Tybalt and Juliet Ch. 01


Standing in the wings waiting. It seemed like we’d been doing this fucking play for ever. Rehearsing since the beginning of January and now, mid-April, at last, the fifth and final performance. Halle-fucking-luiah!

It was my own fault. I’d allowed myself to be flattered into auditioning by Mrs Slater, who’d said she had “the perfect part” for me. Naïvely, I’d conjured a vision of myself as a dashing Romeo, but my pretentions to leading-man status had been well and truly dashed when I’d been handed my script.

“Tybalt. Impetuous hot head,” was scrawled across the top. A thuggish troublemaker, the Capulet cousin of Juliet. My character would be dead by the interval, killed in a fight by Romeo.

The only upside, and really the only upside, was getting the chance to beat the crap out of Mercutio, the snivelling Billy Smythe, quite possibly the most annoying guy in the school. His prime motivation for being in the play seemed to be the opportunity to ponce around the stage in yellow tights.

And Romeo? Do you even need to ask? Ritchie Gasson, Head Boy. The stuck-up, arrogant twat had been ingratiating himself with the teachers ever since we started here, almost seven years ago.

And so, there we were, the final night, ready for my final scene. This was the worst bit now, watching that slimy prick, Ritchie taking my beloved Amy’s hand to ‘marry’ her. Amy, my Amy, the girl I’d secretly been in love for over a year. Now, as the school gossip went, Romeo and Juliet were shortly to become ‘an item’ in real life, not just on stage. I was heartbroken. He bent to kiss her and anger welled upside me. Still at least my rage meant I was pumped up for the fight scene to come.

The lights went dark for a moment, before Billy pranced on stage followed by one of the other boys. I waited for my cue, ready to lead my Capulet brethren out for the big confrontation.

The scene was in actually two parts, Billy and I (Mercutio and Tybalt) would fight in the first half, while Ritchie (as Romeo, now secretly married to Juliet and therefore my relative) tried to broker a truce. Maybe I was slightly biased, but I was pretty proud of the fights, and the three of us had worked hard to rehearse them. I’d devised the choreography (it really was more like a dance than acting) and every move had to be pretty carefully planned.

Although Mercutio was the first to draw his sword, the main aim of the first fight was to establish my character as the aggressive villain, in contrast to Romeo’s peacemaker role. It was important that, by the time the second fight between me and Ritchie began, that the audience was firmly rooting for him, but also that Tybalt was more than a credible threat to Romeo’s life. Establishing the treacherous side of my character was made easier by Shakespeare’s own stage direction, that I was to stab Mercutio under Romeo’s arm, after he’d established a truce between us.

The second fight was a little harder to design as the Bard had merely written: “They fight, Tybalt falls.” The duel was to be evenly balanced at the start, to establish Romeo and Tybalt as ‘worthy adversaries’, then, to build the tension, we’d disarm each other, with our swords being thrown towards each side of the stage. The disarming sequence was actually the most crucial, because it was important for Ritchie’s sword to fall in a relatively small area of the stage, but also with the hilt angled, so that he could pick it up right at the very end. Without swords, Romeo was unarmed, but I would bring out a dagger repeatedly swiping at Ritchie. The closer, more hand-to-hand nature of this part was supposedly more dramatic, and it had to look as if the tide had firmly turned in my favour.

For the climax, just as Tybalt might do Romeo in, the members of our respective gangs were to drag us apart. I was to struggle to break free, waiting for Ritchie to be positioned within arm’s reach of the sword that he’d lost earlier. Then I would charge forward, roaring across the stage towards him, both arms held aloft, gripping the dagger above my head and just as I lunged forward to deliver the fatal blow, he’d flip up his sword and pierce me through the heart.

Piercing me through the heart, the moment he stabbed me with his sword.

Piercing me through the heart, each time his Romeo kissed my Juliet.

I’d fallen hard for Amy. The first time I’d seen her was at the Christmas concert at the end of her first term at our school. She’d joined us aged 17, when her mum had changed jobs and moved her family to our town. Although we were in the same year group, we didn’t share any classes and so it wasn’t until that night that I really noticed her.

