But I'm getting ahead of myself. I need to get you all caught up first! :}
Robby continued his slow recovery process throughout the month of December. By earlier this week, he had gotten strong enough to make it all the way down the hallway with assistance.
At this point, he still has Eugene, Ben or I to help him walk for long distances, but he can manage short distances by himself. As Ben predicted, he has a pretty bad limp. I don't mind it, though. I've been so proud of the way he's persevered. He's had his good days and bad days, but he hasn't given up.
Earlier this week, I decided that I wanted to do something special for Robby for Christmas. By the middle of the week, Beast'sbelle and her family had already left to spend Christmas elsewhere, so all I had to do was coordinate things with the other dolls in the house. I decided that Christmas Eve would be the best time for my plan.
I waited impatiently for Christmas Eve to arrive. When Eugene made an offhand comment about spending Christmas Eve all together, Rapunzel must have noticed my panicked expression, because she reminded Eugene that it would be good for them to spend Christmas Eve with their daughters. He looked a bit confused at her urgent tone, but went along with it. Thankfully, Robby didn't seem to notice anything was afoot.
At long last, the big night came. I dressed in my fanciest dress and went over to see Robby. He had decided to stay on Beast'sbelle's bed while they were gone. Tess needed her bed for her friends and family that had come over, and it was still too difficult for Robby to get down from any of the high shelves without a human in the house. Beast'sbelle had very graciously set up a small pile of boxes right next to the bed so he could get down without human assistance.
"Merry Christmas Eve, Robby," I said cheerfully.
He looked up in surprise. I didn't miss the look of admiration in his eyes. "Merry Christmas Eve to you, too," he said pleasantly.
His smile faded. "What, is this an extra assignment from Ben or something?"
I blushed. "No, not at all! I just thought it might be fun to go see the big Christmas tree in the living room."
"The Christmas tree? Wow, so we're going for marathon length tonight," he said teasingly.
I was disappointed. "If you're not up to it, then..."
"Belle, it's okay...I'm just teasing," he said gently.
"I wouldn't mind, but we may have to take it in stages. I haven't walked that far yet."
I beamed. "That's what will make it so special. It'll be a milestone for you."
He eyed me suspiciously. "Are you okay? You seem kind of flushed."
I tried to keep my face calm. "I'm fine," I said casually. "Are you ready?"
Robby looked amused. "What, right this minute?"
"Why not?" I asked with a grin.
It was a long walk to the living room. I couldn't help but compare it to some of our other rambles together. Several times, we had to stop and let Robby rest his leg. Even with all of the breaks, he still had to lean on me for the last half of the trek across the living room.
I helped him sit since we'd been walking for so long (he didn't seem to object) and backed away. "You made it!" I told him proudly.
"You can lay down for a bit, if you want. I know Ben said that's a better way for you to rest your joint than a sitting position."
Robby wrinkled his nose. "I hate having to lay down all the time...it makes me feel old." Despite his joking, his face looked unnaturally pale and I could see he was favoring his bad leg. Without any further complaints, he lowered himself onto his back and let out a sigh.
I sat down near his head and looked up at the tree. "Isn't it beautiful?" I said happily.
We sat in comfortable silence for a while. The lights twinkled merrily. In the stillness of the quiet house, we could hear the 18" dolls singing Christmas carols around their little tree. That was a switch! Normally it was all of the Belle dolls doing the singing (and Maggie was usually complaining about it). I could just make out the faint strains of "What Child is This?"
I nodded in agreement. "So do I." I realized I needed to say what I'd planned on saying. I cleared my throat nervously. "I know I already apologized a while back, but...I just wanted to make sure you knew how sorry I was about our argument. I know you were just trying to look out for me. I shouldn't have said what I said."
Robby let out a deep sigh. "I'm sorry for interfering, Belle." He looked up at me. "I honestly hope things work out with you and Ben. I'm afraid I was being a bit selfish with some of my advice. I was thinking more of my own feelings than yours. Ben's a good guy, and I'm sure he'll come around soon and see what a find you are." He tried to smile, but it ended up looking more like a grimace.
I wanted to tell him right there. I love you! But my mouth wouldn't form the words. I looked down at my hands. "Ben is a great guy," I agreed, "but I've recently come to realize that he's not someone I want to spend the rest of my life with."
Finally, Robby broke the silence. "The truth is..." he paused and fingered the end of his cravat. "The truth is that I've loved you almost since the moment I first laid eyes on you."
I blinked in surprise at this confession.
I covered my mouth with my hand to keep from crying in happiness.
"Now, though," Robby continued, "I'm so thankful you have someone like Ben, someone you could have a real future with. What do I have to offer you now? I wasn't much to begin with, and now I'm even less than I was." He slowly pushed himself up into a sitting position in his restlessness.
I couldn't take it anymore. "Robby," I said in a voice choked with tears.
He reluctantly turned to face me.
"I'm not interested in Ben. I..." I took a moment to compose myself and collect my thoughts. "When Beast'belle brought you home that day, I was terrified. I thought you might not make it, and...I started thinking about what life would be like without you." My tears spilled onto my cheeks. "I couldn't bear the thought."
Robby took a deep, shuddering breath. "Belle, I have nothing. I'll most likely need some form of help for the rest of my life. I have no way to provide for you." He stopped and hesitantly took my hand in his own. "But...if you think you could grow to love me, I'd do everything I could to try to take care of you and cherish you for the rest of our lives."
I started crying in earnest, tears of relief and happiness that I'd been holding in for I don't know how long. "I do love you, Robby," I managed to get out.
I'll never forget the look of joy that crossed his features. He tenderly stroked my face with his hand. His eyes were warm and loving. "You just gave me the best Christmas gift I could ever have," he whispered.
Now it's Christmas morning, and it feels like it was just a dream. I know it all happened, though, because when I look down at Beast'sbelle's bed, I can see Robby gazing up at me with an undisguised look of adoration. I've never been so happy!
I really should go...we have so much to discuss and plan! I'll be sure to keep all of you posted. In the meantime, Merry Christmas! I hope you all have a holiday filled with just as much joy as mine! :D