Note: I have read many other people's versions of a retelling/modernization of Romeo and Juliet, and most of them that I have read have substituted the tragedy of this timeless story with something happier and sweeter. While I do acknowledge the freedom of an author (or anybody for that matter) to interpret a work how they please, I feel the value of the tragic ending is often neglected, and I, personally, cannot picture a Romeo and Juliet retelling any other way. Therefore, this story will not shy away from the harsh realities of the story of Romeo and Juliet. There will be violence, sexual content, and harsh language. Please read at your own discretion. I hope you enjoy and please feel free to contact me via PM. Reviews with constructive criticism are welcome. Anything that is written with an attacking tone will be promptly deleted. Thank you.
"So how'd it all start?" Detective Johnson pressed. It was approaching four in the morning and everyone's wits were almost to their ends. He had been loading up on caffeine since he got that fateful call around midnight, but the caffeinated buzz was starting wear thin and the coffee pot was running low. It irritated him even more that neither of the two people sitting across from him were budging. They sat still as a statue and stared into space, both with blankets around their shoulders for comfort. Finally, the boy spoke up.
"No amount of questioning is going to bring them back," he groaned. The girl next to him burst into tears and reached for the box of tissues separating Johnson from the teenagers in front of him.
"I know that, but I need to know what happened so that I can get justice for them. You can sit quietly all you'd like, but it is not getting to get you out of here any sooner. It will just drag this process out. The fact of the matter is, you two, that three people are dead, one is in prison, and I have no idea how this all came to be."
The girl finally said something. "I can only tell you what I know about Lydia, which isn't much."
"And I can only say what I know about Mark, which also is not much," the distraught boy added.
"That's fine," Johnson acknowledged, leaning forward, "Tell me what you know and we can piece the rest together."
"Well," said the girl, clutching the blanket around her shoulders, "I think it started the Thursday before the party…"
David Welton looked over the criteria on his clip board. The red-headed girl in front of him stood still, waiting for the verdict that would decide the rest of her career. Welton glanced to his right. "What do you think, Lyd?" he whispered to his daughter, who was reading a book of sonnets, not acknowledging anything going on in the room.
"It's up to you, Daddy." David smiled slightly and sighed.
"We'll let you know," he said to the girl, and she nodded sheepishly and walked out. Once the girl was out of earshot, David dropped the clip board on the table, eliciting a small jump from his daughter. "I know your mother doesn't like me using the Lord's name in vain, but goddammit! If I don't find new talent soon, Talbert is going surpass us in the stock market. We'll sink."
David's daughter Lydia closed her book and set a hand on her father's shoulder. "We'll be fine, Daddy. I hear that Talbert Talent is not having much luck finding acts, either. How about at the party we hold auditions? It would be great exposure."
David perked up and grinned from ear to ear. "I knew there was a reason you're my favorite. I'll call up the publicist." Lydia kissed her father on his forehead, gathered her books, and left the audition room.
Lydia Catherine Welton was her parents' pride and joy. She was Mommy and Daddy's little princess that could do no wrong; to sum it up, she was the exact opposite of her older brother, Hunter, who used his attractiveness and money to get anything he wanted. Welton Talent Representation and Talbert Talent Agency were the pinnacle of talent scouting for the United States. If you weren't represented by one of them, you were nobody that would get absolutely nowhere. With many offices around the United States, it was Tampa, Florida that was home to the headquarters of both successful companies and consequently was the battlefield for the decades-long war between the Welton and Talbert families.
The city was filled with two types of people: Welton sympathizers or Talbert sympathizers. The only middle ground was the mayor of the city, who would have a claim staked on both sides… but that was to come later. At the very moment Lydia stepped into the elevator, a different scenario was taking place on the other side of town.
Mark Talbert's phone rang in his back pocket. He opened it up to see his father on the caller I.D., and so he answered promptly. "What's up, Dad?" Mark, his cousin Joseph (who every one called "Joey"), and their best friend Monaghan were gathered behind the dumpster of the TTA headquarters passing around a joint. Mark coughed while waiting for a response.
"Come to my office; I've got something to tell you." Scott Talbert promptly hung up the phone and Mark stomped on the joint in his hand.
"I wasn't done with that!" Monaghan complained.
"Too bad," Mark said, "the big man asked us to get up to his office." Joey groaned and Mark led the way up to the top floor of the skyscraper. Upon arriving at his father's office, the security guard nodded curtly to the three boys in a manner that would have been given to royalty, and opened the door. Scott sat at his desk with a bunch of papers sprawled out, and looked up.
