George Carey popped his head around the door, after knocking several times with no answer. William Shakespeare sat at his dinner table placed in the middle of the room, ardently writing, his quill flying over the parchment. When George closed the door behind him, he finally looked up.
“George!” he said, an eager smile brightening his face. He immediately rose to his feet. “You couldn’t have appeared at a more convenient time! Come in, come in.”
George stepped into the room while William started collecting all the pages lying around on the table he had been writing on.
“I’ve come to inquire how you’re doing on your newest work, Romeo and— Uhm, what was it again?”
“Juliet,” William replied. “And it’s going well, very well!”
“I’m glad to hear that.”
“I’d been suffering from writer’s block,” William continued, pilling up the last pieces of paper, “But I got hit by a sudden rush of inspiration and now I’m nearly finished.” He faced George, a sparkle in his eyes. “It’s going to be a hit for sure!”
“That’s great news.”
William then pat the surface of the wooden table top.
“Now, you go lie on the table.”
“What? Why?” George asked, stepping back in defense.
“I have to listen to some of the lines in order to see whether they need to be adjusted or not and in order to do that, they need to be acted out,” William explained hastily.
“Why me? Can’t you get some of the actors? I’m sure Richard and Henry are free.”
“No, no, I can’t go out and get them! It has to be now or else my rush of inspiration will vanish before I can write it out.”
“But why do I have to be on the table—”
“My inspiration, George!”
“Fine,” George grumbled. He took off his cloak, sat down on the edge of the table and laid down on the hard surface.
“Alright, so you’re Juliet—”
“Why do I have to be Juliet?”
“Because I’m working on Romeo’s lines mostly, so I have to be Romeo. Anyway, you’re Juliet and you’re dead—”
“Well, no, but you seem dead. Close your eyes.”
George rolled his eyes one more time before he closed them. He could hear William moving around, when suddenly he grabbed his hands.
“What are you doing?”
“Folding your hands. You’re laid out in the family crypt. No way your hands would not be folded in prayer.”
“Is this all really necessary—"
“Be quiet, you’re dead.”
George snorted, but laid still while William flipped through the pages of the play’s script.
“Let’s see, where was I… Duel, death, more duel, more death… Ah, here.” William cleared his throat and started reciting dramatically.
“Will I set up my everlasting rest, And shake the yoke of the inauspicious cosmos From this world-wearied flesh— No, that’s not right.” William slammed the parchment onto the table, next to George, and crossed something out aggressively.
“Stars, it should be stars. Stars are always better. Will I set up my everlasting rest, And shake the yoke of inauspicious stars —keep your eyes closed, George— From this world-wearied flesh. Yes, much better. Eyes, look your last! Arms, take your last embrace! And, lips, O you. The doors of breath, seal with a righteous kiss, A dateless bargain to engrossing death!”
George suddenly felt William’s hot breath on his nose, but before he realized what was happening, William pressed his lips onto his.
“What are you doing!?” George yelled out. He pushed William away by his chest and sat up straight.
“Why, I’m kissing you of course,” William said, blinking in surprise. “I wrote that Romeo kisses Juliet’s lifeless lips.”
“But you don’t have to actually do it!”
“It’s important to feel the moment, George! I cannot put my actors through awkward, forced kisses that don’t feel natural in the story!”
“Is it really necessary?” George huffed.
“Absolutely,” William exclaimed. “Now be a man and lie back down.”
He pushed George back onto the table. George sighed loudly, but then closed his eyes and hands again. He felt William’s lips once more and tried to ignore the heat travelling from his lips throughout his face and all the way to the tips of his ears.
“O true apothecary!” William continued his monologue. “Thy drugs are quick. Thus with a kiss I die.”
Suddenly George felt the full weight of William fall upon his legs and his eyes shot open in surprise. William lay sprawled all over him as Romeo, his eyes closed.
“What happened?” George blurted out.
“Well, I died of course!” William responded, opening his eyes but without lifting himself off George. “Romeo took poison. Now this is where Juliet comes in.”
“I thought she was dead?”
“She only seemed dead. Pay attention, George.”
William pulled a page of the play out of his pocket and handed it to George, still lying down.
“Go on, with feeling.”
George lifted up the paper and started reading the lines, rather stiffly, out loud.
“I will kiss thy lips; Haply some poison yet doth hang on them, To make die with a restorative— Seriously, we have to kiss again?”
William said nothing. He was dead, after all.
George sighed once more, but then looked at William, bent forward and took his face in his hands. William looked quite beautiful, with the serene expression of the deceased Romeo on his face.
George lifted up William’s head slightly and then softly pressed his lips onto his. After what might have been slightly too long, he pulled back and carefully placed William’s head down again.
He stared at William for a couple more seconds, when suddenly the young man whispered: “Your line, George.”
“Ah, uhm…” George quickly looked back at the parchment. “Thy lips are warm.”
“Splendid!” William shouted as he sprung back up. “Exactly how I imagined it. This is going to be a tale of woe for sure. Why George, you’ve gone all red. Are you that engaged in the story?”
George awkwardly crawled off the table and grabbed his cloak.
“I’m afraid I have another engagement, so I’ll take my leave,” he said quickly. “Keep up the… good work, William.”
Once outside, George Carey swung his cloak around his shoulders and took off. William Shakespeare’s next work was going to be a master piece for sure, he thought, while lightly brushing his lips with his fingertips, where their kisses still lingered.