Why did teachers always choose
Romeo and Juliet, she
thought to herself, wrinkling her nose in disgust?
It was as if
Shakespeare had only written one play or, more likely, it was the
only one every teacher had studied in school. The idea of two
young “star-cross’d” lovers making a series of irrational
decisions, guided by a bumbling priest and a silly goose of a wet
nurse, bothered her. If she knew anything about herself, it
was that she was a realist. As such, how was she expected to
answer, “In a short essay of approximately three hundred words,
discuss what you most admire about one of the characters in
Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Ensure you support your views with
evidence from the text.” Why couldn’t they have chosen one of
her favorites, Titus Andronicus, Macbeth, or especially King
Lear? Why this obsession with two kids who are barely
teenagers throwing their lives away, thinking they are in
protest, she thought, smiling to herself, I
could tell Principal Matthews I was thinking about committing
suicide, having been inspired by the Shakespeare selection on Ms.
King’s reading list.
Shit, she thought, suddenly snapping out of her
dramatic reverie in which the School District had to pay millions
of dollars in a class action lawsuit brought by the parents of a
multitude of suicidal children. I’ve only got forty-five minutes
to get it in gear, or I’m going to fuck up my chances of ever
getting into Stanford next year. Get a move on,
Putting pen to paper and beginning
to almost noiselessly hum to herself, she began:
“It fits when such a villain is a
guest. I’ll not endure him.” (Tybalt, I, 5: 82-83)
With these words, Tybalt declares he will defend
the honor of the House of Capulet against an abhorred trespasser,
Romeo. In seeking to defend his uncle’s hearth from the conniving
Montague, a boy who will eventually defile Capulet’s daughter and
rob him of his heir, the much-maligned Tybalt deserves not to be
disparaged, but instead to be held in heroic admiration. .
Exactly forty-four minutes later,
Alex put down her pen, sorted her papers, and waited to be excused
from the examination room. After she was released, she walked
purposefully into the hallway and screamed loudly.
Her best friend in the class, Britt
Stevens rushed to her and yelled, “OMG, Alex! Control your
Alex just looked at her for a
moment, then hugged her tightly and began laughing hysterically.
Caught up in the same sense of relief, Britt started crying. Soon,
both girls were crying and laughing simultaneously, jumping up and
down in a rhythmic celebration of relieved stress.
Eventually, Britt asked in a sobbing
voice, “How’d you do, but do I even need to ask?”
Alex said, “Yeah, pretty good, I
guess. But, like, what about the Shakespeare
Britt replied, “Romeo and Juliet,
yeah? I thought it was great. It was about as easy as
it gets. Who did you write about?”
With a triumphant smile, Alex
“Holy fuck!” Britt’s eyes went wide
in shock. “How could you say you admire him? He only killed
Mercutio, which started the whole predestination thing going. He’s
the villain, Alex, not someone who should be admired! Are you
“He’s got balls,” Alex said calmly.
“He’s the only one in the play who isn’t two-faced, a wimp, or
both. Besides, he had dreamy eyes in the movie.”
Britt looked toward heaven and
crossed herself, seemingly praying for Alex’s misguided soul. Alex
hit her on her shoulder and Britt looked at her in alarm. Then,
both girls started giggling again and began walking down the
Alex opened her locker and began
gathering the books she needed to take home to study for her next
examination. Out of the corner of her eye she saw a large hand
tentatively reach around her locker door.
“Hey, Alex,” a guy’s voice said
haltingly from the other side of the door.
Taking a step back, Alex saw the
too-adorable face of Bobby Parker. Somewhat embarrassed by her
frank stare, he asked, “Um, how’d you do on the exam?”
She laughed, shook her hair and, in
her best Scarlett O’Hara impression, said, “Why Bobby Parker, are
you talking to little ole me? Why, that exam quite addled my po’
tiny feminine brain!” She looked in mock adoration up into his
eyes, fluttering her eyelashes outrageously for effect.
“Right,” he said, trying to sound
confident, but clearly daunted despite her attempt at
Every guy in school recognized
Alex Tate was the perfect combination of brains and beauty; well,
the beauty part was perfect, I don’t know about the brains. A girl
as smart as Alex always makes you feel like anything you say makes
you look like an idiot, he thought glumly.
This did not stop him from
visualizing Alex on the soccer field, long legs gliding
effortlessly down the pitch, beautiful face set in a look of grim
determination as she set up for one of her league-leading nineteen
It’s not as if she’s smokin’ hot
like one of the babes in one of the Playboy magazines under my
mattress, he thought
guiltily, it’s just that she’s so damn cute! She’s
definitely the girl any guy would love having next door.
Saying ‘hi’ to her each morning, checking out her bedroom window at
night, hoping the shades weren’t pulled down all the way . .
Abruptly breaking from his
appreciative reverie, Bobby saw to his embarrassed horror Alex was
still looking at him expectantly.
“Um, Alex, if you’re not doing
anything tomorrow, some of us are going out to the beach and . . .”
his voice trailed off hopefully.
