I'm going to keep opening author notes to a bare minimum this time. More notes are at the end of the chapter.

I'm sorry to everybody for taking a year to write anything. I hope you'll enjoy this, though.

Romeo and Julian

I hadn't been as awake in my drama class as I probably should have been that day.

I hadn't slept well the previous night, though, so I kept nodding off a little in class. It wasn't that big a deal, though; all we were doing today was nominating people for different parts in this semester's play: Romeo and Juliet. To keep things interesting, though, we were going to do it according to Elizabethan tradition: with an all-male cast. On nomination days such as this, there wasn't much you could do unless you had any suggestions for parts. And since I didn't, I saw no problem with just zoning out.

So I did.

"I nominate Lucas!"

My head snapped up upon hearing my name called. I'd been nominated for a part? Which one?

"Yeah, he'd be good," I heard Geoff agree. I turned quickly in time to see him grin at me. It was his 'I'm up not no good' grin. That rat bastard. He's supposed to be my best friend.

"What are you getting me into?" I hissed at him. Oh, if only I'd been paying attention.

"And with hair like that, we won't have to worry about finding a good wig for him," some girl, I think Kerri, added from across the room.

I reached up, my fist closing around a lock of blonde hair. My hair? What about my hair? Why would I have needed a wig?

"Hm... You have a point," Mr. Louis, the drama teacher, agreed. He held his chin as he nodded thoughtfully, giving me a once-over. Then he dropped his hand, revealing the smudges of chalk dust left on his face before he turned to face the chalkboard. He picked up a piece of chalk and started scribbling something on the board beside the name 'Lucas N.' My name. Some people snickered a little as he wrote, while I stared ahead anxiously. Then Mr. Louis stepped to one side, and I could read what the board now said.

'Lucus N. - Juliet'

"Oh, God, no," I moaned. It was too late to back out of it, though, of course. That's just the way things worked in second year drama.

This sucked.

« o o o o o o o o »

I was still complaining on the way to the cafeteria. I would have been shuffling my feet dejectedly if I hadn't had to take such large steps to keep up with Geoff's stride.

"Why would anyone pick me to be Juliet?" I asked him, a whiny tone creeping into my voice.

Geoff shrugged, still highly amused about the whole thing. Of course he was amused. He was Sampson. He wasn't in the play for long, and while he was in it, he'd be wearing pants, unlike me. The world hated me.

"Everyone thought you were the most feminine," he said easily. I pouted.

"I am not feminine," I argued, trying to sound threatening.

Geoff shrugged again, not at all frightened by my tone. The almost-foot of height difference between us could have had something to do with that.

"Well, you're short," he replied. "Shorter than the rest of us, anyway. And with your hair and the stage makeup, that's all the audience will need."

I huffed a little. He was right, of course. My hair was long. Not as long as the wig I would have had to wear had it been short, but still long. I was at least half a foot shorter than every other male in the class. My voice wasn't even that deep, either. At least it wasn't as deep as the guy who'd landed the part of Romeo: Greg Hatley.

Greg Hatley had been on the baseball and cross-country teams before dropping them both to make more time for acting. He still swam a few laps in pool after school whenever the swim team wasn't occupying it. Trust me, I knew. He was at least a foot taller than I was (I had never been close enough to him to make a more accurate guess), had curly brown hair, and the most gorgeous hazel eyes I had ever seen. He had sat three seats up and one row over from me in Algebra II last year. His hair had been a little longer, then, and he'd had the habit of twisting the section in front of his right ear around his finger whenever he was bored.

I'd had a slight crush on Greg ever since I first met him two years ago. Geoff knew this.

"You just don't want to make out with Greg onstage," he teased, grinning down at me.

"Shut up," I squeaked, ducking my head.

"Speaking of Greg," Geoff started. I glared at him, daring him to finish the sentence. "He mentioned something about wanting to talk to you. Something about going somewhere after school a couple of days a week..?"

My eyes widened a little. I could feel my face getting hot. Geoff was probably grinning.

"You know, to practice," he explained. I sighed a little out of relief. "He could be talking about memorizing your lines... Or he could be talking about getting used to the part where you practically shove your tongue down his throat in the fifth act..."

