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thelife369 · 2 days ago
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alexandherdigitalart · 17 hours ago
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If your signature color is black, you need wedding stationery that reflects your quirky personality. These save the date editable templates come with a 4x6", 5x7" and an electronic sharing size invitation for all of your wedding plan needs.
See these in the shop HERE.
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dangerouslyfurrydragon · a day ago
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Save the Date and tell a few Friends!
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baby-anonymouse · 2 days ago
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ANYWAYYY so there’s a new hottie working upstairs at the public library and obviously I’m in love
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longclawislightbringer · 3 days ago
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Chapter Seven: Vindication
Rating: T
Relationships: Rosaline Capulet/Benvolio Montague, Helena/Princess Isabella, Livia Capulet/Count Paris, Rosaline Capulet/Prince Escalus (past)
Characters: Rosaline Capulet, Benvolio Montague, Prince Escalus, Livia Capulet, Count Paris, Princess Isabella, Helena, Stella
Summary: Rosaline figures out her feelings; the evidence points to a suspect.
Hello everyone!
Thanks for waiting so patiently for this chapter. I know the cliffhanger on the last one was a doozy ;)
I’m really excited for you all to read this chapter; the scene in the precinct is another one I came back in ye olde days of 2019 and it’s one of my favorites. I hope you all enjoy!
Thanks once again to unwrittenmusings on Tumblr for the original prompt and my beta Ry for all her wonderful work these last few months. You can find her on Tumblr and AO3.
Thanks for reading!
Chapter Six. Chapter Seven.
Read on AO3.
Chest heaving, Rosaline burst through the double doors to the hotel veranda. Her bare feet slapped against the coarse stone while she ran to the marble railing.
Breathing deep, she slammed her hands against the balustrade and screamed as loud as she dared—at that time of night, barely above a rough stage whisper. The sound burst from deep in her chest, carrying with it all the frustrations and anxiety of the last month. Her voice hoarse, her scream trickled off into nothingness as she gazed out at the glimmering stars that dotted the night sky.
“You look like you’ve got a story to tell.”
Startled at the sudden intrusion, she gasped and turned.
Bathed in the warm glow of the streetlamp and half shrouded in shadow, a middle-aged man lurked at one of the wrought-iron tables, drinking a glass of water. Rosaline recognized him as one of Helena’s guests.
“I didn’t know anyone was still out here,” Rosaline apologized. “I’m sorry if I disturbed your solitude. I’ll be going now.”
She turned to the door.
“No, stay,” the man responded. “You seem like you’ve got something on your mind, and sometimes talking about what’s bothering us can help.”
“Alright, I guess,” Rosaline grumbled, taking the offered chair and dropping her clutch on the table. “I’m Rosaline.”
“You’re one of Isabella’s bridesmaids, aren’t you?” He asked, tapping the table.
Rosaline nodded morosely.
“Name’s Orsino.”
Rosaline shook his outstretched hand.
“You and your boyfriend sure looked like you had a great time today, so what’s got you all in a tiff?”
“That’s just it,” Rosaline groaned, burying her head in her hands. “He’s not actually my boyfriend.”
“Really?” Orsino almost spat out his water. “You certainly had me fooled.”
“He’s my partner at work,” she explained, fiddling with the ribbon at her waist. “This is all going to sound so stupid.”
Orsino quirked an eyebrow.
“My ex-boyfriend, Isabella’s brother, wanted to get back together before the wedding, so I panicked and told him I had a new boyfriend.” Rosaline dropped the ribbon. “Benvolio agreed to come along as my fake date today, and it went well . . .” Rosaline sighed. “ . . . Only now it’s so complicated.”
She leaped from her chair and paced the veranda.
“I’m feeling all sorts of . . . things I can’t explain, and then Benvolio has to go and say that he has feelings for me and that he wants our relationship to be real!” Rosaline threw up her hands. “As if things weren’t already confusing enough!”
“And what did you do?” Orsino’s eyes crinkled.
“Well,” Rosaline stopped pacing, “I didn’t know what to say, so I just . . . kind of . . . ran away?”
Orsino burst into laughter.
“Stop laughing!” Rosaline collapsed into her chair and crossed her arms. “This isn’t funny.”
Orsino wiped a tear from his eye.
“You do have to admit that it’s like something out of a rom-com.”
His laughter trickled off.
“I know it’s not the same, but it reminds me of what happened when I met my wife.”
Rosaline leaned in.“How did you know? That she was it for you, I mean.”
“It’s just something you have to really think about. What is this Benvolio to you?”
“He’s my partner,” she answered without hesitation. “What kind of a question is that?”
“You’re avoiding the question.” Orsino retorted. “What else is he to you? Think long and hard.”
“Nervous, Capulet?” Benvolio had asked at work earlier that week when he noticed her staring off into space and writing the same line over and over again. “About the wedding, I mean.”
Her pen fell out of her hand, clattering onto the desk.
“What makes you say that?” Rosaline stuttered and shuffled her papers.
“Nothing,” Benvolio shrugged with a facetious smirk. “Only the fact that you’ve been working on the same line for the last three minutes.”
Rosaline groaned. “Is it that obvious?”
“Only to the people who know you,” Benvolio drummed his fingers across the desk. “You’ve got nothing to worry about.”
He reached across their desks and squeezed her hand.
“I guess he’s my best friend,” Rosaline answered the question.
“You guess, or you know?” Orsino smirked.
Rosaline gritted her teeth.
“I know.”
A wistful smile graced Orsino’s face.
“Viola worked with me as one of my assistants before we married, but she was also my best friend. She had disguised herself when we first met, plus I fancied myself in love with another woman. I spent hours upon hours composing sonnets to this woman’s beauty; I even sent Viola to woo her for me like an idiot. When Viola revealed her feelings for me, I realized that I didn’t want to live without her by my side.”
“That’s a nice story, but it doesn’t help me. I’m still confused.”
Orsino fixed her with a quizzical look.
“Let me ask you one more question.”
“Go right ahead.”
“Were you pretending?”
Rosaline gaped at him, speechless.
“What?” she blinked.
“Were you pretending?” Orsino repeated, unfazed.
Rosaline closed her mouth and averted her gaze, staring off the veranda at the blurry lights of the city.
“You don’t have to pretend with me.”
She was back in the ballroom. “Annie’s Song” played over the loudspeaker once more. Benvolio’s hands pressed against her waist; the disco ball reflected in his ocean blue eyes.
“We don’t have to if it makes you uncomfortable.”
“No,” she had answered. “I want to.”
Orsino waited for an answer.
“No,” Rosaline admitted, to herself more than Orsino. “I wasn’t pretending.”
A wide smile spread across his face.
“Then you’re luckier than most,” Orsino nodded. “Some people are ill-fated enough to spend their whole lives pretending.”
Rosaline nodded as the full impact of what she’d just said dawned on her.
“I need to talk to Benvolio,” Leaping out of her chair, she snatched her clutch off the table and darted toward the door. “Thanks for all your advice!” she shouted back. “It was lovely to meet you!
“Godspeed, Rosaline!” Orsino waved goodbye as she sprinted away.
***
A light, airy warmth rose in Rosaline’s chest when she boarded the elevator and put a pep in her step.
While the elevator rose, the butterflies in her stomach danced in time to the jaunty elevator jingle, and she rocked back and forth, her toes squishing the plush pink carpet.
The elevator dinged as the doors opened with a quiet whoosh into the hotel hallway. Rosaline tiptoed down the corridor, careful to avoid making a sound in front of the many doors decorated with “Do-Not-Disturb” signs.
When at last she reached her own door, she straightened and took a deep breath before rapping her knuckles on the door three times.
“Benvolio, it’s me,” she whispered. “I’m sorry for leaving earlier. I need to tell you something.”
No answer came.
Rosaline frowned, digging in her clutch for her hotel room key.
The door unlocked with a click and swung wide.
“Benvolio,” Rosaline called quietly as she stepped inside, the door swinging shut behind her.
The lamp on Benvolio’s side of the bed scattered light and shadow along the back wall. She flicked the main switch on, bathing the room in warm yellow light.
The murder board remained in place, but Benvolio’s bag had vanished from its resting place along the back wall.
Numb, Rosaline dropped her purse on the desk.
“I’m too late,” she groaned as she crumpled onto the bed. “Now he thinks I’ve rejected him.”
She rolled onto her side, curling into a ball.
Out of the corner of her eye, she spotted a piece of hotel stationery folded in half on Benvolio’s pillow. Lugging herself upright, she snatched the note off the pillowcase and unfolded it.
A sketch of her laughing on a dessert napkin fell onto the pillow. She smiled and turned back to the note. b
Biting her lip, Rosaline perused the scant lines.
Capulet, it read.
I apologize for putting you on the spot tonight. Your friendship is the most important thing in the world to me; I would never do anything to jeopardize that. We can pretend tonight’s conversation never happened if that is what you want.
