“Come on, little sis. It’s time to wake up.”
“Come on, little sis.” Jack shook the three jaar old. “It’s time to wake up.”

The girl blinked at him, sleepily. Jack smiled. He was very fond of his little sister; since their parents had died he had become twice as overprotective of her and rarely let her out of his sight. Thankfully she didn’t seem to mind at that age. “Jack!” she uttered, one of the few words she could speak fluently, sounding happy to see him.

Jack picked her up and carried her out of the room, only to bump into the woman he had seen talking to Clopin and Esmeralda the night before. She was new, as far as he knew. He smiled. “Hey.”

“Hi,” Belle replied, shyly.

“You’re new here, right?”

“Right. My name’s Belle.”

“Well, welcome. My name’s Jack. And this is my sister.”

Belle smiled at the girl. “And what’s your name?”

“Boo!” exclaimed the girl, gleefully.

Jack grinned. “Her name’s actually Mary but she’s so fond of that word it’s sort of become her nickname.”

“Cha!” Boo added, sounding as though she was agreeing, as she butted her head against her brother’s shoulder. Jack chuckled. “She’s not quite at that stage where she can talk properly yet.”

“So I see,” Belle smiled. “So, where are your parents?”

Jack cast his eyes upwards. “Up there. It’s been almost a jaar now.”

“Oh.” Belle nodded, understanding. “My parents are gone too.”

“Do u have any brothers of sisters?”

“No.”

“Wow.” Jack looked surprised. “That must be kind of lonely.”

Belle managed a small smile. “Sometimes.”

“Hey.”

Belle turned to see Pocahontas coming up to them. “Hi.”

“Esme told me what happened; come here.” Pocahontas gave her a hug, which surprised Belle, but she returned it.

“Hey, Poca,” smiled Jack. “See u around, Belle.”

Belle waved and Boo, looking over her brother’s shoulder, returned it.

“How’d u sleep?” Pocahontas asked, extracting herself eventually.

“It took a while for me to drop off,” Belle admitted.

“Well, look, if u ever need to talk to somebody, I’m here,” Pocahontas replied. “Hey, come for breakfast. Tiana’s making pancakes.”

Belle followed Pocahontas to where a large table, like one at a medieval banquet, stood. A couple of other people were already there; Jack and Boo, Esmeralda, the two younger girls, the man who had been entertaining them with some kind of box, the girl in blue and the man who had been eating bread. “Hey, everyone,” zei Pocahontas, “this is Belle. She’s new.”

“Oh, yeah, you’re Clopin’s new friend, right?” The brood man grinned. “I’m Aladdin, but most people call me Al.”

“And I’m Jasmine,” the girl in blue sitting beside him added. “And this is my sister, Shanti.”

“Hi,” zei the girl in the white top, boven and purple skirt.

“Hi,” Belle smiled, sitting down opposite them.

“And I am Facilier,” added the other man. “Dr Facilier, to be precise, and this is my little girl, Lilo.”

“I’m not that little,” Lilo insisted.

Dr Facilier laughed. “Of course you’re not, darlin’!”

“Awrk!” A small red papegaai landed beside on the back of the chair beside Belle’s. “Sheesh, a papegaai could starve to death in this place!”

“Chill, Iago!” zei Aladdin.

“Ok, everyone, grub’s up!” The girl with dark skin, wearing a yellow dress this time, danced over to them, carrying plates. She was followed door the ukulele player, who was also carrying plates. “Hey, where’s Clopin?”

“Probably still in bed,” laughed Esmeralda. “That smells delicious, Tiana!”

“Hey, I helped!” laughed the ukulele player.

“Helped?” Tiana fixed him with a mock stern look. “All u did was drizzle esdoorn-, esdoorn syrup on them, Naveen!”

“Drizzling’s harder than it looks!” he insisted, with a cheeky grin.

Belle smiled as Tiana placed a plate in front of her. “Thank u very much.”

“Oh!” Tiana smiled. “See, guys, this gal’s got manners!”

“We have manners too,” Aladdin insisted. “We’re just choosy with them.”

Belle smiled and as everyone began to tuck into their breakfast, she did the same. “This is delicious.”

“Thank you...”

“Belle.”

“Thank you, Belle. It’s my own special recipe.”

Clopin entered the room at that moment. “Hey, is everyone starting without me?”

“Well, if you’d turn up on time,” Tiana teased, thrusting a plate at him.

Clopin smiled and then sat down volgende to Belle. “You alright?” he asked her, quietly.

Belle wanted to be able to tell him that she was much better now; that last night had been the best sleep she had ever had; that she loved being that close to him, and that she felt so veilig with him and his friends. But she didn’t want to say such a personal thing in front of everyone else, so she simply smiled and replied “Yes, I’m fine now, thank you.”

“See?” Tiana swatted at Aladdin. “Manners don’t cost anything.”

“Hey, what are u picking on me for?” Aladdin protested. “I told u I have manners!”

jasmijn laughed. Belle looked at Tiana. “Sorry, I seem to have been saying “Thank You” a lot recently. It’s just the way I was brought up.”

“There’s nothing wrong with that; it’s a nice change.” Tiana grinned.

“So, Belle,” added Dr Facilier, “what’s your talent?”

“My talent?”

“Oh, everyone has a talent. Magic, puppetry, singing, dancing...”

“Voodoo,” Lilo piped up.

“Music,” added Naveen.

“Oh.” Belle thought about it. “I don’t really have one...apart from reading, maybe. I read a lot.”

“Yeah?” Jack looked up from mopping his sister’s face. “That’s cool.”

