Anecdote of the Lioness
After loosing all the moisture in her body to salty tears she was exhausted and fell asleep. She woke up and put on a purple dress, it brought out her eyes. She looked in the mirror and brushed her silky black hair. Even though it still looked beautiful she could tell it needed to be washed. She ran her fingers through her tresses and tugged at the few tangles she had.
"Good morning!" A tall figure leaped through the doorway cheerfully. She jumped in surprise and kept a straight face. "So what would you like Clopin, yours truly, to show you in our glorious Court?"
She looked down and mummbled, "Where are the bathing tents?"
"Turn left as you walk out of your tent then go straight and make a right," he said enthusiastically.
"Thank you," Ariel spoke quietly and pushed past him with his arm held out without the slightest bit of concern. She walked out and followed his directions leaving the performer dumbfounded in the spot.
She came back feeling much more refreshed and she looked even more beautiful than before. Clopin waltzed up to her. "Would you like a tour now?" She sighed in defeat.
"If you insist," she murmured. He beamed at the victory and jumped a little.
"Good choice madmoiselle! And since you have seen the Court down here I've decided to take you on a tour of the streets of Paris! Come on now. I will not let you miss any of the wonderful sights." He offered an arm to her and she took it, hesitating for quite some time before deciding to do so.
Making sure to sneak around the prejudice eyes of the soldiers the two casually made their way around Paris. They passed a market stand with fruit and few loaves of bread. It looked especially appealing to Ariel, not having eaten recently.
"My dear, I want to teach you something today." Ariel did not respond, only waited for him to continue, though not very eager to hear. "Though the romani try and not look for trouble, times can become very difficult. I want to teach you how to carefully hide something in your clothing by taking it very quickly from a stand." She stood appalled at his description.
"You are urging me to steal?" Ariel shouted and Clopin immediately placed a firm hand over her soft lips. He looked around with stern eyes hoping no one was paying attention to the two gypsies.
Clopin whispered, "I suppose you could call it that but I prefer to think of it my way as a survival move." She turned away from him, defiantly.
"I won't," she refused softly by with a hard tone in her voice. Clopin would not let it rest at that. He had a hand on her shoulder but removed it. He tried to make some soothing gestures. Her figure cemented itself to the spot as she harshly broke away from his touches.
"All right. Just watch what I do." He left her alone and strolled over to the fruit cart. He lingered around the apples and the man in charge of the stand began talking to him. As they conversed in a friendly way Clopin slowly took a ripe apple and hid it behind his back. Then, slowly, he turned around saying his farewells to the man and brought back the item to Ariel. He offered it to her but she made no effort to accept. He shrugged and chomped on it himself. "Your turn," he muttered with a mouth full of fruit. She placed a hand on her chest in disgust.
"Me?" I think not," she declared. He was glad to see that she wouldn't cave into his proposes, yet. He'd convince her but strong will was something Clopin admired greatly in someone, especially a woman.
"I am sure you will do just fine mademoiselle," he encouraged playfully as he began to gently push her toward the cart. "Besides,' he added, "I told the man that you were interested in him." She growled angrily at him but afraid of being punished by the man for not following up on Clopin's claim of her lust she made her way over. Conversing with the man, who was trying to be impressing and suave and yet accomplishing neither, she tried to take the apple with as much ease as Clopin had. She received no such luck. When making her excuses and walking away she brought the apple in front of her too quickly and ate it too fast. The man's head shot up at the crunching and furrowed his brow at the culprit.
"Thief!" He shouted.
"Run!" Clopin yelled at her from where he was standing.
"What?" Ariel shouted back, stunned. Clopin ran up and pushed her.
