Wow, once again I've gone and left you all hanging for over 2 months. Sorry about that! You must be dying to know how things or going...or maybe you don't really care. Either way, I'll update those of you who are interested. ;)
Let's see, where did I leave off? Oh, yes. I was ready to swear my undying love for Ben, and longing to ease the pain of his broken heart. <3 :)
Ben, Marguerite and I took turns taking care of Raoul for the next two days. I loved watching Ben as he took care of Raoul. He had such a wonderful bedside manner, just like a good physician should. It was pretty surprising, considering his austere manner everywhere else. I was tempted to feign illness just so he would treat me so tenderly. Of course, I didn't, because he would have seen through my scheme.
By the third day after his arrival, Raoul was able to sit up in bed. Of course, once that happened, Marguerite never left his side. She sat as close as she could, whispering sweet nothings to him and stroking his hand.
We didn't hear all that much of his story, as the reunited sweethearts were in their own world. From the bits and pieces we got here and there, it sounded like he was passed from house to house and owner to owner until he'd finally arrived at the thrift store where Beast'sbelle's mom found him. Ben's official opinion was that his condition was due to a combination of extreme exhaustion, lack of proper nutrition, and intense emotional stress from losing Marguerite and worrying about her.
Ben was still struggling with his feelings for Marguerite. It was especially painful for him to watch the two of them now that Raoul was improving. I wished so desperately that there was something I could do to help, but I knew it was pointless. Nothing I could do or say would erase Marguerite from his memory, or suddenly make me the one he pined for.
On the fourth day of Raoul's convalescence, I decided it would be a good idea to head back to my side of the dresser and see how Robby, Rapunzel and Eugene were doing. Rapunzel had come over a few times to check on the patient and deliver the news to the guys, but other than that we hadn't talked much.
I walked up to Ben, who was trying very hard not to watch Marguerite and Raoul. "I think, if you've got everything under control here, I'd better get back and see how the others are doing."
He nodded in a distracted sort of way.
I timidly placed my hand on his. "If you need anything, please don't hesitate to ask."
He smiled. "Thank you, Belle. You've been a great help."
I beamed from ear to ear at his praise. "Anytime," I almost giggled. Good grief, girl, get it together! "Well...I guess I'll...head back then," I said reluctantly.
Ben merely nodded. Marguerite laughed at something Raoul had said, and Ben's smile vanished.
I sighed and slowly headed back to my side. I glanced back to see Ben forlornly staring off in the distance.
Rapunzel was excited to see me and gave me a little wave as I approached. I waved back.
"So, you finally decided to join us again, huh?" Eugene teased.
I rolled my eyes at him, then let my gaze wander to Robby. He was very quiet. He seemed to be paying close attention to something across the room.
"Is Raoul feeling better?" Rapunzel asked.
"Much better, as you can see," I replied, gesturing back to where he sat propped up on his pillows, with Marguerite beside him. "Ben is an excellent doctor."
Rapunzel gave me a knowing look but said nothing.
Eugene took Rapunzel by the hand. "Well, we'd love to stay and chat, but we were just getting ready to go for our morning walk. I'm sure Rapunzel will want to know all about everything when she gets back."
Rapunzel punched his arm playfully.
I smiled understandingly. "No problem. Enjoy your walk!" The two of them took a walk together at least once per day. It was their way to get some alone time without the rest of us around.
Rapunzel and Eugene set off, leaving Robby and I alone. He was still looking at...whatever it was that he was finding so fascinating.
I put my hand on his shoulder. "Hey," I said playfully.
He turned to face me. It almost seemed like he was reluctant to do so, but I pushed the thought from my head. I couldn't imagine why he wouldn't want to talk.
"Hi," he said quietly.
"I missed you. I missed our talks," I said with a smile.
"I figured you'd be too occupied to think of me," he replied lightly.
"Of course not!" I protested. "How could I forget my buddy?"
He seemed pained at this statement and turned away from me again. "It looks like you got a chance to know Ben a little better," he said slowly.
I willed myself not to blush and nodded nonchalantly. "Yes, I did, actually."
Robby glanced back at me as if he was trying to read into my words. I could feel my face heating up, so I turned away. My eyes caught sight of Ben, sitting solemnly in his place.
"That's good," Robby continued, but his voice sounded strained. "I'm glad you're...being a...a friend."
"Yes, a friend," I said softly. Ben was glancing over at Marguerite and Raoul again from the corner of his eye. How it must torture him to have to sit by and watch them like that, I thought sorrowfully.
I was lost in my thoughts for a bit. Gradually, I realized that Robby had been quiet for an awfully long time. I turned to see what he was doing...but he was gone!
Beast'sbelle's Deluxe Belle doll was watching me from behind the clear plastic of her box. She couldn't do much, since she was still strapped down by her twist ties, but she managed to incline her head slightly to her left.
I followed her direction and walked over to the edge of the dresser, leaning on the doorknob of the bedroom door for support. There was Robby, walking silently from the room, his head and shoulders slumped.
I almost called after him, but something stopped me. Maybe he just needed some time alone. It was so unlike him to just walk off, though. Come to think of it, he'd been acting kind of strange ever since I'd volunteered to help Ben take care of Raoul.
"We're back!" Rapunzel's voice broke into my musings.
I turned to face her and Eugene, trying to shake off my troubled thoughts. "Did you have a nice walk?"
