What would have been just another routine Saturday became a weekend to remember. Claude Frollo and I spent the day exploring my favorite northside haunts; in fact, he insisted we do things my way. I took him to antique shops, book stores, and other out-of-the-ordinary places in Broad Ripple Village, a popular northside neighborood known for its quirky, funky ambience. I treated Claude to a nice lunch at Renée's, one of my favorite Ripple eateries, a cozy little place known for its unique, French country decor and scrumptious homemade desserts.
Afterwards, we took a walk along the Monon Trail, which winded through Ripple and across the canal. "This used to be a... 'railroad'?", asked Claude, as we strolled leisurely. "Yes. It used to go from downtown to Muncie. In my old neighborhood, down by the fairgrounds, my house was just a few blocks away from the tracks. But the trains stopped running and they took up the tracks. Now it's a walking trail. I walk here a lot; I think it's neat."
I put my arm around his slender waist as we continued our walk. Claude seemed truly fascinated by my little history lesson. "It's amazing", he began, "how much we remember special places and things..." Claude's voice trailed off as if he was lost in thought. Suddenly he asked, "Have you heard from her lately?"
I knew he was referring to Fern. "Now, Claude, you know we're still friends. We talk, visit, do all kinds of things together. Fern may a little richer, but she's still my buddy."
Claude Frollo stopped and looked at me intently. "It's just that I never properly thanked her for bringing you to Paris."
I looked at him with raised eyebrows. "Say what? Honey, if Fern had stayed when "the unfortunate incident" happened, you would've showed both of us the way out of town. And I don't think we would've been upright."
Claude burst into laughter. "Darling Nisha, our first few meetings weren't THAT unpleasant. In fact, those initial encounters were rather...surprisingly smouldering. "
"Oh really? Well baby, let me refresh your memory."
As we continued our walk, Claude and I recalled that first encounter.

