Slightly more than a month ago, Dorothy Ducharme was just another working
girl hoping for that big break to come along. They heard her sing, those
people at Motown, and they wanted to audition her. It was all Dottie dreamed
of and more, a chance to showcase her musical talents and make some real
money. That way, she reasoned, she could repay Miss Winnie for all the
kindness and sacrifices over the years. Dottie had hoped to hear her voice
waft out over the airwaves, to perform in the swankiest of night clubs,
and, perhaps, to appear on television.
But one fateful January night her curiosity got the best of her, thus Dottie blasted herself more than five centuries into the past. Now, instead of standing in a recording studio singing her heart out for Berry Gordy, Dorothy found herself in 1495 Paris suburbia preparing to exchange vows with a man she just met a few weeks ago. Although she fell in love with Evrard Ouimet almost immediately, and gradually adjusted to life in late 15th Century France, Dorothy Ducharme wished she could return to her own time, just to share all her good fortune with Miss Winnie.
Who was this Miss Winnie? As she explained to Evrard, Dorothy, a native of Chicago, was orphaned at age seven -- her parents died tragically in a house fire. Dorothy, being the only child, survived the blaze without physical injury, but the emotional toll became acute as little Dottie began to withdraw within herself. Having no siblings or other family to take her in, Dottie found herself in the loving home of Winnie Bland, a kindly, selfless middle aged woman who took in so many foster children -- children burdened with emotional and psychological problems for which very few adults had the patience.
"Miss Winnie firmly believed that we deserved to be loved and needed just like everyone else," Dottie explained to a fascinated Evrard Ouimet.
Over the years, Dorothy Ducharme learned a lot from Miss Winnie: She
gradually learned to stand up for herself, develop a positive self image
and attitude because, as Miss Winnie reasoned, "If you don't have that
confidence, then folks will run all over you, and you'll never realize
your dreams." Every child who stayed with Miss Winnie was expected to attend
school regularly and make good grades. She kept a generous supply of books
and other reading materials for the children's use. It was expected that
the kids read at least one book a week. "I want you children to make something
of yourselves. Just because you don't have parents doesn't mean you can't
Winnie Bland detected a spark in Dorothy Ducharme almost immediately and pressed the girl to excel in both school and life. Miss Winnie insisted that Dorothy apply for many colleges and even pulled a few strings for Dottie's final acceptance to Central State University. "A full scholarship and all to boot," Dorothy explained to a surprised Evrard. Never, expressed Evrard, had women had so many educational opportunities available. "Your New World sounds like paradise -- so many of our peoples would definitely succeed in your country." Dorothy laughed, kissed her fiancé on the cheek and said, "Honey, I'll make a confession. I finished my studies, then went back to Chicago and landed a job with a local newspaper. But I wanted more -- that's why I moved to Detroit..."
At that point, Dottie stopped herself because she knew she'd be forever explaining to Evrard the marvels of recorded music and radio. And what if he asks about this music, this Motown Sound? How will I explain that?
Dottie, all smiles as she and Evrard strolled through the wooded environs
of Maison des Chénes, really didn't care at this point. For all
she knew, Johnny's carelessness, and her curiosity, turned out to be her
good fortune. She finally met the man of her dreams, although Evrard was
nearly five hundred years her senior. Never mind, she thought, it's just
as well; I truly have no family back in my own time.
Dorothy Ducharme came to the conclusion that her future lied in this world's past. The opportunities for her people were different; the social climate, along with the degree of respectability and acceptance, was a far cry from conditions in her own time. No Jim Crow, no eyes watching me all the time because I'm colored, no being called 'spook', 'coon', or the dreaded N-word to my face...No KKK painted on my door if I had dared to move into a neighborhood where colored wasn't welcome...Miss Winnie's friend Irma endured all that when she moved to North Shore...
...No, these folks here in 1495 have it made...Evrard has a fine house in Paris; he's a good friend with a retired judge, a very powerful man. At least that's what Clarice and Anseau said...This Claude Frollo still wields influence... I wonder what he's like...
But getting back to Serena Morandi......Evrard's mother and daddy could've been arrested if they did that in my time, getting married that is...She must have been some woman...
Evrard Ouimet was Francois Ouimet's second and last child; the elder
Ouimet remarried precisely ten years after Bernadette, his first wife,
passed away. Phillipe was just days short of his ninth birthday when his
mother died suddenly and painfully in childbirth; the baby sister for which
Phillipe so desperately longed lingered only a few hours. Phillpe and Bernadette
were especially close and it broke the boy's heart, when, nearly a decade
later, his father announced his remarriage.
