The Barista of Verona by Steve Goodlad

“This is my cousin Merrie’s coffee house; we should be safe in here”. Juliet felt like a fugitive evading the law and crept in ahead of Romeo. Romeo’s nonchalance was an act but they both seemed to relax once they were off the crowded street. 

Merrie was surprised to see them both and looked Juliet up and down with little heed to discretion. Her smile didn’t reach her eyes until she turned to Romeo, her favourite cousin and asked what she could get them. 

“Two cappuccinos’?” he said looking at Juliet. She nodded approval and was glad to look away from Merrie’s searing appraisal and seek a place to sit. 

“I shouldn’t be here” she said once they were seated opposite each other. “Now you have second thoughts” he said with a grin. “It didn’t take much persuasion to get you to climb down from the balcony.” 

“I was scared for you being on my Fathers property. You could have been caught by his security.” 

“I cut the wires on his CCTV” admitted Romeo. 

Juliet was astonished. She couldn’t believe the turn of events of the last few days or what she had got herself into. Her Father had held a party for several hundred “wannabe” noticed people, a handful of influencers of products he had a finger in, some players from Hellas Verona the Capulet owned team of Serie A, dignitaries that he liked to keep sweet, the local constables that he paid to look the other way at certain times of the day and who should stroll in but the son of a Montague. Montague owned Chievo Verona and Romeo was their star striker, but their team was less than mediocre at the side of Hellas. 

Romeo had a forged press pass for one of her Fathers tabloid newspapers, using a camera to pose as paparazzi. No one expected a Montague to have the gall to elude security. Their eyes had met initially on the red carpeted entrance where she was begrudgingly greeting guests on behalf of her Father in front of the public as though at a film premiere. Merrie placed two coffees in front of them. Juliet noticed the one nearest to Romeo had a heart shape of chocolate sprinkles, whereas hers was plain froth. She ignored the obvious slight. 

“Why were you really at my Father’s party? 

“Juliet, to be honest with you”. He leaned forward conspiratorially his gaze so close to hers he could see the hazel speckles of her eyes. “My cousin Benny had noticed my melancholy. It’s not been a great season. He told me of a fair-haired girl he knew about. She was a Capulet and he dared me to attend the party and seek her out”. 

“But how did Benny know of me?” 

“He didn’t. He was talking about Rosy, but I don’t know what he saw in her. As soon as I saw her, I decided to leave, until I saw you on my way out and then….. I had other plans.” She smiled. “She thinks she’s the Queen of Verona that one”. Cousin Rosy was older and she thought herself beautiful but Romeo had not thought so and he seemed smitten with Juliet and willing to risk her Father’s wrath if he ever found out who her lover was. “If Tybalt finds us, we’re done for” she said 

“Who is he anyway?”

“He is my cousin and one of Fathers henchmen. He thinks himself important. Father thinks he’s a minion. Tybalt thinks he deserves greater favour and he seeks ways to please Father to accelerate his management credential in his cartel. He recognised you that night and made a great show of your expulsion from the party to make sure Father knew the whole story. Ironically, you did him a favour and he will seek you out if only to further his chance of promotion”. 

“He doesn’t scare me” and then he hesitated as a shadow passed over their table and he looked up to see the red shirt of Tybalt, the Capulet uniform. He sat down next to Juliet’s seat. 

“Fancy meeting you two” he sneered at Romeo.” Does Capulet know you are here? Tybalt looked at Juliet’s lipstick-stained cup. 

“There’s been another security breach at the Capulet estate, I don’t suppose you know anything of it?” 

Juliet turned on Tybalt to scold him for following her. 

“You should leave your phone at home,” Tybalt said to her. 

“You tracked me?” 

“Your Fathers orders, he wants you home and an end to this nonsense with a Montague” “Capulet must be a real control freak if he cannot allow his own daughter to make her own mind up about who she sees and doesn’t?” It was a risky riposte by Romeo if Juliet was insulted too by it, but she understood full well the family dynamics she was born into, its restrictions now more apparent in her late teens than when she had been younger. “Montague must be getting slipshod if he allows his star striker to skip training from Chievo. No wonder they are Serie B.” 

Romeo was on his feet in a flash, the jibe hit a nerve. Tybalt stood and challenged him to meet him in the yard for “a bloody nose”. Romeo restrained him and tried to explain his reluctance to fight back as a kinship with Juliet. 

Merrie rushed to his side, negative publicity could affect her business and she knew Romeo could not risk an injury. “He’s not worth it Romeo”. Then she added: “Out now, both of you”, to Tybalt and Juliet. “These are my premises; the Capulets are not to be welcomed here”. “Romeo?” Said Juliet 

Romeo sat back down, Merrie’s hand still on his shoulder. 

“Ha, his defence of you is just like Chievo” smirked Tybalt 

Juliet gaped and Tybalt grinned. “Take it easy Lightweight” he said. “You honour your team above all else. Come Juliet, we are not welcome here as the lady said: “star-cross’d lovers indeed.” 

Published in Issue #10

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