Author's Note: This is the backstory to Beatrice and Benedick from William Shakespeare's 'Much Ado About Nothing'. This is set in modern-day when the lovers are closer to 18-19-20 years rather than late 20s. Also: I'm aware that "Don" is used for men in Spanish culture, and Don Pedro has a half-brother rather a half-sister, but in this I treated the "Don" like a last name so I'm sorry if it sounds weird or is disrespectful. If it is disrespectful, let me know so I can change it. :) Also, like the change for Don John, Leonato is Leonata in this piece, and you may assume that Antonio is Antonia. I'm in a play where these are the character changes and setting, so I thought it would be fun and helpful to create the backstory of my character: Beatrice. I hope you enjoy! Feel free to comment and let me know what you think, but also be aware that I am aware that this is a terribly written work and that it is quite romantic. Hopefully nobody is uncomfortable reading about kissing because there is some in here. Anyway, the preamble is done and here you go! :)
I migrated toward the roses in my aunt's garden. The bush was large and covered a side of the gazebo with thorns, but its scent mingled so pleasantly with the neighboring wisteria that my aunt and cousin allowed it to remain. I think they enjoyed the effect of the aroma under the gazebo.
I chose a rose, but as I reached for it, a thorn clipped my hand.
"Ah!" I gasped.
"Are you alright?" I jumped at the man's voice behind me.
"Y-yes," I stammered. He smiled a toothy smile and reached for me.
"May I see?" His hand enveloped mine as he rubbed the side of my hand.
"Sorry, do I know you?" I asked.
"You don't remember me?" He smiled up at me as I shook my head. "Well, I suppose it has been awhile, with both of us at finishing school for a few years apiece."
"Let me ask you this," he pulled on my hand a little. "Do you remember the nook in this rosebush we hid in to startle your Aunt Leonata?"
I gasped. "Benedick?"
His smile split his face and I wrapped my arms around his neck. "Benedick! You're back!"
"A little grown, too, I see."
"I did my best," he chuckled.
"Oh! I can't believe you're already back!" I cried, flinging myself on him once more. He swung me in a circle. I laughed as he set me back on my feet.
"You've not changed at all, have you?" He said.
"Have too, you're just slightly blinded by the sun," I retorted.
"If I'm so blind, then how can I do this?" He tugged a lock of my hair. I swatted his hands away, squealing.
"You maneater! Does Leonata know you're here?"
"Yeah. She told me you were outside and I surmised the gazebo."
"Huh," I nodded slowly. "Where have you guys come from?""Well, Don Pedro sent Claudio and me away because his sister is going mad. She was posting all this stuff over Instagram and Twitter that Don Pedro was a playboy, which escalated into murder somehow." I raised my brows. "Don Pedro just wanted to clear things up, but his feed has been getting a little vicious too."
"That's too bad. But I'm glad you're here," I said. He laced my hand through his arm and led me into the hedge.
"So am I, Beatrice, so am I."
We walked in silence for a long while, the hedges growing more unruly and wild the closer we got to the center. I enjoyed having his company. As much as I loved Hero, she could be a little much. Her boy-crazy tendencies were sometimes overbearing.
But Benedick was the kind of boy I didn't mind. We had verbal spars quite often, but he was always there for me. He let me cry on him when Hero was busy after my parents died. He hugged me when I seemed sad. He played off me when I was happy. I honestly felt like he was my perfect friend. If I wasn't terrified of the thought I would say I believed him to be my soulmate.
And here he was, guiding me through wild hedges and pulling me close again. I breathed in his pinewood scent as his arms wrapped around me and began swaying me in a slow dance.
"Beatrice," he muttered.
"Are you okay?"
"Yeah. Why do you ask?" I peeked up at him from the circle of his arms.
"I just wanted to make sure. Have you been on social media recently?"
"If I had been I would have known about Don Joy's ill use of Don Pedro, I think."
He smiled at that. "I guess, so, huh? Good. Social media is a wreck. I swear, someday it'll crash and burn."
I chuckled. "I'll bet."
"Beatrice!" A far-off voice called.
"Hero," I groaned. "I love her, but she's going off about some Florentine today. I can't stand it!"
I stepped away from Benedick and headed for Hero's voice. Benedick caught my arm.