"Run!" She understood the second time and took off. Sprinting past commonfolk and knocking down whatever was in her path she continued through the streets of Paris. She wanted to look back to see if anyone was following her, but she knew it would only slow her down. Not looking right in front of her feet cost her. She tripped over a fallen piece of lumber that was laying on the cobblestone. She threw her hands out to catch herself and slapped against the hard stone, hitting her knee on the wood on the way down. She let out a cry of pain and was jerked backward by a firm hand. She was face to face with the man from the cart. She knew some quick thinking would be required here. Her first option was the start crying and return the apple she had stolen and then shoved into her bosom when she first had darted off. No, she thought, she knew already the Court probably thought her and insecure, isolated child, rumors already spreading about her life before she arrived, no need to let them think her a weakling as well. She decided to go with her second option. She made quick eye contact with the large man and then, being quite flexible, swung up and kicked him right in the face, the strong hold on her had worked to her advantage and soon loosened. He let go completely before regaining his sense and she started off again. He reached out and grabbed her again, only to have her white teeth sink into his arm. This time she had really succeeded inflicting pain and he made a loud yelp as she scurried off toward the Court of Miracles, not looking back for her companion the entire way.
Meanwhile, Clopin had witnessed it all. He finally had caught up to the man he had been chasing, trying not to let him catch Ariel. Unfortunately he had failed. He hid behind a column of gray stone, prepare to pounce onto the man twice his size who held Ariel without effort. Then he saw her take action. He stepped back into the shadows and watched, an amused grin crossing his face. He leaned back and crossed his arms, not sure to be more attracted to her because of this new trait that had surfaced or angry that he wasn't given the chance to save his damsel in distress in order to gain favor on her side, something that was obviously difficult to achieve.
Finally making it back to her tent, Ariel jumped on her bed and trying to find out something to do to get her mind off things she pulled out a book. She didn't read it though, just flipped through the pages angrily eating her apple. She wasn't sure if she liked him because he challenged her to do something she normally wouldn't and broke part of the bubble she was floating in, or to hate him for risking her life so foolishly. Although, she enjoyed taking the risk, doing something out of the norm. Maybe she needed a friend who would keep her on her toes, God knows that Pipes rarely did. Driving the cart half the time and then stopping here and there to perform and eat. There was no time to have a challenge in her life. She thinked she liked it. After flipping through half the book a figure entered her tent. She peeked her violet eyes over top of the book and saw Clopin grinning stupidly. She hurled the core of her apple at him and went back to her book.
"Adventure adds a bit of spice to life, does it not my dear?" He cracked his knuckles waiting for her reply.
"Not adventure that almost kills you. And do not call me your dear. I am not your dear, nor am I any other animal of yours." She was very well of his meanings when he addressed her in such a way but she felt like adding a bit of dry humor so he wouldn't think she was completely shutting him off. It wouldn't have matter to him either way, he was still going to try to win her over and break out the person he saw fight the man who could've killed her. Clopin chuckled at her remark, catching the pun.
"Very well, my dear," he put extra emphasis on the two words and then covered his mouth mockingly, "Oops!" He laughed and took off his hat, bowing. "I must go, you and I have had enough excitement for one day. Perhaps, if you are lucky enough, I will visit you again and we can share some more time together." She watched him walk out without saying good-bye. He smiled to himself as he strolled around the Court. No matter what she wanted, he was still visiting her tomorrow. Her sarcastic remarks were matching his and he knew that with a little more prying and little more adventure, possibly a little more romance between them too, he thought, he would get her to her full potential. His smile grew at the thought of his newly found project which was attracting him more and more everyday. He did a little skip as he passed a few gazing women but paid them no mind, for now, he was satisfied with this one, she kept him entertained enough to brush off any other woman who tried to stand in his path.