I’m sorry I couldn’t stay, but I had to leave before I did or said something even more foolish. I hope you can forgive me. Enjoy the rest of your weekend—I will see you at work bright and early on Monday morning, partner.
Benvolio
Rosaline almost choked on her own tears as she laughed.
“Monday, then. I guess I’ll just be a bundle of nerves until then.”
She brought the note to her nose and sniffed. It smelled faintly of Benvolio’s sandalwood cologne.
Delicately placing the night on her nightstand, she slunk to the bathroom and peeled the sweaty bridesmaid’s dress from her body. She caught a whiff of it as it fell to the tile floor—a trip to the dry cleaner’s was in order.
With a sigh of relief, she unclasped her bra. Dark lines stretched across her rib cage where her bra had confined her.
Finding all of the pins in her hair took the longest, with all the hairspray and mousse holding her curls in place. She dragged her hands through the crunchy hair, picking every last pin out of place. Satisfied, she tied it up and hid it under her satin sleeping bonnet.
It would need a good long wash, but that could wait until tomorrow.
Rosaline stripped off her underwear and threw on her nightclothes in one quick motion, heading back to the bed on autopilot.
“Monday,” she thought, closing her eyes as her head hit the pillow. “I just have to wait until Monday.”
***
Cradled in her arms, the tray of coffees balanced precariously as Rosaline opened the door to the precinct early Monday morning. A pastry bag holding Benvolio’s bear claw nestled in between the two coffees, his sugary atrocity, and her own black coffee. A heart peaked out from under the cardboard sleeve near the end of Benvolio’s name where she had added it.
She pivoted in the doorway once she passed the door, making sure to hold her umbrella outside as she somehow closed it without spilling any coffee.
“Hope the bear claw didn’t get wet,” she muttered.
Her eyes darted to the clock above the door.
Five minutes to 8:00. Benvolio would already be at his desk.
Moving out of the doorway, she stopped in the middle of the precinct lobby to consider her options. Butterflies danced the tango in her stomach as they had all morning.
“Maybe I should just turn back.” She paced the tiled lobby floor. “I could just toss these in the trash can and pretend this never happened.”
“Detective Capulet, you heading in?” Mulder asked, looking up from his enormous stack of paperwork at the station’s reception desk.
“Yup,” Rosaline swerved hard at the last second toward the elevator, almost spilling the coffee in the process. “Just heading up now.”
Mulder quirked an eyebrow.
“Have a good day, detective.”
Rosaline jammed the elevator button multiple times.
“You too,” she laughed nervously, scooting inside the empty elevator when it opened at last.
As the doors closed in front of her, Rosaline breathed a sigh of relief, only to clench up as it rose.
Attempting relaxation, she leaned against the bar along the back wall while the elevator climbed to the sixth floor.
The bell dinged, the doors sliding open onto the bullpen once more.
As she stepped out of the elevator, Rosaline scanned the crowd of bustling detectives weaving between the desks like a well-oiled machine. When her gaze lighted on Benvolio, slouched back in his rolling chair pouring over an evidence file, her heart skipped a beat as the room froze.
A spotlight shone on Benvolio so bright that she could see the dust particles floating in the air around him, leaving the rest of the bullpen shrouded in shadow. The clock on the far wall ticked in slow time with her beating heart, the second hand following a sluggish path around the clock face. Benvolio, lost in thought, jiggled his pen between his fingers and bit his lip.
Rosaline gulped.
The shrill ring of the sergeant’s desk phone jolted her from her reverie.
Rosaline shuddered when the bullpen sprang back to life, the officers scuttling around to deliver their paperwork.
Squaring her shoulders, she marched to their desks, and before she could stop herself, she plopped Benvolio’s coffee and bear claw on his desk.
Removing his hand from his ruffled hair, Benvolio frowned and picked up the coffee cup.
“What’s this?” he asked. “You don’t owe me any more cups of coffee.”
“It’s my apology,” Rosaline shrugged, setting her own coffee on her desk, “for running out on you like that.”
Benvolio almost dropped the coffee, the amber liquid spilling out the top and dribbling down the sides in his attempt to leap to his feet.
“No, no. You don’t need to apologize for that,” Benvolio spluttered, shaking his head. “I’m the one who sprung something like that—“
“Please let me finish,” Rosaline interrupted.
Benvolio leaned against his desk, waiting for her to continue.
“I don’t even know where to start . . .” Rosaline picked at her jacket. “I’m not good with feelings. That’s always been my sister. My philosophy so far has been, to quote John Mulaney, ‘I’ll just keep them bottled up inside, and then I’ll die.’ “
Benvolio chuckled.
“I ran away,” Rosaline continued, twiddling her fingers, “because you had just dropped a bombshell on me, and I didn’t quite know what to say.
“But while I was soul searching, I talked to someone who helped me see that you are one of the most important people in my life—you’re my best friend.”
Benvolio tried to school his features into a neutral expression, but a flicker of sadness passed over his eyes.
“Don’t misunderstand me!” she blurted. “Gosh, how do people do this in movies.” She pinched the bridge of her nose and took a deep breath.
“I meant to say that you are more than just my best friend. If it’s not too late, would you consider being my boyfriend—for real?” She tucked a curl behind her ear. “Because it turns out I kind of love you too.”
Benvolio flushed as red as his tie, with a bashful smile to match.
“I’d like that.” He took her hand in his and swung it back and forth with a playful air. “Should I kiss you now?”
Rosaline glanced around the busy bullpen.
“In the middle of the precinct?” she hissed. “It’s 8:00 AM!”
Benvolio quirked an eyebrow.
“Why not?”
The same face had urged her to dance at Isabella’s wedding.
“Fine,” she shrugged, “but we’re definitely gonna have to talk to HR after this.”
“Absolutely,” Benvolio winked, resting his hands on her shoulders as he pulled her closer.
Rosaline closed her eyes in anticipation, smiling into Benvolio’s lips. He smelled of sandalwood and mint, of fresh eucalyptus shampoo; he tasted of stale breakroom coffee and the half-eaten bagel on his desk.
Her chest swelled, this time with the certainty that this time she was where she was meant to be.
This felt like home.
A round of applause and whistles rose around them.
Startled, Rosaline pulled away and opened her eyes. A sizable crowd of officers and detectives had gathered around them.
She buried her face in Benvolio’s chest as Dogberry clapped Benvolio on the back and said, “It’s about time, mate. We almost began to lose faith.”
“You guys are oddly absorbed in our love lives,” Benvolio remarked.
“Oh, you have no idea,” came Dogberry’s cryptic reply.
The cheering died abruptly, and a sense of quiet dread crept over Rosaline. She extricated herself from Benvolio’s arms, only to see the entire bullpen frozen, staring at the Captain’s office.
Benvolio tapped her on the shoulder and spun her around.
Captain Lawrence stood in his open office door, squinting at them with an unreadable expression.
Rosaline gulped.
She took a step forward.
“I can explain.”
“No need.” Captain Lawrence raised a palm to stop her. “I assume you two have finally entered into a romantic relationship?”
“Yes, but—“
“And when exactly did this happen?”
Benvolio rubbed the back of his neck.
“About five minutes ago.”
Rosaline winced, waiting for the inevitable reprimand.
Instead, Captain Lawrence beamed, punching his fist in the air as he shouted, “Vindication!”
Rosaline blinked.
She turned to Benvolio, but he just shrugged.
“Dogberry, Verges!” Captain Lawrence ordered, returning to his usual stoic manner.
Dogberry and Verges pulled a full evidence board from the supply closet, the black wheels squeaking on the linoleum floor.
Stopping in front of the window to the Captain’s office, Dogberry flipped the whiteboard over to reveal an extremely detailed betting pool titled “Rosvolio Finally Smooches.”
“Read it and weep, fellas,” Captain Lawrence crowed, pointing to the date written in black erasable marker with his name beside it.
The entire bullpen groaned and shuffled past the captain, placing crisp or rumpled bills into his outstretched hat.
“Did you . . “ Benvolio struggled, “did you all place bets on our love lives?”
“Yes,” Verges answered, dropping a twenty into the Captain’s hat. “You two were so obvious.”
Rosaline’s cheeks heated again.
“We thought we might as well make some money off the situation,” Captain Lawrence continued. “It was not a question of if, but when.”
Dogberry parted with a fifty-dollar bill with a tear. “Why couldn’t you two have waited until next week?”
The captain smiled and counted his money.
“Your timing was perfect,” he licked his finger to peel some bills apart. “You just made me $800 richer.”
“You’re welcome?” Rosaline responded, unsure if that was a statement or a question.
The rest of the detectives and officers grumbled as they returned to work.
“Montague, Capulet,” Captain Lawrence paused on his way back into his office.
“Yes, sir?” Benvolio straightened.
“You will still need to make an appointment with HR.”
“Right away, sir.” Rosaline nodded.
***
“Well, that was awkward,” Benvolio remarked as he shut the door to Human Resources. “Who knew Hermia was in on the bet too?
Rosaline laughed.
