Romeo passed his phone from hand to hand, staring blankly at his Facebook profile. He'd just changed his relationship status to "It's Complicated," which didn't even begin to cover it.
In the past two days, he'd crashed a party, fell hard for a girl, then loitered on her lawn, staring at her balcony while she sat outside typing her own status updates. She'd immediately tagged him in about 1,400 pictures, which should've tipped him off that maaaaybe she was a little dramatic. Instead, he calmly sipped from a red plastic cup and asked himself why only the Capulet side of Verona got 4G coverage.
Romeo knew he should've listened to Friar Laurence when he'd been warned not to rush into a rebound relationship. "Love moderately," Laurence had told him, although that seemed to be the only girl advice he ever dished out. Got dumped by Rosaline? "Love moderately." Accidentally killed your new girl's cousin? "Love moderately." Got kicked out of town? "Love moderately."
Anyway, Romeo had ignored that two-word suggestion and married Juliet the next day. Unfortunately, her parents had promised her to another dude, and now she'd disappeared. She hadn't answered a text in hours, her Facebook page was annoyingly unchanged and the last thing she'd tweeted — "O look! Methinks I see my cousin's ghost!" — didn't make sense at all.
His phone buzzed, startling him. It was Friar Laurence. He sent the call to voicemail.
He texted Juliet again. "Where 4 art u?"
He double-tapped his music collection, queuing up a bass-heavy song that made more sense than anything the friar had ever said. "You're so wrong, man," he said above the chorus. "I have 99 problems, and she's pretty much all of them."
He'd just slipped his phone into his tunic when a text buzzed against his ribcage. Laurence again. "CALL ME ASAP," he wrote. Romeo shook his head and restashed the phone.
Balthasar, Romeo's servant, knocked on the door and was three steps into the room before Romeo could even say, "Come in."
"Sup, B," Romeo sighed.
Balthasar tugged nervously on the ruffles of his sleeves, staring directly at the floor. "Bro," he said. "You might want to sit down."
"I am sitting," Romeo said.
"OK, well grab onto something then."
Romeo crossed his arms.
"Look, there's, um, no good way to say this," Balthasar said haltingly. "And it was way too heavy for a text or whatever."
Romeo waited. When an incoming message buzzed against his ribcage, he realized that he'd been holding his breath.
"It's that chick, from the party," Balthasar said.
"Juliet? What's wrong? Where is she?"
"She's…like…she's…well, she's dead."
Romeo shook his head. "No. No way. She just posted something to Instagram," he said, looking at his phone. "See? It's…um, her family's part of the cemetery. Oh man. This is NOT good."
Balthasar said nothing.
"OK, well, I know what I have to do then," Romeo said. He skipped past a stack of texts and a pair of missed calls from Laurence. "Where's the nearest pharmacy?" he asked his phone.
"There is one pharmacy that looks like it's nearby," it said in its gentle robotic tone.
He clicked on the suggestion, ignoring a one-star Yelp review ("Pretty sure I caught the plague from their bathroom"). Romeo called the number. "Hey, quick question for you," he asked the woman who answered. "Do you guys carry, like, poisons and stuff? No, I'm not a cop. OK, I'll be right down."
He'd barely ended the call when another text from Laurence came in. "WHERE U AT? HIT ME BACK IT'S ABOUT JULIET."
That got his attention.
"?" he wrote, wondering whether he should've added a sad emoticon, one crying an apostrophe-shaped tear.
"SHE'S OK. NOT REALLY DEAD."
"ZOMG! U 4 REAL?" he texted back, frantic.
"LONG STORY. MEET ME IN 15?"
"OMW" —on my way —Romeo wrote.
He grabbed his cloak from the back of his desk chair and sprinted toward the door.
"Hey!" Balthasar shouted. "What's happening?"
Romeo didn't stop running. "It's complicated!" he yelled, "It's so complicated."