The short story “One Life for Another”, builds upon William Shakespeare’s famous play, Romeo and Juliet. This text gives a peek on the day Juliet was born, and the brief struggle the nurse experiences leading up to that moment.
She gazed at the bundle in her arms, the salty tears threatening to escape. The haunting memories of her husband’s death was nothing compared to the pain that inside her as she beheld her lifeless child. Her Susan hadn’t managed to get through her second night, being too weak to eat. Breathing heavily, the mother felt her chest collapse as she crashed to her knees, holding the still warm bundle close to her breasts. Death was such sweet sorrow.
Consumed in her grief, she did not notice her Lady and best companion traipse over behind her. Suddenly, she felt a soft weight squeezing protectively on her shoulder. Sensing Lady Capulet’s presence, it made her feel not quite so alone.
“I cannot imagine the pain thou art going through,” Lady Capulet rasped, “thee wast an excellent mother.” The loss of Susan would affect everyone in the estate, even the Lady’s unborn child. The Lady beckoned for the midwife following her to take the nurse’s child.
The nurse lifted her teary gaze, letting it fall on Lady Capulet’s swollen belly, cringing from the harrowing reminder. Taking a deep and shaky breath, she rose and held the Lady’s soft, delicate hand in her own, “Doth not mind me, we has’t to taketh of thee.” The only child of Capulet, this was a legacy no one could afford to lose. The nurse let her sight trail upwards towards the Lady’s pale and sickened face. A deadly sickness had already plagued most of the estate, taking many lives. She prayed that Time’s winged chariot would not reach the Lady’s child.
“If ‘t be true anything lacking valor happeneth, promise me thee wilt taketh care of mine issue,” the Lady’s words rang in her head, reminding her of a promise she now doubted she could keep. Lady Capulet only trusted her to raise the child, only the nurse. How could she raise a child if she couldn’t keep her own alive?
They walked down the darkened estate corridor, their shadows dancing from each torch they passed. Their soft footsteps echoed through the bland, stone hallway as they silently conversed.
Suddenly, Lady Capulet lurched forwards, clutching her belly. The nurse hesitated, her blurred gaze unable to understand the scene in front of her for a moment. Lady Capulet’s screams pierced the air, snapping the nurse back into reality. She grabbed her lady’s shoulders and carefully guided her into the nearest bedroom, a medium sized bedroom where the nurse slept. She cried out for the midwifes, and calmingly whispered into the Lady’s ear. Glistening sweat dripped down her face, her panting raspy from the sickness. The midwifes fussed and worried over their lady, their faces worry-stricken about the birth. Lady Capulet screamed for silence, still heaving and pushing steadily, her eyes beginning to narrow in exhaustion. As Lady Capulet heaved the final push, the nurse’s chest tightened, feeling her own breaths quickening as she neared her decision. Would she raise the child? She concluded the best way to keep the child alive was to abandon it to the midwifes, she couldn’t imagine the pain it would bring upon the Lady if the nurse ruined the child.
“Nurse?” a small voice trembled, snapping her thoughts back to the scene before her. She spun slowly, counting each nearing second with fear. The nurse couldn’t do this, she just couldn’t face the Lady.
The red-faced Lady lay breathless on her bed, her eyes fluttering, hardly managing to keep them open, “Nurse, please. Please raise Juliet for me. While this sickness consumes me, I doubt the midwifes can keep Juliet healthy.”
The nurse shut her eyes tightly until she couldn’t stand the pain any longer. Was she going to stay loyal to her oldest friend and raise the child? Or was she going to abandon them both by the fear that agonized her? Taking a deep and shaky breath, she opened her eyes with a decision made. “Pass me the child, madam.”