I'm finally back!! I've been trying to get to the computer to post for about a week now, but it just hasn't worked out.
So much has happened since my last post, I hardly know where to begin. Let's see...I suppose you'd like to know how Eugene and Rapunzel are doing? They are doing wonderfully. Both of them are enjoying married life and are as twitterpated as ever. :) They did have their first major argument last week, but they worked through it. They are already laughing about it. The two of them are so sweet together...maybe a little too sweet to seem real sometimes. Robby and I enjoy teasing them.
In other news, we had quite a surprise a little over a week ago. Beast'sbelle's mom found her another Beast doll. This one was a vintage Beast/Prince doll like the one Beast'sbelle has in the bottom of her curio cabinet. Beast'sbelle was in such a hurry when she brought him home that she laid him down at our feet and rushed back out.
We all stood frozen for a moment. Then, slowly, the Prince (who was still wearing his over-the-head Beast's mask) sat up and looked at us.
"Welcome!" Eugene burst out warmly. He was always so great at taking charge of a situation like this. I would never have imagined after our first meeting that he would become such a strong, vital part of our little group. Eugene held his hand out to the stranger.
The newest doll took Eugene's hand and hoisted himself up to his feet. He stood in front of us, saying nothing. He looked a bit shaken up.
"I'm Eugene," Eugene continued his welcoming duties. "This is my wife Rapunzel," he said, gesturing to her and giving her a special smile. Robby and I exchanged a grin. It was so cute hearing the way his voice softened on the word "wife". He was constantly coming up with excuses to say it.
"This is Robby and Belle," Eugene was saying, pointing to us. Robby and I nodded at our newest member in a friendly manner. "Over there is Ben," Eugene said, inclining his head towards Mr. Prickly himself. Ben gave the Prince a curt nod.
The Prince just stood there, looking at all of us through his Beast mask and shaking a little. I was beginning to get concerned.
I stepped forward. "Do you need to sit down, or maybe take off your mask? You look like you could use a rest," I said kindly.
At that moment, he swayed a little. I caught his hand (well, paw...he was wearing his Beast jacket with built-in paws, too). Instantly, Robby was at my side, holding his other hand and lowering him to a sitting position.
The Prince doll was breathing heavily. "Forgive me," came the muffled voice from behind the mask, a voice with a definite French accent. It was so strange to see that face, unmoving, with a voice behind it. "I'm just a little light-headed. It's been a long day."
"Can we take off your mask for you?" I asked again. "I'm sure you'll be more comfortable." Then, without thinking, I jokingly said, "Unless you're horribly disfigured or something."
Robby shot me a shocked, disapproving look. I was instantly ashamed. Then panic struck me. What if he really was disfigured? How rude I would be!
After a few more deep breaths, the great, shaggy head nodded. "Please, feel free. I'm afraid I don't quite have the stamina just now."
Praying that he would have a nice, attractive face so I wouldn't have to feel guilty, I slowly pulled the Beast mask up over his face. Robby helped me lift it over his head.
Two tired, blue eyes looked up at me. To my relief, his face was completely normal. Robby gave me a look that would probably translate something like, You lucked out on that one! I gave him a sheepish smile.
"Thank you," the stranger whispered between short breaths. He looked up at us helplessly. "I wonder if you might remove my jacket as well?" This time, Eugene stepped forward and steadied him as Robby and I carefully took off his Beast's jacket. He still had on his Beast's pants, too, but he hadn't asked us to remove those, and honestly, I wasn't exactly comfortable taking on that task! I mean, he had other pants on underneath, but still!
Once his jacket was off, the Prince leaned back and closed his eyes. We were wondering who on earth he was and why he was so unwell, when suddenly I thought I heard something coming from the curio cabinet. I turned and saw the door trembling.
It was as if someone was trying desperately to open it. From inside, I could see Marguerite, leaning on the glass door with all of her might. Her face was tear streaked and frantic.
"Uh, Robby? Eugene?" I said slowly. "I think Marguerite is trying to get out."
They turned towards the curio themselves. Once they saw the look on her face, they were instantly concerned, and headed towards her. Before they could get there though, Ben, who had been watching everything, leaped up from his spot and yanked on the door as hard as he could. His pull was just strong enough to open the door a crack. It wasn't much, but it was enough of an opening for Marguerite to slip through. She frantically scrambled down the shelves, rested a distracted hand on Ben's by way of thanking him, and then raced over to where we stood.
"Raoul!!" she shrieked through her tears. "My Raoul!!" I'd never noticed before that Marguerite herself had a French accent as well.
The Prince doll's eyes flew open at the sound of her voice. "Marguerite?" he whispered weakly.
Marguerite had reached us by this time and flung herself down beside him. She threw her arms around his neck, her body shaking as she wept. "Oh, my darling, how did you find me?"
Raoul slowly brought his arms up to embrace her, but before he could, he slumped over backwards in a dead faint.
"Raoul!" Marguerite shrieked once more.
Rapunzel sprang into action. She gently pulled Marguerite away, soothing her. "It's all right, Marguerite. He'll be all right. You have to be calm now."
Robby and Eugene knelt over Raoul, trying to revive him. I stood frozen in my spot for a moment, hoping he wasn't dead. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed Ben slowly moving towards us. All the while, we kept one ear towards the bedroom door, hoping that Marguerite's screams hadn't attracted any unwanted attention.