“Ever read any boeken on voodoo?” piped up Lilo.

“Oh, u and voodoo, you’re obsessed,” sighed Shanti.

Belle smiled. “I think I read a book about a witch doctor once, a long time ago.”

As the meal progressed, Belle slowly began to learn meer about her new companions. jasmijn and Shanti had been kidnapped from their homeland and sold as slaves, like Pocahontas, except they had been slaves to an Egyptian king, and had run away to escape his abusive ways. Aladdin was from the same country as jasmijn and Shanti; he was a straat rat who had gone on the run after he had gotten into major trouble with the Sultan. Dr Facilier had been a legitimate straat performer who had lost his wife Chel, when Lilo was four, to an illness. After that he had got into trouble when a man tried to sue him when a trick went wrong; so he and Lilo had gone on the run and wound up in Paris. Tiana and Naveen were of gypsy blood, as was Esmeralda. Iago, it transpired, was Clopin’s pet, although he insisted he wasn’t a “pet”; he had been rescued from an illegal bazaar door Clopin some time back. Jack and Boo had stumbled upon the Court of Miracles one night when they had been looking for a place to sleep and Clopin and the others had taken pity on them and allowed them to stay. Belle realised that she had been a little like that; in fact, in a way, they all were; a band of misfits who had wound up in the same place and yet...they were a kind of family. She missed that feeling. In fact, for the first time in years, she felt like she was at home.

She wasn’t entirely sure that she believed in God anymore, not when he kept allowing so many bad things to happen, but even so, she prayed that Frollo would never find the Court of Miracles. She had already lost one family, after all; she didn’t want to lose another one.

With breakfast over, everyone quickly set about doing other things. Esmeralda and Pocahontas went out with Aladdin and Jasmine, to earn their way. Jack went with them, leaving Boo with Shanti and Lilo, under the watchful eyes of Facilier and Clopin. Tiana and Naveen cleared the tafel, tabel and went to wash up. Clopin was avoiding town for a while until the fuss of his escape died down.

“Oh, do a puppet toon for us!” Shanti begged. “Please?”

“Yeah,” drawled Iago, lying on his back, very full of food. “Do that one where u argue with yourself!”

Lilo grabbed Belle’s hand and pulled her down onto a cushion in front of the puppet theatre. “It’s really funny. You’ll fall on the floor laughing.”

Belle smiled. “I’ll bet.”

“Alright, alright.” Clopin picked up his puppets and went into the theatre. “Listen to the bells of Notre Dame, children,” he said, and then a sound like the very bells that Belle knew so well arose from behind the theatre. Clopin popped up. “They’re beautiful, no? So many colours of sound, so many changing moods. But u know, they don’t ring all door themselves.” He made his puppet self talk. “They don’t? No, u silly boy. What is it that makes them ring? What? Who is responsible for it? Who? How do they do it? How? Hush! Aw!” Alternating from his voice to the puppet’s and telling the puppet off caused everyone to laugh and he made a little bow. “No, of course, it is not magic of trickery; they have a bellringer.” And then, improvising, he added, “And I think I can get someone in the audience to bevestig this for us, can’t we?” The puppet nodded. “Oh, yes,” it squeaked, “today we have someone here who was actually been inside Notre Dame.” He beckoned to Belle with his head. “If the Madamoiselle would just step this way...”

“Oh, no, I don’t think,” Belle began.

“Oh, please?” the puppet begged, sounding mournful.

“Yeah, go on, Belle,” Shanti said, giving her a nudge. “It’ll be fun.”

“Cha!” nodded Boo, sitting between Facilier’s legs.

Belle got to her feet and Clopin held open the side of the theatre for her. “Just play along,” he muttered, “It’ll be fine, I promise.”

“But I’ve never acted before,” Belle muttered back.

“It doesn’t matter. Just be yourself.”Clopin held up his puppet. “Madamoiselle,” it squeaked, “you can bevestig that it is not magic that makes those bells ring, is it?”

Belle couldn’t help smiling. “No, it’s a team of priests who rings the bells every morning and evening. They’re very nice people.”

“Oh! I was hoping it might be magic!” The puppet looked sad and Belle patted it on its tiny head. “Do u believe in magic, Madamoiselle?”

Belle smiled. “Yes, I believe in all kinds of magic.”

“Oh, she is very nice, isn’t she, Clopin?” the puppet teased.

“Hush up,” Clopin reprimanded it.

“Dang!”

The children and even Facilier laughed. Belle decided to play along. “Well, thank u very much,” she zei to the puppet.

“Oh, she is very beautiful too!” the puppet agreed.

“Me?” Belle teased, pretending to be flattered.

“I zei hush!” Clopin said, tapping the puppet on the head with a small stick.

“Aw!”

“Well, I think you’re very sweet,” Belle replied to the puppet, and then she gave it a little kiss on the cheek. Clopin made the puppet swoon right off his hand and onto the floor. “Oh, Madamoiselle!” he said, pretending to be cross. “Now look, my assistant has fainted!”

Belle laughed. “Would that happen if I kissed u too, Clopin?”

Clopin blushed. “It just might. Now, I think u had better leave, shoo, shoo. Go on, before u have everyone in the theatre fainting.”

Belle laughed and left the theatre. Clopin winked at her as she left, and she returned it this time. It was, after all, all to entertain the children...although she did wonder if Clopin would faint if she tried to kiss him.

“I am Facilier, Dr Facilier, to be precise, and this is my little girl, Lilo.”
“See, guys, this gal’s got manners!”
“Would that happen if I kissed u too, Clopin?”