The days crawled by, and still there was no word from either Beast'sbelle or Faith. I was beginning to wonder if we'd ever have an answer!
Robby was his usual calm, rational self, assuring me to be patient, but I could see in his eyes that he was anxious about the whole situation too, even though he tried to hide it and be the strong one in the scenario. ;)
Then, last night, just when I was about to climb down the curio and find Beast'sbelle myself, Robby gripped my hand. He was looking at the end of the curio. Slowly, I turned, feeling lightheaded.
Faith was there, and she had Emilie with her!
Emilie looked ready to burst with excitement. She was still holding Posy close to her. The instant I saw the look on her face, I knew that she was ours.
It was suddenly hard to breathe. Robby and I stood up, and I spread my arms out. Emilie came running.
I've never been more thankful to hold a child in my arms than I was at that moment. Emilie clung to me like she'd never let go again.
Honestly, I can't even remember what we said. It was one of those moments where the words themselves weren't important...but the emotion of that moment still takes my breath away. To have a child returned to you is an indescribable thing.
After a while, Robby led Emilie over to Eugene, Rapunzel, and the babies so she could say hello. I decided to take the opportunity to talk to Faith, who was looking pretty weepy.
I approached her timidly, picking up Emilie's rabbit that she'd dropped. "Faith, thank you so much for being willing to do this," I told her sincerely.
She nodded, desperately trying to look brave and stoic. "It was the right thing to do," she responded, sounding as if she was trying to remind herself of the fact. She clasped her hands together and gave me a wobbly smile. "Mrs...that is...Beast'sbelle has already found us another daughter. She should be here within a few days."
"I'm so glad!" I told her, relieved that Beast'sbelle was stepping up to the plate and trying to fix her mistake.
"Beast'sbelle handled the whole situation, by the way," Faith informed me. "She did everything very tastefully and didn't make Emilie feel pressured either way."
"Good to hear," I said, still trying to work through my bitterness over Beast'sbelle's hand in the whole situation.
Faith must have read something in my tone. "Belle, I really wish you would talk to her. If you just listened to her side of things, I'm sure it would help."
"Well," I said reluctantly, "I suppose I could...sometime." I was beginning to feel a little guilty about everything and how long I'd carried this grudge in my little plastic heart. But it was uncomfortable to think about that now.
"I want you to know," I said to Faith, changing the subject, "that you and your family are welcome to come visit us anytime."
Faith's eyes were wet. "Thank you, Belle, that means a lot." She gave me an impulsive hug.
When we pulled away, she wiped her eyes and straightened her hair. "I should go," she said. "Will and Beth are waiting for me."
"We'd love to meet them sometime, too," I encouraged her.
Faith smiled. "You will. I'll see you later, Belle."
I stayed just long enough to watch her disappear over the edge of the curio, but before I could turn and go back to my family, another head popped over the edge.
"Isabella!" I cried happily. "It's been ages since I've seen you!"
My fashionable friend gave me a sweet smile. "Forgive me, Belle. It's been a bit difficult to leave the doll shelf."
I loved the way Isabella's words rolled off her tongue so gracefully. I found myself once again wishing that I had a cool French accent like hers.
My friend's eyes suddenly sparkled with approval. "What is this?" she cried excitedly. "You are wearing a new gown, no? C'est magnifique!!"
I blushed as she prompted me to spread my arms and turn for her.
"Blue is a lovely color for you," she said warmly. "And the pink brings out the lovely blush of your skin tone."
I didn't like all of the attention. "You look great too, as always," I told her quickly.
Isabella looked downcast. "I would look much better if I was not wearing the same style I've been wearing for the past 2 months! I have not had access to my extra accessories for so long. It is so disappointing to have nearly 100 fashion options available and to not be able to get to them!"
I tried to hide a smile at this "tragedy". I knew how important fashion and variety were to my friend.
"But enough of that!" Isabella told herself impatiently. "I had heard that little Emilie was returned to you, and I wanted to offer my congratulations!"
I was surprised. "How did you know about Emilie and all that, Isabella? I never even had a chance to tell you!"
Isabella looked sympathetic. "Rapunzel kept me informed. And when I saw Faith go by, I asked her about the outcome."
I was surprised at Isabella's forwardness, but barely had time to think about this information when my friend continued. "I also came to tell you that...I'm leaving. At least, I was supposed to be leaving. Now I'm not so sure."
"What do you mean?" I asked her, alarmed at this sudden announcement.
She sighed. "A while ago, I came across Beast'sbelle and noticed that she looked perplexed. I asked her what was wrong, and she informed me that she was going to have to part with some of us. Financial trouble, or something like that. So, I thought about it, and I volunteered to go."
My jaw dropped. "You...you volunteered? But why on earth would you want to leave?"
Isabella gazed off wistfully into the distance. "Belle, I've been here for many years, always confined to my box. It was only a year ago that Beast'sbelle released me from my cardboard prison, and yet I still feel trapped." She gave me a shy, sideways glance. "Things didn't really work out as Beast'sbelle had hoped with Ben."
I swallowed back some angry words. Here again was another example of how Beast'sbelle's meddling had affected others.
"But it goes beyond that," my friend continued. "I want to see the world, Belle. I don't want to stay in the same place all my life. I want to see exciting places, to travel and experience things, not just stay here in a back bedroom. So, when Beast'sbelle presented her dilemma, it seemed like the perfect solution." She looked down at her hands. "The only problem is, no one bid on me...I think that's the way Beast'sbelle explained it. On eBay you must have bids or you stay where you are."
I wasn't sure I felt comfortable with the vulgarity of discussing Isabella's eBay bids...or lack thereof, but I could tell she was disappointed. "So, what happens now?" I asked her.
"Beast'sbelle offered to list me again in her next lot. If someone bids next time, then I will go. If not, I suppose I will stay."
"Isabella," I began delicately. "Are you sure this is such a wise idea? You may just end up on display in another house, or you may end up being a child's toy and losing your accessories and clothing and having messy hair."
Isabella's face betrayed her horror at this thought, but she quickly composed herself, and a determined look came over her features. "It's worth the risk," she stated firmly. "I can't stay here forever."
I almost felt like I should be hurt by this statement, but I knew Isabella meant no offense. I knew what it was like to feel restless and trapped. I just hoped my friend knew what she was doing.
"Well, I wish you the best," I finally told her, giving her a hug.
"Thank you, Belle," she replied, hugging me back. She pulled away and looked into my face worriedly. "I hope you understand."
I nodded. "I do...I'm just in a very different place right now." I thought with pleasure of the prospect of a quiet evening on the curio with my husband...and my daughter. A smile found my lips at the word. I was a mother. The thing I'd worried about and dreaded had come true, and I couldn't be happier.
Isabella seemed to follow my train of thought. She gave me a knowing smile and squeezed my hand before going.
I stood there for a moment, watching her make her way across the room. Life would be different without my fashionable friend. If she got her ticket out of here, I hope she found all that she was looking for.
But my thoughts didn't stay with her for long. My family was waiting for me.
As we sat together that evening, the wonder of it all overwhelmed me. Robby holding my hand, looking at me warmly, then gazing at our daughter with adoration; Emilie clinging to me in her excitement; the joy that bubbled up from somewhere deep inside...this was a night I never wanted to forget, for as long as I lived.