In our modest rowboat we had travelled some distance further than the usual. We rowed for day and nightnot because we'd become lost, but to find adventure. Eugene promised great things would come wherever we landed. He was usually right about these things, so I believed him. He'd been in the outside world much more than I had.
My hair lit up the inky night blackness and the sun cut through the daytime clouds.
Then we land in a new placewe had followed canals and rivers for days before we stopped. Cold against the stony ground are my feet. I laugh, because Eugene tries to take his shoes off to let me use them when he falls backward into the water. This is the sort of cheery moment that Maximus might like to see.
I refuse the shoes. I'd never worn them before I ran away from MotherI mean, Gothel. We traverse through a quaint town. After asking for directions, we learn we are in France. Most specifically, Paris. My hair is long and heavy to carry up the stone steps that are everywhere.
"Hold on, Blondie, you're falling."
I grin. "Oh please, Eugene, you're just jealous of my hair." And he iswell, maybe he's just jealous of my healing power.
The air is sweet and we inhale it deeply. We observe the mild early summer, the slowly warming stones that seem to be forever cold. The townspeople, in their simple clothes, mill about humbly as they do their errands. Many are kind and say hello. And then, we see it.
It is tall, and dark, and towering in at least two places. Large saucers of marbled, marvelous stained glass windows usher light within. From what little experience I have had in the outside world, I'm confused. I've never seen a tower that strange looking before!
"Eugene, is that a prison?" my voice strangles out nervously.
He laughs and bumps into me, because we both know it's not. The word I want to call it slips off my tongue and gets lost in my mind. "No. That's a church, Rapunzel. A cathedral, if I'm correct."
I was right! A church! "Are churches and cathedrals the same thing?"
He hesitates. We are close to it now, perhaps a few hundred yards away. "Wellsort of. The best way to explain it is that cathedrals are a type of church." As he opens his mouth to proceed with his explanation, out of his mouth comes the loudest, clearest, most beautiful ringing of bells.
This is not Eugene, but I laugh at the thought. It is divine music, heaven-sent. I tug at his hand excitedly. "Let's go inside!"
Here he wrinkles his nose. "That's that's a cute idea. But that's being a bit overambitious"
Nevertheless, Eugene is tugged into the cathedral, which is now almost shaking with the sound, but we're not the only ones entering here. Other Parisians are drawn to the sound, scour the aisle, find an empty place to kneel, and begin their prayers. But we go a much different route. Into a small corridor steep with stair-steps, which echoes our very thoughts.
This leads us up to an opening atop the cathedral, where we are thrust out into the sweet air and cotton-filled skies. Eugene assures me that our kingdom has more beautiful architecture, but I find it hard to believe. We enter another door, not too long across the way.
"I get the feeling we're not supposed to be up here." But Eugene's sense of adventure has set in, wearing an unsuppressed smile, carrying my hair, trying to act cautious when we both, really, are set on journeying to wherever the path ends. Up more stairs. I trip and feel the tight security of Eugene's arms round my waist, and there it is.
The cutest little replica of Paris! The cathedral, which we now lurked, and many of the quaint shops we had passed in our lively wanderings, sits atop a roughly carved wooden table. Our hands grasp the intricate figures. Although Eugene knows about art, he doesn't create it like I do. This is art that should be shared with people. My nail traces a wooden figure's jawline and
DONG! A bell rings off so suddenly that we drop the figures. The platforms above us house the perfect place to stand and pull the bell-ropes. "Please, be careful with those!"
Eugene sees the figure first, and tries to act suave and clueless (this is incredibly difficult for him). "Hello. Name's Flynn Ri" I nudge him with my hip. "ahh, Eugene Fitzherbert. We were just wandering and got lost."
The voice is somewhat frightened. "Please leave," it calls again. Only a sliver of his shadowed figure appears, high in the lofty platforms overhead. He must be the bellringer.
"Oh we weren't lost!" I cry, throwing my hands into the air and letting loose tangles of blonde locks. "I heard the music, and I had to know what it was."
A dry silence provoked Eugene to say with irritability, "She has this thing she feels like she has to experience every new thing for herself. It's a woman thing." I nudge him again.
The bellringer said nothing more, but I am desperately curious now. "Oh, but you do understand, don't you? Haven't you ever seen something or heard something or felt something, and were so moved, you just had to know why it is the way it is? Like the floating lights?"
Down the crooked ladder he comes, though he remains in the shadowed corner of the room. "Oh, yes, I have," he says meekly, peering at the ground. "Many things. But I don't get to know as much as you do."
I am enamored with the exquisiteness of these figures, but he is unwilling to speak to us, much less, about his treasured artwork. "And why not?" I insist.
He sighs. "They say I'm not normal."
Here I tug at a portion of my ever-growing hair and laugh. "I'm not normal, either. I mean, I have really long, magic hair that glows when I sing!"
"And, he didn't need to know that." Eugene interjects. But my mouth has already formed the words my vocal chords, the notes of that chant I'd memorized forward and backward by early childhood. To prove itself, my hair glowed defiantly into the shadows. Our cowardly new acquaintance seeks shelter behind a support beam.
He is shocked, without words. "Will you come out? I know we're intruding, but that music was so beautiful, and now that I know you're an artistI'm an artist too!"
This has lured him forward a bit. The soft golden glow of my hair has evaporated into the air, heavy with suspense. "Well alright. If you insist. Butplease don't laugh at me."
There is no way either of us can laugh at the gentle, young, redheaded bellringer that is birthed into the late afternoon light at last. He isn't normal, not by any means. He is instead unique to the eyes and seems to be quite shy. I like him immediately. My delight at finally seeing the artist unveiled straightens his unlevel shoulders.
"I'm Rapunzel. Who are you?" I inquire, standing on my toes to meet the eyes of the incredibly shy manno, boy, reallywho stands now before me. "I mean, what is your name?"
Thinking carefully, he finally speaks. "Q-Quasimodo," he replies. "My master Frollo named me. He wouldn't like you to be here," says Quasimodo quickly. "He'll get angry."
"Oh, but could we please look around?"
My escort gives me a serious look. "We're in over our heads, Rapunzel. I mean, we're trespassing."
"But we've done that before!"
Eugene is not given a chance to reply. "If you're quick and promise to be quiet, I can show you around," offers Quasimodo. We're both taken by surprise when he leads us to another staircase. "I'll show you the best view of the city in Paris. That's how I could carve all the buildings and people, you know."
The view is magnificent and more. Quasimodo points out certain places in town, the bird's nest that holds a tiny feathered avian. We follow him back and forth through the passages of the cathedral. He shares with us his art, his passion to go to town for just one day. I paint a quick portrait of him as a gift. And it's over in less than an hour.
Our chance meeting with the bellringer of Notre Dame has come and gone, and we are off in our modest rowboat once more, my hair piled on our laps, as we watch the cathedral shrink into nothing.