From far away a voice reached her ears. The voice was familiar and warming. It was like a healing elixir to her burdened soul. Little by little the voice became clearer and formed words.
"I will never leave this place. Here, with worms as chambermaids, I will remain. Eyes, look your last. Arms, take your last embrace. And lips, seal with a kiss the bargain of death."
Clarity began to dawn on her. Gathering every scrap of her strength, she pried her eyelids open. Romeo was beside her holding a small vial of a strange liquid. He closed his eyes and lifted the vial.
"Romeo. No… don't."
Romeo dropped the vial in shock. His eyes opened slowly. Awe and wonder were etched in every line of his face, and love shone in his eyes. He reached out hesitantly to cup her face and asked, "How? Have I died already?"
Juliet smiled as his fingers gently stroked her cheek. "If this is death, I will be content for eternity. Yet shadows reach across the floors and cold tightens its grip on our bones. We live still, husband."
Suddenly the sound of different voices reached their ears. Romeo took Juliet's hand in his own and put the hand that had stroked her cheek under her shoulders. "Let us leave this place. We must escape from Verona before we are discovered." Romeo helped Juliet to sit up then off the stone resting place.
Before Juliet could gather her thoughts or even move, Romeo pulled her into his arms. Juliet relaxed in his arms and cuddled up as close as possible to her husband's chest. Romeo ran his hand over her back soothingly and said quietly, "I was so afraid that I had lost you. The world was much bleaker without you to light it."
"What is going on here?"
The couple turned in shock to see a group of people. Friar Laurence, the Prince, several attendants, Lord and Lady Capulet, and Lord Montague stood near the entrance of the tomb. Lord Capulet noticed his daughter in Romeo's arms. He cried out, "Juliet? How? What are you…"
The Prince stepped forward and saif, "Romeo was to be put to death if he ever came back to Verona. However, I will forestall my judgement to hear this tale." He looked at the holy man and asked, "Good Friar, what brings you to this sepulchre?"
Lord Capulet looked at Romeo and said angrily, "What I wish to know is what is this murderer doing here with my daughter? Get your hands off of her! Juliet, come here so we can sort this out… Girl, come to me this instant."
Romeo's arms tightened around Juliet in protection. "Lord Capulet, I must ask you not to speak to my wife that way. Prince, the Friar married us on the day of Tybalt's death. We had met at the Capulet feast. In my exile I heard of her death. Immediately I rushed back to end my life here by her side, but she awoke."
Everyone seemed shocked to hear about the marriage between the heirs of the Montague and Capulet houses. The Prince paused to gather his thoughts before speaking with care, "It seems, young Montague, we must turn to your wife to hear what happened."
Juliet unwound herself from the protection of Romeo's embrace but caught one of his hands within hers. "After Romeo was banished, I went to the Friar intending to end my life due to my father's decision that I marry Paris. Friar Laurence provided a deathlike potion to keep me from an unholy marriage. When it was time, I drank the potion and fell into a dark sleep. I awoke to Romeo's presence. We were going to leave to keep everything secret."
The Prince appeared deep in thought. The others only waited a moment before bursting out with their opinions. At last the Prince said, "Silence. I have decided. Capulet, Montague, you have suffered enough from the death and banishment of your family members. Even though Romeo has done wrong, Juliet is too young to be made a widow. You are no longer banished. Hopefully your marriage shall blend your families and repair old wrongs. However, if there are any more disturbances where the names of 'Capulet' and 'Montague' are shouted, I will banish young Romeo and his bride so both families will share the blame. For now, go rejoice. Your families are one." The Prince turned and left the tomb with his attendants.
For a moment there was silence. No one wanted to approach and breach the barriers of hatred. A groan sounded. The Capulets and Montagues looked around questioningly, but as far as they could tell, no one had made the sound. Juliet peered into the shadows and saw one of the bodies move as if breathing. She screamed and buried her head in Romeo's chest. "One of them are moving!"
Lord Capulet pointed to the body and said, "Go, check to see what horror this is." His servant ran over and cried out. "My lord, it is County Paris! He lays on the doors of death!"
"What? How can this be?" asked Lord Capulet as he moved to stand by the man who was almost his son-in-law.
Lord Montague said, "That doesn't matter now. What matters is that we save his life. My home is closer. Take him there, and a doctor will be called for."
Capulet got his servant to lift Paris and said, "Thank you, Montague. This will not be forgotten."
Lord Capulet, Lady Capulet, and their servant followed Montague's man out of the tomb. Montague turned to see his son with his new daughter-in-law watching him for his reaction. He said, "It brings me peace to have you home, my son. Alas, the news didn't come soon enough. Your mother passed earlier this night."
Romeo dropped his head as pain came over him. Juliet laid a hand on his arm in silent support. "All will be well, husband. Lady Montague loved you much."
Montague nodded his head. "Come, my son. Bring your bride to our home. We will start a new life with you two leading the way." He smiled once before turning and walking out.
Once more the couple was alone. Romeo smiled with a strain of sadness down at his wife. "Are you ready to begin a life with me, my love?"
Juliet smiled up at him with pure love shining through and said, "Of course, husband. We have started on the road that will end the strife between our houses. We go to a new future, together."