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A Beginning

Jayne Hawthorn

"You have been nothing but trouble from the minute you arrived here. I can't stand it any longer, I really can't. I've had enough." Jayne dropped her head onto her hands and watched her aunt pace up and down the kitchen. Her ears were ringing from her aunt's angry shouts and her face hurt from her aunt's slap.
"Lord knows I did you such a kindness when I took you in after your poor father died. And this is how you repay me? By running wild and getting into trouble at every opportunity?" Her aunt slammed her palm down on the table in front of Jayne. The crash made Jayne jump, her aunt's bony face inches away from hers.
"You are the most ungrateful girl I have ever had the misfortune to meet."
Jayne winced and turned her head away. Her aunt's eyes were cold, her
expression furious.
"Look at me when I speak to you!" The woman shouted and hit Jayne around the face again. Jayne forced herself to look at her aunt. Her head was spinning and she thought she might faint.
"Well, what do you have to say for yourself?" Her aunt was still shouting.
"I er...I didn't mean to do it. " She muttered. Jayne's aunt threw her hands above her head and started pacing the room again.
"Oh for pities sake, what rubbish! You didn't mean to do it. I suppose you pushed him into the sea by accident did you?"
Jayne didn't answer. How could she tell her aunt that Jayne's cousin, and therefore her aunt's son had been about to push her off the pier? And that the only way to save herself from drowning was to push him in instead. After all Jayne could not swim where as her cousin could. She knew he was upstairs in the bathroom, his ear pressed to the floorboards, listening to every word.
"I swear, I won't stand for it any longer. My son could have been killed! I want you out of my house before dawn tomorrow."
Jayne snapped her head round to stare at her aunt.
"What?" she gasped. From upstairs there came a thud hat was her cousin falling into the bath.
"You heard me." Jayne's aunt spoke calmly. "I don't want you in my house a moment longer. I want nothing to do with you. I never want to see you, speak to you or hear from you again."
Jayne shook her head to try and clear her mind. She found she was gripping the edge of the table so hard her knuckles had gone white.
"But you can't...you can't just...where am I going to go?"
"I think you'll find I can. I have no legal obligation to look after you, and even your father Lord rest his soul, would never wish on me the trouble you have caused. And as to where you will go, frankly, I don't care."
Jayne pushed her chair back and stood up.
"But...Please Aunt" she begged. Her aunt shook her head sharply.
"No. I have made up my mind. I will not have a girl like you under my roof. Now get out." She turned her back on her niece.
So now Jayne was homeless. It only took a few minutes to pack her things. All she decided to take were a couple of changes of clothes, the few pennies she had earned doing odd jobs, and a wooden pendant her father had given her. Jayne was so angry. Angry at her aunt for treating her so unfairly, angry at her cousin for being so cruel, and angry at herself for letting them get away with it. Now she had nothing. She was a penniless orphan with nowhere to go. Jayne took as much food as she could carry from the larder and left the house an hour or so before the sun rose. Neither Jayne's aunt, nor her cousin were up then. It was raining quite hard and Jayne was soon soaked through, even though she pulled her shawl over her head. She walked until dawn, wanting to get as far away from her aunt as was possible. She had thought up a plan of sorts. Jayne thought she would head into the city center and look for work. Hopefully she could get an apprenticeship of some sort. That way she would be able to board for free and would have all her meals provided. But Jayne knew it would be difficult; not many people would want to employ a girl at the awkward age of fifteen, who had never been to school. It was market day in the city, and as she drew closer to the center she found herself swept up in a crowd of people all heading in the same direction as her.
Jayne lived in a large port and market town called Danton. Her family had been traders and had come over the sea when Jayne was just six. The journey had been long and hard, and Jayne's mother had got sick on the way. There were no doctors on the ship, and they were still at least two weeks away from any land. She died, and Jayne's father was so distraught he stopped caring about himself. He didn't eat properly, so that when the winter came he was too weak to fight pneumonia. After he died, Jayne's aunt moved into the house, bringing her son with her. Jayne was very unhappy. She missed her mother and father terribly, and she disliked her aunt and hated her cousin. The boy seemed to know just how to get her into trouble, or fix it so that the blame fell onto Jayne. Jayne was not sorry to leave them.