I remember her standing on the stage, radiant, in a plain white dress, illuminated from above by a single spotlight – the embodiment of angelic innocence. She gave a performance of the Coventry Carol, followed by a hauntingly beautiful rendition of Lloyd Webber’s Pie Jesu. From the moment she opened her mouth, it was obvious Bostancı Escort she was in a class of her own. Her voice was pure, strong and clear – her soaring melodies made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up like nothing before. At once, I was enthralled, captivated, smitten.

But getting to know Amy was not as simple as you might have thought. I spent most of the school day in the science block, away from the main building and our paths rarely crossed. Occasionally I’d pass her in the corridor, but she never seemed to notice the friendly smiles of acknowledgement that I gave her. In fact, it wasn’t until almost a term later, that I actually spoke to her.

The school concert before Easter was more informal than its counterpart before Christmas. I’d asked to perform a couple of traditional Irish songs as a duet with my cousin Lauren (also in the same year group at the same school), accompanied by me on the acoustic guitar with her providing a steady beat on a hand-held drum. Like me, Lauren was a fair singer, but perhaps I should have thought twice about giving her the Bodhrán. I loved my cousin dearly, but it was difficult to describe her a subtle or sensitive musician. She was a big-hearted farm girl, with muscles at least as big as mine and if she hit a drum, whether with the tipper or her fingertips, everyone knew about it.

I’d been feeling confident in the week leading up the event, but then, with four days to go, Lauren went down with a virus and lost her voice. At any other point in the year, I might have considered this a blessing, but after twenty-four hours it was obvious that she wouldn’t be recovered in time for the concert, and so I reluctantly made my way across to the Music Department to tell the teacher that we’d have to pull out.

Mr Lane was obviously sorry to hear about Lauren being ill, but was desperate to avoid yet another act from pulling out of what was fast becoming a rather sparse programme.

“Could someone else take her place?” he asked.

“Don’t see why not,” I replied with a shrug. “Lauren was doing the top line and I’m the one on the harmonies, and the tunes are easy enough to pick up. If you’ve got someone in mind, I could give it a trial run with them.”

“Do you know Amy Norton?”

“Yes,” I said. “She did that amazing Pie Jesu at the Christmas concert. But isn’t she singing with someone else?”

Mr Lane shook his head. “She was going to, but the other girl’s gone down with this bug too, so they’ve dropped out. Listen, I’m teaching her last lesson today, so if you come back after that, the two of you could give it a go – if she agrees, of course.”

Fortunately Amy had agreed and, after only half an hour’s rehearsal, the two songs were sounding better than they ever had with Lauren and Mr Lane was trying to persuade us to add a third. The concert itself went very well, with an overwhelmingly positive reaction from the audience. Of course, I looked around after it had finished to thank Amy, but she’d disappeared before I had the chance to speak to her.

During the Easter Holiday she accepted my friend request on Facebook, and I tagged her in a photo of the two of us performing, but heard nothing more. Of course, I made a point of looking through her profile, scouring her photos for any hints that she might have a boyfriend, but most seemed to be of her with female friends from her previous school. From her pictures she seemed to have a fairly active musical life, but that wasn’t surprising as she was one of the few students at our school to be taking music A level. She played the violin in the town orchestra and sang in a local choir – I’m sure the musical standard of our school was way below her expectations when she joined us.

I started to see more of Amy during the Summer Term. Although she was studying for A levels in arts and humanities, and I was solely sciences, we’d both decided to apply to Cambridge University. The school put on weekly interview preparation courses for the two of us, plus the Head Boy (who was applying to Oxford). We spent most of the hour discussing current affairs, using newspaper articles as prompts. Amy was much quieter than either Ritchie or me, although when she did contribute her points were well thought through.

Outside of those classes I didn’t see much of her. When we passed in the corridor, she was friendly and polite, but not exactly chatty. I sought her out a couple of times at lunch, but she was quiet and shy, and it was difficult to sustain a conversation with her. She was mysterious, enigmatic, and I couldn’t get her out of my head.

