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Rosaline, At Rest (1 of 1)

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Sep. 14th, 2009 | 09:45 am
posted by: msmcknittington in loathlylady

Title: Rosaline, At Rest
Author: loathlylady
Word Count: 1567
Fandom: Shakespeare -- Romeo & Juliet
Summary: Rosaline contemplates Romeo, among other things.
Pairing/Characters: Rosaline, Romeo
Spoilers: You should probably be familiar with the play.
Rating: PG? PG-13? There's a sex pun in there, but it's pretty subtle.
Notes: Originally written for Ducky for Yuletide 2008. See it here in its original form. I just I finally went through and cleaned up all the typos, etc.

Rosaline, At Rest

It was the shouting in the streets that woke her.

She lay in her bed and watched the shadows play over the walls as the watch passed by with torches. The shouting was underscored by the barking of dogs and the higher-pitched voices of boys running along the street, both attracted by the disturbance caused by the watch. Shutters slammed open and voices called out to ask what was the matter.

There is some happening near the church, answered the watchmen.

Are the cats fighting tonight? called a man down into the street.

Verily, replied one of the watchmen. But not for them, we would not have work.

Bah, said the man from his window. Laughing, he closed his shutters with a bang and the noise was echoed as others followed his example.

She rolled over and punched her pillow into a more comfortable shape.

Every night these Montagues and Capulets disrupted the city with their feud, and now it seemed that they had thought it so important as to darken the doors of a church.

How awful, she thought. These princes of perfection, these braggarts, these bellowing swaggerers, to drag their quarrel into a house that was not theirs. And they had the liberty to do it, was the worse offence.

As the shouts faded away, the dogs and boys following, she let her eyes drift close, but sleep would not come. Quiet descended once more on the narrow street where she lived, and still she could not follow the sun and sleep.

“O Morpheus,” Rosaline whispered aloud. “Come and I will kiss your lips, though I have sworn to kiss none so long as I might refuse.”

She tossed and turned in her bed, the thick mattress and soft pillows offering no comfort. No matter how she arranged herself -- limbs outside the sheets, arms tucked close to her body, stretched out like a swimmer crawling to some distant shore -- sleep would not find her. She could not find it. She thought she saw faint glimmers of it, a sort of warm and drowsy feeling stealing over her, but as soon as she thought she might hold it in her arms, it slipped away from her.

“A curse on the house of Montague and the house of Capulet,” she said into her pillow. “A pox on them for stealing my rest.”

She thought of pleasant things, things that could lull her into a restful place. She remembered being a girl, hair free and loose down her back. She had been able to do anything then, as free as her hair was to curl and twine around itself. So had she prowled through the gardens of her father’s house, shadowed by her nurse, who laughed and encouraged her frolics. Rosaline had been free to conquer the paths and make every inch of the place hers. Her kingdom, where she was the ruler and her word was law.

But that had faded, had it not? That dream had left her. Life had invaded the borders of her garden empire, and none of her defenses had been able to stop it. They had been trampled underfoot, like so many tender seedlings.

One day her nurse had ferreted her out of her green fastness and smoothed the tumbled golden curls out of her face.

“Come, my wild girl,” Nurse had said, tweaking her hair. “My pretty one. It is time to forge that gold into coin.”

So she had been scrubbed and dressed and painted, and they had braided her hair into an elaborate coil and caged it behind a net of silk and pearls. Then had come the endless stream of young men of noble houses, drawn there by the promise of . . . her. The promise of Rosaline. Gold on her head, gold in her purse, honey in mouths of every man who wanted to win it.

Rosaline curled into a new shape beneath her covers and pressed her face into a cool spot on her pillow.

Some thought they had sweeter tongues than others, or thought their sugared words deserved more attention than she gave them. And she would not pay them any attention if they intruded on her solace like one had.

She pressed her face deeper into her pillow. She would not think so badly on the squabbling between the Montagues and Capulets if it were not for a member of one of those households making war on her affections. A persistent battle, but not a successful one. Would that Romeo might lose himself in that old struggle and leave this new one behind.

Unlike her other suitors, he had not contented himself with courting her at parties and feasts -- he had sought her out on her own ground.

Rosaline had left behind some of her childish pursuits and picked up more maidenly ones, purely to have a respite from the cockerels who crowed at her. They did not follow so closely, pecking at the crumbs of attention she tossed them, if she gave all that attention to her needlework. So it happened that she sat in her garden one afternoon, embroidering carelessly. Her wools were grubby from her hands and the cloth was not much better, but she did not care. She was not doing it to make something pretty. No silk flower could compare to the ones in her garden.

As she sat on the garden bench, a few pebbles came raining down from the garden wall and they were followed by a form wrapped in a velvet cloak. It landed with both booted feet in one of her floral borders, crushing the small white flowers. She dropped her embroidery as she stood, staring at the mess created by his boot heels.

The figure tossed his cloak back with his arm, revealing Romeo.

“Ah, fair Rosaline,” he said, bowing low, requiring another sweep of his cloak. “I thought to find roses in this garden, but never dreamt I to find the fairest of them standing before me.”

“Your discovery would have been all the richer, had you not flattened fairer flowers when you arrived,” she said, pointing to the crushed stems beneath his feet.

He shrugged, the cloak falling once more over his shoulder.

“A small matter in the pursuit of love,” he said.

She sighed and pursed her lips. This was an old anthem of his, and it grew ever more tiresome with each salvo.

“I have not loved you, I do not love you, and I will not love you,” she said. “Do not continue to ask me to do so.”

“You are the most perfect conjugator,” he said, having seen her lips move but not hearing the sounds they made.

She tossed her head, the pins holding the net in place dragging at her scalp.

“I have not read your grammar -- I am a maid.”

He advanced a step toward her and seized her wrists in his hands, which were as slender and smooth as a boy’s but with a man’s strength.

“Then study it. I will read to you from the book of love.”

“It is in a language I do not know,” she said, tugging against his hold.

“I will teach you it,” he insisted. “I love, you love, he loves, they love. It is the easiest exercise ever written.”

She twisted her wrists in his hands and broke free.

“An unwilling student cannot be made to learn, therefore depart, tutor.” She rubbed at the red marks on her arms and frowned at him.

“I would as soon leave my heart beating in the middle of the street as leave your side."

“Leave it,” she replied. “No one here will disturb it.”

His face was pained, as if she had asked him to profane every holy thing in Christendom.

“I have lost your favor,” he said, drawing the cloak close about him.

“You never had it.” She stooped and picked up her embroidery from where it had fallen on the ground.

“Might I gain it?”

“No,” she said, busy picking dried leaves off the cloth. “I have locked my heart up and given no one the key. It will not be undone.”

He had left the same way he came then, scaling the wall like a spider scrabbled up a table leg. There had not been another word said between them, and he had not darkened her father’s door again. She had heard that he had left Verona several days ago, fleeing some trouble, but she had not paid attention to the gossip. She never paid attention to it. She heard her own name on other’s lips too often.

Rosaline flung back the covers and turned her face to the window. The watch and their torches were gone, but the moon worked its way between the slats of the shutters and fell across her bed. It was pale, hardly light at all, as thin and unsubstantial as water. Her garden would have nothing but shadows in it. The leaves would be a green so dark it was nearly black, and the white flowers would be the gray suggestions of petals and stems. If she crept down the stairs now and stood in the middle of it, the garden would not be the place she remembered as a girl in such light. She wondered that it would ever be the same again.

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