Ariel had looked out of her doorway as Clopin left, peeking to see three girls standing by a tent, looking at him and trying to work up the courage to talk to him. He made a small dance step as he passed them. She frowned at his flirtation and backed into her tent, laying on her bed, a bit discouraged. When Clopin had been pressuring her to take the apple the lightening had struck her a bit. He seemed more attractive as he had smiled, coaxing her to commit the felony. She could easily see herself as his companion, his partner in crime, his friend. Although, now after seeing his harem she thought that the chance of catching his eye with her constant stubbornness would get her no where. She didn't want to be like them though. If he'd ever find interest in her it'd have to be earned. But a small bit of kindness toward him wouldn't hurt. He was, after all, the only true one who has made an effort to be nice to her. She set her book down and walked out, making sure to avoid Clopin and his followers. She started to walk around the Court, but didn't want to encounter anyone she didn't feel like talking to, but she was sure no one would make the effort to speak to her anyway. Nevertheless, she lazily headed toward the catacombs and pulling her skirt up she made her way through the mucky water. Climbing out into the cemetery she quietly made her way to the streets. She couldn't believe dusk had come so quickly. Her awareness intensified, hoping the scoundrels of the night weren't eyeing her up. She made her way through some streets when she heard the crack of a leaf or twig behind her. Not wanting suspense or any surprise at that she spun around. Both her and her follower gasped at the sight of each other. Her in anger, him in surprise at her bravery for turning around, willing to face anyone.
"Clopin! What do you want? I am in mood for stealing at night as well." He laughed at her.
"No, I think our episode today was enough for now." He walked up next to her and they continued to walk.
"So, what do you want?" She crossed her arms at him in disbelief of his just 'bumping' into her on accident.
"Can a man not join a friend in a pleasant, casual walk?" She hid her satisfaction of his surprise to herself.
"Yes, any sane man, any man who does not creep up on the person they are following. You, being opposite of that description, may not." He pretended to pout and looked away, she had hoped not to really hurt his feelings and sighed. "But I suppose, though I planned on walking alone." She walked slowly, silently enjoying the personal attention.
"You'd be surprised at what I can bring out of a person who plans on being 'alone,' " he declared matter-of-factly. She said nothing and didn't look ahead or at him while he was looking. Though while he was staring ahead she glanced at his mature face and somehow attractive large nose. It seemed to fit him. She giggled quietly to herself so that Clopin would not hear or ask about her laughter. They stopped in front of the fountain in the Town Square and they faced each other.
"Well I have brought a lot out of you tonight haven't I?" Ariel had to laugh at his sarcasm. "Oh my! There is it! I knew you had it!" She looked at him, crossing her arms, her brow slanted.
"Had what?" She sat on the edge of the fountain, he followed.
"A smile, you are so much more attractive with it." She was glad it was dark so he couldn't see her cheeks turn dark scarlet. She twirled her fingers around in the water, creating small ripples, then nervously, she spun a strand of hair around her finger. Her moved her hand away and took it into his. He looked up to catch her enchanting gaze. She wanted to look away, but couldn't, the lightening bolt had struck her again, and it had more charge this time. She saw his head moving toward her and frantically stood up, catching him off guard and causing him to fall into the water. It splashed the ends of her dress.
She covered her mouth to stifle her laughing. "I'm sorry! It's getting late and I thought we had better head back." He stood up and rung out his blue hat, the yellow feather drooping.
"Right," he replied dryly and walked beside her. He was too taken in by her to be angry at her. She walked feeling guilty as a frown pulled at the corners of her mouth. But she didn't want to kiss him, not yet. They started back when Ariel broke the silence.
"When you called me your friend, did you mean it?" He took a quick look at her to see the sincerity on her face. His expression softened.
"Yes, of course," he said quietly, reassuring her.
"Oh." They walked in silence again for a few moments. "Do you think we'll be friends for a long time?" She wanted to test him, and tease a bit as well, but she mostly was doing it for straight answers.
"I believe so," he replied.
"I hope so, my dear." She made a quick smile, but stopped herself.
