Sybil Highgate

Written by Ourali

This work was last updated January 28, 2016

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Sybil was running through the muddy London street, trying desperately to not slip on one of the cracked cobblestones that covered the road. She held her hat with a tight vice to her head, protecting her hat from the rain but also trying the keep her very long hair in the concealing bun she had learned to make as a child.

She wasn’t feeling very enthusiastic about the job she had that evening. Pulling curtains wasn’t really the thought she had in mind when she was hired as a replacement stage hand for any of the theatres in the area. The fact that it was at a theatre that no one liked just made her even less excited. However, she was to be paid very well, and she needed the money, so who was she to refuse such a job?

'Especially because you’re a girl.'

The words rung like a bell in her head, filling her stomach with what felt like tiny pebbles. It wasn’t the first time that she had broken this type of rule, but it would be the first time she would be doing it in the presence of a man whom Sybil thought highly of. When the word came to her household that the Queen herself would be attending that evening, she almost abandoned her plight. However, that little spark of courage always shone through her heart at the best of times, and it was one such day where it did.

So, she was running, running, dashing through puddles without a care for how she would look on the other side. When she finally spotted the theatre, her face broke out into a toothy grin.

“What took ya so long, boy?” Yelled what seemed to be one of the other stage hands at the door, holding the door open with his stubby arm.

“Can’t you see the downpour? The streets aren’t the easiest to get through!”

The man looked down at her with his one eye, the other covered with a torn black eye patch. As Sybil shook off the rain from her overcoat and her trousers, she finally got a close up of his face. It was lined with deep wrinkles, with brown splotches spread across his face like he had been splattered by a carriage. His teeth were either broken or missing, and a very deep yellow that showed that he probably smoked a pipe more often than he should.

“Aye, fine, get to your post.” He said, waving a hand towards the stage. “Hmm, what should I call ya?”

“Me? My name is Nicholas Highgate.”

“Nice to meet, ya, Nicholas, now get on!”

When Sybil reached the stage, she could hear the loud murmurs of the crowd outside through the sound of rain pelting the semi-roof of the theatre. She peeked around the curtain and saw the Queen up in her perch. She was pale against the dark shadows of the empty seats around her, and she seemed very pompous in her fancy dress. Sybil would’ve watched her more if the cry for the curtains to be pulled hadn’t snapped through her reverie, and she pulled it open as rapidly as she could.

The play was as fantastic as she would’ve imagined. Each actor spoke his lines perfectly, and each prop was in it’s place. It was a whirlwind of laughter, anger and tears as the crowd watched these characters be plunged into such a tragedy. It was a masterpiece to behold, one that Sybil felt Shakespeare must’ve really been proud of.

When the play was over and everyone was clapping, William Shakespeare stepped out to give a little speech to the crowd. Everyone was cheering and everyone seemed to be thoroughly entertained, even if the rain had steadily gotten stronger as the day went on. When everyone was pouring out of the theatre, Sybil stepped behind so that she could await her pay.

“Did you like the play?”

Sybil turned around to peer up at Shakespeare, who looked down at her with a sort of pride in his eyes. Her heart fluttered at being in the presence of such a man.

“I did.”

“Well,” he replied, smiling widely, “I’m glad at least a girl like you liked it.”

He patted her shoulder and walked away, leaving Sybil in her corner, completely surprised that the one person she admired had seen through her disguise. Better yet, he hadn’t looked down on her for being a girl.

The last words that ran through her head were, 'I think you’ve placed your respect in the right place for once, Sybil.'

Tags: historical fiction elizabethan england prompt


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