People Like Us

Chapter 21

Now let's go back to Danisha's pied a terre...Out in the street, just a few doors down....


The familiar voice rang out in the night as Jehan Frollo wheeled around the corner towards Nisha's home. He stopped momentarily, looked ahead, only to behold Quasimodo's squashed, distorted form running from the opposite direction. In the dimness of a lone street lamp, Jehan could tell that the bell ringer waved a smallish white bag. Whatever is that?, inquired the younger Frollo.

"Jehan! Am I glad you're here. I went back the Palais after all the awful...Uh...You do know the latest, don't you?"

The brother replied, "Of course, I was here when Nisha damned my brother then took off to places unknown. Did she return home? To her time that is?"

The bell ringer shook his heavy head. "No, 'cause I checked with the tracking...Jehan, you won't believe where she is now."

"Where?," asked a worried Jehan Frollo. "With Évrard Ouimet, no doubt."

"No, Jehan. Danisha went...Oh, you really don't know what happened after you left to meet Julian! Jehan, she went to the Court of Miracles — the new one. Then she's to return to her time in the morning. She and Esmeralda wouldn't tell me where the new Court of Miracles is, and neither of them would say what business they had with Clopin...Whoa! Hold on!"

Jehan Frollo looked rather shocked, and apprehensive, all the same. Why would Danisha go to the elusive Romani hideout? Surely she wouldn't just up and join the vagabonds! But something else Quasi said finally made sense, and it had to do with a certain reporter who kept hounding Nisha ever since that whole "Dottie Ducharme" fiasco.

 "Ah, Quasimodo, now I understand," said Jehan. "Clopin is holding this Auburn Wade captive...I suppose my brother does not know this, but what if they — Clopin and Esmeralda — plan to expose our 'time-traveling' secrets? Surely they wouldn't jeopardize...Quasimodo, allow me to reveal this to you: Clopin intimated to Julian that Nisha's presence all these years has somewhat alleviated Claude's persecution of the Gypsies. Somehow, most of what Danisha has related to Claude — the plight of her people, for example, and the recent exposure to the American Blacks' ordeals of slavery and 'Jim Crow' — has gotten to him. I suppose seeing Nisha in the oppressive bonds of slavery, witnessing her near-ravishment..."
"And," rejoined the bell ringer, "don't forget the several occasion they've run into indifference from people of Nisha's own time frame, and 21st Century folks are supposed to be more open about such things. You know, Danisha and my master being different colors and everything."

Jehan nodded as the pair found themselves in front of Danisha's 15th Century Parisian home. Should they go in?

"No," responded Jehan. "Let Claude be by himself for a while. I understand she wrote a letter to him. Hmm...I wonder if her Tante Nola gave him a sound earful. Good! He needs just that! An imperious old woman to give him a taste of his own medicine. For once, my brother will find himself on the receiving end of a strong lecture on moral conduct!"


Inside, Frollo is all alone for Aunt Nola had left several minutes ago. He opens that letter, reads it. What it reveals...
He sat all alone, reading and rereading that letter over and over. Nothing, not even that little pep talk from Aunt Nola, could ever prepare him for this. His lady, that lovely 21st Century American lady who made such a profound mark upon his life, suddenly and without warning walked out for what seemed forever. Why? Why would she do such a thing? No woman had ever walked out on Claude Frollo before, but this was different.

 This woman had, from what the words revealed, sound and valid reasons for jumping to such rash actions. A few hours ago Danisha was in his arms, commiserating with him over the astounding secrets surrounding Évrard Ouimet's wife and her lesbian lover Felise. Danisha was there to console Claude's compromised trust in the recently departed Philippe Ouimet, Frollo's handpicked successor to the Ministry of Justice. She was there when her sister Cherie and Felise narrowly escaped certain death at the hands of an assassin. And now, because of what Nisha perceived as a slap in the face of her sense of justice and fair play, picked up her daughter and left, just like that.
Frollo read the letter again, all the while fathoming how the ramifications of HIS actions and sentiments possibly trigger the end of a unique relationship. Nisha's words were couched with righteous anger, disappointment, frustration, humor, tender devotion, and love for the man. Her words were not vicious, to be sure, but that sense of love, fire, passion, and sparkle gone forever was evident.


