
Instead, you spend the holiday around Mrs Dendy's fireplace with Walter and all the other house tenants, eating goose, and drinking toast after toast to the coming year with champagne and pale ale.
Of course there are gifts. A few things from home, and presents from Walter (a brooch for Kitty, a hat-pin for you). For Kitty, you found the loveliest thing you could find: a single flawless pearl that was mounted on silver and hung from a chain. It cost ten times as much as you had ever spent on any gift before, and you trembled when you handled it. Kitty, however, was ecstatic when you presented the gift to her and demanded that you fasten it around her neck immediately.
"I'll never take it off," she vows. And she never does. Even on the stage she wears it, beneath her neck ties and cravats.
<img src="https://wp3153-flywheel.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/OnePearlNecklace003.jpg" width="500" height="500" alt="Two foxes">
For you, Kitty gives a dress. The most handsome dress you have ever seen. A long, slim evening dress of deepest blue, with a cream satin sash about the waist, and heavy lace at the bosom and hem; a dress, you know, that is far too fine for you to wear.
It's beautiful, but you urge Kitty to take it back, "It's far too expensive! You must return it!"
"Rubbish!" She tells you. "It's about time you owned some decent frocks! Goodness knows we can afford it now. And anyway, it can’t go back: it was made just for you, like [[Cinderella’s slipper]], and is too peculiar a size to fit anybody else."
You get a chance to wear your new gown a few weeks later when the theater you currently work at throws an end-of-season party for all of the performers.
In your gowns, both you and Kitty look striking and throughout the night the compliments don't stop flowing.
"You've become quite the handsome young lady!"
"How fine you look!"
"My dear, you're so grown up tonight, I didn't recognise you!"
You get that one a lot. Nobody seems to be able to recognise you.
One of the boys in the band, you think he plays the horn, offers you a cigarette and you accept it (you've taken up the practice after spending so long around Kitty). He doesn't recognise you either, "I haven’t seen you in the hall before, have I?"
"Yes you have. I'm Nancy, Kitty Butler's dresser."
He looks bewildered, "Well! and so you are. I thought you was just a kid. But here, just now, I took you for an actress, or a dancer. Well, I bet you dance a treat, though, don't you? How bout it?"
[[Dance with the boy.]]
[[Don't dance with the boy.]]
You set your glass of champagne down and hold your hand out to the boy. He puts his hands on your waist and lifts you up. You give a shriek; he begins to turn and dip, in a clownish approximation of a waltz-step. The louder you laugh and shriek, the faster he turns you. A dozen people look your way, and smile and clap.
<img src="https://media.giphy.com/media/3ornjRp9AZrq594Mms/giphy.gif" width="500" height="350" alt="Two foxes">
At last he stumbles and almost falls, then puts you down with a thump. "Now," he says breathlessly, "tell me I ain’t a marvellous dancer."
"You ain’t," I said. "You’ve made me giddy as a fish, and" - You feel at the front of your dress - "you have spoiled my sash!"
"I’ll fix that for you," he says, reaching for my waist again. You give a yelp, and step out of his grasp.
"No you won’t! You can push off and leave me in peace."
You finish your drink, maybe your sixth or seventh of the night, and hurry down to the changing rooms to check on the state of your dress. The room was cold and empty and rather dim, so you squint into the mirror to fuss with your gown, trying to pull it straight.
You're there for no more than a minute when you hear the sound of footsteps approaching. You turn to find Kitty standing in the [[doorway.]]
You smile. "Sorry, fella. I've had much too much cham to dance tonight. I can hardly think straight!"
You begin to walk away when you hear him mutter, "Fine, have it your way you //Tom.//"
Your blood boils at the word and you nearly turn to confront him, but decide that tonight's meant to be fun and you don't want to ruin it for anyone, especially Kitty. Instead, you stalk off to the other side of the room to find Kitty or Walter or any familiar face.
You find Kitty laughing with some other performers whom you don't recognize by the refreshment table. You join them and the boy becomes the farthest thing from your mind when all of a sudden--
You smile and greet the girl as she stands there, but she does not return your smile. You notice a stain on her dress where a glass of champagne must have spilled on her. When she speaks at last you know that she's rather drunk.
"Seen something you fancy, Nancy?" She snickers quietly at the rhyme. "Everybody else here tonight seems to have. Seems to have seen something that has rather caught their eye."
You're unsure of what to say and so, say nothing. Kitty continues her rant.
"You were very fresh with that horn-player, weren't you? Soon people will start calling you Miss Flirt!"
