Romeo sat up. The moon was huge: it cast a silvery light over everything. The wall he was on ran from the front of the mansion they’d just left and he realized he was on Capulet’s property. On one side of the wall was the narrow alley where his friends had been. On the other was an orchard. The back of the house loomed dark and forbidding.
It was alright for Mercutio. He’d never felt the pain of love. It was easy for him to joke about it.
A light came on in a window. Perhaps it was her! Lighting the world like the morning sun! She was the sun, so much more beautiful than the goddess of the night, the moon. As though in answer to his wishes a door opened and she came out on to a balcony.
‘It’s her!’ he whispered. ‘Oh, it’s my love.’
He wished she could know he was there, sitting on the wall, watching her. Her lips were moving but he couldn’t hear what she was saying. Anyway, she couldn’t be talking to him.
As he stared at her he tried to understand how anyone could be so beautiful. It was as though the two most radiant stars in the sky had business somewhere else and had begged her eyes to take their place while they were away. It was as though they had changed places and the stars were in her head, her eyes in the heavens.
But even then, the beauty of her cheek would dim those eyes in the same way as daylight overwhelms a lamp. Her eyes would shine so brightly in the heavens that birds would start singing, thinking it was daytime.
As he watched she leant her cheek on her hand! Oh how he wished he could be a glove on that hand so that he could touch that cheek! Oh how…!
She sighed loudly.
He had to get closer. He jumped. At any other time he might have hurt himself but now he didn’t even feel the ground as he landed. All he was thinking was that he wanted her to speak again. She was an angel. Wherever she was the night would be lit up. He crept through the shadows of the orchard until he stood behind a tree that grew directly beneath the balcony.
She sighed again. ‘Oh Romeo, Romeo,’ she said. ‘Why are you Romeo? I wish you could stop being a Montague. Or if you won’t, just say you love me and I’ll stop being a Capulet.’
Romeo wanted to show himself to her but he also wanted to hear more so he controlled himself and listened, not daring to breathe.
‘It’s only your name that’s my enemy.’ she continued. ‘You’re still what you are, Montague or no Montague.’
She paused. He wanted to rush out and say ‘Look down here!’ but she spoke again.
‘Anyway, what’s “Montague”? It’s not as though it’s a hand or a foot, or an arm or a face, or anything like that. Oh I wish you could be some other name. What’s in a name, anyway? The flower that we call a rose would smell as sweet whatever we called it. Whatever name Romeo had it wouldn’t make any difference: he would still be everything that’s perfect. Oh Romeo, throw your name out and take all of me instead.’
Romeo couldn’t stand it any more. He sprang from behind the tree and raised his arms. ‘I’ll take you at your word,’ he said. ‘Just call me ‘Love’ and that will be my new name. From now on I’m not Romeo.’
She drew back. It was such a shock to hear someone out there that she didn’t listen to what he was saying.
‘Who are you?’ she said. ‘Coming here in the dark, watching me and eavesdropping like this?’
‘I’m afraid to tell you my name,’ he said. ‘I hate my name because you hate it. If I had written it I would tear the word up.’
She recognized his voice. ‘Aren’t you Romeo? And a Montague’?’
‘Neither,’ he said, ‘Since you dislike both names.’
‘How did you get here? Tell me that. And why? The orchard walls are high, and hard to climb. And this place is dangerous, considering who you are. If any of my family finds you here…’
‘I flew over the wall,’ he said. ‘With the wings of love. Stone walls can’t keep love out. Love can’t be stopped so how could your family stop me?’
‘If they see you they’ll kill you!’
‘Your eyes are more powerful than twenty of their swords. Just give me a loving look and I’ll be invincible.’
She looked around. ‘I don’t want them to see you here.’
‘It’s alright, it’s dark. Anyway, if you don’t love me I’d rather be caught by them than live without your love.’
‘Who told you where to find me?’
Romeo found it impossible to be serious. ‘Love told me. I’m no navigator, but even if you were living on the far side of the furthest ocean I would find my way to you.’