I punched his arm angrily. He just laughed at me. I couldn't hit very hard.

"This is not fair," I whined. "My romantic life is pathetic enough without everybody seeing me suck face with Greg Hatley on stage." Geoff started to say something, possibly a slight attempt to comfort me, but I cut him off with an exaggerated had gesture. "And you know that they'll see it. It's Romeo and Juliet. With an all-male cast. With my luck, they'll go the first night and then keep coming back just to laugh at me."

"Mm, that probably is a problem," Geoff agreed. We had reached the cafeteria door. "Of course, if things go well with Greg..." He trailed off and winked at me before holding the door open. "After you, Miss Capulet," he said, mock-bowing.

I kicked him in the shin. "Thank you," I grumbled before walking past him.

« o o o o o o o o »

Our time at lunch had been spent by me glaring at him as I ate while he dramatically rubbed his shin. I knew that it didn't hurt that much, if at all, anymore and that he was just doing it to humor me. He was a good friend like that.

I spent the rest of the day only half paying attention to my classes. I was too busy worrying about the play.

Now, I knew Romeo and Juliet inside and out. I wasn't worried about messing my part up or anything. I was a good actor, after all. No, I was worried about me making an idiot of myself in front of Greg. If Romeo had been played by anyone else, I wouldn't have a problem. But in front of Greg... I would probably fudge my lines and blush and stammer like a little girl. It was going to be humiliating.

But of course Romeo was going to be played by Greg. He was a great actor and anyone with half a brain would be attracted to him. Or at least should be, as far as I was concerned. You'd have to be brain dead not to be.

I'd already managed to get myself worked up into a state of relative panic before the end of the day. I felt sick, a fact that Geoff noticed after the final bell rang when I went to meet him at his locker for him to give me a ride home.

"You look like someone punched you in the stomach," he observed, shoving his Spanish textbook into his locker. He grabbed two other books, senior literature and something else, and dropped them into his backpack before shutting his locker. He knelt down to zip his bag while I stood and waited.

"I gave Greg your number," he said. Zzzzip.

I stood in shock as he rose to his feet, slinging his bag over his shoulder. "You what?" I managed.

Geoff shrugged. "He's in my Spanish class, remember? He wanted your number so he could call you about practicing together. I gave it to him."

Part of me was happy—very happy—that Greg had my number. That meant that he would be calling me. That meant that Greg Hatley, god among high school teenagers, was going to be calling me, Lucas Neely, girly looking theater geek. It sounded too good to be true. But at the same time, it was like Geoff had just signed my death sentence.

"Why don't you just shoot me now?" I moaned, throwing myself back against a row of lockers with a huff. My shoulder blades contacted a little harder with the metal than I would have liked, and I gave a small, pained whine as well.

Geoff smiled pityingly and patted my head twice. "Oh, cheer up," he told me. "It can't be that bad. And you've always wanted to actually talk to Greg instead of staring after him like a lovesick puppy."

I gave him the most pitiful look I could muster and whined loudly.

Geoff laughed a little and shook his head. He started for the closest exit. "Come on, Luke. I'll buy you ice cream."

Promises of sugar always get me to follow people.

« o o o o o o o o »

"So...when is he going to call?" I asked nervously, fidgeting a little in my seat.

"Sometime today, probably," Geoff replied with a shrug. "And calm down, huh? You're going to drop your ice cream." He pointed, and, sure enough, my rocky road with rainbow sprinkles was about to fall off of my sugar cone. I jumped a little, quickly righting the cone and taking a lick from the side that was dripping the most.

"Thanks," I mumbled, staring at my cone now.

Geoff sighed and reached across the table to shake my shoulder a little. "Chill a little, Lucas," he said. "I know Greg all right, okay? He's a nice guy. Don't get so worked up about it."

"I know he's a nice guy," I whined. "He's a nice guy with nice hair and nice eyes and a nice smile and—"

"Okay, okay. I get it," Geoff cut me off, laughing. "Just don't forget to breathe."

"Yeah, yeah," I mumbled, scuffling my feet a little. I started to give my ice cream another lick, but was interrupted by my phone's ring tone, a peppy little polyphonic thing that had come with the phone. I was so startled that I almost dropped the cone again. Thankfully, Geoff was there to take it out of my hands so I didn't have to deal with a phone call and a lapful of ice cream. He's a good friend.

