A/N: Star-Cross'd Awards is the bi-annual writing contest of ADoR (A Drop of Romeo). There will be one from January to June, then another from July to December.

For each round, there is a set of prompts. You may choose from any prompt. For each prompt, there is one winner. Honorable mention will be awarded when there are sufficient submissions.

The requirements are:

Must be the specified story type (either multi-chaptered or one-shot)

Reference to Romeo and Juliet (this does not have to be a MAJOR reference. For example, your narrator could walk past a poster advertising a nearby showing of R&J)

Must have been written after the contest begun
The purpose of Star-Cross'd is to give you enough time to start and finish something you can edit until you're satisfied. I know that when I try writing for a prompt, I tend to not have enough time to finish my response. One month goes by like that. Star-Cross'd gives you five to six months to complete your entry.
All authors who submit their work shall receive a review from me AS LONG AS YOU FULFILL THE REQUIREMENTS! The winner of each round will receive a banner.

This story was written for the photo labeled "The Guy".

Don't Apologize

She hated him. That was the thought that ran through Tiler Kernon's brain as he studied the girl that stood in front of him with the honey colored hair. As he drummed his fingers against the cool, plastic counter, he glanced up at the clock, counting the minutes until his shift was over so he could escape the small coffee shop and not have to watch Sophie Viacari and her friend's gossip over their coffee.

"Did you hear me?" she demanded. Tiler snapped out of his own thoughts and looked at her. She sucked her breath in and let it out in a huff. "I said that I wanted a caramel latte. Can't you get your mind out of the gutter and listen?" Tiler sighed at the last part of her sentence before he punched her order into the system and told her the price. She shoved a ten at him. "Keep the change and bring it to me when it's ready."

Tiler turned away, leaning against the counter, and earning a sympathetic look from his friend, Ray, as he passed on his way to clean up a table. Tiler honestly didn't know if he could take two more years of working at the campus coffee shop to pay for his schooling. Yes, he did need the money, but he didn't need the headache that came along with the job.

Tiler took the latte from his manager before he walked out to where Sophie sat with her group of friends, laughing as they watched Ray fail to gather up all of the trash in his arms and, instead, left a trail of used napkins and empty creamers on the floor.

"Here you go," Tiler said, sitting down the cup. They reluctantly drew their eyes in his direction. "Have a nice day, ladies."

"Whatever," Sophie said before turning back to her friends. Tiler sighed and started to walk away. "What a nerd."

He tightened his jaw while still forcing his feet to move forward. Saying anything would just make him risk losing his job and he didn't see it as a reason to be even farther in debt.

x.x.x

The first time that Tiler had ever seen Sophie Vicari, she'd been in the university's production of Romeo and Juliet. She'd played Juliet while her then-boyfriend, whose cocky attitude and snark comments caused him to be the worst Romeo Tiler had ever seen. The only reason Tiler had even gone to see the production was for his English class. He and Ray had sat in the back row, but, somehow, Sophie had kept had kept her eyes on him the entire time. However, after the production was over, she'd never said a word to Tiler in explanation as to why she had watched him.

Ever since that night, Tiler had always been attracted to her.

This semester, they had a fine art's class together, the first class they'd been in together because of their different majors. Tiler was jostled to the side as she and her friend pushed their way into the classroom, not even glancing back or apologizing.

Maybe she was blind to her attraction to him. That was what Tiler liked to think, anyways.

"Everyone, everyone," Ms. Sprott said as she glided into her classroom and looked out at all the young faces, "I would first like to welcome you to our sophomore year photography class! I'm seeing several familiar faces from my viewing point, but also some several new faces. And, what better way to get to know those faces than through photography?" Tiler watched as she glided down the rows of seats, noting that she was barefoot for some reason.

"Now," she said, pulling her multicolored shawl closer to her body, "I am going to partner you guys and gals up for you to capture that spark, that energy of that person in a photo that will last a lifetime, that will live on for eternity, that will . . . will maybe change the future, possibly!" She clapped her hands together and looked around at everyone. They glanced nervously in the direction of the person they wanted as a partner as they had done when they were younger, hoping that they wouldn't be stuck with someone they didn't like. She walked down the rows, randomly pointing to two people and exclaiming what an amazing group that would be.

"Who's left?" she asked, spinning around, looking at them all. Tiler self-consciously raised his hand and saw that the only other person in the room without a partner was, Sophie Vicari. "Fate has brought the two of you together. What a joy!" Tiler slumped down in his seat, not finding it to be a joy at all. It was more like a nightmare.

