For days I agonized over my mistake. I hadn't meant to hurt Robby...I was just so tired of hearing his advice 24-7. I suppose he meant well, but still...
I knew I was in the wrong, and I knew that meant I should be the first one to apologize. But I was so ashamed of what I'd done, it was easier to avoid the whole situation. The fact that Robby very pointedly avoided me made my decision even easier. He was apparently taking my words quite literally and leaving me alone. I hadn't seen him for more than 5 minutes since our argument, and it had been over a week. He wasn't even coming to the shelf at night. I had no clue where he was staying. During the day, he took long trips outside, even though the weather was turning colder.
There were so many times I told myself that today was the day. Today I would apologize. But no matter how hard I tried, I always seemed to lose my nerve.
December 1st rolled around. Everyone was getting excited for Christmas. The 18 inch dolls had decorated their rooms and were wearing their fancy dresses. Beast'sbelle and her family had put up their tree in the living room. Yet despite all of this, I couldn't join in on the excitement. I felt cold and alone. Robby and I were not on speaking terms, and Rapunzel and Eugene had been extremely busy with Abigail and Emmaline. I wasn't sure about Ben...I hadn't seen much of him since our awkward conversation.
I finally decided that I would go and visit Rapunzel. I hadn't told her anything about my argument with Robby. Maybe talking through it with her would help me make sense of it all.
I found my friend sitting in her regular spot on top of the curio. Eugene was nowhere to be seen. Abigail was happily cooing in her crib box, while Emmaline was sitting contentedly in Rapunzel's lap. To my amazement, she was laughing and smiling. As I got closer, I saw the reason. Rapunzel had Pascal sitting next to Emmaline, and the baby was obviously fascinated by the chameleon.
"Well, this is a welcome change!" I said, referring to Emmaline.
Rapunzel smiled. "It's been wonderful!" she agreed. "I was playing with Pascal the other day, and Emmaline was enamored with him! She stopped crying and just sat there watching him. Pascal's been really sweet with her, too. As long as I keep him with us, Emmaline is perfectly content."
"I'm so glad!" I told her.
"Thanks," Rapunzel replied. She eyed me carefully. "But I don't think you came here just to talk about Emmaline and Pascal."
I looked down at my hands and shook my head. "No...no, I didn't."
Rapunzel patted the spot next to her. "Want to come talk about whatever it is?"
I walked over, carefully scooped Baby Abigail out of her bed, set the bed down on the curio, and sat next to my friend. Abigail cooed and looked up at me happily. I couldn't help but smile at her sweet little face.
"So, what's going on?" Rapunzel asked. I loved the way she genuinely cared about what was happening in my life. I think every girl needs a friend like that.
I related everything that had happened with Ben and Robby, blushing as I spoke. It was hard to admit what I'd done.
Rapunzel listened to it all without interrupting. When I'd finished, she gave me a sympathetic hug. "I'm sorry you've had such a rough week. I wish you'd come and talked about it sooner!"
I shrugged. "I thought about it, but I didn't want to bother you."
"Belle, you should know better than that by now! You're never a bother! Especially after all you've done for me."
I smiled. "Thanks."
"You're welcome," she replied.
We were quiet for a while, but I noticed that Rapunzel looked thoughtful.
"You know," she began slowly, "I've been giving you and Ben and Robby a lot of thought."
"You have?" I asked in surprise.
"Yes," Rapunzel nodded. "Now listen, just stop me if I'm overstepping my bounds, okay?"
Rapunzel took a deep breath and continued. "You've been head over heels for Ben for a long time now. What is it about him that makes you attracted to him?"
I thought for a moment. "Well, besides the fact that I feel all warm and happy inside whenever he's around..."
"...I suppose because he's handsome, intelligent, accomplished and caring. At least, he can be caring. When he's not being moody. Underneath it all, though, I just feel like there's this man I really want to know."
My friend nodded. "Does he ever make you laugh?" she asked, watching me carefully.
I thought over this. "Not exactly..."
"Can you be yourself around him?"
I was feeling flustered. "Sometimes," I said a little defensively.
"Is he your friend?" she asked softly.
"I don't know...I guess in a way, maybe..." I stammered. "Look, what is this all about?"
Rapunzel sighed. "Belle, you know I love you. You're my best friend aside from Eugene. And like a true friend, I'm just trying to be honest."
She seemed to gather her courage before she continued. "You've built up this whole dream world about Ben. I mean, what girl wouldn't? He's handsome, he speaks eloquently, he's got an element of mystery about him, and he's had his heart broken. It's like something out of the pages of a novel. But...there doesn't seem to be any real basis to your feelings aside from your romantic dreams about him."
I looked away to hide the tears that were coming to my eyes. How could she say things like this?
"Do you have anything in common? Are you two compatible at all?"
"I don't know!" I said hopelessly, feeling confused. "I mean, I don't know him well enough yet. It just takes time!"
