St. Paul’s Day, in the eighth year of King Richard II
Jack’s cooking has gotten better over the few months I’ve known him, though he is little to blame for what there is to cook. Roasted meat is few and far between. The poulterer next door is kind to me, however, and he sometimes saves the oldest pullets for me. Living on the cheap is the rule of the day on the Shambles.
We are lucky today. Jack has managed to find some sausages. I must assume he purchased them for I will not entertain any other escapade on his part. Though the other day he brought home an apple. From where I do not know and to my great shame I did not care. To bite into the sweet, crunchy flesh of the fruit was Paradise indeed. We savored it together. Jack cut it in half, but even so, he cut a larger portion for me. He is always doing so.
The sausages spit and fizzle over our fire. Our windows are shuttered up tight and the hearth crackles with peat and wood he has managed to find or buy or…well. Best not too think too keen on it. The greater fact is that it is comfortable and warm. We almost luxuriated he and I, before our fire, waiting for our supper. He is quiet and I watch the flames’ light flicker off his pale, freckled cheeks. His ginger hair, a bit curly on top, hugs his brow with a long fringe, almost too long. But he is all boy and argues with me when I offer to barber it for him. Was I ever so much trouble? Undoubtedly. My lord the duke of Lancaster would argue that I was more so. But thoughts of the duke foul my mood and I would not have it so. Jack and I are at our ease. We have food awaiting us and we are warm. I never imagined such simple pleasures would give me such peace, but then, I never imagined living thus on the Shambles.
A log sparks and Jack scrambles back. He looks up at me with a sheepish expression. His brown eyes tell all. There are few secrets with Jack, at least where his emotions are concerned. He is a tight-lipped lad when it comes to his past. I suppose I am not the only one with a history, even though he is only eleven or twelve.
I sip my wine, something sweet this time, and golden. I close my eyes and think of Spain and other warm places that might have grown the grapes in the liquor.
Jack tells me our food is ready and I open my eyes to the bounty on our table. A loaf of round bread warmed on the hearth, a wedge of hard cheese, four steaming sausages, and a roasted onion. Pottage simmers in a clay cauldron full of more onions, barley, and dreaded turnips and we will have a sip of that, too. Yes, warmth and full belly make a hard winter livable.
I try not to think of the morrow.