“Oh, sorry Bobby, I’ve already got
plans,” she replied, “But if I was going, there is no one I would
rather be with than Bobby Parker!”
She put her head on his shoulder to
emphasize her statement.
Bobby knew she was only kidding, but
feeling the light contact of her body on his made him feel great
Alex has a knack at doing
that, he thought, a smile
unconsciously creasing his lips as he looked away, embarrassed once
again. The guy who lands Alex Tate will really hit the
jackpot. Looking up, he saw Alex had returned to rummaging
around in her locker.
“Well, if you change your mind, just
text me, OK?” he asked.
“Sure. See ya,
She smiled at him encouragingly.
Closing her locker, Alex turned and started walking down the
hallway. Waving to some people, stopping to chat with others, it
was a full fifteen minutes before she exited the building, her
purposeful, athletic strides making up time as they carried her
Slamming the door after her, Alex
yelled out, “Hi, Mom,” as she dropped her books onto the foyer
She heard the faint, “In here,
honey,” of her mother’s reply wafting out of the
Alex adored her mother, who seemed
more like an older sister than a parent. Unlike many of her
friends, Alex loved going shopping with her mother, whose sense of
style was a slightly more refined version of Alex’s own. Both women
used make-up sparingly, accentuating their intrinsic, natural
beauty. Although her mother had given up a budding career as an
actress to become a homemaker and mother, she was still actively
involved in the local community theater, the Gaslight Playhouse.
Added to her various volunteer projects, she led a varied and full
social life. Alex loved her dearly.
After giving her a hug, Alex began
to rummage in the vegetable drawer of the
Just as she grabbed a stalk of
celery, a pear, and two carrots, her mother asked, “How was the
Straightening up, Alex looked
mischievously at her mother and replied, “What English exam is
Her mother’s feigned look of angry
exasperation was good but, to the daughter who was well aware of
her parent’s acting ability, ineffective. Alex ran to her mother
and threw another, less automatic, hug about her waist and cried,
“I smashed it, Mom, even the stupid Romeo and Juliet
Her mother joined momentarily in
Alex’s jubilant exuberance, and then asked, “So, are you going out
tonight to celebrate?”
“What, with Calculus and Physics
coming up on Monday and Wednesday? You’ve got to be
She left her mother in the kitchen,
who voiced a silent prayer of thanks for being blessed with such a
conscientious daughter. Alex sprinted up the stairs to her room,
her healthy snack in one hand and an energy drink in the other.
Placing her snack precisely on her desk, she efficiently stripped
off her school clothes and slipped into her favorite sweat pants
and a well-worn, oversized Seahawk’s jersey. Going into her
ensuite, she used the toilet, conscientiously sprayed the room
deodorizer, and scrubbed her face and hands until her skin assumed
a rosy red glow. Then, scratching herself in a very unladylike
manner, she returned to her desk.
As with most brilliant students,
Alex was capable of wholly immersing herself in her studies.
Complex formulas danced across the neurons of her brain, as she
unconsciously consumed her snack. Suddenly, she felt a hand on her
shoulder. Startled, she jumped in her seat and let out a little
gasp of surprise.
Over her shoulder she heard
her mother say, “Oh my gosh, I’m sorry Alex! I didn’t mean to
startle you, but I’ve been calling you for ages to come down for
Alex turned quickly to her clock to
confirm whether she had indeed been studying for over two hours.
She then turned in her chair,
smiled, patted her mother’s hand, and said, “It’s OK, Mom.
I’ve just been channeling Albert Einstein. Sorry, for not
The two women went downstairs to the
dining room table. Alex yelled, “Yippee, mushroom risotto, my
fav! Where’s Dad?”
Her father, a carnivore by nature,
endured an occasional vegetarian dinner to keep peace with his
herbivore offspring. It certainly wasn’t by choice, however.
Consequently, such a meal usually meant he was unavoidably detained
at his office. Her mother confirmed Alex’s inference, and then
raised a sparkling grape juice toast to Alex’s achievement on the
exam as her cut-crystal glass sent diamond-shaped reflections
dancing across the ceiling.
Somewhat embarrassed, Alex said, “I
think I’ve done well, Mom, but it’s not really for sure until I see
the results in black and white. Oh my gosh, I hope I haven’t jinxed
it!” She assumed an exaggerated look of melodramatic concern of
impending doom for her mother’s benefit, back of her right hand to
her forehead, forlorn facial expression, and dramatically arched
Her mother laughed delightedly and
applauded Alex’s theatrical range. The meal then settled down to
the comfortable silence and intermittent conversation of two
kindred souls, intimately entwined by their love for one another.
After washing up the dishes, Alex said, “Mom, I’m going back up to
hit Calculus for a couple of hours. After that, I’ll probably just
put on my IPOD and go to sleep. It really has been an exhausting
Her mother kissed her cheek and
reminded her that she had rehearsal that evening. After kissing her
in return, Alex went up the stairs, forcing herself to go slowly
despite the intense ball of growing excitement that was burning in
her toned belly. She had something to do, but it had nothing to do
She had a date.