"Of course," Rapunzel agreed, "and I'm so thankful you're taking that time. I just feel like...well..." she paused a moment, then straightened her shoulders and continued. "I feel like you're chasing after this elusive dream guy when...when you have a really great guy just waiting for you to turn around and notice him."
I turned and looked at her. "Robby? But I already told you...we're just friends! I don't feel anything but friendship for him!"
"The best love is based on friendship," Rapunzel said gently. "And here's a guy who would pretty much do anything for you. Remember all those times he was there for you this summer, and all of those rambling trips out to the backyard? And he cares about you so much, he was willing to be honest with you about his concerns, even if it meant hurting your feelings for a while."
Rapunzel looked away. "I...I think he had some valid concerns, Belle. You're hoping so desperately for something to happen with Ben, that I think you'd do just about anything to get him to notice you, even if it meant changing who you were altogether. That's...not really a good place to be."
I could feel my tears escaping. Somewhere deep down, I knew what my friend was saying had some truth to it, but it was so painful to hear that I didn't want to think about it. I stood up and placed Baby Abigail's cradle back on the jewelry box.
"I should probably go," I said, willing my voice to stay steady. I gently placed Abigail in her crib. "Thanks for talking, Rapunzel."
"Belle..." Rapunzel began, "I'm only trying to help."
I nodded. "I know," I said quickly, turning so I could wipe my eyes without being detected.
At that moment, Eugene climbed over the edge of the curio. He took in the scene. "Everything okay?" he asked casually, although his eyes betrayed the concern he felt.
We both nodded silently.
"How was your walk?" Rapunzel asked. It sounded like she was holding back tears herself.
"Fine," Eugene said. "I met up with Robby as he was coming back inside."
I blushed and lowered my eyes at the mention of my friend's name. When I looked back up, Eugene was eyeing me compassionately.
"Robby asked about you," he said gently. "I couldn't tell him much because I haven't seen you in a while."
I nodded. "Sorry about that," I said softly.
He smiled. "We've all been busy." He glanced over at Rapunzel. "Is it just about time for Emmaline's nap? I can take over if you two want to go take a walk together."
"Um, thank you..." I interrupted, "but I'm feeling pretty tired. It's been a long week. I'll...talk to you again soon, okay?" I glanced at Rapunzel just long enough to see her sad expression. Great, now I had more guilt to deal with!
"See you later, Belle," Eugene said quietly. He stepped over next to his wife and put a hand on her shoulder.
I turned and fled from there as fast as I could.
I spent the whole afternoon in turmoil on my shelf. I wished more than anything that I had the whole space to myself. Never had I been more aware of the countless dolls and stuffed animals up there with me.
I thought about everything Rapunzel had said. I thought about my argument with Robby, about the wonderful times we'd spent together this summer and the memories we'd made. I thought about my beloved Ben (only in my thoughts would I dare to address him in such a way!) and how much I longed for him to just give me a chance to show him how much I could love him! Then I thought of his rude behavior during our last conversation.
Could Rapunzel really be right? Was my infatuation with Ben blinding me to a better relationship just waiting for me to acknowledge it? I couldn't imagine feeling about Robby the way I felt about Ben. But then there was the whole "love based on friendship is better" argument. Eugene and Rapunzel certainly had a healthy relationship, so I suppose Rapunzel's advice was not to be taken lightly.
But could I so easily give up all of my hopes and dreams about Ben and settle for less? Robby and I were great friends, but I just couldn't see myself married to the guy. What would marriage to Robby be like? He would definitely take care of me and be there for me. He would probably try to advise me all the time, but really, if I was honest with myself, I had to admit he always did it in a kind manner. It's just...he was just Robby, not some dreamboat.
What about marriage to Ben? I would do anything for him! Would he do anything for me, or would he always think of Marguerite every time he looked in my eyes? What about his random mood swings? Would I learn the reasons behind them and help him through them, or would I spend my entire life guessing when he'd be happy and when he wouldn't be? I might spend half of the time walking on eggshells so as not to offend him. Surely there had to be a logical explanation for the way he treated me the other night, though!
It was all so confusing! I knew that Robby and I had many of the same values and beliefs. Honestly, I wasn't sure where Ben stood on a lot of things. I was willing to take the time to find out, yet I knew that my time was running out with Robby. If he really did love me, as Rapunzel suspected, it would be too painful for him to hang around and watch me with Ben. What would life be like without Robby? I'd never thought about it that way!
By the end of the afternoon, after much thought and after hours of refusing to let myself sing some ridiculous song about my feelings, I was determined to make things right with Robby. I wasn't ready to go running into his arms and confess my love, but I was ready to be friends again. I guess I'd just have to see what happened from there. And I supposed I should apologize to Rapunzel, too. But first things first. It was time to make up with Robby...our silence had gone on long enough, and it was my responsibility to make the first move. I decided that first thing in the morning, I'd get up and try to catch him before he left for his morning outing. I wasn't sure where he was in the house, but I figured if I waited by the side door I'd have to run into him eventually. From there, I'd just take things one day at a time.