"If you don't want to go talk to your cousin, then don't. Come on!" He pulled me deeper into the hedges.
"Beatrice!" Hero's voice echoed.
I grinned as Benedick pulled me after him into an old hiding place. The air-pocket inside the hedge was barely big enough for the two of us, but Benedick smushed me up against him to fit me in.
"Shh!" He whispered with a laugh.
"Beatrice!" Hero's voice was closer.
"Benedick, I think I should go," I muttered against the ache in my chest.
"Not yet, chickadee. In a minute. I just got to you," he said. "Now shush."
I rolled my eyes, jumping a little as Hero's voice sounded right outside the hedge we were in.
"Oh, I swear." The girl grunted and plopped down on the bench right across from the hedge. She pulled out her phone and makeup compact and began pruning herself and her social media feed.
I caught Benedick's eye and we both surpressed hyenic laughter. After a moment, my feet began to hurt, but I was enjoying being close to Benedick and I didn't dare move. Not to mention I couldn't bear it if Hero knew we'd been inadvertently spying on her from the hedge - together. The sun was sinking by the time Leonata's voice rang out.
"Hero! Beatrice! Benedick! Time to come in!" The woman called. Her Southern accent wasn't entirely forced, but it was incredibly out of place here in Messina.
"Here, Mom!" Hero called back, replacing the phone and makeup.
She hustled away and out of sight. Benedick and I waited for a moment before emerging from the hedge and laughing.
"Wow," he sighed, wiping a tear. "That was a high-stress situation if I've ever been in one."
"Please, our feet were still on the ground," I chuckled. "And you've got green in your hair."
We pulled twigs off of each other, still chortling before we headed back for the house.
"Oh! There you are!" Leonata cried, bustling to us.
"Sorry, Aunt," I said. "I suppose Signior Benedick and I lost track of time."
Leonata nodded sagely. "Yes, well. Supper is ready so in we go!" She led the way back into the house.
Supper was quiet, though Benedick tried to make Claudio laugh. The young Florentine wouldn't so much as make an ironic comment. He took everything literally and made no attempt to continue a conversation with Benedick, me, or Hero.
Leonata seemed oblivious, and Aunt Antonia was oblivious at the end of the table. The food, as always, was succulent and delicious.
At the end of the meal, Leonata shuffled us all to bed. I couldn't really say anything to Claudio or Benedick, though I had a lot to say.
"Eee!" Hero squealed the moment I had the door shut behind us. She leapt to the bed and buried her face in the pillow.
"Hero!" I laughed, pulling her up again. "What is it?"
"Claudio! He's so cute!" She squealed again. She kicked her feet before jumping off the bed and running to our shared vanity. "Can you help me braid my hair?" She asked, grabbing the brush.
"Sure," I replied. I took the brush from her before she made herself bald and set to brushing out her long, blonde locks. "Tell about why you like the man," I said.
"Don't tease, Beatrice," Hero said, waggling her finger in my nose.
"I won't tease," I replied.
"He's just… well, first of all he's handsome," she said. "Then there's how he looked at me," she squealed. "I mean, I know he's a soldier and will have to go to war, but-"
"Whoa, whoa, whoa," I interrupted. "Who said anything about a war?"
"You don't know?" Hero's big, blue eyes staring at me in the mirror. I shook my head. "Well," Hero explained, "Don Joy has been ripping into Don Pedro, and Don Pedro has been beginning to retaliate. Claudio was assigned with shutting down Don Joy's account and blocking people who are taking her side. Anyway, I know he's going to go off again to help Don Pedro, but I just know he likes me. Deep down, at least."
I laid the brush down and began plaiting the girl's hair, but my heart was pounding. If Claudio has to leave again, perhaps Benedick would leave too…
Immediately I was back in the hedge with him, feeling his hard muscle under his shirt and breathing in his scent. There was no way I was letting go of him without a fight.
"Anyway," Hero was saying, "I've got to get him to like me before he goes away again. Just to, ya know, increase my chances of seeing him again."
"Oh, Hero," I rolled my eyes. "Don Pedro comes here every summer. If Claudio does his work he'll come with Pedro again." Perhaps the same held true for Benedick.
"Well, yeah, but still. Hey, where were you when I was calling for you?" Hero asked.
I accidentally released a strand of hair. As I felt myself blush I busied myself with finding her hair again.