Now Francois, a highly successful and respected member of the ever-growing merchant class, was also a well traveled man. One journey in particular took him to Florence, center of the renewed interest in the arts and literature. There he developed a deep respect for art and letters; Francois even made contact with the powerful Medicis, the very dynasty which spearheaded the resurgent Florentine culture that would soon spread all over Italy then into Southern France. Francois returned to Paris with a trunkful of books, paintings, and something else: A new bride.
During his sojourn to Florence, Francois met and married Serena Morandi, a vivid beauty whose dynamic personality and noble bearing were legendary throughout Florence. She was the daughter of a full-blooded Black merchant (In his native Senegal he was a prestigious Mandinga warrior) and a Florentine gentlewoman. It was during one of the numerous parties and balls given to showcase the latest artistic and literary talents, that Serena, whose African name was Sarama Ndao, met and fell in love with Francois almost immediately. "Very much the way I fell for your charms, my darling, " Evrard said to Dot.
The pair walked hand in hand through the frosty, barren wooded fields as they discussed their wedding plans. Evrard and Dorothy surprised themselves: Just a few weeks ago they hadn't known each other; now, through some unexplained phenomena, they were on the verge of matrimony. "Evrard," began Dottie, "when I finally meet with your brother, what could I expect? I mean, you once said Phillipe became jealous..."
Evrard Ouimet embraced her, then kissed his intended fully and deeply. Desire stirred within Dottie like nothing else before; never had she wanted to be with a man so desperately, and Dot managed to keep that desire in check until after the wedding. Evrard, thoroughly enjoying Dorothy's battle of mind over body, gazed into her brown eyes and answered her first question.
"My dear Dorothy, if you are worried about Phillipe's reactions --- Darling, my brother and I are two separate people with entirely different lives."
Phillipe, the serious, studious son whose destiny had been carved out
by his mother's family. Then there was Evrard, the ebullient second son
whose natural charm and effervescent endeared him to his father. It was
no secret that Phillipe, although he loved his brother, reviled Evrard
for, as he put it, "monopolizing Father's time." Phillipe objected to his
father's remarriage solely on the basis that Serena was, to his thinking,
"taking Mother's place".
"According to my father," Evrard told Dorothy, "Phillipe and his mother were very close. My mother accepted Phillipe as her own; she never maltreated him. But Phillipe insisted that my mother was trying too hard."
"And the final blow came when your father brought you to Paris to attend l'Université. Phillipe was already putting in his time at the Ministry of Justice, and Claude Frollo himself took an instant liking to you...," recapped Dottie as she squeezed his hand tightly. Her heart ached for Evrard because of all this sibling rivalry. She never had to endure that by virtue of being an only child. Even growing up at Miss Winnie's where there were as many as eleven children in one house, the kids learned how to get along with each other.
Evrard continued to explain that upon completing his studies, he stayed
on in Paris long after Claude Frollo had been Minister of Justice for a
number of years. "Only to chart my destiny. Once I finished my studies,
it was only natural I follow my father's footsteps." Evrard added that
Francois Ouimet's connections within the growing merchant class made it
possible for Evrard to establish that initial network. For the next several
years, Evrard Ouimet, from Nantes to Paris to Marseilles to Toulon, soon
found success in the wine and textile trade. "That's how I and Vincent
LaCroix are connected," explained Evrard. "You see, Dorothy, Vincent is
a distant kinsman on Bernadette's side..."
"Ooh, so that perhaps explains Phillipe's supposedly bitter feelings toward you?," inquired Dottie.
Phillipe Ouimet, who himself put in long hours at the Ministry of Justice, only to see his father's attention focused on Evrard. In a way, Phillipe was happy for his brother but deep down he secretly seethed that Francois pulled strings, "With my mother's kinsmen!" Phillipe also resented the fact that Judge Frollo seemed to dote on Evrard; no doubt Phillipe took heart that Evrard decided to leave Paris that spring of 1481. Phillipe Ouimet also reasoned that once his brother was out of sight then Frollo could focus more attention on him. After all, reasoned the elder sibling, if he was to become the next Minister of Justice, Frollo will simply have to make the time.
The two lovers approached the fish pond as Evrard finally said, "Actually,
my leaving Paris dramatically altered my life; I married, then came Orry...
