The silhouette of a man appeared in an office window under the Golden Dome of Notre Dame University's main building, casting a shadow on the students and faculty as they congregated on the lawn below, greeting old friends, studying school maps, hauling luggage toward their dorm rooms or doing any number of other activities that need doing when one is moving to college.
Dr. Claude Frollo, the university's new president, wore the emblems of his office as he reveled in all the power and prestige that came with being the leader of one of America's most recognized institutions. He was a tall stern focused old man with sharp features and, believing that God had handed him this position in order to revive America as a world leader in education, his mind spun with exciting ideas about the future.
As he watched the activity below, his eyes were drawn to a beat up old taxi cab as it pulled up to the curb. His mouth went dry when the door was kicked open by a hot pink high-heeled sandal and long shapely leg. A beautiful girl, wearing an old tie-dye t-shirt over her well-endowed chest and raggedy looking jeans with holes in them, stepped out then turned to retrieve her bag, unknowingly giving the new president a great view on her backside. Her long fluffy ebony hair, caught up in a similarly bedraggled-looking white handkerchief, hung past her shoulders in an alluring way.
Wearing an almost defiant expression, Esmeralda walked into the crowd seeming to dare anyone to question whether or not she belonged on this campus, but, in reality, the young freshman was awed by the fact that she'd made it here. Born in Cairo, she'd been stolen from her mother before she was a month old and taken to the United States. From there, she'd been abandoned and grew up in an assortment of foster homes, each of which had kicked her out for this or that petty offence.
Through it all, she'd never lost her determination or compassion. Forging her own way, she'd graduated from high school near the top of her class and managed to secure a full-ride scholarship to Notre Dame as a cheerleader. Now, elated that she'd made one of her dreams come true, Esmeralda thought of her other big dream: to be reunited with her birth mother.
Instinctively, her hand reached for the small golden amulet that hung as a necklace around her delicate neck. The piece of jewelry was shaped a crocodile with small green emeralds for eyes. It had been found with her after her original abandonment and she knew that it was somehow the key to finding her true family.
Frollo's head wasn't the only one to turn when the sensuous-looking young woman stepped onto the sidewalk. Standing with a group of old friends, all of them wearing the uniforms of ROTC cadets, the rugged-looking muscular blond-haired Phoebus felt his heartbeat quicken as the girl sauntered past, acting as if she owned the school. He quickly turned away and waved at an ex-girl friend to save face, just in case one of his friends noticed.
Affable, chivalrous, and hard-working by nature, Phoebus was very popular on campus with the other students and faculty alike. In fact, his only fault, in the eyes of everyone else, was that he was so confident in his own abilities that he sometimes came off as a little arrogant.
Being a senior this year he'd happily been named captain of the school's ROTC Army unit and, having come from a family with a long history of military service and being deeply devoted to his country, he was looking forward to the challenge of guiding his fellow cadets along their way.
Standing at the edge of the lawn near the street a young man, his long black hair tied back in a ponytail, watched Esmeralda progress up the sidewalk with a parental gaze. Clopin, a senior cheerleader wearing a green and gold Notre Dame sweater and blue jeans, naturally felt protective of his younger teammates so his angst grew as he sensed the intense buzz that followed her.
Suddenly, he spied a small boy bouncing a ball near the busy street and he dashed to intervene. Half dragging the child to a nearby bench, Clopin sat him on his knee and pulled, as if by magic, a small book from his back pocket. Then he began an illustrious telling of the Dr. Seuss story, Green Eggs and Ham, grinning as the child picked up on the rhyme schemes. He was really in his element now. After all, other than cheerleading, going to class, studying, and being an RA in his dorm, he also volunteered at the local Children's Museum.
Back up in the window, Frollo desperately tried to get the image of the beautiful girl, who clearly came from a questionable background, out of his head. He was supposed to be an academic and above all thoughts of lust so he hated the girl for turning his mind, for making him less than the great man that he was.
Then suddenly, he stiffened with revulsion.
A squatty-looking but bullishly muscular young man with a grotesquely misshapen back and distorted face stepped out of a sleek new-looking taxi cab. Wearing a bulky green t-shirt and faded brown jeans, the freshman walked slowly up the sidewalk, on his way to pick up the key to his dorm room. The whole courtyard seemed to pause, watching him with a mixture awe and pity.
