This is the final installment of a multi-part exposé detailing the conspiracy against Judge Claude Frollo, and the aftermath. An epilogue will immediately follow.
What a week this has been! Who knew the tragedies wrought by one man's need for revenge? Was it all worth it? Claude said things would soon return to normal...but what is 'normal'?
I kicked off my shoes upon entering Claude's private chambers. I'd been
in court all morning, watching Claude Frollo dispense justice as he'd always
done. As far as he was concerned, life would go on.
Even after the King addressed the citizens of Paris, and publicly reinstated Claude as Minister of Justice, even after Parisians finally believed the allegations of conspiracy, attempted murder, and the subsequent fallout of one man's crazed vengeance, I was still apprehensive of how anyone's life could be 'normal' again.
I thought of Jules de Chateaupers. That poor kid, torching the Court of Miracles, then leaving Paris, possibly never to return.
Then I thought of Solange Marchand, herself moved to vengance. Who'd have thought that SHE would have that gun, and actually use it! A shootout in the Court of Miracles!
Then Solange is wounded; the gun discharged as Jules tried to wrestle
it from her hands. At first it was thought Solange's wounds were life-threatening.
The bullet struck her in the lower ribcage, breaking two ribs. The bullet
went clean through, thus Solange had escaped more serious injury. But the
shock of the blast, the fractured ribs, and the loss of blood, were more
than her body could stand.
The day after the shooting, Jehan informed Claude and me that Solange had lost the baby. Now I was certain that her recovery would be slow and painful, and not just from her physical injuries --- Miscarriage always has its psychological costs.
Then there was that note from Jules, atoning for what he had done. Poor baby...left France...possibly never to return...Renée has been a basket case ever since she found out...about Jules...how he burned the Court of Miracles...She's gonna need our love and support..
My mind then focused on Esmeralda and Phoebus. We still had no word on their whereabouts; we just assumed they had gone their separate ways. After all, Claude told me that "Phoebus will hopefully see through this gypsy witch, perhaps spurn her affections."
And that was another thing. Word came back that the self-proclaimed Gypsy King, Clopin, had died in that fire. Well...at least Claude Frollo won't have to deal with him anymore...
Esmeralda! I warned Claude about her! I knew she was up to no good, but to what extent I didn't know. And I wondered if Claude was truly smittened by this gypsy dancer, if he actually considered adding her to his long list of mistresses. Not Esmeralda! But she's...
I sprawled out in front of the fireplace; I was near tears. I reached into my purse, took out a flask, and poured myself a double shot of whiskey. Then I lit a cigarette. I don't care if Claude doesn't approve...I need this...It's just one cigarette...and just one drink...Have I actually fallen back on bad habits...strong drink and smoking...just to blot out all the unpleasant...Claude had always promised he'd never hurt me...I don't mind his other women...but Esmeralda?!
I heard Claude's voice outside the door; I hastily extingushed my cigarette and downed the whiskey. I waved around a handkerchief, hoping to disperse the smoke; it was of no use.
"Nisha?" Claude entered the room; he was smiling pleasantly,
his mood playful. "Now, what have we been doing? And do I smell tobacco
I just grinned back and said, "Caught red-handed!"
He laughed as he snuggled next to me on the floor; he kissed my mouth, then said with slight disapproval, "You've been drinking again, for I can taste the whiskey on your breath." Claude put his arm around me, held me close, and tenderly asked me what was wrong. "For I know you too well, Danisha. It's not like you to indulge these habits often, unless something is troubling you."
I then told him about my concerns for Solange and her family, that's all.
"Darling, I spoke to André a few minutes ago. The entire family is going to Genoa; Thierry has family there. They'll depart as soon as Solange is strong enough to travel."
"André feels they need the time away from Paris, to recover from all that has happened."
"And how long will they be gone? Are they taking Renée?"
