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Chapter 15

It took them several days to get to India and as soon as they stepped on land, it was clear that their journey had just begun. There were more people than they had ever seen, not even the crowd in Dreamland during Dumbo's premiere had been that great or loud.

Luckily for them, most of the people could talk and understand English, so they were thrown back and forth from city to village until they found an old man that told them about the elephant's sanctuary in the jungle. As soon as they named Pramesh, the old man smiled widely and they all realized that their former colleague had become a sort of a legend.

They decided to stay in an inn for the night to rest and resume the journey the next morning. That little money they had, in India was more than enough to live a decent life.

For as different as might have seemed, with all that swirl of colors, people and smells, India wasn't that much different from their days in the circus, or those days back in Dreamland. They were used to the crows, to the yells and engines constantly buzzing in the background, and yet, as soon as they left the city and crossed the villages the next day, the quiet and peace of the countryside engulfed them into a sort of silent paradise.

The green jungle embraced the road everywhere and the blue sky was almost impossible to see behind the thick leaves. The air was heavy and warm, full of colorful insects and birds that flew and chirped all around them.

It took them hours to get to the sanctuary: it was in the middle of the jungle and to get there, they followed the curse of a river up to its source. There was a lake of crystal clear water and the greatest waterfall they'd ever seen. Hundreds of elephants were bathing undisturbed, playing in the water, the bigger ones sprinkling fountains from their trunks on top of the babies.

Dumbo was there too. He'd got bigger over the last year, but still, he bore the gentle traits of a young elephant, not yet fully grown. His ears were wider than ever and as soon as he saw them, he leaped and soared few feet off the ground to greet them.

Pramesh welcomed them in the sanctuary and after he heard their story, he gladly accepted to house them for as long as they needed. He offered them to help him with the elephants until they decided what to do and they were all so happy to say yes.

Milly and Joe would spend most of the days with the elephants, playing in the water with them as Holt and Colette helped Pramesh taking care of the babies, promoting the sanctuaries to the tourists, teach them about the pachyderms and about their natural habitat, try to persuade them to donate for the cause and free all the wild animals from the circuses around the world. Soon, they gained the community's sympathy and love and everyone would help each other in every way possible; they particularly adored Isabelle who, with her distinctive feature, became a sort of princess goddess to worship and to whom everyone brought gifts of any sort.

After a few weeks of adjustment, it finally came the time to arrange the wedding. It was as extravagant as it could be, the perfect combination of the luxurious Indian ceremony offered by the nearer villages and the European tradition.

Colette's something old was one of the first feathers she used to perform, which dated back to the streets of Paris, and it had been secured between her hair, as it were one of the best pieces of jeweler; her something new was her red dress, a beautiful and colorful sari richly embroidered with golden threads in form of various flowers. Before the ceremony, Milly and Joe borrowed Annie's favorite foulard for her, which she rolled up and wore as a bracelet on her wrist; as for the something blue, she had the stone on the ring that Hold gave her when he asked her to marry her, along with his eyes and Isabelle's eyes.

The wedding lasted a few hours, much less than a traditional Indian one, and right at sunset, they became officially Mr. and Mrs. Ferrier. Milly and Joe bolted to them with Isabelle and they hugged and kissed each other for what it seemed like an eternity.

Pramesh's gift to them was taking all the children in his stilt house for the night, so they could stay on their own.

Holt sat on the edge of the bed in silence. His eyes ranked on her naked back as she removed the complicated dress and her earrings, one at the time. With the heavy makeup and wearing nothing else, she was breathtaking, so he simply stood there, staring at her, wondering how could he be so lucky to have such a woman to call his own.

Without even realizing it, he started to unbutton his own shirt.

Colette turned, her hands in her hair as she tried to undo the intricate comb. Every muscle tensed at each of her movements and when she was done, he heaved a long sigh at the cascade of ebony hair that shielded her chest from his hungry eyes.

"What'u looking at?" She asked innocently. Her walk toward the bed was teasingly slow.

Holt smiled as her French accent caressing his ears.
"You." He simply said.

"Well, it's hot in here." She shrugged dismissively, then she smirked. "I bet you're feeling the same." She added with a mischievous tone, gesturing toward his own bare torso after he'd removed his ceremonial jacket.

"Well," Holt said, his voice low and melodic. "it's our wedding night." He pointed out.

Colette nodded and got closer. She wrapped her hands around his neck and heaved herself up to sit on his thighs, her knees on each side of him.
"Every night is our wedding night." She replied.

Holt drew a sharp breath as his hands latched on her hips, pulling her even closer.
"True." He conceded, dropping his forehead on her chest, breathing in her familiar scent. Her fingers ran soothingly through his hair and he couldn't suppress a smile. He laid a kiss on her heated skin and look up at her. "Are you happy?" He asked dimly.

Colette looked down at him, nodding ever-so-lightly.
"Oui." She whispered back. "Very much so."

He held her close and laid her down on the bed, her hands and mouth cherishing every part of her body, his lips eager to feel every inch of her skin. He trailed down her neck with soft kisses, made her shiver as he moved pass the valley of her breasts and further down, where her stomach had flattened again, still bearing the lightest of swell, the delightful reminder of where their baby had hosted for months. He placed a firmer kiss there, before shifting further down, reaching the spot when he knew she was craving him the most.

