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See that girl kneeling next to the bookshelf in the library? She's whispering the book titles to herself. That's me. Back away slowly, and then run.

Rosaline's Story

March 15, 2019


What had I just seen? Did this mean that Romeo had moved on to another? I’d have not chosen Juliet, but my relief at my release from him was too overwhelming to do anything but offer up a prayer of thanks.
    And to me that seemed to be that. I did wonder how it would turn out, the only children of two brawling houses falling in love. I didn’t spare it much thought until the hot afternoon when word came that Tybalt had been killed by Romeo. The fight had gotten out of hand this time, they said. Romeo himself was nowhere to be seen, and the Prince was rumored to have banished him. God’s teeth, I thought. What has he done?
    At Tybalt’s funeral, I made my way over to Juliet. She gripped my hands and we both wept for some time. After a while, I wiped my eyes and braced myself to whisper, “Where has Romeo gone?”
    She jumped as though I had stabbed her with a pin. “What?”
    “Romeo. The fool you’ve been kissing in dark corners. Where has he gone to escape the Prince’s wrath?”
    Looking down at the ground, she whispered, “He has escaped.”
    “And left you.” I was not very surprised at this, given Romeo’s history of falling hard and moving on fast.
    “He will send for me soon.” Juliet squeezed my hands tight. “May I tell you something?”
    “I suppose.”
    She leaned in to my ear and whispered, “We are married but three days hence.”
    I widened my eyes and raised my eyebrows, but I was feigning surprise. Juliet was but thirteen, but my mother and sister whispered that the Count Paris was already after her hand. It was easy to tell why. When she widened her eyes and tilted her head just so (as she often did), she was the very picture of innocence and sweetness. For a moment I wondered what my life would have been like had I chosen to act like that. For sure I’d have been married already-perhaps to Romeo himself.
    “In truth?”
    She nodded. For a girl married to the murderer of her cousin, she looked altogether flushed and excited. “Oh, would not understand, of course, but our love...there are no words that could describe it!”
    “And somehow I have no doubt you will use quite a few to do so.” I took her arm and began to guide her out of the chapel, through a door opposite the one everyone else was leaving from. “But Juliet, are you quite sure that this is a good idea? Tybalt lies dead and buried from your Romeo’s blade.”
    “That was not his fault.” Twin patches of red appeared on Juliet’s cheeks.
    “The sword acted of its own accord, I suppose?”
    Juliet pulled her arm out of mine. “I wouldn’t expect you to ever understand such a thing as our love!”
    I looked down at a crumbling gravestone. “I am not quite sure I would like to.”
    “Our love the most important thing in the world! Nothing matters to me but my Romeo, and so am I to him!” Juliet began to pace among the graves. “This love-it overwhelms all other wants, needs, desires.” She stopped, shook her head. “I must away. Soon I will be with Romeo, and all will be well.” WIthout even a good-bye, she hurried away, skirts rustling over grass.
    I raised my head to call after her, but thought better of it. She had decided her own fate, and nothing I could do could change it.
    I went home and tried to think of other things.
    Later that day, my father returned home with the news that Juliet was dead of some mysterious cause. Verona, so soon recovering from the death of Tybalt, reeled again with this new loss.
Two nights later, I stood on my balcony. The stars were bright, and I picked out all the constellations-Hercules, Sagittarius, Scorpius.
A crashing noise came from below, and I looked down to see what it was. My maid Maria was running through the garden, shrieking. “Dead...dead….dead-”
My first thought was to wonder if there had been another brawl so soon after the last. I leaned over and cried, “Who is it? Who’s dead?”
She looked up at me, hands on both sides of her face, mouth gaping. It would have been a comical picture if not for the circumstances. “The County Paris-and Romeo-and the fair lady Juliet. Dead, madam, all dead!”
    It all felt like a dream. The Friar’s strange explanation of events...the bloodied bodies of the lovers...a gravestone awash with Paris’ blood...Montague and Capulet embracing...their wives weeping…
    Verona felt like a tomb in the next week. Summer seemed to have hidden itself in grief behind low grey clouds. Men who once clashed in the streets passed by with nary a murmur. The Prince rode his horse down the streets with a half-saddened, half-amazed expression on his face, for once with no sparring to break up.
    I spent my days in the garden on my favorite bench, wondering over the events of the past weeks. What if I had welcomed Romeo’s wooing? How many deaths could I have prevented by doing so?
And what if, as the friar claimed, the two had managed to get their messages to each other in time? Would they now be far away, living as husband and wife? I couldn’t bring myself to believe that their marriage would have been a happy one. Romeo would not be satisfied for long with one woman.
    After an age of clouds, the sun broke through. I rested my head on the garden wall and felt some kind of peace. I was but a player, I thought, on this stage of a world. I had as little say in those tragic events as if they had been written down by someone else-a kind of celestial playwright.
I was reading Romeo and Juliet for school, and Mercutio was shouting something to Romeo about Rosaline and I thought "She's the one who needs her story told." So here it is.

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