Fern Grigsby, a large woman in her early fifties, smiled and nodded as Claude took his place by the hearth. His eyes briefly scanned her plump, cheery face.
A very astute woman . . . Very brilliant, observant, keen . . . That backwoods manner belies a sharp and cunning mind . . . This woman came to me nearly a year ago . . . Something about her clicked with me rather quickly, ever since that day she told me she was from the New World...
-- From the 20th Century! I had to know for I had seen that infernal contraption she had hidden
away at Chateau d'Arcy . . . Fern said a former student -- a woman at that -- had invented this
wondrous device - a device that allows its user to travel through time . . . And I had the good
fortune to see this device in action . . . Imagine! The Minister of Justice, a man of the
15th Century, getting a momentary glimpse into the future . . . The things I've seen . . .
"Hey! Earth to Claude Frollo! Come in, Your Excellency!"
Fern laughed long and hard as Claude responded with equal good humor.
"I'm sorry, Fern, but I simply can't get over the fact that more than 500 years separate us. To tell the truth, my brief excursion to your time was quite the eyeopener!"
Fern smiled again as she and Claude Frollo engaged in lively conversation. He asked her about
her family, particularly about her husband and son.
"I hope your husband isn't missing you too terribly."
"Dwayne? Oh, he can take care of himself, but he's due back from Dallas tomorrow afternoon. It's why I need to get back to my time."
Claude understood this, although he hated seeing such a good friend -- Yes, she was a fine friend as well as a fine spy.
"Your Grace, I just wanna spend some time with my man and boy. You know, Kyle's starting his
second year of college and I promised him a summer time trip and all."
To this Claude Frollo softly chuckled, "Ah, many parents in my time send their sons to Italy. You take young Kyle on a trip to . . . What's the destination?"
Fern quickly replied, "19th Century Texas -- 1845 to be precise. I want Kyle to see history in the making."
Frollo smiled again, poured wine for Fern and himself, then asked her when she would return."Hopefully some time next month, perhaps stay most of the summer," she said, then snapped her fingers when she added, "Which reminds me!"
"Claude, I need to ask you something. It's kinda sticky, but if it's all right with you, then maybe . . . Nah!"
Claude leaned forward and said, "My dear Fern, whatever's on your mind?"
"Claude, you know I've been able to conceal the fact that I'm from the future. I mean, I've made a few friends here and, heck, I learned a lot from these folks. But, I'd like to . . . "
"Your Honor, I'd like to bring along a friend when I return. I know she'd get a real kick out of this, but that's where it gets sticky."
Fern took a deep breath, then finally admitted, "You see; my buddy's a 'woman of color'. There! I flat out said it!"
Claude Frollo leaned back in his chair; his face showed no change in expression. He pondered Fern's words then said, "So, you wish to bring your friend to the 15th Century. You say she is of color . . . ?"
Fern flatly replied, "Yeah, she's Black, African-American, 'of Nubian extraction', etc, etc . . . "
Frollo laughed a bit but his face hardened. Did Fern mean that? She would actually bring such a person here? To 15th Century Paris? Idiocy!
Fern sensed Frollo's reaction and proceeded to pull a photograph from her purse. She handed it to Claude who in turn held it close to the firelight for a better look. His eyes widened at once; his expression softened, then broke into smiles.
He studied the photograph of the comely Black woman perched on a desk. She beamed at the
camera with all the confidence and polish of a queen. Her skin was the color of dark, silky honey;
her large brown eyes glowed with a soft, almost ethereal light. The hair was neatly upswept, with
strands framing her oval face. The nails gleamed with the brilliance of fine opals. The deep violet
suit with its black silk shell only enhanced her already glorious figure and features. And that
figure was slightly plump, and very curvy -- feminine voluptuousness at its finest.
But those shoes! Claude Frollo's eyebrows shot up quizzically when he got a good look at her footwear. How does she walk in such shoes? Those heels must be a good three inches!
