Well, so much for my clever plan to blog more frequently in these last few months! I'm sorry if I've disappointed you. I promise I'll try to be better!
The good news is that you really didn't miss much. :} Things have been very quiet since we got back from our vacation at the beginning of the month. Beast'sbelle has been scrambling around everywhere with school preparations. Now, even though school has started, she's still been running in all directions. I think she's still getting used to the new schedule. I know that some of the 18 inchers have been feeling rather neglected, but I personally find it a relief to have some time to ourselves without Beast'sbelle supervising our every move. :}
Nothing really exciting happened until yesterday. I suppose "exciting" isn't quite the right word..."embarrassing" is more like it. But I'm getting ahead of the story...
Yesterday, Robby and Eugene agreed to watch all of the children so Rapunzel and I could have some "grown-up" time together without being interrupted every few minutes. ;) It had been ages since we'd had a chance to visit together, so I was very excited! I got my tea set all ready and waited eagerly for the arrival of my best friend.
I didn't have to wait long. I think Rapunzel was just as eager to see me as I was to see her. Maybe she was even more eager...she was the one with four kids! ;)
"Welcome, Madame," I said in my best French accent (which was pretty lousy). "Won't you please have a seat? The tea will be served shortly."
Rapunzel laughed. "But of course," she responded in her own French accent (which was considerably more elegant than my own). She gave a graceful curtsy.
And that pretty much ended our attempts at sophistication. Giggling like school girls, we plopped down in our comfy chairs and I served the tea. We talked about everything from weather to marriage to parenting.
"Do you feel like you've fully adjusted to having four kids?" I asked her after a while.
She gave me a funny little smile. "I think so. It's definitely gotten easier than it was at first. Every day brings a new surprise or set of challenges...but I wouldn't trade my children for anything!"
I was glad to hear that Rapunzel was happy with their decision to expand their family. I had worried that she might have been taking on more than she was ready for. I guess I needed to stop underestimating her capabilities. :}
"And what about you and Robby?" she asked. "Do you think you'll ever add to your family?"
I looked down at my teacup. "Um...we haven't really discussed it," I said hesitantly. "I think I might enjoy having one more child someday. It would be good for Emilie to have a sibling so she could learn about sharing and such." I looked off into the distance. "I've noticed how sweet Eugene is with Thomas and I've wondered if Robby has any desire for a son of his own. But I'm almost scared to ask him. I don't want him to think that I'm ready right at this moment..."
Rapunzel patted my hand reassuringly. "I'm sure he would be understanding. It might be good for you to get it out in the open, though. Then you won't have to keep sitting there wondering what he thinks."
I gave a sheepish little laugh. "I know," I admitted. "You'd think I'd have learned some of this after a year of marriage."
"None of us are perfect," Rapunzel said with a wink.
"I've missed this so much!" I blurted out suddenly. "Just sitting and talking with you like this...it feels like it's been forever!"
"I have, too," Rapunzel agreed. "Our lives were much less complicated before marriage and kids. I wouldn't change a thing, though...except for a few more chances to chat with you, of course."
By this time, I'd finished my tea, so I got up to refill my cup. I happened to glance up...and what I saw made me do a double take. I froze in my place.
"Rapunzel," I whispered. "You won't believe this!"
Off in the distance, on top of the white shelf, I saw Ben...with a Belle doll. And they looked quite comfortable with each other...comfortable as in cuddly. Well, at least it seemed that way. It was too far for me to be sure.
"What is it, Belle?" my friend asked, looking at me as if I'd lost my mind.
I shushed her and signaled for her to follow me.
We crept over to the end of the room, and I leaned against the white shelf, trying to get a closer look.
It was still hard to see clearly, but they looked like they were in earnest conversation.
"Belle," Rapunzel started in her normal voice.
I quickly put a finger to my lips.
"What are we doing?" she whispered. "And why are we whispering?"
"It's Ben and a Belle doll I don't recognize," I whispered excitedly. "I'm trying to see what's going on. I think I'll climb up on the dresser to get a better view."
"Are you sure that's a good idea?" Rapunzel asked.
I didn't pay attention. I was too busy climbing. "Oh, they're definitely holding hands," I shared, finding it difficult to keep my voice down in my excitement. Had Ben finally found someone he was interested in? But who was she? I remembered seeing him with someone a while back, but I couldn't tell if it was the same doll. If I could just get a little closer...
"I really think you should get down now," Rapunzel urged from behind me.
"Just a minute," I said softly. "I'm just going to change my footing a bit..."
I never got to finish my sentence. The moment I moved my foot, I felt myself losing my balance.
