Without, the rain pours down from the heavens, reflecting the atmosphere within.
I kneel beside the funeral bed of my younger cousin, Romeo Montague. My heart shatters to piece in my chest as I stare emptily down at him, unable to believe what I see. Even in death. My cousin appears as though he is only asleep, as though he will awaken at any moment, but that is impossible now. I still feel as though he is alive somehow, despite the undeniable proof lying silent as stone before me.
At Romeo's other side sleeps the second dead angel, his young and beautiful bride, Lady Juliet Capulet-Montague. She is just as alive as she is dead. I can almost see their folded hands rising and falling with their chests as they breathe, but there is not the slightest hint of air within these cold shells. They are gone and will stay so.
"Why?" I murmur to Romeo, kneeling down beside him. "Why did you do this to yourself? How could you be so selfish?" But there is no point in speaking. Why even bother? His deaf ears will not hear me anymore than his mute lips will answer me.
I cannot help smiling as I recall our adolescence. Yes, this is no different from back then. Even in our youth, Romeo listened to no one once his mind was made up. I asked the same questions over and over and over ad infinitum, but he neither heard nor answered me. Against my better judgment, I thought it best not to question him about Lady Juliet, a decision that I never in my wildest dreams anticipated regretting.
Romeo and Juliet are gone, and nothing can ever bring them back.
At last tearing my eyes from Juliet, I look around at the others gathered in the funeral hall. Among the mourners, I see her. Lady Rosaline Capulet, Juliet's elder sister and my cousin's greatest heartache. Tears flow like a steady stream from her closed eyes as she stands over her sister's body. While I long to feel some sort of sympathy for her, all that reaches me is the bitterest of loathing.
The mere sight of her burns me from the inside out. What right has she to mourn this loss? What right has she to shed such tears? The entire situation is on her shoulders. Had it not been for her, none of this would have happened. If not for her, my cousin and his wife would still be here with us.
Not bothering to lower my voice, I turn to Juliet and say, "Why couldn't Romeo have met you first?"
A gasp. Naturally, from her witch sibling.
"You were the only one who ever made him truly smile," I continue. "You were the only one who ever made him happy." Everything that I wish I could have told her in life, everything that she will never hear, all because of this.
I return my eyes to Rosaline, pleased to see the look of shock on her face. Guilt radiates from her like a delicious fragrance. "Forgive me! Forgive me, Benvolio!" she pleads pitifully.
Forgive her? Does she truly believe her words will do anything to resolve this? Genuine or not, her words will never bring back what both of our families have lost in these two beautiful angels. In any other situation, in any other place, I would have forgiven her on the spot, but I fear that that is no longer a possibility, either. Whatever mercy I once had is gone, leaving only the blackest hatred in its place.
I feel tears, bitter and angry tears, drying on my cheeks, tears that I do not remember shedding, as I gaze upon my cousin, my hand tightening on his arm. When had it gotten there? A third time, I turn my attention to Juliet, and her peaceful face somehow softens my heart. I see the smile wanting to touch her lips, the smile that Romeo had so happily, so eagerly and energetically described to me so many, many times. Within that smile, I see forgiveness. Within that smile, I see love.
There is no sense in holding a grudge. All that will do is spawn even more hatred, hatred that has no place when honoring their memory. With all the bitterness melted from me, I nod without lifting my eyes. If Rosaline notices or understands, she makes no remark, but I am finished with my burden, laying down my anger to leave it buried away from here. "Thank you, Lady Juliet," I whisper, cleaning tears spilling from my eyes. "Thank you for everything."