I simply cannot believe this is happening… Quasimodo mused as he was carried by ecstatic citizens towards the city square, near the grand cathedral of Notre Dame.
After being locked away in the bell tower for his whole life and having no contact to the world outside of Notre Dame, Quasimodo was finally accepted among the Parisians. The townsfolk who once feared and cruelly mocked the bell ringer for his deformities now hailed the young man as a hero after he saved the falsely-accused Esmeralda from the stake and defeated the unjust minister Frollo. So much had occurred over the last few days that it was difficult for Quasi to fully comprehend it all. Ultimately the young bell ringer was grateful for finally being seen as the person he truly was underneath his unpleasant physical form.
Throughout that first day, Quasimodo was hoisted up by two peasant men and paraded around the city by the majority of Parisians as the hero France's capital deserved. Citizens not present that fateful morning were alerted of Quasimodo's bravery and joined in on the celebration. The young man was both alarmed and overjoyed at the sight.
Once the enormous crowd returned to the square, they carefully placed Quasi back on his feet. Many of the townsfolk stayed and gave their personal thanks to the overwhelmed, but elated bell ringer. Men shook his hand or gave him meaningful pats on the back. Women thanked him for saving Esmeralda and protecting the cathedral from Frollo's soldiers. Children who were fascinated by the once-mysterious bell ringer smiled at him as they called him their hero. A group of young men invited Quasimodo for a celebratory feast at the nearby tavern in the evening, to which he reluctantly accepted. He would have to ask his friends Esmeralda and Phoebus to accompany him later on for safe measure.
The man turned to look and saw Esmeralda sprinting towards him, with Phoebus trailing behind. Quasi became worried once he noticed the concerned looks on their faces. Without hesitation, he liberated himself from the citizens who surrounding him and approached his dear friends.
"Esmeralda, are you alright?"
"I'm fine." The young woman answered. "Phoebus and I assisted the Archdeacon over to Hotel Dieu."
Quasimodo became anxious. He remembered how the three of them found the poor clergyman on the nave's tiled floor, struggling to get up. The elderly man informed them that Frollo defiled the sanctity of the church by planning to kill his own ward and shoved the church leader from the stairs so he could complete his 'unfinished business' without interference. After finishing his story, the four of them heard the roaring cheers from the crowd outside and the Archdeacon insisted the three that they should receive their praise for protecting the church.
Fearing that the clergyman's injury would be more severe than originally anticipated, Quasi voiced his concerns to his friends. "The Archdeacon, is he-"
"He's in stable condition." Phoebus softly interrupted, gently placing his hand on Quasi's shoulder. "We told him how you were hailed as a hero among the townspeople and he was truly glad to hear that. He also wished to speak with you soon about some important matters."
Quasimodo sighed. He was relieved that the Archdeacon was resting in the infirmary, but he knew that and the clergyman and him were in for a long discussion. The archdeacon was kind to Quasimodo during his youth, using the free time in between church duties to grant him company. The church elder provided him ease whenever the pangs of loneliness were too great to bear and brought him great comfort during his times of unrest. The Archdeacon was more of a father figure than Frollo ever was.
The bell ringer nodded. "I'll head over to Hotel Dieu right away." He joined his friends and began to make their way toward the hospital.
"Monsieur Quasimodo!" A youthful voice called out to him.
Quasi turned around and noticed a small young girl, donning a simple violet dress and apron, running to him. It was the little girl from earlier. The same girl who bravely approached Quasimodo when the other Parisians were stunned. The same girl who was not frightened by the deformed man, but only fascinated with him as she openly accepted him with a simple hug. The same girl who led him into the square and triggered the crowd of citizens into accepting him at last.
He was stunned to see her approaching him again. The young man carefully walked towards the small girl. "Hello there…" He greeted her, trying to suppress his nervousness.
The girl looked up at him, showing no trace of apprehension as she did earlier. "I forgot to introduce myself."
Quasi was intrigued by her polite manners. Addressing him as Monsieur as opposed to monster, as well as her eagerness to open up to him.
"I'm Marie Fabre." She greeted him with a small curtsy. "My uncle is the city's blacksmith." Marie extended a friendly hand out to the bewildered bell ringer.