“It’s kind of weird that they’re all so invested in us.”
Hermia’s muffled sobs echoed in the empty hallway as they walked away.
“Don’t they have anything better to do?”
Benvolio pressed the elevator button.
“Like solving crimes?”
Rosaline raised an eyebrow.
The elevator doors dinged open.
“Speaking of which,” Benvolio followed Rosaline inside, “We should get back to our sword-wielding murderer case. I was just reviewing the evidence from the new crime scene and Dogberry’s and Verges’ interviews with Truccio’s associates when you got in.”
The elevator lurched downward.
“Alright, let’s get cracking,” Rosaline grinned.
When the elevator arrived, Rosaline bounded over to their desks, snatching her coffee from her desk in the process, and plopped into Benvolio’s rolling chair.
“Show me what you got,” Rosaline smirked with a playful nod.
Benvolio wheeled her over to their evidence, recreated from the board at the hotel.
“I see you brought the glitter string from the hotel,” Rosaline remarked.
“It makes it easier to think.”
Benvolio grabbed the folder from his desk and jogged back over to her. Taking a photo out of the folder, he stuck it below the mugshot of Truccio.
The photo showed a dingy apartment, clearly ransacked by someone looking for something.
“From Truccio’s associates, we were finally able to locate where he was squatting in between couches, but it seems our friend the Hooded Man got there first. The place was completely turned over; he was evidently looking for something, but we don’t know if he found what he was looking for.”
“Our team, however, did find a burner phone at the scene,” he tacked a picture of an old Nokia up on the wall. “TARU’s examining the phone as we speak. It’s just a hunch, but I think Truccio may have been working for our mysterious Hooded Man, and he may have wanted to back out when the operation went from vandalism to murder.”
“That’s a workable theory,” Rosaline snatched her coffee from her desk. “What about this new murder?”
“Glad you asked.” Benvolio tacked up a new photo next to the pictures of Truccio and the John Doe.
In the photo, a heavyset woman in bloodstained scrubs lay face down in an alley, a clean sword wound on her back.
“Meet Rebecca Adelson, a nurse practitioner at Verona General Hospital.”
He tacked up another picture of Rebecca, this time from her work ID.
Rosaline took a sip of her coffee. She grimaced and placed her cup on the floor.
“She was found by two uniformed officers on patrol in the alley between Sicily and Bohemia Streets around 9:00 on Friday while we were at the rehearsal dinner—what’s with that face?”
“Coffee’s cold already.”
“Just put it in a mug and reheat it in the microwave,” Benvolio waved her off. “We have to solve a murder, Capulet.”
“Do you want me to reheat yours too?” Rosaline asked, wheeling the chair back in place before jumping to her feet.
“Please and thank you.” Benvolio tacked more pictures to the board.
Snatching the coffee cup off his desk, Rosaline sauntered to the break room and dumped their lukewarm beverages into their respective coffee mugs. Rosaline kept a mug emblazoned with the Starfleet symbol at the precinct in case of emergency caffeination.
When she returned with the steaming mugs, Benvolio had finished hanging all of the photographs from the file. She handed him his cup, which read “Mornings are for coffee and contemplation” in a stylized font.
Benvolio swallowed the steaming coffee in one gulp and wiped his mouth with his hand.
“I’m impressed,” Rosaline remarked, blowing the steam rising from her reheated mug. The coffee burnt her tongue. Benvolio pointed to the board with the collapsible pointer he kept in his shirt pocket for just such occasions.
“This,” he slapped a photo with the pointer, “was written next to the body.”
“Is that Latin?”
Rosaline peered at the photograph.
“It appears that our murderer has a classical education.”
“Or he just wants to look smarter than he is. What does it mean?”
Benvolio snorted.
“It’s a quote from Cicero. It means ‘Never was a government that was not composed of liars, malefactors, and thieves.’ ”
“And what’s this?” Rosaline removed a photo of a footprint from the board.
“It’s a footprint,” Benvolio deadpanned.
“I can see that,” Rosaline smacked him on the arm. “Does it match the other footprint?”
“Unfortunately, no,” Benvolio replied. “It’s not the same shoe, but CSI thinks it might be the same size. And we lucked out—because of the rain, we got more than one.” He held out a second photograph of the muddy ground.
“No way!” Rosaline crowed. She pored over it, noting the measurements marked down by the CSI technicians in their report.
“One foot makes a deeper impression than the other,” Rosaline mused, picking up the crime report. “Maybe our perpetrator walks with a —” A horrid thought flashed through her brain. “—limp.”
Rosaline dropped the photo in her race to the city map on the far side of the board.
Three yellow magnets marked the murder sites. Rosaline turned her concentration to the site of the third murder, the alley between Sicily & Bohemia.
A chill crept up her spine.
“When exactly did you say the time of death was?” Her voice quavered.
“Between 7:00 and 8:30 PM—why?”
Benvolio raced to her side.
Wordlessly, she pointed to the location of their hotel, a mere three blocks from the crime scene.
Benvolio gasped.
“You don’t think—“
“He left dinner to take a phone call and came back wet half an hour later,” Rosaline explained. “He walks with a limp, collects antique swords . . . He even quoted Cicero at the rehearsal dinner. There are too many coincidences to explain away.”
She dropped her voice.
“And he has a motive. He was one of the victims of the Globe Incident; that’s why he’s running for mayor.”
Benvolio snapped his fingers. “Capulet, you might be on to something. But we still need concrete evidence to tie him to one of our victims.”
“I could be wrong,” Rosaline offered half-heartedly. “I hope I’m wrong for Livia’s sake. She’d be devasted if—“
Benvolio pulled her into a hug. “You check in with your sister. I’ll talk to the captain about getting the phone records—at least, we can see if he really was on the phone for an hour.”
“Thanks,” Rosaline whispered into his shoulder.
Benvolio squeezed her one more time before leaving for the captain’s office.
Rosaline plopped into her rolling chair and tapped her pencil against the desk while she pulled out her phone.
With shaking fingers, she typed in her passcode.
“Your passcode is incorrect,” the phone beeped at her.
She drummed one hand against the desk as she tapped the passcode again.
When it let her in, she navigated to her contacts and selected Livia’s name from her favorites.
The dial tone sounded as she brought the phone to her ear. It rang.
Rosaline bit her lip and bounced her leg against the side of the desk.
“Please pick up the phone.”
But there was no answer.
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crystaln1bl · 5 days ago
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toastling · 10 days ago
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Everybody scries
November 18th, 2027
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theleagueofgentlemen · 12 days ago
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Part six - “You were my sunshine.”
Tommy sniffled softly, his head throbbing as he rested it against the cold hard wood. Loud sniffles filled Rachel’s room, choked sobs echoing under the door. Tommy exhaled softly, soft sniffles falling from him before he padded down the stairs. Two gruelling hours passed before Rachel’s door creaked open, soft creaks falling from the stairs. She paused at the doorway, feeling a pain in her chest at how red and puffy Tommy’s eyes looked. He sniffled loudly, diverting his gaze as his now cold tea sat forgotten in front of him. She swallowed harshly, a quiet sigh exhaling from her as she padded into the kitchen. "…What else do you want me to say, Rache?" His voice was shaky and quiet, Rachel pausing as she opened the fridge door, her palm resting on the handle. “There's nothing you can say.” "…Do you want me to leave?" She drew in a shaky breath, her hands falling to her side. "I don't really care what you do, Thomas. I just don't want you in my house anymore." He let out a shaky sigh, sniffling softly as Rachel finally turned to face him, her shoulders drooping when she saw how hard he was gripping his mug of tea. "Tom..." His gaze drew back up to her, his hold loosening on the porcelain, as she stepped forward. "...Are you really in love with Len?" He sniffled again, his voice thick with tears. "...I-I don't know Rache." She hesitated before taking another step, finding herself straying by the kitchen table. "What-How can you not know?" "It was one kiss, Rache, I-" "Because if..." She shakily stopped herself, tears pricking her eyelids. She took a deep breath before carrying on, the tears flowing freely. "If you're not in love with me anymore-" "I am Rache." His tone was firm, pushing his cup away as he looked directly at her. He took a soft breath, his tone softer when he spoke again. "Of course i am. How can I not be?” "Why did you kiss him then?" She shakily choked out, Tommy slowly shaking his head. "Because…Because I'm in love with him, too." She collapsed onto one of the kitchen chairs, her hand pushed against her mouth as she turned away from him, Tommy standing quickly to go to her, however she immediately pushed him away. "Don't-!" "Rache please…" Tommy swallowed hard, his arms gingerly coming around her and she gingerly tucked into them, loudly sobbing into his chest as her own arms encircled him, her delicate fingers clinging against the fabric of his shirt. Tommy rested his chin on top of her head, his hand slowly running over the flat her back. “You were my sunshine. How could you do this Tommy?” "I'm sorry Rache. God, I’m so sorry..."
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myboozykitchen · 16 days ago
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Cab Franc Carnival at Vrede en Lust Estate! BOOK NOW - Saturday, 27 August 2022!