His hands were ranking all over her body and his lips were moving slowly in circles. He didn't stop when she let out whimpers of pleasure and her body shook violently, crushing more against his mouth. Colette dug her fingers through his hair, keeping him close as she reached her peak, her mind going deliciously blank for minutes as her hips buckled on their own accord. The first release quickly bled into a second and she had to pull him away, one hand on each of his cheeks as she drew him up to her to kiss him viciously as she still rode her peak off.

He accommodated himself between her legs and made love to her tenderly until they fell asleep hugging each other.

It was already noon of the next day when he woke up. His messy hair wouldn't stay in place, but he didn't care much. He padded his way on the balcony of their stilt house and found Colette on the wicker rocking chair, feeding Isabelle.

She looked so peaceful and beautiful bathed by the sun, her ivory skin almost glimmering like it was studded with jewels. She had her head tilted up, her neck stretched out as her arms wrapped the fragile body of their baby daughter as she ate; her small lips were moving eagerly, reddish against her mother's pale skin.

He tiptoed on the balcony and propped himself on the railing. Soon, his eyes got lost on the horizon; the kids were already up and, as always, they were out playing with the elephants as they bathed and played with the water.

"What are you thinking, mon charmant?" Asked Colette suddenly, her voice sweet as she still lulled the baby.

Holt smiled tenderly as he turned to her. His glance dropped once again on the two, how their skins would melt together almost and how Isabelle would disappear inside her mother's embrace, her small body exactly nestled against her breasts and arms, a perfect fit as if they were two pieces of a puzzle.

Isabelle stirred for a moment; she waved her little fist in the air, just to place it next to her mouth as she suckled, eagerly still. Her webbed fingers got visible as she stretched her hand over Colette's bosom.

Holt giggled; she was his daughter indeed and she was so cute in everything she did, and oh, so beautiful, just like her mother. How could he wanted for her to be different when she was perfect the way she was?

"Look at Dumbo." He sighed with a frown.

Colette narrowed her eyes and focused on the elephants playing in the lake, chasing each other as they run toward the waterfall. The babies would run around their mothers, the adults would gently sway their trunks and Dumbo, the most peculiar of them all, would jump and leap around carrying Milly and Joe on its back.

"What about him?" Colette asked, not really comprehending where he was going.

"He's happy with his ears." He pointed out with a small shrug of his shoulders. "More than happy, in fact. Isabelle could be happy as well." Holt sighed again, turning to face Colette completely. The woman was staring right at him and she'd stopped rocking in the chair. "If there's something that Dumbo has taught us, it that we should just accept what we are."

Colette immediately dropped her glance, absentmindedly holding Isabelle closer to her.
"Are you saying we should've stayed at the Circus?" She asked in a low, quivering voice. They had sacrificed so much and now he thought that everything had been useless?

Holt shook viciously his head and rushed to her, dropping on his knees. He placed his hand reassuringly over her leg as he leaned forward to kiss Isabelle's rosy cheek.
"No, never that. She's not a freak." He said firmly. "What I was saying is that she's born like this and she could be happy. She could be destined for great things like Dumbo and maybe – maybe she'll accept herself."

Colette looked at him for a solid minute. All his words made sense, in a way, and it was up to them to teach Isabelle how to love herself and be happy with what they had, whatever the destiny had in store for each one of them, however, their lives would turn out to be.

She nodded and lifted one of her hand to cup Holt's cheek: they would be fine.
"When she's old enough, she can decide by herself."

Hold nodded as well.
"We'll support her no matter what." He smiled and kissed his daughter once again.

Colette leaned forward to meet his lips into a small peck. Then lifted the baby up as she finished eating and propped Isabelle against her shoulder, patting gently on her back.

Holt watched them mesmerized, like everything was new for him or he was witnessing them bonding for the very first time. Colette rose up from the rocking chair and paced a little up and down on the balcony to make her daughter settle in, then walked toward the crib, where she laid her down. She wrapped the baby tight and kissed her forehead, her big blue eyes already dropping as she yawned.

She stood there for a moment, looking over Holt as he stretched his hand, spurring her to join him.
"Come." He murmured and Colette happily obliged him.

He pulled into his embrace and settled behind her, his chest pressed against her back as he breathed in her soothing smell. He felt so good to have her that close, Isabelle quietly sleeping in her crib, the kids playing with the elephants, their lives finally peaceful. He loved it all and he loved her so much.

Holt kissed her neck, swaying gently with her at a silent melody coming from the jungle.
"So, what do you think?"

Colette frowned and turned within his embrace to face him.
"What do I think about what?" She inquired curiously.

"About staying." He replied simply. "Help Pramesh with the sanctuary." Colette let out a disbelieving snort, but he just smiled her back, his brown eyes firm and full of hope. "We should raise our kids in the nature, happy and free. And we could visit the States and Europe in a few years, I'll take you to Paris if you like. But – I really feel this is our place. We should make it our home." His eyes were bright with a new light and she couldn't help smiling back at him, her heart bursting with love for such a gentle and trusting man. "Do you think you would like that?"

Colette stared at him, her eyes watery. Without even realizing it, she was nodding ever-so-lightly.
"Oui." She breathed out. "Yes – yes, I think I would."


*mon charmant = my prince

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