posted February 8, 1997

The Consequences of Taking a Walk at Night

Chapter Two

After a few days of getting to know everyone, Melisande became less and less shy and talked more freely. She even had a civil conversation with Clopin. She quickly found out that she did indeed fit in there.
One evening a rope was found suspended above Jehan's tent, stretched across the great cavern; one end was tied around a broken stone balustrade, the other to an empty torch holder on the opposite wall. Tottering back and forth across the rope without a pole to help him balance was Jehan. He seemed particularly excited about something, and this was the usual way he blew off some steam. But he seemed to be challenging death by not using a balancing staff at the height of ten feet.
He stopped in mid-totter as he spotted Clopin below him. "Hey there, friend!" Jehan called out. He sat down unsteadily on the rope as Clopin glanced up at him.
"That's a good way to get killed, my friend," Clopin warned, an amused look coming over his face.
"I wouldn't be killed if an arrow was shot through my heart at this very moment," Jehan replied. He flipped over and hung down with his knees bent over the rope to hold himself upside-down, and he grinned at Clopin. "Although I'm not sure one hasn't. Tell me, Clopin, have you ever been in love?"
Clopin, startled, hesitated, then said quietly, "Yes, once, a long time ago... "
"What was it like?" Jehan asked innocently, slowly swinging back and forth in an absent-minded way.
Clopin gazed at the ground as he replied uncomfortably, "It is a long story, and I do not feel like telling it. If you really want to know, ask Esmeralda. I told her, one time..."
Jehan stopped swinging, but was completely blind to Clopin's tone. The boy folded his arms behind his head and sighed dreamily, "Isn't it the most wonderful feeling in the world?"
"What is?"
"Well, I think I'm in love. Every time she walks by... I have known girls before, but none of them have ever made me feel this way... My heart flutters, I feel dizzy in the head..."
"I would not know. It has been a long time."
"Every time I see her... Her beautiful eyes... Her flowing brown hair..."
"You've got it bad..."
"Her warm smile... Her soft voice..."
"Isn't it obvious... "
"Her elfish laugh... Her fairy beauty... "
"You are head over heels in love!"
"Ahhh. . ." Jehan was so lost in his dreamy thoughts that he seemed to melt inside, his knees loosening from the rope. He fell, landing on his back on the hard ground, but he didn't seem to notice. "She is so beautiful..." He just laid there, arms still behind his head, a dreamy look clouding his face.
Clopin laughed as he leaned over the love-struck boy and said, "My dear Jehan, you really are in love with this girl, aren't you?"
Jehan sighed dazedly. "Oh, Clopin, I have never, ever felt like this before! It - it's fantastic! My heart is light and my head is spinning!"
Clopin took the boy's hand and pulled him to his feet. Dusting off Jehan's shoulder, he said in understanding, "My dear boy, this is true love that you speak of."
"Really?" Jehan asked in awe.
Clopin nodded, and put his arm around the boy's shoulders, leading him away from the rope. "Listen, my young friend; I was in love once, true love, to be sure. I felt the same way you feel now. Mine was a meeting of fateful proportions. She was a humble farm girl. I was a fugitive from my own people. It was a chance meeting..."
"But what happened?" Jehan asked, realizing the obvious.
Clopin's voice became shaky. "I - I lost her... It was... a terrible incident... I don't wish to talk about it..."
Jehan was all sympathy. "Then don't. I understand."
"Thank you..." Clopin hesitated, recovered, then went on distantly, "I don't know if she is dead or alive... I will always believe she is still alive... She haunts my dreams..."
"Is that good or bad?"
"It drove me to madness one night."
"Oh..." Jehan was shocked into speechlessness by the blunt way that Clopin said those words.
Then his friend clapped him on the shoulders enthusiastically. "Now, listen to me," Clopin said brightly, "If you really do love this girl, you should tell her so - as soon as possible! Take her on a romantic moonlight walk by the river, wait till the stars are shining right, and then confess your love. If it is meant to be, you will find that she feels the same way!"
Throughout this stirring oration Jehan had been beaming with hope. But suddenly his face fell. "B-but what if she doesn't like me? I mean, as more than just a friend?" the boy fretted. His heart shattered at the thought. "What if she doesn't care about me the way I care for her? I - I would probably die!"
Clopin patted the youth's back with paternal reassurance. "Do not worry, my lovesick young friend. I have seen the way she looks at you. I believe her feelings might be mutual." So saying he headed off toward his tent, leaving Jehan considering those parting words.
The boy stood there for quite a while, thinking about what Clopin had advised. Then he turned and began to wander back to his tight-rope, mumbling under his breath, his hands clasped behind his back. "He is right, you know... Do exactly what he said... But what if she - oh, Jehan, look at yourself! Fawning over a girl whose is like none you have ever met before... But can it be...? It must be! Clopin knows so much - of course he would know true love when he sees it... I jus hope he's right..."
Through all this distracted thinking, Jehan was aware enough to realize that he had come back to his rope. Yet still lost in his thoughts, he climbed onto a small haycart then, with a forceful leap and quick agility, he grabbed the rope and was balanced on top of it faste than you could say "star-crossed".
From there he went back to tottering from one side of the cavern to the other, somehow managing to stay perfectly balanced despite how distracted he was. He had just about reached a decision when he nearly fell as Melisande walked beneath him, her brown cloak swirling behind her. She didn't seem to notice him.
Jehan hastily steadied himself, than called out, "Wait, Melisande! I... I would like to talk to you... !"

