Lead Me Gently Home

Chapter 21

"Rock-Solid Again"

It was well after sunset when Wanda Rescott entered my room and informed me that I would be discharged the following afternoon. I was so relieved and happy to hear this much-welcomed news, and so was my family.

Momma and Vernice had stopped by before supper; they brought clothes and books for me. I had to tell them about Jehan's unusual 'errand', and Vernie fell out laughing when she heard of Jehan's utter bewilderment upon entering Nordstrom's lingerie department.

"I bet he's never seen anything quite like...ahem...1990s women's undies!", Vernice said between her raucous laughter. Even my mother got in on the act; she was laughing so hard she was crying.
"That poor baby! Shame on you, Danisha, for sending that boy Downtown to pick up makeup and...Where is he, anyway?"

I was still laughing when I informed them that Jehan had gone out for supper. He emphatically stated that he wanted to try something different, "Something so 20th Century."
So I took my credit card, marched down to the ATM in the hospital lobby, and took out enough cash so Jehan could buy supper. Jehan was so amazed with the cash machine!
"And that's all you do? Put in that card, push a few buttons, then you get money! Ingenious!"

Uh...remind myself never to let Jehan Frollo near an ATM...or my credit cards...ever again


I stopped by the gift shop to buy the weekly Recorder, our local African-American newspaper. I also bought a waterglobe for Kenya, who had already gone home that morning. She would return within the next ten days to undergo the delicate surgery to repair her damaged nerves.
Oh Kenya....If I could only give you some of my strength...But I guess you have all the strength you need...

Indeed, my strength had returned tenfold since that fateful night Claude and the kids rushed me to the emergency room. I never felt more cheerier, more alive, more at peace with myself. The man who had destroyed so many lives had finally met his match in Claude Frollo. I had hoped Claude didn't get too carried away, but I reassured myself that BC had it coming.
After this...BC will have to answer to a Higher Power...Del was right...BC will pay dearly...he never knew how much he...

I took the elevator back to my floor and almost didn't notice the other passenger. I paid him no mind as I studied the headlines then flipped to the editorials. If I had known that the 'other' passenger was...

I suddenly felt a nudge from behind, then a kiss to the nape of my neck. A pair of long arms wrapped themselves around me; a deep, testosterone-charged voice greeted me as I responded with a smile.
There's only one person who touches like that...kisses like that...talks like that... I turned to face him.

"Good evening, my love", he cheerfully and tenderly said as he nuzzled my neck and shoulders.
"Claude!", I whispered, "I didn't think you'd be back so soon...I mean..." I laughed when I realized that I nearly ignored the man I love; I was that wrapped up in my own thoughts to notice.

"Honey...sugarbritches", I said as I returned his many kisses, "this is hardly the place for..."
Claude softly laughed then playfully said I didn't need to worry about a seduction scene right there in the elevator. "Besides, your mother informed me of your little after-dinner walks." Claude breathed in my perfume; he recognized it at once.
"Shalimar", he murmured.
"You remembered", I murmured back, oblivious to the many people coming and going.

In a flash I complimented his usual 'The 1480s-meets-the-1990s' ensemble: Those 'sprayed-on' black wool and spandex pants (I bought those for him 'cause I liked the way the fabric molded to his fabulous body); the matching hand-tooled leather vest; the purple silk shirt; the sweeping cloak, the tall boots, and, of course, the famous triangular hat - the chaperon.

When we reached my floor, Claude suddenly placed his hands over my eyes, caressed my hair, then said in his deepest, most sensual voice, "I have a little surprise for you, my love. Now, don't peek,"
"Claude, what...what are doing this time?"

He guided me into my room then gently told me to open my eyes. I nearly fainted when I saw my room filled to the brim with flowers: Tulips, daffodils, crocus. There was a CD player in the far corner of the room; the soulful strains of Luther Vandross wafted throughout the room.
On the table was a box of fancy chocolates, a bottle of champagne, and a slim volume of love poetry to complete this romantic ambience. I was too thrilled for words.