"You were calling for me?" I asked.
"Yeah," Hero said. "And I got no response. I thought you were in the garden?"
"I was. I must have just not heard you," I replied with a shrug.
"Hm. Did you see Benedick?" Hero asked.
"Yeah," I said.
"Was he as usual?"
"What does 'as usual' mean?" I chuckled. "His usual annoying self, or the tease that we know him to be?"
"Either? Both? Is he good?" Hero asked. She freaking had no idea.
"I guess. I mean, from what I know he's good. Worried for his friend, but good." I tightened the knot at the end of Hero's hair and flipped it over her shoulder, crawling back into the bed. Since I came to live with them permanently a year ago, Hero and I were sharing the room until Aunt Leonata got the guest rooms "ready for guests". Whatever that meant.
Hero climbed in next to me. "Well, I guess we'll know more tomorrow," she sighed.
"Yep," I replied. "Lights out." I flicked the lightswitch next to my head and lay there, listening as Hero's breathing slowed and deepened, my mind full of Benedick.
He came back, I thought. He and Don Pedro had been coming to Leonata's for years at that same time I had. Don Pedro liked the lady, and Benedick often tagged along as a companion or play-mate to the prince. I always loved visiting my aunt, but when the situation became permanent I was grateful I was here so often in the first place. Already drifting aimlessly in life, it was nice to be in a familiar place, at the least.
I turned and faced the wall, willing the darkness to lull me to sleep.
If Benedick had to leave, how could I get him to come back again?
It was my last thought.
The next morning was bright and sunny, or perhaps that was just Hero. She bustled around the room, prettying herself up. Not that she needed it. She had chosen a pale pink summer dress for the day that made her seem utterly angelic. I, as usual, was in jean shorts and a T-shirt, brushing my hair and giggling behind my hand as Hero applied eyeliner, lipstick, mascara galore and, oh yeah, false eyelashes.
She looked like a doll from a perfect magazine sent from heaven.
"Hero," I said. "I promise you'll see him again."
"Yeah, but I want him to remember me like this so that when he does come again he'll be pleased with how grown-up I'll be in comparison." She slid another layer of gloss over her pouty red lips.
"In comparison to what? You already look great," I replied. I pinned my own hair up in a messy bun and applied my own makeup. A routine that consisted of mascara and brows. That's it.
"Well, I plan that when I see him again I'll be wearing darker colors which will make me seem older. I'll have a little darker red on my lips and an updo instead of these curls." She patted the curls that hung to her waist. "Overall I plan to dress myself up like a woman so that he'll be, shall we say, enticed?" She giggled and winked at me. "Breakfast time! Shoot, the gloss will catch everything. So not a cute look."
I laughed and slipped on my socks as she wiped off her perfectly placed lips and replaced them with another layer of red lipstick.
"There. That'll be better, I think." She exhaled loudly. "How do I look?" She spun in front of me.
"Gorgeous, as always," I said.
"Stop it," she giggled, leading the way down to the dining room.
The boys stood up as we entered, and Leonata gasped at her daughter's appearance.
"Daughter, you look lovely!" She gasped, rushing forward. I noticed Claudio's eyes look my cousin up and down before looking away. Ever the soldier, but who could forget Hero when she looked like that?
I caught Benedick's eye and immediately wished I had worn eyeshadow or liner or blush or anything to help him remember me when he had to go away. I gave a slight smile to hide my dismay as Leonata clapped her hands.
"Breakfast is served!" She announced. We piled our plates high and tucked in. Sitting next to Hero, I felt a little dwarfed, but then I kept seeing Benedick catch my eye and wink so I wasn't glum in the slightest.
"Ah, Hero," Leonata said, swallowing. "We have Mrs. Caters coming over today with Junina." Hero groaned. "So make sure you're inside when they come, yes?"
Hero nodded and the meal continued in silence.
At long last, I carried my plate to the kitchen where Martha was working and left for the gazebo.
"Hey." Benedick caught my elbow and threaded my hand through his arm to escort me.
"Hi there," I replied.
"You don't have to meet the guests today?"
"Nah. They don't know me, I don't know them. For all I know they don't know I even live here. Besides, Leonata likes to, er, make a good impression on guests," I ended awkwardly.
