"Papa! I thought you were away!" Cosette cried, surprising the old man. Marius subtly shut the door to the bedroom- the one that all too clearly demonstrated that its main purpose, for the last night at least, had not been sleeping.
"What are you doing here?" he cried, his eyes wide. Marius didn't blame him- they'd probably startled him.
"We're hiding," he answered, then quickly explained their situation.
"You always told me that I would never know when I needed a safe place to go!" Cosette cried, obviously deliriously happy to be seeing her father again. "Thank goodness I had those keys."
Monsieur Fauchelevent didn't answer, just sighed deeply and sat down in a plain wooden chair. Then, he murmured something. "These troubles... they never leave me."
"Now get out!" he yelled, slapping her across the face. Eponine clutched her burning cheek and, with tears in her eyes, ran out onto the street. Her feet instantly went numb from the cold cobblestones, but she had nowhere to go. However, she knew one thing- she wouldn't go back home. Or wherever 'home' was. She wasn't going back to her father.
He was evil, she decided. Evil, a criminal, a murderder, and she suspected much more. And she was done with evil. Frankly, as she looked around at the grim streets, she found that she was ready to be done with it all. Everything. It was so obvious she was suffering- her shoulders bare, starving and shivering- yet no one came forward to help. No one looked at her.
Suddenly, she wished she'd accept Monsieur Marius' offer to eat with them. But maybe that was just the hunger talking.
Whatever it was, she was sick of it. Oh, yes, she'd been tired of life before, but not like this. There was no hope in sight. Her father was never going to strike gold, never going to become rich. She would never have a truly full stomach, and never have Monsieur Marius. So what hope was there? Could she really stand to wander the streets this way, forever? If she did, it would only be a matter of time before someone found her. Raped her, murdered her. Well, she might as well beat them to the punch, and hurt herself beyond repair before someone else did.
Yes, that was what she would. Nodding her head, she moved forward. But first, she had something to take care of.
She only wished she knew where Monsieur Marius was. It would be nice for him to know that she'd tried to help.
It had all been set. She'd written a note on stolen paper with a stolen pen (for one never really could escape being brought up by thieves) and tipped off the police. She'd snuck back only long enough to warn her sister. Her father might be scum, but her sister couldn't help it. She ran with Azelma into the safety of the dark streets.
"Where am I to go?" Azelma asked, her eyes frightened and angry. "You can't turn father in! Don't act like you're better than us, 'Ponine-"
"Hush!" she warned, holding a hand over her sister's mouth. "I got you out of there, didn't I? Now shut your mouth."
It was done. There was nothing she could do to stop the effects which she'd already set in motion. Nothing she could do as, from the shadows, she watched the police enter the garret and come down with her father. Nothing she could do as they sped away. And nothing she could do as she came to realization that she'd just killed her own father.
She despised him- he was scum to her, and had never treated her anything but ill. But her stomach churned, knowing she'd turned him in. She would have rather killed him herself, with her own hands. Turning him in like this felt cowardly. Eponine looked at her hands, brown and tough from work, scabbed from the cold. Who was she trying to fool? No matter how she tried to act like a good person- someone who reports criminals, helps out innocent people- she would never be one. She was a thief, deep down. A girl of the streets, picking people's pockets, begging for food. She'd tried to fool herself as long as she dared, but the gig was up. She'd just turned her own father in, and nothing had changed. No one had come and congratulated her, no one had thanked her. Now, all she was left with was an angry sister, an empty stomach, and no income. That, and guilt eating away in her stomach.
She'd wait until morning, she decided. Then it would be over.
As daylight dawned in the apartment, Marius went out again. He needed a break from Cosette's frightened tears- ones he could do nothing to stop- and Monsieur Fauchelevent's steely stares. He returned to the market where he was the previous day, just wandering for a few hours. He was aware that walking around aimlessly in broad daylight wasn't the smartest idea, especially for people in hiding, but the apartment was now virtually uninhabitable for him.
Now, this aimless walking turned out to be a blessing in disguise. A dirty, thin, wretched and pitiful disguise.
"Monsieur Marius!" came a hoarse voice that he knew all to well.
He turned and saw a face that he wasn't sure how to react to. She was overly personal and made him uncomfortable, and yet she'd only ever helped him. So he only had grateful feelings for her. Then he remembered their conversation from the previous day- the one where she'd been elusive about whether or not she would help him and Cosette.
"Eponine!" he said, instantly brightening, curious about her decision. "Eponine, did you think more about... about-"
"It's done," she said, her hands raised, palms towards him.
"What's done?" he asked, confused.
"Everything," she said, looking at the ground, crestfallen. He took a step forward and, on impulse, but his hands on her shoulders. She looked up at him in surprise, some spark in her eyes that he couldn't read. She looked up at him as though he was brighter than the sun, and he had to turn away. Her gaze was too private, too revealing to stare into. He could see right into her soul, and it was a broken sight.
