Betrothed, p.20
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       Betrothed, p.20

         Part #6 of The Vampire Journals series by Morgan Rice

  Caitlin flew through the air, her entire coven beside her. They had all left Warwick together, heading towards London, to Shakespeare's theater, to celebrate. Caitlin had never been more excited. Here she was, with everyone she loved dearly, heading to celebrate her engagement with a new play by Shakespeare. She could hardly imagine what it could be like to actually see a play of his in the time and place that it was set. She felt herself bristling with excitement.

  It felt so good to have everyone together, and she was still riding high from being proposed to.

  She was overflowing with joy. Finally, everything seemed perfect in the world. For the first time, she saw such a bright future ahead of her. Finally, she could have it all - a happy life, surrounded by people she loved, and a time and place in which she could settle down.

  Best of all, she didn't have to feel guilty about not pursuing her search for her father. She had no idea how to decode the riddle, and neither did anyone else. There was literally nothing else she could do. So she felt okay to take some time to enjoy herself. After all, how often in a girl's life did she get proposed to?

  If things should change, if she should decode the riddle, then she would do what she had to, and continue on the search. But a part of her secretly hoped that it did not come to that. She was so happy and content here, she truly wished things would never change.

  As they flew over the city of London, it now felt like an entirely new city, experiencing it with all of her friends and loved ones at her side. It was less shocking to her this time, having already been through it once before. It was, in some strange ways, beginning to feel familiar.

  They all flew over the river Thames, then, seeing the London Bridge off in the distance, veered off to the right side of the river, to Southwark. As they approached, Caitlin spotted below the circular structures of several theaters, bullbaiting rings, and bearbaiting rings. She was puzzled to see that the bearbaiting ring she had visited days before now seemed to be damaged by fire. She wondered when that fire could have broken out.

  They dove lower, circling over the neighborhood that held Shakespeare's theater. Down below, thousands of people were crammed together, all packed together on this warm September day, walking in the unpaved, muddy streets that were also filled with wild dogs, chickens, livestock, and an abundance of rats, visible even from up here.

  Caitlin smiled wider as Caleb, flying beside her, squeezed her hand, looked at her and grinned.

  She could see how proud he was to have her by his side, and nothing made her happier. She looked down at her ring again, and again felt how lucky she was to be with him.

  They all landed behind a building, out of sight of the crowd, not far from Shakespeare's theater.

  Caitlin set down Scarlet, as Tyler set down Lily, and they all walked out from behind a building, and right into the bustling crowd of humanity.

  Caitlin found herself jostled back and forth, as did the others, and she held Scarlet's hand tight so that they would not get separated. She tried to stick together with the others, as they all pushed their way through the endless masses, trying to make it across the open square, to the packed entrance of the globe. These crowds reminded Caitlin of a time when she was young, when she went to Disneyland, and there were so many people crammed in that it'd taken her nearly an hour just to go a few feet.

  As they approached the theater, Caitlin looked up at it in awe. It appeared just as she had seen in the history books, and seeing it in person was incredible. It was a large, round theater, built very steeply straight up, made entirely of wood, its exterior painted in a bright white, with dark wooden beams interlacing it, and a sharply slanted, dark roof made of straw.

  As they funneled their way with the masses towards the main entrance, the energy became more and more vibrant. Lily stepped up and paid the attendant, and turned to Caitlin and the others.

  "We have a choice," she said. "We can either sit in our own private box, off to the side, or stand in the middle, with the masses, and be closer to the stage. We'd be standing on the ground the entire time, but we'd be closer. "

  Caitlin thought, and looked to Caleb, who didn't seem to have any preference. Caitlin didn't want to sit in a fancy box off to the side.

  "I'd like to stand," Caitlin said, "with all the others, right on the ground, close to the stage. I want to experience it the way the masses do. "

  "You got it," Lily said. "That's fine with me. You just saved me a bunch of money anyway - groundling tickets are only a penny! It can be a bit of a rough crowd, though. Is that okay?"

  Caitlin smiled. "That's great," she said. "I want to see the real London. "

  Lily smiled back. "It's your engagement party," she said, with a large smile, "whatever you want. "

  As Lily paid, they all walked through the ramp-like entrance, and right into the theater.

