“Here’s the mail, Mother.”
Tybalt looked up as Juliet handed a neat pile of letters to her mother, then bounced into her seat at the breakfast table across from her cousin.
“Is there anything for me?” he asked, more out of desire to keep the conversation on a neutral topic than out of any actual interest. Thus, he was quite surprised when his aunt, not even looking up from the rest of the letters, held one of them out in his general direction.
Frowning, Tybalt examined the envelope, wondering who it could be from—a challenge from a Montague, perhaps. “Media Starrz, LLC?” he read off the address label, now even more confused.
“What is it, Tybalt?” Juliet asked as he tore the envelope open and removed a folded sheet of letterhead.
“Hang on, I’ll read it…” Tybalt scanned the page to see why on earth a company with a ridiculous name like that would have any reason to contact him. “Pleased to inform you…that you have been accepted as a contestant?…next season of Boy Band Starrz begins filming in August.” Tybalt set the letter down and looked in the envelope to see if there was any explanation of this prank. He found nothing but it seemed like the sort of ludicrous thing Mercutio might think was funny.
“Wow, that’s great, Tybalt!” Juliet exclaimed, clapping her hands and nearly toppling her glass of orange juice.
This jolted Tybalt out of his daydream of revenge on Mercutio. “Huh?”
“Isn’t it great that your audition was accepted. The audition you sent in. By yourself.”
Juliet used this firm tone of voice very rarely, but when she did there was nothing that could be done except agree. “…sure?”
Tybalt looked at the letter again. Now that he had gotten over his initial shock, there was something about an audition in it. Juliet was now smiling knowingly, so she was clearly to blame for this nonsense.
He did sing sometimes—he liked singing, it was relaxing and when he was swept up in a melody he could briefly forget his duties as guardian of the Capulets. But he knew he had never taped himself, and he avoided singing where anyone could possibly hear him. There was no way he would ever go on television where all of Verona would watch his performance!
Tybalt shoved the letter roughly back into the envelope. “I’m not—”
“Isn’t it wonderful.” Juliet snapped. “I can’t wait to watch.”
“Yes,” Tybalt conceded immediately. His younger cousin was tiny but could display all the ferocity of the Capulets when she wanted.
“Don’t you think so, Mother?”
Mrs. Capulet glanced up from the letter she was reading. “Hmm? Oh, certainly. Why, if he wins it would be a great chance to show the superiority of our family over those wretched Montagues.”
“There, you see?” Juliet beamed. “Now, let me see that letter. We have to make sure you’re ready in time!”
Juliet was so busy with ‘preparations’ the rest of the day that it was after supper before Tybalt could confront her about her treachery.
“Why would you do that?” he demanded, finally cornering his cousin in the library, where she was sorting through a pile of books of sheet music.
“What, don’t you like singing?” Juliet retorted, marking one of the pages but shutting the book before Tybalt could see what song she had chosen.
“That…that’s not the point.”
“I kind of feel like that is the point, Tybalt.”
“But—” Tybalt decided to try a different angle. “How did you even know?”
After setting aside the books of sheet music, Juliet picked up her tablet and flicked through a few screens. At first, all that could be heard was fuzzy crackling, then soft humming and a few guitar chords.
“I dreamed a dream in time gone by
When hope was high
And life worth living
I dreamed that love would never die…”
“…I thought you were asleep,” Tybalt protested when Juliet paused the recording. He remembered when it must have been: one night when it had been too warm in his room he had gone out on the balcony with his guitar (a worn instrument he had secretly rescued during preparations for a Capulet family yard sale). “Is that what you sent in?”
“Yes, and it seems that they really liked it. This is going to be fun! You should be happy.”
Tybalt sighed. “Juliet, I know you’re trying to be helpful and do something nice for me, but I can’t do this! I’m not going to go out and sing in front of people, what will they think of me?”
“They’ll think you’re good looking and talented. I’m going to have to buy a broom to beat off the fangirls.” From how glibly the answer came it was clear Juliet had been thinking through this scheme for quite a while.
“Juliet, I can’t.”
“Tybalt, you’ll be fine! Just you see, it’ll go great…don’t make that face! Look, I’ll be right there with you, okay? Everything will be fine.”
“How will you be–”
By now almost resigned to his fate (when Juliet was convinced she was right, nothing would dissuade her, and for some reason she was convinced that Tybalt belonged in a music competition) Tybalt followed Juliet up the stairs and, strangely enough, into his bedroom.
Tybalt could only watch as his cousin searched through his closet and removed a leather jacket, one of his scarves, and a red shirt. Unfortunately, she also found his guitar and spent almost a minute cooing over how 'cute’ it was. (It was not his fault that the previous owner had left several Hello Kitty decals on it. He would definitely have removed them if he wasn’t worried about hurting the instrument. Definitely.)
“Hang on, be right back,” Juliet declared before dashing across the hall to her own room.
Once she was gone, Tybalt sat down on his bed with a sigh. He did want to enter the music competition, now that he considered it, but he couldn’t! It wouldn’t be seemly for the warrior of the Capulets to be seen engaging in such frivolity.
But if Juliet wanted something, Juliet tended to get it, especially if Tybalt was the one she asked it of. And since she was doing all of this just to help him out, to deny her would be doubly harsh in this situation.
“Okay, I’m back!” Juliet shouted, throwing open the door of Tybalt’s room.
Tybalt looked up, trying to think of a new argument that would get him out of this without making him look ungrateful, but quickly lost all control of his powers of speech.
The figure standing before him was recognizable as Juliet, if he thought about it, but anyone else would be hard pressed to discern the Capulet heiress in the apparent teenage boy leaning against the doorjamb.
Juliet was wearing Tybalt’s shirt and leather jacket with her own skinny jeans and a pair of Converse sneakers. A short, fluffy blond wig covered her own hair, and atop that was a baseball cap with a large Verona Tigers logo. Tybalt’s scarf, draped loosely around her neck, and a pair of absolutely massive sunglasses completed the look.
“Meet JC. What do you think?”
Tybalt tried to think of something to say but only managed a slight choking sound. Juliet’s own mother wouldn’t recognize her now!
“See? Come on, this is going to be awesome!”
In the face of a world that had clearly gone insane, Tybalt gave up. “Okay. I’m in.”