But the smile returned as his eyes devoured her image, and a thousand thoughts raced through his mind.
She's beautiful! A Black Venus! Such proud bearing, for I can tell, even from the delicious smile, she's strong, brilliant . . . Who is she? What is this place? Looks like a school, but . . .
Fern smiled when she said, "That was taken last September, during a faculty workshop. She taught in the same building as me."
Once again, Claude Frollo raised an eyebrow, his eyes never wavering from the photograph. She's an educator? A teacher? I need to know more . . .
"What is her name?", His Grace asked, now completely intrigued with Fern's mysterious friend.
"Her name is Danisha LeShawn Wood. She teaches American history and geography."
Claude smiled again, replying, "That's a lovely name -- 'Danisha LeShawn'. Tell me more, dear
Fern went on to explain that she met Danisha many years ago. "About ten years ago, she did her
student teaching in my building; we've been buddies ever since."
Fern continued that Danisha had landed another, more prestigious teaching position, "At one of our best high schools. Yep, she'll be teaching in the humanities' program."
She then told Claude all about Danisha's parents: Joe and Geraldine Wood. Joe had been an educator for more than forty years, serving as classroom instructor then went on to become department head.
"He finally became an associate professor of sociology a couple of years ago. Dr. Wood shows no sign of slowing down."
Claude Frollo couldn't hide his sheer amazement as Fern told him of Danisha's social and professional standing. She told Frollo all about Danisha's involvement in "This and that activity -- church, charity, neighborhoods -- You name it; she does it. I gotta hand it to her; she's got it all: Money in the bank, a loving family. Hey, did I mention that she bought a house a few months ago?"
Now Claude was more intrigued than ever; he had to meet this woman. But, there is that delicate matter of . . .
"Claude, I know what you're thinking, and it's why I need your advice. The last thing I want is to bring Nisha here and have Parisians give her a hard time. I'm aware of how folks would react, but once they see that she's a great gal, a sincere Christian . . . "
Claude had to interrupt. "You say she's Christian, and that she's active in her church." Fern nodded.
"Then, dear Fern, that may very well be the strong . . . as you say . . . 'selling point'. But, as much as she fascinates me . . . "
Claude's voice trailed off as his eyes returned to the photograph.
'Danisha' . . . the name is so different, almost musical . . . My dear, there is something about you I find extremely compelling . . . It must be the power, the education, the refinement . . . and your beauty is -- Oh, my dear -- I must meet you . . .
Fern watched Claude's face undergo a myriad of expressions, while she continued to ponder whether to invite her friend on a trek through time.
Who knows? It might do her some good . . . She's had a rough year and all . . . Maybe she and Claude will click . . . He seems like he needs Nisha . . . And maybe Nisha needs him . . .
Finally she said, "Claude, I know it might be asking too much, but my mind was made up long ago: I'm bringing Danisha when I return in June."
The Minister of Justice smiled, then cautioned his spy that she must prepare the citizens for Danisha's arrival. He smiled again when she told him that Nisha "Has this way with kids -- It's why she's so successful with her students. It doesn't matter how old the kid is, or the color, or the size -- Nisha loves kids. That maybe the key to get her accepted."
Claude nodded then told Fern, "Of anyone who'd see that your friend is comfortable, may I suggest that you recruit your neighbor, Pierre Mannette. He seems a fair and persuasive man. As for the children, may I suggest you introduce her to Jules and Renee. If Danisha is, as you say, a 'hit' with youngsters, then those two will have one more person on their side."
And so, the Minister of Justice and his spy continued to lay out their plan for Danisha's arrival. But, Fern cautioned, there was one more thing.
"She'll be all right with the time travel and all, but she may not be comfortable with our role in all this. May I suggest that we keep this in utmost secrecy." Frollo agreed wholeheartedly, then Fern said something else.