  "Can I sit on your shoulders?" Scarlet asked, yanking Caitlin's hand.

  Caitlin smiled. "Of course," she said, hoisting her up, onto her shoulders. Scarlet squealed with delight, kicking her legs, as she looked every which way.

  Caleb came up beside her and held her hand.

  As they entered the theater, the electricity in the air was palpable, and the sight took Caitlin's breath away. She looked up, all around, at the wooden seating, the rows of benches on all sides, rising steeply into the air. In the center of the theater was a circular pit, a ground floor made of dirt, on which thousands of people milled, huddled together.

  The wooden stage was raised about fifteen feet off the ground, and so wide, it stretched about a hundred feet across, and about forty feet deep. It was framed by columns all across. She was surprised to see how simple the stage was, hardly adorned by any sets, and of course, not having any lighting. She remembered that nighttime shows hadn't existed yet in this century, and that all plays still had to be performed in the sunlight. Indoor theaters were an invention yet to come.

  "GET YOUR GIN HERE, ONE PINT! GIN HERE, ONE PINT!" a man yelled out over and over again, carrying a pouch slung over his stomach, dozens of small bottles in it.

  Their group made its way slowly through the huge crowd of groundlings, gently but firmly making their way as close to the stage as they could.

  "Excuse me! Excuse me!" Scarlet kept saying to the people in front of them.

  It worked like a charm. People everywhere turned and made way for her, smiling when they saw her, and she managed to make their way nearly to the lip of the stage.

  "Can't wait to see what Will has this time," Caitlin overheard one crowd member say.

  "I hear it's a tragedy," one of them responded.

  "No. It's a romance," another said.

  "You're both wrong," another said, "it's a comedy. "

  Caitlin smiled to herself. It shocked her that these people had never seen it. Once again, she felt so fortunate to be here at this moment, in this time and place, right when it was first happening.

  As she looked around, trying to take the entire scene in, she also realized that she was a bit surprised: this was not how she'd pictured a Shakespeare crowd. She'd pictured it to be more refined, more elitist, more snobbish. But the opposite was true. The people here were just ordinary masses, hard-working people. In fact, many of them didn't even seem to be respectable enough to be hard-working people - the majority of them, to her surprise, seemed to be rough looking types -

  drunks, scoundrels, and various unsavory characters. If Caitlin hadn't known better, she could have easily mistaken this crowd for a group of convicts.

  Caitlin was shocked that they would all come to see a Shakespeare play. And she was also shocked that, in this time and place, even the most uneducated person could grasp a Shakespeare play at first glance. It made her sad to think how far the 21st century had fallen behind.

  Suddenly, a rush of excitement spread throughout the crowd. The chatter began to die down, and the vendors selling products began to quiet, t
oo. The jostling and shuffling for position began to slow, as well. Caitlin felt herself bristle with excitement, as she sensed the play was about to begin.

  Moments later, a lone actor stepped forward, out to the center of the stage, walking dramatically right to the front, just feet away from Caitlin. Caitlin could hear Scarlet gasp up above her, on her shoulders. The entire crowd became deathly silent. In fact, Caitlin could not believe how silent it became so quickly, at how much respect these people gave to the theater: there were thousands and thousands of unruly people here, and yet now, at this moment, she could not hear a peep. There were certainly no cellphones or beepers to go off, either. That was another thing that made Caitlin appreciate this time.

  The actor proudly lifted his chin, commanding their attention, and spoke the opening lines of the play:

  Two households, both alike in dignity,

  In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,

  From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,

  Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.

  As the actor continued his long monologue, introducing the play, Caitlin was overwhelmed by his clarity of voice, by his precision, by how the actors performed in this day and time. It was truly an art form.

  The play unfolded, the narrator followed by a large, rowdy group of actors, who played out an opening fight scene in a crowded marketplace, quickly establishing the rivalry between the two families in the play: the Montagues and the Capulets.

  One scene followed the next, and Caitlin found herself becoming completely entranced, losing all sense of space and time. She had never experienced theater like this - so real, so alive. It truly felt like the first time Romeo and Juliet had ever been performed. As she got lost in it, Caitlin found herself forgetting what actually happened in the play, and found herself riveted to every word, wondering what would happen next.