Tiler looked up from gathering his books after class to see Sophie standing at his desk. "Meet me in the quad at noon tomorrow," she said before she left.

x.x.x

"You're whipped," Ray said as he lay on his bed, watching Tiler got ready to go meet Sophie. He rolled his eyes and pulled his hoodie on over his head.

"It's a class project, Ray. I want to make sure I get it right," Tiler replied. Ray smirked before he rolled on to his back.

"Whatever you say, bro," he stated. Tiler shook his head and picked up his camera, on a loan from Ms. Sprott for the semester.

"I'll see you later," he said before he walked out the door.

Tiler walked as fast as he could across campus to the quad without slipping on any of the ice that glistened on the sidewalk. It was about ten degrees, he figured, on that West Virginia Saturday. The sidewalk was empty except for him and the other handful of people that needed to venture out for their own reasons.

As he rounded the corner to the quad, he didn't see anyone standing there. He was five minutes early, give or take a little, but he figured Sophie would have been on time. He should have known better.

His ears and nose were red and stinging in the wind as he sat on a snow covered bench. His fingers and toes were beginning to go numb from having sat there for fifteen minutes. He should have worn more clothes, he realized. It was his own stupid fault that he felt like if someone tapped him he would fall apart like someone hitting an icicle with a hammer.

Tiler could have sighed in relief when he saw Sophie coming. He quickly scanned her outfit, thinking she was a lot smarter than he was. She wore a knit cap on her head, pulled down to protect her ears. In her hands, she cupped a cup of coffee in her gloved hands. Then, underneath her purple plaid vest, she had on a black thermal tee to match her black pants. On her feet were furry brown boots with the little balls on the end of the shoe strings.

"I was beginning to think you wouldn't come," Tiler said, standing and trying to prevent his teeth from chattering. She stopped about a foot away from him.

"I was hoping that you wouldn't wait," Sophie replied as she took a drink of her coffee. "Let's get this over with."

To his relief, Sophie led him into the school and to the auditorium. She stripped off her vest and watched him as he shivered and thawed out.

"What are we doing here?" Tiler asked after he was warmed up. Sophie turned with her hands in her pockets.

"This is where you're going to show who I am," she replied simply, as though it was that obvious.

"Here?" Tiler asked, arching an eyebrow. She nodded and sat down on the piano bench and ran her hand lightly over the keys.

"Yeah," she said softly, as if forgetting he was there for a moment. She smiled as a memory came to her. "This is where I took my first steps. Well, not on this stage, but on a different one. My parents were big time actors until . . ." She trailed off, staring down blankly at the keys, her teeth sunken lightly into her lip. Tiler watched silently as she swallowed and closed her eyes for a moment. "Until they died in the plane wreck last year on impact." She struggled to get her emotions under control and opened her eyes, unshed tears visible in her eyes. "My mom took my on stage for an encore and I ran across it to get away from all the strangers. It's been like my home ever since." Tiler was silent, waiting for her to either acknowledge him again or to continue. She lifted her head and looked at him. "I want people to see me like this, the me that can be anyone she wants to be and doesn't have to strive or pretend to be perfect."

"The stage it is, then," Tiler said, turning the camera on. "Do you play?" He nodded towards the piano as he walked up onto the stage. She looked at him for a moment before she turned towards it with a nod.

Tiler watched her, his mind was immediately switched into the mode of capturing her in the best way possible. He put the camera around his neck and gently moved her hands so they were positioned on the piano as though she was about to begin to play. He brushed her soft, blond hair out of her eyes and tucked it behind her ear. Tiler jumped back when he realized that she had been watching him out of the corner of her eye the entire time and turned away nervously.

"That looks good," he said once he'd regained control of himself. He stepped back farther away and held the camera up. As he looked through the view finder, he smiled to himself. She would definitely look great with black and white photography.

Tiler pressed the button and snapped the picture of her as she looked up slightly, pain filling her eyes from some memory she was having just by sitting there with her hands on the piano keys. It was perfect, Tiler decided, as he lowered the camera. Yes, she was the popular girl on campus, but she had the pain behind her eyes that no one else realized was there. She needed to show off her vulnerable side, to let people say she wasn't made of steel. Tiler hoped that this would be able to help her realize that.

She let her hands slide off the keys slowly and let them stay in her lap as she stared at them for a moment before she turned her gaze to Tiler. He looked away, fiddling with his camera and when he looked up again, she had left the stage and was walking towards him.

