|Our Little Lives
Author: Concetta PM
Two lives converge beyond the barricade.Rated: Fiction T - English - Drama/Romance - Enjolras & Eponine - Chapters: 43 - Words: 73,804 - Reviews: 1,149 - Favs: 549 - Follows: 889 - Updated: 05-12-13 - Published: 08-04-12 - id: 8394736
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
A Broken Dam
Sweat dripped down the brow creased with concern of Jean-Baptiste Joly. Enjolras' startling bout of delirium had re-opened five of his eight wounds. As little as his friend surprised him anymore, Joly was still shocked by the almost inhuman burst of strength that had come from his comrade in that strange moment. An ordinary man in Enjolras' condition would not have been able to sit up, much less stand.
Joly bent over his friend, applying boracic lint, silver nitrate, and cleansing suppuration until dawn lit up the sky.
. . . . . .
Only an hour into her sleep Éponine woke up and could not return to it. She was still in the day dress and sweat had made it stick to her uncomfortably. Éponine crawled out of the bed and undid the buttons down her back, much to the painful protest of her injured shoulder. She tried to be as careful as possible, knowing Joly would not appreciate a re-opening of wounds.
Once she freed herself of the garment she climbed back into the bed, now dressed only in the chemise and petticoat. But, still she could not get back to sleep. Somehow, Éponine knew what was wrong. She pulled the coverlet from the bed, set it on the floor near the window and lay down, falling back to sleep almost immediately. Such behavior has been observed in dogs that were formerly in a pound and had been taken in by benevolent people. The dog, offered a soft couch to sleep on is satisfied to sit and enjoy it for a while, but finds that it is so accustomed to the hard stone surface of the kennel it lately left, it is not comfortable any where else just yet.
This is what unconsciously happened to Éponine, who was accustomed to sleeping on a thin pallet or the pavement.
. . . . . .
The next morning Éponine was rudely awakened by a woman's shrieking voice followed by a light blow to her side. Éponine opened her eyes to see a livid willowy woman towering over her.
"How in the world did a gamine get in here?! Out! Out, urchin!" With each exclamation of "out" Joséphine hit Éponine with a broom, which she was brandishing, tightly held between her work-roughened hands.
Éponine, with all the dexterity she could muster, scrambled to her feet. She tried to get an explanation out, but was chased from the room then pursued down the stairs by Joséphine, who, in her rage, with wisps of red hair flying from under her cap, she resembled an indignant Furie of Roman mythology. It was ironic to Éponine that she, who could foil her father and stare down the Patron-Minette, was no match for Joséphine.
"I was invited!" Éponine managed to shout out as she stumbled through the foyer.
That only served to throw Joséphine into an even greater frenzy. The woman gave a loud gasp.
"Master Joly would never entertain a prostitute!"
Éponine caught a glimpse of herself in the foyer mirror as she rushed through. Despite her clean skin, in being dressed in only the chemise and petticoat she very much resembled the gamine of the Gorbeau house. She was still considerably thin and wan, a condition not helped by her convalescence.
"Out!" Joséphine gave one more cry and yanking open the front door, forced her out on the front step, and then slammed the door in her face.
Éponine perhaps would have fought a little harder to remain inside the townhouse if she felt she had had a right to be there. She had stayed in order to heal and to learn of Marius' fate. But . . . maybe it was just as well she was chased out. Éponine touched her bandaged shoulder. It ached, but did not appear to be bleeding. She shrugged and stepped out into the street. Her feet were bare.
. . . . . .
Éponine ambled about the Quai d'Anjou, slowly eating the baguette slice that she had managed to swipe during her flight from the house. The bread had been on a tray in her room, obviously meant for "the guest" which Joséphine had not believed her to be.
Éponine did not wander far from the house, but instead walked down the steps led from the street to the walkway by the river. There she came across a stone bench and sat for an hour and a half, ruminating on what she should do next.
Her mind wandered easily to Marius. A tear of anguish and frustration soon slid down her cheek. How unfair of God! When she had finally gained Marius, he was snatched away.
"Mon histoire . . ." Éponine murmured to the air.
And now she did not know if her love was alive or dead.
The image of Marius' broken body came before her mind's eye once more. She did not yet trust her body to safely return her to Paris proper where she could gather information with the help of her various underworld connections, courtesy of her father.
Éponine jumped up. It was Joly. The young man had been out of the house all morning, visiting the university for medical supplies and also stopping to see Musichetta.
If Joly had just called her Christian name Éponine might have ignored him, but loudly throwing the name Thénardier about brought on the chance of unwanted attention from nearby law or nearby villains.
"Hush!" Éponine hissed harshly, racing up the steps to the street. Joly took one look at her state of undress and immediately took off his coat and draped it over her shoulders. Éponine was vaguely aware that perhaps her attire was immodest, but she had been dressed in such a fashion for so long she had forgotten what immodesty was. Joly's coat had uncomfortably reminded her.
"This is my fault," Joly said, his tone heavy with apology. "I should have warned Joséphine that my friends were not going to be what she had had in mind."
