Lead Me Gently Home

Chapter 16
"The Foundation Falls Apart"

From Danisha's Journals

I sat in the quiet of my kitchen; my eyes drifted from the bright sunny day outside, to the pages before me. I don't believe this! How could he write such a thing? That bastard...And after he charmed my dad...Damn Claude! Screw Claude!

I got up, armed myself with that essay, a bottle, a shot glass, and my smokes. I didn't care if I smoked and drank myself into a stupor; at this moment, it was worth it. I sat out on the porch, just to enjoy the balmy mid-March weather, and read, once more, the words of a man who I thought I loved, respected, and trusted completely. How could he doubt my feelings for him? After all I went through - For him! I promised myself a long time ago that no one or nothing would ever harm Claude Frollo, not if I could help it. And I thought I was doing him a favor by protecting him from the likes of BC.
I didn't care if Claude finally knew the truth about BC, or of my relationship with him. I also didn't care if Claude and I ever got back together -- Well, after reading this, why should I bother?
Damn him! What was going through his mind when he wrote this? And after I risked my life and rescued him from certain death...suffered with him...And he repays me...With this?! If I knew he was gonna do this...I should've let him rot in that dungeon cell...

My lady...so sweet...so gentle...Danisha LeShawn Wood...even the name is beautiful, unique...
She has always been there for me...In the worst of circumstances, she has been there, even if it meant risking her own life...
I have never experienced such warmth and laughter...She lights up a room with her smile...Even in my darkest of moods, she never fails to lift my spirits with a hilarious joke, a tender word, or a warm smile...

I am beginning to doubt her feelings for me...I know my feelings for her, but...
I know I am not a 'one-woman-man'...I never will be...Danisha accepts and understands this...
Nisha is different...She is from another time...Over five hundred years separate us...

Yet, I've managed to deal with my utter bewilderment when I learned of my new-found 20th Century friends, and of their time...Danisha has always said that our relationship is unique...She, a refined, well-educated, and extremely independent woman of the 1990s, and I, a 1487 city magistrate...She has told me, and I have told her, that we learn from each other...She has exposed me to her country's history and culture...I have learned more about her country and of the 20th Century than anyone from my time could possibly fathom...Just thinking about the wonders I've seen, why, I still find it all much too incredible!
....All I can say is that, when Christoforo Colombo sets foot in the wilds of the New World, the long ocean voyage, and the 'accidental' discovery will be worth it...For I have seen the fruits - and the pain - that have sprung from one man's 'mistake'...

However, for all Danisha's devotion to me, I am beginning to have my reservations about our friendship...Yes, she is my friend, as well as my lover...Of my many FSMs, she remains somewhat of a mystery to me...
She has told me much about her family, but I have yet to meet them...Her parents seem so utterly fascinating...I wonder if she's apprehensive, perhaps a little ashamed, of our relationship...It is a unique relationship...

I believe Nisha has not been honest with me...Surely she would not deliberately sabotage our special bond with secrets and deception...I feel she is too far above that...Yet...

I have to let her know these things, before it is too late...If she loves me, as she professes, she will understand...

Danisha is beginning to shut me out...I can feel it...And I believe she is unaware of how much this has hurt me...I intend to confront her with this, albeit gently...I value our friendship too much to let it die...

I glanced at the bottom of the page -- It was dated two days before he strolled into my classroom, and asked that I have that manuscript translated and published. Oooh...the nerve of him! Maybe that's why he brought the manuscript, in hopes that I'd read this piece of...
My eyes blurred with tears; I read the essay once more. Even though my mind was telling me that Claude was only being truthful, my wounded pride got in the way of everything rational. Before I went back inside, I noticed one of the neighborhood mothers strolling past my house. She was several months pregnant, and she had a toddler by the hand. I felt a tinge of jealousy; I resented the fact that I may never have children, and I blamed Claude Frollo.
But it isn't his fault you lost his baby...Yes it is! After reading his trashing of my 'devotion'...I'll show him two can play this game...