We duetted together again at the July concert (more folk songs), although she seemed very concerned that Lauren would be offended that I wasn’t performing with her instead. After the concert I spotted Amy heading out of the hall, following a woman, who I presumed was her mother, in deep conversation with Ritchie’s parents. A few days later, I’d noticed that she’d changed her profile Anadolu Yakası Escort picture to a head shot that had been cropped from a bigger photo of the two of us on stage, but through the long Summer Holidays I heard nothing from her and she never showed at any of my friends’ parties.

Amy grew more confident as our university entrance classes continued through the Autumn Term. Encouraged, I invited her to my eighteenth birthday party at the end of October, (I say my party – it was a joint one with Lauren down on the farm), but she politely declined saying she was busy. Neither of us performed in the concert before Christmas, the pressure of preparing for our Cambridge interviews put paid to that, but on the final day of the term, as Mrs Slater had handed me the script for the play, I noticed that Amy had been given the role of Juliet.

I sat in the car, drumming my fingers on the steering wheel, waiting for Lauren. The two of us were heading to the cast party at James’ house. Lauren had been our stage manager and had also done a lot of the set decoration. It was a role that suited her well and, despite being totally disorganised with her academic work, she had an aptitude for managing practical tasks, particularly when relatively large groups of people were involved.

We were ten minutes late already and we hadn’t even left home yet – not that that was unusual. I seemed to spend half my life waiting in the car for her. My cousin and I were next-door neighbours, living in adjacent houses on the farm that our parents shared. I was the older by three weeks and, as we were both only children, we’d grown up pretty much as brother and sister.

Living a good fifteen minutes by car from the school, it was imperative that we learnt to drive as quickly as possible: I’d passed my test on the first go within a couple of months of turning seventeen, but Lauren had been less lucky and had only passed on her third attempt over the summer. We’d been fortunate that our grandmother had given up driving around the same time and had given the car to the two of us. I’d had pretty much exclusive use of the vehicle for the first nine months and suddenly having to share it required some adjustment, mainly because the interior of the vehicle was fast resembling the floor of Lauren’s bedroom.

I’ll admit I wasn’t the tidiest of people, but at least when I’d been the sole driver, the only items in the car were a handful of petrol receipts in the driver’s door pocket and a pair of riding boots behind the passenger seat. Now various items of clothing (many brand new and unworn) were festooned across the back and every conceivable nook and cranny at the front was filled with bottles of hand lotion, makeup brushes and general hair paraphernalia. Since ‘earning her wheels’, Lauren had undergone a remarkable transformation from tomboy to shopaholic teenage girl.

I loved the little black Polo, even if it was now always full of my cousin’s junk. It was the most basic model and cost a fortune to insure us both, but the freedom it gave was simply incredible. I was no longer dependent on my parents for lifts anywhere or on the hourly train service from the village railway station. I could pretty much come and go as I pleased, and my social life had benefitted considerably.

I cast my impatient eyes around the car, setting myself the task of counting the number of Lauren’s pins, clips and fasteners, while I waited.

“Ah,” I said sarcastically as she opened the car door. “Need a hair band?”

“What are you doing with those?” she asked, pointing at the rings of elastic in my hand.

“I was just tidying them for you, and I thought you might like to take them up to your bedroom when we get back,” I suggested mischievously.

“How about I take them out when you remove your smelly riding boots, dear cousin?” she hit back.

“Well, firstly my riding boots aren’t smelly,” I said slowly, “and secondly they don’t go flying across the windscreen whenever we go round a roundabout!”

We bickered away as I drove the two of us towards town. It was a gloriously hot mid-April day. The cast party wasn’t an official school event (there’d be no teachers) and, as James had a large house and garden with a pool, his house was the natural home for this sort of celebration. He had two older brothers at university, and the school sports teams had been partying there for almost a decade.

I dropped Lauren off at her friend Alicja’s house, where she was planning to stay the night – the two of them would make their way to the party a little later. I’d packed my sleeping bag and air mattress in the boot of the car, to kip down at James’, (in fact most of the male cast members would likely be doing the same).

Next, I headed across town to Danny’s. Danny Curran was my oldest friend. We’d been in the same class together since we started together at the local nursery aged four and had gone on to the same primary school. In fact, Ataşehir Escort James had been with us up until the age of eight, when his family had moved abroad for his dad’s work and it wasn’t until we began secondary school at the age of eleven that the three of us were reunited.