"Ooh, Claude! How wonderful! I had no idea..."
Immediately I threw my arms around him and kissed him with such abandon that I almost forgot to ask him about BC. "Honey, I wanted to ask you...but I really don't want to talk about it."
"Danisha, I know you wanted Brandon out of your life...My dear, he is now in your police's custody. As much as I wanted to personally kill him, I knew I couldn't...Nisha, my darling..."
Claude kissed me deeply then told me to forget about BC, "After all, he's now permanently out of our lives." He held me tightly and told me, "Darling, can we forget about Brandon? I wanted to spend a quiet evening, with you."

I said nothing more as my nostrils took in the sweet heady scent of the many-colored tulips - my favorite spring flowers. "Claude, where did you get all these flowers? I mean, it's only March and..."
Claude chuckled good-humoredly as he opened the champagne and filled the glasses. He handed me a glass, then explained that he bought the flowers "At that lovely florist shop across the street. I ran into Jehan on the way in and he directed me to this Pandell's...they have the most beautiful things."

He then laughed when he explained that he had to take the remaining cash from Jehan. "He told me of his...ahem...morning errand and the...er...'credit card'. My dearest, you really should be more cautious -- Allowing my brother near such things is bad enough...But..."
Claude fell back the bed and laughed uproariously when he recounted Jehan's tale of traveling Downtown to pick up, "Ladies'...ahem...'unmentionables'!"

"Well, Claude, it's not like he hasn't seen ladies' underwear before..."
Claude raised an eyebrow, sipped his champagne, then popped a chocolate into my mouth. He then said with a broad grin, "I am aware of that, my love. But Nisha...Jehan isn't quite ready for 20th Century lingerie; it's so revealing..."
He started breaking up again when he added, "I can visualize my brother...ogling lacy, barely-there...Mmm...Speaking of silky, slinky, lacy lingerie..."
Claude then held me closer, his hands gently stroking my body, his lips tenderly and passionately kissing mine.
"Oh, Danisha. I never told you how beautiful you look tonight. Mmm...this gown...so smooth...so silky...like your skin..."
He ran his fingers through my hair; his steady gaze was mesmerizing, almost as intoxicating as the wine. Claude sighed, "Nisha...You are so incredibly beautiful...your hair, your hands..."
He held me tightly as he continued to praise my beauty. And I just let him do it...It pleases him so...I'm glad I sent Jehan on that little errand...It was worth the trouble...Having Claude here...holding me, loving me...

We spent the most wonderful evening of champagne, chocolate, romantically flowery poetry, and delightful, laugh-filled conversation. He probably doesn't know, but I lean on him too...He's my rock...He means more to me than any other man I've ever known...And now, that we're rock-solid again...I guess we lean on each other...That's the way it should be...

I remembered what Del said about Claude and me - That we draw upon each other's strength. We would need that strength the next day...


Finally I get to go home...today...And with Claude...

"Nisha, do you want all these flowers to go to pediatrics?"
"Yes, ma'am. And the balloons."

My mother sorted through the various pots and planters that cluttered my room. I had already dispatched most of the greenery to the older patients, and I wanted the flowers and balloons to go to the children. It was my way of saying thank you to all those people who prayed over me, and wished me a speedy recovery. Besides, it was my nature to return a kindness, plus the fact that so many patients had very little family to cheer them. This is for them...I have so much...I'm willing to share...

When Momma learned that I wasn't spending my recovery time at home, she protested, but it was settled: I was to go home with Claude, to 15th Century Paris. Claude insisted that I return with him for at least part of my recuperation. Besides, as he rationalized, I needed to get away from home for a few weeks, just to help clear my mind.
BC Bell was now secure in the County Lock-Up; he was no longer a threat to me or my family.

"Maybe I'm being selfish", Momma said as she helped me pack my belongings, "But I realize you aren't a child anymore -- We've never held you back, Danisha. Go with him, honey...I know you're in safe hands."
I kissed Momma as I signed my release papers. Yes...Maybe it is best I get away...Get my head together...Be around old friends and make new ones...Besides, Claude will make sure I'm well-rested and entertained...Maybe I can finally cook up a "New World" dinner for the King...

"Danisha, the orderly wants to know where to take these flowers."
My mind was recalled to the present as Momma again asked about the flowers. "All these go to pediatrics, except", I said to the orderly as I removed a few yellow tulips from the last basket, "These few. I want to put these on..."