"But you're great," Benedick protested.
"That wasn't meant to be self-deprecating," I said quickly. "I just meant that Leonata likes Hero to be dressed up, but she knows that I don't do 'dress up' very well." I laughed a little to the side.
"Hey," Benedick said, his warm hand cupping my chin and lifting my gaze to him. "I think you're beautiful anyway." He flicked my messy bun which triggered a genuine laugh from me.
"Ah, you're sweet," I said, nudging his shoulder.
"Oh, I know. I must get that from my mom."
"Really? I thought you would have read that somewhere. Shakespeare, perhaps?"
"Who's he?" He laughed.
"Why, he is the king of puns!"
"Oh, really? I thought that was me?"
"Please, you couldn't hold your salt in a battle of wits with Shakespeare."
"Is that so? You're a personal friend of his?"
"Indeed," I said nodding sagely, "I have read all his work."
"Wait, for real?" Benedick stared at me, the humor of the moment transforming into sincerity once again.
"Well, yeah," I said. "Love's Labour's Lost, As You Like It, Midsummer Night's Dream, Macbeth, Hamlet, King Lear, Othello, Twelfth Night, Henry V, the works."
"Impressive." His smile softened as he looked at me.
"That you've read it all. I mean, he wrote a lot."
"Yeah…" Somehow we had climbed up into the gazebo. I leaned against the fencing, looking back at the house. I could see a blue Ferrari parked on the gravel driveway and my stomach gripped.
"Do you want to be in there?" Benedick asked quietly, coming to stand next to me.
I shrugged. "Not really, but I kinda get tired of being the outcast in the family."
Benedick rubbed the back of my shoulder. "What are you going to do about it?"
"I don't know," I sighed. "I don't care for frills, but I don't want to be looked down on for it."
"I can't see you in frills," Benedick said. "Silk, on the other hand…"
I snorted. "Whatever."
Benedicks' arm dropped around my waist as he took a little step closer to me.
"I have to leave tonight," he said suddenly.
"What?" I jumped out of his embrace. "What do you mean? You just got here yesterday!"
He was nodding. "I got a call before breakfast from Don Pedro. Apparently, Claudio and I need to get back home to help him manage all the backlash from Don Joy's "social media war"," he drew quotation marks in the air with his fingers. "I asked if we couldn't manage it from here, but he said he didn't want Leonata to worry about it if she saw."
"I know, I know," he said. He put a hand on my shoulder. "I checked my Twitter account today too, after the call." His hand slid down my arm. Very slowly. "Don Joy's followers are ripping Don Pedro's reputation apart. And his followers are retaliating. And so is he."
My breath hitched in my throat as Benedick held my hand. Heart pounding, I let him interlock his fingers with mine, not daring to flinch or itch my palm.
"So you have to go?" I whispered.
He nodded. "If you got an account, though-"
"No," I interrupted, accidentally ripping my hand from his. He winced. "You know I don't do social media," I tried again.
"Letters then. Write to me. Keep in touch. Call when you can."
I nodded. "I will, but you need to give me the address before you leave."
We stood there for a moment, but I couldn't meet his eye. I felt my face flaming under his scrutiny, but I didn't want to move and break the magic that held me there. I don't know how long we stayed in the gazebo, but I suddenly became aware of heat on my face, the sounds of a car pulling away.
"Benedick!" Claudio suddenly yelled from the house. "We need to go!"
"He said tonight! Not this afternoon!" Benedick hollered back. I blinked away my glum state and joined Benedick staring at the young Florentine."
"He just called!" Claudio cried. "Don Joy just posted that he's just ruined a woman's reputation and killed her!"
Benedick's fist hit the gazebo's fencing. Hard. "On my way!"
I bit my lip as Claudio disappeared back inside and Benedick turned to face me.
"You need to go," I choked.
"Yes, but Beatr-"
"Just go. Leave your address on the counter."
My eyes flashed to his. "Wha-?"
He gripped both of my shoulders. "Kiss me. Let me kiss you. Please." His eye wandered over my face and I got the distinct feeling that he was panicking.
"I don't know, I just-" he huffed. "I just need you to be part of me."
"I thought I was?" Why was I putting it off? Isn't this what I'd been dreaming about since I saw him yesterday? How was my heart still in my chest while it was beating so hard?