I went back in the house, then upstairs to dress. I knew I wasn't supposed to be up and about, but I didn't care. The doctor specifically said, "No stair-climbing, no heavy-duty walking, no lifting. Light to moderate exercise is fine, but don't overdo it. You've had major surgery; you don't want to risk complications."
I don't give a rat's a__! Complications? I'll give you complications...There's one big complication sitting in the Palace of Justice...

I put on old black jeans, a black turtleneck, sneakers, and my old black leather jacket. I pulled my hair back and donned that oversized 1970s newsboy cap. Claude thought that cap looked cute; I wore it the night I rescued him.
...I think this is the very outfit I wore when I rescued him...

I then took the silver key and my pager. As a last-minute decision, I pocketed some money - just a few bills and change - because Momma always said to make sure I have some money, just in case.

Oh yes, can't forget this...That manuscript, and the essay...Original, and translations...

I was thoroughly aware of the risks: another rupture, another hemorrhage, another brush with death. I wasn't concerned -- All I wanted was to finally clear the remains of my relationship with Claude Frollo from my life.

I stood in the center of my bedroom, pushed the red button, then was instantly engulfed by a bright white light...


As usual, I let myself in with the key, then casually strolled into Claude's study. He wasn't there. A servant then informed me that Claude had been out all afternoon, something about a meeting with André d'Arcy and Someone Noialles.
"His Grace should return shortly; he has been expecting you, madamoiselle."

Hmph! 'Expecting' me...I'll give him something to expect!

Bored with waiting, I went into the huge drawing-room - That Steinway grand dominated one corner of the room. I lifted the lid and began playing. I think I played angry, 'he-done-her-wrong' songs -- It seemed to match my mood. I don't know how long I played, nor did I pay any attention to the time. I supposed an hour or so passed when the same servant rushed into the room to inform me, "His Grace has returned, madamoiselle."
"Did you tell him I was here?"
"Not yet, Mlle. Wood."
"Then don't tell him -- And don't disturb us."

I tucked the manuscript under my arm and made my way to Claude's study. What transpired within the next few minutes sealed the fate of our unique relationship -- Or what was left of it.


"My dear Danisha, what a pleasant surprise!" Claude Frollo greeted me with a tender kiss and embrace. I tentatively returned the kiss, then prepared to deliver the 'big payback'.
"Claude", I sweetly said, as I leafed through the manuscript, "Linda finished the translation of your manuscript. She even read your historical accounts; she said it was extremely fascinating." Claude smiled, then stretched out his hand to take the now-finished translations. I quickly removed the loose pages before handing over the original manuscript, plus the translation.
He seemed very impressed as he flipped through Linda's accurately translated and word-processed pages.
"Remarkable work! Your colleague did an excellent job. My love, please remind me to send a token of my appreciation to Madame Davis."
"I will, honey", I replied, still holding onto Claude's essay. No way was he getting away with this. Oh, I know that my pride was about to get the best of me, but I didn't care. I want to hurt him, make him feel my full fury, that he wouldn't know what hit him...

"Danisha, are those pages...?" Claude looked up from the printout and noticed the extra pages in my hand.
"Part of your 'medieval history', Claude? Oh no, baby, this is something else. You see, I read your little essays, including this one." I began to read, out loud, parts of Claude Frollo's 'paeon' to me, his 20th Century lady.

Claude's eyes grew wide; he sprang to his feet, then demanded, "Where did you get that?"

My eyes narrowed as I looked up from the page; I could feel the daggers sprout from my eyes, and the venom of a 'dissed sistah' spew from my mouth.
"Seems you should've been more careful when you stuck this piece of crap in between the pages. I suppose I wasn't to see this?" I sensed my temper beginning to flare; my sense of wounded pride taking over anything remotely rational.