"Ah, boys! Come in, and take a seat!" Mark was suspicious because it had been a long while since he'd seen his father that happy. The three of them sat in front of Talbert and waited curiously. "First of all, the smell of marijuana is repugnant and contaminating the air. I suggest the next time you're smoking pot – not that you should be doing so anyway – you spray cologne." Joey turned his head down to his shoulder and smelled his black Tampa Bay Academy blazer, but he was so up in the air that it didn't smell like weed, it smelled like Heaven. "But what I called you three here for is a favor." Mark's father had never asked anyone for a favor. He was the type of person that believed self-sufficiency was a lacking quality in the human race. The three boys looked at each other quizzically. "On Saturday, the Weltons are hosting a Halloween costume party at the Chambrelle. Everybody in Tampa is invited, except for you, Joey and Mark. Which is where you come in, Monaghan. You are inherently invited to the party because you are the mayor's nephew. Every invitee is allowed two guests. Take Joey and Mark as yours."
"And what exactly do you want us to do, Uncle Scott? Trash the place?" Joey remarked semi-sarcastically.
"No, Joseph. They are holding open auditions. Take names of anyone who you feel is good. Don't get caught, though. If you do, I'm not bailing you out."
"But the party is on Shabbat. It's illegal," Mark said, looking at his lap. Joey nodded in agreement.
"Correction," Scott responded, "it's after sundown. Technically, Shabbat is over." Scott paused for a moment and when the boys didn't respond, he said, "This is not a request, it is a command. Go to that party."
Monaghan stood and curtly said, "Yes, sir," then waited for the other two to do the same.
Once the three of them were far down the hallway, Mark spoke up and proclaimed, "I'm not helping with this taking names thing. I'll go to the party, but it's only because I want to see – "
"Don't say her name!" Joey intercepted. "Her name will not be spoken."
"Elaine," Mark finished.
"Look," Monaghan said, "I know you're not over the girl, but you gotta move on, Mark. You two had a one night stand, and that is all it's ever going to be. Stop clinging to something that is unreachable. It makes you look desperate, and nobody, not even Elaine Welton, likes a desperate Debbie Downer." Mark knew his friend was right. It was one night of drunken absurdity that in time would fade to a faint recollection in Elaine's mind, if it hadn't already. But as everybody knew, Mark was a stubborn person; when he set his mind to something, there wasn't a way to deter him until his goal was achieved. Perhaps he had gotten that from his father.
"I don't care," Mark responded. "I'm going to see Elaine at that party and there's nothing you can do about it." They walked outside into the late October evening, a chill starting to settle in the Florida air, and piled into Mark's black Audi. Mark started the car and headed home, determined to see his beloved once again.
"Come this way, son," David said to his son, Hunter. Hunter, who was steadily texting a girl he'd gone on a couple dates with, looked up at his father standing in the archway of the living room. Hunter groaned and shoved his phone in his pocket. He followed his father down to the cellar of the house where they kept the wine.
"Why are you bringing me here, Dad?" Hunter crossed his arms authoritatively, like his father somehow owed him respect. This air about Hunter, this God complex of his, was a recurring source of discord in the Welton family. It had caused many a disturbance at family reunions, many accusations of favoritism towards Lydia, and a ton of arguing between David and his wife as to how to deal with such abhorrent behavior. The threat of military school didn't scare Hunter, but the threat of being cut off did. Hunter loved his money (or rather his father's money), and losing it would practically be his death blow. So, Hunter agreed to anger counseling, but even then, his temper was not 100% in check. Despite all this, Hunter was a smart guy. He knew to shape up around his parents (appearances were everything) and make them think he had learned his lesson, but those little nuisances of the need for control seeped through every now and then.
"Now that you are 18 and becoming a more responsible young man, I thought that it was appropriate for me to show you a very important part of this house." Hunter raised a brow in curiosity. David pushed an empty shelf forward and ushered Hunter into a small room with a couple chests. He motioned for Hunter to come closer and opened a small chest. Hunter's eyes widened. In front of him were a pistol and a revolver gleaming in the low light of that small room. "You are only permitted to come in here in case of an emergency. If somebody breaks in or if somebody is hurting your mother, sister, or cousin, then you may take a gun. Other than that, you cannot touch these. Ammunition is in the corner." Hunter nodded slowly, but otherwise kept quiet. What his father didn't know wouldn't hurt him, and as long as he was smart about it, he was sure he could get away with anything.
Meanwhile, Lydia was upstairs in her room hanging up her black, white, and red school uniform for the next day when her cousin Elaine knocked on the door and came quietly in. "Your dad told me about your suggestion for open auditions at the party. I think it's a great idea."
