His hand stroked the black lacquered top of that Steinway grand as he
sipped fine California cabernet -- the wine was another gift from his postmodern
lady. He lifted the lid and ran his fingers lightly over the polished ebony
and ivory keys. Never learned to the play this instrument, he thought smilingly,
although Danisha had often, and patiently, showed him how to produce the
most simple of melodies. Yet Frollo, never a man of great patience, simply
let the music lessons fall by the wayside. Besides, with Nadine studying
piano, the child would need an instrument upon which to practice.
In the fading afternoon sunlight, Claude Frollo sadly headed upstairs to his private chambers. He's spent so much time up there, all alone, wondered the servants. Indeed, Frollo's staff had good reason to worry about their master, for Claude Frollo seemed to forget about life all together; his behavior reflected that deep gnawing grief. He picked at his food; he drank more than usual. Hardly anyone came to visit except for Quasimodo, and those visits came few and far between. The bell ringer had the good sense to leave his guardian alone to deal with the pain and grief in his own way.
Then again, this was what Claude needed: time alone, and surrounded with the memories of his lady. And so many wonderful memories, both tangible and intangible. There was that curious cherrywood plant stand, an object with an unusual feature. A tiny lever on the bottom, when tripped, revealed a secret compartment in which he had hidden something: a cassette tape. Now, Claude Frollo, having endured all the secrecy surrounding his 21st Century lover, knew he could never outright reveal everything about Danisha. He endured the all the curious questions about the piano, the plant stand, the occasional humming of odd music -- things that in reality never existed in his late medieval world. He allowed himself a bit of levity when Phillipe Ouimet posed so many questions and comments about "That instrument, this piano." It was during the process of moving out of the Palais that Claude had only this to say: "This particular instrument is manufactured in the New World..."
Claude Frollo had to be extremely careful not to reveal much else, such as the piano actually dating back to the early 1900s, and that plant stand of mid-19th Century origin. But, my dear Nisha, these were the many secrets of your time I had the pleasure of learning...
Closing the door behind him, Claude Frollo sealed himself within his chambers. Upon opening a cabinet door, he revealed that strange 'music machine', a converted compact stereo developed by Jacqueline and Antoine. This wondrous machine needed no electricity; all that was needed was occasional exposure to the sun. "Odd, how sound comes from this spool of tape..., " muttered Frollo to himself as he popped the cassette into the machine then depressed the play button. Never, in his time, would Frollo come near such a thing. Yet here he was, marveling at one of "M. Edison's greatest inventions".
The soft strains of Percy Faith's "A Summer Place" wafted through the room as Claude, once again, sifted through a decade's worth of memories. There were the journals chronicling ten years of romance and adventure; photographs scattered here and there. Claude picked up one of Nadine's drawings: A delightful depiction of her little family -- her mother, father, and herself. Frollo chuckled with good nature at his likeness, definitely the work of a preschooler. Nadine's artistic talents wrought a man with a wide, sprawling grin and a stick figure for a body. "Papa's kind of skinny. That's why I drew the sticks," she reasoned to her mother those many years ago,
The music, the photos, the written words of the woman herself, sent Claude Frollo into a deep reminisce. It was early autumn -- October of 1998 -- when she shared with him some wonderful news -- on her birthday at that! Claude had made a surprise birthday visit to her time -- Well. actually it was all planned for Danisha's parents had arranged a special birthday celebration just for Nisha and Claude. They felt Nisha simply had to tell the man she loves that....
"I brought you these...and this..."
"Ooh, Claude, the mums are so pretty -- all those fall colors. And a book? Oh, that's the book you showed me...it's a collection of Italian love poems..."
"I thought you'd like it...My love, what is that delightful music coming from your machine?"
"Oh that. Believe or not, but I've been on this old pop standards kick ever since last week..."
"Old standards, Danisha?"
"Yes, you know, from the 30's onward...Uh, Claude, I have to tell you something..."
"My dear, when I spoke to your father, he mentioned
that you had pertinent news...I trust you are not ill."
"Oh no, sugarbritches, it's just that there have been some...uh...changes which means I have to make some very important decisions...Uh, Claude I think we need to sit down before I tell you any more..."
"Danisha, whatever is going on...?"
"Just sit down, Claude, OK? Now, what I have to say to you...Oh, baby, it's happy news but I'm not sure how you'll take it."
"Darling, if it is indeed happy news, then I'll understand..."
"Claude, the doctor confirmed what I already suspected...I'm
not sick, honey, it's just...Oh Claude!"
"Darling Nisha, you are crying...No! Something is seriously wrong or else..."
"...I'm sorry, sugarbritches, but I had to shut you up -- just this once because you have to listen to me...I'm pregnant, Claude. We're going to have a baby!"
"What? Did I hear you correctly? You are expecting?"
"I knew you'd look like that -- all shocked and everything. I'm just as surprised as you -- and a little scared..."
"Danisha! This is so wonderful! My love, words cannot express how I feel..."
"Claude...oh baby, this means so many changes
for me...I have to take a leave of absence from my job...then there's my
doctoral work, and...This baby, Claude...I'm scared because the doctor
says this might be high risk for me..."
"High risk, Nisha? Darling, I remember the miscarriage, and the fact you almost died. Tell me this isn't..."
'No, Claude! I intend to carry this child to term...Oh Claude, it's all I wanted -- to have your child...Please say you're not upset or...Ooohh..."
"Danisha, may I say that you are damned fine kisser as well...No, dearest, I am not upset in the least, but I am concerned for your well being. I intend to take excellent care of my sweet Nisha..."
