Published: June 10th, 2015
You don’t want to read this book. I’m warning you. This isn’t a heartwarming, boy-meets-girl, high school romance. I wish it were—God, do I ever. No, if you read this, you’re going to be angry… with me, mostly. You’ll probably yell at me, if you’re the type of person who yells at books. You’ll tell me not to be so stupid, but I won’t listen. I’ll be exactly as stupid as I need to be to destroy everything I love because that’s who I am: a walking, talking tragedy. That’s who I’ve always been. But if you’re determined to read on despite my warning, I may as well introduce myself. My name is Claude Frollo, I’m nineteen going on ninety, and this is my story. It isn’t pretty, but it’s honest. And it’s the only story I have left to tell.
Many thanks to Jodi for sending us an excerpt from her book Chemistry, which she says is "a modern, YA re-imagining of Victor Hugo's The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, told entirely from the perspective of the antagonist, Claude Frollo. It's a story about cruelty, obsession, and the star-crossed passions of two terrifically misguided people. It is a very faithful retelling, despite its high school setting."
I spend my nights in the sanctuary. Esmeralda’s shadow playing on the dome above is something I wouldn’t miss for my own eternal salvation. She can’t know how much she tortures me. Her silhouette is powerful. My own imagination could not supply a better dream than this. The way her whole body seems to cover me, envelope me in the darkness. I’ve never felt so warm in all my life.
Valentine secluded himself the moment he discovered that Esmeralda, rather than comprehend the message he meant to send her, had taken the white roses from the crystal vase and hung them upside-down to dry right beside her pillow. The sunflowers, she ignored completely. I was there when he noticed it, and I saw all the hope drain from him, just as all the water had drained from that crystal vase. “So that’s it,” he signed without looking at me. “That’s all it really takes; you just have to be beautiful.” Then he hung his head and muttered, “I wish I were made of stone like you.” At first, I looked around to see which of the carved saints he might have been speaking to, but now, I believe he was speaking to me. He was lashing out at the nearest beating heart. And who am I to judge him? I more than deserve it.
Even now, I lie back on a pew in the holy sanctuary, surrounded by saints and the Virgin Mother, but all I see is that dancing shadow above me, pulling her shirt up over her head, brushing out her hair, readying herself for bed. She hums a song I don’t know, happy, oblivious to the devil that watches her from hell.
By the time she finally switches off her little light, by the time my only window to her world is closed, I am writhing on that cold, hard pew. I burn from the inside. My own heart deafens me. And my eyes are clouded with the smoky images of Esmeralda dancing in orange and red, Esmeralda enflamed by Phoebus’ touch, Esmeralda bound and gagged in the greenhouse.
I recall, trembling, the kiss I gave her while she lay half-conscious under Phoebus’ spell. How warm it was. How unbelievably soft and warm. And the taste of her. I can’t even describe it. I would never have guessed the most haunting part of my first kiss would be the taste. It’s unlike anything else. The flavor of excitement. The thrill of fear and promise. I’m still drunk on it.
With a shudder, I realize that no matter how fate pits us against each other, no matter how bound we are to destroy each other, I am determined to have one more taste of Esmeralda.
About the Author:
Jodi Lamm is the author of the Titan Magic trilogy and a little novel called Chemistry. She was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, where she currently lives with The Other Lamm, two furry creatures, a parrot/evil overlord, and a variety of musical instruments. She writes for the love of storytelling. She’s addicted to fantasy, ghost stories, and anything with just the right amount of eerie romance.