Disclaimer and author's note: The Hunchback of Notre Dame is the property of Walt Disney Studios. Title from The Kills's 'Wait'. I wrote this four years ago and just never got round to posting it here.
write it on the rocks and then tell me how it is
She is sixteen and in love (Clopin Trouillefou has been the most important man in her life since she was old enough to pick up a tambourine but lately when he's near her, his importance multiplies. As a little girl, he was like a brother to her, older, wiser; and her hoping some of his indigent regality would rub off on her. Now she knows he'll be her first lover, because she won't settle for the boys who grab her around the waist and try to hike her skirts over her hips just because she kisses them; there is something in him that no one else quite matches.
He lets her teach him how to dance. Though she's certain that he already knows something about it, and that maybe he's humoring her. Or maybe he likes the feel of her body pressed against his as much as she does. But after they dance they talk, and sometimes she thinks she talks too much. After all, not everyone is interested in talking. Or listening, for that matter. Clopin is.
And sometimes she thinks she sees that she's still a child to him; that he's waiting for her to become a woman, and not in any physical sense. There are those moments when she can look back at herself clearly from a distance, and no, she is not adult in anything but name. Every day the world shows itself to her in new ways, though, and she sees both the beauty and the ugliness of its face, and she knows that this is what it's like to leave childhood behind. She sees what she never did before, and it changes her).
He is approaching thirty and knows better (La Esmeralda is a cloying mix of innocence and allure, and when she's aware of it, it's easier to resist her charms. It's not the swelling of her chest or the way she swings her hips, nor the way her clothing hangs off her and billows just so when she dances and twirls that makes the King of the Gypsies watch her from under the brim of his hat, though she thinks it is. She acts the part of nubile, willing young woman to the point of parody. And though others stare and would have her, Clopin prefers her without that artifice.
After all, he's the one that taught her artifice, the smoke-and-mirrors games, that she uses every day. Sometimes he just wants the masks removed; sometimes he just wants an honest conversation and exchange of whatever it is when people open their souls to each other.
And sometimes he thinks he's grasping for too much; because although his relationship with the Church is strained at best, when he sits with Esmeralda and she forgets that she wants to impress him and tells him about her day, about the child she coaxed a smile from, or the old beggar to whom she gave three sous, or the Anglais who spoke to her in oddly accented French, or all the wrongs of the world that she wants to right, he cannot help but see some kind of divinity in her. A latter-day saint, come to perform miracles in a court already laying claim to them).
They see something in one another.