"How could you say such a thing! We were just having some fun."
"Oh but it's true! I wouldn't have bought you such a fine dress if I known you were only going to wear it to go flirting in."
You're angry and confused and probably just as drunk as Kitty is right now. You begin to fumble with the fastenings of your gown, shouting, "Well, I shall take the dam’ dress off right here and you shall have it back," You say, 'if that’s how you feel about it!"
You both continue to fight tipsily and soon you're nearly tussling in the back room. However you do grow tired and soon you're grasping eachother, breaths ragged, hearts thudding. Your eyes gaze into hers, round and dark as jet. Her hand moves from yours towards your neck and--
The sound rings out throughout the building and the previously rowdy crowd falls silent.
After what feels like hours, but must have been only a few moments, a woman, you think her name is Esther, runs into the room and cries out: "You won't believe it! There’s some boys just come, from the Charing Cross Hospital. They are saying Gully Sutherland is there - that he has got drunk, and shot himself dead!"
Everyone breaks out into murmurs, could Gully really be dead? He was the comic who appeared with Kitty at the Canterbury Palace when you first caught sight of her.
Everyone around you appears distraugt but you do not know what to make of it. You can't think of Gully at all: your thoughts were still with Kitty. She's walked away from you to talk to one of the boys who brought news of Gully's suicide. After a moment, however, you see her shake her head and step away, you see her search for you and when she finally spots you, she comes and sighs, "Poor Gully. They say his [[heart]] was shot right through."
You and Kitty take a carriage home in somber silence. You pass the Lambeth Bridge, which, together, you had looked down from onto the Thames several weeks before. Kitty calls out to the driver to stop. She drags you towards the railings of the bridge and then you see why she's so excited.
"The Thames is freezing over." she breathes.
You gaze out at the river for who knows how long, watching the great slivers of ice six feet across, drifting and gently turning in the winding currents, like basking seals. You imagine the two of you floating down the river, past Whitstable perhaps, on a piece of ice no bigger than a pancake. You look from the water, to Kitty, and from Kitty to the bridge on which you stand. Aside from your waiting driver, you and Kitty are the only souls around.
You take her glove covered hand in yours.
<img src="https://40.media.tumblr.com/a9c015aba571bacc978b1c63dd34820c/tumblr_o6blcrFBwO1t54dego1_1280.jpg" width="400" height="500" alt="Two foxes">
Do you kiss Kitty?
[[No. -> don't kiss kitty]]
Her fingers, you can feel, are stiff and cold inside her glove. You place the hand against you cheek; it does not warm it. With your eyes all the time on the water below you pull at the button at her wrist, then draw the mitten from her, and hold her fingers against your lips to warm them with your breath.
There was no sound at all save the unfamiliar lapping and creaking of the frozen river. Then, "Nan," she says, very low.
You look at her, her hand still held to your mouth and your breath still damp upon her fingers. Her face is raised to yours, and her gaze is dark and strange and thick, like the water below.
You let your hand drop; she keeps her fingers upon your lips, then moves them, very slowly, to your cheek, your ear, your throat, your neck. Then her features give a shiver and she says in a whisper: "You won’t tell a soul, Nan - will you?"
And then you dip your face down to hers, and shut your eyes.
<img src="http://cdn.playbuzz.com/cdn/4707c5fb-987e-4e0b-84a8-f761ed9e6973/a438437c-94f5-4a4e-86fd-57db698d6c52.png" width="500" height="500" alt="Two foxes">
Her mouth is cold, at first, then very warm - the only warm thing, it seems, in the whole of the frozen city; and when she takes her lips away - as she does, after a moment, to give a quick, anxious glance towards our hunched and nodding driver - your own felt wet and sore and naked in the bitter December breezes, as if her kiss had flayed them.
You step back into the shadows of the carriage and kiss again, only pausing to make sure your driver couldn't see. The ride home is full of muffled laughter and stolen kisses, the frozen river nearly forgotten because what was that compared to //this// miracle?
You arrive home and stumble giddily upstairs, as quietly as you can manage, to your shared bedroom. The room is bitter cold, but it seems an outrage to keep your clothes on at this very moment.
You don't think you'll ever forget all that [[happens]] then...
You stand there, in the cold, with Kitty's hand wrapped around yours for what feels like forever. The icy wind assaults your uncovered faces and yet you still stand, staring out on the frozen waters. But soon the spell of the Thames is broken when your driver gives a short cough and his horse takes a step.
