Of Juliet and Her Romeo
by Melissa Treglia
It was not an uncommon feeling to want more than the life you were born into. David Pierce understood that well enough.
He had been born and raised in Forks, and had hungered for a spotlight. The acting world had called him with its siren song at an early age; he could remember when he was small how he would flop on the floor and pretend to be dead to scare his mother. It never worked, of course, but not for his lack of trying. Mothers were simply too savvy a breed to fall for a little boy's tricks.
But where other mothers would demand he cease such childish nonsense, his mother encouraged it. She drew him into church cantatas and school plays, half-convinced her son would be the next Laurence Olivier.
It didn't quite work out that way, but David had no regrets. He had successfully gotten into Julliard after two years of community college, and had spent the next twenty years thereafter in various Broadway productions... usually in the ensemble, and occasionally getting meatier roles. But it had been enough.
He wasn't young anymore, though, and those twenty years of tramping the boards had finally taken their toll. His bones were more brittle now, the joints weakening and falling prey to rheumatism; his aging accelerated by the myriad tests he'd put his body through to satisfy a paying audience.
Those twenty years had been some of the best years of his life, but it had been time to return home. The place he had been so eager to leave began calling him with its own strange allure. Rest and putting down roots in the town that gave birth to him grew ever more desirable, and the glitter of the stage lost its power over him.
He was worn out, feeling old before his time, and it was the right moment for some fresh-faced young dreamer to take the stage in his place. Not that he ever lost his love for the art of stagecraft, nor was he dissillusioned by his flirtation with celebrity. He counted himself successful, and the only opinion on the matter that was of import was his own. Life demands change, is all that there really was to it. Some could never get their fill of attention and applause, but David's hunger for the spotlight had been satisfied.
Now, he was teaching the drama classes at Forks High School. Some might argue it was a helluva comedown from a career in the theatre. David saw differently; he was moulding minds, inspiring the next generation of storytellers, and any one of his remarkable students could become successful in their own right. Maybe there wouldn't be a future Olivier among the bunch, but no one said there couldn't be a future Angelina Jolie or Jude Law among the student body, either.
Plus, it was as much fun for him as it was for them. Like being a stage director, but without as much pressure. And there were several kids who had a quite genuine spark of that certain something. Others hadn't a lick of natural talent, but put their almost limitless energies into obtaining the skills to hone themselves into more than what they were... and those kids were his favourites. Some simply wanted a fun way to gain the neccessary credits for graduation and, so long as they put in the time and work, he wouldn't begrudge them their ambitions to get beyond Forks High School and pursue their own dreams.
Then there was Bella Swan. She was a strange one, an anomaly. He wasn't even sure why she was in his class; all the information that he'd managed to pry from her during her junior year was that she required one elective to graduate to the next grade level. She'd chosen his class, yet she seemed almost indifferent to it, and it had come as a complete surprise that she'd made room on her schedule to take his class for the duration of her senior year.
Oh, her attendance was far better than most of the other students. But when the others couldn't make it, they mourned the loss and pleaded with wide eyes and tearful faces to make up the work, then redoubled their efforts accordingly. Bella may have been more physically present than others, but her mind was usually elsewhere. She simply wasn't as invested as her fellow students, which David found unsettling.
But maybe Bella Swan was part of his class because she needed to be.
"Mr. Pierce?" Jessica Stanley called from the back of the stage-her young, freckled face adorably speckled with sky-blue paint for the background she and Mike Newton had been working on.
"Yes, Jessica?" David always called the students by their first names, something that had endeared him to the student body and insured his class was always crammed to the brim with interested teenagers. The kids knew from the naming choice that, unlike the other teachers, he saw them as people rather than places on a seating chart and grades to be assigned.
And they adored him for it.
"I don't know if I've got this right," Jessica pouted, her frustration palpable. "I mean, it looks okay... but not awesome. Y'know?"