"I told you not to call me that." Clopin couldn't help but chuckle at her cross remark. He cautiously put his arm around her shoulders and she moved closer to him, placing her arm around his waste. Though Ariel knew that allowing him to do that was probably getting herself in over her head she brushed off the thought from the time being. She'd make sure that nothing else would come of it too soon, but it would be nice to see the girls' faces as her and Clopin walked in together.
After going back to her tent she scolded herself. She didn't want him to treat her like the other girls. She wasn't going to swoon over him when he would walk into her presence. She wasn't like the other girls, but maybe Clopin already saw that.
Shaking her head she went to sleep, grinning a little, thinking of her triumph. Her smile didn't last long as she drifted into a heavy sleep. She started to moan and sweat as her nightmare returned. The shrieks grew larger as Clopin rushed over before his parents could beat him to it. In a silvery robe he leaped to her tent and shook her violently, trying to get her to snap into consciousness. He sat her up and her eyes shot open with a scream. She started sobbing and Clopin pulled her to him tightly. His mind was wild with questions as he rubbed her back gently and her tears were absorbed into the metallic cloth of his robe. He wanted to ask her everything he was thinking but he knew now was an inappropriate time. Brushing her cheek as he laid her down she was quiet and fell back into her sleep. Clopin was unsure if she really ever woke up. He went back to his tent and fell asleep, but not before some intense thinking about what had just taken place.
Ariel, however, recalled
nothing of the past nightmare. She woke up with a smile from the night
before and decided to go wash up. She got her tub ready after the short
walk to the tent. Stepping into the tepid water she let out a relaxed sigh
at the comfortable temperature. She laid her head against the back of the
tub and crossed her legs at the ankles. She washed herself up and sprinkled
some lavender into the water to make it smell nice and to make her skin
smooth. She rubbed her hands together, trying to get the dirt off. Making
sure she smelled good and that she was pleasing to the touch she walked
out in a dark green dress. She primped a bit in front of her mirror and
then thought to go out on her own. She wanted people to see her but was
afraid to talk to anyone. She also didn't feel like seeing the women leave
a trail of her new found friend. She decided against it and walked back,
slicing up an apple to eat. I need something to pass the time, she thought
frustrated. Bringing out some paper she wrote down the days events. A journal
was a perfect way for her to remember what happened in the days to come,
and then it'd be a good way to recall everything to tell Pipes. She wrote:
I have found someone to occupy my time. I am so home sick I want to be with my dearest cousin. Nevertheless my newest friend, Clopin, is terribly popular with the female sex. I want to get to know him better, yet it must be slow and carefully planned. I need a man such as Clopin in my life, someone to be romantic and energetic with. He can keep my mind off my problems. It's not a question of whether I want him or not, I need him.
Climbing the ladder, and almost falling off twice, she moved the sewer away and climbed out into the sun. She moved her hair out of her face and looked around. She walked through the streets and the wind blew some notes into her ear. Her head perked up and she followed it, picking up her pace. The jingles of her dress made small noises that were soon drowned out by a voice. Ariel stopped herself and hid by a wall. Trying not to be seen she saw Clopin pour his heart out in a song he was playing, and singing, to the audience which quietly stood around. They were captivated by his singing, as was she. She listened with sparkles in her eyes, then she closed them, just wanting to listen. The world around her was shut out. No shouts of street vendors, no babies crying, only the voice of him. She simply couldn't believe her ears. Instantly, she gained a higher respect for him, some type of performing love for him. She swallowed slowly, making sure it wasn't a dream. The song ended but she couldn't move, couldn't take her eyes off him. She now knew why all the girls graveled at his feet and wanted to have him for their own. She understood, and she was more determined to have him for her own. She walked away the opposite direction so he wouldn't see her and picked a flower, lazily plucking off each petal.
"He loves me, he loves me not," she whispered to herself and smiled giddily. She walked away from the dirty cobblestone and warn wooden market stands to prance into a small field away from the city. She sat down among the weeds and wild flowers as the sweet breeze whispered past her face, brushing her cheek.
