"Darling, please try to eat something", Claude Frollo gently persuaded as I picked over my breakfast. My eyes were bloodshot from lack of sleep; I felt wiped out. Claude was naturally worried about me, for I hadn't eaten nor slept since Jules' death three days ago. My mind focused on Renee, who, with the exception of Phoebus, truly had no family.
Pushing my plate aside, I finally said to Claude, "What if I took Renée home? I mean, I think she could adjust to the 20th Century. I should've taken both of them - that summer."
Claude kissed my hands and replied, "My love, I remember when you asked me that same question: 'Come to the 20th Century with me'." He allowed himself to chuckle a bit from the memory of our parting that summer. Then Claude continued, "Nisha, please realize that Renee would never adjust to your 20th Century. She'd be so overwhelmed, so utterly lost -- Just as I'm still somewhat lost whenever I visit your time."
I thought over what he said; and, yes, Claude still has a tough time coping with 20th Century life. I very well couldn't ask a 15th Century pre-teen to come live with me. It would only confuse Renee at a time when she needed all the love and support from familiar faces.
"Where is Renee? Still at the Chateau d'Arcy?" Claude walked over to the little table and poured two cups of coffee. He replied, "No, my dearest. She is at Notre Dame, visiting Quasimodo." Claude sighed as he added, "Phoebus is with her."
I looked at Claude in slight puzzlement as he handed me a coffee cup. "I take it Phoebus has yet to find Esmeralda." Claude only nodded as I continued. "She's the key to all this, you know. She's the one who can finger Malus' accomplice." Claude suspected a particular person however, he needed proof, and Esmeralda was the only one who could positively identify him.
Claude Frollo grew strangely silent, then, finally said angrily, "I should've had Esmeralda dragged from the cathedral. Damn Phoebus! 'Falling in love' with her - You see what has happened since!"
I nodded, as my thoughts turned to Phoebus. Poor guy. Although I've known him a few days, I felt a little empathy towards him, now that he'd suffered a broken marriage and the loss of a relative.
I sat silently as Claude continued to berate Esmeralda. I paid no particular attention to what he was saying, as images of the past few years swirled in my mind. How odd, that certain decisions and actions could affect so many lives.I couldn't hold in my emotions any longer; I felt a tear fall from my eye, the first tears shed in three days.

Claude, still pacing the room and damning Esmeralda, suddenly changed his mood as I began to speak in a stammering voice.
"It's all so crazy...Oh Claude!...those poor kids...Everything's happening so fast..." That said, I broke down in uncontrollable sobs.
Claude Frollo rushed to my side; I welcomed his warm embrace and loving words. "My love, Danisha, my sweet love", he began reassuredly. "Everything will be all right, my dear -- There, there, Nisha -- Let it all out, love." He carried me back to the bed and cradled me as I cried.
Somehow, through the depths of my grief, I felt a slight twinge of resentment towards Esmeralda. After all, she's as much to blame for all this mess. Why won't she come clean? Why won't she identify Malus' accomplice?
I pushed those thoughts from my mind as Claude continued to hold and kiss me. He's so sweet to me...I really think things will be all right. He was just as warm and comforting on that last day -- that summer...


Someday we'll be together...

