We left two days later. Mother hardly spoke a word the whole time. Uncle Paul could be seen throughout the house those two days, gloating in gleeful silence. I glared at him every chance I got. This man had driven us from our home and didn't even appear to feel guilty. The fact that we shared blood would forever shame me.
Mother found us a small, affordable place near the outskirts of Paris. I think she wanted to be as far from Uncle Paul as possible.
When we got to the new place, I could hardly believe my eyes. We didn't have our own house anymore. Instead it was a simple room in a place full of rooms. We could faintly hear the voices of our fellow tenants as we passed by their rooms, a low, constant murmur.
When we reached our room, I couldn't help but gape at its puny size. Our new home was smaller then my old bedroom. There was a single bed and a table by a sink. There was an oven too, but that was the extent of our furniture. The walls were a drab gray and the floors were scuffed and unpolished. I wasn't sure, but I thought I might have seen the scaly tail of a mouse whisk past.
My mother seemed weak on her feet. She leaned against the door-frame, her hand clutching the wooden frame. "What have we come to?" She asked no one in particular.
I looked up at the weary sadness in her face and felt a faint pang of dislike. Why hadn't she tried to take the house back from Uncle Paul? Why hadn't she tried to be stronger? Maybe we would have been able to stay.
My anger faded when I saw the grief in Mother's eyes. iOf course,/i I realized, iShe's still mourning for Father, even after five years./i
I wasn't necessarily grieving over Father. I'd been so young when he'd died that I could hardly remember him. I missed the idea of a father, but I couldn't really grieve the man himself. I could only imagine the pain Mother must be feeling.
I reached out and awkwardly patted her on the shoulder. "We'll be alright, Mother." I said with more confidence then I felt. "We'll make it."
Mother looked down at me for a moment with faint hope in her eyes, as though trying to judge whether my words were guess or prophecy. Then it faded away, and she let out a sigh. "Come on, let's get out stuff put away."
We unpacked the few things Uncle Paul had let us take, then found ourselves completely devoid of anything to do. There was nowhere to hide for hide-and-seek, no great canopy beds to pretend were castles for our dolls. Even Catherine seemed unusually subdued. She tugged at my sleeve, staring up at me with wide brown eyes. "Lea, can we go home?"
My heart ached at my sister's trusting tone. iPoor kid. She thinks Mom and I could fix anything. How could she possibly understand what's happening?/i
I tried to explain, already knowing that it would be in vain. "We are home, Cathy. This is home now."
Cathy's eyes began to well with tears. "No! I wanna go home!"
I let out a sigh. Like it or not, this was our life now. We had to accept that.
The next morning I was woken by the sounds of people talking. The walls between the other rooms and ours were relatively thin. I could hear a man's voice next door as he bid his wife farewell. For a brief moment, my heart ached for Father. Then I shook my head impatiently. That life was over now. Time to move on.
Mother and Catherine were still asleep. Catherine and I had shared the bed, while Mother had slept on the floor with a single blanket. I looked down sadly at her. Weak as she was, she was still my mother.
I got up, careful not to wake anyone, and began investigating our new home. There wasn't much to look at honestly. The room had little to no furniture, and our food cupboards were completely empty. I frowned thoughtfully. We wouldn't make it through the week if we didn't have food. If I knew Mother, she'd be stubborn and try to buy food that was far too expensive. We couldn't waste money on any of the rich, tasteful foods we used to eat. There was far too much at stake for that.
I knew what I had to do. If Mother couldn't shop responsibly, then I'd have to. It would be a good chance to get to know the ins and outs of this part of Paris.
With that decided, I snuck over to where Mother slept. I gingerly slipped my hand to the money she kept inside her sleeve, slipping it out with bated breath. But Mother didn't wake. She'd probably been up all night brooding over our fall from wealth.
I snuck out the door, making my way through the building until I reached the front door. The chilly winter air blew through my expensive blue dress. Warm clothes for the winter wouldn't be such a bad idea to get either, but I didn't know if we had enough for that. It was surprising, but now that I thought about it, I realized how impractical our lives had been up until now. We'd wasted so much on useless, expensive things and never appreciated any of it. How stupid people could be. How incredibly stupid.
