Ten Lessons from a Gypsy's Kiss

"The first kiss," Esmeralda smiled impishly, "is always special."

Frollo grimaced and walked away. He knew that the gypsy girl's words were targeted at him, even though she was telling a folktale to a group of children who were visiting her in Notre Dame. A tale about how a kind servant girl was ill-treated by the other servants in the household, unknown to their Egyptian master. When the master gave her a pair of rose-gilded slippers, the god Horus, in the guise of a falcon, snatched one of her slippers and flew away and dropped it onto the lap of the pharaoh. The pharaoh recognized it as a sign and decreed that all the maidens of the kingdom must try on the slipper, and that he would marry the one whose foot it fit.

Heathen nonsense fed into impressionable minds.

"Did Pharaoh Ahmose find Rhodopis?" a spellbound girl asked.

"Of course," Esmeralda's eyes sparkled, "And they kissed and lived happily ever after."

"Ew…" some of the boys reacted predictably.

Esmeralda ruffled their hair, "When you grow up, you will not say that. But you must remember to save your first kiss for someone special." Esmeralda lifted her head and green eyes flashed on coal-black ones. "Because the first kiss is always special."

It was something the gypsy girl had been dangling in front of Frollo, ever since he had unconsciously revealed that he did not have any experience in that department.

"You have never kissed anyone?" she exclaimed.

Frollo was not ashamed. In fact, he was proud of his abstinence. So why did he feel like an inept youth in front of her?

"I have not found anyone tempting," Frollo retorted at the time, shrouding himself in haughtiness.

But he had. She was his temptation. She knew, surely she must, after disbelief subsided and mischief took its place. He was oppressed by her sultry dances, come-hither eyes, and alluring smile whenever he saw her in Notre Dame, where she seemed happily settled. Finally, despair drove him to corner her in a secluded part of Notre Dame after mass ended and the crowd dispersed.

"Stop," was all Frollo managed to say at first.

Esmeralda blinked in genuine puzzlement, "Stop what?"

"Your games. Your baiting," Frollo snarled, "Stop testing me! I cannot kiss you." He was flustered, and fought to suppress the panic in his voice. "It is dangerous."

Frollo thought that Esmeralda would laugh at him, as she seemed fond to do when he tried to lecture her or threaten her on previous occasions. Instead, she surprised him when she said softly, "There is nothing dangerous in a kiss, Minister. Or frightening. I can teach you."

Frollo gaped. Was she propositioning what his addled mind was thinking?

Esmeralda made her proposal more plain, "Shall I kiss you?"

Lord help him. Yes.

"Mind you," Esmeralda's eyes twinkled playfully, "I think I should get something in return for giving you a lesson."

Ah. There was the truth. Like any gypsy, this was a bargain, a transaction to her. This was familiar. This was what he would expect from a gypsy. He could handle this. But she surprised him again when her price was for him to help Quasimodo paint some toys which the boy was making for the children. A trifle, he thought, but there were other terms. He could choose where and when his first kiss would be, but he had to follow her lead. This last gave him pause, but her offer was a dream, and he accepted it.

"I have a private cell here. We can go there," Frollo said stiffly, not wanting to sound hasty.

Esmeralda raised her eyebrows, but said nothing.

He led her to his cell, and when they were alone, he went a little weak in his knees at the knowledge. He was embarrassed when he saw that she noticed.

"Maybe you should sit, Minister," she said lightly.

He nodded in agreement. Thus far, matters appeared to proceed in a coolly detached manner, but what they would soon do was anything but dispassionate. On his part at least.

As Frollo sat down in the only chair available, Esmeralda stood in front of him, and the tension was palpable. Frollo gripped the arms of his chair, not daring to move. Esmeralda bent forward and her face was a hair's breath away from his. Their breaths mingled; her exotic perfume entered his nose. Her beauty intoxicated him, as it always did.

Esmeralda observed him, before she spoke, "Are you comfortable now? I don't want your first kiss to be spoilt, you know. You will never believe anything I say otherwise."

"That is the least of your concerns," Frollo said tremulously, "You cannot blame a chair if you fail to convince me that a kiss is special."

Esmeralda smiled with a sweetness that made Frollo swoon. She raised a hand to his face, and grazed his cheek with her fingers. It tingled. To his chagrin, Frollo shut his eyes and gasped involuntarily. In a moment, her lips were on his.