Now that she was in the market square Jayne did not know where to begin. All around her were people, pushing and shoving, shouting at each other and stealing from each other. Jayne clutched her bag tightly and looked around for a stall she could ask for work at. The market was huge, and standing where she was at the center of the square, Jayne could not see either end of the market it was so long. The square was in fact not a square, but a very long rectangle. The stalls didn't seem to be in any particular order, people had just arrived, found a space and set up their tables. Jayne's head was reeling. There were people selling fish, meat, bread, fruit and vegetables, herbs, flowers, material, clothes, pots and pans, books, jewelry, spells, statues, music, paintings and all manner of other goods. Jayne stared around her trying to take everything in at once. For some reason Jayne had never been to the market before, she had hardly even stepped into the city center. Jayne's aunt did not live very far away, in fact it would have taken less than half and hour by cart. But Jayne's aunt went to market once a month, to buy only what was needed, and she never took Jayne.
Jayne headed for the nearest stall, which happened to be selling silver
jewelry. Standing behind it was a scary looking man with a dark beard, wearing a leather waistcoat. He peered down at Jayne with a frown on his face, and thrust a handful of silver chains in her direction.
"Solid silver I swear." He said grumpily. "And fine craftsmanship too. A bargain at..." He broke off when Jayne shook her head.
"No, thank you...sir. I was just here to...erm...to ask...to ask if you had any work for me." She finished in a rush, nearly tripping over her words. The man leaned closer to Jayne, his frown deepening.
"Work?" He said slowly. Jayne nodded, praying that he wasn't going to shout at her. "Work? Well. Do you mean, as an apprentice? Or was you wanting something else?"
"As an apprentice, I was hoping" replied Jayne nervously. What else would she mean? Jayne was feeling a little uneasy.
"Ah." The man stood up and brushed his hands off, flinging the chains into a basket. "No, you'll not find any apprenticeships here. Shouldn't think you'd have much luck on any of these stalls." His voice was friendlier now, but Jayne was disheartened.
"None at all? Why?"
"Well what with your being a girl and all...I wouldn't think there's many as would take you on...cept for all the wrong reasons of course."
"Oh." Seeing her face the man smiled at Jayne.
"Ah, come now, don't be down hearted! What's a girl like you wantin a job for anyways? Look, I'll give yus a chain for free eh? But er, they're not actually real silver, like I was sayin." Jayne laughed and accepted the pretty metal bracelet the man handed her.
"Now, get on with yuh. No mopin and grumpin. There's a fair of some sort around today I think. Why not get yourself down there eh?" Smiling again the man turned to serve another customer. Waving at him, Jayne pushed her way through the crowd again. So, an apprenticeship was out of the question. But what else could she do? There was always helping at the docks if the worst came to the worst. It wouldn't pay her much money, she would have no where to sleep and the hours would be bad, but what other option did she have? Jayne hugged herself, trying to feel less depressed. But really, it was a very bad situation. Sighing, Jayne thought that she might as well go and visit the fair.
The docks would be extra busy just now and she didn't want to have to face more crowds. There were posters all around advertising it. Following the directions Jayne left the market square and walked along the seafront. It was a nice morning now. It had stopped raining and the sky had cleared, letting the early sunshine through. It was warm, and the air smelled pleasantly of salt. Jayne began to feel better, even though her situation had not improved. The fair was in a large field in the center of the city. Jayne was rather astonished to see it there as so much greenness did not really fit in with the gray colors of the city. The fair had not yet officially opened, and people were still setting up. There was no entrance fee though, so some people were wandering around, waiting for everything to begin. Jayne sat on the grass and closed her eyes. She was tired from getting up so early that morning, and from walking so far for so long. Jayne rested her hands under her head, and fell asleep. She was woken by screams coming from somewhere in the fair. Jayne realized she must have been asleep for a very long time as the sun was now high in the sky and there were people all around her. Most of them were eating lunch on the grass, or dozing or talking. The fair was in full swing now and there were stalls and rides lining each side of the large field. At one end was a large wooden stage, and the screams seemed to be coming from there. Lifting herself up on one arm, Jayne could make out the players on the stage. One had a large wooden sword tucked under his arm and was staggering about, screaming. He was wearing a very strange sort of robe, with an orange turban wrapped around his head. The crowd didn't seem to be paying much attention to him, despite the loudness of his screams. Jayne moved closer so that she could hear the rest of the play. The stage was very makeshift, with no curtains and only one set. It was of a forest, rather badly painted in about three shades of green. There were two characters on the stage besides the screaming man, another man and a woman, who didn't seem very concerned by the dying one.