I began to make my way through the streets. It quickly became apparent that this wasn't the Paris I was used to. The streets were dirtier, the people thinner and more modestly clothed, and the stores were smaller. But most alarming were the homeless. These people cluttered the streets, dressed in whatever rags they could find, their dark beady eyes glaring out at the people passing by. It was as if being alone so long had dehumanized them. I was both horrified and fascinated.
I managed to get a reasonable amount of food, leaving some money for Mother of course. I was carrying our food back home with a feeling of pride when a dark hand snaked out and grabbed my wrist. I was so startled, I dropped everything I was carrying. I turned to see a man with a soot-stained face and ragged clothing. He grinned at me, revealing a few missing teeth. "Well now, what's a pretty little thing like you doing out here?"
I felt a rush of fear, but tried to push it back. We were in an alleyway not too far from home, totally alone. Maybe if I broke loose I could run back home.
I tried to rip my hand away, but his grip was too strong. I tried to sound strong, but my voice wavered as I said, "Monsieur, let me go. I have to get home."
The man just grinned cruelly. "Mm, that dress looks expensive. Might be worth something. But I think-"
Almost out of nowhere, a small rock came whizzing towards the man, hitting him on the side of the head. He clutched his head and let out a howl of pain. I took the moment to rip loose of his grip and run for it. I didn't even bother to grab the food, I just got out of there as quickly as I could.
When I reached our new building, I paused. Was I going to let one man keep my family from eating? That was almost all the money we had, and I was just going to let it go to waste. I was terrified to say the least, but determined to help my family. I turned and started to go back, even though every fiber of my being screamed out against it.
When I got there, the man was gone. The bag I'd been carrying the food in was on the ground, with a young boy crouching over it. He was just a little younger than me, with a dirt-smudged, elf-like face, unruly brown hair, and ragged clothing. When I approached, he looked up in surprise, his hazel eyes widening. He started to run off with the food bag in hand.
I called out loudly, "Stop!" I didn't bother to see if he obeyed before hiking up my skirt and running after him. However, he was far faster then me and soon left me behind. I kept running though, even after I'd lost sight of him among the twisted alleyways. I couldn't let that food get taken.
After a while, I was beginning to lose speed, but I kept going. Suddenly I stumbled, falling forward onto the ground. I let out a gasp of pain as my unprotected legs and arms were scraped on the stoney ground. But I wasn't going to let that stop me. I stubbornly go to my feet, and was about to start off again when a voice said, "I've never seen someone run for so long."
I turned to see the boy I'd been chasing standing behind me, food bag in hand. His hazel eyes were full of arrogance and mischief, along with a hint of admiration. "I'm Ivo. What's you're name, girly?"
I raised an eyebrow. "iGirly/i? I'm older than you!"
Ivo chuckled. "Yeah, but that frilly dress you're wearning's about the girliest thing I've seen." He looked at me as though trying to judge how I would react. "So, how 'bout it? You do have a name, don'cha?"
I waited a long moment, glaring at him. Then I stuck out my chin defiantly. "Lea."
The boy seemed amused by my attitude. "Lea? Good name, I guess. For a rich little mam'selle anyway." I just kept glaring at him. He broke out into a grin. "Alright, here." He tossed me the bag of food. I caught it, then turned to look at him warily. "I've never met someone so stubborn." He turned and began to walk away.
I hesitated for a moment, then reached into the bag and grabbed a loaf of bread. "Hey Ivo!" He turned around. I tossed the loaf to him, and he caught it with a look of pleasant surprise. He looked at me for a moment before giving me a crooked grin. "You ain't half bad, girly." Then he walked off until he disapeared into the darkness of the alley.
That was the beginning of my life in the poor parts of Paris.
There'll be another time skip after this, because I am horrible at writing in the POV of young children. I just never know how mature to make them. Anyway, we'll defenitly be seeing more of Ivo. No, he's not Belle's father, Belle's father is named Maurice.