Éponine's shoulder began to ache and she felt tired. She allowed Joly to lead her back to the house. Joséphine, embarrassed and duly chastised, stayed out of sight and busied herself in the kitchen.
. . . . . .
Enjolras' fever returned with a vengence. Joly and Éponine took turns keeping him cool. Every now and then Joly removed Éponine from the room so as to change Enjolras' dressings and to cleanse and cut away the dead flesh from wounds that threatened to become gangrenous.
A week went by in such a fashion and Joly was beginning to feel the strain. Anatole had been kind enough to also keep watch over Enjolras every now and then, affording Joly some much needed relief in sleep. Also during this time Joly deemed Éponine well enough to assist Joséphine with the household chores—which was something Éponine had insisted on, not wishing to be a burden on anyone. Joséphine was tight-lipped around Éponine but made no objections, thinking secretly to herself that in service this strange guest belonged.
. . . . . .
Enjolras' fever often spiked then lowered as his body fought infection. On the nineteenth of June, fourteen days after the émeute, Enjolras' fever broke.
Joly and Éponine were sitting in Enjolras' room eating breakfast at a small table set up by Anatole for Joly's convenience. With an awkward grace Éponine poured coffee into Joly's cup.
"You do that pretty well, Mademoiselle Thénardier." Joly commented with a tired smile.
"Thank you, Monsieur. I used to do it better, but I'm out of practice."
Joly tilted his head to the side and gave her a quizzical look. "Out of practice?" Joly did not imagine that someone in Éponine's circumstances had much time or opportunity to master the art of tea service.
Éponine saw the look and added, "My sister, Azelma, and I used to have tea parties all the time when we were kids, when my parents still had their inn."
"Where was this?"
"Where is your sister now?"
"In the Prison des Madelonnettes," Éponine said without batting an eye.
"Oh." Joly's cheeks turned pink. "My sympathies, Mademoiselle."
"It's nothing, Monsieur. She's better off there than at home or in the streets."
Joly almost blurted out about the plethora of diseases to be found in prison, but stopped himself in time. "Your hand is healing remarkably well," Joly said instead. "It was a good thing the bullet only took a little from the side of your palm and not straight through the middle . . ."
"When do you think Monsieur Enjolras will wake up?"
"It's hard to say," Joly replied, thankful for the change in subject. "His fever is gone, he's sleeping soundly . . . so, I hope soon."
The pair then grew silent and continued to eat their breakfast.
"How did you meet Musichetta?" Éponine suddenly asked.
Joly's smiled, then paused before answering, a trace of sadness crossing his freckled face. "It was at the Opéra Le Peletier. She was a ballet dancer . . . one of many . . . performing in La Sylphide that night. After the show Bossuet introduced her to me, she was his mistress. We ended up kind of 'sharing' her."
"Also known as Légle de Meaux. My flat-mate . . . and my best friend. He fell at the barricades . . ." Joly's voice grew quieter. "His evil Genius had caught up with him at last."
Joly saw the question on Éponine's face and gave her an apologetic smile with a shrug. "He used to call his bad luck or fate his 'evil Genius.'"
A fond memory must have come to Joly's mind then for he suddenly let out a peal of random laughter. But, soon this mirth dissolved into tears. "I beg your pardon," he said quietly and left the room.
Joly had been constantly working to save the lives of two people right out of the barricades, fourteen days straight. There had been hardly any time left to him to grieve and now it came bursting out, like a breached dam.
Éponine, knowing it best to leave Joly alone to work through his anguish, did not move from her chair and quietly ate her breakfast. She hardly tasted a thing.
Éponine idly cast her eye about the room as she ate. Her sights rested on the three books Joly had retrieved from Enjolras' apartment. She rose and picked up the first of the stack.
The Republic by Plato.
She glanced at Enjolras' still form and a thought came to her mind. It was a silly thought, but perhaps the inert incendiary would stir at hearing the words of his beloved book.
Éponine settled herself in a chair by the bed and opened the tome . . .
. . . . . .
For an hour Éponine read.
"'This, then, seems likely to be the fairest of States, being an embroidered robe, which is spangled with every sort of flower. And just as women and children think a variety of colors to be of all things most charming, so there are many men to whom this State, which is spangled with the manners and characters of mankind—'"
Suddenly, a male's voice huskily chimed in.
"'—Will appear to be the fairest of States.'"
Éponine looked to Enjolras. His eyes were open and he was staring at her.
"Bonjour, monsieur," Éponine said simply.
. . . . . .
A/N: "Mon histoire" ("My Story") is the original French title of the song "On My Own".
On a side note that does this concern this chapter I just learned that "the oldest [dog] pound in existence in the United States can be found in Glocester, Rhode Island. Built in 1748, the stone pound is recognized by the National Historic Register." I don't know what they did in France, so I took some liberties with that.
The little aside about the dog is actually what happened with my dog, which we adopted from a shelter. He would sit on the sofa or the soft pallet we got him, but he kept returning to the marble slab in front of the fireplace and lay down there. He was so used to the hard concrete floor of the shelter he felt most at ease there. But, now, almost a year later, he lazes comfortably on the couch. :)