The air was chilled as autumn leaves softly rode the bitter Paris breeze. A small village rested peacefully through the early morn. Not a single voice or sound was heard aside from the swaying creaks of the tall dark oak trees that lined the village. Bells sounded tenderly from the mighty cathedral of Notre Dame. The grande structure was framed by the dull blue and bright reds of the budding morning sky. The air carried the faint scent of rainfall. Not a soul was awake except...
The mysterious bell ringer of Notre Dame. Quasimodo.
He had lived high in the bell tower for as long as the young man could remember, for he was seen as a man of darkness, all because of his unusual appearance. Not a single day went by without him being reminded of the monster that he was seen as. Quasimodo's late master, Frollo, reviled him as so. The bedeviled man never allowed Quasimodo to leave but… Frollo was gone now. The secluded man was cursed with a hunched back and a deformed face. His left brow bone sat crooked and swollen which gave his features a lopsided look. However, he was especially strong and well toned after twenty years of ringing the proud, massive, iron bells of Notre Dame.
The large loft he occupied was nestled tightly within the proud cathedral walls. All sorts of nick nacks and intricacies littered the whole abode. The man had awakened not long ago from… yet another nightmare.
He simply could not get those ghastly images out of his head, no matter how hard he tried. He wondered why the Lord had forsaken him so. In a groggy stupor, the bell ringer found his way to one of the many cathedral balconies. His misshapen face was illuminated by the luscious sunrise. The worn man held a forlorn expression. The silence was more than deafening. A feeble ringing filled his fatigued ears. There was nothing he would not give to not stir awake, night after night, alone in his desolate home.
The hunchback rested his large arms heavily on the balcony rail as if it were his only support system. His short stature was further exaggerated by his slouched position. His hunch protruded even more so from his lackluster posture. The calm wind ruffled his wavy ginger hair gently. His lips held a thin line that only deepened by the second. His mind was constantly tormented day in and day out by his horrid memories. The thought that tortured him today was,
Why had she been taken from him? After Quasimodo's unrequited love, Esmeralda, was burned at the stake by the hands of his late master, the hunchbacks already damaged heart was destroyed. Frollo was horrible to Quasimodo but even still, he mourned Frollo's death nonetheless. Not only had he lost everything he had ever loved, the town's people still did not accept him. And all because of the body and face he was born with. Did they not themselves have flaws? Were they not as human as him or anyone else? No matter if he pondered these thoughts until his brain ached, he would never know the true answers.
The bell ringer sat in silence for what felt like hours but, the sun looked to have not risen any further. His throbbing head fell into his large calloused hands. He was working himself to death. He was sure he had not received a full night's rest in months. Deep purple bags clung under his half lidded eyes. A full night's rest was foreign to him at this point. A heavy sigh escaped his tired form. He noted that soon he would have to ring the bells to signify the starting of the day.
The lonesome man rose ever so slowly, using his powerful arms to support his weight. His aching back cracked with every inch he rose until he was at his full height again. Even then, his stature was still small. As he was about to turn back inside into the warm loft, he looked back over his shoulder to glance over the city for a moment.
His mind was rushed by the memory of the buildings being engulfed by fire as smoke swirled the dark sky. He grimaced, tearing his terrified eyes away from the alarming image. His shaking hands found their way to the top of his pounding head. He breathed scattered heavy breaths while his large eyes gazed at the floor. The alarmed man blinked rapidly, trying desperately to clear his head of that horrid memory. He slid his hands down his face, clutching his soft green tunic. He breathed in.. out… in… out… but his exasperated lungs could not get enough air. Esmeralda's death haunted him daily and nightly as dreadful scenes of that horrid night consumed him. The flashing images only had gotten worse through the long months.
His eyes were pierced by the rising sunlight. He knew he would have to ring the bells soon. He shook his head wildly to rid himself of those startling thoughts as he sluggishly walked to the bell section of the cathedral. Maybe a distraction would help him forget those memories. After all, no matter what his troubles were, he was still the bell ringer of Notre Dame. All these thoughts of his unrequited love reminded him of an important detail. Quasimodo always brought a flower to her unmarked grave. He made a quick mental note to head to the market later in the day.