David nodded. "I know." And he did know; Jessica was a perfectionist in her artistry, and she was looking for that touch of acceptable unreality, so that an audience could set aside that the clouds and sky were merely boards positioned throughout the downstage area. It was a very thin line indeed that had to be carefully trod. Perhaps even worse, they were on the public school's very austere budget for its performing arts department, and the high school had only very simple above-stage rigging and no trap doors for quick exits. As a result, Jessica Stanley's truly stunning set ideas all too often had to be downsized according to the limitations they faced.
Because of this, however, she was beginning to develop an almost MacGuyverian knack for making something out of nothing, and that did him proud. Perhaps, one day, a Broadway stage would be graced with her beautiful setpieces.
Right now, she was fretting that the cardboard sky wasn't the right shade of slightly-overcast blue.
"You've almost got it, Jess," David soothed. He examined the sky for a moment, imagining it the way Jessica Stanley wanted it. "Maybe if you put a bit of grey here and here?" He pointed to the appropriate places, and she bit her lip as her gaze followed his gestures. Nodding more to herself than in agreement with him, she dipped a brush into the can of grey paint and laced her blue sky with the faint implication of gathering storm clouds.
He never pushed his students to do as he willed; he gave them choices, and let them come to their own conclusions. After all, the chemistry of a working cast and crew was a very delicate thing that could be all too easily undone by the most well-intentioned commands. Like creating a ship in a bottle, it took a gentle hand to guide. It was not something that could be forced.
He leaned on his cane as he took in the rest of the stage, his kids all busy at their work. Eric Yorkie was arguing good-naturedly with Percy Guvins about the lighting, and Austin Marks and his new girlfriend Samantha Dayton were repairing the rigging. Katie Phelps was carefully cutting lengths of new rope for the rigging, and Cherie Parker was bustling around forwarding messages between the setbuilders, rig operators, lighting crew, costume designers, and sundry. The kids were all very hard at work, and chatting animatedly as they threw themselves into their tasks with feverish glee.
Satisfied, David fixed his gaze upon the first few center rows in the auditorium. The cast was sitting there in apparently haphazard clumps (though actually grouped by what scenes they shared together), memorizing and rehearsing their lines. Bella was seated furthest away, the second to last seat from the stage-right aisle, staring down at her script but not actually reading it. Nor was she participating in the line readings going on around her.
David sighed and, with a shrug of his broad shoulders, made his way down from the stage and toward her row. He leaned on the cane as he went, his bad knee protesting abuse from having stood so long. Making his way down the aisle gave him an opportunity to examine her more closely; there was a hollow look to her brown eyes, and her face was pale and gaunt. She looked exhausted.
He eased himself in the seat beside her, propping the cane in front of him with one hand over the other on its handle. "Bella? Wanna talk about it?"
She turned her eyes to him, her face an empty mask but for the sorrow he saw there. She was in pain, and it genuinely hurt him to see any of his kids in such a bad way. She slowly began to shake her head, but stopped as if to reconsider.
Oh, he'd heard the kids talking. Teenagers weren't the most secretive bunch, no matter what their parents might think. By simply listening to their chatter, he'd kept fairly close to the gossip grapevine running through the school. And Bella was often the subject of their talk; first because she'd dated Edward (of the ridiculously wealthy and snobbish Cullen clan), then because she'd apparently been dumped by him. Some were claiming she had fallen into a drug habit; other rumours said Edward had raped her and left her for dead in the forest, prompting his family's vanishing act; and still others were saying she'd had a psychotic break after months of abuse from her newly ex-boyfriend.
He wasn't so sure about drugs or mental illness, but he'd known enough of Edward to not like him. David could recall all too well how Edward had tried to shoehorn his way into the same class periods as Bella, including her drama period, and had actually been furious to be denied placement by David. The look he'd gotten from Edward had given the man a cold chill down his spine-there was something very wrong about that boy.
And Edward had hurt Bella. Of that, David had no doubt. But did it really matter how? She was hurting just as much no matter what he had done, and it had taken the one thing from her that she seemed to enjoy.