Benedick's hands dropped and his eyes flashed with hurt. "Fine."
He stepped down from the gazebo.
He looked back, his eyes glossy. "What?" He spat.
I opened my mouth to say something, but no sound came out. Desperate, I pleaded with my eyes for him to stay with me for just a moment longer. He shook his head with a huff and turned away again.
I lunged forward and grabbed his hand, yanking him toward me. If he hadn't been so shocked he wouldn't have moved, but I wrapped a hand behind his neck and touched my lips to his before he could say a word. He was deliciously warm and soft. His other hand lifted to my hair and I bent forward a little further. The darned man was taller than me, but I reveled in the moment of his head below mine. I took a step, and slipped from the stair to the dirt. My moment of being taller was over, and I had stupidly ended our first kiss by tripping.
I bit back a hiccup and started for the house.
"Hey!" Benedick grabbed my hand and pulled me behind the nearest hedge.
"What do you want now?" I cried, swiping at my face.
"Oh, be happy, Beatrice. You know I'll come back." I nodded as he pulled me forward. I let him hold me then, his arms secure around my waist as he rubbed my back. He kissed the top of my head and I squeezed my eyes shut.
"Have you seen Benedick?" Claudio's voice rang from the open window a few feet away. "We need to leave."
"Oh, he and Beatrice went out to the gazebo," Leonata answered.
I pushed out from Benedick's embrace as the porch door creaked open.
I shook my head and stepped past him, trying to hide my tears.
"Benedick!" Claudio called.
Benedick grabbed my hand and kissed my mouth again, but briefly, as if we'd been kissing for years. The familiarity knocked me off my feet and I was left, breathless and motionless as Benedick jogged away and steered Claudio away from where I stood.
I sank to the ground.
My knees began aching when I heard men's voices -one of them Benedick's- and a car revved up. I gasped and ran for the gravel driveway. I waved as the black Audi crawled past me, and Benedick returned it before disappearing down the bend.
I wrote him the first letter that evening, thanking him for the day, for the kiss. I waited for two weeks and wrote to him again. Another two weeks and I sent a third letter. I grew increasingly agitated over his silence and the teasing of Aunt Leonata and Hero.
My sixth and final letter to him stated that if he didn't want to talk to me to just tell me. I told him that I wasn't a plaything and that I thought him very low to lead me on, kiss me and give me hope like that to simply drop me like a stone. I never heard from him until a newsboy delivered the newspaper and a word from Benedick. When I heard it was from him my stomach burned with fury and pain even as I felt myself go lightheaded with anticipation.
My reaction sickened me.
"Benedick, please tell me you don't care for Leonata's other daughter," Claudio said to me from the passenger seat.
"What?" I asked.
"You're basically going to war, you can't have a relationship and drag her into it. You'd end up hurting her, too. You know how Don Joy is."
"I know, I know."
"So tell me you don't like her."
"I don't," I admitted. "In fact, I think I love her."
"Come on, man," Claudio grunted in exasperation. "You have to protect her from Don Joy, don't you?"
"Yeah, which is why she's writing letters to me," I replied. It was silly, really, that the solution was really Beatrice's preference.
"Oh, wow, letters. Like Don Joy doesn't live close enough to find them or anything."
"Seriously? Don Joy doesn't even like to look at me, you know that." I turned into the house's driveway and pulled out the key.
"Still, I'm just saying…" Claudio exited the car and went straight up to the door. I took a moment to breath away my anger before joining him inside. To nobody's surprise, the Don siblings were railing on each other.
"You had no right to post that!" Don Pedro hollered.
"Oh, is that so? Then you had the right to post about my LAUNDRY?" Don Joy screeched, her face red and damp.
"At least I didn't accuse you of murder!" Don Pedro shouted back. Don Joy grabbed a vase and threw it as his head. Don Pedro ducked just in time and the antique shattered to a million pieces behind him.
"How dare you!"
Claudio dragged me downstairs by the arm before Don Pedro threw the book.
"Dude!" the young man grunted, collapsing on the overstuffed sofa with a huff. "How do we fix this?"
I shrugged. "Maybe we don't have to."
He laughed sagely. "Right."
"Seriously. We could just back out now," I insisted.
"And live where, huh? Don Pedro is our friend and we need to help him."