‘It’s a good thing it’s dark,’ she said. ‘Or you would see me blushing. Because of what you overheard. I would love to be able to deny that I said those things but I’m not going to pretend. Do you love me?’
At that Romeo really felt he was flying. He opened his mouth to tell her but she was rushing on.
‘I know you’ll say ‘yes’. And I’ll take your word for it. But if you swear too much you may not stick to it. Please don’t let that happen.’ She leant forward, over the balustrade. ‘Oh Romeo, if you do love me, please tell me honestly.’ She moved back a little. ‘Or if you think I’m too fast tell me and I’ll put on an act and be all coy and play hard to get. I’m so much in love with you: that’s why I’m being so forward. But I promise you, I’ll be more loving and faithful than those who are reserved. I should have been all shy, I know, and would have if you hadn’t overheard my real feelings. So forgive me. And don’t think I’m taking it lightly.’
‘I swear by the moon…’
‘Oh don’t swear by the moon! The moon’s too changeable.’
‘What shall I swear by?’
‘Don’t swear at all,’ she said. ‘But if you must, swear by your self. You’re the god I worship. Swear by your self and I’ll believe you. No, don’t swear. Although I love you I don’t like this – making commitments like this. It’s too sudden, too fast. It’s not a good idea. It’s like lightning – gone too quickly. I’ll say goodnight. This bud of love may grow into a lovely flower by the time we meet again.’ She stepped back and stood beside the door. ‘Good night.’
Romeo couldn’t understand this. What was she doing? ‘Just like that?’ he said.
‘Are you just going to leave it like that?’
‘What more could we do tonight’?’ she said, coming forward again.
‘Make faithful vows of love,’ he said.
‘I gave you mine before you asked for it. And yet I wish I had it back.’
‘Do you want to take it back? Why?’
‘To be honest, so that I can give it to you again. But I have so much love for you: the more I give the more I have. It’s like the sea – without end.’
The Nurse’s voice intruded into their conversation. ‘Juliet? Lamb? Honey Love?’
‘I’m just coming, Nurse,’ she called. She turned back to Romeo. ‘Beloved Montague, be true to me.’ He thought she had gone but she whispered to him: ‘Wait there. I’ll be back.’
‘Oh night! Oh beautiful night,’ he said. He blew kisses at the moon. It couldn’t be true. It had to be a dream. But it wasn’t, because there she was again.
‘Just a few more words and then it really will be goodnight, dear Romeo. If you really mean it, and you want to marry me, send me a message tomorrow. I’ll send someone to you. Let me know where and for what time you’ve arranged a wedding and I’ll come to you. Then we’ll be together forever.’
‘Juliet!’ Her nurse was shouting now.
‘Coming!’ called Juliet. ‘But if you don’t mean it, I beg of you…’
‘I’m coming!’ She leant right over and reached out towards Romeo. ‘If you’re trifling with me please leave me alone to deal with my grief. I’ll send a messenger tomorrow.’
Romeo felt he was being left behind. She thought he may not mean it! ‘As true as -‘ he began but she had gone. And he was left alone. He felt as though a light had gone out. He had better get out of there. He turned but then he heard her again.
‘Psst! Romeo! Pssst!’
He was beneath her balcony like an arrow.
‘Romeo. What time shall I send someone?’
‘I’ll make sure of that. It’ll feel like twenty years till then.’ She laughed. ‘I’ve forgotten why I called you back.’
‘That’s alright. I’ll just stand here until you remember it.’
‘Then I’ll never remember it, so that you’ll stand there forever.’
‘And I’ll keep standing here, hoping you’ll keep forgetting. And I’ll forget that I’ve got any other home but this.’
‘It’s almost morning,’ she said. ‘I want you to go but I don’t want to let go of you.
You must leave now. It’s so hard to say goodbye. I’d like to keep saying “goodnight” until it becomes tomorrow.’ With a last lingering look she broke away from his gaze and was gone.
Romeo ran through the orchard and scaled the wall without being aware of its height. The sun was about to come up. There would be no sleep for him. He would go straight to Friar Lawrence’s chapel, tell him the wonderful thing that had happened to him and get his help.