Cab Franc Carnival at Vrede en Lust Estate! BOOK NOW – Saturday, 27 August 2022!
The fourth Cab Franc Carnival will take place at the beautiful Vrede en Lust Estate which is located in the centre of the Cape Winelands between Stellenbosch, Paarl and Franschhoek on Saturday 27 August from 11h00 to 16h00. Cabernet Franc and red wine lovers will be treated to some of the best Cabernet Franc wines South Africa has to offer.  As a single varietal it has made strides over the past…
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longclawislightbringer · 18 days ago
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Chapter Six: The Wedding
Rating: T
Relationships: Rosaline Capulet/Benvolio Montague, Helena/Princess Isabella, Livia Capulet/Count Paris, Rosaline Capulet/Prince Escalus (past)
Characters: Rosaline Capulet, Benvolio Montague, Prince Escalus, Livia Capulet, Count Paris, Princess Isabella, Helena, Stella
Summary: Rosaline and Benvolio attend Isabella's wedding; Benvolio makes a confession.
Y’all. I am so excited for you guys to read this chapter. The scenes at the reception and the hotel room were some of the first I imagined when I first got the idea for this fic back in early 2019. I am ecstatic that you can finally read it, and I hope you have fun. Thanks once again to unwrittenmusings for the original prompt that inspired this, and Ry for being such a lovely beta. You can find Ry on Tumblr and AO3. Thanks for reading, and enjoy!
Chapter Five. Chapter Six. Chapter Seven.
Read on AO3.
A beam of sunlight from the part in the curtains danced across Rosaline’s face, gently rousing her from her deep slumber. She blinked lazily, reveling in the dreamy peace of the morning. Her pillow rumbled softly, up and down.
Rosaline shot to full consciousness.
Tangled with his legs and cradled in his warm embrace, she felt Benvolio breathe, steady in sleep.
He gripped her tighter, somehow pulling her even closer. With each minty fresh exhale, he ruffled her satin sleep bonnet as his bare chest seared every inch of her skin and sent her heart racing.
She froze, aware that even the slightest movement would wake him. The hairs on the back of her neck stood to attention while she waited.
When he failed to wake, Rosaline sighed and sank back into the mattress, enjoying the moment. What Benvolio didn’t know wouldn’t hurt him. As her eyes drooped, she snuggled into him. Her breathing evened out, matching time with Benvolio as she let the previous day's exhaustion pass over her once more.
Minutes or maybe hours later, Rosaline jolted up when the dulcet tones of the Star Trek theme blasted from Benvolio’s phone.
“Morning already?” Benvolio groaned, rubbing his eyes.
Rosaline jumped to her side of the bed. Maybe he hadn’t noticed that she’d latched onto him like a boa constrictor in the middle of the night. Benvolio sat up and stretched, giving no indication either way.
“That wasn’t so bad, Capulet?” he asked her as he turned the alarm off, revealing a candid picture of her from their fake date at the botanical gardens.
“Hmm?” Rosaline cleared her head. “No, I guess not.”
Benvolio put his phone back on the table.
“You like Star Trek too?”
She forced herself to look away as he rolled out of bed.
“Yep.” Benvolio grabbed an oversized t-shirt from his suitcase and slung it over his head.
Rosaline looked up at him.
“It’s my favorite,” she said, fiddling with the downy white comforter.
“I know.” Benvolio smiled softly at her.
A comfortable silence settled between them.
“I . . .”
She blinked and bolted from the bed, grabbing sweatpants and a t-shirt from her suitcase as she headed toward the safety over the bathroom.
“I’ve got to go get ready with Isabella,” she called over her shoulder. “I’m just gonna change and head out. I’ll see you at the wedding?” She poked her head out of the door.
“Sure,” Benvolio nodded, deflated. “I’ll see you there.”
She closed the door and dropped her clothes on the floor. Tying her hair out of the way, she covered it with a cap and hopped inside the shower. The scalding water almost burned her skin. She lathered up her soap on the washcloth. Maybe if she scrubbed hard enough, she could forget the way his eyes crinkled when he smiled. She stepped back under the showerhead; the soapy water ran down her body, swirling into the drain at her feet. With a sigh, she turned the water off and reached for her towel. If only the rest of her day would go as easy as that shower.
She dried herself off as she stepped out. The shag rug on the bathroom floor squished between her toes.
While she brushed her teeth, the aroma of coffee wafted through the bathroom door. Rosaline’s mouth watered. Throwing on sweatpants and a t-shirt, she exited the bathroom to find Benvolio standing at the counter with two to-go cups and a full coffee machine.
“I made some coffee if you want any.”
“Thanks,” she nodded and took the proffered cup from his hand. She took a sip; black, like she liked it.
“Dogberry called,” Benvolio continued. “Our friend struck again last night. Some nurse or something. He and Verges are handling the investigation until we get back Monday.”
“I’m heading out now. See you later.”
As she grabbed her phone and the hotel room key from the counter and draped her bridesmaid’s dress over her arm, Benvolio waved her off.
“See you then.” There was that smile again.
Rosaline attempted to smile back, but it was difficult to feign normalcy while her insides rebelled against her.
“Bye,” she said and left the room.
***
Rosaline shuffled down the hotel hallway past scores of identical room doors, careful to avoid spilling any ice from the brimming silver ice bucket or tripping over her satin bridesmaids’ robe. Holding the bucket on her hip, she rapped on the door to Isabella’s suite.
“It’s me,” Rosaline announced. “I’ve got the ice.”
Someone lifted the chain lock.
Rosaline frowned.
The door flung open; Livia stood in the doorway, eyes wide.
“Thank goodness you’re back.” Livia grabbed her by the shoulder and ushered Rosaline inside, locking the door behind her.
“What’s going on?” She set the ice bucket next to the bottle of champagne for mimosas on the counter. “Where’s Isabella?” She surveyed the room. The hairstylists tittered in the corner, packing up their curling wands. Isabella’s wedding dress hung from the rack with the bridesmaids' dresses, but the woman in question was nowhere to be found. The makeup artists and Escalus crowded around the bathroom door.
Livia fiddled with her hands and looked at the floor. “I don’t know what happened. One minute she was fine, and the next, she’d locked herself in the bathroom."
Escalus crossed his arms. “Isabella, we don’t have time for this. You need to come out now and get your makeup done.”
“Go away, Escalus.” The bathroom door muffled the tremor in Isabella’s voice.
She retreated further into the bathroom.
Escalus threw up his hands in defeat. “I can’t do this.” He turned to Rosaline. “You talk to her.”
“Of course, I’ll talk to her,” Rosaline hissed, “but I need to do this alone.” She shooed Escalus and the make-up artists back into the suite. Escalus stood at the large window in the back of the room, staring out at the street below. Biting her nails, Livia paced nervously in the back. The make-up artists resumed setting out their equipment on the vanity tables provided by the hotel, watching Rosaline’s progress out of the corner of their eyes with bated breath.
Rosaline glared at them; they startled and focused on their work, whistling as if they hadn’t been caught staring.
When the anxiety in the room settled a little, Rosaline knocked quietly on the bathroom door.
“Isabella, it’s me. What’s going on?”
Isabella whimpered, “Nothing, it’s nothing.”
“It’s clearly not nothing.” Rosaline slid down the bathroom door to sit on the cold tile floor. “Do you want to talk about it?”
Isabella shuffled closer. “Not really, but I guess I should.” The door creaked as Isabella leaned against it, settling onto the floor on the other side. “It’s just . . . What if I’m making a huge mistake?” Isabella fretted. The fabric of her robe rustled. “Fifty percent of all marriages end in divorce. I love Helena so much; I can’t stand the thought of not loving her . . .”
It was probably good that she hadn’t gotten her makeup done yet.
Rosaline tilted her head against the door, careful to avoid messing up the updo that had taken Isabella’s stylists an hour to pin into place.
“No one can know the future,” Rosaline said. “You might fall out of love in a few years; I certainly don’t love your brother the same way I used to.”
Isabella smothered a laugh.
Rosaline glanced across the room to where Escalus occupied a vanity chair. One of the makeup artists dabbed his face with foundation. His closed eyes gave the impression of serenity, but his tight grip on the armchairs betrayed him. He snuck a peek at her and raised an eyebrow as the makeup artist turned back to the mirror. She nodded and gave him a thumbs-up. He sighed and motioned for her to hurry up.
“But,” Rosaline continued as Escalus turned his attention back to the makeup artist, “that’s the beauty of life. You don’t know what’s going to happen. If you love her, you should commit to her today.”
“Thanks,” Isabella sniffed. “Can I ask you a question?”
Rosaline tensed, twisting her skirt in her hands. “Go ahead.”
“How did you know Benvolio is the one for you?”
Rosaline winced and cursed Isabella under her breath. There was nothing in the manual on fake-dating your co-worker on how to answer that kind of question.
“Have you seen him?” Rosaline responded cheekily, hoping that would be enough.