Quasi was fascinated with little Marie. Not only did she welcome him with open arms while the other townsfolk gawked at him, she sincerely wanted to be his friend as well. Quasi realized his chance to come out of his shell and shape himself into a more social person. Wanting to make a great second impression on Marie, he gently took her small feeble hand into his large, calloused one and carefully shook it.
"I-it's nice to meet you Marie. My name is Quasimodo." As he finished his introduction, he realized that Marie is aware of who he was. His cheeks heated crimson. "But I-I'm sure you already knew that." His words rushed out of his mouth as he moved his hand behind his head.
The poor man mentally berated himself for screwing up his introductions, fearing that his blunder would cause the young girl to think little of him and leave. However, the bell ringer noticed Marie was still standing right in front of him.
"It's alright Monsieur." She replied, giving the hunchback a reassuring smile.
This girl was a surprising person. Instead of scolding him for his stuttering and awkward attempts at socializing, Marie did not seem to mind those flaws. If anything, her interest in him seemed to grow.
Fortunately for Quasimodo, he quickly found a way to rebound from his conversational mess. "Although I'm humbled of being addressed as Monsieur, you can also call me 'Quasi' if you wish."
Within seconds Marie beamed at the bell ringer, her eyes twinkling with excitement. "Alright Quasi!"
Quasimodo smiled gratefully at Marie, but was shocked that she moved closer to him. She stood by his side and pointed her hand towards one of the streets. "If you want to visit me and my family, down that road over there. It's right next to the Blacksmith's place, the one with the big brown sign hanging overhead. You can't miss it!"
Quasi was astounded beyond belief. "Y-you really want me to visit you and your family?"
"Of course! I've always been interested in you from tales Clopin tells at his puppet shows."
Clopin performs puppet shows about me? Quasi pondered. I'm going to have to speak with him about this soon.
"But I really want to get to know more about you!" Marie told him with sincerity.
The bell ringer couldn't believe what he had just heard. This little girl looked passed his reputation as a rumored hellspawn with distorted features, and genuinely wanted to know him as a person. Quasi smiled at Marie once more.
"Thank you Marie." He said kindly. The bell ringer soon figured that if this small child was willing to invite him into her home, then so should he. "And you are also more than welcome to visit me in the cathedral. I could give you a tour around the bell tower if you like."
Marie's jaw dropped for a moment and stared at the bell ringer in wonder. Quasi could have sworn that he saw pure joy sparkling in her wide eyes. "Really?" She asked.
The young man wordlessly nodded to her.
Marie's face swelled with joy. But before she could thank him, a young woman wearing a blue dress approached the two.
"Marie, ma petite, we need to return home soon." She addressed to her daughter.
The little girl looked towards her mother and pouted. "But mama,"
"I need to start cooking dinner and I'm sure that Monsieur Quasimodo is busy as well." She explained as she moved to grab her child's hand.
"O-oh don't worry madam, your daughter is no trouble at all." Quasi explained. "She has shown nothing but kindness to me."
The woman stared at the bell ringer. Her anxiousness concerning him melted away as she gave him a grateful smile. "I'm glad to hear that my little Marie has been behaving well. And I must thank you for your valor display earlier."
Quasimodo's face flushed at the peasant mother's kind words. He knew it was going to take a long while before he could become comfortable with hearing and receiving sincere compliments from the Parisians. "Well, y-your most certainly welcome madam."
The young mother placed her hand on Marie's shoulder. "We must head home now, and we hope to see you soon Monsieur Quasimodo."
"See you soon Quasi!" Marie exclaimed with a smile.
"See you soon Marie." Quasimodo said, giving her a friendly wave. He saw the young girl and her mother walk into the square, disappearing into the crowd.
The young bell ringer realized that the transition from isolation to acceptance among the Parisians would harbor many difficulties. But somehow, his newly forged friendship with Marie would shed a pure brightness onto his newfound freedom.
He then recognized that he needed to tend to the Archdeacon and returned to his friends. But Quasimodo was surprised to learn that Esmeralda and Phoebus had stood behind him the whole time, smiling.
The former captain moved forward and playfully wrapped his arm around the bell ringer. "I see you made a new friend there, eh Quasi?"
Quasimodo looked back at the blonde man with fondness and sighed blissfully. "I guess so."