Dear Claude,
By the time you receive this I'll be on my way back to my time, to New York, and will endeavor to begin my life anew without you. It was an extremely difficult decision on my part and Aunt Nola suggested that I cool down long enough before I put my feelings on paper...
Let it be known that I have never stopped loving you. I was aware of your sentiments and peccadilloes long before we became friends and, subsequently, lovers. I remember your words: "I'll not pretend to understand everything about your country or your time."
I have tried to do that from my end: not pretending to understand everything about YOUR time and culture. Aunt Nola counseled me before I left. She says you area product of your time and culture, and that I should've remembered that when...
Claude, Orry Ouimet's kidnapping was witnessed not just by Felise. A little Gypsy girl saw the whole thing. She happened by when Imbert and Fabrisse grabbed Orry; the child was afraid to come forth because she felt you or Philippe would not believe her simply because she is Gypsy. This is not what I want OUR child to imbibe: That people like Katerina are routinely harassed, vilified, and rejected simply because people like you and Philippe don't like or trust folks who are different from the "norm". Nadine has a tough enough time justifying her existence in her own time frame. She teeters on that line between black and white. In some circles she's not white, in others she's not black enough. What box will she check when applying for college? White, Black, or "other"?
You never knew this but those many years ago, at Nadine's dance recital, a few parents and kids looked at you, then at me, then at Nadine. I could feel their whispered words...

Prejudice and indifference will never go away as long as people like you look the other way, but when people like me continue to counterbalance the devastating effects of racism and discrimination we are seen as troublemakers.
Tell me Claude, what did you think when Aunt Nola revealed that Nadine and Trina were friends? The girl has been a frequent visitor; both she and Nadine are usually joined by Orry Ouimet. The kids get along famousl y, and I don't see why that should be a problem. Évrard is grateful that Trina told him what she couldn't share with you or Philippe. He was livid that his boy's life was jeopardized because of yours and Philippe's ingrained attitudes -- that the Romani are naturally evil and are incapable of telling the truth. Now where have I heard that argument before? Oh yes, when a black was falsely accused of a crime, it was execute first then ask questions. Moreover it was torture, lynching, jeering, and dehumanizing agony –You see, n****rs can't tell the truth, are naturally immoral, lazy, good-for-nothing, stupid...

Whenever Trina visited, I cautioned Nadine not to tell you, and that you would not understand. She is still full of questions as to why you don't like people like Trina. That's not an easy task for a mother – that is, explaining to a six year old why her father hates certain people. I'm struggling to rear a hate-free child but it's a losing battle every time she visits her father in HIS time, on HIS turf. She has come to the conclusion that you don't love her anymore. What she did this evening, during Orry's homecoming, was telling enough. I didn't know the facts until an unnamed source informed me. I won't reveal that person's name because he/she helped save my life last year. She helped save Felise and Cherie's life this very evening. My sister and friend would be dead if it wasn't for this person.
He/she is a gypsy, Claude! One of those "evil" people actually saved my sister's life to whom you pledged your undying protection! I have to go now because this is becoming more difficult to write. I'll spend the night with friends then it's back to New York in the morning. When Quasi comes by, listen to him, please. He has something for you.
As for Évrard Ouimet, I hope he finds it in his heart to forgive. Right now he's grieving Philippe's death, and his anger towards his departed brother between them has flared anew with all this recent revelation...
No, he doesn't know the truth about Orry actually being Felise's child....I won't tell him, trust me...

Jacki has your device on temporary lockdown, at least until we can decide what to do for the future. That means no time trips or messages. Is there a chance for us, Claude? Will people like me ever understand people like you? Or vice versa? Can we put aside differences and attitudes in the name of love and the love for a child?
At this moment I'm pondering the old Ann Landers question: Will I be better off with Claude or without him? You don't know how much you've impacted my life. This whole new opportunity and adventure – the book, the move to NYC, the sudden wealth and fame – would not be possible if you weren't there for me.

