I stood all alone on that bridge, oblivious to the traffic whizzing past me. Darkness had fallen; I turned on the backlight of my pager, and read Claude's message again. He's here....He's close by, because the tracking mode is on...I can tell because the green light keeps flashing...Glad I turned off the sound...Can't draw too much attention...Where is he anyway? Can't be far...I hope he's OK...this isn't the best of areas...He's actually trying to find me! Claude sounded so desperate, so determined...
I instantly broke down; the sobs came non-stop. I felt so bad -- No, I felt really low -- that Claude dropped everything, and traveled five hundred years to the future, just to find me. I guess he was right all along -- I never knew my true feelings for him, and Iátook everything we had for granted.
He must really care for me, or else he wouldn't take the risks...roaming
the mean streets of this town...Poor baby could get knocked in the head....I
hope he's OK...
I coded a reply, so Claude would know exactly where to locate me:
Who would've thought I'd ever use that term again...I'm on the 16th Street Bridge...I'm heading in your direction, Claude - walking on the south side of the street - so I can face traffic...I'm sorry, too...I still love you...Nisha
I resumed my westward trek towards the man I love; but, the long walk,
plus all the previous trauma, took its toll on me. The pain emanating from
my lower left side throbbed with a dull steady beat. Nevertheless, I pushed
on -- I never bothered to ask Claude of his location -- but stopped
only momentarily to rest. I ducked into a bakery, and treated myself to
a cup of coffee and a doughnut.
Sitting near the window, and keeping a bright lookout for Claude, I wished I hadn't cursed him out like I did. Those last words I hurled at Claude Frollo must've cut too deeply. Oh Claude...I never wanted to hurt you..but I got 'my back up'...I don't know when to stop whenever I feel my pride injured...This is stupid - and dangerous - letting my pride take over... Oh God, please forgive me...I wish Claude was here now, enjoying quiet talk...and one of these fab doughnuts...Oh no...What if he finds me..then lays into me again? What if he decides to tell my parents the whole sordid story of our breakup? Oh no...Then I'd never hear the end of it...Daddy would go into his 'I told you so' routine...But Claude wouldn't do that...Could he?
Deep down, I knew perfectly well that Claude wouldn't do such a thing; however, there went my foolish pride, clouding all rationality.
I gulped the last of my coffee, then lit out into the evening chill.
Claude Frollo sat on a bench to catch his breath.
How far did I run? Oh, have to stop...just for a few seconds...I can't linger too long...I must find her...She has to be nearby...What was the name of the street I just crossed...I can't remember! How much closer is the river? Relax...She's fine, Claude...She answered my message...I just wish I could get there sooner...I should've called Jacqueline myself...Jehan! I have to contact Jehan...
...No...I have to find Nisha...first...
Claude Frollo coded another message to his 14th FSM:
Please give me a precise location...Stay there until I arrive...Iálove you, Danisha...Claude
I couldn't walk anymore; my legs and feet gave out a long time ago.
I leaned against a lamppost, hoping that no one will bother me. This wasn't
the safest place in town, with all the street crime, and gang activity.
Somehow, no one seemed to bother me at all; I never felt safer.
Weird...and I thought for sure I would be mugged ...or worse...I don't have much money on me...Less than five bucks and some change...I really should've taken that bus...But then I wouldn't have heard from Claude...Ever since I tore out of the Palace of Justice, weird things started happening...like thinking Jehan was on that bus...Then I almost chuck my pager into White River...Then Claude contacts me...
I found myself in front of a church - Nothing much really - just an
old store converted into a house of worship. It was Wednesday night, and
I'd forgotten that these little churches had mid-week services. I wanted
to go inside, but hesitated; then, for some strange reason, I fell to my
knees and began to cry. The tears rolled down my face as I wondered if
God was trying to tell me something; maybe He was doing just that.
A man approached me, and told me, "Go on inside. There're angels in there who'll help you." I briefly glanced at this man; there was something about him that was vaguely familiar. He was very tall and slender, with a weather-beaten bronzed complexion. He wore his hair in long, matted dreadlocks, and he spoke with a clipped Caribbean accent.
Speed? That street dude who hangs around Downtown? He used to come around my old apartment building...looking for aluminum cans, old rags, and paper...I talked to him a lot...He's very brilliant...A damned sight wiser than some 'book-smart' people I know...He's the one who led the cops to my apartment...that night when BC almost beat me to death...
"Speed?", I called as I lifted my eyes in the direction of his voice, but he was gone. Wiping my tear-swollen eyes, I took a deep breath, then entered this storefront church. It wasn't what I'd expected.
I sat in the back row, and studied the bare-bones interior. It wasn't
much, just a few fold-down metal chairs, an old lectern, an ancient sound
system, and an upright piano that seemed in need of tuning.
