A golden coin was tossed his way. "Thank you Sir, much obliged!" It had been his only reward that night; nobody ever paid his balancing act any thought once his beautiful partner deserted him. Still, it made him happy. Hoisting his chair over one shoulder he smiled at the goat in tow, and they headed for home. An astonishing display of colour greeted him below the city of Paris. Deep reds clashed with cool turquoise, fiery oranges that promised the sun within; canvas tents of every shape and size beckoned. He could smell the intoxicating aroma of ale and wood. Hundreds of his gypsy comrades lay sprawled in this inner-sanctum. An ordinary man would be called brave if he ever dared set foot here; surrounded by cut-throats and thieves of the highest order!
A fool merely had to take a misstep. Yet, he had never felt so at peace before now. Pierre Gringoire ignored the false shows of revelry and headed for a particular tent secluded from all others. Shaded in darkness, almost melting into a stone cavern that embraced ragged strips of cloth. A simple lift of the flap revealed the presence of Terpischore incarnate. For now she was asleep, which Pierre delighted in as he could openly smile without her chastising him. Djali, ever faithful to his mistress sat himself by her bedside. As he laid his chair upon the hearth a sudden cry pierced the air. "No! You cannot make me! Please, have mercy!"
"Esmeralda?" Within a second he was at her side and finally he noticed the sweat upon her brow, the quiver of her lips. Gently, he took her hand in his and with the other cupped her cheek imploring her to awaken. Frightened eyes met his, and she pulled away from him slightly as if she was still seeing the devil from her dream. Pierre gave her a brief smile and said, "You are safe now, it was merely a nightmare." As soon as the terror slipped from her eyes Esmeralda withdrew her hand from his roughly, and inched towards the head of the bed playing with the paste emerald that hung about her neck. "It was so real. I felt as if I were engulfed in flames! They all laughed as I stood paralysed, burning, and the hangman's noose floated before me-"
"But you know it to be false, for here you are with Djali and I." The goat turned up to look at the pair, bleating in what Pierre believed to be agreement. However, that did nothing to dissuade her, and tears brimmed beneath dark lashes. "You don't understand! I could have been in Hell itself! Never again to feel the wind on my skin as I danced before Notre Dame! Never to hear the music that makes my heart sing! Never to feel the warmth of my sun, my beloved Phoe-" Without thinking Pierre embraced her. Esmeralda was silenced in confusion, but most of all by Pierre's worn coat. An eternity passed without a word. There were many things Pierre wished to say; the majority regarding Phoebus de Chateaupers. "Do not speak of him as such! He does not deserve you, for he is neither a god or a gentleman!" and "What have I done to be eclipsed by a false sun?" but he didn't have the heart and so he waited. Tentatively he drew small circles on her back, until the gloom was broken by the ringing of bells in the distance. Quasimodo ushering in the midnight mass.
Esmeralda wept at the sound, and to Pierre's surprise she returned his embrace. After a time they broke apart, another smile played on his lips; Esmeralda shoved him away. Djali rubbed against his knee in apology. Giving the goat an affectionate pat he readied himself for bed on the floor. His back to her, he closed his eyes awaiting sleep, when he heard a murmur. "Thank you...Pierre."
"Good night Esmeralda." A rustling of skirts. Then, he could feel Esmeralda kneeling behind him. He wondered if she placed a strand of loose hair behind her ear until her sweet voice rang true in query, "Pierre, what is the meaning of friendship?"
"The great philosopher Aristotle once said 'Friendship is a single soul dwelling in two bodies.' " A great silence fell like a curtain, and Pierre restrained the desire to look at her. He could hear his heart beating in his ears; it was maddening. Panic rose in him, and he gripped his pillow tighter. Could she have fainted? Then, when he was sure that he would scream any second now he felt her dark locks brush against his face. A shadow engulfed him, followed by the lightest kiss to his cheek.