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Misguided Misunderstandings

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Prologue

Hero couldn’t believe the words coming out of Claudio’s mouth. What would make him think she would cheat on him? He was speaking very calmly, if a little shaky from fighting off tears. He looked down as he spoke. He told her he just wanted the truth.  And that’s exactly what she told him.

“I promise you, I did not, would not, and will never cheat on you.”

He gazed up at her. Disbelief in his eyes. His voice raised when he asked the dreaded question. “Then what happened on Friday night?”

She stared at him with bewilderment.

“With Robbie,” he continued, slightly angrier, but mostly hurt. “I saw him go in your back door on Friday night and your light turned on and there were…silhouettes in the window.”

“Friday night Bea and I had a sleepover with Ursula and,” she paused in realization, “Meg.”

“So you didn’t sleep with Robbie?” Claudio asked with brightness returning to his voice.

She leaned in and kissed him delicately, but passionately.

“Does that answer your question?”

Chapter 1

“So, I bet you’re all wondering why I’ve called you to this meeting of Team Love Gods. We haven’t had a meeting since the marvelous day I hatched the brain-child of an idea to get Beatrice Duke and Benedick Hobbes together. A relationship that I know we all—”  

“Enough with the theatrics, Pedro,” Meg groaned, “Just get on with it.”

‘Team Love Gods’, as they liked to call themselves, sat in a circle in Pedro Donaldson’s bedroom to discuss the lives of their friends, and how they should best meddle in them.

“Right,” he continued, “As you can see, Ben reacted exactly how we expected. Bea on the other hand,” he sighed. “Rebellious as always.”

“I wouldn’t say rebellious,” Hero chimed in, “She’s just a free thinker.”

“Well her ‘free thinking’ is ruining the plan,” Claudio replied in a huffy voice.

“I wouldn’t say it’s ruined,” Balthazar piped.

“Yeah,” Ursula added, “she could still come around.”

“But why wait when all we really need is to come up with a way to get Bea and Ben in the same room, agreeing on something so they can stop bickering for two seconds and discover their true feelings,” Pedro stated as if he were simply stating how to make chocolate chip cookies. And as if on cue, ideas, protests, and questions flew from every direction.

Balthazar started to raise his hand but realized it was a bit juvenile. Still, it caused the group to quiet down and look his way. Pedro gave him a smile and a nod, which gave him the confidence to speak. “I was just thinking that it has to be something significant, otherwise they’ll just disagree out of spite.”

“True, but it can’t be too serious,” Hero added, “otherwise parents might think they have to get involved.”

A pause filled the air for a second as the group thought until they simultaneously erupted into full volume.

It was Claudio who spoke up this time. “What if Hero cheated on me and I yelled at her in front of everyone. Like at a party or something.”

By now most of the group knew about the misunderstanding that John had caused, though no one really knew why he did it. Maybe he actually believed it. The group quietly thought as Meg leaned over to Balthazar and caught him up on the details.

“Wait,” Ursula said, interrupting the quiet, “has anyone told Ben or Bea about this?”

“I meant to tell Bea but I hadn’t gotten around to it,” Hero explained. “Everything turned out fine so I didn’t really think it was that important.”

“And Ben definitely saw the video I posted about what John told me,” Pedro added, “but I never told him it wasn’t true. Did you?” he asks, looking to Claudio.

“Completely slipped my mind,” he replied.

“Then it’s settled,” the captain exclaimed, “we’ll stage the whole thing. Bea and Ben will both take Hero’s side because who would ever believe that Hero, of all people, would do something like that.”

“Wait,” Claudio protested, “I don’t want to be the villain here.”

 “Well we can make it look like you had reason to believe she cheated,” Pedro thought out loud. “It’ll be perfect because we already have the groundwork laid with John’s video. We can even make another one, telling the audience what we saw and ask them for advice or something.”

“And when it happens you guys can all side with me,” Claudio added. This gained him a few looks from the girls. “I mean so they’ll have to be alone together.”

“Well I guess I’d be mad at her for sleeping with Robbie,” Meg added hesitantly, “that’s who John said it was, right? I’ve been looking for an excuse to break up with him for good, anyway. He’s an ass. So I guess it makes sense that I wouldn’t speak with her. And the boys can side with Claudio because you guys are all bros or whatever. But it doesn’t really make sense for Ursula to side with Claudio. And I think Hero deserves at least one friend other than the future couple.”

