People Like Us

Chapter 20

The Time & Place:
Danisha's 15th Century Parisian home. In the still of the night, Claude Frollo is locked in conference with Nisha's Aunt Nola. Oh my! Frollo is in a tizzy! This is why Nola has been summoned: to counsel the formidable Frollo — and she, like Frollo and Nisha, is one tough cookie! This should be interesting. Read on...

A thunderstruck Claude Frollo sat in the chair across from Nola; he couldn't quite believe what this woman had just told him. Is it all true? That Danisha took their daughter and walked out on him? That she never bothered to give any warning signs of impending trouble? That she suddenly and deliberately threw away a decade of love and commitment. Impossible! For she was here a mere few hours ago, consoling Frollo in his time of need, suffering with him after he revealed the dreadful Ouimet family secret.

"I can't believe this!," he angrily declared. "Why did she do this? How can she do this to me? After all these years, after all we've been through together...Countless times, I risked my life for her, suffered with her. She has risked life and limb for me. Now, she does this?! The ungrateful little...!"

"Stop it right there, Claude Frollo! I won't let you talk about my niece that way! You still have a long way to go before you even think about getting back together with Danisha."

Eighty year old Nola Jean Ransom, a large ebony-hued woman with abundant gray hair fashioned in a tight bun, thundered at Frollo. The dim lantern light played against high cheekbones, her darkly complexion barely visible except for the eyes and teeth. Those eyes rained an awful fire few people could stand, the teeth bared as if to gnash her helpless prey to pieces. Nola was aware that she was dealing with no ordinary man — Claude was far from the "mousy" type, and definitely shared, with both her and Nisha, a streak of pride, lofty sense of personal dignity, and steely determination. Those qualities Nola admired.

She was highly educated, extremely intelligent and intellectual, imperious, demanding, exacting. A shrewd and extremely successful businesswoman with a gift of "reading" people, Nola was one not to cross. Even Danisha and her sisters, although they were the favored nieces, quaked with both fear and delight whenever Aunt Nola came to visit. She was that awe-inspiring. However, to Nisha, Aunt Nola – her mother's eldest sister – was more than just "The General". A childless woman, Nola doted on and inspired all her nieces and nephews to excel at everything. She always reminded them of the sacrifices she made as a young girl.
"There were times, all during my days at Tennessee State, that I did without all the comforts of my better-heeled classmates. I scrubbed floors, baby-sat, cooked and cleaned and ironed, to pay my way through school."
Even after Nola graduated, she still had to scrimp and save in order to live. She was trained in business, economics,  and law, but had to take a secretary's job just to make ends meet; career opportunities for Black women, during the 1940's and 1950's were extremely limited.
In time, she saved enough money to start her own life and homeowners' insurance company, soon becoming one of the more successful in her field. Within the span of fifty years, she bought and sold investment properties in several states, which provided more than enough income upon which to live very comfortably. In light of her success, Nola never forgot where she came from. Often, she'd provide handsome scholarships to various charities, churches, Greek Letter societies, and schools.
"Never forget your roots," she'd drum into the children. "Don't cultivate a hateful heart, and allow no one to cloud your mind with prejudice. Fly away from those people; they will only keep hate alive and thwart all our people's struggles. Love all people, regardless of color or race. God put us all here for a reason, so don't allow yourself to become a bigot, lest you find yourself with a hardened heart and an empty life."

 She let everyone know that – even Claude Frollo who by now had come dangerously close in verbally dishonoring Danisha. Naturally Claude didn't know the entire truth – the real reasons why Nisha left him. That was why Danisha sent for her auntie, to set the record straight. She left Nola a letter, "To be given to him only after you and he have talked. Don't let him get his way! If he resorts to threats or browbeating, then you know what to do."
Nola watched and studied Claude carefully before allowing herself to calm down and speak again. She softened the tone of her voice, but it still carried that "Don't mess with me" edge that caused the hardest people to pause and listen.