I'll repeat: I HAVE NEVER STOPPED LOVING YOU. But I am beginning to have doubts. It's not fair to either of us to hang onto something that died a long time ago. I was foolish to think we recaptured the spark and magic that made our relationship so unique. Maybe it was best that I resigned myself never to be able to love another man as I loved Darnell. When you came along all that depression and anxiety melted away. I could love and be happy again, even if the relationship was the ultimate May-December romance. I knew you weren't a one-woman man, and I've accepted that. Perhaps I'm not the marrying kind either. But we do have a child and that little girl deserves a father who will support her in all she does. She shouldn't have to hide her friendships simply because her father doesn't like "people like Trina."

I really need to go now. Please remember that I still love you, still cherish you. But right now I can't be with you. I hope you'll understand where I'm coming from. Our relationship, I'm afraid, has run into a snag, and both of us really need to do some serious soul-searching and consciousness raising if there is ever a chance of "kiss and make up. "My heart is broken, my soul is hurting, my eyes can't stop crying.

Good-bye, Claude Frollo.

All My Love (or what's left of it)

Claude Frollo sat quite thunderstruck. He still couldn't believe those bitter words, but there they were, written in Nisha's neat hand, still rambling on about lost love, prejudice, indifference, a child's broken trust in her father. He took a deep breath, walked over to the fireplace, then tossed that letter into the flames. He watched as the flames closed in on the paper; he watched the words melt and char into ashes.
Claude's eyes filled with tears, and those tears soon trickled down his chiseled cheekbones. She's gone, and for good. She actually means it – she is actually turning her back on all the memories, all the adventures, all the good times and bad...And over what?!

As Frollo stood before the fireplace, he mulled over her words again and again. As the smoke wafted over him, he closed his eyes and tried to conjure her image just as he did last winter when everyone thought Danisha dead. At first he could swear he smelled the perfume, Shalimar. Then he could hear the click-clack of high heels on stone floors, the rich throaty laughter echoing throughout the room. He swore he felt hands on him, arms encircling him. Soon he felt soft lips tenderly kiss the nape of his neck; he could feel her warm breath upon his skin.

With his eyes still closed, a heartbroken Claude Frollo emitted a deep, rumbling, breathy, "Nisha..."

He wheeled to face her, only to behold a smoky apparition that looked like her. The wraith spoke tersely, pointedly; it did not mince words.

"Perhaps I was too 'nice', Claude, but I meant every word. There are no winners in this, Claude. We all lost – You, me, Nadine, Julian, the Ouimets, Felise, the Gypsies...Yes, Claude, the Gypsies are as much apart of this as you and I, as much as Orry and Évrard. Without them then you'd never have Julian to help you out. Without them, you wouldn't have survived that trantemporal manhunt."

Frollo stared at the entity standing before him. Months before, this same image appeared to him, only that was after he thought Danisha had died. Now she appears to him, not as the warm, tender lover and confidante, but a thoroughly enraged woman who truly had every right to voice her wrath. The brown eyes that once glowed with love and devotion now rained fire and daggers. Her deep musical voice now took on that "ghettoized" edge which, in times past, Frollo found somewhat amusing. However, right now, she was not joking or kidding – she was dead serious. The wraith spoke again, "When Jehan and Quasi drop by, which should be about now, I want you to listen and listen hard!" She glowered hard at him, and Frollo, for once, stood speechless. "Claude, there is a chance for us, but something has got to give. Perhaps when Jehan makes his little confession about Julian..." Now Claude Frollo had to say something. What was this about Jehan and Julian? And how does Quasimodo figure into this? The words stammered out; his pulse quickened as he fathomed the ramifications of a love forever lost. "Nisha, my love. Please hear me out. I have never stopped loving you, even after you so suddenly walked out of my life. Neither have I censored Nadine's choice of friends. Orry Ouimet and Nadine have become quite close, however this Gypsy child..."
"Spare the two-faced crap, Claude!," said the wraith Danisha. "You know that if you ever found out about Trina and Nadine, you'd put a stop to it. Admit it!" She let an exasperated sigh then continued, "Claude, take a long hard look at what has transpired these past few days – Orry's kidnapping, Imbert's lies, Felise's issues surrounding Orry's true parentage. Don't forget that all this has profoundly affected Évrard; he doesn't know the truth about Felise and his wife, or what they did in the end. Don't forget about Philippe; his death was unnecessary for, to be sure, but it was bound to happen whether or not you had 21st Century help. And then there's Julian..."