"What did you mean that I'm 'deliberately sabotaging' our relationship? And what's this about my so-called 'apprehension' and being 'ashamed' of....I'm NOT trying to sabotage anything, Claude! Damn you! Talk about deception...secrets...You KNEW I'd see this, didn't you?"

Claude's eyes blazed with fury; his cheeks glowed with white-hot anger. Nothing, and I mean nothing, prepared me for what followed. All at once, Claude roared at me, "Are you accusing me of deception, of secrets? Tell me, Danisha, who is the real liar, the real keeper of secrets? ANSWER ME!"

I didn't know what hit me; all I could do was fling back at him, "I've hid nothing from you! I have been honest..."
"LIAR! My God, Nisha, you nearly died! Have you any idea what I've been going through the past few days? What your family has endured?"
I wanted to give it back to him, lick for lick, but he continued his diatribe. His booming voice seemed to shake the very walls of that room; I wanted to run away, but I stood my ground.

"Why didn't you tell me yourself, instead of letting the responsibilty fall on others? Damn you, Nisha! After all, it was my child!"
I shot back, "You self-righteous bastard! If you hadn't been so full of it when you decided to up and walk out on me..."

Claude could take no more of my feeble attempts to get back at him. He continued to hurl accusations at me -- Well, they weren't accusations; they were truthful insights. Claude Frollo knew me better than I gave him credit, and I tuned him out, just like I did up in the belltower one warm July night.

"SHUT UP!", he bellowed. "Are you totally incapable of telling the truth? Or are you one of those who enjoy playing the game long enough to see how far you can push..."
I had to say something, anything, because Claude was now treading dangerous ground; I had to defend myself.
"I'm NOT playing any game! I would've leveled with you from the beginning, but BC threatened me -- He threatened to hurt me AND you! I had to remain silent, for everyone's sake."

Once again, Claude lashed out at me; his words cut like a hot double-edged sword through solid ice.
"The truth did reveal itself, eventually. But at what price, Danisha? You nearly lost your life; two innocent people are now dead - murdered! Two children are now motherless thanks to your thoughtlessness, your selfishness!"

Me, selfish? No way! Damn Claude...If he thinks he can get away with this...

"Hold on, Claude! I did what I had to do! How was I to know what BC was gonna..." I had to stop myself; then I began to cry out of anger and frustration.

Claude then softened his tone; his chameleon-like temperament allowed him to show a little tenderness. That is, until I had to open my mouth...Again.
"I know all about your past relationship with this Bell fellow; your father told me everything." He drew closer to me, then put his hand on my shoulder. Tears coursed down my face as I heard him say, "Danisha, I would have protected you from this monster, but..." He stopped himself, then tried to pry that essay from my hands. I wouldn't let go until...
"My dear, I wrote that piece when I thought our friendship was in jeopardy. I never meant for you to see this; it was why I decided to have that talk...You do remember? The foundations of our relationship; what has held us together all these years..."
I said nothing, and Claude could tell his patented techniques for breaking down my defenses weren't working -- not this time. He furiously paced about the room, then told me that he was correct all along, that, "Obviously, you care very little about this relationship, or else you would have been totally honest with me."

Somehow, I felt I had to say something. As usual, whenever Claude and I got into an arguement, he played his trump card, then I'd know when to back off. This, however, was different. He's not getting off this easily...
"I do care about our friendship, our love. But, Claude", I said with tear-choked voice as I waved the now-wrinkled pages of his essay."When I read stuff like this, I wonder if you..."

Suddenly, Claude's fiery temper flared full-blast. With blazing eyes, and a voice that dripped sheer rage, Claude knocked books and papers from his desk as he stormed at me. A Category Five hurricane would've done far less damage.

