Cosette opened her eyes, and at first she thought nothing was different. She was waking up in her bedroom.
Then she sat up, her heart beating erratically. She hadn't woken up in her bedroom in six weeks. She looked about- everything was the same. The bed was white, her curtains were drawn, her little knick knacks were strewn about. The only thing that was different was her attire. She was clad in cotton shorts and a t-shirt.
She'd thought about this moment nonstop for weeks, but she could not bring herself to be happy. Not with what had happened the night before. Tears sprung to her eyes at the hateful words they'd both uttered, knowing well that neither meant them.
Well, she thought, wiping her tears in a businesslike manner. I should go see how much damage is done.
So quickly, she sprung out of bed and changed out of the ugly pajamas. She donned her regular clothing, glad to be clad in a proper dress again. She did not miss the groaning, pinching pain the corset caused, but even that was a welcome pain. The familiar was comforting. She even missed her house- ugly though the apartment was. Carefully, she folded her twenty-first century clothes and hid them in the back of her bureau, just in case she needed them later.
Then, she rushed down the stairs. What would she find there? Her father, most likely. Would he be surprised to see her?
"Good morning, Cosette," he said, looking up from his cup of tea and croissant with a leisurely smile. Then his eyes drifted back down to the newspaper he was reading.
Was this a good sign? He was obviously not surprised to see her. Her happiness upon seeing him again could not be contained- she reached out and embraced him, kissing the top of his dear white head. In the process, she glanced at the newspaper. December 23- the day after she had disappeared into the twenty-first century. In short, only a night had passed.
Relief washed through her, warm like water. So nothing bad at all would happen! Marius would not be in trouble after all! How happy he would be- she couldn't wait to tell him-
Wait, she told herself, fear trickling into her relief, so potent the moment before. What if he's not here? And what if he is, and he's angry?
"Papa?" she asked, her voice shaking. He looked up, concerned, for he heard the fear in her voice. "What time are we going over to the Gillenormond's?"
He shrugged. "Any time, I suppose. You slept late, my dear- it's ten thirty. We can leave whenever you like."
"Fine- then let's go now," she said distractedly, her mind already racing ahead. Her father blinked in surprise, not expecting her to want to leave immediately. "Please papa?"
"Just give me a minute," he said, straightening his cravat.
"Papa!" she pleaded, and reached for his hand. A minute later, they were out the door.
Some thirty minutes later, they had rang on the door of the Gillenormond house. Basque greeted them and led them inside, but Marius was not awaiting them in the parlor as he usually was. Dread filled her stomach.
Maybe he's just tired, as I was, she thought. We might have just woken him. He'll be down in a minute.
But they waited for a minute, and then five, and then ten, and no one came. Finally, the door at the end of the parlor opened. Cosette's heart leaped, and she beamed. But the wrong person stepped through. The minute she saw the face, she knew exactly what had happened. Monsieur Gillenormond's wrinkled cheeks were streaked with tears. He held a handkerchief, and blew his nose like a trumpet.
"I am so sorry, my dear, fair Mademoiselle. But alas- my grandson is gone! I always he knew he was ungrateful, that wretched, republican beast of a boy! Oh, how can he abandon me, who raised him, me, who gave him everything? I wake this morning, and his bed is empty, not a note, not an address-"
Cosette looked down, and tears fell from her own eyes. Though her words from the night before had been untrue, someone had surely been listening. She tuned out Monsieur Gillenormond's whining, and stared at the floor. On the way home, she closed her ears to her father's disappointed words regarding Marius, believing that he ran off, leaving Cosette behind. She couldn't say anything to the contrary- after all, he would never believe her. So when they returned home, she shut herself up in her room. Her father did not bother her- he believed her to be feeling rejection. She was just feeling sadness.
When Marius awoke, he did not groan upon seeing his surroundings. He'd been in the garish green bedroom for long enough that he was no longer surprised by his presence within it. He rose, and then crossed the hallway directly. He felt dread and trepidation, not knowing what Cosette would say to him, but he knocked on the door anyway, intent on solving their problems. No one answered. She's probably still sleeping, he thought.