“Makes sense,” Claudio agreed. “Hey maybe we could get Leo in on it or something. I mean, he helped with the first plan.”

“Um, sure,” Pedro stated as he weighed the options. It didn’t quite make sense to him but it could help to have an adult. “I mean it can’t hurt to ask.” He paused.

“So when are we doing this?” asked Ursula, “because I’m going to be out in the wilderness for about a week before Hero’s birthday party.”

“Then why not at Hero’s birthday party?” Claudio suggested.

Right then, all eyes turned to the birthday-girl-to-be. She hadn’t said much since they started getting into the details.

“You don’t have to if you don’t want to,” Balthazar reassured her. “It’s a big day for you.”

“It’s fine,” she said, a bit tentatively.

“You’re sure?” he asked.

“Yeah,” she replied. “I mean, I’m only turning 16, it’s not like it’s my 21st or anything.”

Chapter Text

Before

Before it all they reviewed the plan. Hero would blow out her candles and get her wish. Then Claudio would accuse her of cheating with Robbie. Meg would smack him, break it off, and run out. Pedro would back up Claudio’s claims and they would storm out with Balthazar. Hero would run to Bea’s arms and they would go to Hero’s room. Ursula would follow, taking Ben with her if he didn’t go on instinct. Bea and Ben would bond and, if all went according to plan, after a week, Team Love Gods would reveal the ploy and everything would go back to normal. That is, plus a new couple.

At least, that was the plan.

The Party

Claudio: It’s show time, he thought as Hero blew out the candles on her beautiful chocolate birthday cake. He thought about how no one could ever believe his story. No one could think that he would actually hate Hero. He wasn’t sure how, but he had to try to be realistic. He channelled all the anger within him. The confusion from when he’d first seen Pedro’s video. The denial from when he saw Robbie walk into the Dukes’ house. The pain from seeing the light of Hero’s bedroom window flick on. He thought about the way his Dad always treated his Mum. How he treated Claudio. How they didn’t deserve it. It all combined into a giant rage he felt in the pit of his stomach. The beer he’d had before definitely helped. Robbie yelled for a speech and he knew the time had come for all the emotions he was feeling to come out. It’s show time.

Hero: He loves me. It had to be true. She knew they were doing this for Beatrice and Benedick’s own good. She put on her best naïve voice when Claudio started the fight scene they’d worked on. They’d practiced a lot, with lots of hugging and kissing and affection to make up for it after. She knew they couldn’t do that this time, at least, not until Bea and Ben got together but she was fine with that. Hero had become a much better actress since the conversation that Bea ‘overheard’. Claudio was a pretty convincing actor himself. The way he commanded the room, she almost believed he was actually angry. But he couldn’t be, certainly not at her. That wouldn’t make sense. She knew he cared for her. She just knew. He loves me.

Meg: He used you. That’s what she told herself to hear about Robbie, instead of the lie about Hero coming out of Claudio’s mouth. Because regardless of anything else, she knew that to be true. She knew it when she smacked that jerk in the face. She didn’t know if it was worth it to humiliate Hero in front of everyone just to get two people together. But it was fine, they all agreed on the plan. That was, until Claudio called Hero a slut. Then he grabbed her and shoved her. And Meg didn’t know what the hell he was thinking or how he would explain or why he dragged them into his sick joke but she told herself the one thing she knew. He used you.

Pedro: Just stick to the plan, he urged to Claudio in his mind. He didn’t know where all that anger came from but now it was out there. He couldn’t believe what his friend said and did. He just went too far. Pedro was about to go when Beatrice stopped him. She told him to sort it out, and although that’s what he intended to do, it still infuriated him. She always had to put herself in charge, be right. He started to tell her off but stopped himself after the first line. He wasn’t sure what he believed anymore. He was supposed to storm out, so he did. Just stick to the plan.

Ursula: Unbelievable. That Claudio would hurt Hero like that. That he would scream and yell and push her like he did. It seemed like more than just an act. She knew he was drunk and in the moment, but there had to be something beneath the surface. Regardless, what he did and said was not okay. Ursula was speechless. Especially because nobody helped. Not even the people who didn’t know about the plan. She ran after the Dukes. It was all just unbelievable.