I rang the doorbell and Danny appeared. His mum was standing beside him, plastering her son with sunscreen and issuing dire warnings about the perils of dehydration. We fled, clutching our pride and joy – the Curran-Hardwick patent vodka traffic light jelly, before she could start lecturing us on the dangers of alcohol.

Danny and I had ‘discovered’ vodka jelly around six months previously and we’d been perfecting our recipe ever since (a process that had required considerable rounds of optimisation). Together, Danny and I had worked out the optimum alcohol content and setting time (which could be substantially reduced using the spare freezer in the Currans’ garage).

Perhaps Danny’s parents had thought it strange that their teenage son and best friend had suddenly become fixated on a five-year old’s party treat, but neither had made any comment. Danny was convinced that his mum was oblivious to the vodka content. I suspected his dad knew something was up, but was wisely staying silent, for fear of setting off an overreaction. (Not for nothing had our group of friends nicknamed Danny’s mum the ‘ceiling-breaker’!)

Now, our masterpiece was ready! Our creative talent knew no bounds. Willie Wonka’s ingenuity was not a patch on ours! What’s more, Danny was certain our traffic light jelly was sure to impress Becky.

Becky was the stunner of our year group: tall, slim with pert breasts and a butt to worship. She’d mesmerised every male student (and most of the male teachers) the moment she’d joined the school a year and a half before (the same time as Amy). Her long blonde hair would shimmer as she walked, and her laugh cascaded down the corridors like the sweetest peal of bells.

Although Danny was smitten, there was no real evidence that Becky had noticed him above any other of the other teenage boys similarly afflicted at our school. Several times throughout the previous six months or so, he’d boasted to me that he’d taken her on dates and be oh-so-close to making out with her, but as time had worn on, it was clear that much of this was simply in his head.

Not that I blamed him – I couldn’t have been the only guy to have jerked off over the Facebook photos of Becky and two bikini-clad friends cavorting on a beach in Ibiza. There had even been a point at the end of last summer when I thought I might even be in with a chance with her. But I was realistic – we were friends and absolutely nothing more.

Danny and I pulled up outside James’ house around half two. He lived in the nicer part of town, and his house was one of the smartest (if not the smartest) in the area. Unusually for an English suburban house, the Masters’ residence had an outdoor pool, an asset which the family deployed to their full advantage.

We slipped down the side passage into the back garden, rounding the side of the house. A vision of true beauty greeted us as Becky, chased by James, darted across our path, blonde hair streaming out as she turned her head and shrieked with laughter. We stood still, mouths wide open, ogling her in her minute red bikini – she really was perfection personified. James stretched out his arm to catch her, but she danced away from his grasp and headed round the far side of the pool.

“Hey guys!” called James as he skidded to a halt in front of us. He was bare chested, wearing long, navy blue board shorts. He’d clearly spent a lot of time in the gym recently and his biceps and pecs glistened with beads of sweat.

“Hey!” I answered. (Danny was still unable to summon the power of speech.) “We brought the vodka jelly!”

“Cool!” he replied. “Tell you what, drop it in the kitchen, get changed and come outside.”

I followed Danny through the sliding double doors into the sitting room, turning right along the hallway towards the kitchen.

James’ mum was there, unpacking sausages and burgers for the barbecue.

“Hello Mrs Masters,” said Danny. “We’ve bought a jelly for later. Can we put it in the fridge, please?”

James’ mum looked a little nonplussed as Danny opened the fridge and placed the jelly inside. He exchanged a few pleasantries with her about the end of term and then turned to head back out, presumably in search of Becky.

“Is there anything I can do to help, Mrs Masters?” I asked.

“David and I are going out later, so let me show you where the food is for this evening,” she replied “and then if you can wait a second, you can take this plate of sausages out to the barbecue for me.” She opened the fridge and then the cupboard waving vaguely at packets of crisps, dips and pizzas that would be consumed later in the day.

“I did show this all to James,” she said, “but you know what he’s like.” She looked hesitant, then, with Danny gone, leaned in towards me and said quietly, “I’m pleased you’re here, you’re the sensible one!”

I looked back at her, confused, wondering in which universe I could be described as ‘sensible’. Then again, when compared to James and Danny…

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