"He's still alive," Robby assured all of us. "His plastic is still warm. But he's unconscious."
Suddenly, we all noticed Ben standing directly behind us, surveying the scene in his usual aloof manner. Yet, something was different. Behind the coldness, I could see pain in his eyes.
Ben knelt down beside Raoul and examined him. He checked his eyes and felt his face. He gently tested different parts of Raoul's arms with his fingers. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, he looked up at us. "He appears to be suffering from exhaustion and shock. With sufficient rest and sustenance, he should be fine in a week or so."
Ben rose to his feet. "Let's make a bed for him on my side of the dresser. I'll keep watch over him and let you know if he needs anything."
Marguerite broke away from Rapunzel's protective embrace. She raced to Ben's side and snatched up his hand. "Merci, Ben. Thank you! He is everything to me, and I have been waiting for him to return to me for so long. Please take good care of him!"
Ben wouldn't meet her eyes. "Don't worry, Mademoiselle. I shall give him the best of care." He gave her a stiff little bow. "Now, I would suggest you get some rest, so that you can be strong when he awakens." Only then did he allow himself a quick glance at her eyes. And let me tell you readers, in that glance, I saw it all. He loved her! So much anguish and desire was mingled in his eyes. How it must have pained him to see her running to Raoul and calling his name.
"Thank you, Ben. You are an angel!" Marguerite whispered, tears trickling down her face once more. She gave him a quick peck on the cheek before allowing herself to be herded away by Rapunzel once more.
Ben stood frozen in his spot, as though he'd suddenly become a garden statue. His hand slowly moved to his cheek, touching the place where she'd kissed it. He looked so forlorn and heartbroken, I could hardly stand it.
"Belle!" Robby's voice interrupted my thoughts.
I jumped a little, then looked down at my feet, where he was helping Eugene with Raoul.
"Could you help Ben make up a bed for Raoul? We want to get him there as soon as possible."
I nodded wordlessly. I slowly walked over to Ben, who was still in a trance. Ever so gently, I touched his arm. He flinched as though I'd struck him, then came back to reality.
"I'm supposed to help you make a bed for him," I said apologetically.
Ben gave me a slow nod. He seemed to be desperately trying to hold himself together.
Almost without thinking, I took his hand in mine. "It's going to be okay," I whispered reassuringly. I gave him an encouraging smile.
A half-hearted smile played on his lips. "Thank you," he said gravely, meeting my eyes with his. I was instantly frozen in my spot, as he had been earlier. What on earth was happening? I was falling for Ben, and falling hard!
I let go of his hand and cleared my throat. "Um, I think Beast'sbelle has some tissue we can use next to the dresser. I'll go and see if I can find it."
He nodded again, almost robotically. He didn't even notice when I left.
I felt my cheeks flame as I climbed over the side of the dresser to find the tissue. What had just happened? He had looked at me, and in that instant, I'd felt as dizzy and faint as Raoul. This was not going to work. Ben was obviously in love with Marguerite. But it was just as obvious that she'd already made a choice for a life-partner in Raoul.
I found the tissue paper and started folding it up so that I could manage to drag it back up with me. Why did I like the guy, anyway? He was cold as ice and rigid as a ruler. Almost everything he'd ever said to me had been with a tone of disdain. But there was something there, and I hoped it was more than just his beautiful face. I'd be heartily ashamed of myself if that was all there was to my feelings.
I tucked the now folded tissue under my arm and began my climb back up the dresser. Perhaps it was my imagination, but I believed there was more to Ben beneath that cold exterior. How quickly he had responded to Marguerite's trouble in opening the door! What love had shone in his eyes for her! And how calmly and professionally he had examined and helped his rival for her affections. Yes, I was certain that underneath the plastic armor, this doll was a true hero, a doll whose love any female doll would long for.
At that moment, I reached the top of the dresser, and there was the object of my thoughts and affections. He was leaning over his usual spot, on top of the wooden jewelry box, with his head resting on his hands. How I longed to comfort him and take his pain away! I shook my head. That wouldn't do. Right now, he just needed a friend. I needed to get a grip on my emotions, or I would make things awkward for everyone.
I cleared my throat loudly. Ben's head shot up and his eyes met mine again. I thought I would melt right off the edge of the dresser, but pulling myself together, I held up the tissue.
Ben got the message and got up to help me. Within moments, I was back on top of the dresser and we were spreading the tissue out for Raoul. Just in time, too, because Eugene and Robby were carrying Raoul over to our side.
Once Raoul was settled, Robby looked at me. "Well, I think we've done everything we can for now. Shall we go back over and check on Rapunzel and Marguerite?"
"You go on ahead," I replied, trying to sound casual. "I think I'll stay here for a while and see if Ben needs any help with Raoul." I could feel my face heating up. "We want to make sure he gets well as soon as possible!" I added hastily.
Robby didn't say anything for a moment. His eyes held mine, then moved to Ben. I looked away uncomfortably. Finally, he nodded. "All right," he said quietly, a strange understanding in his tone. "I'll be in our regular spot if you need me."
I gave him what I hoped was a reassuring smile. Without another word, he turned and walked away.
This has turned into a really long post, so I'll finish tomorrow. Sorry to leave you hanging! :)