It was the lightest of touches, the gentlest of caresses. Its effect was devastating.

Frollo's eyes flared open and shut again, and leant forwards for more. Esmeralda's lips parted slightly, and he felt the tip of her tongue coaxing him to open his own lips. He obeyed fervently. Their kiss deepened, and their tongues became tangled. The immediate pleasure diffused from that single spot and spread its warmth, past his cheeks, across his chest, down his spine, between his legs.

Frollo's hunger was not assuaged; rather, it intensified, and his arms encircled the gypsy girl and crushed her to him. She protested, but his blood was roaring in his ears, and his soul was singing. He did not hear her. When she jerked her head back and broke the kiss, he turned his attention to her bare neck and shoulders, branding her with his hot kisses. Her struggles only served to madden him. He wanted more, far more. His mouth wandered down her body… until he felt a cold blade against his neck. He had forgotten that she had one. He gazed up at her, and saw that her face was flushed.

"Would you use that knife on me?" Frollo asked drunkenly, his body still shaking with desire.

Esmeralda did not answer.

"Remember our agreement, Minister," she whispered.

"And if I do not?" he asked savagely.

"Then, you will not see me after today."

Frollo considered it for such a long time that even he wondered what his decision would be. In the end, he loosened his hold and released Esmeralda. She stepped away quickly.

Frollo looked down at his hands, refusing to look at her, clinging on to any shred of self-control he had left, already regretting that he had let her go. He heard the door open and slam shut. It was a long time before the sensual waves wrecking his body calmed down; before he could stand and head straight back to the Palace of Justice.

Frollo held up his end of the bargain, and went to see Quasimodo the next day. Diffidently, he told Quasimodo that he heard that he needed help and Quasimodo, happy at this turn of events, gave his master the best brushes and paints he had while he focused on carving more toys. Frollo was taken aback when he discovered that painting with Quasimodo's finesse was not as easy as he thought, and questioned for the first time how Quasimodo learnt his craft. When Quasimodo showed him the scars which cuts left on his hands during his childhood years, Frollo wondered that he never noticed them.

The children were naturally thrilled with the toys when they were presented to them. One child hugged Frollo impulsively in gratitude, for the Minister did not look fearsome when there were splotches of bright colors on his hands.

Several days would pass before Frollo saw Esmeralda again. Although she looked a little wary, the relief which rushed over him made him confident.

"I almost thought that you had disappeared altogether, my dear," he chuckled, his voice all velvet and silk, "That would be upsetting, for I did release you, after all."

"After I was forced to use my knife on you."

"Come now, you threatened me with it, that is all. You did not intend to use it."

"I… I did!"

"We seem to recall things differently."

"You are a difficult man to trust, Minister."

"You were a very good teacher," Frollo drawled, causing Esmeralda to blush before she thought to frown and change the subject.

"I heard that you went to see Quasimodo and the children today. Did you really agree that the children could take Quasimodo out to the countryside to play?"

"Oh yes. I take it you approve?" He saw the upward tug at the corner of her mouth. "You see, my dear, I am a man of my word."

"Maybe."

Frollo grew bolder, "Does that mean that our arrangement still stands? I did not think that I learnt everything I needed from our first class."

"I thought the lesson was over."

"And I thought our lesson was cut short by my… misbehaving." Frollo tried to look contrite as he persuaded her, "I promise. I shall behave."

In the second and third kiss which followed, Frollo learnt that the first kiss may be special, but so was every kiss. And so he longed for more.

When Frollo next met Esmeralda, he abandoned all pretense of taking lessons and made a counter-proposal. The kiss was to be on his terms; he would determine when it ended. He made it clear that he planned to stay in Notre Dame for the night, when he had no engagements and would not be disturbed.

"For the night?" Esmeralda's expression was one of suspicion, "My body is my own, Minister. It is not for anyone to take."

It was the first time that Esmeralda implied that she was chaste, and it pleased him.

"Your sacred body will be intact, my dear. I only wish for your time."

"And my kisses." Esmeralda added archly. She pondered over this, while Frollo observed that she no longer flinched when he called her his dear.

"It will cost you more than the scarf you got for me the last time," Esmeralda remarked.

"I am at your command."

There was an area in the City where a group of old men and women lived. They had no one but one another, and Esmeralda had not seen them for a while. Frollo was to go there and bring them food and warm clothes, for the weather was still cold.

