Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Argument

Around a week after Emmaline's arrival, I decided it was time to subtly let Ben know that I was still interested in him.  He'd been more encouraging ever since he realized I had feelings for him, and I hadn't heard him talking about Marguerite in ages.  I wondered if perhaps, his heart might be softening.

There was only one way to find out.  I had to give him an opportunity to express himself.  It was time to take matters into my own hands.  

So, when I saw him sitting alone at the top of the new shelf which was now "home" to Robby, Ben and me, I decided I couldn't let this chance pass me by.  I suppose I should clarify here:  I said he was sitting alone, but that isn't exactly accurate.  You see, the shelf we now inhabit is shared by half a dozen other bigger dolls and stuffed animals.  It's taken some getting used to.  They are all very polite, but it's a bit eerie trying to carry on a conversation, knowing that they're all sitting motionlessly behind you, listening to every word.  I was determined, though.  Not even an unwanted audience was going to stop me from pursuing my goal.  I had to know where Ben was coming from.  I had to know if I had any reason to hope.

Even the sight of Robby coming to join me didn't deter me from my plan.  He was free to come too if he liked, but my goal was to talk to Ben.

Robby and I shared some small talk as we climbed the shelf.  Honestly, I don't remember much of it.  My mind was elsewhere.  When we reached the top of the shelf, I made a point to sit close to Ben.  Not too close (I didn't want to arouse any suspicion), but close enough that I could talk to him easily.  I was beginning to feel a bit nervous at the thought of talking to him, but I knew it was now or never.  I was thankful that I had chosen to wear the sparkly new dress Beast'sbelle had found for me.  I wondered if Ben would notice it.

"Hello, Ben," I began, hoping I sounded more confident than I felt.

He turned suddenly as if I'd startled him.  You'd think he would have noticed Robby and I joining him, but maybe he'd been lost in thought.

"Hello, Belle," he replied gravely.  He was so serious that I nearly lost my nerve right then and there.

"How...are you this morning?" I asked hesitantly.

"Tolerable, thank you," was all he said. 

Silence fell between us.  I scrambled for something to say.

"I haven't seen Marguerite and Raoul around lately," I finally blurted out.  Oh, great, Belle!  Wonderful topic!  Bring up the doll you're hoping he'll forget!

Ben nodded glumly.  "Beast'sbelle has reassigned them to the curio.  It's difficult for them to escape."  He laughed bitterly.  "Not that they want to.  They're perfectly content to stay there, as long as they're together.  No doubt they're occupying their time by spouting sonnets and speaking French."  He stared off in the distance wistfully.  "She does have such a gorgeous French accent..."

This conversation was not going in the direction I had hoped at all.  He still sounded pretty infatuated.  I tried to change the subject.
"You know, I've been thinking about learning French.  Do you think it would be possible for me to learn it, or am I a lost cause?"

Ben gave me a stormy look.  "How on earth could I be the judge of that?  Perhaps you should ask Marguerite.  She would be more knowledgeable on the subject than I!"  The bitter edge was back in his voice.

I was stunned into silence.  I knew Ben could be stern, but he hadn't been this testy in a long time.  I wondered why he was suddenly so inexplicably cranky.  I supposed lack of sleep could be part of it.  We'd all been a bit on edge since Emmaline had come and deprived all of us of sleep.  But she'd been doing better the past few nights.  And even when things were at their worst with Emmaline, Ben hadn't been this bad.

One thing was obvious.  He could not forget Marguerite...not yet.  It seemed like his feelings for her were changing from love to anger and bitterness, however.  Whatever was going on, I definitely had my answer.  I was still not anywhere in his plans for the future.

We sat quietly there for a while, Ben in stony silence and I in misery.  Robby shifted in his spot on the other side of me and gave me a start.  I'd nearly forgotten he was there.  That seemed to be a habit for me when Ben was around.  I chose not to look at Robby.  I didn't want to know what he was thinking.

Suddenly, Ben sprang to his feet with a vengeance.  "I'm sorry, but I can't sit here any longer.  I feel I'll explode if I don't leave this wretched shelf!  I'll see you two later tonight."

Without another word, he stormed off.  I was so surprised, I didn't even know what to think.  How had my beautiful plan failed so miserably?

"Are you okay?" Robby's voice asked gently. 

I nodded without looking at him.  

We sat together for some time without speaking before he said anything else.  

"Belle," he began hesitantly.  "I know that Ben is...special to you.  But it's sad to see you hanging on his every word, desperate for approval.  You're wonderful just like you are, and if he doesn't see that, it's his problem...not yours."

He waited for a bit, perhaps hoping for a response, but I had none to give.

Robby sighed in exasperation.  "I just don't get it, Belle.  Why do you put yourself through this?  He's not worth it!"

Something snapped inside of me at his words.  I sprang to my feet, and I could feel warmth in my cheeks.   "Who are you to judge whether he's 'worth it' or not?" I exploded.  "Isn't that my job?  Look, I appreciate your friendship, Robby, but I don't need you telling me what to do all the time!  I'm sorry that my life doesn't meet your perfect standards, okay?"  I knew I was being unfair even as I spoke, but in the heat of my anger, spewing out those venomous words felt really great.  It was almost like those adrenaline rushes humans get (Ben had told me about them once after reading some book).  The more I said, the better it felt.  "Just let me figure this out on my own, okay?  I don't need your advice...I didn't even ask for it in the first place!  If you want someone to advise, go talk to someone else!  Sometimes I wish you'd just leave me alone!"     

Just as suddenly as the anger came, it melted away.  By then, it was too late, though.  I'll never forget the look on my friend's face.  I saw in an instant all the pain and embarrassment I'd caused him.  

He didn't say anything in retaliation.  He set his jaw and gave a little nod, as if to acknowledge my last sentence.  Then he rose to his feet and quietly left.   

As I watched his form disappear over the edge of the shelf, a sinking feeling hit the pit of my stomach...or what would have been the pit of my stomach if I actually had one.  What had I done?  I'd insulted one of my best friends.  With a huge audience, no less, I reminded myself in horror as I became aware of my surroundings again.  What must all of the dolls and animals on the shelf think of me?  More importantly, what would Robby think of me?  I was sure I'd lost a friend...forever.  And it was all my fault.


Anonymous said...

I love the last photo, it really shows your emotion! Like you can change expressions being plastic! Awesome!

Spicemuffin said...

Awwww, it's okay Belle. I'm sure things will work out between all of you! :)


beast'sbelle said...

Thanks for commenting, Anonymous and Nahji. :) I have another post up, and more to come!