"Thank you," Lydia said and smiled at her cousin. Even though Elaine and Lydia were cousins, they could have been sisters. They shared the same long blonde hair and piercing blue eyes. Their faces were round, their lips thin, and their skin smooth. Elaine had a slightly more bronze tint to her and Lydia was a bit shorter than Elaine, but those were practically the only differences between them. Lydia and Elaine were very close. They always had been. Elaine was taken in by David and Brenda Welton when she was nine due to the death of her parents in a car accident. Elaine's father was David's brother and taking in his only niece was a no-brainer. Lydia loved having Elaine around as someone she felt she could confide in. Her brother had never been a shoulder to cry on and treated her more like a pest than his own flesh and blood. Lydia had learned to numb herself to Hunter and open herself to Elaine. "I emailed the people that are in charge of the morning announcements and they're going to announce it tomorrow at school."
"I'm happy to see you taking so much action in the family business. You should get to sleep, though. Good night." Elaine kissed Lydia on her forehead and returned to her own room. The next morning was a typical Friday morning in the Welton household. Brenda woke up at seven to make a cup of tea and read the newspaper while Hunter, Lydia, and Elaine ate breakfast at the breakfast nook. After saying their goodbyes to Mrs. Welton, the three teenagers climbed into the back of the chauffeured Mercedes that took them to school every morning. The twenty minute ride to school was typically quiet and this morning was no different.
At the same time the Welton car pulled up to the front of Tampa Bay Academy, Mark and his cousin and friend arrived in the student parking lot. The Academy was no different than the rest of Tampa. The student body was split right down the middle with every student taking one side or the other. Because of the Academy's sky high tuition, the students that attended were generally the children of business associates of either family, thus making every student just as biased as the rest of the population. One would assume that the Welton children and Mark, Joey, and Monaghan (unable to be referred to collectively as "the Talberts" due to all three possessing a different surname) were in constant physical altercation with each other. This was not the case, however. The deans and headmaster were very proactive and made sure that Lydia, Hunter, and Elaine were never in the same classroom as Mark, Joey, and Monaghan. It was unavoidable though that Hunter would occasionally pass Mark and/or his posse in the halls and shoot a disdainful, condescending glare. When this happened, both sides would continue on their way without event. But perhaps the most divided of all places in Tampa Bay Academy was the cafeteria. The lunch room was split into a left and right half with the left being claimed by the Weltons and their sympathizers only, and the right being occupied by Mark and those who aligned themselves with the Talbert name. No body dared to cross from one side to the other in fear of facing the glares and words coming at them like a firing squad.
At present, Mark slung his book bag over his shoulder and led the way to the front door with Monaghan and Joey on either side of him and slightly behind, like birds flying in a flock with their leader at their head. As the three boys walked up to the entrance, those that professed loyalty to them fell in step behind them and those that didn't turned and walked toward the Weltons, who at this point were just now getting out of the car. "We have to get to homeroom quickly, Lainey," Lydia said to her cousin. "I want to hear the announcement."
"Well go ahead," Elaine responded. Elaine gave Lydia a little push and Lydia hastened to class, but not before catching sight of her friend Maya in the hallway. Maya was a beautiful African-American girl with eyes big and brown as almonds, a full face, and plump lips adorned with pink lip gloss. Her father was Lydia's family's dentist and her mother was their personal lawyer. Maya was the eldest of two children with a younger brother in seventh grade at the Academy's intermediate school in another part of town.
"Maya!" Lydia linked arms with her friend on their way to class. "Have you figured out your costume for the party tomorrow?"
"Yes, actually," Maya chimed, holding her head high. "A leopard."
"A leopard?" Lydia chuckled. Maya hated anything with belonging to the family felidae stemming from an attack by a stray cat when she was younger, requiring a ton of rabies shots.
"I know, I know. I don't hate cats any less, but I figure boys will be bound to notice me if I dress in whiskers and a mini skirt. How about you?"
"Elaine wants me to dress as a fairy. She already has the costume picked out and everything. I guess I'm her little Barbie doll. It's fine, though. For all she's done for me, the least I can do is give her one night to dress me up." Lydia was thankful for Maya on so many levels. Lydia was new to the Academy, having only been in attendance since September. Lydia was a sophomore, but had spent her freshman year studying as a foreign exchange student in England. Maya accepted Lydia as a friend no questions asked and made her feel welcome. For that, Lydia was forever grateful. After a short period of silence, Lydia said, "You know, I would never admit this to her face, but sometimes I'm jealous of Elaine."