The world was suddenly in slow motion as I fell back through empty air. I vaguely heard Rapunzel gasping from behind me.
Then there was a horrible clatter, and the next thing I knew, I was sprawled out on top of Rapunzel. My coffee table was overturned and the tea set was strewn all over the floor next to us.
"Oof," Rapunzel groaned from underneath me. "I don't think this was your best idea."
I sat up as quickly as I could, my embarrassment setting in now that I'd gotten over the shock of what had happened. Rapunzel grabbed one of the coffee table legs and pulled herself up.
"So," she said with a grin, "that went well."
"Um, yeah...not the smartest thing I've ever done," I said quickly, wishing I could sink into the floor and disappear. At least I knew that Rapunzel was too nice to go on and on about it. I turned and looked at her. "Please don't tell Robby," I begged. "You know how he is about matchmaking."
"I know how you are about matchmaking. I'm surprised you actually let yourself do that."
I groaned. "Please, I'm embarrassed enough already."
Rapunzel gave me a gentle smile. "I won't say anything more. Just one request."
"What's that?" I asked.
"Could you please get off of my legs?"
"Oh!" I exclaimed, my cheeks flaming. "I'm so sorry!" I jumped up to my feet.
Rapunzel rubbed her legs. "It's okay." She looked over at her braid. "It's going to take me a while to get my hair untangled from this coffee table leg." She slid into the nearest chair and started unwinding her hair, strand by strand.
I put the coffee table back in its place and started picking up the tea set. Thankfully, we'd finished our tea and amazingly, most of the tea had stayed in the teapot. The tea that had spilled didn't even show (thank goodness for dark brown floors!).
Rapunzel had just come around to help me pick things up when I heard a familiar voice behind me.
"Is everything okay up here?" Robby asked, concern in his voice. "We heard a really big crash."
Oh, perfect, I thought. I wonder who else heard us? I forced a smile onto my features. "We're fine," I assured him. "I just accidentally knocked over the coffee table."
I was a horrible liar. Robby didn't say anything, but I could tell he thought there was more to the story. Thankfully he didn't press me for the truth.
Rapunzel and I busied ourselves with cleaning up the table. I hoped that Robby would be convinced that we were okay and go back to watching the kiddos.
But I wasn't so lucky; my humiliation was far from over. Yet another familiar voice suddenly came from above us.
"Is everything all right down here? There was a horrible noise. I thought someone might need medical assistance."
Of course he heard too. How could I have been foolish enough to think that Ben wouldn't hear us falling? I was amazed that Beast'sbelle wasn't coming in to check on us from the living room.
"Um, thanks, but we're fine. Just a little altercation with the coffee table," I said, giving him what I hoped looked like an innocent smile. Oh, please just let me fall off the face of the earth right now!
I must have convinced him, because with a curt little nod, he left us to finish our cleanup.
"Well, I suppose if Ben's given you the okay, there's nothing I should worry about," Robby said, his eyes twinkling. "I should get back down there and make sure Eugene's surviving with all the kids."
We laughed at his little joke and waved as he turned and began his slow descent down the shelf.
When we were finally alone again, I sunk into one of the chairs and rubbed my head with one hand. "Oh dear, what have I gotten myself into? I've never been so embarrassed in my life."
"It's not that bad, Belle," Rapunzel assured me.
I sighed. "I'm going to have to tell Robby."
"I'm sure he'll be understanding."
"He'll probably find it amusing," I said with annoyance.
"Better than being angry," Rapunzel pointed out.
I had to admit she was right. It was just going to be so mortifying admitting what had really happened. Robby was always very patient, but sometimes that made my "confessions" even worse.
"Well, I should probably get going," Rapunzel said reluctantly. Then she winked. "I suppose we've gotten into enough trouble for one day."
My friend gave me a hug. "I'll try to get a chance to talk to Ben and see if I can figure out the scoop," she told me with a sneaky little grin.
I laughed. "You're as bad as I am...admit it!"
Rapunzel put on an innocent face. "There's nothing wrong with a little friendly chat with a neighbor." And with a final wave, she disappeared over the edge of our curio home.
I sat in my spot after she left, dreading the fact that I'd have to come clean about my idiocy to Robby, yet fighting the temptation to climb back on the dresser to get another look at Ben's lady friend. :}
As silly as I was, at the heart of everything was an honest desire to see Ben happy. Perhaps this new Belle was the one who would allow him to finally move past Marguerite. But who was she? When did they meet? And what on earth changed in Ben to make him suddenly open to, if nothing else, an extremely close friendship? I couldn't wait to find out!