The Best We've Got

They say these days are the best we've got.

Star-Cross'd Round VII entry.

Above lyrics belong to The Rubens.


A woman in a pink coat trudges down a Parisian street. I know this because I watch her from the bridge. Her coat is just about the same shade as pink that Elle Woods wears in Legally Blonde. I admire her for that. I can't pull off pink quite so well. Her glasses are fogged up, I can tell, but she pays that no heed, instead just walking up onto the bridge. She walks right past me, completely unaware of my thoughts. She's beautiful, I think, despite her comically oversized glasses. Eventually she stops, hops up onto the concrete railing of the bridge, dangles her legs over the edge. If she's not careful, she could slip right into the water, I think. No one would know. No one but me.

I think of approaching her. It would be easy, as simple as, "Bonjour, ça va?" Though I wouldn't be able to say much more, because my French skills are quite minimal. I'm just about to take a step in her direction when she looks up from the notebook she pulled out of her pocket. A smile lights her face, but she's looking beyond me. I glance out at the river, rushing below our feet, to avoid suspicion.

A man in an old brown coat strides past, confidence in his gait, in his beard. He hops up beside her, and smiles back. He tells her something, which I don't catch exactly. Not for lack of not being able to hear, because in this weather, the bridge is nearly dead silent, but for the fact that the language they speak isn't English or French. I've no hope of beginning to understand what they're communicating about, to be perfectly honest with you.

Instead, I pretend that I can understand them.

Miss Pink is a modern-day Juliet. Mr. Brown is, of course, her Romeo.

He leans in close to her, and he says, "I'm so sorry, my love. My family's kept me away; they've been absolutely dreadful. I was so pleased when I got your text."

She smiles shyly at him in response. "I've missed you. It feels like forever."

"Benvolio helped me to run away," he tells her.

"Do tell Benvolio I love him almost as much as I do you." Juliet Pink blushes the same colour as her coat. She readjusts her glasses, but Romeo reaches for them and takes them off.

"You should wear your hair down more," he twists a lock of flyaway hair around his finger.

She shakes her head, just slightly. "I would, but if I wear it up, the Capulets won't recognise me. I always wear it down at home."

He takes his hand in hers, and says nothing, just plays with her fingers and starts humming a tune that I don't know, that I can barely even hear. In my head, "Close To You" by The Carpenters plays.

Why do birds suddenly appear

Every time, you are near?

Just like me, they long to be

Close to you

A chilling breeze whips past all three of us, and all of a sudden I'm back in my body. I shove my frozen fingers in my pockets.

I watch as Pink Coat scoots closer to her lover, and I kind of wish I had someone to scoot closer to myself. I want my very own Colin Firth, like in the end of Bridget Jones' Diary, where she runs after him in just her granny knickers and he wraps her up in his coat and they stand in the snow and just kiss.

Juliet leans her head on his shoulder, and he puts his arm around her waist.

"Run away with me," he suggests under his breath.

"I wish I could," she replies. "You know what they're like. They'd sooner let me die than let me run away with you."

He sighs. Of course, it's all in my imagination. I kind of wish it were true, though. I mean, maybe if I can't have my own fairytale romance, someone else can. I truly want this couple to be happy, happier than I can be. Perhaps happier than I deserve, really.

"Max?" I hear.

I look around, even though the chances of that call for a Max actually being for me are very slim. But it is, for me, I mean.

"Alex?" I blurt out. I squint at him, as though it will make him look more like him. "What are you doing in Paris?"

"I could ask the same of you," he says, walking closer. Before I know it, he's sweeping me up into the warmest hug I could've asked for at that moment.

Out of the corner of my eye, Juliet is kissing Romeo on his cheek, bidding him goodbye with tears in her eyes. I want to tell her to go after her happy ending, that, no matter what, she deserves it.

"Maxine, are you crying?" Alex asks when he pulls back, holds me by my upper arms to look into my arms. "What's wrong? I'm so sorry. I was such an idiot. I didn't realise— Oh, Max, you know?"

"It's not because of that," I say, dabbing at my tears, so as not to smudge my makeup. "It's just a dumb thing. I'm fine. Just emotional."

"I was scared," he tells me.

"Scared?" I ask him, leaning against the railing.

"Well, yeah. This is dumb – I'm practically a walking cliché from those books my sister reads all the time – but I just loved you so much that it terrified the shit out of me. All I could think about was proposing and a wedding in the park, and children running amok under our feet."

"Alex, we're barely twenty-two."

"So you can see why I was scared," he replies.

Brown Coat, Juliet's Romeo, looks damn near heartbroken, sitting alone, watching the water flow beneath his feet. Maybe he's wishing for her happiness, like I've spent the last year and a half wishing for Alex's.

"We're young," he tells me, in case I'd forgotten, apparently. "They say these times are the best we've got. There's no harm in getting started early, is there?"

I smile, tears still in my eyes. I may not be a Juliet, and Alex is certainly no Romeo, but I love him, and I'd like to think I'll love him until the day I die. Out of his pocket, he pulls a small round plastic ball.

"I know this isn't exactly what you'd probably pictured," he says, putting the plastic ball in my hand. "But it took me like seven tries to get what I wanted out of one of those damn machines back home."

I can't even pop open the damn ball, so Alex does it for me.

Inside is a pink, plastic ring.

"You're right. It's not what I pictured. But it couldn't be more perfect." I'm grinning, and even Alex has tears in his eyes.

Romeo is watching us now, as I throw my arms around Alex. I catch his eye, and I smile at him, sending him only the happiest of thoughts. He, too, deserves happiness. We all do, really. And maybe happiness doesn't have to be love, but right now, love is happiness, and the rest, I can worry about that later.