Conversation: Julian Howard and Alleyn Wallace
Jul. 18th, 2007 @ 12:26 pm
I nod and sit up as he lets go of me. I stand up, feeling a lot more steady on my feet, and go into his WC. I piss and then freshen myself up as best I can. I scrub quite hard at my face, neck, and arms. Though I am unable to quite shake the feeling of residue from my retching fit the night before, I clean up fairly well, despite the obvious hangover written across my face. Alleyn seems to have done a good job of keeping my hair out of the way. Something else to thank him for, if I can ever list everything he has done for me in the last twelve hours.
I go back into his bedroom and look around for the rest of my clothes, now that I am awake enough to have noticed that I am only wearing an undershirt and my trousers, which were unbuttoned the whole morning. "Better?" I ask, displaying my slightly damp, cleaner self as I go to pull my shirt off the door of his wardrobe.
I dress while he washes up. "Better," I smile. I give him his shirt and one of my own jackets. "There's a fairly wretched coffeeshop down the way, but you don't want to show up in tails."
"I was just worrying about that," I say, and I button up my shirt then pull on his jacket. It is not too ill-fitting; I suppose our builds are not dissimilar. It does not match my trousers very well, but I can forgive that. "Good?"
"Good enough." I take him to my usual coffee house in the Grey's Inn Road. It's fairly awful, especially the tea, but the one thing they manage well is toast, which is impossible when you've only got a gas ring as a cooker. Over eggs and bacon and mugs of the swill they call tea, I ask, "Is everything going to be all right?"
I chew thoughtfully on my toast, staring down at my eggs. I'm having a little trouble eating them all, as my stomach's a bit upset still, but I am feeling better. That is not what he is asking about, though. I become aware I am likely making an odd face, thinking about this, so I look up and give him a noncommittal smile. "It... should be, I think... I hope."
"Would it be better for you to leave London for a while? Go home to your family, or maybe go back to Italy?"
"I don't know, maybe I do need to escape. But I cannot go to my family... If there's ever anything to make me feel unwell, it is going back to Southampton. And I don't have the money to go to Italy, nor do I think I really wish to... I like being in London, for all its problems. I chose to come here, rather than stay in Rome." I rub at my forehead; I still have the remains of a headache.
"Maybe something does have to change, though." I take a sip of my rather awful tea and stare into the air between his face and the tabletop, trying to think but not coming up with much of anything.
"Would your parents pay for the Royal Academy? Would you even be interested in studying at the Royal Academy? I think you need a better circle of acquaintance than you've so far found here. People rather than Forsytes."
"My grandfather might, but I couldn't say for sure. I have already asked him for so much - he sent me to school, and to Uni, and then to Italy after..." I pause, rephrasing myself, "after I left Oxford."
"I do not know if I truly wish to study there, either, though it is an idea I have entertained. What I want to do, more than anything, is just to hide myself away with my paints and canvases and work and work, without interruption. And yes, I would love to meet people who are not, as you put it, Forsytes." I shake my head. "They are, aren't they? Especially Penelope."
"Penelope is awful, but I think Lowell is worse, and being American is not an excuse. If you had the money, I'd send you to stay with my friends in Paris. They're nearly all musicians, but they understand art. Come to think of it, have you any experience with the Old Masters? At least they did Old Masters twenty years ago, business may have changed since then. I know people who may have contacts at Goupil if you'd consider a rather better job as a means of supporting yourself."
I fear I am gaping at him. "Goupil? I'm not sure I can even let myself believe that, Alleyn. That would be... ideal." I shake my head and fall silent for a long moment. "If... if it isn't too much trouble, I would so appreciate your looking into it." I laugh. "I fear I am getting myself very much into your debt very quickly, Alleyn."
"You are," I smile, "but it's my choice, not your imposition. No promises, mind - Tamara's father worked for them, but he died nearly fifteen years ago, so the business may have changed. David says his uncle would not have approved of anything beyond the Signac, but then most of the business was Old Master drawings, if I remember rightly what David told me. I'll ask Tamara. You'd have a good reference from your current employer?"