Naturally shy and reclusive, Quasimodo owed his mother a profound debt for getting him here; she'd never let him define himself by his outward appearance or handicap. Thinking of her now, he felt a lump well up in his throat. He wished that she was here to see him, but she'd died in the same mouth that he'd received his letter of acceptance. It had nearly shattered his heart to watch her die but he remained committed to making her proud.
Watching from the grounds of the Basilica of the Sacred Heat, standing diagonally across the street from where the students were gathering, three pairs of discerning eyes fastened on the handicapped young man. The Goyle siblings may have been quite elderly, but they were fixtures at Notre Dame. Being longtime residents of South Bend, the two brothers and their sister had for years made it their business to make sure that the students who needed help were well cared for. Having been around for so long, most of the student population ignored them, but for the ones who got to know them well, the Goyles were as true a friends as anyone could ask for.
There was Victor, a tall quiet man with an aristocratic bearing. Wearing a Notre Dame blazer over a white turtleneck and starched khaki pants; he could, despite his advantaged age, rival anyone on a collegiate front court in height and strength.
His brother, Hugo, was a good deal shorter and had the beginnings of a potbelly, but was just as strong. Being at the other end of the personality spectrum, Hugo wore a red sweater with a black outline of the Norse god of mischievous, Red Loki, on it and blue jeans. He loved pulling pranks, telling jokes, talking bravado, and making people laugh. For him, good cheer was the best medicine for any problem.
Their sister, Laverne, was like a favorite grandmother to the students she cared for. Wearing a long paisley-print dress, black high-heels, and a string of fake pearls around her neck, she was a wiry hard-charging and protective woman who never shied away from giving tough love or her opinion about how things should get done.
Back in the main building, Frollo's office door swung open.
"Phone call for you, sir," his intern, a tall preppy senior with an egg-shaped head and greasy-looking short black hair, said.
"Who is it, Sarousch?" the reply was cold, wrapped in a façade of pleasantness.
"Some dude named Jehan, sir."
Frollo's face instantly darkened, his long pale fingers reflectively cringing in midair.
"I could tell him to get lost, sir." Sarousch offered, hoping to please his boss. He started to close the door, relishing the tinge of excitement that he got before telling someone off.
"Put him through," Frollo's voice came quietly into his head.
"Sir?" Sarousch asked, pausing, stung by disappointment.
"Put him though," the new president repeated, enunciating each word with slow deliberate forcefulness.
Turning in the doorway, Sarousch saw both hate and pain written on Frollo's face.
"Never, never, hang up on him," the president continued his cold lecture.
"Okay…err uh…Of course, sir. Anything for you."
"Then get out!" Frollo bellowed. His face flush, he stood shaking like a leaf for a few minutes after the door slammed shut.
Finally, regaining control, he grabbed the receiver.
Quasimodo sat on a bench near Lewis Hall, the girl's dormitory where Esmeralda had been assigned a room. Watching the gorgeous freshman stare at the hall, seemingly hesitant to go in, his mind began to dream about what it would be like to be with someone so pretty.
As if they'd materialized off the façade of a nearby building, the Goyle siblings slipped out of the shadows and were speaking to him almost before he realized that they were there.
"Why don't you go ask her out?" Hugo asked, sitting down without invitation, a knowing grin plastered on his face.
"Don't be rude, Hugo," Victor admonished, "The boy is plainly nervous."
"Hey, all I'm saying is the early bird gets the worm, okay?" Hugo retorted, emphasizing his annoyance with expressive hand gestures.
`"And all I'm saying is that you should let him move at his own pace. Just because you—"
"Hey, hey, boys!" Laverne cut in, hands on her hips, "Why don't you let the boy speak for himself instead of debating his life without his opinion."
"Now that's a sensible idea, Laverne," Victor said, shaking his finger at Hugo.
"Hey!" Hugo snapped, immediately taking the hint.
"Hey yourself" Laverne retaliated, slapping the side of his head, "Let the boy talk." She patted Quasimodo's shoulder, "It's alright son. Don't pay any attention to these two blowhards. They're actually pretty nice when you get to know them."
"Wh-what do you want with me?" Quasimodo stammered, shocked and suspicious of being accosted by the outgoing trio.
"We just want you to be comfortable here at Notre Dame," Laverne consoled him, "and we think we're pretty good at knowing who needs some encouragement." She gestured to herself and her brothers, scowling as she did so, "I'm sorry. If these two hadn't been running their mouths, we would have introduced ourselves first."