“Point taken,” Isabella giggled. “But really, how did you know?”
Rosaline swore again.
“I . . . Uh,” Rosaline stalled, staring intently at the indentations in the tile grout as she curled into herself. “He . . .”
Fiddling with the end of her satin belt, she let it fall back to her feet.
Rosaline breathed in and closed her eyes, picturing lunch on the patio at the Indian restaurant after their fake date in the botanical gardens two weeks ago. Heat spread across her cheeks as the wind whipped through her sundress. The sun set behind Benvolio, ringing him in a halo of golden light as he devoured a forkful of butter chicken. She shielded her eyes from the sun's reflection in the metal side bowls and took a bite of steaming garlic naan, following it with a swig of refreshing, cool mint lemonade that tingled when it rolled down her throat.
“So I said, ‘Which one?’” Benvolio grinned in her memories.
Rosaline melted when she recalled the way he glowed when he laughed at his own punchline.
“He makes me laugh,” she answered softly.
“That’s so sweet.” Isabella snickered. “Okay, I think I’m ready to come out now.”
Rosaline scrambled to her feet as the lock clicked. Isabella opened the door slowly, rubbing her red-rimmed eyes.
“Come here,” Rosaline said, pulling Isabella into a bone-crunching hug. She rubbed soothing circles into Isabella’s back.
“I feel like an idiot,” Isabella pulled away, wringing her hands like she always did when she was anxious, “making everyone wait around for me.”
“Look, everyone gets cold feet.” Rosaline dragged her to the make-up chair. “I’m sure today will be everything you imagined. Now, let’s let these lovely ladies work their magic.” The makeup artist walked over and misted Isabella’s face with a bottle of prep spray.
Isabella grabbed her hand and squeezed it. “Thanks, Rosaline. You’re a great friend.”
***
Rosaline took a deep breath.
Blinking under the bright lights, she walked into the hall of Arden Forest Manor, the grandest of the great houses of Verona. The mahogany chairs with white seat cushions that lined the aisle empty a day ago teemed with guests excited for a glimpse of Isabella. Rosaline stepped in time with the string quartet’s rendition of Pachebel’s Canon in D, counting the measures in her head so she wouldn’t miss a beat, toward the front of the room where the officiant, Reverend Hugh Evans, and Helena waited for her bride under an arch of willow branches and white tea roses. Helena’s golden curls glowed in the light of the candles on either side of the arch.
With every step, the sheer organza overskirt on Rosaline’s pale mint dress fluttered out in front of her like gossamer fairy wings. She clutched her bouquet of baby’s breath, peonies, and white roses tight, praying she wouldn’t topple over in the enormous heels Isabella had chosen for her.
Ahead, Livia arrived at her designated post, nodding to Reverend Evans as she passed, and turned to face the guests. Reverend Evans acknowledged her in return. Helena beamed next to him, flanked by the two other bridesmaids Rosaline had barely managed to catch the names of yesterday.
Rosaline passed her by to stand at Livia’s side. Her nose, unfortunately, itched, but she ignored it as Stella glided down the aisle, a vision in baby pink clutching her bouquet of green-dyed peonies with a grip sharp enough to cut off a man’s head. Though she pasted on a smile, it did not reach her eyes until she stood at Helena’s side, joining the two other bridesmaids already there.
The flower girls, Helena’s cousins Rosalind and Celia, and the ring bearer, Isabella’s cousin Orlando, followed her down the aisle. Rosalind performed her job with gust, flinging clumps of white rose petals to scatter on the pale green runner, while Celia waddled after her, placing her petals with delicate precision. Rosaline stifled a giggle as the little girls bounded up to Livia’s other side. Orlando somehow simultaneously gave the impression that he didn’t want to be there and that ring bearing was the most important job he had ever undertaken in his eight-year-old life.
As Orlando finished his delightful walk down the aisle, Rosaline scanned the assembled guests. She found Benvolio in the middle of Isabella’s section, cutting a dashing figure in his tux, although his bowtie was a little crooked. He winked at her with a playful smirk.
Rosaline blushed.
The music shifted; everyone turned their attention to the back of the room where Isabella appeared in the doorway, radiant on her brother’s arm. The congregation stood to watch her pass.
While the familiar strains of Mendelsohn’s “Wedding March” sounded throughout the hall and the electric lights that marked the border of the runner twinkled off the cascade of rhinestones in her hair like starlight, Isabella floated down the aisle guided by Escalus. The full skirt of the high-necked gown swirled with every step, the delicate lace train trailing behind her over the fallen rose petals. All eyes fixated on Isabella, but her attention focused solely on her blushing bride.
Beside her, Escalus beamed at his sister, his dark skin glowing in the soft light and suit perfectly pressed.
At last, Isabella and Escalus arrived at the flower arch.
Rosaline wiped away a stray tear.
Escalus handed his sister over to Helena with a smile, bowing gracefully. His expression only faltered when he took his place between Rosaline and his sister.
Rosaline stepped forward to accept Isabella’s bouquet. Isabella squeezed her hand as she relinquished her hold on the delicate blooms. Rosaline grinned and pressed it back.
Rosaline faded back into place while Isabella turned back to Helena.
Tears brimming in her eyes, Helena took Isabella’s hands in hers.
“You look beautiful,” she whispered, twisting one of the curls framing Isabella’s face.
“So do you,” Isabella replied and pivoted to face the officiant as the music came to a triumphant close.
The officiant cleared his throat. “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today . . .”
***
“You look beautiful,” Benvolio whispered in Rosaline’s ear, his hands skimming her waist while they waited to enter the Illyrian ballroom for the reception. His breath tickled.
“Stop that,” she smacked him playfully. “Escalus is right behind us.”
“I know,” Benvolio replied with cool charm. “I can feel him glaring daggers into my back.” Rosaline craned her neck to look over Benvolio’s shoulder; Escalus glowered at Benvolio while Stella furiously texted someone. If looks could kill . . .
Rosaline turned back to the line in front of them.
“At least Escalus is only sending metaphorical daggers your way,” she remarked as the emcee announced Livia and her date. “Stella looks like she wants to bludgeon me to death with her phone.” As the double doors to the ballroom opened, Livia floated through on Paris’ arm, glowing. While they melted into the crowd, the doors swung shut behind them, and Rosaline shuffled up to the x marked on the floor in lime green gaffer’s tape, Benvolio still clinging on behind.
“Our turn now.” Smirking, Benvolio extricated himself and took his place at her side.
“Rosaline Capulet accompanied by Benvolio Montague,” the emcee announced.
As the double doors swung inward, Benvolio offered her his arm. Rosaline looped her arm through the crook of his elbow.
“Showtime,” he winked and led her into the ballroom.
The guests clapped while Benvolio paraded her under the enormous crystal chandelier and across the wooden parquet dance floor. She directed him to the round table nearest to the dais, where Livia and Paris had just sat down with their cousin Juliet.
When they approached, Juliet burst from the table and enveloped Rosaline in one of her signature tight hugs.
“Ros, it’s so good to see you!” She crushed Rosaline tight, a bright smile lighting her face like a Christmas tree. “It’s been too long.”
“And who’s fault is that, miss triple major?” Rosaline joked, squeezing back as good as she got.
Juliet pulled back and shrugged. “You’ve got me there. This semester is kicking my butt.”
She turned to Benvolio, who peeked around Rosaline a gave a slight nod.
“You must be the famous Montague,” Juliet remarked, reaching out a hand.
“I see my reputation precedes me,” Benvolio laughed as he shook it. “Benvolio Montague, boyfriend.”
“Juliet Capulet,” Juliet introduced herself, “favorite cousin.”
“I’ve only got two cousins,” Rosaline grumbled, ignoring the churning in her stomach. “And the other one is Tybalt. He’s probably around here somewhere. We should sit down.”
“Nice to meet you,” Benvolio said while they walked to the table.
“I can’t tell you how happy I am that Rosaline finally came to her senses,” Juliet exclaimed, plopping down in the seat between Paris and Benvolio. “She talked about you all the time. It was frankly a little ridiculous how oblivious she was.”
“Oh, really?” Benvolio leaned forward, a wicked glint in his eyes. “Tell me more.”
Rosaline flushed and crossed her arms as she took her seat.
“One time—“
The announcer cut back in, saving Rosaline in the nick of time, “And now, the new Mrs. And Mrs. Di Veneti-Prince.” The ballroom erupted into cheers.
Rosaline said a silent prayer of gratitude.
“Later,” Juliet winked at Benvolio, clapping loudly as Isabella and Helena entered the room hand in hand. They both glowed as they took a turn around the room, the chandelier light catching on Helena’s golden curls and the sparkling jewels in Isabella’s coiffure. When they arrived at the head of the room, Escalus handed Isabella a microphone.
She tapped it a couple times to make sure it was working.
“Hello, everyone,” Isabella greeted the guests, squeezing Helena’s hand. “We want to thank everyone for coming out to celebrate our very special day. It means the world to us that you all could be here.”