At that moment, Kyle and Jehan appeared at the door to inform me that all was ready. Kyle offered to transport us back to the 15th Century, only this time, I will be fully conscious to enjoy the ride. Claude was to meet us in the parking garage; he said he had a special surprise for me.
Now I wonder what that could be...

I hugged Momma goodbye and told her to say goodbye to Daddy and my sisters. Momma did all she could to keep from crying but I reassured her I would be in good hands. "After all, I'll be back in a few weeks - We still have Jacki's wedding, and don't forget the Wood family reunion."

Momma just kept crying all the way down to the parking garage. "I know, Nisha. But you're still my baby and I just hate to see you leave", she said as we walked to where Kyle's van was parked. "All of you girls are my babies. Nisha...Keep in contact with us...Don't do too much..."

She hugged me just as Claude approached us; she turned to Claude as said through a tear-choked voice, "Your Honor...I guess I really should call you 'Claude"...I want to thank you again for saving my baby's life. Take good care of her; don't let her do much..."
Claude, to my surprise, reassuredly put his arm around Momma's shoulder and told her, "Madame, I shall take excellent care of your daughter. After all, she has taken such excellent care of me in the past; I can think of no better way to return the favor."

Then my mother, being that kind of woman - loving, sweet-natured, gentle - immediately embraced Claude Frollo as if he was one of the family. I had expected him to pull away, but he didn't even try. Instead he returned the embrace, saying gently, "My dear Geraldine...May I address you by your Christian name?"
Momma nodded as she dried her eyes. "Geraldine, do not worry so -- We shall return in June for Jacqueline's wedding..."

...Daddy should be here...but he had a class to teach...Daddy, you should be watching this...Claude is ever the gentleman...He's comforting and consoling Momma...She's bawling just like that day I went off to college...I guess mothers do that...They hate to see their children leave...


Kyle wheeled the van into Crown Hill Cemetary as I steeled myself for the inevitable. I never got to say goodbye to Del and Arletta, and I insisted that we stop so I could pay my final respects. Afterwards, Kyle would rev up the van and whisk us all to 15th Century Paris.
This place...the final resting place for the famous, the infamous, and the not-so-famous...
...Let's see...Riley, Benjamin Harrison, Booth Tarkington, the Lillys...Then there's Dillinger...
Then there's Delron Davis and his sister Arletta...

After Kyle parked the van, I insisted on being alone although Claude and Jehan thought it unwise.
"No", I firmly said, "I want to do this alone - I'll be all right."

I pulled the hood of my raincoat over my head, even though it was quite balmy for March, it was a tad drizzly. The weather matched my current mood - miserable, gloomy, sad. With yellow tulips in hand, I neared the still-freshly filled gravesites. I could see the newly laid headstones in place:

Arletta Kay Davis-White 1967-1997

Delron Leroy Davis 1972-1997.

Oh God...so young...too young to die so soon...It isn't fair...But...Del, Arletta...life will go on....BC is now in custody...Justice will be served...I'll look after your girls, Arletta...I promise...

Tears poured from my eyes in sheets; I guess I cried more than the sky. I couldn't stop weeping; the more I tried not to break down, the more my emotions got the best of me. Finally, I couldn't hold back; I totally broke down and bawled like a baby. I then felt arms around me - Claude...

"Oh Claude", I sobbed in his arms, and I felt his body trembling. I could feel his grief, although he knew Arletta and Del for only a few fleeting days. But, as he held me, I could hear his barely audible voice, which cracked with emotion, offering up a prayer for them, and for Arletta's children.

I said nothing but continued to let Claude hold me until the last ounce of grief left my body. Within the next few hours, I would be settled before the massive fireplace in his private chambers. Everything would begin to return to normal; life would go on.

But for now, within those few moments as we said our final goodbyes to two very special people, we could sense the foundation becoming rock-solid again, and the bond between us deepen and strengthen with each passing second.

...No more running away...For I am home again...whether in my time or in his time... It's where I – where we – want to be...


©Copyright, FrolloFreak FSM #14, 1998.

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