Author's Thanks: Thank you everyone who's been reading since the beginning. This story's changed me as an author, and I hope it's affected you. Thanks for the alerts, reviews and favorites. It means so much to me that my work's appreciated.
And now I'll leave you with this beautiful melody...
It was hard to look at it all.
The black, the foldable chairs all lined up in the huge gymnasium, everyone looking like zombies… it all just seemed so surreal. I never thought I would be attending a funeral service in my school. My mind was sort of numb as I took my seat with my homeroom class. Of course, the numbness wasn't unusual. It'd become a part of me now.
Each class was filling in, sitting down without a word this time. Usually there was a roar of chatter, but now faint murmurs were the only noise along with a few gentle hushes. No one could really understand why this had happened. I was one of the few who knew exactly why we were attending Damien Murphey's funeral service. The rest of the school was just confused as to why it had happened. Why him? Why so young? They were questions usually asked by those who were close to a person, but truthfully, this boy had touched all their lives. Each and every one of them felt a guilt so deep it was rooted now in their very being. I felt it gnawing at my core. I knew it would never go away. No one would forget this day. I knew I wouldn't.
Ahead of me, I saw Kendra and Tiffany, both wearing black like most of the girls had done. Kendra was mumbling something under her breath that I guessed was a prayer. Tiff was as white as ghost and shaking. Grimly I concluded she would never spread a rumor again.
I searched the crowd for the one person I truly wanted to see out of this school. I couldn't find her. Then again, I'd understand why she'd want to stay away. Too many people would want to ask questions; too many people would give her a hard time. It was easier for her to just stay away like she had been for the past three days.
At first I wanted to be furious with her. Her and her plan, making me a part of it when all I wanted was for Damien to be happy. After all, wasn't this all her fault? I lost Damien because he loved her so blindly. I had moved on, but not completely. Now that he was gone, a piece of me was lost, and it felt as if she should be to blame.
Deep down, though, I knew that the only ones to blame was me for not taking a risk and speaking up about my feelings and about the plan, and Damien for swallowing those pills.
The already quiet crowd went completely noiseless as Principal Wellington stepped up onto the raised podium at the south side of the gym. He surveyed his students, and then spoke:
"I stand here today a different man than the one you call your Principal. I am not going to preach to you about the importance of life. I think we all know of it after this recent tragedy. Everyone in this room knew Damien Murphey in some shape or form. Maybe as a friend, or an enemy, a lab partner," I cringed, "or a just another person in these halls.
"We live such fast paced lives, that the things we say, the things we do, sometimes do not register to us. A quick word, a slip of a hand... they can cost us so much more than we would at first think."
The whole school was silent, no one looked at Mr. Wellington. No one could bear to. I was one of the few who kept my head up, still looking for Monica. I wanted her to be here, to see these people's faces. So she could realize she wasn't the only one feeling terrible, no beyond terrible.
Mr. Wellington continued to the silent students, "There's not much more that I can say. There's not much more you want to hear from me. So please, let one of your fellow students give us a proper service. Bowie High, your Monica Carter."
I wasn't the only one who gave a small intake of breath. Everyone's heads snapped up as the blonde made her way from the door to the stage. She was pale, or perhaps that was just the effect of her wearing a black v-neck shirt and dress pants. It didn't look like Monica at all. Her eyes were so sad…
She faced her classmates. The jocks, the preps, the Goths, the skaters, the punks, the druggies, the followers, the nerds, the drama queens, the band geeks, all of them, stared back. After a moment, Monica cleared her throat and spoke in a voice that seemed aged for a girl of only seventeen.
"My step-mom gave birth to a beautiful baby girl last week. Her name is Julia Bree Carter. She was born on the same day that my boyfriend, Damien Murphey, took his own life.
"I guess it just goes to show you the way life works. On the one hand, we have a beautiful new baby girl, on the other; we have the death of someone who meant so much to me. A life for a life, I guess the saying goes."
She paused to take a deep breath and look down at the podium's oak wood. I was wringing my hands around my skirt hem. Everyone was silent. I had a feeling this school was getting used to silence.
"At the beginning of this year," Monica's voice sounded through the gym once more, "I was given the assignment to read a classical novel for my English class. Damien was my partner. We didn't really realize then that it was ironic we'd chosen the book "Romeo and Juliet". And now, here, I can't help but feel for Juliet. Though, I can't always agree with that girl's decisions.
"You see, Juliet had it lucky.
"She let her grief consume her, to make her believe there was nothing else to live for. Because to her, there was nobody left to live for. Not everyone has that sort of luxury. Sometimes their Romeo knew that life was something special, even if they did decide to end it. They knew that it was the people in it that made you want to keep living.
"Juliet had nothing. Paris was dead, her cousin was dead, and her sorrow, her misery and her passion drowned her. It wasn't the knife she thrust into her breast that killed her. It was blind, thoughtless passion.
"So how do I keep walking down these halls each day? How can I keep living and reaching out to people when He's gone?
"People tell me it's what he would have wanted. Well, didn't he want me to love him? And that's what always brings up the next question—the one I don't know if I can bear to answer.
"I had let him go saying I didn't love him. I didn't know if I really believed that when I said it. He did though. He died wishing I would love him. So does that mean I would be with him now, if I truly did love him? Is this all just a story of woe, where Juliet is made to suffer? Did Shakespeare come back from the dead with a vengeance? All these questions that I can't answer. All of them question me, question who I am as a person. It's hard to wake up in the mornings, to talk and keep my eyes open. But I know I have to keep going, if only to discover what life could have been like for Him. All the things I took away from Him. I hoped that I really did love him and he really did love me… but I always ask myself if I'm just playing guilty. My heart is still so broken and torn and stomped on I haven't had time to decide.
Perhaps my love was just like the shifting phases of the moon. I won't ever know now, but whatever kind of love it was, I can say this: I was in love with Damien Murphey. A part of me will always love him, and even though I'm no Juliet, I hope wherever he is now… he forgives me, and he loves me too."
No, you were never Juliet; I thought tears blurring my vision. And then, my mind playing tricks on me, I swore I heard Damien whisper back:
Juliet's had a bit of a gender altercation, hasn't he? My mind fills with his laughter but dies so suddenly I let a sob escape my lips to just make noise.
A single tear slid down her cheek before Monica Carter stepped down, and left the gym to the echoing sound of silence, my sob had long been snuffed out by the sorrow.
Somewhere from the back of the gym, I thought I heard someone say, "Goodbye, Juliet."
And all was silent.
"O swear not by the moon,
the inconstant moon,
That monthly changes in her circled orb,
Least that thy love prove likewise..."
Romeo and Juliet
ACT II, Scene II