She said nothing more, allowing her voice to trail off just to gauge Claude's reaction. Nothing! Not even a bit of rage or confusion. He just stands there, staring into space. Perhaps he HAS been cold-cocked into reality...

Finally, she said to him in a softer, more gentler tone, "Claude Frollo, your good thing is about to get away. Decisions are being made as I speak. I don't know what I'm to do...Sell my house – the very house you bought for me those many years ago...Move to New York City, a city which has been through much turmoil itself in recent years. Uproot our daughter, not knowing how this impending breakup will affect her. She adores her papa, but now she has doubts and questions. She's too young and fragile; this breakup could damage her self-worth...I've known kids who've been through their parents' separation and divorce, and I've experienced the damage these kids suffer...I don't Nadine to suffer like that, and, if the truth be known, neither do you"

Suddenly and without words, Claude Frollo rushed towards the smoky apparition, all the while pleading his case. "Danisha, my love! Don't do this! You mean so much to me..."
"Then prove it! You've always said I've impacted your life in so many ways. Well, you've been the key to so much of my happiness and success. Think about it. Think about us, about Nadine," was all she said as Frollo wrapped his arms around her. In a flash she vanished in a puff of smoke. She was gone.


"Claude! Claude!," called out Jehan Frollo as he rushed to his brother.

Claude Frollo was on his knees, weeping and moaning. "It's all gone, Jehan. I've lost her, and my daughter, forever."

Jehan shook his head at this sight. Oh no, has it come to this? She really meant it; Danisha actually took courage and left Claude for good. He knelt beside his brother, placed his hand upon Claude's. 
Jehan, who earlier gloated over his brother's misfortune, actually felt a bit of empathy. After all, Claude and Nisha shared the most wonderful adventures and an enduring love that spanned more than five centuries. Perhaps now is not the time to bring up the subject of Julian's impending death, or that the intrepid Frollo spy is actually Esmeralda's descendent.

No, let Julian contact Claude in his own time. For now, I must console Claude any way I can, for everyone's sake. Not long ago, Jehan concluded that it would be unwise to divulge his feelings for Danisha.

To be sure, Jehan still somewhat carried a torch for the 21st Century woman, but deep down he knew she was one of the best things to ever happen to Claude. Jehan kept wondering whether Nisha would actually turn to Évrard Ouimet in light of all that has happened. Would she deliberately take up with another man who fell in love with a make-believe character? Évrard fell for Dorothy Ducharme, not Danisha Wood. Perhaps, in time, Ouimet would come to that realization.

Then it came to him!

Jehan's thoughts suddenly turned to something Quasimodo mentioned earlier. Something about a "whirlwind tour" of the New World. Yes, Nisha did invite both Évrard and Orry on an excursion but did not elaborate, but Quasi pieced it together when Nisha said that Orry shall get his wish.

Jehan embraced his still-sobbing brother and gently said, "Claude, you need to pull yourself together. Quasimodo is to give you something today, and you must be strong. Also, don't forget the execution tomorrow morning. You must be there. Show all of Paris the very powerful Claude Frollo everyone knows and respects. Then, you must take that time trip."

Claude Frollo finally raised his swollen, tear-stained eyes to meet those of his brother's. In a rumbling, choked voice Frollo spoke. "Jehan, she has my device on lockdown. I can't go to her, reason with her, make her understand..."

"And you will do just that! Go to her, Claude, before it is too late. Use Quasimodo's device and all would be none the wiser."