"What's wrong?" he asked, and she smiled. It was not a happy smile, but rather a smile to cover up her true feelings. A mask.
"Nothing," she said. "But your home is now safe for you and your beautiful wife. You can return today, if you'd like. There is no one watching over it, and my father won't be bothering you again."
"What? Eponine, what did you do?" he asked, smiling. Once again, she'd come through. Why did he ever doubt her?
"I turned him in," she said, pushing his hands from her shoulders. "I turned my own father in, for you!"
She took a step back, squinting her eyes to look at him closer, and looking angry. Her eyes sparkled with something he couldn't identify- regret? anger? disappointment?
"So long... I've wasted... on... on this!" she whispered, talking to herself. "For nothing in return!"
He knew she wasn't talking to him, but he replied anyway.
"Eponine- not nothing. You've been more than helpful. You've been a savior. We'll take care of you, Cosette and I. We'll give you money- we'll feed you. You won't want again," he said, stopping short of offering for her to live with them. Even in the heights of his gratitude, he couldn't bear to go that far.
"I don't want your money!" she spat. "I told you once- didn't you hear me? And I don't want your help, either. That wasn't what I meant," she said, looking as though she wanted him to understand something. He didn't.
"I'm going to leave now," she said with an air of finality in her voice. "We won't meet again."
"Monsieur Marius, before I go, can you do something for me?"
"Anything," he said, just to get her to keep talking.
"Before I go, just look at me. See me. Please," she said, her eyes wide. He looked, but he had no idea what he was supposed to be looking for. He met her eyes, and they were pleading. He stared for a long time, but all he saw was the pitiful girl who'd helped him so much. He wanted to help in return, but thus far she'd refused everything he offered.
"I..." he uttered, letting the word hang as he realized he had nothing to follow it with. He looked again, but saw nothing new.
"You. Always you," she whispered, then looked at him. "I thought I saw you. I should have realized you'd never see me."
Then she departed, leaving him confused. However, he only waited a few moments before returning home to Cosette.
It wasn't hard. She always thought drowning in a river would be too cold, but as she drifted, it wasn't bad at all. Kind of calming, actually. No one was yelling at her. The water was stuffed into her ears, blocking all sounds out. She heard no one whispering about her, insulting her. She felt nothing but the soft water against her skin, not the blows people had dealt her. She felt warm, despite the chill of the water. As she closed her eyes, she felt a peacefulness overtake her unlike anything she'd ever known. Then, as she sighed out her remaining air, leaving herself to drown, she knew that this death was so much more satisfying than life had been. Here, finally, she was at peace.
"You must come with us!" Cosette cried, tears once again falling from her eyes. Marius wondered when they would ever stop.
"No," her father said, stony and decided, yet sad all the same. "I am not a part of your life anymore."
"You don't want to be!" she cried. "I want you to be- Marius wants you to be, don't you Marius?"
"You're always welcome in our home," he said, managing to tell the truth. He didn't exactly answer her question, but his reply seemed to satisfy.
"Am I?" Monsieur Fauchelevent asked, staring Marius deeply in the eyes. Marius shuddered- maybe he could see right through him. "You have moved on. I am the same."
Cosette sniffled, wiping her tears. "Father- I don't know what's gotten into you. You were the same kind man that you were one day, and the next-"
"The past caught up with me, my darling child. I can't run forever, but I have to try as long as I can. However, I can't bring you further into this battle that I'm fighting, Cosette. You have someone else to care for you now."
She looked at him, utterly confused. Marius couldn't say he had any clearer of an idea.
"There are things that happen to men, Cosette, that you shouldn't hear about. Bad things, bad men. I am sorry to say that there is evil in the world-"
"I know that, Father. I would like to say I know that better than any of you, here-"
"It is not the same, Cosette, when you are the man. When you are evil."
She glared at him, taking his hands in her own. "You are not evil, papa. You are good. I know you are good!"
He disengaged himself. "Goodbye, Cosette."
He waved a hand, and Cosette stood, dejected and crying. When it became clear that he was serious and really wanted them to leave, Marius reached for Cosette's hand and began to pull her along. He was about to shut the door when Cosette turned around.
"I don't know what's wrong, Papa, but I know you are not evil. When you choose to stop acting this way, please come back. Please stay with us, because I don't want to lose you," she said. "Please?" she whispered, but he turned away. She nodded sadly, and followed Marius out the door, tears falling down her cheeks. But she wasn't the only one crying- back in the apartment, Jean Valjean covered his mouth with his hand, trying to keep his sobs quiet so she could not hear from behind the door. He tears fell thick onto his waistcoat, until the whole room grew blurry, and all the colors ran together.