NB: So months ago I found a competition to write characters from Romeo and Juliet into a new setting. I whipped it up quickly and sent it to a few people to have a look at it. It wasn’t due until April so I let it slide. And then in a panic I checked the due date and realised it was due the week before.
So you get it for free. Enjoy.
There are four houses at Verona College, but only two that ever get talked about; Montague House and their traditional rivals in Capulet. When the house naming system was introduced, the head of English had a field day.
One year, Montague would win the swimming sports and Capulet would take the cup at the Athletics carnival. The next, Capulet would hold all of the records for swimming and Montague would dominate on the track. Teachers as well as students were assigned to a house, and the narrow margin between Montague and Capulet in the sporting arena had on more than one occasion led to fist fights in the staff room. And yelling matches in the car park. And parental feuds on Facebook.
It was this powder keg of enmity, leading back generations, which would lead to the tragic story of the relationship between Romeo and Juliet.
But this isn’t their story.
“Get a move on Greg. We’ll be late,” Sam said, shoving his friend who was dawdling in the direction of the starting line.
“If we get there too early, we’ll be the late Greg and Sam,” grumbled the other boy, tucking his red singlet back into his shorts.
“I can take a couple of Montague freaks.”
“You’ll be freaking out, and running away, more like it,” Greg said, nodding at the lithe young men in blue tops, stretching by the side of the track. Sam scowled.
“I’d stand up to those guys.”
“You’d have to. They’re about a head taller than you. Maybe try taking on one of the girls instead.”
“Gawd, I wouldn’t mind, I tell you,” Sam said, tilting his head towards a couple of Montague House girls, laughing and chatting on the grass. They were full of life, long legs tanned and house shirts knotted at their breast bone.
“Uh uh. Don’t even think about it,” Greg warned. “If you ever wanted to die early, making a move on a Montague girl would be a good way to do it.”
“Yeah,” Sam said, and kicked at a chip packet on the grass. “It might be worth it, to kick some Montague skulls.”
“Here’s your chance,” Greg said, eyes widening. A couple of the Montague boys had peeled off from their group and were sauntering casually into a position where they’d cross paths with their Capulet rivals.
“Shit,” Sam said. “OK. I’ve got your back. Have a go.” Greg looked back at his friend.
“You’ve got my back? You’ll be off like a bikini at a nudist beach.”
“No, seriously. Don’t worry.”
“I am bloody worried, seriously.”
“Fine then, but if they start something, we’ll finish it,” Sam said. Greg nodded, and as they approached the other boys, both of them Year 10 students, Greg hawked up a massive lump of phlegm and spat it neatly at the ground near the Montague boys’ feet.
“Oy, watch it,” one said. Sam recognised him as Ben Abraham. A good runner, but a complete asshole. “Did you tools just spit at me?”
“God no,” Greg said, not wanting anyone to say he made the first move. “I just spat. Lucky I missed you, really.”
“Do you wanna go?” Abraham said, taking a step towards Greg, his mate moving in behind him. Sam joined his friend and found himself looking up at two quite burly opponents. He sneered.
“I reckon we could take you,” he said, fighting the urge to stand on tiptoes. Greg nudged him, his head nodding to the side. Sam glanced over and saw Tybalt, the Capulet house captain, watching the proceedings with a dangerous gaze. “Yeah, you’re looking to lose a couple of those shiny white teeth.” Sam was ready to give Abraham a shove when the PA blared.
“All Year Ten students involved in the fifteen hundred metres need to get to the starting line now. That includes the four idiots about to do something stupid by the side of the track.” Mr. Graham, the woodwork teacher, was beckoning to them, a warning glare daring them to continue with their altercation. With a shove, Ben pushed Sam back and trotted off to the starting line. Sam followed, his ears burning and his hands shaking from the close call.
The four boys took their positions, joined by two each from Escalus and Mantua houses. Mr. Graham eyeballed Sam and Ben, shook his head and then raised the starting pistol.
“On your marks, get set…”
Sam was first out of the blocks, being lighter than the other runners. He felt that he had a good lead and concentrated on pushing his feet hard into the track and finding the rhythm that he could keep up for one and a half laps of the oval. His breath was all that he could hear. The first corner approached and he drew across to the inner lane.
Ben Abraham put on a brief burst of speed to come level with Sam and then stepped directly in front of him, shoving him at the same time so that the Capulet lost his balance and slammed into the ground, failing to get his hands out in front of him and halting his momentum using his face as a brake.
“Shit. Sorry,” Ben said, grinning, before a snarling Greg dived headlong into his knees and tackled him to the ground. Ben’s teammate ducked in and hurled Greg off, kneeing him in the guts, but by then Sam was up again and had kicked a slowly rising Abraham directly in the ass, sending him back to the ground.
And then it was on. Spectators from both houses ran onto the truck, swinging punches and yelling insults. Benvolio, the Montague house captain, dived in, a panicked look on his face.
“Stop it! Get off!” he yelled, dragging Sam off Abraham and throwing him to the ground. “Let go of him you idiot!” A Montague shoved him and he backhanded the boy on reflex, turning to see Tybalt grinning at him.
“Why don’t you pick on someone your own size,” the Capulet captain said.
“What? I’m trying to stop the fight, not make it worse!” Benvolio said.
“Bullshit. You just slapped that kid in the face. Bloody Capulets. Come on you fairy.”
Teachers ran in from all directions. Mr Fitch, the coordinator for Capulet, dived into the fray, pulling blue shirts from red, until Miss Lockheart, his Montague counterpart, saw him drop a Year Nine boy with an unfortunate shove and she tapped him on the shoulder and punched him square on the nose.
A massive feedback whine caused everyone to pause and look up. The principal stood on the podium, his face red and his knuckles white around the microphone.
“WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?”
Sam and Greg walked shamefacedly from the principal’s office, joining a long list of students with detentions or suspensions over the sports incident. As they left, the house heads Fitch and Lockheart replaced them in the office, looking just as shamefaced. Of course, the boys couldn’t see much of Fitch’s face, covered as it was by a bandage protecting his nose. As they walked off, they could hear the Prince yelling.
“Three times! Three bloody fights started by your Capulets, Jackie! And three from you and yours! Try and convince me now why I shouldn’t have both of your jobs!”
Sam looked over at his companion.
“We got off easy, I reckon, Gregory my friend.”
“Too right, Samson, too bloody right.”