"I remember you, you know," she said, sitting down on one of the seats in the front row and tucked her feet underneath her. Tiler looked at her blankly. She looked back at him, her brown eyes childlike. "I saw you at the play last year. I watched you, actually, so I wouldn't have stage fright." Tiler sat down next to her cautiously. She pushed her hair out of her eyes. "You're not a nerd, Tiler Kernon, you're the complete opposite from what I've seen."

"How so?" Tiler managed to say. He was afraid of what she was going to say.

"Your mom's crazy, as everyone else says," Sophie said, looking away and fiddling with the bottom of her shirt.

"My mother's not crazy," Tiler replied, his body tensing up slightly. She looked up at him and then away once she met his gaze.

"No, not crazy," she said with a sigh. "I would have reacted the same if my husband killed himself." Tiler didn't speak, his throat had tightened up. "Why aren't you on the sailing team anymore? You used to be good, didn't you?" Tiler looked at her, surprised by the sudden change in topics.
"The best," Tiler whispered. She looked at him, but he couldn't look back at her. He tried to push the lump in his throat away. "My dad taught me how to sail." She looked away and was silent for a moment.

"You should sail again, Tiler," she said finally, "if not for you, then for your dad." She reached over and took his hand in hers. He jumped slightly; her hand was still freezing cold. He managed to move his eyes to hers. "I want to recreate the scene of the last time your father sailed with you."

x.x.x

The last time that Tiler had gone sailing with his father had been during the summer, about two weeks before his father's suicide.

Sophie made him wear nearly the same clothes he'd worn that day. His hair had been shorter and he hadn't had the start of the beard that he now had, but Sophie couldn't convince him to change that. He wore a plain white dress shirt with the top button open. His shorts had been brown and white plaid with the ends rolled up to the knees, and, on his feet, had been his loafers, with no socks.

To spice things up, Sophie made him sit on the dock, his feet on the boat that was tied off there. He slipped the wedding band that used to belong to his father off the chain that he wore around his neck at all times and held it in his hands.

"Just look at it and remember your father," Sophie said softly, her camera poised.

It wasn't hard for Tiler to obey her; his thoughts had already begun to drift towards that day.

It'd been his eighteenth birthday, about a month before his first year of college. To celebrate, his father had decided to take out the new boat that he'd bought Tiler. Leaving his mother at home to get ready for the party, Tiler and his father had set off on the lake near where they lived.

"Do you realize, Ti, that I've been taking you out boating ever since you came home from the hospital?" his father asked, looking at where Tiler lay, shirtless, on the dock of the boat, soaking up the sun as the boat bobbed in the water.

"Yeah, Dad," Tiler replied, resisting the urge to roll his eyes. He'd heard his father say this every time that they went out on the water.

"I'm serious, Ti," his father said as he started to gut a fish. Tiler propped himself up on his elbows and watched his father. "The day your mother came home with you-."

"Dad, seriously?" Tiler groaned.

"Listen to me, this is important."

"Whatever you say."

"The day your mother came home with you," his father started again, "you would not stop screaming your head off. Your mother was exhausted, mind you. To save her from a splitting headache and to get more rest, I brought you out here for a couple hours. As soon as you hit that water in that old boat, you shut up. Your little green eyes widened and you just took everything in. That was how I knew that I needed to teach you how to work the ropes of a boat."

Tiler had gone out on the water every day after his birthday up until his father's suicide. He hadn't known at the time that day would be the last time he would have on the water with his father. Had he known that, he would have put a little more effort into the conversation.

"Where's your head, Tiler?" Sophie asked, drawing him from his thoughts. He hadn't even noticed that she'd sat down next to him. He looked at her, wondering why the sudden change of attitude towards him.

"Why are you treating me differently now?" he asked instead of answering her question. She looked away, pushing a strand of hair away from her eyes. Tiler was freezing in the clothes he was wearing, but he remained still, waiting for her answer.

"I've always liked you, Tiler Kernon," she replied slowly, "but I wasn't sure how—"

"Your friends would respond?" he finished. She bit her lip and nodded. He looked out over the water. "You need to stop caring about what other people think, Sophie. I did."

"I know, and you're right. A lot of people have given me that advice over the years," Sophie replied softly. Tiler felt her looking at him now. "You make a good caramel latte, by the way." He smiled and looked at her. "You make a good person, too, Tiler." He didn't know why, but he leaned forward and kissed her softly.

"I'm sorry," Tiler said when he drew back. "I just needed to know what it would be like." She smiled at him shyly.

"Don't apologize," she whispered before kissing him again.