Some time later, outside the house around the corner...
"Well, Esmeralda, I guess this really good-bye."

So said Danisha as she opened the courtyard gate that led to Évrard Ouimet's home. What a waste!, thought Nisha as she turned to say her final farewells to Esmeralda. To let all this nonsensical animosity come between us all these years. Esme saved my life last winter; she and Clopin saved me – and my friends – from one man's relentless pursuit.  Now TimeScape, that fabulous transtemporal invention, along with its secrets and developers, is safe from prying eyes. That snooping reporter, Auburn Wade, was still locked away in the Court of Miracles, and Clopin had no intention of letting the man go – yet.

Deep down Nisha worried that Wade would end up stuck in 1495 France and never return to his proper time-frame. She worried about Julian, who by now had returned to 2005 America, to an undisclosed location. He was ill, is what Esmeralda told me. Julian may be dying. Does Claude know about this?

Oh Claude! I never wanted it to end like this. Everything is all muddled...I want to come back to you, to set everything right, but...

"Danisha," Esmeralda said gently, putting her arms around her new friend, "I know it's a tough decision, but take your time. If it's in the cards that you belong with either Frollo or Évrard...Hmm..."

The lovely dancer peered deeply into Nisha's eyes, reaching for whatever sign of the woman's fate. Then she took Nisha's hand and studied the lines and mounds of the palm. She nodded after a few moments and finally declared, "Ah yes, when the time comes, you will know which man you truly belong with. Only then will you fulfill your destiny and know true contentment."

Danisha, not one to wholeheartedly believe in fortune telling, sighed partially with relief and fear. Relief that she and Claude will eventually work out the issues that had torn them apart. Fear that she may face a life without either Claude or Évrard. The latter she still considered very much a part of her life; indeed she still thought what she felt for Évrard was true love but she still wasn't sure. Perhaps this special time trip she had planned for the Ouimets could finally seal the fate for all involved. 
True, she loved Orry as a son, and she vowed that nothing would keep him or Nadine apart. Those kids have become so close these past few months, and even Nisha entertained ideas that her own child would take her parents' lead – that is for Orry and Nadine to become more than just good friends years from now.

However, for the present, Danisha wanted to express her gratitude to Esmeralda, and to inquire the dancer's future.

"Who knows?," Esmeralda replied when asked.

"I've decided to leave Paris within the next few days. Yes, take Katerina and journey to Nantes. I want to meet this Guillaume Sarrisin since Clopin has spoken so highly of him. To tell the truth there is nothing to keep me in Paris, not with all the bad feelings around here lately." 

"But, Esme,"  asked Nisha, as she watched her daughter and Trina play a final game of Mary Mack, "what about Phoebus, Quasi, all your friends...?"
"Oh don't worry about that. Phoebus told me yesterday morning that he got an annulment. Something about my not being Christian and that the marriage was invalid..."

She stopped herself long enough to espy Clarice Flambert appear at the far end of the courtyard. Madame Flambert spotted Esme and company immediately, acknowledging their presence with a wave. Esmeralda, finally embracing Nisha, said, "I really need to go now, but keep me abreast with all that is going on with you."

Danisha replied that she would keep in contact via Clopin as the Romani king said he would remain in Paris regardless of who sat in the Ministry of Justice.

"Clopin said he's not afraid of the new judge, whoever he may be. I have no idea if Claude Frollo put in his two francs as far as influencing the King's decision, but I know Clopin won't let that faze him."

She paused before calling to Nadine, "Honey, say your good-byes to Trina. We have to go inside now. Orry and his papa are waiting for us..."

She and Esmeralda embraced once more; both women knew their respective futures were shaky at best. What changes and challenges await the pair of them now? That wouldn't be revealed for several days, not until Danisha found herself walking across Brooklyn Bridge reliving and recounting painful memories.

And what about Julian?

The news Frollo's enigmatic 21st Century spy passed along to everyone concerned finally sealed those fates forever.

COMING UP: Go To Chapter 22

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

Fanfic Collection #2
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