"I'm Laverne," She pointed in turn, "This is Victor and that's Hugo."
"It's nice to meet you," Quasimodo replied, tentatively extending his hand to each one and beginning to smile. In spite of himself, he was starting to warming up to them, "I'm Quasimodo."
"It's nice to meet you too," Hugo said, pumping his hand, "Say, can we call you Quasi?"
"So, tell us about yourself, Quasi." Victor said, as buoyantly as a serious man could.
"Well," he answered, blushing with pleasure and embarrassment, "There's not much to tell really."
"Baloney!" Laverne cut in, "How old are you?"
Then, you've got nineteen years to tell us about!"
"I bet you're quite a lady's man, right Quasi?" Hugo interrupted, ribbing him, his gleeful smile perpetually lighting his face.
"Certainly not!" Victor admonished his brother again, "Quasi looks like a man of books—and much too considerate to just "play the field".
"Well, no," Quasimodo whispered, growing red in the face again, "I've never had a girlfriend."
"Well, that's their loss!" Laverne stated firmly, ramming a fist into her palm, "But—"
But, nothing," Hugo interrupted, pointing as Phoebus sauntered up to Esmeralda, "He's losing his chance right now!"
Surprised by the new development, everyone turned to listen in.
"Hi," Phoebus said cheerfully, surprising her. She whirled around and, seeing him, narrowed her eyes.
"What do you want?" she snapped.
"Whoa, whoa," Phoebus said, holding up his hands backing up a step in surprise, "What did I do?"
"I asked you first."
"I just wanted to help you take your bags up."
"You mean my bag," Esmeralda retaliated, "One bag. Give me a break."
"Then maybe I could get you a drink afterward?" he asked, trying again.
"Ahhh, there it is," she answered knowingly, "You want to take my one bag up and then, after such a strenuous workout, we can go grab a drink. Then, the next thing I know, I'm up in your dorm room tonight—"
"Hey, now, where to you get off with all that?" Phoebus snapped, reddening with sudden shock and anger, "I don't do stuff like that."
"Of course, you don't," she replied sarcastically, "You're the noble American soldier come to rescues the foreign savages from themselves."
"You've been watching too much TV, girl." he said, seriously.
"I didn't have a TV growing up," she answered sharply.
"Then you read too many of the wrong books!" he fired back, giving trust for thrust, "You can't claim to be illiterate; you're at Notre Dame."
"What are the right books, then?" she smartly inquired, her eyes sparking, "Comics? Slutty magazines?"
Breathing deeply to control his hurt feelings, he said, "Seriously girl, you've got your head in the clouds." The he paused to reconsider, pointing accusingly, "Or maybe, it's that you've got your mind in the gutter."
"How dare you!" she gasped, infuriated, "You people always think the worst about us."
"What do you mean by that?" he challenged, suspension fusing with his anger. Then it dawned on him and his eyes widened, "You—you mean the military?" Shaking his head, unable to wrap his head around her words, he said, "Hey, I'm just an ROTC cadet, but you've got a lot of nerve, girl. We've helps zillions of people around the world."
"You hurt zillions of people too," she insisted. Then her temper deflated and a dreamy look came into her eyes, "But…I could possibly change my mind if you really want to help me with my bag…"
Stepping closer, she started to hand it to him and he instinctively relaxed and reached for it, a huge smile spreading over his hard features until her knee slammed into his groin.
Slowly sinking to his knees, he gritted his teeth and crossed his eyes, unable to care about the sounds of muffled laughter coming from a nearby bench. Esmeralda stormed off with a huff, disappearing behind Lewis Hall's double doors.
Phoebus took deep breaths, slowly coming to his senses. Then he began to laugh.
"What a women!" he said hoarsely.
Once inside and alone, Esmeralda's bravado disappeared in a flash; now she felt like a nervous little girl on the first day of school. Finding the stairs, she walked slowly up, unconsciously putting one foot in front of the other as she lost herself in the beautiful decor, until she reached her third floor room. Much to her surprise, there was a tall girl with short blonde-hair jimmying with the lock. Though she was plain-looking in a simple green dress and wearing no make-up, the girl had the body of a seasoned circus performer.
"What are you doing?" Esmeralda demanded, dropping her bag with a thud.
"My key doesn't work," the girl explained, holding the offending object out for inspection.