  The scenes raced by until they came to an elaborate dance scene, a formal dance hosted by the house of Capulet, which Romeo had snuck into. Caitlin found herself riveted as she watched Romeo see Juliet for the first time:


  What lady is that, which doth

  enrich the hand

  Of yonder knight?


  I know not, sir.


  O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright!

  It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night

  Like a rich jewel in an Ethiope's ear;

  Beauty too rich for use, for earth too dear!

  . . . .

  Did my heart love till now? forswear it, sight!

  For I ne'er saw true beauty till this night.

  Caitlin could not help thinking of the first time she had seen Caleb, of her instant love for him.

  It also, briefly, made her think of Blake. It made her wonder how love at first sight works, what it was, exactly, that made one person feel attracted to another.

  Caitlin watched Romeo sneak onto the dance floor, steal a dance with Juliet, and speak to her for the first time:


  If I profane with my unworthiest hand

  This holy shrine, the gentle fine is this:

  My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand

  To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.


  Good pilgrim, you do wrong your hand too much,

  Which mannerly devotion shows in this;

  For saints have hands that pilgrims' hands do touch,

  And palm to palm is holy palmers' kiss.

  Caitlin was riveted as she watched Romeo lean in, and the two kiss each other for the first time.

  It made her think of her first kiss with Caleb, and then made her think of their incredible night together in Edgartown. She found herself more and more deeply identifying with Juliet, feeling that Caleb was her Romeo, that they had come from two different houses, from forbidden loves. She found herself losing all sense of time and place as she became engrossed in the scenes playing out before her.

  There soon came the balcony scene, and Caitlin watched, riveted, as Romeo crept up to Juliet's balcony and watched her, speaking to himself before he was detected: ROMEO

  But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks?

  It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.

  Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon,

  Who is already sick and pale with grief,

  That thou her maid art far more fair than she:

  . . .

  The brightness of her cheek would shame those stars,

  As daylight doth a lamp; her eyes in heaven

  Would through the airy region stream so bright

  That birds would sing and think it were not night.

  See, how she leans her cheek upon her hand!

  O, that I were a glove upon that hand,

  That I might touch that cheek!


  O Romeo, Romeo! wherefore art thou Romeo?

  Deny thy father and refuse thy name;

  Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love,

  And I'll no longer be a Capulet.

  Romeo stepped forward on the large, wide stage, and Juliet, up high in a balcony, looked down at Romeo in shock:


  How camest thou hither, tell me, and wherefore?

  The orchard walls are high and hard to climb,

  And the place death, considering who thou art,

  If any of my kinsmen find thee here.


  With love's light wings did I o'er-perch these walls;

  For stony limits cannot hold love out,

  Caitlin felt her heart soar, as they expressed their love for each other for minutes on end. Finally, slowly, the scene came to an end:


  O blessed, blessed night! I am afeard.

  Being in night, all this is but a dream,

  Too flattering-sweet to be substantial.


  Three words, dear Romeo, and good night indeed.

  If that thy bent of love be honourable,

  Thy purpose marriage, send me word to-morrow,

  By one that I'll procure to come to thee,

  Where and what time thou wilt perform the rite;

  And all my fortunes at thy foot I'll lay

  And follow thee my lord throughout the world.

  . . .

  Good night, good night! parting is such

  sweet sorrow,

  That I shall say good night till it be morrow.

  Caitlin could not help but think of Caleb, of his proposal to her, of their upcoming marriage.

  She felt as if she were Juliet, as Juliet stood there, hoping for Romeo to come back, to propose to her, to make her his forever.

  As the play went on, some scenes blurred in her mind, while others stood out more prominently.

  She was captivated as Romeo approached the Friar, asking for his permission to marry Juliet: ROMEO

  Come what sorrow can,

  It cannot countervail the exchange of joy

  That one short minute gives me in her sight:

  Do thou but close our hands with holy words,

  Then love-devouring death do what he dare;

  It is enough I may but call her mine.