"How DARE you accuse me of doubting my feelings for you! But what are your feelings for me?!" He lunged at me, grabbed me by the shoulders, then violently shook me while bellowing, "Damned fool! Are you even capable of real love?! Do you always shield yourself from everyone who loves you? Damn you, Danisha, for once in your life, stop wallowing in this stupid, stubborn pride!"
He then said something else; he used my very words against me! "'Certain actions and decisions, and their effect on so many lives'! Well, dear Nisha", he snarled sarcastically, "it seems your actions -- make that your inaction and indecision - have shattered so many lives!"
I struggled in Claude's grasp as I tearfully replied, "It's not as if I pulled the trigger, Claude!"
I could say no more; I started to sob hysterically. How could he accuse me of killing Arletta and Del...How did I know BC was going to kill them...And now, Claude screams at me...manhandles me...accuses me of murder...Have to get away from him...Forever...

I trembled from head to toe - Never had he laid a hand on me, and never had he spoken to me so harshly. Claude suddenly released me, then stumbled back. The tears welled in his eyes when he realized what he had done.
"My love, I'm sorry", he said as the tears streamed down his face. "I promised myself I would never lay a hand on you, but...Nisha, please forgive me."
I said nothing; my tears came harder and faster. My mind was no longer rational; and, just as before, I tuned out Claude's apology, his words of love.

Love...He doesn't know the meaning of the word....Grabbing me like that...yelling at me like that...just like BC...But...Claude's not BC...I can't focus...Not rational...

Claude then tenderly said, "Darling, you have always been there for me; you risked your life for me. Allow me to return the favor, my love." A slight smile spread across his handsome face; the teardrops fell onto the desk.

"Danisha, what is the line from that song?"
"What song, Claude?" Where's he going with this?
"That song you sang with the young people, at your school. You were playing piano..."

I finally realized what he was talking about; I began to sing a few lines:

Lean on me
When you're not strong
And I'll be your strength...

Claude held out his hand as if he wanted to make amends. But I was too blind with rage, and my stupid, stubborn pride, to ever meet him halfway.
I was also hurting - again.

I did it again...I let my wounded pride - that eternal chip I've carried ever since BC Bell hit me the first time.

...Get rid of the chip, Nisha...Claude is NOT BC...He cares too much for you...he cherishes you as a friend...as well as a lover...You've shared so much together...Lots of good times ...even bad times...You've laughed...You've cried...Learn from this and move on...You can't throw this away...

...Oh yes I can!

"Danisha, are you listening to me? I want us to start anew, darling." My ears tuned out the tenderness of his voice; I looked away from his now-sorrowful expression.

In an instant, I exploded. Funny, but I never said anything stronger than 'damn' in Claude's presence; the poor man never knew what hit him!
I threw the wrinkled pages of that essay in his face; my eyes were blurred with tears.


Claude's expression was -- I don't think I ever recalled such an expression. It was so hard, so chilling, as if his inherent cruelty finally manifested itself before my eyes. And, as usual, HE had to get in the last words - He roared at me, "GET OUT! DAMN YOU! GET OUT OF MY SIGHT!"
Claude's teeth clenched; the eyes blazed with fire and brimstone. He snarled and growled while his hands reached for my throat. I was so frightened, so unrattled, that all I could do was to tear out of there - and fast!

Oh God...I've never seen him so angry...so full of rage...Please...let me get out of here!

I never looked back as I ran out of the study, down the corridor, and out of the Palace of Justice. I never looked back as I ran across the square; for if I did, I would've seen his tall form at his window looking down at me, and I would've seen the total despair in his eyes -- I would've seen the tears.

...Don't care...It's over...He was right, you know. Deception and mistrust in a relationship never works...Ours was doomed a long time ago...Oh God..It's really over!

I wept as I hid in the darkness of an alley. I was so upset, that I never re-synched my time-traveler.
When I pushed that red button, I ended up in a totally different area of my hometown. I was cold, hungry, angry, and totally devastated over what I had done.

I felt utterly alone...And I was in a lot of physical, as well as emotional, pain. Which wasn't good; because, once again, I'd put my life in jeopardy.

I had no idea that I may die within the next few hours.

To Chapter 17 (part 1)

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