Once in Marseilles, Evrard settled and immediately married Rixende, the daughter of one of his many suppliers. Rixende, while not a raving beauty, was a pleasant young woman, but there was a minor flaw in the match -- Rixende resented her marriage to Evrard even though her new husband showered her with the utmost attentions. She knew the marriage was for business purposes -- her father agreed to introduce Evrard to key importers. Marrying Rixende was part of that bargain. "I was thankful to André Soulé for all his timely assistance -- my success and wealth came rather quickly, almost too fast for my comfort. Yet I felt somewhat guilty putting Rixende in the middle; it was clear she never loved me..."
Dorothy heard it all: an arranged marriage that brought great wealth and prestige to Evrard, who dabbled in several interests. Between his wife's family and Vincent LaCroix's timely assistance, Evrard soon became one ot the leading merchants in the Mediterranean. He believed in diversifying his interests; if there was money to be made, then Evrard took every opportunity. Within a few years of his marriage, Evrard Ouimet managed to corner both the olive oil and textile trade between Marseilles and Florence. Through Vincent, he learned how to control prices and supply, thus increasing product demand and his own personal wealth. But Evrard was not a greedy sort as he believed in sharing his newfound wealth with those less fortunate. He donated heavily to educational institutions; he sponsored and underwrote numerous artistic and literary endeavors.
The Ouimet home was scene to many social events; sometimes Evrard would throw a party, "Just for the sheer pleasure." Indeed, as a result of his many travels, Evrard grew accustomed to the 'good life' with its endless parties, cotillions, and literary and arts salons. But for all his success and prestige, Evrard felt there was one thing missing: Rixende's love. Sometimes Evrard wondered if all of this -- the money, the fine homes and clothes, and elevated social status -- was worth it. After all, it had been nearly five years to the day since Rixende, in a fit of total despair, immediately withdrew from all public life and took to her room. Nothing gave her joy, not even her little son Orry, then just short of his second birthday. Even the presence of Evrard's maternal cousin, Clarice, who always managed to lift sagging spirits with her effervescence, failed to cheer Rixende.
It was a late winter day when Evrard took Orry for a morning ride, only to return and find his wife's lifeless body sprawled on the bed. Clutched in her hand was an empty bottle of poison -- It was clear that Rixende, out of desperation and deep depression, took her own life. Evrard's sad reminisce was soon shushed by Dottie's kiss.
"Evrard, may I presume that after Rixende died, especially since she chose to take her own life...You vowed that if ever you remarried, the woman had better be in love..."
A broad smile spread across Evrard's handsome face as he replied, "Just as you are madly in love with me, as I am with you?"
Retracing their steps, they paused just short of the house and embraced
each other. Dorothy admired the man's early morning ensemble of deep gray
velvet tunic, tights, a heavy sable-trimmed velvet cloak, and the chaperon
with its round padded brim and trailing lirepipe. Evrard wore this hat
in a rakish tilt which conveyed an air of bawdy playfulness. He returned
Dottie's compliment by praising her matching attire consisting of a flowing
gray velvet dress, butterfly headdress, and matching cloak of the finest
At last, Evrard planted a long lingering kiss upon her lips. His eyes bored through hers; then he lifted those eyes towards the upstairs window. With a soft chuckle Evrard admitted, "The one product of my marriage to Rixende. Orry was not quite two when Rixende died...He is so devoted to Clarice but I've always felt he needs a mother."
By now both Evrard and Dottie glanced up at the small figure standing in the window; they gladly returned the smiles and waves. "Evrard, I've grown so attached to your little boy, and I'm sure he's anxious to call me 'Mother'..."
With that, Evrard kissed her again, deeply and passionately. It was a kiss so stirring that she sensed herself lifted from the ground. When he released her, Dottie caught her breath and rattled off nonstop, "Oh Evrard, when we get to Paris, I want to see everything! The Palais, Notre Dame -- Is it true? About the bell ringer being your Claude Frollo's foster son? And what about this Claude himself? From what you've told me about him...Evrard, you must introduce us. I only hope he's more talkative and personable than his brother. Then I want to meet the LaCroixes...Oh darling, I must be so nervous; I'm so sorry to go on and on..."
Evrard fell out in raucous laughter, then, upon sweeping Dorothy in his arms, said, "My precious jewel, I can safely predict that in due time you shall become the talk of Paris..."
Jehan Frollo learns more about Dorothy -- and so does Phoebus...
Go to Chapter 10!
Copyright©1999 by FrolloFreak®