You and Kitty silently climb back into the warmth of the carriage. The rest of the ride home is equally quiet, with each of you gazing out the windows of the carriage, contemplating.
You arrive back at Mrs Dendy's and climb the stairs quietly, careful not to wake the other tenants. You enter the freezing room and are quick to change into your nightdresses and scramble under the covers. Once everything's settled, you lie there in the dark, listening to Kitty's slow breathing.
Minutes tick by, when you hear Kitty whisper, "Ain't it queer..." she says it so softly, you don't think it was meant for [[your ears. ->Bad End]]
You're both shy with each other in the morning. Your heart drops to your knees when she says to you,
"How much we drank last night!" and for a terrible second you think it might really have been only the champagne that made her cling to you, and say that she loved you, so very very much ...
"Oh Kitty, If you unsay all those things you said last night, I’ll die!" You cry out. And that made her raise her eyes to yours, and you see that she had simply been anxious, that //you// might only have been drunk... And then you gaze and gaze at one another; and for all that you had gazed at her a thousand times before, you feel now that you were looking at her as if for the first time. You kiss her again, and you feel a smile upon her lips.
You part, and she goes to start putting her shoes on. You groan, "Oh, must we get up?"
She laughs, "Yes, we must. Walter is coming, have you forgotten?"
You had not forgotten, but you had no desire to think of ordinary things like oridinary Walter and your ordinary Sunday drives with him.
"You will be sensible with Walter, won’t you, Nan? You won’t let on, will you, to anyone? You will be careful - won’t you?"
You don't //want// to be careful. You want everyone to know that you love Kitty Butler and Kitty Butler loves you back. But you know that Kitty wants to remain secretive so you nod and [[she smiles. ->Good End.]]
The two of you get cleaned and dressed, then eat your breakfasts in the privacy of your room, kissing crumbs and butter from one another's lips.
There was a hamper of suits beneath the window, that you had had sent over from a costumier’s and not yet properly examined; and now, as you wait for Walter, Kitty begins rather idly to sort through it. She pulls out a black tail-coat, very fine. "Look at this!" she gasps. She slips it on over her dress, and does a stiff little dance; then she begins, very lightly, to [sing.]<c1|
(click: ?c1)[(open-url: "https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OQccfCainQo")]
//‘I go there a courting and cooing,
To my love, like a dove.
And swearing on my bended knee,
If ever I cease to love,
May sheep’s heads grow on apple trees,
If ever I cease to love.’ //
You listen for a while, then join her voice with yours at the chourus. She laughs with glee, then sings louder. You find a hat in the hamper, and toss it to Kitty, then pull out a jacket and a boater for yourself, and a walking-cane. You link your arm with hers, and imitate her dance. With the added props, the song grows sillier.
//'For all the money that’s in the bank,
For the title of lord or duke,
I wouldn’t exchange the girl I love,
There’s bliss in every look.
To see her dance the polka,
I could faint with radiant love,
May the Monument a hornpipe dance,
If ever I cease to love!
May we never have to pay the Income Tax,
If ever I cease to love!’//
The songs finishes with a florish, you attept a twirl but are stopped short with you notice the door has been left ajar. From the other side, Walter stands watching, his eyes as wide as saucers. Your heart nearly stops. What had he seen? Had you and Kitty kissed during your song? Would everything come crashing down just as it begins?
While you panic internally, Walter speaks. "My God. My God, Kitty, this is it! Why, oh why, didn’t I see it before! That is what we have been looking for. This, Kitty," - he gestures to your jackets, your hats, your gentlemanly poses - "this will make us famous!"
And that is how you began your short lived, but rather wonderful career on the music hall stage.
The next morning is just like any other Sunday. You wake, get dressed, have breakfast with Mrs Dendy and the other tenants. Afterwards, Walter stops by for your traditional Sunday drive. He also takes the two of you out for coffee on this cold winter day.
You can't help but notice how close Walter is standing, sitting, //being// to Kitty. It makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, but you say nothing, instead sipping your bitter coffee silently.
It should surprise you when, months later, Walter and Kitty announce their engagement to you, but it doesn't. You never truely got over your feelings for Kitty and now, now that you never acted upon them, you'll never get the chance to again. You try to be happy for the couple, you really do, but you can't ignore the breaking of your heart forever. So you leave. You leave Kitty and Walter and the theater life all behind you.
You don't know where you'll go, but you have a pocket full of money and a pretty face, so you're certain there's somewhere else out there for you. At least, that's what you hope...