"Danisha, my darling", Claude Frollo said as he held me tightly, "I'll never forget you." We walked through the d'Arcy gardens that morning while Fern readied the '59 Chevy. I couldn't believe that, in a few final minutes, I'll be on my way home. Marie-Louise was still asleep; Fern and I had said our good-byes the night before.
Jules and Renee had already hugged me good-bye and they gave me a farewell gift: a drawing depicting the children and myself playing baseball, that very game that nearly destroyed my relationship with Claude, and ultimately brought us together.
I showed this work of art to Claude, saying, "You do realize that it was Renee who threw that ball. That little girl has quite a pitching arm." Claude laughed, then said, "Hmm...Remind me to thank little Renee de Chateaupers." I joined him in his amusement as we strolled through the d'Arcy garden. Then, Claude Frollo took something from his pocket.
It was a silver key suspended from a wide black velvet ribbon. "There is a door", he began as he handed me the key, "on the backside of the Palace of Justice. This is the only key that fits the lock."
I examined the sterling silver key with its fancy scrollwork. I then said to Claude, "Why are you giving me this? I thought..."
Claude chuckled, kissed me again, then replied, "I know you will return to me someday. I am trusting you with this. Promise me you will not lose it; after all, it is the only key."
I was truly touched; however, I kept thinking, how am I going to be able to visit Claude often enough to use this key? After all, Jacki only made up two time-travel devices: one for Fern and the other for herself.
I pushed those thoughts from my mind as I kissed Claude again, deeply this time. I fought back tears as I began singing that old Supremes song:

My love is yours, baby
All right from the start
You possess my soul now honey
And I know you own my heart
And I wanna say
Someday, we'll be together

Claude embraced me again, kissed me over and over, then softly sang along with me. We held each other for several minutes. Just then, we heard a familiar voice behind us. "Pardon the intrusion on this tender moment, but I do believe we're ready to go", said Fern.
I guess this is it...

Claude walked with us to the car. I squeezed his hand tightly as Fern unlocked the doors.
"Oh Claude! How I wish you were coming with me!", I said, my voice quavering. I then invited him to the 20th Century, "just for a day. We can go the State Fair. There's so much I want to show you."
Claude just kissed me again, saying, "My love, we've had this conversation before. You know I would never fit in your time, just as you would never fully be happy here. I love you so dearly; I'd never deprive you of your happiness."
I understood completely. A few days ago, Claude had asked me to be his wife, but knowing his weakness for women, and there were many, I politely refused. Besides, as he said, I would never fully adjust to life in the 15th Century.

I watched Claude Frollo as Fern started the motor. He sadly smiled as I waved good-bye. I could read his lips as he silently said, "I love you."
My eyes were locked on Claude as Fern steered the car onto the main road. Just before Fern floored the accelerator and depressed that button, I looked back one more time. All I could see was a blurry figure astride a black stallion; then, I was engulfed by a bright, white light...


I was already dressed when Claude returned to his chambers. I was beginning to feel somewhat happy again, although my mind was still on the recent tragic events.

...perhaps it was all for the best...

Claude kissed my lips, then said, "Ready to go, my love?" We were going to Notre Dame to visit Quasimodo. He too, was stung by the news of Phoebus' failed marriage to Esmeralda. "And I trusted her!", Quasi said to me the day after Jules' death. Poor Quasi - duped!He really needed our support.
"Darling, you look stunning!" Claude was referring to my attire of a smart, floor-length purple dress and that black mink cloak he gave me last Christmas. Come to think of it, I was wearing this cloak on that day after the Feast of Fools, when I encountered that sham Claude Frollo...

We heard raised voices coming from the Place de Notre-Dame.
"Whatever is going on?", Claude asked a nearby guard. "Your Grace", began the sergeant, "it's Captain Phoebus! He's found his wife -- la Esmeralda." Claude Frollo's expression was - well - I don't think I've ever seen an expression quite like it.
"Arrest the gypsy witch!", demanded Claude, then he turned to me and said, "Finally, I'll make that conspiring vixen pay for her crimes."
I watched Phoebus and Esmeralda argue; her rough-edged voice grated on my nerves like a file on steel bars. I then said to Claude, "Wait a minute, baby. Let me take care of something."
Claude looked puzzled. "My dear, I've waited all this time. Surely you understand that..."
I interrupted him, "Oh no, sugarbritches." I kissed him, adding, "I know you want this gal, but I have some unfinished business of my own."