"Probably the duration of the winter, perhaps straight through
the summer. And yes, Renée is joining them. Marie-Louise did intimate
to me that the family plans to adopt Renée. Poor child, to be without
His voice trailed off; he paused to wipe a tear from my cheek. I then finally asked about Phoebus.
"Who knows", Claude replied. "I wouldn't doubt if he has left Paris for good. He very well may not know everything: the plot to destroy me, Jean-Michel's master-minding, Jules' revenge...Nothing. Ah, well...No matter. If Phoebus should turn up...It's really no great loss on Renée's part. Phoebus never knew his young cousins..."
He stopped himself again, only to see me get up from the floor and walk
over to the window. Claude came up from behind; he had his arms around
me, and kissed the back of my neck.
"My love, if you feel another crying spell coming on, go ahead and let it out."
I still had my back to him, still fought back tears, and continued to stare out of the window. I don't remember what possessed me to say what came out of my mouth, but I had to know.
"Were you really enchanted with her?", I flatly asked. "Did you actually fall in love with her? After all the grief she's triggered? Answer me, truthfully. Did you fall for Esmeralda?"
Claude gasped, totally taken by surprise by my blunt questions. He forced me to face him, to look him in the eyes and, "tell me I did not hear those words!" His eyes were fiery, his grip strong.
I firmly stood my ground, and repeated my question. "You heard me, Claude Frollo! Did you actually fall for Esmeralda? Yes or no!"
Claude released me, stumbled back, his eyes now slightly damp with tears.
"Nisha, darling...my love. W-Whatever possessed you to ask me such
a thing! I was never 'in love' with that gypsy witch!"
My reply came like machine gunfire. "But why Esmeralda? If I know you, you would've done anything to have her, to break her down her defenses...."
I could say no more; the tears poured in torrents from my eyes.
Claude Frollo, partially angry at my outburst, yet distressed that I would ever doubt his devotion to me, came to me, embraced me, and gently said, "My love. I'll admit I was somewhat taken with Esmeralda. And yes, I found her quite of a challenge. But I also had a premonition of impending doom, that is if I ever followed..what do you call it? My 'other' brain?" He softly laughed at that last statement, and I soon joined in his good humor.
"But Claude...you said she was a challenge...yet you told me I was a challenge. Of all these medieval women, why add me to your...er...'little black book'? Why a 20th Century American woman of color? A woman who's light years from all these medieval women---I mean, why choose me? What made you fall in love with me?"
Claude led me by the hand to his bed. "Uh, Claude honey", I said, "that is not gonna solve everything." He chuckled, kissed me then said good-humoredly, "Nisha, darling! I assure you I will not resort..."
Then in a more serious voice, "Darling, come, and sit down beside me. I want us both comfortable, and at ease, for we need to talk. I want to say what I should have said, to you, on that night you rescued me."
Just outside Orléans, deep in the Loire Valley, stood a small church. This sacred structure was nothing compared to the grandeur of Notre Dame; yet, it served as a place of solace and comfort. In it's quiet way, this simple, yet, elegant structure blended perfectly with the surrounding countryside.
Despite winter's grip, the land teemed with beauty: gently rolling hills, a few singing birds, a herd of cattle grazing in a snowy meadow. It was a glorious place; the perfect setting for a new family.
At least, that's what Phoebus said...I can't believe I'm doing this!
The gypsy Esmeralda, bundled against the chill, nervously paced outside the church. She was frowning, for this was her wedding day, and she was waiting for Phoebus. I don't want to do this! But I have to...for appearances' sake...Clopin said I had to marry this big, stupid...
Esmeralda sighed as she continued to pace about; the too-tight shoes pinced her toes. Phoebus insisted that she wear shoes. "After all", he told her the night before, "can't have my kids run around bare-footed. No way! That's why I want you to start wearing them...you know, set a good example."
Set a good example! Ooh! I should've let Solange kill me! Then I would'nt have to do this...I'd leave in a minute...desert Phoebus at the altar..
The gypsy dancer shuddered, for she knew if she left Phoebus, she would have to go...somewhere.