Helena took the microphone from her hand. “Now, let’s dig in!” she shouted.
The crowd cheered again as they took their seats.
“Good, because I am famished,” Livia remarked. “Being in a wedding party really makes you hungry.”
“What are we having?” Benvolio asked, whipping his napkin into his lap with his customary flair.
Rosaline rolled her eyes and unfolded her own napkin. “I ordered you the steak.”
“Thanks, darling,” Benvolio clutched his chest, a telltale smirk dancing at his lips. “I’m touched.”
A waiter materialized behind them, holding two china plates laden with garlic mashed potatoes, roasted rosemary asparagus, and steak drizzled in Bearnaise sauce. He set one down in front of Rosaline and the other in front of Benvolio.
“This looks delicious,” Benvolio grinned at his plate, knife and fork in hand.
The steak sliced liked butter. Rosaline stabbed a piece with her fork, sopping up some extra Bearnaise from the plate before popping the bite into her mouth.
“It is delicious,” she remarked, the Tarragon creating a symphony with the egg emulsion as the steak melted in her mouth.
“So, Juliet,” Benvolio turned to her cousin as he accepted a glass of red wine from the waiter, “you were saying that Rosaline was ridiculously oblivious? I’m intrigued.”
“It was driving us all absolutely crazy.” She nodded, spearing the artful pile of spaghetti on her plate. “One time, we went to the ballet with Livia and our cousin Tybalt. When we got cocktails at the bar before the performance, she would not shut up about her new annoying partner at work.”
“She hated Captain Lawerence for putting you two together,” Livia interjected. “Said you were flippant and lackadaisical.”
Juliet twirled her fork, gathering a large portion of spaghetti. “And then she spent a good fifteen minutes describing your, and I quote, ‘marblesque cheekbones and floppy hair.’ “
Rosaline flushed bright pink and nearly choked her wine as Juliet popped the forkful of spaghetti into her mouth.
Benvolio quirked an eyebrow; Livia snickered into her wine.
“That’s how I knew she was a goner,“ Juliet continued. “She never prattles on about anyone that much unless they made a big impression.”
“I see,” Benvolio laughed.
“I was merely ranting about your work habits on the Lear Case,” Rosaline explained, her ears burning. “I didn’t know how to work with you yet.” She stuffed some garlic mashed potatoes in her mouth.
Benvolio took her hand in his.
“You made a big impression on me too.” He squeezed her hand, and she almost believed him.
Livia cleared her throat.
Noticing three pairs of inquisitive eyes, Rosaline snatched her hand away and took a big gulp of wine.
Juliet had a gigantic smile on her face, like she had accomplished something.
Rosaline glared daggers at her over the brim of her glass.
“Juliet,” she put down her wine glass, “have you made any progress with the hot guy?”
Juliet blushed as red as the tomato sauce on her spaghetti.
“Yes, I want to hear more about this,” Livia leaned in close, resting her silverware on her plate.
“I’m confused,” Paris interjected. “Who’s the hot guy?”
“Juliet saw someone she called ‘the most beautiful man in the world’ at a frat party a couple of months ago,” Rosaline explained.
“I see,” Benvolio commented. “So, have you made any progress with this so-called ‘hot guy’?”
“No,” Juliet confessed, pushing a meatball around her plate. “I see him all over campus, but I never know . . .” Juliet trailed off. Rosaline followed her gaze to the other side of the ballroom to see what had caught her attention but only saw Isabella talking to a handsome man with close-cropped hair and golden russet-brown skin at another table.
“. . . what to say,” Juliet finished, once again flushing with color while she took a big swig of her soda.
The rest of the dinner passed without incident, except for the frequent death glares sent in Rosaline’s direction by the Best Man and Maid of Honor, who both spent the meal stewing in jealousy.
At last, the waiter returned to their table to remove their dishes and bring everyone except Juliet a bubbling glass of Champagne. Juliet accepted her glass of sparkling cider as Escalus rose from his seat at the head of the room, tapping his fork on the side of his champagne flute.
“Can I get everyone’s attention?” he called.
The din of the crowd quieted until you could hear a pin drop. Escalus put down the fork and grabbed the microphone from Helena, who stood at his side.
“I want to think everyone for coming today to celebrate the marriage of my wonderful sister to the best woman I could have possibly imagined for her.”
A roar of applause rose from the crowd.
Escalus raised his glass to his sister.
“To Izzy and Helena,” he nodded. “Izzy, you are the best sister and Chief-of-Staff I could have asked for. We have been through some challenges, you and I, but also some of the best times of my life. I’m so glad that you have found someone that loves you as much, or perhaps, I suspect, even more than I do.”
He turned to Helena. “Helena, it has been so lovely getting to know you this past year. You are incredibly kind and intelligent, and I am so proud that I can finally call you my sister.”
Helena blushed under his praise.
“To Isabella and Helena!” He repeated.
Rosaline raised her flute and tapped it against the rest of the table. The glasses clinked, Champagne sloshing up the sides.
She took a sip of the bubbling Champagne.
Escalus handed Stella the microphone.
She raised it to her lips, trembling.
“Helena,” she began, tears welling in her eyes. “You have been my best friend in the whole world for more than twenty years.” She squeezed Helena’s hand. “I’ll never forget the day we met when I moved to Venice halfway through first grade. One of the boys in our class started picking on me for being so small. I know, hard to believe that I wasn’t always a towering giant.” The crowd laughed with her. “But you took me under your wing and defended me.” Since that day, I knew you were destined for great things. You’ve grown so much, and I am so proud to call you my friend.”
She paused to wipe the tears from her eyes.
“Isabella, it has been wonderful getting to know you these past few months. You are driven, passionate, and ambitious, a perfect match for my best friend. “
Rosaline clapped along with the crowd.
“Congratulations!”
Stella raised her glass, and the rest of the crowd followed suit.
“To Helena and Isabella!” she exclaimed.
“To Helena and Isabella!” Rosaline echoed, taking a second draught of her champagne.
Warmth from the champagne and wine flushed over her as Isabella and Helena crossed the ballroom to the table holding the extravagant triple-tiered wedding cake. Mint green ivy leaves made of fondant climbed up the side of the cake, passing under the white buttercream roses circling each layer.
“That cake looks incredible,” Livia salivated.
“Careful, honey,” Paris laughed.”Your sweet tooth is showing.”
“Thank you all so much for coming!” Isabella spoke into the microphone. “It means so much to both of us that you could be here.” She squeezed Helena’s hand. “Now, let’s cut this cake.”
She handed the microphone back to Escalus.
Rosaline leaned forward in her seat, craning her neck to catch the perfect view.
Hand in hand, Isabella and Helena slowly drove the silver spatula through the topmost tier of the cake. It glided through the layers of decadent frosting and airy cake like butter. With gentle precision, they coaxed a slice from the cake, flopping it onto a porcelain dessert plate. Grabbing some forks, Isabella and Helena speared the cake and brought it to each other’s lips, arms intertwined.
For a second, Rosaline thought she saw a spark of mischievous glee pass over Isabella’s face, but by then, the moment passed as she gracefully bit the cake off Helena’s fork.
Rosaline blew out the breath she was holding as the crowd clapped again.
“Congratulations!” The emcee cut in. The crowd quieted down. “While the rest of this beautiful cake is cut, the happy couple will perform the First Dance. Isabella, Helena, if you could please take the floor.
Giggling, Helena took Isabella’s hand and led her to the floor, presenting her in a circle like a princess. Isabella’s gown twirled when she stopped, swishing back into place. When they assumed their positions, the lights around the dance floor dimmed.
“This is unexpected,” Benvolio remarked, leaning back in his chair with his arms playfully tucked behind his head.
“You’ve met Isabella,” Rosaline joked. “Of course she would perform an elaborately choreographed first dance. They’ve been practicing for weeks. They even got a professional tango dancer to choreograph the routine.”
The music intensified, rising from silence until a few horn blasts pierced the air.
With that, they took off across the floor.
Bright smiles graced Helena and Isabella’s faces as they stepped in tempo, alternating between slow and quick beats.
Isabella giggled when Helena swiveled her into the promenade.
A single tear slipped down Rosaline’s cheek; she wiped it away.
“Are you alright? “ Benvolio asked.
“I’m just so happy for them,” she answered.
Benvolio squeezed her hand.
The music slowed; Isabella and Helena twirled one last time, ending in a deep dip. Isabella’s chest heaved as she lifted herself to kiss her new wife.
Rosaline clapped with the crowd. Breaking the kiss, Helena leaned her forehead against Isabella’s.
“Let’s eat some cake!” she grinned, turning to the crowd.
“Well,” Benvolio slapped his knees and leaped from his chair, “I’m going to get some cake before it all disappears. Anyone else want some?”
“I’d love a slice,” Rosaline answered, finishing the last of her champagne. “A small one, please.”
“Me too!” Juliet raised her hand. “Chocolate for me, please.”
“I could do with some sugar,” Paris cut in. “What about you, honey?”