* * * * * *

A little while later Jehan and Melisande were walking side by side along the bank of the Seine. Jehan had gossiped about many things, but had yet to reveal his true purpose. Melisande seemed to sense this when she said, "Jehan, is there something else you want to tell me? You've been babbling at me as if you were trying to hide something."
Jehan felt his ears burn. He ran his fingers back through his hair, his favorite high strung habit. "Well, I - I -" he stuttered nervously. Then he took her hands in his. "Well, Melisande, I - I wanted to tell you - I - I mean, I--"
"What is it?" Melisande asked, concerned. "Is something wrong?"
"No - I mean, yes - Well, I wanted to tell you - I - I-- "
"Spit it out already!"
"I love you!" Jehan finally cried out. "You make me feel in a way no girl has ever before!"
Then he cringed back, expecting her to slap him or something. But instead he felt her hand gently caress his cheek. "Oh, Jehan," her voice sighed softly, "I have fallen in love with you, too."
He opened his eyes to find her gazing at him affectionately. "You-you mean it?" he stammered, dumbfounded.
"Mm-hmm." Her smile turned shy. "But I wasn't sure. I mean, I have never known this strange feeling before. I didn't understand it. But now that you said it, it makes sense." She lowered her eyes. "I was afraid to tell you."
"I was afraid to tell you, too," Jehan murmured. She brought her glance to him again. They stood there, caught in each other's gaze. All of a sudden Jehan leaned his head down and kissed her. Startled for only a second, she returned the kiss.
When she drew back she was slightly breathless. "Oh, Jehan," she sighed, her hands placed on his shoulders as she gazed into his eyes.
"Oh, Melisande," Jehan said in the same dreamy tone, unable to move his stare from hers. "You are the most wonderful girl I have ever met...I have never known anyone like you before... and I have never felt like this before."
"That is a strong thing to admit."
"I know. But I have never been in love before... "
"Neither have I. But it's such a wonderful feeling... "
"That it is," he agreed softly. Then he kissed her again. His arms closed around her. She slid her arms around his neck in return. She liked the feeling of holding him close. She liked the feeling of his arms around her. So comforting.
But it wasn't to last. As they stood there, held in a tender embrace, the peace of the night was soon to be shattered..."
Suddenly there was the pounding of footsteps and an angry voice shouted, "There she is! The witch! Capture her!"
Jehan whirled around to see the captain of the watch and two other soldiers bearing down on them. "We have to get out of here!" Jehan gasped. He shoved Melisande toward the main street. "The Cathedral! Run to the Cathedral! It's the only place we can escape to now!" He ran along side her, then pushed her ahead. The soldiers were catching up.
"Stop them!" the captain shouted. "We can't let them get away!"
Melisande began to sob as she ran. "This was such a perfect evening! How did this happen? Oh, that accursed birthmark!"
"Just run!" Jehan screeched as he began to fall behind. Suddenly he let out a cry as someone grabbed his arm and yanked him backward roughly. "Let me go!" Jehan screeched, fighting to get loose from the two soldiers who gripped his arms. Melisande stopped, turning round to see what had happened to Jehan. "Run! " he shouted to her. "Run to the Cathedral! Forget me!" She hesitated, then stumbled off toward Notre Dame.
"Oh no you don't!" the captain growled. He ran after Melisande and quickly caught up to her. He tackled her to the ground, where she lay motionless.
"Noo!" Jehan howled. With a sudden surge of strength he yanked his arm loose and punched one soldier right in the face, then delivered a hard left hook to the other's chin. Then he went after the captain, shoving him away from Melisande with such a force that the soldier went tumbling backwards down the street.
"I'm not going to give up so easy!" Jehan sneered, then gathered up Melisande in his arms and ran, faster than he had ever run before, toward the cathedral.
He heard the captain's furious shout behind him. "Stop him, you idiots! Don't let him reach the Cathedral!"
But it was too late to stop him. Jehan had reached the square outside Notre Dame. He forced himself to run faster, but he knew he was beginning to weaken. "Give us sanctuary! Please, give us sanctuary!" he cried out. Just as he reached the top of the stone steps, the soldiers right behind him, the door of the church opened and Jehan ran in, a second before the captain could grab him. As the door began to close, the boy's voice came, shrill and triumphant: "Sanctuary! Sanctuary!" Then the door slammed shut.
Jehan stood in the aisle formed by rows of tall candelabrum, panting, Melisande clutched in his arms, a magnificent sight for those who go for the heroic type. His legs began to tremble, and he sank to the ground, gently setting Melisande down on the floor in front of him. She stirred, but did not awaken.
