The third and last chapter written on my iPod. From here on out, it'll be a wait for chapters, as, alas, I can not spend every moment of my time writing, no matter how much I'd like to.
Disclaimer: As we all know and do not need reminding, I do not own Les Misérables or Phantom of the Opera.
Four years passed and Eponine did not see the Phantom at all during them. She did not forget him as he had advised her to do; but she now regarded him as a dream and had her doubts as to whether or not he was real, believing him to be a childhood fantasy. She did not fully remember how she had been saved that night so long ago. She had forgotten about the Rue Scribe and could scarcely remember the Phantom's home underground.
She had been forced into prostitution only a year after the Phantom had saved her but no one had come to her rescue the second time. The only reason that she continued was that her father has threatened to harm her brother, Gavroche, if she did not do as told. Eponine couldn't bear to lose another sibling, especially not when there was something she could do about it.
Eponine was in love now, with her best friend, Marius Pontmercy. She had met him two years after the Phantom. Alas and alack, Marius scarcely seemed to notice her of late and he certainly did not know that she loved him, much to her dismay. She found herself unable to tell him for fear of rejection.
The Phantom remained lonely in his home under the Paris Opera House. He continued to compose and run the Opera Populaire, but was still as alone as ever. Strangely, he often thought of Eponine. He wondered if, perhaps, it had been a mistake to tell her to keep away. Maybe he wouldn't be so lonely if he'd allowed her to return as she wished. He couldn't even keep an eye out for her as he did not know where she lived.
One night, he found himself walking the familiar route through the redlight district, concealed, as always, in shadow. He did not wish for the strange looks that came with being seen by others.
Eponine, like her father, had acquired the skill of seeing through shadow and darkness. Thinking him to merely be a shy, first-time customer, she approached him.
"Lonely, M'sieur? I can change that." she said, putting on a coquettish act. Leaning forward and revealing more than a decent amount of her breasts, she flashed him a seductive grin which faded the moment she noticed the white half-mask. Memories came flooding back to her as she stared up at him. He towered over her.
Erik was both shocked and angered to see her there.
"Eponine? What the Hell are you doing here?" his voice was low and dangerous. She drew back, her face becoming void of emotion. She did not provide an answer, but merely turned and started to walk away. He grabbed her arm tightly, his bony fingers digging into her skin. "I asked you a question."
"Oh, I'm sorry. You see, I was under the impression that you were of at least average intelligence." she scowled. "Now let go of me."
She arched an eyebrow.
"And why not?"
"I will not allow you to ruin yourself."
Eponine laughed coldly,
"Too late for that."
He regarded her for a moment. She had definitely changed since the last time he'd seen her; she was taller, thinner (dangerously so), and much more miserable. He could see it in her eyes; the sorrow and anguish. The innocence that had been there four years ago was gone.
"You may have saved me once, Monsieur, and, believe me, I was and still am grateful, but no one was there to help me the second time. It wasn't my choice, you know. The only other option was to let my father hurt my brother and that was not going to happen. The choice was already made for me. Now, if you'd just let go of me, I need to get back to work."
He still did not let go of her arm.
"You shouldn't have to sell yourself."
"I know I shouldn't have to, but I do. I need the money to give to my father. Now let go. You're hurting me."
"There is more than one way to make money."
"You think I don't know that?" she asked angrily, "Think I haven't tried to get a real job? Look at me. I'm scum. Who would hire me? No one, Monsieur. No one."
He was silent for a moment.
"You're not." he said quietly.
"You're not scum."
"I am. I've come to terms with it."
"You're not," he argued, "and I know somewhere that might hire you."
She looked at him in disbelief.
"Where?" she asked slowly.
"Do you sing?"
"Why do you ask?"
"Just answer the question."
"Not in a long time..."
"Just do it." he said, finally relinquishing his hold on her.
Eponine hesitated a moment. It had been so long... She remembered a song that her mother used to sing to her and her sister,
"Il le faut, disait un guerrier. À la belle et tendre Imogine. Il le faut, je suis chevalier et je pars pour la Palestine*." her voice was soft, rather breathy, and very hesitant. She'd clearly never been taught, but she did have potential.
"Come with me, I will write a letter to the managers of the Opera House. They will give you a job." he told her.
"You heard me. That way, you won't have to sell yourself."
"I... I'm no actress."
"Ah, but you are." he said softly, "You are able to act like you aren't disgusted in your... 'customers.' And you'll be at least an average singer after a few lessons."
"I can't afford lessons."
"Did I ask you to pay me?"
"You mean you—"
"Yes, I will teach you."
"And... And I won't have to—" she didn't finish her sentence, but instead looked at some of the men in the area.
"Never again." he replied. Eponine looked like she might cry out of relief.
"Thank you." she whispered. He merely nodded in response and offered her his arm, which she gladly took.
Together, they departed the red light district for the Opera Populaire.
* It must be, said a warrior. To the beautiful and tender Imogine. It must be, I am a knight and I leave for Palestine.