Balthazar: How could he? How could Claudio say those things after promising Hero he loved her? How could Hero just stand there and take it? How could Meg keep quiet and not defend her friend? How could Ursula? How could Pedro take Claudio’s side after all that just happened? How could Balthazar stand by and watch this all happen just because of a silly plan? How could he?

After

After it all, Balthazar ran after Ursula to help his friends in whatever way he could. It didn’t matter that he and Hero weren’t all that close, he needed to be there. He ended up just brewing tea but at least he could lighten the load a little. Meg got everyone out of the house while, miraculously, kept herself from crying. This was not about her. Ursula started cleaning. She put away the cake, got rid of the trash, washed the dishes, and tidied everything she could. This wasn’t something the others needed to worry about. Pedro took a walk to cool down outside before finding Claudio. He was angry and confused. He needed to punch a wall…or Claudio for screwing everything up. Then he went to look for his friend. Claudio had run off to the park. He sat on a swing, crying. He felt viciously guilty for what had just happened, and rightfully so. He couldn’t believe his rage and needed to talk to Hero. But he couldn’t right now, not after they’d come this far to make the plan work. Hero shut herself in her room, she didn’t want to be with anyone right now. Beatrice and Benedick sat outside her room, talking, getting along. Waiting for her to come out of her room, when she was ready, of course. The plan was working and Hero knew she should’ve been happy. But she wasn’t.

When she blew out her candles, she wished for a happy ending. Now, she wasn’t sure if it would ever come true.

Chapter Text

Hero was sitting in her room, thinking. She had started out pretending to be sad about what Bea thought happened with her and Claudio. Actually, what a lot of people thought happened between her and Claudio.

The way he accused her of cheating. The way he yelled at her, a little louder than they practiced. And the ‘slut’ caught her by surprise but she supposed it made it more convincing. The way he grabbed her and shoved her. That last bit had not been a part of the plan at all. It all made Hero think that maybe there was something more behind it. He’d been so convincing. She hardly needed to pretend to plea and break down. She actually fainted from hyperventilating so much. It all felt so real. But he was just a great actor, right? He would never actually do anything like that, right?

Right, she told herself, as she tried to push the thought out of her mind

But the more she thought about it the worse her stomach felt. She thought back on the makeup tutorial video where Claudio claimed her as “his”. She thought about his possessive nature, his jealousy to Pedro after the costume party. The way he never let her out of his sight and didn’t trust her with any other guys.

After all, he was the one who suggested the idea in the first place. He was the one getting all of the praise out of this situation. She was the one with rumours being spread about her. She was the one being bashed on the internet. And what was he getting? All the sympathy for having a cheating girlfriend. Poor, poor Claudio. Did he actually value her as a person? Was getting Bea and Ben together worth sacrificing her reputation, and now, her happiness? She didn’t feel like a person anymore, she felt like bait.

Suddenly she didn’t want to be alone anymore. She couldn’t go to Leo because he was pretending to take Claudio’s side. And she couldn’t tell Beatrice, that would ruin the plan. The stupid, awful plan. But she had to talk to someone. Ursula was busy with her weird year nines. Apparently they thought something was fishy and have started investigating something. She wasn’t really paying attention all that much. Pedro was pretend ignoring her. So was Meg. And Claudio was out of the question.

Which left Balthazar. He didn’t have any plans she knew of and even though he wasn’t supposed to, he’d helped her at the party. So that meant he could be on her side. She went downstairs to leave. She would just call Balth on the way. But Beatrice was sitting on the couch and looked back at her with sad, caring eyes. She’d been crying too. Hero didn’t say anything as she ran to her cousin. She let out a sob and curled into her embrace.

“Shh, it’s okay,” Bea whispered, “we’ll sort this out.”

Hero cried back incoherent sobs as Bea smoothed her hair. She had tried to start many sentences but there were so many questions whirring in her brain and she wasn’t sure if she really wanted to utter any of them out loud. That would just make them more real.

“That’s it,” Bea muttered, taking her cousin’s face in her hands and moving it to look directly into her eyes. The two sets of puffy, bloodshot eyes stared into each other.

“I’m clearing your name and no one can stop me.” Her words were even, clear, and full of determination. “And I only know one person who can help me.”