Romeo. Egad, what a fool. He comes round my house sighing and begging for my hand, and when I sent a servant out to tell him to go away, what does he do? Come back the next day, of course, and every day afterwards. I couldn’t turn around without him standing there.
“Mistress Rosaline, you do wrong in denying me this,” he’d whine. “Without a smile from you I shall surely perish.”
“And I would gladly help you,” I would respond before slamming my window shut. Of course, he refused to leave even after that, and so I was forced to sit in the house until he went on his way.
My mind was set. What I had seen of marriage had set me against the very thought. My parents argued sunrise to sunset. My sisters had both been handed over to the first man who asked. The day that Livia died in labor was the day that I decided absolutely not. I would not-could not-be shackled to a man and a gaggle of wailing babies. I’d be aunt, friend, daughter, sister, but never wife or mother. My parents agreed to this when I told them, and so it was.
I’d heard of him, of course-everybody had. Montague’s handsome son, the heir to one half of the family feud tearing apart Verona. The Montagues and the Capulets had been at each other’s throats for decades. My great-grandmother had told me once, before she died, of a time when Verona knew peace. These days it seemed that a fight broke out once a week. It was a risky business, going out into the streets. Capulet’s men made rude gestures, Montague’s brandished their weapons, and all other people either ran for cover or joined the chaos.
Romeo was known by all of Verona for his lovelornity heart. Whenever we saw him in the market or the square or suchlike he always had a ridiculous gloomy expression on his face. It seemed that for all the time he spent yearning after girls, he always chose the ones who would never have him-or were unable to. Rather foolish of him. After all, there were at least a dozen girls after him at all hours. He wasn’t bad looking, I suppose, and there was something about his gloomy expression that always set them mad.
After he’d been coming by the house for several days, I was fed up with him and his sighing. I instructed the servants to warn me if he was seen coming and bar the door to him. In this manner I managed to avoid him for some time. The one person who was allowed into the house during that time was a servant bearing an invitation for Capulet’s party. Believing this to be a welcome escape, I accepted.
Imagine my horror when Romeo appeared there, like a species of mold. I’d left off dancing to catch my breath. Leaning back against the cool stone wall and wiping my forehead, I turned my head at some whispered sound. There-standing with his back to me-the wretch himself. I took hold of my skirts, preparing to make a hasty exit before he spotted me.
At that moment he shifted slightly. I saw who was standing behind him, her face lifted upwards, whispering something.
Some devil must have possessed me, for I whispered out loud, “Juliet?”
B ut the pair took no notice of this slip. As I stood, frozen, they whispered to each other for some time. Then Romeo took Juliet’s face in his hands, and-I averted my gaze and began to wonder as to my plan for escape. A nearby door opened and Juliet’s nurse poked her head through. Fixing my gaze firmly on the ground, I strode towards the door and pushed past her.
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?”
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.
She nodded. For a girl married to the murderer of her cousin, she looked altogether flushed and excited. “Oh, Rosaline...you 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 is...is 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 on paper.
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.