A young woman laid asleep in her small bed. She was covered head to toe in bedding as she slept soundly while her mind danced with pleasant thoughts and dreams. The calming but, arising melody of the bells of Notre Dame had begun to slowly awaken her from her wistful slumber. Her rested eyes fluttered open as they peered through her bedside window. The sky was shifting from a soft navy blue hue to a more warm shade of pinks and reds. She inhaled deeply, the scent of freshly baked bread filling her small nose. She curled the bedding closer to her slender frame as she sat up without a trace of sleepiness.
She looked back to the window to find the sight of Notre Dame in the distance. The proud cathedral looked as if it were glowing. The beautiful sky only helped to create that glow. The bells rang with such sweetness she swore angles themselves were singing.
The world the Lord has created was truly something.
She slipped out of her warm bed and gave a long stretch. The newly awakened woman made her way to her small closet in the corner of her room to get dressed for the day. As much as she would have loved to stay in bed and listen to the bells, she had flowers to sell, what, with her being a florist and all. She loved fauna and flora ever since she was just a small school girl.
She threw on a white dress with a pink blouse which matched the fringe at the bottom of her skirt. She stumbled over to her shoe chest and grabbed a plain pair of scuffed black flats. She hastily tied her mess of marron curls in a loose bun. The breeze swept through the window, tousling her dress.
Something was missing… Hair up… dressed… Oh! Know she remembered! She looked to her small bedside table that definitely needed a new leg or two. On the chipped surface laid a worn, baby blue handkerchief. The morning light that streamed through the daunting oak trees and into the modest room made the small cloth look grey in the dim lighting. With a swift motion, she scooped up the precious cloth and tied it around her wrist haphazardly. When she was finally sure she had everything taken care of, the fair-skinned woman made her way quickly to the entry door. The carefree girl skipped down her cobblestone steps and greeted her horse. The mighty stallion stood in a small stable right next to her humble abode. The hasty girl lead him out to the side of the stable where her small but, sturdy flower carte sat. She hitched her proud horse to the carte with a swift motion. She gingerly grabbed the stallion's bridle and begun her brisk journey to the bustling market. It may have been peaceful and quiet now, but soon the town square would be filled with more bodies than she could count. She walked in blissful silence as the bells sang wistfully to her ears.
* * * .
The bells had long ago stopped ringing, a sign she needed to hurry.
"Come on, Victor. We will be late at this rate!" She tugged the bridle a tad while her horse made a protesting whinny. Soon, they both made it to the marketplace in a reasonable amount of time. The red-haired woman quickly unloaded the cart into her flower stand. She huffed a relieved sigh as she placed down the last pot of flowers. Her horse stomped irritably, wanting to be unhitched from the cart to stretch his legs. "Alright, Alright," a giggle escaped her full lips at how expressive he could be at times. "Hold your horses." Victor simply scuffed a hoof against the cobblestone road in disapproval. She knew he did not like her jokes much. "Hey, that joke was funny Victor, and you know it."
Her horse simply laid his pointed ears down in annoyance while the amused girl unhitched the jumpy horse. He never wandered too far but, he was the mischievous type. On numerous occasions, a fruit cart owner would march over angrily to her, for her horse had stolen an apple from the unhappy man's cart. Victor began to trot off but, she would not let him go just yet. "And no stealing, Victor!' The young florist warned him. A hint of amusement danced behind her serious tone. He huffed as he turned to walk off without a second glance. She giggled to herself as she had begun to busy herself with her duties. She flipped her sign from "closed" to "open" with the phrase "Rena's flowers" inscribed into the wood sign. Rena rose to her tiptoes to hang the sign above her stand. She dusted her dress off while she walked back behind her stand to start her workday.
The square was soon filled with pleasant sounds and smells, from bakers to laughter that arose from patrons entering the square. Most of the day was almost fairly normal.
She was visited by several familiar faces but, some new as well. She always made it a point to make her customers laugh which, she was quite good at. After she had attended to her most recent customers, she had begun to hear talk and murmurs from the people around her. The main topic?