The service was unlike any I've ever seen. There was the pastor - if one could call him that - who acted as both worship leader and choir director.
Did I say they had a choir? Well, it seemed the whole congregation - all twenty-two of them - was the choir. They sang a series of time-honored hymns; the very hymns I learned as a child. One such hymn struck a nerve; the words mirrored my current mood.
Throw out the lifeline
Throw out the lifeline
Someone is drifting away!
Throw out the lifeline
Throw out the lifeline
Someone is sinking today
The pastor then delivered a sermon, that, for some odd reason, sounded
a lot like Del's. It was a similar message about making the right choices,
and how wrong decisions can mess up one's life. I really felt low; those
words truly hit home for me. What that man said was the truth - I had thrown
away a valuable friendship, and made my life a living hell over someone
like BC Bell.
When the pastor concluded his message, he invited people to come forward, and witness how God has been good to them. I had expected some lofty testimony, but this crowd was - different. Some of the "testifyin'" centered on mundane things, stuff I always took for granted.
"My brother finally got a job."
"My blood sugar's been normal for a change."
"I got accepted to college; I'm the first in my family to go."
"My daughter brought her grades up from D's to B's."
"I finally got my heat turned back on."
All this made me feel so stupid, that I finally realized that all that
pain and misery I put myself through was for absolutely nothing. I'd always
considered myself a savvy, bright, no-nonsense woman; but, I allowed myself
to turn away from everything I held sacred. I cast aside my common sense,
and replaced it with a false sense of hope. My foolish, stubborn pride
got in the way of all things sensible.
My relationship with Claude, or what was left of it, was in tatters, because of me. Two good people had been brutally murdered, because of me. Two kids were now motherless, because of me.
Come on, girl...Get up and say it...You've been blinded by fear...You let pride take precedent over good sense...Now, you nearly lost a good man who was not only your lover, but one of your closest friends....One of your best friends... Maybe Claude has probably given up the search...Maybe he's gone back to Paris...or else he would've been here by now ...No matter...Do it, Nisha!
I timidly raised my hand, then said in a soft voice, "Excuse me,
but I'd like to say something."
All eyes were on me, a stranger in their midst. One woman, who sat in front of me, turned to me and said, "Go 'head, child. Tell us how the Lord has worked for you."
I got up, but hesitated to go up front. Instead, I stood there in the aisle, and began to tell these folks, whom I''ve never met, all my troubles. My speech was slow, halting; my hands began to perspire.
"I just came in off the streets - Not that I don't have a home
to go to. I live across town..."
I paused long enough to gather my thoughts, then continued. "You see, I've been walking around all evening, like a lost sheep. I've been pondering things I've done, and I'm not proud of what has transpired because of my thoughtlessness."
Tears dripped from my eyes as I began to tell the congregation everything. I told them of my past relationship with BC Bell, how he beat me, how he threatened me when he returned to town. I told them about Del Davis and Arletta White. Seemed a lot of people in that room knew of Del, and of his ministry. When I related the story of the murders, everyone voiced regrets over the "loss of two fine people", and they offered prayers for Arletta's children.
I then went on about how my silence alienated me from my family, my
friends, and, most importantly, the man I love.
"He's one of the best friends I've ever known. He's been very patient with me, but I never met him halfway. You all should meet him - He's refined, elegant, cultured, and oh-so wonderful - I let the good thing we had slip through my fingers." The tiny congregation encouraged me, as I continued, with words of comfort. "It's all right, sister. We understand", said the pastor.
My tears came faster as I, in a sobbing voice, said, "I wish he
was here now. I know God has forgiven me, but I wish Claude - that's his
name - would find it in his heart to forgive me. I'd tell him I'm sorry
a million times."
Suddenly, the pastor spotted someone who had been standing by the door. He then said to me, "Sister, I think the man you're talking about is right behind you, 'cause I don't ever recall anyone around here lookin' so sharp!" He laughed, then everyone else turned to look at this stranger.
Every eye was on this man, and every voice gushed forth comments on his commanding presense, his stylishness, his elegance.
"Girl, have you ever seen such a man?"
"Looks like no one from around here."
"Nice lookin' gentleman."
"Honey, you let a man like that get away from you?"
But he was no stranger to me.
He began to speak, in a voice so gentle, so tender, that I actually felt all the poison, all the pent-up anger, drain away from my very being.
"Danisha, I forgave you a long time ago. I love you, and I hope
you can forgive me."
Claude Frollo strode ito the center of the room, extended his hand to me, then said, "Come, my love. Let me take you home."
To Chapter 18!
ę Copyright FrolloFreak FSM #14, 1998.