Because I Love You
Disclaimer: Princess and the Frog belongs to Disney, not me.
One of the reasons I found this movie so romantic goes beyond the scenes actually shown in the film. For Naveen to have married Tiana and remained in Louisiana with her during that time period shows an incredible devotion on his part. This story explains why.
By the spring of 1926, Tiana's Palace, barely more than a year old, had become one of the most successful restaurants in New Orleans. As he awoke at dawn that May morning, Naveen thought about the sweat and toil he and Tiana had put into renovating the old sugar mill and creating an enchanting night spot that served the most delicious fare and offered the jazziest music in town. Tiana's late father James, with whom she'd shared her restaurant dream, would have been so proud.
At one time, Naveen had taken pride in his royal status, good looks and charm, gifts given to him by an accident of his birth. He shook his head, remembering how foolish he's been. Such unearned pride could never compare to the deep sense of satisfaction he felt in what he, and even more so, his beautiful wife Tiana, had accomplished with hard work, determination and a goal.
He spotted his ukulele on the nightstand beside the bed. His playing had also improved in the last year. Music and dancing came naturally to him, but he had always been lazy, unwilling to put much effort into the lessons in violin and piano his parents had insisted he take in his homeland of Maldonia. Now that he was playing nightly with the Firefly Five plus Lou, the house band of Tiana's Palace, he realized what a mistake he'd made. Leo, the band's pianist, was a classically trained musician and his background made him the most adept member of the group in composing new tunes.
Jazz was known for its improvisation. "But the better you know the basics," Leo said, "the better you're able to improvise." So a few months earlier, Naveen had swallowed his pride and asked Leo for music lessons.
Tiana stirred and sat up with a start. "RJ!" she cried, her mind already humming about the day's upcoming tasks. "Why didn't you wake me, Naveen? We're going to be late meeting RJ!"
Naveen pulled her into his arms and kissed her good morning, massaging his hands along her back. "Calm yourself, my princess. It is still early. We have plenty of time."
He felt his wife relax into his arms as she kissed him back, running her fingers through his hair. She stopped suddenly, laughing. "If we keep this up, we won't meet RJ at all. Let's get going."
A short while later, he and Tiana were riding in their Model T on a journey away from the city, further inland to a small fishing town along Lake Pontchartrain. About five months ago, they'd finally saved enough money to buy a car, and it made purchasing supplies for the restaurant a lot easier and had expanded their supplier base.
Best of all, it had enabled them to meet RJ. When they first opened Tiana's Palace, several people had told them that the best crawfish fisherman in the state was a Cajun known as RJ, but until they'd purchased the car, they were unable to make the weekly twenty mile journey to buy some of RJ's catch.
Upon first meeting, they'd taken to the burly, sandy-haired Cajun immediately. Maybe it was his accent and the way he called them Cap and Cher that reminded him so much of their now-deceased friend Ray. Maybe it was the way he introduced himself: "My name Renaud Jacques, but ever'body call me RJ"—that, too, was like their friend. But when he invited them onto his boat for sweet tea and biscuits and started waxing romantic about his wife Angelique, it was as if they were watching the little firefly reborn in the man's six foot four inch body. Angelique was expecting their sixth child, yet RJ described her as if they were still newlyweds. Naveen took note; he hoped to be as romantic about Tiana so many years down the line.
As they approached the small fishing village, the morning sun began to burn brightly, scattering the fog and making the insects that were already out appear to shimmer in the air. "Gonna be another hot one," Tiana said, her forehead glistening.
Naveen only grinned in response. Tiana and sweat always brought delicious, naughty thoughts to his mind.
They parked near the pier and began walking hand-in-hand toward RJ's rough wooden boat, loaded with crates filled with the night's catch. When they arrived, however, there was no sign of RJ, which was strange because he was always reliable. Gene, the owner of another fishing boat, sat on an upturned box nearby, chewing a wad of tobacco and watching them.
"Mornin', Gene," Tiana said. "Is RJ around?"
Gene, a wiry, red-faced man, didn't answer, but continued his slow mastication.
Naveen was not used to being ignored. "Gene," he repeated. "Where is RJ? We are here for our order."
"Your wench lookin' mighty fine this mornin'," Gene said.
Naveen wasn't sure what the word wench meant, but Gene's leering look and tone made it clear. His blood pressure rose. "She is not a wench, she is my wife," he replied tersely.
Gene spat out a green stream of saliva and tobacco. "You got a problem, boy?"
Before he could answer, Naveen felt the strong pressure of Tiana's hand gripping his. "No problems, Gene," she said. "We'll come back another time when RJ is here."
She turned to go but Naveen held her firmly. No man was going to talk about his wife like that and get away with it.