"I could tell, just from your expression, that you may want to . . . umm . . . hook up with her. But, Claude, you have to approach her carefully. You see; Danisha's had a very rough year and all. She's settling into a new home, and she's only months out of a bad relationship. I won't go into the details; if she comes across as aloof, defensive, maybe a little combative, you'll know why. Danisha's not disrespectful -- No way!" Fern continued, "It's that, sometimes, she can put up this wall between herself and the world, especially when things get too much for her. She's a sweetheart, and one tough lady, but sometimes she can become quite fragile. I just don't want to see her get hurt; she's had enough of that."
Claude Frollo looked at the photograph, then at Fern, and replied, "Fern, I assure you I will treat this young lady with the dignity and respect she deserves. However, I'm leaving it up to you to make her first few days go as smoothly as possible."
His eyes were on the photograph when he finally said, "I have a strong feeling that Mlle. Danisha
and I will get along quite famously. And I can tell that her presence may very well have a
profound impact, not only upon my life, but upon those of many other Parisians."
It was after eight o'clock the morning and the power was still out. Late last night, Claude had started to recount how he and Fern prepped medieval Parisians for my initial arrival. I had no idea the lengths they went just to make my summer in 15th Century France as comfortable and enjoyable as possible. Of course, there was a matter of convincing these medieval folks that I was human, and that I posed no threat to them or to their children.
But, halfway through his story, I fell asleep. All the stress from the storm, the power outage, and that bitter encounter with Phil took its toll on me. Claude let me sleep on, deciding to continue his recollection in the morning.
So, for this morning, and since the power was still out, I decided to treat Claude Frollo to breakfast and shopping. The only thing to do was to secure a rental car since my Camry was still in the shop.
Within the hour, Claude and I were presently streaming toward downtown in a snazzy, glossy black, Cadillac DeVille. Ooh . . . this cars' so sharp . . . so comfortable . . . Hmm . . . Claude must think . . . Claude?
Look at him in his modern outfit . . . Baby I like those black pants . . . Yeah . . . They fit in all the right places . . . And that black shirt . . . Too cool, Claude . . .
I had to laugh when he began to play with buttons and such. "Having fun, sugarbritches?"
He returned the good humor, saying, "My love, I remember the first time I rode in an 'automobile'. That machine of Fern's . . . "
"The ''59 Chevy! I remember MY first time in that thing -- and it changed my life forever."
Claude leaned over to kiss me. "Don't forget how my life had been changed. Danisha, I'm forever grateful to Fern for bringing you to Paris, to my time. I'm also forever grateful that you accepted her invitation, and that you stayed on despite the initial indifference."
Yeah, 'initial indifference' . . . I had a tough time adjusting, but it all paid off handsomely . . . I came to love so many people . . . And they came to love me, despite our differences . . .
"Of course, dear Claude, the circumstances for people of color were different. There was no 'color prejudice' per se. That wouldn't exist until well after 1500. No, Claude, I think the biggest hurdle was to prove my humanity. Fern took me to Mass at Notre Dame. Later, when I was sitting in the square and reading a book, that kid approached me and wondered . . . "
Claude interrupted, "He wondered how someone like you could read, when he couldn't read himself. I believe that those two things -- your education and your religious leanings -- finally helped to break the ice."
Oh it broke the ice all right . . . I'm not Catholic, but Fern helped me out with Mass . . . That was an experience . . . Folks knew my heart was in the right place . . . Of course, Fern had to tease me when I bought my Bible along . . . I had also brought along some old classic American novels. That sure attracted some attention . . .
...Then that little boy, what's his name? Paul d'Arques . . . He had a little brother . . . His father worked in the Palais stables . . . He reported to Claude . . .
And the rest, as they say, is history . . .
"Claude?", I asked when we emerged from the parking garage, "Why don't I tell my part then you can fill in the holes."
Claude Frollo laughed heartily as he escorted me inside the restaurant, a very favorite spot for
breakfast. Over a delicious meal of sausage, pancakes, and coffee, we began to reminisce those
events that led to our first encounter.
To Part 5!
©Copyright, FrolloFreak FSM #14, 1998