"Hail the flying comet, who though the shivering skies doth soar!" The woman wailed to the audience. The shivering skies? Jayne thought that was a rather odd thing to say.
"It is a surely sign my Lord, that we were not meant to for mortal realms." The woman was waving her arms in the air now. It was quite hard to hear her, as the man with the sword was still screaming. Jayne watched the rest of the play, which seemed to consist of a lot more screaming and wailing and not much else. The general plot was that the other man and the woman decided that they were gods, and killed the screaming man. The reason for that wasn't quite clear, but Jayne supposed it was because she had missed the start of the play. The ending was rather good, she thought. It involved a lot more swords and screaming and in the end all three of them were dead. Not many other people seemed to have enjoyed the play though, as Jayne was practically the only one who clapped. The three players looked rather glum so Jayne stood up and clapped even louder. The woman gave her a slight smile as they left the stage. She felt a little deflated afterwards, as now she had no option but to either stay in the field for a while and then go and look for work at the docks, or save time and go and look for work just then. She was just deciding to go and look for work straight away when the man in the orange turban stormed out from the side of the stage, wielding his sword angrily in front of him.
"NO, NO NO NO NO!" he shouted, waving the wooden sword at the astonished crowd.
The woman from the play rushed after him lifting up her long skirts to chase the man.
"Julian! Julian!" she cried waving her arms in the air again. "Julian come back! We absolutely can't manage without you! Julian!" but the man had vaulted over the fence and was already lost in the crowd, despite his bright orange headgear. Jayne turned to look at the woman who was standing dejectedly on the grass, staring at the ground. She looked up and saw Jayne.
"He says we're terrible. He says he can't bear to work with us a second longer. He says...he says..." here the woman broke off to wipe her eyes with the corner of her skirt. "he says we're the worst actors he has ever seen!" The woman burst into tears and began wailing again. Jayne was taken by surprise, she hadn't expected the woman to speak to her. From behind the stage Jayne heard a hiss.
"You...you there. For heavens sake get her in here, people are staring." The man from the play was beckoning wildly at Jayne. Quickly she took the woman's arm and gently steered her in the direction of the stage. The man led them through a curtain into a tiny room behind the forest scene. The woman was still sobbing into her skirts. Sighing the man sat down on a stool and gestured for Jayne to do the same. She sat down and looked at the two actors. The man was quite old, with a thin face and a lot of white hair which stuck up around his head. He was leaning his head in his hands with his eyes shut. The sobbing woman had thrown herself across a small couch and was lying very still. Her hair was long and red, and she looked about thirty. Jayne hugged her knees and waited for someone to speak. Finally the man said
"He's not coming back Sidda. There's nothing we can do about it now." Looking at Jayne he said, "Julian was the star of our cast you see. He came from another company, had to pay him lots. We were going to tour the country you know. And now of course, he's run off with his wages and not left us with any profit"
"Oooooooooohhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!" was Sidda's reply. There was silence again.
"Well." Said Jayne. "I'm awfully sorry about it. But I er, really have to find some work at the docks now." She made to get up and leave but the man jumped up before her.
"Work? You need work? Oh well you can work here! Yes, yes its splendid, simply splendid! Don't you think so my dear?"
Sidda had sat up and was beaming widely at Jayne.
"Oh but yes! You have been so terribly kind to me today. It would be
marvelous to have you in our company." Jayne looked at the two of them. They really were offering her work, even when they had only known her for a few minutes. Jayne had hardly spoken a word to either of them, and yet they wanted her in their company. How could Jayne refuse? It was paid work, with board and food. She would be able to get far away from her aunt and her cousin, and be able to meet new people, see new places. It was perfect. The man saw her grin and grasped her hand firmly.
"Well then that's settled." He said, pumping Jayne's hand up and down. "I'm Hart and this is Sidda." He pointed at the woman. Sidda rushed over to Jayne and hugged her so tightly Jayne thought she might stop breathing. "Oh darling girl! What fun we shall have! And what's your name?"
"Jayne." She answered. "Jayne Hawthorn."

Avalon Publication July 2000

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