 "Claude," she began, "I've watched you and Nisha grow as a couple all these years. Now I don't always put my stamp of approval on my children's choice of mates...Lord knows I've prayed everyday that someone would come along and snap Danisha out of that depression ever since Darnell died..."
Nola continued, "When you came to visit us, and after Joe and Gerry told us all about you — how you're really from the distant past, and how much you adore our Nisha — I had to stand back and assess you. I noticed that glow you and Nisha have, as close to the same as when she and Darnell were engaged..."

 "Beg pardon, madame," interrupted Claude who was instantly hushed with one of Nola's patented, "Sir, let me finish!" No one had ever rendered Claude Frollo speechless in his entire life! In spite of this faux pas — although any other Parisian would be punished at once for such insolence — Frollo quietly admired the woman for her, as Nisha often put it, "Grit and spit."

Nola's face hardened into honest displeasure; her eyes glowered with a mixture of sadness and admiration. Yes, she thought, despite all his fine manners and such, he still manages to do this to everyone with whom he comes in contact. He has that affect: They admire him; they hate him. He does things that can either endear or repel...

Maybe I'll try the "tender" approach, and if that doesn't work, I'll simply smack the respect into him...

 Nola cleared her throat, then asked point blank, "Do you love my niece?"
Claude was rather taken aback; he seemed almost tongue-tied as the question was repeated. "You heard me right, honey. Do you love Danisha? Yes or no?"
Frollo, now regaining his composure, in all earnestness replied, "Madame, I love Nisha with all my heart and soul. She...Well, what I confessed to her father those many years ago when Danisha lay near death...It is the truth."

He eyed Nola thoroughly, watching for any signs of anger or rage. No, this isn't exactly what I expected. Judging from her present mood, I anticipated a major dressing-down, just like Nisha does when I get...How does she put it? Oh yes, "On my high horse." There has to be a glimmer of hope for us....I have to know why she would resort to such rashness...It isn't like her...

Frollo finally spoke again, this time choosing his words sensibly, but not a deliberate "sugarcoating" for he knew that Nola obviously had been instructed to report any "funny business."

"Madame, there has to be a reason why she left, and why she summoned you..."

Nola now smiled a bit as she continued to survey this man with whom her niece fell head over heels in love with. No, he's not THAT bad...just a product of his time and culture...His dislike of the Roma falls in line with everyone else's of his time period...Obviously Nisha is — or at least should be — aware of the situation by now. But it's all this fallout from that little boy's kidnapping...Such as the little girl who saw it all but couldn't come forth because she's a gypsy...Then Esmeralda and Nisha make up...Wonder what Claude will do if I tell him it's THAT which triggered Danisha's sudden change of heart...

Taking a deep breath, Nola glanced around the room, her eyes finally lighting upon the gramophone. Smiling and remembering her manners, she asked Frollo, "Honey, mind if you'd spin one of those old-time records for me? I'm in the mood for something of my childhood. I believe Nisha has some old Joplin rags..."
Frollo returned smile, replying, "Madame, I'd be delighted..."

That said, he immediately went to the 1900's "music machine", flipped through Nisha's record collection and selected a disc. Soon the room filled with the sounds of "Solace", an apt tune for this tension-filled evening.
Returning to his seat, Claude once asked Nola why Danisha so suddenly walked out on him.

"As I said, Claude, she had her reasons. But let me pose a few questions." He quietly nodded and obliged the old woman, awaiting patiently for whatever reasons Nola would offer. "Claude, when you met Danisha that first time, did Fern fill you in on the 'peculiar history' surrounding Black Americans? What I mean is were you aware of the special circumstances Nisha grew up with?"

Claude looked at Nola with marked amazement; he didn't quite comprehend where she was going with this, but it finally dawned on him that perhaps he may have said or done something to offend his lady. Nonsense! I've said or done nothing to upset Nisha; that's ground upon which I tread very lightly. Never have I uttered anything that might be construed as insensitive to her, to her people...

Nola Jean was insistent, and repeated her questions, this time more pointedly.
"Tell me, Claude, what thoughts went through your mind when Nisha was so briefly a slave? What did you think when Corabeth and Charles Woodbridge practically beat the girl into a stupor? How did you feel when you walked into that cabin and saw Charles about to violate Danisha?"