I managed to get my phone out of my pocket and stare at the number on the display. I didn't recognize it. Could this be Greg? I glanced nervously at Geoff who grinned and gestured a little with his arms. It would have probably been a double thumbs-up if he hadn't been holding two ice cream cones. I looked back to my phone and took a deep breath before finally flipping it open and raising it to my ear.

"H-hello?" I stammered. I was met with silence. I had almost decided that the person calling had hung up when I finally got a response.

"Hello? Is this Lucas?"

My eyes widened. It was him! I could hear Geoff snickering at me across the table, but I was too nervous to glare at him right now.

"Hello?" I heard again. "Are you there? Is this Lucas?"

"Oh!" I exclaimed, probably sounding like an idiot. "Um, yeah. That's me. I mean... This is him—he!" Geoff was trying to silently cackle across the table. It wasn't working. "...This is Lucas."

"Smooth going, buddy," Geoff teased in a whisper. I wanted to whimper. I could hear Greg laughing softly on the phone. I couldn't decide if I wanted to melt at the sound or crawl under a rock and die.

"Hey, Lucas, would you want to get together to practice for the play sometime?"

I nodded before realizing that he couldn't hear me. He was already talking again, anyway, so it was okay, at least.

"I mean, Geoff probably already said something to you about it. But I just wanted to make sure."

I nodded again, remembering to actually speak this time. "Y-yeah. That sounds great, Greg."

"Great!" He sounded pleased. Greg Hatley sounded pleased that I wanted to practice with him. The melting option was definitely winning over the rock one. "Would today be okay?"

My eyes widened again. Today? The thudding of my heart was almost drowned out by Geoff crunching loudly on his waffle cone. But only almost.

"Hello? You still there, Lucas?"

"Y-yeah!" I replied almost too quickly, my voice squeaking. Face red, I cleared my throat a little. "Um, yeah. Today would be fine." I fidgeted nervously, glancing across the table at Geoff, who looked way too amused by the entire ordeal. "I just have to call my mom and let her know that I'll be home later than usual."

"That's cool. I need to take a quick shower anyway—" I almost didn't hear the rest of the sentence, my mind too busy imagining what Greg would look like in the shower. I squirmed a little in my chair, trying my hardest (okay, maybe not the best word to use) to listen to the rest of what Greg had to say. "—so I'll see you soon. Is my house okay?"

I nodded dumbly. "Your house would be great."

"Good! See you then, Lucas."

Greg hung up, and so did I. I sat there in silence for what seemed like ages before finally regaining the ability to speak.

"Greg is showering right now. He wants me to come over to his house to practice."

Geoff, who had finished his cone, now sat there holding mine and watching me babble.

Realization hit me like a sack of bricks. "He wants me to come over to his house, and I don't even know where that is!" I wanted to cry.

Geoff held my half-melted ice cream out to me. "Hey, it's okay. I know where his house is. I'll drive you over there."

I took the cone from him and gazed at him with a look that I at least hoped was conveying my utmost gratitude. "You're a gentleman and a scholar," I told him. He laughed.

"Eat that before it melts. I'll call your mom for you, if you want." I slid my phone across the table to him instantly, not trusting myself to talk normally to my own mother. Geoff laughed again. "You're funny when you act like a little girl," he teased, pinching one of my cheeks.

"Am not," I protested, pulling away a little and pouting.

Geoff just laughed as he flipped open my phone and started dialing my house. He could be annoying, but he was a good friend.

Well, it's been entirely too long, and for that I am very, very sorry. I have absolutely no excuse and all I can say is that I really, really hope that my few readers are still willing to give me one more chance. After all, my drive to write is returning, and I'm willing to sit down and say to myself, "All right, you sorry milksop bastard, you are going to write something, and I mean now," if I go too long between updates again. So please?

That aside, I've revamped my livejournal community, and I'm going to start posting my stories there in addition to FictionPress. Nothing really important, but I thought you might like to know. I'm also going to set up a mailing list for updates, if any of you would be interested in that.

Once again, so sorry. Much love to all of you! And, um...read/review, please?