"I've never seen one of these flowers before." Clopin walked up to her and pretended to study her closely. She rolled her eyes, wiping the enchanting smile off her face immediately. "It's nice to see you up and about, mademoiselle." She didn't reply and looked away. "Don't be shy my lioness." Her head jolted to face his.
"Why did you just call me that?" This time he shrugged and picked up a flower, then throwing it off to the side.
"Well, that is what your name means, no?" She sighed, it was. She didn't think anyone was educated enough to have the knowledge of such meanings.
"But how did you--?" she trailed off.
"My child, I know many things, and I have a gift of guessing even more. You are a bit of a lioness aren't you? Hunting and attacking the people you choose with your emotions." He made a small evil grin at her. She looked away, hoping that he was simply teasing.
"I am not your child, please leave me alone. Why do you think I came out her in the first place by myself?" He seemed to take some offense to that comment and Ariel regretted sounding so cruel. Playing this hard to get game will not attract him if she doesn't let him get what he wanted in any way. "I'm sorry. I am being a bit harsh these days. Please forgive me." His frown faded and he grinned playfully at her.
"Let us take another stroll, we need the exercise," he chuckled in a sarcasm as he patted his muscular stomach. She shrugged at the suggestion but got up to follow him. They walked side by side, much like the previous night, only the mood was different. She made sure to keep it light so the wave of awkwardness would not pass through again.
"What have I not shown you in this town yet?" he asked. She clasped her hands in front of her and they bumped up and down as she walked. Her dress made a soft whooshing sound as they proceeded. She stopped in front of the large building that towered over the entire city.
"What is this place?" She stared up at the sunlight gracing the stained glass as well as the glow of awe in her eyes. Her mouth made an O until she realized she was gaping and closed her jaw.
"This is the Notre Dame Cathedral," Clopin said wistfully, as if taken over by the power of this place.
"It's beautiful," she muttered. He turned and looked at her, admiring her amazed expression on her face. It was difficult to keep his eyes off her.
"Yes....it is," his voice trailed off as he cautiously moved closer to her. She seemed, to him, not to notice his eyes gazing at her face and body, but she did and kept a smile silently in her heart. Seeing a figure walk out of the place she spun around and walked toward the Court of Miracles.
"Ariel, how long do you plan on staying with us?" He didn't want to seem desperate for answers from her on her staying but he was curious and tried to ask in a nonchalant manner.
"Mmm," she answered, shrugging, "until my cousin decides to come back and take me away. I am not aware of when that will be." He remained silent for a few moments. The sadness that hung in her response depressed him. She was so much prettier when she was happy. He felt guilt for bringing up the subject.
"I'm sorry. I hope you stay long, you'll like it here, the place grows on you. Your stay hasn't been unpleasant has it?" They had stopped and were facing each other again, Clopin only regretted it was in the romantic sense as before. At his last words he had grabbed her hands in desperation, hoping for a positive response.
"Oh no, it's been fine. Especially your parents....and you." His head perked up at the remark and looked into her eyes, making a small smile. She looked away, digging her foot into a crack in the cobblestone nervously.
"Well...that's splendid. I hope you stay here until winter time, it brings on the Festival of Fools, a wonderfully gay carnival of color and performances. One of those shows will be put on by yours truly," he said playfully. She smiled a little, but only a little. "My dear," he realized what he addressed her as but continued in all seriousness, "there is something bothering you, I can tell. Please tell me." His face looked right at her, the gaze she could not resist. She looked into him in a pleading manner.
"It's nothing, just a bit of nostalgia, that's all. I miss Pipes and traveling. I've never stayed in one place since..." she hesitated, "since a long time ago." She looked away. Clopin's shoulder dropped. He wanted so much to reach out and wipe her pain away but she was reluctant to tell anyone her past. He thought to let it go but having her alone with him and no one to bother them was a perfect opportunity to talk with her.