The fair-skinned woman furrowed her thin eyebrows, her mind wandering. The florist had heard many things about the mysterious man in question. Somethings good, but most… were not. The topic made her uneasy so, she tried to avoid that point of conversation as much as possible. Something inside her did not feel right talking atrociously about someone she did not know or had never met. She had heard talk like this almost every day after… the fire. As much as the topic unnerved her, she could not help but think about it from time to time. Thought out her long day, her ears picked up many things related to the bell ringer in question.
"He's nothing but a devil!"
"Oh, the boy wouldn't hurt a fly"
"It's only a matter of time before the demon himself hurts another soul."
All these differentiating thoughts swirled her tired head. She sighed as she rested against her stand.
Was he really a monster like everyone said? Who was he? Why had she never seen him before? She took a curl in her finger to twirl while she pondered these odd thoughts. She sat in silence as her mind entertained these unusual questions.
"Uh- e- excuse me?" A tenor-like voice pulled her drifting mind back to earth. Her eyes soon landed on the figure who belonged to the voice. It was odd. Well, rather, he was odd. The presumably young man that stood before her sounded no older than twenty but, he appeared to be hunched over and rather short for a grown man. In height, she had half a foot over him in comparison. His form was adorned with a black hooded cloak which obscured his face and most of his frame. Her eyes fluttered for a moment.
"O-oh! I'm sorry sir, " she laughed nervously "I was just lost in thought for a moment, how may I help you?" Rena leaned into her cart slightly to seem more attentive but, to also get a better look. The man wrang his hands in front of him as if he were nervous.
"I-I-I was looking for a certain type of flower, a-and I thought this was the best place to go." The nervous man stammered over his words, his hands still wringing in front of him. She tried to stifle a giggle from observing his odd behavior. The strange man was endearing to her. The intrigued woman clapped her hands together in excitement. He jumped a bit at the sudden noise.
"Well sir, what are you looking for?" She smiled sweetly, her loose curls falling beside her face. She could not see much of him but, she did notice his already large eyes widen. His lips parted as if to say something however, it took him a moment.
"L- Lilies." Speaking only one word, he took a step forward hesitantly. Her smile grew greatly. It was her favorite flower.
"Well of course!" Rena smirked, "for anyone special?" She enquired playfully. The cloaked man's whole demeanor changed.
"N- no! I j-just uh," the wringing of his large hands only worsened. She knew if she could see the mysterious man, he would be blushing a deep cherry red. She had to have a little fun at work from time to time. She chuckled under her breath while she searched for the breed of flower the cloaked man was looking for.
"How many?" She pried kindly.
"Just one." Only one? Strange. She looked through her collection of lilies to find the best one. When she finally found it, she delicately plucked the beautiful thing from its pot. The flower was the whitest of the collection with the fullest petals. The mirthful woman leaned over the stand, sticking her arm over to give the flower to the young man. He was reaching into a pocket as if to give her money for the flower. For some strange reason, something came over her.
"No no!' She waved a dismissing hand "No need. It's free of charge." Her actions were definitely odd for her today. As kind and caring as she was, she rarely ever gave away flowers for free, especially with so much competition around.
She had not realized it yet but, the sun had begun to set behind her. There were hardly any people out and all the other shop owners had left. Actually, she noticed, no one was in the square anymore. Not a single body. It was only the two of them. The soft pink light from the setting sun danced across the streets tenderly. The smell of pastries still lingered in the cool air.
Suddenly, a wild gust of wind blew through the two. Without any warning, the man's hood was harshly ripped from off his head by the brutal wind. For a moment the sudden wind startled her, her eyes snapping shut. After a moment, she regained her composure as she fluttered her watery orbs.
"Well, isn't that just the strangest thing!" Her eyes were still slightly unfocused, "Not a single gust of wind all day and then-" Her breath hauled as his form finally camel back into view. Rena could not believe her eyes. Her grasp around the flower stiffened as she gazed upon the figure before her.
It was him.