"Good," Esmeralda snapped, "This is my room."
Startled by her tone for a moment, the girl jumped backwards, but recovered to smiled widely,
"Oh, well, hi then," quickly pointing at the door, "It's a double. We're roommates." She held out her hand, "I'm Madellaine, but please call me Mattie."
Esmeralda blushed deeply, embarrassed at her harshness.
"Sorry, I shouldn't have…I'm, well—they call me Esmeralda."
"That's a funny way to introduce yourself."
"Yeah, well, I was—never mind."
"You were adopted or switched at birth or something and don't know your birth name?" Mattie guessed, inappropriately blurting out her first thought before she thought about Esmeralda's feelings. Then she caught herself and clamped her hand over her mouth.
"I said never mind!"
"Whatever." Esmeralda forcibly shoved her key into the keyhole; flinging it open, she waltzing inside.
"I always do that," Mattie continued, scolding herself in the hall, "I'm sorry. I just—"
"Aren't you coming in?" Esmeralda interrupted.
"It's your room too."
"I know but..."
"Look," Esmeralda sighed, "I'm sorry alright. I don't bite, no matter what I sound like sometimes, and…and, I hope we can be friends."
Mattie grinned in relief and almost skipped inside, "Then I'm sure we will be!"
Several hours later, the two girls left the dormitory and hopped into a waiting cab, laughing almost as much as they talked. Heading downtown, they hoped to buy some cheap bedding and bathroom necessities for Esmeralda, who hadn't brought any beforehand.
Watching bitterly from the shadows was a tired old woman with ragged-looking shoulder-length raven hair. Wearing a custodial staff uniform, Gudule's hand instinctively clenched a large golden amulet hanging as a necklace around her wrinkled neck. It was shaped like a crocodile, with small green emeralds for eyes.
Once upon a time, she'd been a beautiful sensuous woman, but that was before nearly two decades of rage and despaired had laid waste to her body and soul.
Back then, she'd been living in Cairo as the new mother to a darling baby girl named Agnes. But tragedy had struck their home before the child was a month old when thieves had broken into their one room apartment and stolen the little one. Through she'd searched for many years, no trace of the baby was ever found and Gudule had agonizingly accepted the fact that her daughter was dead.
The amulet, now woven between her long ridged fingers, was her only memento to that short-lived happy time; she'd bought this large one for herself and a smaller matching one for her little girl.
Watching the two freshmen until their cab blended into the afternoon traffic, Guldue felt intense pain and hated welled up in her heart. Agnes would have been their age if she was alive. It wasn't fair that they should be allowed to go about their lives unimpeded while her own child had no life at all.
Focusing her thoughts particularly on Esmeralda because of their similar appearance, Gudule determine that the young woman's life should be just as miserable as her own.
Frollo slammed the phone down and glanced at the clock on his wall, drumming his fingers on his desk in frustration. He couldn't believe that he'd just spent all morning talking with his foolish arrogant little brother.
Jehan had the potential for the same kind of greatness that Frollo himself had achieved, but no matter what the new president had tried, his brother was always wasted with drugs, using just about everything that could be drunk, smoked, or shot into his arm. More than once Frollo had bailed him out of jail or given him money to restart his life but to no avail.
Well, no more! Dr. Frollo was done with him! He had too much at stake. His reputation, his career, his plans to lead America into a sunlit world brought on by the best educational opportunities, all would be ruined if Jehan came calling too often. If his little brother wanted to rot in jail, what was that to him?
So, why then, he asked himself, did you say that you'd meet him for lunch next week?
Author's Notes: Alright, whose ready for US college football to start? Personally, I can't wait!
In case you haven't already guessed, Sarousch and Madellaine are from the Disney movie sequel, Hunchback of Notre Dame II and Jehan and Gudule are characters from Victor Hugo's book that didn't make it into either movie. I know that Esmarelda and Gudule's situation is a tad different in the book as far as nationality, birthplace, and occupation, but I was trying to make the story easier on myself. It's AU; I can do that.
To save myself the time of trying to "create" a game schedule, I decided to use Notre Dame's 2012-2013 season as far as the win-loss record, locale of games, opponents, score, and bye week are concerned. Just a reminder, that means no playoff game. The BCS was still in use then. I debated whether or not to tell you about this aspect beforehand but, ultimately, I decided that the games are only a part of the background in which the story revolves so no really big spoilers are spilled by giving you this detail.