"So you finally met him, eh?", chuckled Fern as I mentioned my first few meetings with Claude Frollo. She kept laughing as I helped her unload supplies from a wagon. One nice thing about Jacki's invention was that we were able to travel back and forth through time and space with little trouble.
Fern and I had just returned from a special shopping trip back home; we had to stock up on things that we couldn't possibly get in 15th century France: corn, sweet potatoes, sugar, coffee, and other foods we took for granted in our own time. We were getting somewhat homesick.
We even brought back some recorded music. This was Fern's idea, though I was apprehensive about bringing the CDs. Jacki had rigged a special device on a boombox so we could listen to recorded music whenever we wanted. I never asked Jacki how it worked, must've been solar-powered, since we obviously had no electricity. All I knew was it worked. So now I had my Motown and R&B, and Fern had her country tunes. We had to either keep the volume down or listen with headphones. We would've had a LOT of explaining to do if we ever got caught, and I knew what the charge would be: Witchcraft.

I never told Fern everything about my encounters with Frollo nor did I tell her my true feelings for the Minister of Justice, that I was gradually falling in love with him, and he didn't even know. Fern just gave me a stern warning. "Please try to stay out of trouble, especially if it involves Minister Frollo." She looked at me intently. "I'd hate to tell your folks that their darling daughter's -- ahem -- 'tied up' in Paris and won't be coming home."
She then embraced me, chuckling in that southern Indiana twang, "Girlfriend, if you want to be friendly with the likes of Claude Frollo, that's your business."
As Fern settled herself in the wagon and took the reins in hand, she said, "It's weird but it's your business. Just be careful."
"Don't worry about me, Fern", I said, "I won't get in trouble." Fern left for that old chateau where she kept the '59 Chevy. She said she had to take care of some business.
Odd, I thought, she never let me venture inside that magnificant house. I always had to stay outside while Fern readied the Chevy. The car remained secure in another building on the estate. How could she just stash the car on private property without permission? Why hasn't anyone discovered it by now? Why hasn't anyone questioned our comings and goings? And why were these trips always made at night?

I pushed those thoughts from my mind as I pondered Fern's warning, 'be careful'. There was no need to be extra cautious around Claude Frollo any more, as I encountered him several times since that odd business in the cathedral. Just pleasant small talk and a few smiles passed between us, nothing more. I really felt that we could finally become friends. What happened later that morning proved me right. A nice compliment and some homebaking at last helped to break the ice.
Fern had brought back so many pecans that I decided to take advantage of the pleasant late-June weather and do some baking. I baked a variety of wonderful things: cookies for the kids, a pie for Quasimodo. I then packed some cookies in a pretty tin for Minister Frollo; he should appreciate this.
I must've had an attack of ESP, for at that very moment, Claude Frollo had just rode past our house. I immediately went to the door and started to call out to him. He must've sensed my presence as he circled back and stopped.
Oh, he looks so handsome! He wasn't wearing the splendid black velvet judicial robe with its jewel-trimmed yoke and epaulets. Instead, he wore a casual, hunter-style outfit complete with tall boots, tunic, form-fitting black hose, a sweeping cloak, and the famous triangular hat with its long red veil. The entire ensemble fitted his tall, slender form perfectly.
Claude Frollo smiled as he greeted me. "Good Morning, my dear. And what a good morning it is now that I have seen your charming face." I returned the smile and, feeling a little silly, replied in a mock-Southern, down-on-de-ole-plantation dialect, "Mornin', Min'ster Frollo, suh. Much 'bliged y'all kin stop by an' set a spell. I has some pow'ful tasty pecan cake in yonder. Y'all sho' is welcomed."
Claude Frollo couldn't stop laughing as he dismounted and approached me. "Is this the language of the New World? It's rather odd and harsh...", he said as I welcomed him inside. "Coming from you, my dear Mlle. Wood, it is like pure music."
"I would be delighted", continued Frollo, "to partake some light refreshment, especially in the company of such a beautiful hostess."
I tried to keep my nervousness from showing during Frollo's brief visit, but here he was, the Minister of Justice himself, sharing a piece of cake, a cup of lemonade, and pleasant conversation. Frollo favorably commented on my baking skills and developed a fondness for pecans that persists to this day. It was a pleasant, although short, visit. My heart sank as I showed him to the door.
"Good looking horse, Your Grace", I said as Frollo mounted that gorgeous black stallion. I handed over the tin of cookies. "Percheron stallion, am I right?", I asked.
Claude Frollo grinned. "You are as keenly observant as you are lovely. How did you know?"
"My grandpa owned Belgians", I replied, "and I just like big horses." I asked, "What's his name?"
"I call him 'Snowball'", replied His Grace.
I looked at Frollo quizzically. "Minister Frollo, this horse is not white, he's black. Naming a black horse 'Snowball'?...That's like naming a polar bear 'Midnight'."
I was certain that the good judge would slap me upside my head, but he just softly chuckled and said, "My dear, never lose that special style of humor. I will admit I am getting used to it..." He paused for a few seconds, then adding at last, "And getting used to you."
His eyes met mine and he grew strangely silent. We looked at each other for several moments, then Claude Frollo spoke at last. "I thank you for the treats. I'd love to stay longer but I do have duties to perform."
I offered him a bright smile. "Minister Frollo, you're welcomed here anytime. I know you're busy, but, drop by every now and then." Claude Frollo returned the smile. "I shall," he said, "Oh yes, one more thing. Do call me 'Claude'. I know you have been very polite and formal, but we know each other well enough to be on Christian terms, Danisha." He smiled again, said good-bye, and rode off.

It was so weird, I thought, that only a few days ago we were at odds. Now Claude and I were growing closer with each passing day, but only as friends. I didn't care what people said about him, about his cruel nature and cold-heartedness. In those early days of our friendship, Claude always treated me with patience and kindness.
Often I would go to the Palace of Justice and we would read poetry to each other. Sometimes Claude would show me his collection of tapestries because, somehow, he knew of my keen interest in the textile arts.
For several weeks, I had hoped that things would change for us, but I didn't have the guts to tell him that I loved him. I imagined he'd be offended if I confessed my true feelings; he never voiced his for me.
Maybe it was all for the best, since, as of August, I would never see him again. I decided to treasure the close bond between us while my vacation lasted.

But an innocent game -- a game that wouldn't be invented for another 400 years -- nearly ended a special friendship that was destined to blossom into romance and passion.

Go to Chapter 11!

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