He turned to Livia, but she already had risen from her seat.
“I’ll help you. It’ll be difficult to carry all of those slices by yourself.”
“Thanks, I appreciate the help,” Benvolio nodded as they joined the crowd gathered around the cake table.
“She just wants to make sure she gets a big piece,” Rosaline snickered when they were out of hearing.
“I do believe you are right,” Paris responded.
Rosaline, Juliet, and Paris sat together for a few moments of companionable silence. Paris drummed his fingers across the table in quick succession, his chill gaze drilled upon Escalus at the serving table.
“Paris,” Rosaline interrupted his musings. “In all the hubbub yesterday about how Benvolio and Stella used to date, I forgot to ask you how you met my sister.”
Like a light switch had been thrown, Paris’s glare disappeared, replaced by a bright smile.
Juliet leaned in. “I’d like to know, too,” she said. “Livia’s never brought a guy home before, so you must be special.”
Paris grew wistful.
“You remember the Globe Incident a few months ago?”
“Of course.” Rosaline flashed back to that horrible day when her cousin Tybalt had started a fight with the Montagues–for what reason, who could guess–that led to Montague Tower catching fire and a terrible multiple car pile-up. Sirens flashed in the background while Rosaline had taken witness statements.
“Who could forget?” Juliet answered quietly.
“I was near the scene when it happened. My car crashed into the burning building.”
“That’s horrible!” Rosaline gasped. She recalled the car in question, a silver SUV, smashed to pieces, the unconscious driver bleeding on the sidewalk in front of Montague Tower. She realized with a start that that must be why he looked so familiar.
“I almost died that day, but someone pulled me from the wreckage and called emergency services.
“I can’t imagine what that was like.” Juliet placed a comforting hand over Paris’.
Paris looked over at Livia and Benvolio, who had made a sizeable dent in the crowd at the cake table. As Livia whispered something to Benvolio, his intense gaze darted back to their table, landing on Rosaline for a second before turning back to their quarry.
“It doesn’t matter now; it’s in the past.”
Rosaline startled, turning back to Paris.
“What is important is that the accident led to meeting Livia.” Paris’ eyes grew wistful while he continued. “When I woke up in the hospital, I thought an angel had come to take me to heaven, but it was Livia. She was my nurse. I wanted to die, the pain was so bad, but she wouldn’t give up on me. I don’t know where I’d be without her.” He grew quiet. “I certainly don’t think I would be running for mayor.” He wiped a stray tear away. “Or have any other projects in the works.”
“I’m glad you found each other,” Rosaline smiled as Benvolio and Livia returned to the table, arms laden with slices of cake.
“We come bearing gifts,” Livia announced, placing two slices on the table in front of Paris and herself before grabbing a third from Benvolio’s forearm and passing it to Juliet.
Juliet licked her lips and grabbed her fork.
“For you, my dear,” Benvolio placed a small slice of decadent chocolate cake with vanilla buttercream in front of her and a vanilla slice in front of himself before rejoining the table.
“Thanks for the chocolate cake; it’s my favorite.”
“I know,” Benvolio winked, cutting off a sliver of his cake with his silver dessert fork and popping it into his mouth. He melted. “This buttercream is absolutely to die for.”
Turning her attention to the slice of cake in front of her, Rosaline eased her fork through the pliant cake, cutting a portion with a perfect proportion between cake and frosting.
She raised the bite to her mouth, chewing slowly to savor the flavor. The moist, dark chocolate cake mixed with the airy vanilla cream, a symphony of harmonious flavors.
“That’s fantastic,” Rosaline swallowed. “You really weren’t kidding.”
“They used Stratford Bakery,” Juliet informed her in between bites of cake. Her enormous slice had all but disappeared.
Rosaline perused the table. Paris and Livia also devoured their slices; only Benvolio appeared to savor his.
When she finished carving her own slice of cake into tiny delectable pieces until it was gone, the opening of WALKTHEMOON’s “Shut Up and Dance” rumbled through the loudspeakers.
Benvolio catapulted to his feet, yanking Rosaline along.
“Come on, Capulet,” he grinned devilishly. “Let’s dance.”
Rosaline shook her head. “I don’t dance.”
“You’ll have fun,” Benvolio pressed her. “I guarantee it.”
He winked.
“Alright,” she blushed, ducking her head as she let Benvolio drag her onto the dance floor. When they reached the center, Benvolio dropped her hand and let loose. Rosaline wrapped in on herself, crossing her arms as she watched the other dancers.
“Come on, Capulet.”
She whirled back to face Benvolio.
He nodded. Slowly, Rosaline began to tap her foot and bob her head back and forth as the music crescendoed. She closed her eyes and tentatively dropped her arms, swaying from side to side as she let the song's infectious joy and the crowd's energy overwhelm her.
“That’s it,” Benvolio said, much closer now.
When she opened her eyes, Benvolio twirled her by the hand.
Rosaline giggled.
He grabbed her other hand, shouting, “Shut up and dance!” with the crowd. They jumped together in time with the music, spinning under the shimmering disco ball at the center of the dance floor.
She collapsed into laughter as the music ended, blending perfectly with the instantly recognizable opening glissando of “Dancing Queen.”
“Isabella and Helena have excellent taste,” Benvolio remarked, falling into a groove.
Rosaline tried to follow his moves with varying degrees of success.
“You’re trying too hard,” Benvolio chided her. “Just let the rhythm move you and have fun. That’s all that matters.”
“I’ll try,” Rosaline answered, listening to the beat.
“See that girl, watch that scene,” Benvolio pointed to her and mouthed the lyrics in that overdramatic fashion of his, which caused her to burst out laughing once again. When she recovered, she rocked back and forth, pulling her arms down in time to that famous beat. “See, Capulet. Now you’ve got it.”
She realized with a jolt that she was having fun.
Even when she was with Escalus, she had never enjoyed dancing—she always put in her customary appearance for one slow dance that required the least amount of effort and then wilted away to watch from the sidelines, picking at the skirt of whatever dress he had bought her for that occasion. Escalus had looked sad for a moment but always left her to her own devices.
Benvolio, however, gently poked and prodded her until she felt comfortable enough to let go and forget about everyone watching them.
It was sweet.
She shook her head to clear it, losing herself again in the melody.
They danced to a few more fast and mid-tempo numbers when at last, the final notes of A-Ha’s “Take on Me,” Isabella’s favorite song, as she reminded everyone around her on numerous occasions, gave way to something slower.
“Alright, you lovebirds,” the DJ crooned into the microphone, “grab that special someone and get on the floor because we’re gonna take it down a notch.”
Rosaline froze, glancing at the head table. Escalus and Stella studied them, both sipping calmly from their wine glasses.
“Don’t pay attention to them, Capulet,” he turned her back to him. “We don’t have to slow dance if you don’t want to.”
“No, we should dance,” Rosaline replied, grabbing his hand. “It’ll make this charade more realistic.”
“If that’s what you want.”
Rosaline almost crumbled under his scrutiny.
“It is,” she answered breathlessly.
Benvolio nodded, guiding her closer to place his hands on her hips. Rosaline leaned in, rocking as she settled her arms on his broad shoulders. Her head rested on his chest, crinkling the crisp blue shirt that matched his eyes.
Benvolio turned them around, swaying gently. Rosaline snuggled in closer; he smelled of spearmint and sandalwood cologne.
“Don’t look now,” he whispered in her ear, “but I think your cousin is dancing with my cousin.”
Rosaline whipped around to see Juliet spinning in the arms of the handsome man she’d been staring at before dinner.
“Very subtle, Capulet,” Benvolio laughed.
Rosaline blinked. “That’s your cousin?”
Juliet flushed bright red when she noticed Rosaline staring at them and ducked her head.
“His name is Romeo,” Benvolio informed her as they spun around.
Rosaline kept her gaze on her cousin as they twirled. —there was something familiar about Romeo that she just couldn’t put her finger on.
”Oh my word, I think Romeo is the Hot Guy.” The realization flashed over her like lightning.
“The what?” Benvolio spluttered.
Rosaline turned her attention back to Benvolio.
“The guy Juliet has been crushing on for months!” Rosaline chuckled.
“The guy you mentioned at dinner?” Benvolio raised his brow.
“The very same,” Rosaline grinned. “This is too funny. I can’t wait to tell Livia about this.”
The shadow of a frown flickered across Benvolio’s face.
“Escalus is still watching us,” he said.
“What does he look like?” Rosaline leaned back on his chest.
He rumbled with laughter. “Honestly, he looks kind of constipated.”
Rosaline snickered.
“What do you want to do about it?” Benvolio cocked his head. “Shall we go big or go home?”
Rosaline quirked an eyebrow. “What’s going big?”
“At the end of the song, I plant a big one on you in front of all of your friends and relatives.”
Butterflies fluttered inside her, dangerously close to where his hands burned a hole through her dress.
She glanced at Escalus; Escalus narrowed his gaze at them, pursing his lips.
