The next day, thankfully, was a Saturday, so I didn't have to suffer the utter humiliation that comes with a breakup. To tell the absolute truth, though, I was relieved that we were no longer an "item." With the division between our families, it would've ended a shattered relationship, anyways. Why prolong the pain when in the end, it couldn't be avoided?

As I trudged down the long hallway to the humongous staircase, I heard footsteps rapidly approaching from behind me. Rubbing my eyes sleepily, I turned around, and saw my cousin, Juliet, right before she collided with me. We both fell to the ground in a heap. I rubbed my arm.

"Way to go, Juliet," I mumbled, still grumpy from waking up. I never have been a morning person, come to think of it.

Juliet stood, unperturbed by the little incident and offered me a hand. "Sorry," she said quickly, pulling me to my feet again. "My party's today, though, and I'm just worried!"

I looked down at her and realized that surprisingly, she was already dressed and had her hair done in a fancy updo. Her dress was peachy-colored and had spaghetti straps. She wasn't wearing any shoes, but she had them in her hands--peach-colored sequins to match her dress. She wore a pearl necklace and a few bracelets and rings, with matching earrings. "How do I look?" she asked, sounding suddenly perky. She struck a pose and I gave her a look that I tend to give people either when I think they're supremely weird or just plain odd.

Sighing, Juliet touched her hairclip to make sure her beautiful dirty blond hair was intact and then said sadly, "I knew I shouldn't have worn the bangles. . . ." Her blue eyes fell to the floor, ashamed.

I shook my head rapidly, unable to speak. "Juliet!" I cried, once I found my voice. "You look . . . you look . . ."

"I look . . . what?" she asked, shaking her head in unison with me.


My cousin brushed off the front of her dress and gave me a little curtsey. "Thanks!" she said, clearly flattered. "You know I need to look my best for my coming-of-age party!" She smiled at me and then curiosity struck her. "You need to look good for my party, too, Rosaline." A concerned look came over her face. "You're not wearing that, are you?" she asked.

"Why can't I?" I asked, offended.

"Well . . ."

I looked down at myself and remembered that I hadn't showered or dressed yet--I was still in my pajamas. My face turned the color of a cherry tomato and then I remembered that it was just Juliet I was talking to. My beloved cousin, Juliet. Pulling up my monkey p.j. pants, I shrugged. "Well, Juliet, it is in style."

She gasped. "Rosaline! You can't do that to me! It's a coming-of-age party, not a . . . a club!" Juliet screeched, astonished. "You don't want you to have to give you a makeover, do you?"

Apparently, she was so stressed that she hadn't caught the joke. "Joking . . ." I assured her.

"So not funny!" Juliet yelled, storming off down the hall.

Since the party was later that day, I decided to eat first, then dress so as to keep my party clothes clean. I stumbled downstairs, then made my way to the dining room. There were still a few random family members eating in there, so I popped a squat next to Juliet's nurse, Beatrice. The nurse was a woman in her late thirties who had tended to Juliet as a mother since the girl was born thirteen years ago. In fact, she was more of a mother than anyone else (even Lady Capulet) ever was to Juliet. Bee was very friendly to me, also, since we (Juliet and I) had been attached ever since they were little.

"Rose!" Bee greeted me warmly. "It's been a long time since you've come downstairs for breakfast! you normally dine in your own apartments. What brings you down today?"

"Too lazy to cook," I answered, walking over to the buffet and grabbing a plate. Once I'd piled on the bacon and toast, I took a seat next to Bee again. I ate and we talked about the party, which was supposed to be grand. I felt a little jealous of Juliet. Her father was, after all, the owner of the Capulet mansion. My dad was his little brother. The just younger brother. So Juliet's division of the Capulet family got all the benefits. A great coming-of-age party was one of those benefits--mine was a last-minute little party with maybe twenty people and a D.J. And a cake, of course. But that was about it.

After I ate, Bee told me I'd better go on up and get dressed. So I marched up to my apartments, threw on a red spaghetti strap dress and some black heels, curled my hair, and marched back on downstairs to help make sure everything was ready for the perfect ditz's party.

Sitting in a chair on the side of the dance floor in a bathing suit is no fun. It never has been fun; it never will be fun. How do I know this? That's what I did for the first hour of Juliet's party: I sat in a chair and checked out guys. For some reason, though, whenever I tried to flirt with a guy from afar, another girl would come and whisk him off. Every single guy at the party who was not a relative seemed to be taken.

After I'd had enough unfulfilled flirting, I stood slowly and walked over to the back of the ballroom (which was now basically turned into a club or a rave without drugs) and slumped outside to the swimming pool. There were only a few people in the pool playing volleyball. I didn't feel in the mood for sports, so I grabbed my shorts from one of the lounge chairs, slipped them on, and walked over to the courtyard where the band was playing.