Claude Frollo, now taken aback by this third degree, and now finally comprehending where this conversation was leading,  earnestly offered this reply, his voice rising with every word:
"My dear madame, I was thoroughly disgusted when those two humiliated my lady...She suffered untold torture, and fought valiantly to save her honor against that awful Charles. I killed him, you know. I killed him to save Danisha...I killed Marcel Rougelot to save Nisha...My God! I donated my own blood to save her life! A man of my time period would have never resorted to such a thing, but I did! I love Danisha, and why she would take our daughter and leave is beyond me."

He leaned forward and buried his face in his hands as if to prevent Nola from seeing the tears. It was obvious, to Nola, that Claude Frollo loved her niece very much, but there were still unresolved issues.
She waited a few seconds before making a few timely observations, focusing on events that occurred those few hours while Claude Frollo presided over the kidnapping trial. Without further hesitation, she commented, "Claude, while you and Mlle LaCourbe were at the Palais, a few folks dropped by to visit. This was just before Évrard Ouimet came by, and before Jacki brought Orry...Danisha told me what happened, and she was afraid that you wouldn't understand the circumstances"

"What do you mean, 'I wouldn't understand'?," asked an impatient Frollo. He was becoming somewhat angry and perturbed and demanded to know the truth.

Nola glowered at him, finally revealing to him what she dreaded. She also dreaded the man's reactions.

"All right! You want to know the truth? Here it is: Danisha has been keeping you from discovering that Nadine and a little gypsy girl are friends. She's afraid that you might tell Nadine to put an end to the friendship, and that you'd fill the child's head with all kinds of nonsense. That gypsy child, Claude, is your other eyewitness although she was too scared to come forth! Ask your friend Évrard who, by the way, damned you in front of all my niece's guests; Fern told me all about it. He found out how this child couldn't come forth because she's a gypsy, and neither you nor Judge Ouimet would believe her. Danisha chalked it all up to indifference on your part — she pairs that's child's dilemma to that of our own peoples. Whenever a crime is committed we're the first to be suspected."
Nola's breathing became pronounced and heavy with righteous anger and rage as she continued to a stunned Claude Frollo,
"As of now, Danisha and the child's mother have become better acquainted. Shortly after the Ouimets left, Nisha took Nadine and left. To where I don't know..."

At that moment, before a dismayed Claude Frollo could respond, his TimeScape beeped madly. His hand immediately flew inside his doublet and removed the wondrous device. He flipped it open, hoping and praying that his beloved had come to her senses. However, a series of messages scrolled across the screen — some were good, some not so good.

Message #1:


This the last message you'll receive from me for a while. Nisha tried to convince me to reprogram your device so it'll be virtually useless. I can't do that -- not to such a good friend as you. I know what has Danisha so steamed but let her cool off...Maybe in time she'll come around. Talk to Nola, see what's what, then make your decision...Right now your device is on temporary lockdown, at least as far as Nisha and Nadine's devices go. Everyone else can communicate with you. I'll keep in touch as much as I can, but right now I need you and Nisha to work out whatever is messing up the good thing you two have. Hugs...


Message #2:


Just a quick note to say Good-bye. I've gone home to put my affairs in order. Let Jehan fill you in on my condition. It's been a pleasure knowing and working for you, although the current situation with you and Nisha deserves special attention. Listen to Nola; she talks a wealth of sense. I still think Nisha is making a big mistake but she has valid reasons. Let her alone for a while.


Finally, a short and poignant Message #3:


While I don't want to end this, I really feel we need some space for now. I summoned Aunt Nola to act as counsel. She's wise and very insightful. Don't brush her off. She has a letter to give you after you've had your talk. Read it as it explains in detail why I made such a rash decision. Don't try to find me and don't try to contact me — just yet. Let's just say that perhaps the historical era difference simply does not work in our favor. I still love you, so much that I'm willing to let you go...But I won't keep you and Nadine apart. Just give me a couple of days to cool down...Right now I'm hurt and angry, confused and frustrated.