  These violent delights have violent ends

  And in their triumph die, like fire and powder. . . .

  She was captivated as Romeo held his best friend, Mercutio, in his arms, having been stabbed to death on Romeo's behalf. She watched Romeo pick up the sword and stab his rival, Tybalt, killing him in revenge. Caitlin thought back to New York, when Caleb died in her own arms, as the result of Sam tricking her. And worse, she felt a tear roll down her cheek as she remembered Blake being stabbed in the Roman Coliseum, taking the wound for her, and dying in her arms.


  Romeo, away, be gone!<
br />
  The citizens are up, and Tybalt slain.

  Stand not amazed: the prince will doom thee death,

  If thou art taken: hence, be gone, away!


  O, I am fortune's fool!

  She watched as Juliet stood there, on her balcony, waiting for Romeo, who had just been banished, and who could never come back to her. Her heart broke, as it made her think of all those times Caleb had left her, as she stood there, waiting for him herself.


  Come, night; come, Romeo; come, thou day in night;

  For thou wilt lie upon the wings of night

  Whiter than new snow on a raven's back.

  Come, gentle night, come, loving, black-brow'd night,

  Give me my Romeo; and, when he shall die,

  Take him and cut him out in little stars,

  And he will make the face of heaven so fine

  That all the world will be in love with night

  And pay no worship to the garish sun.

  She was breathless as she watched a desperate Juliet run to the Friar, desperate for any possible solution that could bring her and Romeo together again, that could end his banishment. It made her think of Aiden, of Pollepel, of her begging him to bring Caleb back, her promising that she would do anything, even risk her unborn child, to travel back in time and save Caleb.


  Take thou this vial, being then in bed,

  And this distilled liquor drink thou off;

  When presently through all thy veins shall run

  A cold and drowsy humour, for no pulse

  Shall keep his native progress, but surcease:

  No warmth, no breath, shall testify thou livest;

  The roses in thy lips and cheeks shall fade

  To paly ashes, thy eyes' windows fall,

  Like death, when he shuts up the day of life;

  Each part, deprived of supple government,

  Shall, stiff and stark and cold, appear like death:

  And in this borrow'd likeness of shrunk death

  Thou shalt continue two and forty hours,

  And then awake as from a pleasant sleep.


  Love give me strength! and strength shall help afford.

  There was not a peep in the house, the entire crowd riveted, as Juliet sat alone in her bedroom, took out the vial of sleeping liquid the Friar had given her, and prepared to drink it - knowing full well that drinking it could result in death:


  Farewell! God knows when we shall meet again.

  I have a faint cold fear thrills through my veins,

  That almost freezes up the heat of life:

  . . . .

  Come, vial.

  What if this mixture do not work at all?

  Shall I be married then to-morrow morning?

  . . . .

  Romeo, I come! this do I drink to thee.

  She watched as Juliet's nurse and parents stormed into the room, finding her sleeping and thinking her dead.


  O lamentable day!


  What is the matter?


  Look, look! O heavy day!


  O me, O me! My child, my only life,

  Revive, look up, or I will die with thee!

  Help, help! Call help.


  For shame, bring Juliet forth; her lord is come.


  She's dead, deceased, she's dead; alack the day!


  Alack the day, she's dead, she's dead, she's dead!


  Ha! let me see her: out, alas! she's cold:

  Her blood is settled, and her joints are stiff;

  Life and these lips have long been separated:

  Death lies on her like an untimely frost

  Upon the sweetest flower of all the field.


  O lamentable day!


  O woeful time!


  Death, that hath ta'en her hence to make me wail,

  Ties up my tongue, and will not let me speak.


  Come, is the bride ready to go to church?


  Ready to go, but never to return.

  O son! the night before thy wedding-day

  Hath Death lain with thy wife. There she lies,

  Flower as she was, deflowered by him.

  Death is my son-in-law, Death is my heir;

  My daughter he hath wedded: I will die,

  And leave him all; life, living, all is Death's.

  She felt heartbroken as she watched Romeo in his own world, still ignorant of what happened with Juliet, and as she sensed the impending doom to come.