All throughout the party, I'd been wondering if I could've gotten by without dumping Romeo. I mean, he was just looking for some fun in our relationship. It wouldn't have hurt, and nobody would've known but us two. I felt upset at myself that I'd had to take such drastic measures so as to dump him. To tell the complete, honest truth, I still had a thing for him. But that was only natural, right? It wasn't supposed to be an automatic thing to get over someone.

Did that mean he still had a thing for me? I looked up to the heavens to see if maybe, just maybe there was a sign up in the vast system of stars. Unfortunately, I could see nothing but an empty, velvety blue sky. It was like a curtain had been drawn over the constellations, hiding them just from me.

Changing my direction, I decided to take a hike over to the gardens instead. There was no light in the gardens at night, and I'd be able to see the constellations more easily. Plus, that would mean no more noise. I'd be able to exist in my own world alone.

Trudging through the tall grass, I searched for a soft spot, and when I found one, I laid down, folded my arms behind my head, and gazed up at the heavens. As I searched the stars, I thought about the vast bodies outside of our own world. I had thought that Romeo was so perfect for me. I had looked long and hard for a guy like him. Maybe there was another guy out there for me; maybe he was it. Who could tell?

The sudden sound of footsteps in the grass brought me back down to Earth. I rolled over to the left and my jaw dropped. Standing in front of me was a full-fledged vampire.

I brought myself to my feet and stared at the sight before me for a second, then began to scream.

The vampire was obviously alarmed, because he rushed over to me, clapping his hand over my mouth. My eyes widened and I tried to bite his hand. I was sure he was going to bite me.

"Two words: calm down," he said. The voice was familiar, one I'd heard a few times before. I squinted my eyes so as to get a better look at him.

"Ben?" I asked, alarmed not because he was a vampire, but now because I wasn't expecting him or any of Romeo's other friends. At my recognition of him, he let go of my face. "Juliet invited you to the party?"

He shook his head. "Not really," he replied slowly. "That's why I'm in costume."

My eyes widened again. "Why are you here?"

"Why would I tell you why I'm here?" he asked slyly. "Suppose that's confidential?"

I rolled my eyes. He was being so formal. "Ben, I've every right to know why you're here."

"Not anymore you don't," he said. "I may be Romeo's friend, but you're not his girlfriend anymore, so you technically have no association with him or with me."

I heaved a long, sad sigh. "So you know about the whole breakup?" I asked. When he nodded, I went on to ask, "Romeo isn't here, is he?"

"Depends . . ." Ben said with a somewhat pained expression on his face.

"He is here, isn't he?" I asked. Ben nodded.

"Unless you want me to lie to you. . . ." He gave me a sideways smile. Though I couldn't see him well through the darkness, I knew that his eyes were shining at the joke. Ben, through mostly reserved, was quite funny in an intelligent way.

"Where is he?" I asked. Secretly, I hoped to have another run-in with him, and maybe apologize.

Ben shrugged. "What's it to you? Trying to avoid him or something? Or are you going to slap him? Or do you have something quite the contrary on your mind?" He lifted an eyebrow. The costume made the glance look rather menacing.

Sighing, I realized he'd caught my intentions. He was Romeo's friend, after all, and if the word got around to Romeo, then that would make my chances with him better. "You got me," I said honestly. I looked up into Ben's deep green eyes. "I feel bad for dumping him over something so little. I should've just given him a chance."

A pang of pain came over Ben's face for a second. In a moment, though, he was back to business. "He . . . he did pressure you a lot," he said, struggling to find the right words. "Plus, you two couldn't get married or anything."

"Reasonable Benvolio . . ." I began. He winced when I used his full first name. "You're right, I know, but there's still the feeling of slight guilt underneath it all."

"You'll get over it," he said bluntly. Changing the subject, he inquired, "Why are you out here in the gardens rather than in there enjoying the party?"

I shrugged. "I don't want the noise now, and I wanted to see the stars."

He looked as though he was ready to say something else, but decided not to. There was an awkward silence during which he looked down at his costume and I gazed up at the night sky. I noticed him moving in the corner of my eye, and I looked over at him to see him taking out the false vampire teeth. He'd already taken off his cape and rubbed off most of the makeup. His wild brown hair could never be tamed; he tried to slick it back, but the attempt was in vain.

When he caught me watching him stealthily, he gave me a broad smile. "I say we go back to the courtyard and listen to the band," he suggested. He offered me his arm, like a sort of escort. Naturally, I refused it and just locked arms with him as though we were at a squaredancing festival. We made our way to the courtyard slowly, sharing words few and far between. Once we got to the courtyard, we separated. I stood next to Juliet, chatting and dancing. I had no idea where Ben went, though.

Soon, though, I caught up with Ben again, and we turned to talking about music. After only a few minutes of conversation, I saw a curious sight over his shoulder. Romeo was right there behind him, black hair falling into his face. At first, I was sure he'd caught sight of me. When I gave him a smile, he didn't respond. I followed his gaze more closely and realized he was staring intently at something on my left. And who was on my left, but my best friend; my cousin, Juliet?