And Frollo learnt that the gypsy girl was sly, for it was easy to be indifferent to poverty, as long as one did not see it with his own eyes. Within the year, he would implement measures to ensure that the sick and homeless were not forgotten.

Frollo returned to Notre Dame that night, ready to claim his prize. Esmeralda was waiting for him in his cell, and he could tell that she was nervous. Before, he had thought that to possess her and control her was what he wanted. But hearing her sighs echo his whenever they kissed made Frollo realize that he wanted her to enjoy these trysts. He wanted her to want him as much as he did her. Unaccustomed as he was at the art of seduction, he now understood the importance of treating Esmeralda with care. He approached her and carried her in his arms. Their eyes locked on each other's as he brought her to his bed, sat down and placed her on his lap. She was still tense.

"There were fifty people there at least," Frollo reported and named a few as proof that he had been there, "I was compelled to rearrange their appalling conditions. I believe your plan was to tire me out so that I would forget what you had promised me."

At this, Esmeralda smiled. She replied, "I am here, aren't I?"

Frollo smiled back, "True." His fingers traced her features, which were bathed in the pale moonlight. He was enchanted and his voice was full of awe when he said, "You are beautiful." He continued stroking her face, imitating her ways. When he felt her relax under his touch, he kissed her. He sighed contentedly as his mouth found hers again. And she, oh how she matched his ardor, pulling his lips and sucking his tongue.

All too soon however, Esmeralda broke the kiss.

"Woman!" Frollo cried. He was not about to let Esmeralda ruin their agreement.

Esmeralda giggled and shifted her position. Frollo's eyes widened and he groaned helplessly when she straddled him between her legs and he felt her core so close to his even through the layers of clothing.

Esmeralda wrapped her arms around Frollo's neck and cooed, "Is this not more comfortable?"

"Witch," he growled darkly, but there was no hiding his pleasure.

They resumed kissing and, with her body now pressed fully against his, Frollo indulged. His hands moved to explore her contours, taking pains not to cross any boundary which would frighten her. At one point however, he could not prevent his hips from bucking. How exquisite the delight then when he felt her respond by moving her hips against him. Thus encouraged, he eagerly surrendered to rhythmic thrusts to meet her undulating motion.

Minute after minute passed as they continued their private dance, and lavished more kisses and caresses on each other. The bells chimed the hour.

"Oh…" Esmeralda shuddered as Frollo nibbled at a sensitive spot on her neck. "How long do you wish to do this?

"Forever," Frollo declared. He was far too aroused to be logical.

They did stop after some time. She rested her head against his shoulder as he buried his face in her hair. Frollo saw the folly of his proposal. How could he think that he would be satisfied with only kissing her? Already, his mind's eye saw their naked forms writhing in this very bed.

"You can leave," he said hoarsely, "Perhaps you should."

He was sorry that she did as he advised.

In the months that followed, Frollo and Esmeralda found excuses to meet and learn more about each other. Without acknowledging her influence, Frollo took Esmeralda's lessons to heart and went around parts of Paris he did not use to bother to see how matters could be improved and to see how he could integrate the gypsies into the community. Once, Frollo passed by an unsavory street lined with prostitutes. One of them, who did not recognize who he was, thought that he may be a potential customer and threw herself at him and kissed him. It was then that Frollo learnt that a kiss meant nothing if it was not with Esmeralda.

Initially, Frollo carried out his new mission because he knew it would please Esmeralda. Later, sympathy grew and he learnt that a gypsy living in the streets could be wiser than the king himself.

But the rumors circulated among the soldiers and the higher society that the Minister of Justice was getting soft. It was the perfect opportunity for his political opponents to attack him and report to Louis XI that Frollo's actions (including the use of Paris' coffers, they pointed out to the miserly king) were bordering on treachery.

Frollo was caught off-guard when Louis XI summoned him and informed him that an appropriate substitute would be found to replace him. Alarmed, Frollo spent days and nights consulting his allies, but they failed to step forward when they understood that the tide had turned against him. It dawned on Frollo that not only would he be stripped of his title, his lands would be confiscated and all his power would be lost.

"I have told the guards to leave their post at Notre Dame." Frollo said after he found Esmeralda in the bell-tower.

Esmeralda laughed, but stopped when she took in his ashen face and sunken eyes. "What happened?"

He told her.

