"My dear, I agree with your therapist that you need time away from the hassles and cares...My Danisha, my love, you have been terribly missed, and the trip will do you good..."
Claude Frollo, clad in a modern ensemble of deep gray pants and matching silken shirt, sat across from me and poured more wine for both of us. His smile was dazzling; his delighted laughter filled the barebones interior of that tavern where he heard the protest, "Now, Claude, you know I'm driving. Not so much wine!"
It was my idea to come here, to the Red Key Tavern, if only
for a few moments. So much happened today, especially that episode which
literally sent me into another tailspin. Thank goodness Claude showed up and
gave this guy a resounding earful. It was the last day of school, and my mother
was kind enough to pick up Nadine, then take her on a birthday shopping trip.
You see, my appointment with my therapist conflicted with Nadine's school schedule, so...
I thought it was all over; the snooping reporters and glare of TV cameras were by now a distant memory. But one persistent fool had the nerve to follow me downtown to the offices of Leigh Gaudet-Norris, my psychotherapist. Just when I thought this would be the last session, just when I thought the press -- now satisfied with the stories we provided -- would simply leave me alone, that lone reporter decided to hound me with question after question. Seemed the aftermath of my ordeal as Dorothy Ducharme, and the plausible explanations of my supposed death and resurrection we provided weren't enough.
He rode with me all the way to the 35th floor. I thought he was going to another office, and thank goodness he vanished down the opposite corridor. However, after my eighty-minute session with Leigh, that man got on the elevator with me then launched into a series of questions I could never answer. He asked about my relationship with Claude Frollo; he inquired about John Elmore, and why the man still carried on about time travel and medieval Paris. This man then had the nerve to pry into the private lives of my time-traveling friends.
Ooh! The gall of some people!
No way was I to reveal a thing concerning Timescape. That invention was to remain a secret, and all involved swore to protect that secret with our lives. But, in the end, it was the reporter's constant barrage of questions surrounding my "death". That's when I lost it. Once we reached the main floor, l erupted with a volley of unrepeatable words. Under no circumstances was I to knuckle under some pea-brained freelance reporter trying to make a quick buck off of my misfortune. I stormed at him that I grew increasingly enraged with the surveillance, the ambushes, and, above all, the relentless pursuit of my daughter.
"My God! My baby can't go to school in peace without you sticking that m****r f*****g microphone in her face!"
That's when Claude Frollo showed up and took up my cause. If this guy thought I was rough.... Well, let's say that when Claude Frollo got finished with this pushy one, the whole first floor -- along with folks out in the street -- cheered Claude as a hero. As one guy put it, "It's about time someone told them nosy reporters where to go!"
Claude Frollo," I said, as he ordered gingerale for me, "I don't what I'd do without you.”
He smiled and noted that it was his good fortune to take that
time trip and come see about me. "But darling, seeing that is it was
Nadine's last day of school, and that she's to celebrate her sixth
"Now, sugarbritches", I said between sips, "I know what you want....So, you want to take us back to the 15th...Hmm..."
Not that the thought hadn't crossed my mind. Leigh suggested that I get away for the summer, a vacation of sorts, just to help deal with still-turbulent emotions and feelings of mistrust. In a way, I looked forward to several long weeks away from my time, away from the prying eyes and ears. We'll have a chance to relax and reunite with old friends and, perhaps, make new ones. And this summer, promised Claude, was to be very special.
"What's so special?," I asked before walking over to the jukebox to select a tune. That's when it hit me! Wasn't Claude's old friend, Évrard Ouimet, still in Paris? And wasn't the brother, Phillipe, still Minister of Justice? And what about...?
Claude kissed my hand when I returned to the table; he sensed my sudden uneasiness. "If you are wondering about Évrard and Orry, then you needn't worry yourself. At this moment, Évrard and his son are spending a few days at Maison des Chénes. By the time we reach Paris, they will be halfway to Marseilles."
That was a relief, at least for me, but what about Phillipe, and the rest of my late medieval Parisian friends? Again, Claude Frollo soothed my worries. "My love, I shan't -- well, can't -- reveal all to you as much is a surprise." He leaned back in his chair, sipped his wine, and then shifted the subject. "Danisha, not to change topics so radically, but what is this special project...?"
Claude Frollo had all his bases covered -- Not until after we reached 1495 Paris that I learned the lengths this man took just to make me happy. You know, Leigh was right: I had to let everything fall into place. If Claude Frollo still loves me as he professes, then who or what will stand in the way of our happiness. Finally, I'm learning to love and to trust again.
"I still love you, Danisha. Don't ever let anyone tell you differently. When we arrive in Paris, I can predict that this will be a most unforgettable summer..."
And he was right.
"No, Clarice! I don't care if Claude Frollo came to me on broken glass! I shan't attend his little soirée! Why should I? So he can rub it in, that he won? No! Clarice, when I thought Danisha was Dottie..."