Benvolio gave her an inquisitive look as she turned back to him.
“Let’s go big,” Rosaline answered.
“Are you sure?” Benvolio asked. “You don’t have to pretend with me. We don’t have to if you feel uncomfortable.”
“No, I want to.” She smiled. “Let’s make him squirm.”
“You fill up my senses,” the singer crooned over plaintive guitar strings, “come fill me again.”
As the song came to a close, Benvolio cradled her head, caressing the loose curls that had escaped her updo. He leaned in, gently tilting her head to the side.
Rosaline closed her eyes as their lips met. He tasted like Champagne and vanilla buttercream.
Her heart raced again; she swore she saw fireworks over the last chords.
When he pulled away, she immediately felt his absence.
Benvolio rubbed the back of his neck as the next song started.
“I think that worked,” he nodded in Escalus’ direction, his voice cracking uncharacteristically.
Escalus had vacated his seat.
“I think I need to take a rest,” Rosaline muttered, dodging the other dancers to slip off the dance floor. She touched a hand to her still tingling lips.
“Are you alright?” Benvolio rushed to catch up with her.
“I’m alright,” Rosaline collapsed in her seat. “I think I just need some water.”
Benvolio grabbed the glass pitcher from the table and refilled her glass.
The cool water flew down her throat but did nothing to stop her racing heart.
“Are you sure you’re fine?” Benvolio asked again, kneeling at her side. He placed a hand on her knee.
“I’m fine,” Rosaline gulped down the rest of her glass.
He poured her another glass, and before he could respond, Isabella and Helena bounded up to the table, both positively glowing.
“I happen to know that the next song is the ‘Electric Slide’,” Isabella winked, “and I know you don’t like dancing, but since it seems you will dance with Benvolio, I thought I might try convincing you.”
“I need a break,” Rosaline sipped her water, “but you should go dance with Isabella, Benvolio. I promise I’ll join you guys in a couple of songs.”
“You promise?” Isabella arched a perfect brow.
“Cross my heart.”
Helena answered. “Alright, but you’d better join soon. It would make Izzy’s day.”
Rosaline nodded.
“Electric Boogie” blasted from the loudspeakers as Benvolio followed Isabella and Helena onto the dance floor. He looked at her one more time.
Rosaline raised her glass and smiled weakly.
Benvolio shrugged and joined the crowd, shimmying his shoulders with the best of them.
Rosaline nearly snorted her water.
A quiet, warm sensation settled over Rosaline as she watched him dance with her friends and family, bathed in the twinkling lights of the disco ball. Livia, Paris with his cane, Juliet, and Romeo had joined Isabella’s line on the other side of Benvolio, while Helena’s parents danced on the other side of their daughter.
“Hi, Rosaline.”
Rosaline nearly dropped her glass when Stella appeared at her side.
“Stella,” Rosaline responded coldly, turning to face the intruder. She placed the glass on the table before she could do something stupid, like throw it at the maid of honor.
Stella flinched. “I deserved that.”
She picked at the fabric on her skirt.
“Why are you here?” Rosaline asked.
“I came to apologize,” Stella sighed, “for my behavior yesterday.”
Rosaline blinked.
“Go on.” Rosaline gestured to the empty seat next to her.
With little aplomb, Stella dropped into the chair and brushed the little wisps of hair that had come loose away from her face.
“This is not easy for me to do.” Stella looked at the floor and took a deep breath. “Yesterday, I was too drunk and way out of line. Your relationship with Benvolio is none of my concern, and I should not have accused you of using him as a rebound to satisfy my vain hope that someday we might get back together.” She looked Rosaline right in the eyes. “I was wrong, and I’m sorry.”
She bit her lip and waited.
Rosaline crossed her arms and sighed.
Stella turned her attention to the dance floor, where the spirit of disco possessed Benvolio when “Electric Boogie” gave way to “Stayin’ Alive.”
“I was wrong, anyway,” Stella mused, thoughtfully playing with her diamond bracelet, “if that makes you feel better. Anyone with eyes can see that you guys are in love. You both light up like Christmas trees when the other is around. He never used to smile like that around me, so you’ve got nothing to worry about.”
“Thanks, I guess?” Rosaline shrugged.
Stella shot back to her feet.
“I’ve taken enough of your time today. I hope that someday we can be friends.” She held out her hand.
“Maybe.” Rosaline shook it once. “You’re a much bigger person than you seemed. I accept your apology.”
Stella nodded and left the way she came, pausing to grab a glass of champagne from a waiter.
Rosaline watched her leave before standing herself, intending to rejoin her friends on the dance floor.
Someone lightly tapped her on the shoulder.
“Rosaline,” Escalus entreated. “I need to talk to you.”
Rosaline whirled to face him, crossing her arms.
“What now?” she snipped. “Have you come to insult my relationship again?”
Escalus looked at the floor.
“No,” he sighed. “You two looked really happy out there.” He turned his gaze to the dance floor. “You never would dance like that with me.”
Benvolio and Helena danced in circles around a giggling Isabella. Rosaline picked her glass off the table, swirling the water.
“And Isabella seems to like him. When I told her you two were together, she didn’t say anything because she knew it would hurt my feelings, but I could tell she was bursting at the seams with excitement.”
He turned back to Rosaline.
“Do you trust him?”
She almost choked on her water.
“With my life,” she responded, when the water had run its course, and the coughing subsided. “He’s my best friend.”
It wasn’t a lie.
Escalus clasped her forearm and gave it a squeeze.
“I hope you’ll be happy together. That’s all I’ve ever wanted.”
“Thank you,” Rosaline responded.
With a pained smile, Escalus melted back into the crowd just as the opening bars of “YMCA” blared out of the loudspeakers.
Benvolio quirked an eyebrow from the dance floor when he noticed Escalus leaving.
Rosaline shrugged, trotting onto the dance floor.
Isabella lit up like a firecracker when she spotted Rosaline dancing toward the group.
“Rosaline, finally!” She shouted over the music. She grabbed Rosaline by the hands and twirled her into position.
Rosaline cackled, wisps of hair whipping her face.
As the first verse began, Benvolio leaned in and whispered, “What was that all about?” just loud enough that she could hear over the music.
Rosaline failed to suppress a wicked grin.
“Apparently, whatever we’ve been doing the past two days worked—Escalus just apologized to me and said he hopes we’ll be happy together.”
“Wow,” Benvolio snickered. “That’s good news then.” Another inscrutable look passed over him. “I guess that means we’re almost done.”
Rosaline’s heart plummeted.
“Right,” she answered. “Guess we better enjoy it while we can.”
The inscrutable look was gone, replaced by a wide smile.
“That can be arranged,” Benvolio grinned.
The music swelled around them, crescendoing in short horn bursts to the first chorus.
“It’s fun to stay at the YMCA!” Rosaline belted out and threw herself into the rhythm.
Benvolio danced with equal fervor, his eyes sparkling with mirth in the light of the disco ball.
Rosaline laughed, wishing this moment would last forever.
***
“I cannot believe we got away with this,” Rosaline snickered as she skipped down the hallway to their hotel room, swinging her heels by the strap. “I mean, Escalus and Stella apologized.”
She waited for Benvolio to swipe their room key.
When the door opened with a click, she followed him into the room, dropping her heels by the door.
“Wait,” she paused while the door closed. “Is this what getting away with murder feels like?”
Benvolio was uncharacteristically quiet as he tossed their room key onto the desk and struggled with his bow tie.
“I’ll get that,” Rosaline closed the distance between them. She attempted to ignore how his breath hitched when she grabbed the ends of his tie, but her heart somersaulted anyway. “I suppose I have you to thank for your excellent performance. You were an incredible fake boyfriend.” She unlooped the tie, letting the tails rest against his chest.
She moved to step back, but Benvolio grabbed her by the wrist.
“That’s just it, Capulet.”
Rosaline blinked.
“What do you mean?”
Benvolio let go of her hand and sighed, tapping the table nervously.
“It wasn’t just acting to me.”
He stopped fidgeting, focusing all of his attention on her.
Rosaline’s heart skipped a beat.
“I have feelings for you, Rosaline.” He struggled to speak, as if the words were fighting to come out. “I have for a while now. Pretending to be your boyfriend only made everything clearer.” Rosaline burned under his bright blue gaze.
“I think I’m in love with you.”
Benvolio flushed bright red at this admission.
Rosaline froze, eyes darting around the hotel room to avoid looking at him. Her stomach twisted in knots.
“Please say something,” Benvolio pleaded, tucking his hands into his pockets.
“Benvolio, I . . .” Rosaline stuttered, picking at the shoulder chain on her clutch. A thousand thoughts raced through her mind, jostling with each other for her attention. “I . . .”
Benvolio expected an answer; every second that she did not respond, the faint smile on his face turned downward.
Her chest constricted.
“I . . . I’m sorry.”
She whirled and darted from the room.
From him.
As she sprinted down the hallway, the door to their room slammed behind her.
She didn’t look back.
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