O Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou, Romeo?
I’m sitting in my room in the twenty-first century, studying geography. Yeah, you heard that right. My name is Romeo Augustus Capulet, and I’m the top student at South Verona High School. We talk about Shakespeare every year just like everyone else, but what no one seems to know is that his play about Romeo and Juliet is true. I get my name from the guy she was willing to fake her death to be with, and then decided she really would rather die than live without. What English class doesn’t tell you is that their parents paid Shakespeare to tell the story, so our families would never forget what the feuding had cost us, even if we still have no idea what caused it all in the first place.
I push back from my desk and get to my feet, stretching my arms over my head. My walls are covered in awards for all level of competitions, from science fairs to spelling bees, all of them either first or second place. Grades and intellect are pretty much everything in my family, though my brother Benvolio managed to be a star athlete, too. He was in third grade when I was born, so we never really got along for more than a few minutes until I managed to save his wife from drowning last summer. She had a seizure and fell in our pool during a party, and I was the only one who knew how to make her cough up the water she had breathed in. She’s only had two since, but we still keep an eye on her, especially now that they’re getting ready for their first kid.
I turn off the lights before heading downstairs, I need an iced tea if I expect to stay focused until dinner. The kitchen is empty when I get there, but the counter tops still look damp, meaning the staff just finished cleaning. The whole room is pretty much black marble, cherry wood and chrome, the only exceptions being the floor—white tile with pale blue swirls and gray specks—and the oak dining set by the bay window. I get my steel thermos from the freezer and fill it with tea, grabbing a couple peaches before heading back to my room. My parents are out of town for the week so I mostly have the place to myself, since all our staff live in the houses along the rest of our street. Yeah, we really own that much land, and even with how fast the city’s growing, I know my parents will never sell it. They would much rather lose out on that money than uproot all those families, and I feel the same way. Besides, none of us really want to live that close to fast food places or apartment complexes.
I stop in the hallway when I glimpse one of the pictures hanging on the wall, one of many shots from my thirteenth birthday party. My parents had set it up in the backyard, paying caterers to make all my favorite food and getting a DJ who had played whatever my friends or I asked her to. I laugh to myself, remembering how they’d looked during some of the songs, but they hadn’t tried to change anything, instead going around with cameras to get as many pictures as they could. Thirteen was the last party Benvolio or I had, since our parents believed anything like that afterward was just too much of a distraction. It made me glad I was never into sports, since Benvolio saying he was going to tryout for the football team his freshman year had almost caused World War Three; I still shiver when I think about that night sometimes. He’d barely managed to keep the 4.0+ GPA that had been expected of him, and was still expected of me.
I flip the switch in my room and put the stuff on the desk, turning to stare at myself in the full body mirror that makes up my closet door. I’m tall with wide shoulders like Ben and Dad, but I only have enough muscle to function properly, and you would not believe how many scrawny insults I’ve heard over the years. Points for creativity, I guess. I also got Mom’s blue eyes, while those two have brown, which means I’m stuck wearing these thick glasses. I’m just too much of a wuss to get laser surgery like she did, and I know I’d never remember to take care of contacts properly.
I reach up and push back my hair, so light I have to rub sunscreen into it, frowning when I see the magnet for one of my cochlear implants. I all but lost my hearing as a kid because my eardrums kept rupturing due to infections, and since teaching everyone we know sign language would be more trouble than it’s worth, my parents opted for these instead. At least now I have a couple excuses I can use when I just don’t feel like dealing with people. I let go of my hair and watch it fall over the magnet—no one explicitly said I couldn’t cover them a bit, and we special ordered them so they’re white instead of black. Now no one really notices until they get close, and people I’ve never met before sometimes don’t see them at all unless I point them out, which I try not to. It’s not that I’m embarrassed about it, too many people just start acting like I can’t handle myself because I need something to help me hear, it got old really fast.
I grab my thermos and take a drink, wishing I didn’t have to try so hard not to spill it. I’ve already had to throw out a few shirts because they got stained, and to my mom, that’s worse than walking around in rags. She made sure to force into my head that I have to look presentable at all times, I even get a lecture if I come downstairs before getting dressed and combing my hair. But at least I’m able to tune out the noise she makes about how it’s ‘too long for a boy’ since it’s not almost a buzz cut. I think she’s just about given up on that point, though.
So yeah, I’m stuck dressing like the rich geeks you see in movies, tucked in polos and everything, and I swear she pays her ‘friends’ on the school staff to be spies. She always gets on my case if I happen to leave my shirt untucked after gym class, or let my hair get too messed up when it’s windy. I definitely don’t do it on purpose sometimes just to get to her. I’m honestly kind of relieved it’s just me and Ben, because I don’t even want to know how much worse it would be if we had a sister, given some of the things I’ve overheard while she’s FaceTiming with her little vent club, something she’s careful to only do when Dad’s on a business trip. I don’t say anything about it, though, it would just cause trouble none of us need, especially now that they’re both so crazy about the fact I’ll be in college soon. I have no idea what I want to do, but I guess I could always go for something generic like a business degree; as long as it’s a Master’s or PhD, I don’t think they’ll care. I just want to get out of this house so I can finally start playing by my rules, even if I really have no clue what they would be.