Jehan sat back, crossing his legs, and tried to catch his breath. His gaze kept wandering to the shadows around the door in hopes of glimpsing their savior. He thought he saw a strange shape hunkered down beside a column; he couldn't tell if he was sure that it was a person or not.
Jehan's attention was immediately called back to Melisande as she uttered a soft moan. Her lips parted in a sigh, yet her eyes did not open. Jehan hugged his arms around him, bowing his head, thinking that he had been stupid to have done what he did. If he had kept his feelings to himself none of this would ever have happened. Who knew when they would be able to leave the cathedral, for the soldiers would surely be waiting any time they tried to emerge from sanctuary. But then he thought that if he had not admitted what he felt, he would not have found out that Melisande felt the same way.
"Come up to the bell tower," a voice whispered.
Jehan jerked his head up and almost gasped as he found himself staring at the kindest, yet most hideous face he had ever seen. He quickly swallowed the gasp and said nervously, "Um, you must be Quasimodo, Esmeralda's friend." The hunchback smiled and nodded. Then he pointed to a stone staircase in the far wall. Jehan nodded awkwardly. "Oh, yes, the bell tower," the boy stammered. He hastily took up Melisande in his arms again and then followed Quasimodo up the staircase.
"You will be safer up here," Quasimodo said. "There is less of a chance the soldiers will find you."
Jehan wasn't paying attention to him. Melisande was his only focus. He waited for any sound or movement that would tell him she was all right. After a few moments Jehan began to mutter, "Those blasted soldiers! So blasted superstitious! Maybe there are real witches in this world, but Melisande certainly isn't one of them!"
Jehan heard the sound of a door opening. He went rigid as he thought it was the soldiers entering the church. But the sound was too close. He looked up ahead and saw Quasimodo going through a doorway. Jehan scolded himself for being so paranoid and then he hurried after the hunchback.
Jehan glanced around at the belltower as he followed Quasimodo up a wooden staircase to the main platform. He stopped short as he caught sight of the magnificent bells above him. "Wow!" Jehan exclaimed.
"That's what everyone says!" Quasimodo called cheerfully.
Jehan continued across the platform to a small alcove where Quasimodo was laying out a blanket. Jehan set Melisande down on the blanket, and then remained on his knees beside her. Quasimodo quickly disappeared from sight. As Jehan watched and waited, his misgivings resurfaced. He could not help but blame himself.
He kept vigil through the night. Only as the sun began to edge over the horizon did Melisande stir again. Her soft moan roused Jehan from dozing off. "Melisande!" Jehan cried, bolting upright.
She moaned again, then slowly opened her eyes. "Jehan..? W-where are we?"
"In Notre Dame. You are safe now. They can't get us here," Jehan murmured, tenderly clasping her hand in his. "We are safe... "
"Oh, my head..." Melisande moaned.
"Are you all right?" Jehan asked, frantic. Then he became choked with rage. "Th-that fiend! He attacked us for no good reason except to collect his monthly gold! Fiends! All of them!" He shook his fist in the air fiercely.
"Jehan, please," Melisande said softly. "There is nothing we can do. They believe what they believe. Even if it is false."
"How can they be so heartless?" Jehan wondered with exasperation. "How can they accuse such innocence?"
"This is how it is." Melisande's voice broke. "S-some of us are born under a certain fate - this is mine."
"Aw, Melisande," Jehan whispered. He took her into his arms and hugged her tenderly. She leaned her head on his shoulder and tried to stifle her tears.
"Now I know," Melisande commented. She sat back, receiving a puzzled look from Jehan. She brushed his hair out of his face. "You understand me, Jehan. I don't know how. But I do know we are meant for each other."
Jehan grinned. "That is fate!"
"Indeed," Melisande mused.
Jehan fondly ran his hand over her hair. "Are you sure you are okay?" She nodded slowly. His smile softened. Then he glanced toward the parapet and asked softly, "Would you like to watch the rest of the sunrise with me?"
Melisande smiled. "I would love to." Jehan stood, then reached down to help her up. She leaned on his arm trying to steady herself. Then she winced in pain, faltering forward. Jehan caught her before she fell. "Oh, my trick knee... I - I can't stand!" she cried out, clinging to Jehan's shoulder as her legs buckled.
Jehan lowered her onto the blanket again. "You must rest," he said solemnly. She nodded sadly. Jehan sat back and ran his fingers back through his hair in frustration. "I -- I really hoped...Well, I mean, I don't want to be stuck here. Those soldiers might find a way to spy on us. And, also, I really don't want to hear any of Clopin's stories on what he thought we were doing if we are gone too long."