Gene chuckled when he saw his face. "You do have a problem, doncha boy? I wouldn't worry so much about yer filly. Her kind prob'ly had plenty o' men 'fore you came along."
In a burst of rage, Naveen rushed at the man and knocked him to the ground, hitting him squarely in his nose. He ignored the sharp pain in his knuckles and hit the man again, feeling a perverse pleasure as blood squirted from Gene's face.
His third hit was interrupted by Tiana's screams. "Stop, Naveen, stop! Do you want to get us killed?!"
Naveen leaped to his feet and suddenly noticed three white men approaching them, one of whom was holding a rifle. His face drained of blood and he moved close to Tiana to protect her.
"What are you, boy, a Red Injun or an Ay-rab?" hissed the gun-toter. "We don't take kindly to your kind hittin' one of ours."
Breathing heavily, Naveen tried to suppress his fear as his mind raced to work out a way to get Tiana away from these men safely. He hadn't felt this terrified since the day he had come face to face with the shadows.
After a minute of tense standoff that seemed endless, Naveen heard a familiar voice and exhaled in relief. "Eh, what y'all doin', threatenin' my best customers!" RJ shouted as he came running up. He was accompanied by several other large men whom Naveen had met before: RJ's brothers and cousins.
"This boy hit Gene, RJ! We cain't let him get away with that!"
RJ laughed. "If Gene got hit, it's 'cause he deserved it. Whatcha do ta dem, Gene?"
"He insulted Tiana," Naveen snapped.
RJ looked at Gene, still lying on the ground groaning and holding his nose, in disgust. "I knew ya deserved it! Ya always was a hateful ol' fool, Gene. Mebbe dis be a lesson for ya."
He looked up at the three men who had threatened Tiana and Naveen. "Y'all best be goin' on yer way, and don't let me ever catch y'all pesterin' any o' my customers again."
As RJ's cousins and brothers made sure the other men left, RJ led them onto his boat. He soaked a rag in what had to be moonshine and pressed it against Naveen's sore and bleeding knuckles. It stung like hell, but after what they'd just been through, he wasn't about to admit it.
"Sorry I was late, Cap," RJ said. "Angelique had her baby dis mornin'."
Tiana, who had been so brave until now, burst into tears. "Sorry, RJ," she apologized through her sobs. "I'm really happy for y'all, but I just…"
"S'alright, cher, I unnerstan'. You jes' get all dem tears out, all dat scaredness out."
With the rag now tied around his hand, Naveen walked over and took his wife in his arms, holding her and comforting her.
"Ya got a brave husband, cher," RJ said. "A man who'll always take good care of ya."
Tiana wiped her eyes and smiled. "I know."
They made their crawfish purchase and left with a promise from RJ that he'd make sure nothing like the day's incident would ever happen again, and an invitation from him to visit his home someday soon to meet Angelique and their children, including the new baby.
Despite the happier departure, Tiana's anger was tangible as they made their way back to New Orleans. "Tiana…" Naveen finally said, hoping to break the silence.
"Those men could have killed you, Naveen!" she yelled. "You should have just walked away from Gene! I was trying to stop you before anything bad happened!"
"A man does not walk away when someone insults his wife!" he shouted back. "I am the crown prince of Maldonia! How dare he!"
"You think those men give a damn that you're a Maldonian prince? This ain't New Orleans, where folks know us and we have powerful friends like the LaBouffs looking out for us! To those men, I'm nothing but a nigger, and in their eyes you ain't much better 'cause you're with me and your skin is brown, too!"
Naveen was unable to answer. He was only now starting to recognize the ugliness that lay beneath the surface of the rich culture of his adopted country. "Jazz grew out of the blues," Leo had told him during one of their music lessons. "The blues were how we colored folks expressed our pain—the pain of slavery, the pain of poverty, the pain of lynchings and fear and oppression." At the time, Naveen couldn't grasp how the joyful and vibrant sounds of jazz had originated in suffering. But maybe that was it; the longing to create, whether beautiful music or delicious food, was especially poignant and sweet when it came from a need to transcend pain.
Tiana sighed. "I'm sorry, honey. It's not your fault. I was just so scared 'cause I can't imagine losing you. RJ is right; you really are the bravest and most wonderful husband a woman could ask for."
He tried to smile but couldn't. Tiana reached out and squeezed his hand. "You ever regret marrying me and staying in Louisiana?"
"Never," he answered immediately. "Tiana, you changed my life. Being with you, being here, has made me a better man in ways I could not have dreamed when I was a carefree Maldonian prince."
He looked back and forth between his wife and the road; she was gazing at him so lovingly. He adored this beautiful, sweet, strong woman, and he'd suffer through a thousand Genes to stay with her. "Your country is now my country, mi prutta. Your people are my people. Anything I go through here is worth it, because I am with you. Because I love you."