"The king can appoint someone in a week, by the morrow. I have heard a few names, one in particular who will have no qualms revoking the law of sanctuary if he can. Notre Dame is no longer safe."

Esmeralda reached out to him and took his hand. He did not realize he was trembling.

"What will happen to you?" she asked.

"I do not know…"

Reality crashed on him, and fear was written on his face. He sank onto the floor. Esmeralda knelt beside him and held him gently. He babbled; she soothed. When exhaustion took over, Frollo's eyes turned heavy. As he fell asleep, he felt Esmeralda kiss his forehead.

And he learnt that a gypsy could be kind.

When Frollo woke up, Esmeralda was not there, and he learnt the pain of losing something even more precious than power and wealth.

For days, he went about his duties like a dead man walking, waiting for the axe to fall. But it did not come. Instead, he was summoned to see the king again. The king was nonplussed.

"It seems that talk of your treachery has been grossly exaggerated, Minister. And it seems," here the king looked incredulous, "that it is the will of the people that you should remain their Minister. I cannot afford a revolt in my hands. It is too expensive these days. Take care, Frollo, see that this does not happen again."

Confused at how swiftly fortune could change, Frollo retreated from the king's chambers in a daze, and saw Quasimodo outside.

"Quasimodo?"

"It is good news, master?"

"Yes, but how…"

Esmeralda had been garnering the support of everyone whom Frollo had helped in the past months, Quasimodo explained. Quasimodo had helped them all write a petition. There were many who were willing to lend their voice; enough at least to impress the king.

Doubtless, Frollo was moved, but the mention of Esmeralda filled him with irrepressible yearning. He had missed her everyday since she disappeared from Notre Dame.

"Where is she?"

"I don't know, master. She comes to see me in Notre Dame."

Although the nobles gossiped about Frollo's near fall from grace, the dust settled shortly and there were other more exciting scandals to talk about.

Frollo returned to his post and it seemed that nothing changed, save that Frollo doubled his efforts to better the lives of the people in Paris. Sometimes, someone may notice that he was distracted by the sound of music in the streets, and that he turned gloomy when the musicians were revealed.

Frollo tried not to be disheartened. For whatever reason, Esmeralda was choosing to keep away, but he knew that he must mean something to her. And so it did not matter how she disguised herself, and how she slipped past his guards, when he found her standing serenely in the middle in his office one day.

Frollo controlled himself admirably from embracing her tightly. She had not allowed him.

"My savior." He murmured, "Why have you come only now for me to repay you?"

"If you are referring to the citizens who supported you and changed the king's mind, the credit does not belong to me. They helped you because you helped them."

"Yet you were the one who rallied them. I would not have you think me a thankless man."

"Let me ease you. You repaid me when you opened the doors to my people and treated them with fairness."

"You must know, it is because I hold their princess in the highest regard."

They fell silent. Frollo spoke again, this time in jest, hoping to see her smile.

"You are quite cruel, my dear, to deprive me of your presence for so long."

He succeeded.

"You said you were a patient man." Esmeralda retorted.

"That was until I tasted the nectar of Olympus, no, heaven itself. My lips are parched."

"Flattery does not move me. So you want me to kiss you again."

"Everyday."

"You are incorrigible, Minister."

"All this tit-for-tat is very fine and amusing, my dear, but I am grown impatient." Frollo's eyes smoldered, "What is it you wish this time? A flower, a dress, jewels! I am told that these are a woman's fancies."

Esmeralda shook her head. With an expression of tenderness, she tiptoed and lifted her face to his. "I want this," and she kissed him.

And Frollo learnt that a kiss given freely could give a man such joy as to make him complete.

They shared many kisses since then. She gave him much more since their marriage, taking his breath away each time they made love.

And in each kiss, he learnt what it was to love, and be loved.

Author's Notes:

The story of Rhodopis is said to be one of the earliest stories of Cinderella. It can be found on Wikipedia, which is where I got it from, anyway. :-P

A little fluff ahead of Valentine's Day! While this shares the same premise as my long story "31 Rules" – Esmeralda decides to stay in Notre Dame – it is not part of "31 Rules" and is a standalone. Chapter 4 of "31 Rules" will be up in the next few days!

Thank you very much for reading and do let me know what you think! To ChristineFrollophile and froll4life: Thank you for your very kind reviews. To darklolichan: Thanks for the fave. You all have made me really happy! X-D