Frollo said nothing as he closed his device; tears welled in his eyes and dropped to the floor. He let it all out, sob after body whacking sob. Aunt Nola, that matronly feeling kicking in at the sight of Claude Frollo bawling his eyes out, gently said to him, "It's all right, honey. She'll be back, 'cause I can feel it. I know she's...Well, here..."

She reached into her jacket pocket and pulled out an envelope. Taking a sniff, she smiled as she handed over the letter to Claude. "Here, honey. Nisha left this for you. And I told her she had to calm down before she started writing it. It explains it all better than I can..."

Nola Jean paused a bit after Claude accepted the letter, saying, "She thought I was going to yell at you, really give you 'what for'...But I believe you know the 'real' reason she left, and you don't need further input from me...Maybe there's hope for the pair of you yet."

With that, she arose from the couch, took our her TimeScape, and left Frollo with these parting words:

"Claude Frollo, when you read that letter, take those words to heart. Not only is Danisha hurting but Nadine thinks you don't love her anymore, and that's horrible for a little girl to feel that way. Girl children need their fathers so much. Don't let a good thing get away...After all, you've been so good to my niece, gave her that beautiful child, took Nisha on so many adventures, saved her life so many times I lost count. Not a day went by that...Claude, did you know that Nisha got on national TV and told millions of viewers all over the country, that YOU have been the inspiration behind all her happiness and success? And that she constantly thinks of you, frets over you? My goodness, every time I visit, the first thing that comes out of that girl's mouth is 'Claude this and Claude that'. She loves you, honey. And I'm sure your love for her is just as strong. Keep that strong foundation and unbreakable bond alive, Claude. Promise me that much."

Claude looked up at the corpulent lady standing over him. He outstretched his hand, saying, "Madame, I shall remember your words. Perhaps, as you claim, as Nisha claims, there is hope for a reconciliation...I had no idea she extolled our love to millions of people..."

A satisfied Nola leaned over to give Claude a motherly kiss, saying, "If the love is still there, it hasn't been lost after all. But try to meet her halfway, and try to see her position, from where she stands. Think about all the wonderful times you've had together, and the better times to come."
She then bid good-bye and, with a press of that red button, vanished in a sea of white light.


Meanwhile, at the Court of Miracles, a restless Danisha ponders much...
What she thought would be a peaceful evening became the exact opposite. After an insightful interview with Clopin, capped with Nisha vociferously cleansing herself of all things Claude Frollo, there was not much to make her feel better. She cried incessantly, wandered the old chateau that served as the Court of Miracles, and generally felt sorry for herself. Sorry that she allowed her emotions and stubborn pride get the best of her. Even sorrier that she so suddenly, so recklessly, threw away all chances at happiness.
Just when things were progressing so smoothly — the book deal, the anticipated move to New York City, the many new adventures she and Claude were ready to share — fate stepped in and dashed all those dreams to shreds.

"Now what do you have to show for it, smarty?," she wondered out loud as she resettled on the hard cold stone floor that served as her bed. Sleeping on a cold stone floor, eating whatever could be scrounged for supper, wrapping in many blankets — all this gave Nisha a better appreciation for what homeless people experience. Then again, the Romani, every time they try to put roots down, someone comes along — such as Claude Frollo and the late Philippe Ouimet — runs them off just because the Romani can't "assimilate." Damn! It sounds like so many well-meaning folks back in my own time period, in my country, urging those "different" from the dominant culture to fit in no matter what. All they want is a place to fit in THEIR way...Don't the Rom have that right? Maybe once Claude reads my note, he'll understand...perhaps there is a chance ...

She took out her TimeScape one more time and came ever so close to transmitting an "I'm sorry" message, but she resisted. No! Have to remain strong, steadfast, even in the face of...

Under her breath, just before breaking down, she exclaimed, "Oh God! I did it. I blew it!"

Danisha's quiet sobs were not lost on Esmeralda who slept nearby. The dancer, out of concern for her newfound friend, aroused herself from sleep. Silently she stole way to Nisha, placed a hand into hers and said with great earnestness, "You're in love with him. You really love him, and it's not for show, or...Go back to him, Nisha."