"Claude Frollo, between you and my family, this
pregnancy will be a lot easier to handle. But I warn you: morning sickness,
food cravings, weight gain, water retention, mood swings...You name it,
it can happen to me."
"Danisha, I shall always be there for you, no matter what..."
"Even if I get a sudden craving for jalapeno chip ice cream and sardines?"
"Er...let us discuss other things. Stop laughing, my love..."
"Sugarbritches, you are happy for me, aren't you?
I'm still uneasy that..."
"That you, as an unmarried woman, should leave the classroom, perhaps your profession all together...My love, whatever you decide, you always have my undying support...Now, a celebration, and NO alcohol for you. No!"
"Ah, some of that 'near wine' for me...mere grape juice in a wine glass...Oh man, no wine or martinis...no smokes..."
"Ah ha! Finally, you can stop that disgusting habit once and for all!"
"Yes, my love?"
"One more time: Are you happy?"
"Danisha, my dearest, you've made me the happiest man on earth...Our child shall have the best of everything...Ummm...have you thought of appropriate names? I am rather partial to a good French name..."
Claude Frollo's deep reminisce was quickly and rudely disturbed by an incessant pounding on his door. There was a commotion out in the corridor; several servants' voices pleading with that of another man's. At once, the former judge recognized that voice: Jehan.
Without hesitation, Claude opened the door, glared hard at his brother,
then ushered the servants away except for one. "Remain out here for a while,
Jacques. I shall attend to my brother, but do stand by in the event I need
The servant silently nodded and stood outside the door as Claude and Jehan Frollo disappeared into the chamber. Once the door closed, that servant pressed his ear hard against the door in hopes of catching snatches of conversation -- The younger Frollo's news must be that important or else he wouldn't have stormed in here so insistently.
Within the confines of Claude's room, Jehan managed to catch his breath
yet he was quite unprepared for the verbal assault to come. Just as Jehan
got the courage to tell his brother some rather important news, Claude
Frollo lashed out, "How DARE you storm in here like that! You know perfectly
well you are banned from this house!"
Jehan couldn't believe this! Is my brother still suffering from -- Hmm...'post-traumatic stress'...or is he still insisting that I'm to blame for Nisha's death. No! Claude must hear this..
"My dear Claude, I've spent the day with Evrard and his -- You won't believe this -- Evrard is engaged. This woman who's staying with him...This Dorothy Ducharme. Claude, you must come out to Mansion des Chénes and meet Mlle. Ducharme. She is a..."
"ENOUGH! Enough of your rattling!" Claude Frollo, laboring under the weight of lost love and happiness, simply tuned out his brother then lost it, just like that. Never before had Jehan seen his brother in such a state. It must be the grieving process; Claude has not learned to let go...but if he hears my news...
"Claude, I'm trying to tell you something important and you won't listen
The elder Frollo's eyes blazed and his mouth twitched in rightful rage. Claude could no longer hold back the months of frustration and anger building inside; he needed an outlet and Jehan was, for now, his verbal punching bag. "What?! I've had enough of your whining, your total lack of ambition, the dissipation, the debauchery. Too many times I've had to bail you out of one too many predicament. NO MORE, JEHAN! Don't you realize that if it wasn't for you, then Marcel Rougelot would have been arrested and executed BEFORE the holidays? But NO! You had to carry that device -- a device which I told you repeatedly to leave at home. Then you had to drop it -- 'It was accidental' -- right before Rougelot's eyes, then you stupidly told the man how it operated!"
Claude's voice was edgy, sarcastic, bitter, ragged with both tears and
boiling rage. He continued to wail away at his brother. "And now, because
of YOU, my happiness is gone! Because of YOU, Antoine and Jacqueline
now have Timescape on indefinite lockdown -- I may never see my daughter
again! Johnny Elmore is roaming Paris as we speak -- the very man who killed
my Danisha! Oh, if only YOU had consumed that tainted candy; if only Fouinon
could have wielded that knife with a little more vigor...If only that guard
wouldn't have come to your aid so swiftly...Perhaps, just perhaps, you
could have died after all. Then Danisha would still be alive...!"
Jehan Frollo couldn't believe his ears; his own brother actually wished him dead. Hmm, thought Jehan, Claude is not himself, or else he wouldn't say such harmful things. He started again, "Claude, please listen to me. We shouldn't quarrel so...I only came to offer my regrets and perhaps we can start fresh. But Claude, please..."
Jehan's quiet pleading was met with a final verbal blow so powerful, so heartless, that Jehan vowed he'd never tell his brother this news of Evrard's intended. Let Claude find out for himself!"
"GET OUT! GET OUT! As far as I'm concerned -- I HAVE NO BROTHER!"
Without saying a word, Jehan Frollo simply stormed out the door, only to be followed by his brother. Jacques, now composing himself in his master's presence, quietly and obediently took these orders: "Jacques, M. Jehan Frollo is leaving -- forever. Jehan is NOT to step foot on this property ever again. If he does, he is to be arrested on sight."
Jehan was now an unwelcome guest in his brother's home. He couldn't go back to Evrard's place as everyone there was busily preparing to travel to Paris the following morning. So Jehan Frollo spent a good portion of the night on the road; when he arrived in Paris he stumbled upon a few more intriguing items concerning Dorothy Ducharme. What Jehan discovered was so astounding, but he decided, out of misplaced spite, to let Claude find out these thing for himself.
...And that was a grave mistake on Jehan's part, for it spelled instant
tragedy for so many...
More on Evrard and his bride-to-be...Tony and Jacki's problems with Timescape are solved...Joe Wood finally gives his consent...
GO TO CHAPTER 9!
Copyright©1999 by FrolloFreak®