I can't even go back to Paris...None of us can! With Frollo as Minister of Justice...once again...We're dead meat...Besides, everyone thinks Clopin is dead...poor guy...all crippled..and the burns...I hope he recovers soon...He vowed he'd walk again.... then we can finally rid ourselves of Frollo!
Esmeralda fumed as she thought of something else---The failed plot against the Minister of Justice. After all, she thought, it was she who carried on an affair with Jean-Michel du Champs, and helped hatch that scheme against Frollo.
And everything was going well...until SHE showed up and ruined it all...that disgusting New World...! I don't care if Jean-Michel planned to kill me in the end..at least Paris would be minus Claude Frollo! And SHE ruined it! And now...I have to marry Phoebus! I don't want him!
Esmeralda peered in the distance; she could make out the big, blond-haired man, and his white horse. It was Phoebus, on his way to his impending nuptials. Esmeralda managed to console herself. At least this is only temporary, she thought.
Yeah...only temporary...When the time comes, I'll leave, just like that...
As Phoebus neared the church, Esmeralda thought with a sigh, Oh well, might as well go through with it...fake a smile...try to look happy...Even if I don't like Phoebus, it's better than having that disgusting Frollo pawing me! Ugh! How can those other women stand him!
Phoebus dismounted Achilles as soon as he arrived. He carried a small
bouquet of winter flowers; his face glowed with pride and excitement. "Here,
Esme", he said, handing over the flowers, "Can't have my bride
not carry some flowers. I know it's not much, being winter and all. I found
them near a little brook, growing up through the rocks."
Esmeralda perfectly feigned delight as she took the flowers. Then she asked Phoebus, "But where will we live?" The thought of a house hadn't crossed her mind. Phoebus replied, "Oh! I meant to tell you! I rented a small cottage not too far from here. Glad I found that construction job."
"Yeah, Phoebus. That's..er...nice", said Esmeralda, still endeavoring to keep up the pretense.
Then Phoebus told her that once the school project is finished, "I'm seriously looking into that caretaker's job."
Esmeralda asked, "What caretaker's job?", not sure of Phoebus' intent.
"The d'Arcys are leaving for Genoa next month. Their old caretaker is ill, and they need someone to watch the place while they're gone. So...I've already written to M. André d'Arcy, espressing my interest."
Esmeralda, now desperately trying to conceal her panic, said, "That's wonderful, Phoebus!"
Where's this? Chateau d'Arcy! That's...Oh no! Wait...didn't Phoebus say the family will be gone...to Italy? Probably to get away from all that happened...Phoebus won't take the job till next month...All right, Esme, relax...I can bide my time...
Then Phoebus escorted Esmeralda inside the church. "You'll love the country, Esme. Lot's of fresh air, sunshine, green meadows -- A perfect place to raise a family. And I want lots of kids, Esme!"
Esmeralda swallowed hard, took a deep breath, and began to exchange vows with a man she did not love, nor chose to marry. Just make it look good...Go along with the plan...I can live with it for a couple of months..I really hate the country...
"I will admit that I was overcome with desire. I found Esmeralda extremely attractive, despite her initial outburst."
Claude Frollo and I snuggled on the bed, our arms locked around each
other. I had to ask him, once and for all, if he would've pursued Esmeralda,
even after she had publicly put him down.
"You said I was a challenge, Claude. I did everything: talked back to you, gave you a hard time, broke your window. And, if I remember right, I think I called you a few unrepeatables."
I snuggled closer to him, trying to keep from laughing out loud. Claude held me tighter, and kissed me tenderly. Then I asked him again, "Claude, why did you do it? I mean, why did you fall in love with me, despite all I did to you?"
Claude Frollo took a deep breath, resettled himself on plushy black velvet pillows, then said these words to me. He smiled as he began, "My darling Nisha. I can tell you in all honesty that Esmeralda means nothing to me. As I said before, I found her a challenge, but there was something far more dangerous."