Nisha raised her brown eyes to meet Esme's jade green; she replied in a tear-choked voice, "What? You, of all people telling me to return to the very man who's hounded your people since God knows when? A man who's verbally damned you, in front of me mind you, and had me believing all the rhetoric and lies..."

Esmeralda settled next to Danisha and put her arm around her new friend. Yes, this woman, who nearly a decade ago, decked the dancer in the very public La Place de Notre-Dame — with Frollo watching — was now a treasured comrade. The lady who everyone called la Esmeralda right now could care less about the past, for that was all behind. In fact, Esme, through some intense reasoning with Clopin, came to the conclusion that if it wasn't for Danisha's presence, then the Romani's days would have been far more difficult. 
Apparently it was the "New World" lady's presence, and Frollo's exposure to her people's plight that perhaps softened man somewhat. Julian once told the Romani that Danisha had gradually untangled and actually broken through Frollo's tight reserve and intricate personality. It's as if, in recent years, Paris began to see a kinder, gentler Claude Frollo. Everyone, and that included from the Archdeacon to Quasi to Jehan to many of Frollo's closest friends, felt that positive change long ago. They commented on how much calmer, more personable, more relaxed Frollo had become.

All well and good, thought Esmeralda, but a tiger does not change stripes overnight. These past few days proved that Claude Frollo had a long way to go in the human relations department. Although Nisha's presence had softened things for the Romani, there was still the matter of the total undoing of what was dubbed "the mis-education of Claude Frollo" Perhaps, Esme reasoned, once the man reads that letter and realizes why Nisha took Nadine and left...

"Danisha, even I can't believe I suggested such a thing, but I've been talking to Clopin. He thinks that you should go back to Frollo but not after a certain man learns a little 'lesson' about harassing..."

Esmeralda paused a bit for effect then grabbed Nisha's hand and said, "Come on. I have to show you something!"

A weary curiosity compelled Nisha to accompany Esmeralda on a journey through the chateau. Up the many steep stone steps they climbed, with Nisha asking, "Where are you taking me?" 
Esmeralda reassured her friend that it was all for her own benefit. As they climbed the last flight, finally reaching the tower, Esmeralda said, "You see, Nisha, when this man stumbled upon the island, we thought he was just another citizen looking to earn a quick reward. Thank Quasi and Phoebus for tipping Clopin's hand...Ah! Here we are!"

They paused outside a door where a handsome and brawny Rom stood watch. His name was Mander and Esmeralda confessed to being "sweet" on him. She gave the man a smile and inquired, "Is Clopin in there with him?" 
Mander, his swarthy face breaking out in a broad grin only answered, "Oh yes, Clopin's interrogating the prisoner now." Then to Nisha, he smiled ever broader, pronouncing, "The man, madame, shan't ever harm you or your little one again. Clopin is a man of his word and he'll see that this man leaves you alone."

He rapped on the door thrice and announced, "Clopin, we have visitors: Esmeralda and Frollo's lady."
"Allow them entry!," called back the reply.

The door creaked open and the women entered somewhat apprehensively. Imagine Danisha's pounding heart and glazing eyes when she finally got a good look at the "surprise". There sat Clopin, in conference with two of his best strongmen. In between the men, sat a man Nisha had seen too many times.
He was of medium height and build, had thinning light brown hair and hazel eyes. The voice was edged with a twang and drawl reminiscent of the Deep South. The clothes? A hodgepodge of 15th Century and 21st Century slop. The ever-present Dockers were still there, as were the now-scuffed fine leather loafers. His rust-colored tunic was rather soiled considering his journey to and from Ile de St-Louis. His hands were still bound; his mouth still gagged. But the eyes widened the moment the women came into view.

No! This couldn't be!

Danisha, in shock of coming face-to-face with Auburn Wade — in 1495 Paris! — nearly fainted. It took both Esme and Mander to keep her from collapsing on the spot. It took just a few moments to regain her bearings; she finally said, "Remove the gag from M. Wade, for I have a few choice words for him. Then, Clopin, I want to know WHY he's here, and WHY you're holding him prisoner!"


To Chapter 21

Copyright©2001 by FrolloFreak® AKA "The FanFiction Diva"

Fanfic Collection #2
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