He knocked once more, and when no answer came, he pushed open the door. He found her bed untidy and slept-in, but without anyone in it. He couldn't let himself think what he was beginning to fear- it would just be too much for him to bear. Instead, he walked over to the bed and felt the sheets. They were cold, as though she had not been in the bed for a long time.
He ran downstairs, but a quick sweep of the house answered his question. She was not there.
His last chance was to ask Mags if she'd seen her- maybe she went out for a walk or something of the like. Mags said she thought Cosette was still sleeping.
With that, his last hope fell away. If she was nowhere to be found, there was only one answer: Cosette had left the twenty-first century.
The sheer irony of it was chilling, and made him shake with anger. He wanted to go back in time and redo the night before, certain that that was what had caused the problem. Instead, he refused school (Mags did not protest), refused food, and went upstairs. He knelt beside the window, looked up at the sky, and began to pray.
He prayed that Cosette had made it home- that she had traveled back to her year, and was not stuck, alone, in another time period. He prayed that he would follow her without incident. But mainly, he prayed so he had something to occupy his mind. When he was focusing on God, he was no focusing on his despair.
I thought I lost her once, he pleaded. And I was without her for four months. But then we found each other again. Am I to lose her again so quickly?
For days, he simply wasted away in his room. There was nothing for him to do- if he did go to school (which he was already dead set against) it would only bring up awkward questions about Cosette's missed attendance. So Mags pulled him out at the same time as when she announced Cosette's move.
Another week passed, and their supposed wedding date flew by. He was still in the twenty-first century. Days continued to pass until he no longer cared how many of them passed, because he'd been without Cosette for much too long anyway. In his depression, he constantly heard their argument being replayed in his mind, as if on some kind of recording. He heard their hateful words shouted back and forth continuously throughout the day, and they just made him sicker and sicker.
I never got to right my wrongs, he thought in agony. She never knew that I didn't mean what I said!
Come mid-March, when he'd been without her for weeks, he fell onto his knees, and prayed to God like he'd never prayed before, because he knew he could not stand to take another day. It wasn't enough that they were apart, was it? But being apart in different centuries, with him stuck in a foreign one... it was worse than simple separation. He seemed to be stuck somewhere alien, with no one around.
Monsieur Gillenormond had promised that, should Marius show up, he would let Cosette know. She waited all day on the 23rd, and then again on the 24th, but he did not come. Despair soaked through her being, and she knew he was not coming back. Tears pricked into her eyes, knowing that she would probably never see him again. She hated to question her faith, but she couldn't help demanding that God show her a reason for doing this. She hoped Marius was still with Mags, and not with the Egyptians somewhere.
On Christmas Eve, she retired. Her bones ached because she had not been sleeping well, but she also seemed to be carrying extra pounds around. Her sadness made everything heavier. She awoke early on Christmas morning, and had never been in a less of a holiday mood. She and her father were going to church in the afternoon, and so before that she sat on their couch in her dressing gown, staring blankly at the fire, oblivious to her father's attempts to cheer her up. Then, there was a knock at the door.
"It's probably carolers, Cosette!" he said, desperation in his voice. She smiled weakly to appease him. "I know how you love Christmas music."
Marius opened his eyes, and his heart lurched. He sat up in his bed, and then let out a hoot with joy. He had returned!
Leaping out of bed, he ran to the window, and saw that the trees were bare of leaves, there was ice on the streets, everything was gray. In short, winter was still installed in Paris.
He dressed as fast as a could and galloped down the stairs, taking them two at a time. When he reached the dining room, he found his grandfather and aunt looking sullen. His grandfather looked up, and his eyes widened.
"Marius! My boy!" he cried, and then stood shakily, toddling over to embrace his grandson tearfully. "You're back! I told you," he said, turning to Marius' aunt. "I told you he wouldn't leave us!"
"Leave you?" Marius said, trying to play innocent. He had no idea how long he'd been missing. He could, perhaps, have jumped forward a year, but he doubted it. Everything looked the same.