"But, Évrard, your presence is needed. Show all of your friends and family that there are no hard feelings...Évrard, your own brother will be there...."
"Kindly refrain from mentioning his name in my presence!"
Clarice Flambert, brilliantly breathtaking in her sapphire blue finery -- a color that suited her cafe au lait complexion and dark hair -- shook her head sadly as she tossed aside the handwritten invitation. It was an invitation to a soirée -- a celebration -- to be given at Chateau duPré within the next few days. Of course, Clarice and her husband Anseau already sent their responses. But Évrard....
As much as Clarice wanted her cousin to attend this affair, she perfectly understood his bitterness. After all, he and "Dorothy Ducharme" met, fell deeply in love, and nearly married. However, a strange twist of fate thwarted the lovers' future, for "Dorothy" was none other than Danisha, Claude Frollo's New World lady. "The poor woman!," said Clarice to Évrard, "a victim of that despicable, diabolical plot. Évrard, why can't you put it all out of your mind? What's done is done, and you really shouldn't allow Orry to see you in such a state..."
The words fell on deaf ears as Évrard quelled Clarice with a hot look that could melt iron bars. He said nothing then stormed from the room. He means it, she surmised, Évrard is determined to return to Marseilles as soon as possible. She sighed as she went out onto the balcony. What a glorious afternoon, and not as deathly warm as one would expect this time of year. Then again, the past few summers had been very pleasant indeed.
Clarice allowed her mind to wander back to that summer of 1483, that's when Évrard and Rixende married. There was this musician who played at their nuptials, but for the life of me, I can't remember his name. A very fine, gifted gentleman. Raimon Cauant...That's it, but only I know his true name, and circumstances... Clarice's fine eyes scanned the road just beyond the estate. Who's this riding towards here? Can't be Phillipe. Jehan Frollo is presently in Calais, and Claude Frollo is with his lady. Now, pondered Clarice, is this person? As the rider drew nearer, Clarice peered at the commanding form perched in the saddle. She carefully studied his every detail, then, as if struck by lightning, bolted down the hall announcing, "Évrard! Anseau! You won't believe who's come calling!"
"Claude, how's Jehan?"
"Jehan is coming along quite well. He's looking forward to seeing you again. My only hope that he can tear himself away from his duties..."
"His duties, Claude?"
"My love, our Jehan has gone into business for himself. Free-lancing as you term it. Jehan in presently in Calais with Alain LeBeau, Renée's husband. They are looking at new fabrics just arrived from Burgundy..."
Thus Claude Frollo, once settled at home in my air-conditioned family room, related how Jehan managed to get his act together and start earning a living. We -- that's Claude and I -- still have no idea what's eating at Jehan. We simply chalked up the moodiness as repercussions from my brief adventure as Dottie Ducharme -- and Jehan's valiant attempts to make everything right again. So, Jehan Frollo, the spendthrift brother, finally decided to cut the apron strings...
"Jehan -- well, everyone -- is so looking forward to seeing Nadine again, my love."
Claude noticed my uneasiness, nevertheless he continued relating news of many of my 15th Century friends. I was so unaware that my nervousness showed that much, but perhaps I was skittish about running into people who might mar an otherwise pleasant holiday. When I voiced my concerns to Claude, he immediately put me at ease with a warm embrace and several tender kisses. He then told me that I needn't worry myself so; Évrard Ouimet is preparing to depart for Marseilles as we speak. Orry has given up the idea of ever meeting me again, although the Flamberts will remain in Paris as they were presently entertaining a visitor from Toulon. That would be Felise LaCourbe, the woman who helped Martine d'Anges.
"Claude, I want to meet Mlle LaCourbe, the one who helped Martine, especially since I've learned Martine and Phoebus are also related to me."
"And you shall, dear Nisha. Now, once we have celebrated Nadine’s sixth birthday here -- I simply refuse to deprive her of her party -- we shall leave for my time frame. There are a few surprises in store for you, my love."
"And what kind of surprises, Claude?"
He wouldn't tell me everything, but I had a feeling that a secret time trip made by Tony and Jacki Terrell was part of this "surprise". Of course, things became somewhat tricky -- and dangerous -- once Claude Frollo received a message from Tony. It seems a certain someone -- make that three -- had to make a hasty exit from a transtemporal expedition. I later learned the entire operation was fascinating, but life threatening all the same.
However, for now, Claude Frollo would not share everything until after our arrival in 1495 France. But the cryptic message Tony sent was enough to unnerve me, for I knew the particulars of the era -- and area -- Clevon and Willie were presently visiting. All I could do was pray that Tony would get them out of there, and fast! Then, once everyone was settled in our respective late medieval digs....
"Laisser le bon rouleau de temps!"
(Let the good times roll!)
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