"You had better swallow your pride," Melisande admonished, "Because when this happens, I cannot walk for a while."
Jehan felt his ears burn. "That was selfish of me, wasn't it? I'm sorry." He turned away in shame.
Melisande gently placed her hand on his arm, a smile playing across her face. "Jehan, I understand. I know your pride and Clopin's jokes." She snickered. "That would be his type of subject for a story."
Jehan nervously rubbed the back of his neck. "Yeah, he would, just to get to me." He glanced toward the parapet again, studying the lightening of the clear sky.
He didn't see Melisande's coy grin. "So, where were we when those soldiers interrupted?"
"Huh?" Jehan turned back to her in surprise. He felt his face grow warm in embarrassment. He stammered, "I -- I think I was being too bold back there by the river... Forgive me."
"Oh, no, that's quite all right." Melisande blushed, too, lowering her eyes timidly. "I - I hoped you would - I mean - Oh, the kiss..." She sighed dreamily.
"I--" Jehan stuttered. "I can't believe this happened!" he blurted. "Everything was so perfect, but then those oafs came along... hmph." An amused expression replaced his anger. "This is all Clopin's fault."
"You mean it was his idea for you to speak to me?"
"Yes, he... advised it."
"So if it weren't for him, we would still be going about the Court afraid to talk to each other?"
"Yeah, I guess so. Well, maybe. Sooner or later I might have told you. It's hard for me to keep my feelings bottled up."
"I noticed. That was a good show of anger on my first day here."
Jehan's ears burned. "Well, I'm not usually like that. I try not to get angry. I like to make a joke instead of exploding. That day I just snapped when I saw that he had hurt you... But Clopin isn't really like that either. He's a joker, too." Jehan shrugged nonchalantly. "It's a way to survive in this life we have been slated for."
Then he added, "But I have no idea what happened to him that day. Yes, he has a good heart, but when something sets him off, he can be pretty ruthless."
"And mean."
"Nah, it was just a misunderstanding."
"Besides, I have a strong feeling that he's slightly... eccentric. He told me something one time that quite proves it... "
Melisande snickered. "I would believe it."
"Yeah, well, one needs a bit of insanity to survive in this world," Jehan mused.
Melisande laughed softly. Then she said, "Tell me. Do you always ridicule people in this way?"
Jehan chuckled. "I don't need to ridicule that old fool. He is just over twice my age, yet sometimes he acts half your age! He can ridicule himself without my help!"
"Well, there must be something good about him," Melisande sniggered.
Jehan muttered, "He knows true love when he sees it."
"What was that?"
"Um, I mean, he knows a chance to pull a trick when he sees it." Jehan grinned sheepishly. "The scheming fool."
Melisande had a wistful look on her face. "And I was so afraid you didn't..." She let her voice trail off.
"That you didn't like me in this way."
"I thought the same thing!"
"Imagine! That fear would have kept us apart."
Jehan gently stroked her cheek. "No, no it wouldn't. It is meant to be," he murmured. "Because I love you." Then he leaned forward and kissed her cheek. He was shocked when she abruptly drew back.
"Jehan," Melisande said edgily, her expression tight with fretfulness, "Do you really, truly love me?" The question was choked with uncertainty.
"More than anything!"
"Do you swear? Do you swear on your own grave? Do you swear on the great bells above your head?"
"I don't like to swear."
"You know what I mean! Do you?"
"I swear! Let me be dead tomorrow and the bells all have cracks in them if my vow is not true down to my soul and life-giving spirit!" Jehan raised his arms toward the bells in emphasis.
While he was looking upward Melisande quickly untied something that glinted of metal from a ribbon on her dress. She pushed it into his hand, closing his fist over it. "Then here, take this and keep it safe. When we get back to the Court, we will deal with it there." She confided softly, "I will be better by evening."
Jehan squeezed his fist and replied quietly, "I am sure you will be." Though he knew better. "You rest now." Then he got up and walked over to the parapet, his fist tightly clenched. Jehan leaned on the stone balustrade, gazing out over the sunlight-filled square. For a moment he thought he heard the sound of jingling bells far below.

Go To: The 3rd chapter of Consequences

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(c) 1996-2004 Autumn Loweck. This work may not be copied, distributed, or reprinted without the author's permission. All characters are property of Autumn Loweck (aka Shiri), unless specified otherwise, and may not be "borrowed" or mentioned in other works without notifying the author first