"You leave us for days without any explanation- I wake up in the morning, and your bed is empty! What did you want me to tell visitors? How irresponsible of you! Moreover, it crushed me! I thought you'd left! You're gone for two nights, and no explanation, you don't explain anything, it was two nights, but it could have two years! I thought you no longer loved me!"
"Two days?" Marius asked, his heart picking up speed. Only two days? he thought, relieved. A smile broke over his face. He spun a lie, very quickly- the easiest one he had. "But father- didn't I tell you that I planned on taking these two days to go to Vernon? Every few months I try to go and see my father's grave, you know, to bring flowers and such. I'm sure I told you that."
Monsieur Gillenormond grimaced. "You told me nothing. You practically gave me heart failure, and to go see that brigand of your 'father'!"
Marius stopped listening, so he didn't have to hear his grandfather's insults. Instead, he thought of something else. He needed to see if Cosette was here.
"Listen, father- excuse me. I'm heading out. It will only be a few minutes-"
"But it's Christmas! And now, we have all the reason to celebrate. We were just about to eat-"
"Don't wait for me," Marius said, already donning his coat. "I'll be back soon." And before his grandfather could protest, he was out the door. He ran through the streets until he found an open fiacre, and then leaped inside of it, ordering Cosette's address with perhaps a bit too much force. His hands were shaking the whole time. The fiacre seemed to be moving much too slowly, but they eventually made it to his destination. He paid the driver and jumped out, running to the door and knocking on it.
He heard Monsieur Fauchelevent's voice inside, and while Marius waited, he tried to calm his heartbeat and his breathing. He didn't let himself think about what would happen if Cosette wasn't home- if she was gone. A few moments later, the door opened. Monsieur Fauchelevent stood there, glaring at him.
"What do you want here?" he asked.
"Please, Monsieur, may I see Mademoiselle?"
"No," he said curtly. Marius took a step back. "Where have you been?"
"I'm sure I told my grandfather this, but I think he forgot. I went to Vernon to see my father's grave for a few days. Apparently the message wasn't passed on."
Monsieur Fauchelevent listened, and digested this piece of information. He seemed to think it was a good enough excuse.
"You worried her," he said, as though clutching at straws. "It's Christmas, Monsieur," he said, looking down at Marius. "Not now. I'll tell her you came by."
"Please," Marius said beseechingly. "I need to see her. Just for a moment. I'll be gone before you know it."
"She is not dressed properly for visitors-"
"That's fine with me!" Marius blurted out. This only earned him an angry glare. He blushed. "That's... not what I meant."
Just then, Cosette came up right beside her father.
"Marius!" she whispered, her face lighting up. Valjean could do no more protesting. She was happier than she'd been in days!
Finally, Marius' hands stopped shaking and his heart palpitations could rest. He'd told himself that he would not let his guard down until he saw Cosette standing in front of him, and here she was, in the flesh. Without a moment's hesitation, she took three anxious steps forward and embraced him. Despite the fact that her father was there, Marius held her in his arms with fervency, holding her to him with maybe a little too much desperation. Going weeks without seeing her caused him to wonder if he was ever going to let her go.
She made that decision for him when she pulled back a moment later, looking deeply into his eyes. Her gaze held a whisper of their shared secret, which neither could mention but it was on their minds anyway. But mainly, there was a pleading look in them, asking for forgiveness. He squeezed her hands, and smiled. Of course she was forgiven.
Her gaze turned misty, and the two just stood their staring at each other, lost in their own moment. It was so precious to the two of them, but to Valjean, it was uncomfortable.
"Alright! You've had your reunion," he said gruffly, wondering why they had to be so distraught following one day without seeing each other. He, who had never been in love, would clearly never understand these drunkards. "Now, Monsieur, we shall see you tomorrow, as always!"
Marius grinned, euphoric, and stepped back cordially. He didn't mind being banished at all- everything was back to normal, as it should be. He would see Cosette tomorrow, on December 26, 1832. Knowing that was enough.