"Yes, but how can two clearly biased outsiders help heal a family rift? Especially one with a sister like her?" We both glanced to the ceiling as Don Joy's voice ripped through the walls in unintelligible sound.
Claudio just shrugged at me. "No idea, but we have to do something to help clear Don Pedro's name," he said, rubbing his face.
"I agree, but what?"
The young Florentine sat up and snapped his fingers. "If the three of us are bachelors for the rest of our lives, then he is spared the scorn of ever touching a woman like that!"
My heart pounded as Beatrice's smiling and crying faces flashed before my eyes. "That doesn't help the murder situation," I answered quietly.
"Well, the murder was an escalation, not the first thing he did. If we wipe out the root of the issue, we wipe out the rest of the issue."
I shrugged a shoulder. "Fair enough, but I don't want to be a bachelor forever."
"Why? Beatrice?" Claudio leaned forward anxiously. "Dude, she basically grew up with Don Pedro. She'd do it for him. Besides, you don't know if she really cares for you like that."
I felt my face flame as I balled my fists. "This isn't about her. Why don't you be Pedro's bachelor friend?"
"Then it seems like we have different orientations. I like girls, sure, but if three of us make up our minds never to marry one, then none of us will be scorned. Get it? Two's a pair and three's a crowd?" Claudio fell back against the couch again. "You can pick apart a pair, but a crowd is much harder."
My chest ached as the memory of Beatrice's kiss hit me like cold water. How could I let her go?
"Benedick," Claudio whispered, "I know you like her, no matter how much you protest, but Pedro needs you and she'll find someone else who can make her truly happy."
I stood from the chair and began pacing in front of him.
"She wouldn't curse you for helping out a true friend."
Yes, but what about true love?
"She'd encourage it, I think."
You don't know her. She's vulnerable.
"You're both young, there's no need to rush a relationship yet anyway."
"And when the time comes?" I snapped. "I'll be a sworn bachelor! If I slander that promise, then we all go down!"
"Or not. Maybe we'll just have to say we are for long enough that this social-media war blows over." Claudio stood and put a hand on my shoulder. I shrugged him off and he sighed. "Think about it, Benedick. Don Pedro needs you."
I worked my jaw and tried to breathe.
"Oh, by the way," Claudio said from his doorway. "When were you thinking she'd write you?"
"I don't know," I growled.
He nodded sympathetically and closed the door to his room. I punched the ottoman and slumped against the pillows of the couch.
Could I really give up the one girl who made me happy? I'd need to write her to ask her opinion. Claudio didn't know her, clearly, but I wanted to make sure that Beatrice would be okay with it if I postponed any relationship. Maybe she'd wait for me, for this "war" to be over, for us to be together forever.
I sighed and held my head in my hands, biting my lips and trying to taste her again, feel her again. But I failed.
I sighed at my desk. Three weeks and two letters. One from her and one from him.
Don Pedro approved of my plan, but the guilt built up inside me. Benedick and I had our hands full with keeping Don Pedro out of the house and monitoring the more mainstream feeds. We did our best to convince Don Pedro to be a people's man, to kill with kindness, to only let his feelings out when the three of us were utterly alone -as in Don Joy was out of the house with her own cronies, er, friends. The "war" had kept me so busy that keeping an eye on the others was almost second nature to me, but I still felt like a traitor as I sat there, looking at the intercepted letters.
Claudio, you fool.
I sighed in front of the mirror. No word from Claudio, Beatrice was acting all funny, and Mom was on the fritz about how much makeup I'd started wearing. She'd confiscated bright lipsticks and eyeshadows, the liquid eyeliner and my best blushes so I was left with all the boring stuff.
Still, I could do some cool looks with what was left, but I was left wondering where I went wrong with Claudio. Try as I might, I couldn't get him out of my mind.
Come on, Hero, I thought to myself.
In order to keep myself from thinking of him too much (ahem) I decided to help Beatrice learn how to be cute and girly. She was way too lax in her looks than was acceptable. After all, even my mom wore pink more than Beatrice did -and that's saying something.
Unfortunately, today's exploit was not fruitful. Beatrice would hardly look at me, and when I asked her what was wrong she shrugged. Shrugged. At me.
I rolled my eyes and turned my thoughts back to how I could experiment with the boring makeup in my collection.