With a clear view of him, she could see the terror rise within him from being exposed. Her unblinking eyes ran up and down his unusual form. His large eyes looked to anywhere but her in a panic. His large toned forelimbs flew over his head to try to mask his face and form from Rena. His large arms shook violently. He was truly terrified. She swore she could hear him whimper. For many moments, she simply stared at him in utter shock. She felt heavy as her feet remained firmly cemented into the cobblestone floor. A wave of sympathy and quilt racked through her body as she looked upon him. This man was no monster. He was a person, a human being. And this man had lived through a world of hurt and anguish his entire life but, she was not about to continue that scorn.
"Hey.." Her voice was low and softer than silk as she looked upon his face without fear or disdain. The nervous man's deep blue eyes meet her sparkling emerald green ones. His shining eyes were filled with dismay and dread. His arms dropped slightly in hesitation. "It's alright. You don't have to be afraid…" His wide glazed eyes blinked rapidly as if he were processing her unexpected words. He looked more than shocked by her kind reaction. His breath hitched as he brought his arms down but of course, his hands found their way to rest in front of him. "Here, I believe you were wanting a flower?" The maroon haired woman enquired sweetly as she cocked her head to the side in a friendly fashion. She noted at how blue his eyes really were, like the sky itself.
He was too nervous to eye her for long. His round eyes darted from her, to the stone floor. However, the glances Quasimodo did see of her were.. Really something. She was gorgeous. The pink sunset framed her beautifully which only made her look that much more beautiful
He hesitantly lifted his slightly shaking hand to hers. After a moment, he finally met her much smaller hand. He cautiously held the stem of the flower in his palm. Their fingers brushed slightly from the interaction. Neither had expected the sudden touch between them. They pulled back into themselves quickly. The blue-eyed man glanced from her to ground, parting his lips to speak.
"T-thank y-you.." She smiled kindly down at him while she brought her arm to rest back on the stand.
"Anytime," something else came over her as well that day "and hey, if you ever come around the market again sometime, don't you ever feel afraid to come by or say hello. You are more than welcome." She really was pulling all the stops today, wasn't she? His face held a dumbfounded expression. All his life he was judged for what he looked like but, this woman had not. This beautiful, compassionate woman, had looked upon him as if he were really normal, like everyone else. A warm feeling rested in his heart as he gazed back at her. Her smile was contagious. He simply nodded to her. A hesitant smile played on his features. "Oh, and my name is Rena," she glanced up at her sign that held her name proudly on its wood frame, "but, you might have already known that." She gave a fast wink. She could actually see him blushing this time. Her heart fluttered unexpectedly as his smile caught her by surprise. He really did look better when he smiled.
"I-i'm Quasimodo." His voice was only above a whisper. She had always pondered if his name was truly what everyone said it was. Even with the confirmation, the young woman had a hard time believing someone could be named something so cruel. As time passed, the overwhelmed man was finding it easier to look upon her for longer lengths of time.
'What a guy.' Rena thought to herself in amusement. She deepened her lean over her stand, her eyes never leaving him. A gentle breeze flowed through the air. It felt warm and inviting.
"That is a beautiful name." The surprised man blinked hard and fast as his blush crept further over his plump cheeks. His hand crept its way to his cheek to rest over his blush as he tried to hide his elatedness. The word "beautiful" had hardly ever been directed towards him for… obvious reasons. He was scorned as a creature of darkness. But, for some strange reason, this woman did not see him as so. His heart was hammering in his broad chest. He was afraid she could hear it. He took a hitched breath as he stared back at her. No matter how long he gazed at her, the blushing young man could not find a single strand of distaste or fear in her brilliant green eyes.
"Well, u-uh, thank you.." His head was spinning from all the blood that was rushing to his cheeks. He really needed a moment. "I will uh, be going n-now" He stepped back but, was tripped by his cloak. "Oh uh, I will uh, see you- maybe- or um- bye!" Rena held back a gasp as she watched the endearing young man stumble over not only his words, but himself as well. She pressed her cheek into her palm, an affectionate smile sneaked its way onto her face. He flipped his hood back over his head as he began to make his journey back home, all the while clutching the flower softly in his hand. She could have sworn he looked back at her.
'What a day..' He thought to himself excitedly.
'What a day' unknown to him, the fluttered woman had the same thought.