She had actually begged David for the part of Juliet Capulet in the school's production of Romeo & Juliet, and her eyes had lit up as she'd pleaded. She'd seemed so excited and it had seemed so clear this was the one thing she truly wanted-David, who could sometimes be a soft touch, had hardly refused her. But now... she always looked as if she wanted to cry, and there was nothing else to her.
This would never do. If she continued like this, he would have no choice but to award the role to Lauren Mallory, the understudy for the Juliet role. And he knew Bella would only feel the worse for it, as she and Lauren had never gotten along.
He was not a psychologist, so he couldn't even begin to analyze the situation but, as an actor, he'd also been a student of human behaviour. While he may not have been able to put a name to Bella Swan's problems, he knew she was hurting. An ear to confide in without the fear of judgment might mean a world of difference for her.
"He left me," she finally said. Her voice was devoid of emotion, but there was a faint crack. Her voice was far more gravelly than he'd ever remembered hearing. Like it was broken. Like she was broken.
"Edward?" David prompted, careful to keep his voice neutral.
The very mention of the boy's name seemed to undo her. Her lower lip quivered and a tear coursed down her cheek. She nodded violently.
"Bella," David replied softly. "We all have felt the pain of heartbreak. But you can't let yourself be consumed by it, or try to lock it away. Feelings, even the unpleasant ones, can be useful. So use it." He leaned his cane on the seat in front of him to free his grasp. With gentle hands, he pulled the script from her lap and flipped the pages to the final act. "Let the pain become something beautiful." Then he placed the open script back into her lap. "Go on. Read."
She ruthlessly wiped the tear away, and read the page before her aloud, her voice trembling.
"What's here? A cup closed in my true love's hand?
Poison, I see, hath been his timeless end.-
O churl, drunk all, and left no friendly drop
To help me after! I will kiss thy lips.
Hap'ly some poison yet doth hang on them
To make me die with a restorative..."
It was the finest and most painful reading she'd ever given, her body wracked with the shudders of barely contained grief that spilled over into the voice of Juliet, even as she continued to reach up and wipe tears away to see the words. Saltwater dotted the script as she read.
This was a Juliet who, loving wholly and innocently, could not bear to live without her foolhardy beloved. This Juliet was beautiful in her pain.
Finally released of her pent-up sorrow, Bella quietly sobbed. David carefully put his arms around his protege. He shook his head in disapproval, his expression stony, when several other pairs of eyes were drawn to her. The curious youngsters immediately returned to their work, not so taken in by the glamour of Bella's strange popularity that it would sway them from the more immediate interests of their tasks.
Her tears came in a healing torrent as she placed her head against his shoulder-a flash flood that startled in its intensity then quickly subsided. Relieved of her burden, she drew away from him and wiped her eyes again. "Thank you, Mr. Pierce," she said, her voice cracking with the tiring effort of crying her pain away. But the light was back in her eyes, submerged yet nonetheless there. Bella then squared her shoulders, tilting her chin up in renewed pride. The sun trying to break through the storm clouds.
She was bloodied but unbowed, David realized. "Any time," he replied with an easy smile, curling his fingers around the handle of his cane once again and rising from his seat with a small grunt.
She'd be all right if fate would give her a little time to recover from her heartbreak. And, in the meantime, she'd make a damned good Juliet Capulet.
I don't own Bella Swan, Jessica Stanley and their schoolmates. But David's mine. *hugs 'im* Ask me first, if you want to borrow him.
Daivd Pierce was inspired by Geraint Wyn Davies' cameo as an unnamed drama teacher in the 2007 Nancy Drew movie. His brief appearance was a shot of glee in an otherwise horrifically dull film. Of course, once I saw it, "Bella Swan in drama class circa New Moon" was the idea that came to mind. Why? Who the hell knows-but Bella needs an adult around who's actually sensible, observant and empathetic.
The line Bella reads is taken from Act V, Scene III of William Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet, aka the infamous Death Scene. The lines are spoken by Juliet Capulet when she realizes Romeo is dead, but just before she takes up Romeo's dagger to stab herself. Interpret its placement here however you will.
The title of this fic is the final five words of R&J.