  I dreamt my lady came and found me dead--

  Strange dream, that gives a dead man leave

  to think!--

  And breathed such life with kisses in my lips,

  That I revived, and was an emperor.

  Time passed in the blink of an eye as the play came to a close. As it nearly ended, Caitlin could not believe that hours had already passed. It felt like the play had just begun. She had stood there, not moving an inch, the entire crowd not moving an inch, with no intermission, no break - even Scarlet, on her shoulders, hadn't moved the entire play. They had all been completely riveted, from start to finish.

  And as the play reached its final scenes, its climactic ending, Caitlin felt tears pouring down her cheeks, so enmeshed in the story, feeling as if it had all just happened to her. She couldn't help thinking of the time in the King's Chapel in Boston, when she was dying, and when Caleb had held her in his arms, and had brought her back from death. All of it, everything, came flooding back to her, all the loves, all the lifetimes, all the centuries. She felt completely overwhelmed, felt as if she were one with Juliet as she watched Romeo stand over her, in the mausoleum, and assume that she was dead.


  O my love! my wife!

  Death, that hath suck'd the honey of thy breath,

  Hath had no power yet upon thy beauty:

  Thou art not conquer'd; beauty's ensign yet

  Is crimson in thy lips and in thy cheeks,

  And death's pale flag is not advanced there.

  . . . Ah, dear Juliet,

  Why art thou yet so fair? shall I believe

  That unsubstantial death is amorous,

  And that the lean abhorred monster keeps

  Thee here in dark to be his paramour?

  For fear of that, I still will stay with thee;

  And never from this palace of dim night

  Depart again: here, here will I remain

  With worms that are thy chamber-maids; O, here

  Will I set up my everlasting rest,

  And shake the yoke of inauspicious stars

  From this world-wearied flesh.

  Caitlin could hear people sobbing all around her, as they all watched in horror, as Romeo drank a vial of true poison, assuming Juliet to be dead.


  O true apothecary!

  Thy drugs are quick. Thus with a kiss I die.

  And then the horror deepened, as Juliet awoke from her sleep to find Romeo dead, truly dead, beside her, having just killed himself because he thought, tragically, that she was dead: JULIET

  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;

  Haply some poison yet doth hang on them,

  To make die with a restorative.

  She kisses him.

  Thy lips are warm.

  . . .

I'll be brief. O happy dagger!

  This is thy sheath;

  The entire crowd - thousands of people, visibly gassed as Juliet took the knife and plunged into her own stomach, killing herself.


  There rust, and let me die.

  Caitlin found herself completely lost as the play came to its conclusion and the actors disappeared behind the curtain.

  She slowly looked around the audience, and she could tell, from their tears, their horrified expressions, their wide eyes, that these people had truly just seen this for the first time. They look stunned, and horrified, and yet inspired. They were all completely silent.

  Finally, the actors made their way back out onto the stage, bowing, and the silence broke into applause, roaring, screaming, hooting, as people clapped louder and longer than Caitlin had ever heard in her life. Scarlet clapped above her, as did Caleb, Polly, Sam, Lily, and all her coven members.

  Slowly, Caitlin felt herself coming back into her world, to her reality. She reached up and clapped, letting the tears roll down her cheeks.

  Finally, after the actors had taken several bows, they parted ways for a long figure, who walked out onto the stage. Caitlin's heart stopped, as she realized who it was.

  It was Shakespeare.

  William Shakespeare was standing before her, just feet away, dressed in a traditional Elizabethan wardrobe. He bowed, and the applause deepened even further.

  Caitlin was speechless.

  "Would you like to meet him?" came a voice.

  Caitlin turned and saw Lily standing there, smiling.

  "After all, it's your party. I know where they go to drink. I'm friends with several of them. I can get us in - all of us. We'd have to go now. "

  Caitlin couldn't possibly think of a better engagement present than a chance to meet Shakespeare himself - and his actors. She barely had words to respond.

  "Uh - yes!" she stuttered.

  Lily smiled wide as she rounded up the others, and they all began to make their way through the crowd. Caleb grabbed her hand and led her. She couldn't believe it. As if witnessing Romeo and Juliet performed for the first time were not enough, she was now on her way to meet William Shakespeare.

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