Hello, readers! First of all, I would just like to say to anyone who followed this story when it was just a one-shot and is still reading it now: thank you! Merci mille fois! Thank you for your patience and continued interest. I hope you are not disappointed!
My absence has been due to a very busy life and lack of inspiration and a bit of writer's block for this particular fandom and pairing. But I hate to leave things unfinished, and I think I have a better idea now of where this story might be headed. I can't promise frequent updates, so please be patient with me, and enjoy :) (And if you don't enjoy, feel free to offer constructive criticism on how I can make the story better. Just please be nice about it, and I will try to respond appropriately.)
The Thénardier family had lived four years in the Gorbeau tenement, but Eponine still refused to call the place home. But it was better than living on the streets, she supposed. After tramping up and down streets all day, having a place to sit down and take your shoes off, without fear of someone running off with them, wasn't a bad thing.
Nearing the building, she stopped and looked up at row of second-story windows. The grimy, cracked window of her family's apartment she knew all too well, but it was not that one which interested her. Instead, she shielded her eyes with one hand and peered at the window next to it. She thought she glimpsed a shadow moving behind the glass, and a smile flickered across her face: she had seen him.
The apartment next door had been vacant when they first arrived. A few tenants had come and gone, never staying long. Two months ago, a young man had moved in, and Eponine had taken quite an interest in him. Well, she had a right to know what sort of people her neighbors were, hadn't she? Especially if said neighbor was rather handsome.
He was fairly tall, dark-haired, and gray-eyed. He was gentleman, though living in poverty, judging from his clothes. The books he carried under his arm proclaimed him to be a student. Pity Eponine had not been able to make out the titles of these books, or she would know what he was a student of.
His name was Marius. She had once heard someone call to him from across the street. An uncommon name, like hers. But unlike hers, Marius was a lovely name.
The apartment door creaked open on rusty hinges. Her father, who had been sitting at the table writing furiously, raised his head. "There you are," he said, "You're just in time. I want you to take a letter."
"Another?" Eponine sighed, leaning wearily against the doorframe.
"This one's not going far," said Thénardier, folding up the note and stuffing it into an envelope, not bothering to seal it. "It's for the fellow next door."
Eponine grabbed the letter from him. Thénardier chuckled. "Didn't think you'd mind."
The first time Eponine knocked, Marius didn't answer. She knew he was home, so she knocked a second time, a little harder. "Come in; the door's unlatched," was the response from the other side of the door.
Eponine opened the door, and found him sitting at a desk in front of the window, his back toward her. "Um, pardon me, Monsieur," she said.
The young man glanced over his shoulder. "Can I help you, Mademoiselle?" he asked.
"There's a letter for you, Monsieur Marius," said Eponine, holding out the envelope, "It was delivered to our place by mistake."
Her father could always tell when she was lying. Hopefully Marius couldn't. She glanced around the room while he sat with his back to her, looking over the letter. The room was no bigger than her family's apartment, and sparsely furnished. The bed was unmade. All the clothes he wasn't wearing––there were not many––seemed to be strewn across the bed. The walls were bare, save for a small, dirty mirror hanging at the foot of the bed. "Well, well, you have a mirror!" Eponine remarked. She made her way over and peered at her reflection. It had been a long time since she had seen herself in a mirror; she decided now that that was probably a good thing––there wasn't much to see. She licked her finger to try and wipe a dirty smudge off her cheek, and tried to smooth down her rough hair. There was nothing she could do about the freckles.
Marius was still reading the letter. Eponine sidled up to his desk, which was piled high with books and littered over with bits of paper, pens, and burnt-down candles. "I can read, you know," she said, picking a book off the top of a pile. She opened it to a random page and cleared her throat, scanning the page for the beginning of a sentence. "…General Bauduin received the order to take the five bat-ta-lions of his brigade and capture the château of H-hou-gou-mont, which is in the middle of the plain of Waterloo––oh, Waterloo!" She snapped the book shut. "I know all about that," she said, "It was a battle long ago. My father was there." She waited for him to chime in, hoping she had finally hit upon something of interest to him. "My father served in the army," she repeated. The only response she got was a slightly impatient sigh.
Eponine slapped the book down on the desk, raising a small cloud of dust. "I can write, too!" she said, "Look." Before Marius could respond, she grabbed a scrap of paper and a pen. She tapped the end of the pen against her chin, trying to think what she could write. A fat drop of ink oozed from the tip of the pen and splattered on the paper. Eponine touched the tip of the pen to the paper and painstakingly scratched out four words. She shoved the paper towards Marius.
Marius glanced over his elbow at the little scrap of paper. "The police are here?" he read aloud. He looked up at Eponine with a puzzled face, his head tilted to one side.
"There are no spelling mistakes," said Eponine, rather apologetically. "You can see for yourself. I've had an education…" She stopped herself, looking down at the ink smudges on her hands. Copying letters on a slate at the kitchen table, or struggling through "The Fox and the Crow" while her mother washed clothes did not really constitute an education––not to a university student.
"Pardon me, Mademoiselle," said Marius, "I don't think I caught your name…"
"Eponine. My name's Eponine."
"That's not a name you hear every day."
"My mother got it out of some book."
"I like it."
"Thank you." Eponine could feel the blush creeping up her cheeks. "I–I should probably go," she stammered.
"Very well…I'll be seeing you, then, I suppose."
"We're neighbors, aren't we?"
"Oh, right. Well…I'd better be going."
"Goodbye, Monsieur Marius."
With that, Eponine hurried out of the room and shut the door behind her. Marius, no doubt, thought her a brainless fool. Why, then, couldn't she stop smiling?