I left Claude's side and walked over to Phoebus and Esmeralda. Poor Phoebus appeared bewildered and weary from Esmeralda's griping. She carried on how she "was never in love" with Phoebus, and that she just used Quasi to "finally let Frollo get what was coming to him; then that New World gal had to spoil everything!" I tapped Esmeralda on the shoulder; she wheeled around to face me.
"Do I know you?", she coldly asked. My gaze was as cool and level as hers.
"I believe we've met a couple of years ago. But as the Minister of Justice says...No matter." Her eyes widened in sheer astonishment when she realized just who was standing before her.
"You! I've should've known..." That said, she hauled off and tried to land a perfect right jab, but I was quicker. My hand blocked hers; then I gave her the 'sistah' treatment, much to the amusement of the crowd, especially for Claude Frollo.
"Look here, babee," I said in a raised, full-o'-sass voice, "I don't know WHAT kind of scam you pullin', but it ain't cool. Know what I'm sayin', sugah?"
Esmeralda looked at me with big green eyes; the poor girl didn't know what hit her! She stood motionless as I continued to give her what I called "The Big Payback".
"And just where do you get off usin' good folks like my buddy, Quasimodo. That was lowdown and low-class. Messin' with a sweet kid like Quas. That boy's like my family. And you don't wanna mess with my family!" Esmeralda's eyes were full of fire as she began to speak.
"Are you quite finished?", she said through clenched teeth. I shot back the "I'm-gonna-knock-you-out" look as I kept assaulting the gypsy with my words.

NOTICE FROM THE AUTHOR: The remainder of FrolloFreak's vocal chastisement of Esme can't be printed, because it's UNPRINTABLE! The rest is cool, though. :-)

Esmeralda was livid! She trembled with rage, so totally outdone that this postmodern American 'sistah' had verbally tore her apart.
"You filthy-mouthed..." , Esmeralda said, as she tried to sock me. Blocking her blow, I then said to her, "Honey, I'm not a violent person. I prefer to take you out with words. But..."
I removed my cloak and hat, handed them to a nearby woman, then hauled off and knocked Esmeralda to the ground. I think I broke a tooth because she was holding her jaw, and I believe I saw a tear. Esmeralda knew she had been bested.
I put on my cloak and hat as Claude summoned the guards to take Esmeralda away to the Palace of Justice. As the soldiers put her in shackles, I walked up to her, squared my shoulders proudly, and in a firm, clear voice, said, "Baby, let me give you some advice. The next time you give a man an almost lap-dance, get him all hot and sweaty, and don't follow through...Honey, don't expect him to be too accommodating the second time." That said, the soldiers dragged the gypsy dancer away.

Claude Frollo, who stood nearby during the entire episode, endeavored to keep his utter amusement in check. He walked up next to me, and laughingly said in my ear, "My love, that was...I can't describe it!"
He then led me through the cathedral doors; Quasimodo was standing at the foot of the bell tower steps. Quasi embraced me, saying, "I guessed Esmeralda had it coming to her. Gee", Quasi glanced over at Phoebus who had just walked in the cathedral with Renee. "Poor Phoebus. And I was mad at him for nothing."

Claude then said to his young charge, "Dear boy, why don't you show Renee the cathedral." He turned to me, adding, "Malus never saw fit to bring his siblings to church; Renee hasn't set foot inside since her parents' death." Claude, sensing that his bleak words may have a negative affect on Renee, then said to Quasi, "Besides, I would like to be alone with this charming lady."
A broad smile spread across Claude Frollo's face. He took my hand into his, saying to Quasi, "Run along, boy. Then you can bring little Renee to the belltower", his voice lowered to a whisper as he told Quasi, "But not now!"
Claude gave me a quick wink; Quasi even returned the wink as Quasimodo met Renee and Phoebus at the far end of Notre Dame. I then turned to Claude and asked, "What was that all about?"
Claude held my hand tightly, then leaned over and said, his words punctuated with deep chuckles, "I have something to say to you. A compliment, no less..."
I knew he was referring to that little altercation outside. Now even I couldn't keep from giggling as Claude and I ascended the belltower steps.

On to Chapter 20!

Copyright©1997 by FrolloFreak

Email @ MSNTV
@ Yahoo