"How so?" Maya responded as they entered their homeroom and sat down.
"She has boys chasing after her, and I can't even get a guy to kiss me, let alone ask me on a date. I mean, just a couple weeks ago she had a one night stand with some guy and apparently she says he is still chasing after her. How do girls get to be like that?"
Maya thought for a second. "They wear makeup and designer clothes and hope for the best?"
"But I wear some makeup, I have designer clothes, and trust me, I hope for the best. It still doesn't work." Lydia leant back in her chair, resigning herself to romantic loneliness, and waited for class to begin.
"Good morning, TBA!" A boy's voice came out on the overhead speaker. "There are many announcements for you this morning, but I first want to tell you of an amazing opportunity for all you prospective performers. Tomorrow night on Halloween, the Welton family is hosting a costume party in the ballroom of the Chambrelle Hotel. At the party, they are holding open auditions for an open spot at Welton Talent Representation." Lydia's classmates started buzzing. "So if you think you've got what it takes to be big in the entertainment industry, find a costume, find a talent, and get out there tomorrow…" The announcements droned on as usual, but the hum did not cease as the student body jumped around in excitement the entire day.
The rest of Friday came and went without event, and before anyone could blink, it was Saturday night, October 31st. In the gated community where the Talbert family lived, trick-or-treaters scurried about dressed as ghost and princesses and everything in between. In Mark's bedroom, the three boys were busy putting the finishing touches on their costumes. Joey had opted for a Zorro costume, arguing that he was "sexier than Antonio Banderas could ever be." Monaghan was dressed as the Grim Reaper because it required little effort to coordinate. Mark chose to go as the Phantom of the Opera because he figured it would be very romantic and slightly melodramatic when Elaine saw him in the trademark white mask, velvety cape, and half-tux. And God knows Mark was all about the romanticism.
"Ready to go?" Mark asked.
"Yep," Monaghan grabbed his keys off of Mark's dresser. "We're taking my car. Listen, if anything happens tonight and we need to dip, the code word is 'fuck.' If we get separated and shit starts to go down, one of us is to yell that word as loud as can be in the ballroom and then run outside and yell it. You guys in?" Monaghan put his fist forward and the other two stacked their fists on top, Joey first and then Mark. They then removed them from the bottom first. It was always that order: Monaghan, Joey, Mark. The Talbert consort at the bottom, the half-Talbert in the middle, and the "authentic" Talbert at the top. It had never been any other way, and none of them contested that order of influence. The three of them were a unit, but the unspoken hierarchy of influence was pervasive in everything they did: the order in which they walked, the order in which they spoke, and the order in which the money was dished out. Monaghan had money, sure. He was the nephew of the mayor after all, but Mark's father made more money than the mayor – as odd as that may be – and felt the need to take care of his son's friends. So, he paid Mark's TBA tuition in full, paid all but two thousand dollars of Joey's (his only nephew), and paid half of Monaghan's. The same strategy was used in getting a car for each of the boys. Mark's car was paid for in full, the majority of Joey's, and half of Monaghan's. This was never spoken of, though, as nobody wanted to test any dicey waters.
Over at the Welton household, the family was scurrying around to get themselves ready to arrive at their party. "Come on out, Lydia!" Elaine called from the hallway. Lydia, with a scowl on her face, left the solitude of her bedroom to show Elaine her costume. Her fairy costume was comprised of a silky, lilac dress that stopped just below mid-thigh, held up by thin straps. She wore low heels and sparkly wings on her back. Lydia's blonde lock were upswept into a bun with little ringlets hanging loose. "You look spectacular!" Elaine hugged her cousin as forcefully as she could without bending the wings.
"You don't look too bad yourself," Lydia complimented. Elaine was dressed as one of those French maids with the really skimpy black and white dresses. She had fishnet stockings and a feather duster hanging by a loop around her wrist.
"Just a little something I threw together." Lydia cocked her head and knitted her eyebrows.
"I have this feeling," Lydia said slightly above a whisper, "that tonight something is going to happen."
"What's going to happen?" Elaine asked in a tone of genuine concern.
"I don't know, but I feel like tonight is the beginning of the end." Lydia looked down at the floor.
"I think you've been reading too much poetry," Elaine mentioned, trying to lighten Lydia's suddenly somber mood.
"Are you girls waiting until Christmas?" Hunter yelled from downstairs. He was dressed as Robin Hood (quite ironic considering Hunter was the least likely person on the planet to steal from the rich to give to the poor).
"Come," Elaine said to Lydia, grabbing her hand, "We have a party to get to."