The coach rattled beneath her feet, and she felt as though her stomach was dropping out of her body. Her vision was swimming in and out of focus, and a horrible sickness was threatening to overtake her.
Her father was dead.
How could it be? Just the morning before, she had kissed him on the forehead and he had seemed fine. Or had he? Maybe I've just been thinking about myself too much, and he's been suffering for months and I haven't even noticed, she told herself, knowing that was probably right. Her head was pounding, and the rattling of the carriage did nothing to help. Despite trying to hold back, her tears dripped off the end of her nose and landed onto the voluminous skirts of her wedding dress. Sighing, she wiped her tears and tried to think of something, anything, other than her father's death. If she kept thinking about it, she would go hysterical here in the carriage. Just wait until you're home, she told herself. Just hold it in for a little while longer.
Just when she felt she could take it no longer, the fiacre pulled up in front of their new home. She looked up, wiped away any stray tears that happened to fall, and followed Marius out of the fiacre. He held out his hand to help her down, and she did not let go as they walked in silence into their home. Once the door behind them was closed and locked, the sobs that had been threatening to break free escaped from her. She leaned back against the door and buried her face into her hands. It seemed that just a few days ago, her life had spun out of control. She had a routine going, a routine she liked. She spent her days with Marius and with her father, her two favorite people.
She knew her father was old. But it never occured to her that one day he would be gone. To Cosette, who loved him so much, it seemed positively abominable for him to die like this, right in the midst of all her happiness. He was the one person who had never left her, ever. The one person who was always there for her when she was hurting. The person to keep her steady, keep her sane and happy. When Marius was sick, her father was the only one who could pry her away from his bedside for even an hour. And she knew she would not have moved for anyone else.
She felt arms close around her, and at first she cringed away from Marius' embrace- she only wanted her father right now. But then the hurt became too much, and she felt guilty for turning away on him. She leaned into his arms and sobbed against his clean white shirt, freshly pressed for the wedding.
She stepped back and into Marius' dark tear-filled eyes with her red, sore ones, and the pressure of everything started pounding down on her. She felt her eyes widen in terror. Are we supposed to go to bed together tonight? Do I have to? Will he make me? And then am I planning Papa's funeral tomorrow? She couldn't think about all that. Marius just hugged her tighter, and she just rested her faith on him, trusting that he wouldn't make her do anything she didn't want.
Her life would be different now, she knew. But it would have been different anyway. She tried to tell herself that she wouldn't have seen as much of her father now that she was married anyway, but she knew it wasn't the same. Not seeing him by choice is different than not being able to see him, because he's dead.
She shook those thoughts from her mind. Imagining her father, cold and dead laying in a church morgue somewhere, was too much to bear.
"I'm going to- umm," she blushed. She was trying to say that she was going to get ready for bed, but she didn't know how to make it clear that she couldn't sleep with him tonight. It wasn't because she didn't want to, she knew- it was because she couldn't possibly deal with another major event in one night. Two was enough for her. She couldn't see how she wouldn't be able to keep herself from crying long enough to even begin, either. But she also didn't want to hurt his feelings, and she had to be careful when telling him all this. "I'm going to get ready to, um... go to bed."
He nodded, and she turned away, still not sure. The problem wasn't solved.
But she changed out of her gown and mechanically hung up her dress very carefully so as not to wrinkle the silk. When she stepped out of the small dressing room off to the side of the bedroom, she saw Marius sitting on the bed, his jacket off and his cravat untied. He was looking down, but she still blushed, and her heart picked up speed in a slight panic: it was time to say something.
"Cosette," he began, speaking for her. He looked up through sad eyes, and she was touched that he was so upset by her father's death. "I want you to know I feel terrible. Awful, in fact, and I can understand if you're angry with me. I- I didn't know your father saved my life, I had no idea-!"
"Neither did I, Marius," she sat down next to him. "From what you told me, there wasn't much of a way either of us could have prevented him from leaving."
Marius shrugged, still angry with himself.
"I just," she shook her head. "I can't believe he's gone. That I'll never see him again. Even last night, when you told me he'd left, I believed that he would come back one day. I couldn't imagine a time when he wouldn't be near me, somewhere at least. I don't know what I'm going to do without him!"
Marius turned away, wiping his sleeve across his cheeks to get rid of the tears. He didn't look back at her, and she worried that she might have hurt his feelings. She realized what he must have read in her words, and she felt bad. She rested her head on Marius' shoulder.
"Marius," she whispered, but he still looked away. "Marius." He turned towards her, and she smiled lightly. "I love you." She felt him kiss the top of her head, and she closed her eyes, burying her face into his shoulder. Maybe, if she just stayed like this, it would all go away. She'd open her eyes and she would hear her father rummaging in the kitchen...
But when opened her eyes, she heard nothing new, and saw nothing except the black fabric of Marius' jacket. She looked up at him again, hoping to see some indication that he knew what she was about to tell him. Sometimes he could tell- she hoped this was one of those times.
"Cosette..." he looked at her carefully, as though he was trying to read her very complicated facial expression. Then he sat back a little, understanding. "Cosette- we don't have to do anything tonight. No one will know."
She sighed in relief. "Thank you so much. I was hoping you'd understand; I don't think I'm ready to do anything at the moment."
That night, she dreamt that she was sitting alone in her living room, when she looked up to see her father, looking calm and happy, the wrinkles in his face gone.
"Father, are you happy?" she asked. He just smiled. She stood up to embrace him, but no sooner had her hands reached out than he had faded away.