Rapunzel nodded. She stole a sideways glance at Eugene, giving him a strained smile.
He smirked. "That's my cue, I believe. I think I'll go see what Ben's up to." Winking at Rapunzel, he sauntered over towards Ben.
Rapunzel waited until Euegene was out of earshot, then bounded over to me. "I've been dying to know how everything went!" she said dramatically. She grabbed my hands excitedly. "Now that we're alone, you can give me every minute detail!"
I laughed and squeezed her hands. She was so much like me! I was so blessed to have her as a friend. Without wasting another moment, I shared everything that had happened, from realizing Ben's feelings for Marguerite to my realization that I had fallen for him and everything inbetween.
When I'd finished, Rapunzel didn't say much, but her eyes were sparkling with excitement. "And...what does Robby think about all of this?"
I frowned. "To be honest, he's been acting pretty strange. He doesn't talk to me much, and he's...I don't know. I guess the best way to describe it is that he's not really himself around me."
Rapunzel put her arm around me. "Have you considered the possibility that he might be in love with you?"
I laughed. "What? Robby? No way. I mean, I know that was what Beast'sbelle was hoping for, but we're just good buddies. I can talk to him about anything, and...you know, we just hang out together. He's my best friend...besides you, of course."
Rapunzel laughed at my quick correction. "I wasn't worried," she assured me.
"Besides," I continued. "I don't know if I'll ever feel that way about Robby. The way I feel about Ben, I mean. When Ben looks at me, I feel like I could run 4 miles, or fly to the highest mountains, or sing...and actually sound like a Disney Princess."
My friend smiled sympathetically. She had to...she'd heard me sing.
"When Robby looks at me, I feel happy, but nothing more. I don't feel that sense of bubbly excitement welling up in me. I just feel like sitting and chatting, or taking a walk. It's completely different."
Rapunzel nodded. "I can understand that. The best relationships of all combine the two, though. When I'm with Eugene, I feel all of those wonderful things you described about Ben. But then there are the days when he leaves his dirty boots in the middle of the dresser, or forgets his manners. Sometimes he's tired and moody. Then, all of those feelings vanish. There's got to be something left for the days the warm fuzzies disappear."
"I guess you're right," I replied. "I hadn't really thought about it that way." I was impressed. I'd never heard Rapunzel go into details about their relationship. It had always seemed a bit lovey-dovey to me, but it sounded like she had put some thought into this.
"Eugene is more than my hero and the love of my life," Rapunzel continued. "He's my best friend. I feel safe and cherished when I'm with him. I know that I can talk to him about anything...well, almost anything. He's not really into hearing about so and so's romance, or this doll's new room decorations," she laughed. "Seriously, though, I know I can trust him and that he has my best interest at heart."
She paused for a moment and glanced over to where her husband and Ben were talking. "So maybe what you need to think about is whether there's something about Ben that makes you feel safe or loved, beyond the feelings you're experiencing now."
"I can't really feel loved by him at this point, since he's interested in someone else," I pointed out. "But I guess I do feel safe with him...especially after watching the way he took care of Raoul."
Rapunzel smiled knowingly. "I think that you need to spend more time around him and figure this stuff out. You know," she said mischeviously, taking me by the hand, "I think I need to go see Eugene now. Won't you come with me?"
I blushed but allowed myself to be led along.
"Here you are, sweetheart!" Rapunzel said to Eugene, a pleasant smile on her face.
Eugene raised one eyebrow in amusement. "Yes dear, I'm sorry it was so difficult to locate me...all the way across the dresser."
Rapunzel chose to ignore this comment. "You know, I really think we should be getting back. We had those...plans to discuss. You remember?" She linked her arm in his.
He shook his head. "Plans? What plans?" he said in mock ignorance. His eyes were dancing.
Rapunzel's elbow found his stomach.
"Oof!" he gasped. "Okay, I can take a hint, dearest." He turned to Ben. "Women. Can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em." He winked at his wife, then shook Ben's hand. "I'll see you later."
Ben nodded stiffly. Rapunzel and Eugene made their way back to their spot. As they left, Rapunzel peeked back over Eugene's shoulder and gave me an encouraging look.
I was alone with Ben again. Well, sort of alone. Marguerite and Raoul were still whispering softly to one another in the background.
We stood in silence for a moment. Finally, I stammered, "How's the patient?"
"Doing well, as you can see," Ben replied.
I blushed again. I might as well just paint my cheeks red from here on out, I thought with disgust.
I gave it another go. "Well, I'm sure it's due to your doctoring skills. I think you did an excellent job taking care of him. Especially...especially since he's, you know...Marguerite's..." I faltered. This was not going well. "I just think it's really wonderful of you!" I finally blurted out.
Ben straightened himself. "I would consider it my duty as a physician to take care of anyone who was in need of help, no matter who they were."
I hung my head. Somehow, what I'd meant to be a complement, he'd taken as an insult.
"I do appreciate the thought behind your words, however," he said in a gentler tone.
I looked up. His eyes had softened, and they were looking right into mine.
"Of course, I couldn't have done it without my nurse," he continued, smiling.
And then, wonder of wonders, he took my hand in his. I was sure I would faint dead away right then and there.
"Thank you," he said sincerely.
"You're welcome," I somehow managed to squeeze past my dry mouth.
Ben was holding my hand. I'd died and gone to doll heaven.