* * * * * * *

Fern finally had to explain the "device" that whisked us to medieval Paris. Apparently, it was the invention of one of Fern's former students, Jacki Darcey, a math and science whiz who I always said would come up with something fabulous. Jacki was always working out formulas and sketching plans for fantasical inventions. It all paid off as Jacki, as a gift to Fern, restored the '59 Chevy and installed that time-warp device.
But I was too flabbergasted to think about inventons and breakthroughs. I was in 1480's Paris and I couldn't even send a postcard home! Fern had a house in town but stashed the car near some old chateau on the outskirts of Paris. And she made sure my stay would be unforgettable as we explored every inch of this fantastic city. All the historical and literary landmarks that I only read about in school were right outside our front door.
Of course, we made friends in the neighborhood, although I wasn't sure at first how folks would take to an oversized, frizzy red-blond haired Hoosier with a hillbilly twang and a smartmouthed, bronze-skinned woman who came along for the ride. As Fern said, I am a true American child, with English, Irish, Cherokee, and African running through my veins. The good folks of Paris had a tough time trying to figure me out. Well, gee folks. If you can't figure out what I am...just keep trying!
But anyway, we made a few friends and I became popular with the kids in the neighborhood. I'd often play games with them, and taught them what I played when I was a kid. I would gather the youngsters in the square near the Palace of Justice and we'd enjoy hours and hours of fun. It was during one of those playtimes that I met HIM.
We were just wrapping up an intense game of Red Rover, and, after the kids went home, I decided to take a walk across the square toward the Palace. I'd never seen it close up and decided to check it out. Now I was unaware that my hips swayed as I walked, that I had an old Al Green song playing in my head, and that the slit in my dress blew open in the breeze. I sat down on a stoop just within eyeshot of the Palace's colonnade and studied the building, admiring the stained-glass windows, tall spires, and colonnade. I had just crossed my legs and unwrapped my hair when I spotted a figure upon the colonnade.
Even from ground level, I could make out most of his face and form. He was tall and slender, very regal and aristocratic-looking. I could see his triangular hat, the long red veil flowing in the breeze. Grey-haired, fair-faced, from where I stood he looked rather handsome. Then I realized that the person I was staring at was none other than Claude Frollo, the Minister of Justice. I had heard rumors about him from our neighbors, that he was cruel and cold. Come on, he's a judge in charge of keeping the streets safe. He's just trying to do his job, and, just as long as I stay out of trouble, he's the least of my worries. But something inside me stirred as I continued to stare up at him. I offered him a bright smile and friendly wave.
What's this? He's smiling back and nodding as if he acknowledged my presence. Is he staring at my legs? I knew I shouldn't have worn this dress...
I hastily retied my hair and adjusted the straps on my high-heeled sandals. I had taken them off during the games, but put them on just before my walk. I glanced up at the colonnade but he was gone! My heart sank a bit at the realization that I might never encounter him again.
I got up and began to walk back to the house when a soldier tapped me on the shoulder.
"Excuse me, madame", he began. What have I done? Is it a crime to walk, sit, or play near the Palace of Justice? I can't even look at Judge Frollo? All these thoughts raced through my mind as the soldier continued, "You are not in trouble, madame. I'm not arresting you. It's just that Minister Frollo wishes to meet you. This way, madame."
Frollo wants to meet me? Why? Oh no! What if he found out about Fern and the car! We'd be branded as lunatics for sure...or even worse. Witches. My heart pounded as I followed the soldier up the steps and through the grand entry hall. My French had passed with the kids outside; now it had to stand up to a conversation with the most powerful man in France next to the King himself.
As I entered my eyes were dazzled by high-vaulted ceilings, soft-colored walls, gorgeous tapestries, and marble floors. The soldier led me to a room and told me to wait. It looked like a study with shelves full of books, piles of papers on the table, paintings and tapestries on the walls. I was admiring one of these textile marvels, studying the stitches and feeling the softness of the fabric, when I heard a deep voice behind me.
"I hope I didn't frighten you by sending that soldier, but it was the only way I could finally meet you." He extended his hand. "I am Claude Frollo. And what is your name?"
I reached for his hand and told him my name. "I'm Danisha Wood...My family and friends call me Nisha." He smiled broadly and softly replied, "Lovely. I've watched you for several days now. You were in the square with the children, playing games..."
"Keeping them off the streets and out of trouble." I finished. Claude Frollo smiled again and narrowed his eyes as if he were assessing me. "I like the way you carry yourself. Very self-assured, no nonsense. And, while I don't exactly show it, I marvel at your way with the children."
I returned the smile, saying, "Just doing what is necessary. To tell you the truth, I can't go anywhere without some kid latching onto me."
At once, Judge Frollo burst into hearty laughter. "My dear, my instincts about you were right! You intrigue me. I liked you the moment I laid eyes on you."
He put his hand on my shoulder and gazed into my eyes. I felt a shockwave of emotion run through my body when he touched me. Nothing or no-one had ever before affected me in such a way.
"Minister Frollo, I'm flattered that you're interested in a friend...but I'm only going to be in Paris for a few weeks. Then I'm going home in August."
His Honor asked, "And where is home?"
"I'm an American. From the Midwest."
He looked blank. Then I remembered that the American continent had only just been discovered for him, and probably not even named yet! Oops! "I mean, I'm from the New World", I corrected myself hastily. "Columbus? The Spanish sailor, Christoforo Colombo?"
He nodded, then raised an eyebrow. "The New World... That explains your accent. Your French is fluent enough, but rather harsh on Parisian ears. So... you are not a gypsy then... but do all New-Worlders have such coloring? That beautiful brown skin, I thought..."
"Wait a minute!", I interrupted him, "You thought I was a gypsy? What's next? Are you going accuse me of practicing black magic?" By now I was getting really ticked. I wanted to be friends but I didn't feel I had to pass a test or something, not in my French, my looks or anything else! I really let him know how I felt and went off on him. I became a dissed sister, a raised voice full of fire and spit. I don't think he knew what hit him.
"Why'd you invite me up here then? You wanted to find out if I'm 'illegal'? Well, I am not a gypsy and I am not a witch. Now I know a few folks who dabble in voodoo, but that doesn't mean I'm into the same thing. I really thought you wanted to be friends. You're just wasting my time. May I go now?"
After he'd got over my outburst, Claude Frollo suddenly changed from charming host to angered official. "How DARE you talk to me in that tone! Count yourself fortunate that I don't have you arrested on the spot!" He headed for the door and motioned to a nearby soldier.
"My lieutenant shall show you out", he said as he seated himself at his desk. "I must say, Mlle. Wood, I am highly disappointed. You seemed so charming.... well, no matter."
As I walked out the door, I heard him say to me, "Just a word of warning, my dear mademoiselle. Make one more false move, and you're mine!"
Once outside, I shuddered at the thought of what could happen once in the clutches of Judge Claude Frollo. Then I thought, who cares? I'll be long gone soon enough. Come September, I'll be home and he'll still be here; we'll never cross paths again.
As I walked away from the Palace of Justice, I looked back and saw his tall form in the window. He was looking down at me, not exactly frowning, but not smiling either. He looked rather like a little boy who didn't get his way. Now I wish I hadn't sassed him. For some reason I could hardly figure out, I really wanted to be his friend.

To Chapter 9!

Copyright©October 1997 by FrolloFreak.

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