"Why are you so sad? You come with your cousin, he is all you speak of. Where is your mother, your father? Why don't you talk about them, have they abandoned you? Who has hurt you so deeply?" She was looking at the ground until all the questions shot out at her. She quickly looked up at him, not knowing what to say. She never discussed any of this with anyone, except Pipes. She didn't feel like starting now. "Please tell me. You were crying out in your sleep last night. She took a hand away from his and covered her mouth in embarrassment, her cheeks turning red. She still remained solemn.
"My parents, died a long time ago, Sarah and Lukrin. They were killed." He frowned, seeing the memories he had pulled up made her the mood she was constantly in. "They were accused of stealing." She stopped there.
"Well did they?" He immediately regretted saying something so cruel. She looked up at him with a flickering of hatred in her eyes. She ripped the remaining hand away from his and gasped.
"How dare you! You, being a mature, intelligent person I would think that you of all people would know the false accusations the people of Paris place on the gypsies!" She pushed past him and ran to the Court, tears blurring her vision. She went to her tent, a shiver had come over her and she shook in her bed uncontrollably.
Clopin had run after her but he couldn't catch up after her long start. He reached the gypsy haven with a frantic attitude, torn between going after her or going home. He went home, not wanting to stir any more emotions within her, he had done enough. As he went inside his tent he silently scolded himself for being so inconsiderate. Why would I ask such a thing? he thought to himself. He ran to see his parents fixing up the place a bit. They turned to see his alarm.
"Mother, father. There was a couple killed years ago under accusations of stealing, no? They were accused by Paris, a woman perhaps, by the name of Sarah." He could not remember the name of the father. Harlen and Delilah's face dropped to frowns.
"There was a Sarah who was killed a long time ago. The Parisians had accused her and her husband of stealing, along with another couple, related in some way. We knew them slightly, but didn't go and see them killed. Burned at the stake. Why do you ask this?" Clopin was so frustrated his parents did not see it.
"This couple had a child did they not?" He was face to face with his parents, shouting at them, though not angry, just too alarmed to get his comments out quietly.
"Yes, my, how could we have been so blind?" Harlen covered his eyes with a rough hand. "That is why that poor girl is here, after so many years..." Delilah was at a loss for words. "You must not bring the subject up to the girl understood? Make an extra effort to be kind. Retracing the steps of her childhood could send her into a breakdown."
Clopin nodded, hearing them explain everything that had already been said and done. He mentioned nothing to his parents and walked out.
Ariel cried a little more and wiped her eyes. It wasn't his fault, he didn't know, she thought to herself. Still, it wasn't exactly his business. She stood up and fixed herself. Putting a small shawl she walked to the center where few people were sitting. It was still a few more hours before the men would gather around her to drink until they saw double of their surroundings. She sat down and huddled her knees to her chest, her hair falling over her face. She pressed her lips together, hoping no one would bother her.
Clopin, after leaving his tent, spotted Ariel. He stopped in his tracks and stared a little. He took a deep breath for reassurance and walked slowly over to her, placing himself next to where she sat.
"Listen, and don't interrupt until I explain myself," he placed a hand on her shoulder but she turned her face in the opposite direction. "Please understand I did not mean to upset you, I wanted to help you to make you happy. I do not like your frown showing. There is so much to be happy about, don't dwell on the sadness from the past. I am here for you, to talk and to make your beautiful face light up." She sat there, unmoving, his arm had moved to around her shoulder in comfort but it didn't seem to work. He sighed and began to get up, accepting his failure, but she turned to him. He looked back and sat down, staring at her tearstained cheeks and watery eyes.
She looked at him for a moment and then leaned over, pressing her lips against his. His eyes opened wider but then closed. He felt relieved as a heavy burden lifted from his shoulders. He placed his arm back around her shoulder and the other hand behind her soft hair. She wrapped her arms around his neck and held the kiss for a long time, feeling a true relief and happiness for the first time in her life.