He then got up, went to the little table by the window, and poured wine for the both of us. Claude returned to my side, handed me a cup, then continued his confession. "Nisha, if there ever was a challenge..."
He emitted one of his famous deep, throaty chuckles; I couldn't help but smile. "Go on, sugarbritches. Tell me more."
Claude's mouth curved into a smile, saying, "And yes, you most
definitely caused me untold grief! Why, I wondered if I would ever break
down your stubborn pride."
He smiled again, and sipped his wine, while I shot back, "Wait a minute, Claude Frollo! If I'm remembering right, it was a two-way street." I then returned the smile and told him, "Baby, I often wondered if you would ever come around."
Claude Frollo laughed again, then revealed to me how he had always been in love with me. "I would never, not in a million years, believe that you would doubt my feelings for you. So, you want to know what qualities attracted me to you, what made me fall in love with you. What I'm about to say, darling Nisha, is the truth."
Claude then kissed me deeply, held me close, and said in the sweetest voice, "Nisha, I love your for your spirit, your joy for life. I love you for your generous nature, your kindness." Claude smiled again, then said that, "I was especially taken with your intellect, and your tact. Not too many women in my time can claim those latter qualities." He then laughed, adding that, "And I especially love you for your boldness, that extreme brazenness--that WILD side--that, somehow, never seems to offend."
Claude held my hand, and continued to pour out his heart. "I surprised myself. I managed to look through the surface, and discover the charming person inhabiting that dark, honey-toned skin. You are beautiful -- inside and out. You are everything Esmeralda is not."
I wanted to say something, but Claude kissed me again, and expressed something that I still remember to this very day. "To be truthful, you are everything I would want in a wife."
Now I was totally taken aback. We never mentioned the subject of marriage, not since that summer when Claude proposed to me and I politely refused. I remembered telling him that neither of us would be totally happy, and not just from the 500-year timespan. There were other, more serious, aspects to consider. "What would the good folks of Paris think? The Minister of Justice, marrying a brown-as-molasses New World woman. In my time, such marriages still raise eyebrows. The attitude's better now; but, still, some folks just don't want to let go. I don't want us to go through all that, not in 1480s France."
Claude sensed my slight discomfort and tenderly kissed me. "Nisha, my love. I just wanted you to know that I'd be honored to make you my bride." He then sighed, adding, "Dearest, let's talk no more of this. But I do want you to know that the proposal still stands, that is, if you ever change your mind."
I don't know what to say...he really meant it! Claude actually wants me for his wife...but he knows...I know...He's not about to give up his one, true weakness...And I won't deprive him of that...It's what makes him oh-so desirable...
I didn't mean to change the subject, but I simply had to ask him if he was "still interested in taking that vacation this summer? The invitation's still open."
Claude smiled, and told me he'd be delighted to spend part of his summer
with me, in my hometown, in the 20th Century. "After all, you spent
a summer with me; it's only fair that I spend a summer with my 14th FSM."
He then laughed, adding that, "My dear Nisha. Spending a summer in your time will seem like heaven. Honestly, I could never understand how you and Fern got along without all your 20th Century conveniences." Then he leaned over, kissed my cheek, then chuckled, "I especially look forward to...'air-conditioning'?" I soon joined him in his good-humor, then talked about what we'll see and do for six fabulous weeks.
"Honey, I'll have to take you to the State Fair -- that's a given. Then, there's the new mall Downtown, the Indians' new ballpark opens...."
Thus ends, or, what we THOUGHT, was the end, of a nightmarish experience. But what has happened since the conspiracy against Judge Claude Frollo? What has happened to all parties involved? An epilogue, or, wrap-up, immediately follows. Then, dear readers, find out what transpired while Claude Frollo was vacationing with his 14th FSM. The opening chapter of Back to the Frollo should give you a hint of exactly who re-enters His Grace's life, yet dear Claude will be caught unaware, until it is too late.
Let's wrap this up!
© Copyright, FrolloFreak FSM #14, 1998