Author's Note: This fanfic is based on the musical and not the Victor Hugo novel. This first chapter is relatively short but only really serves as a prologue.
Upon hearing the familiar creak of the door opening and the unmistakable thumping of heavy boots on the wooden floor, the little girl eagerly leapt from her bedroom.
The male's voice boomed through the inn, authoritative and powerful. It only served to make the child scurry faster down the wooden stairs and into the bar. It was deserted, the tables and chairs lying vacant; there'd be a rush later when the male guests returned, elated and giddy from their fine flings, requiring several beers to quench their thirst after satisfying their need for the pleasurable business.
"I have a present for my beautiful princess."
There, in the middle of the room, stood an elegant, rich polished mahogany rocking horse, complete with a saddle and its various accessories. The girl, her blue eyes wide with astonishment at its beauty, ran her hand over the sleek wooden curves of the horse, before carefully sitting astride the masterpiece.
"Papa, I love it!" she squealed in delight.
Éponine was the Thénardiers' only child; a dainty, pretty creature with flowing dark brown hair. She was always dressed immaculately, often in fine silk dresses; a child grown accustomed to pampering and indulgence.
Whilst the Monsieur Thénardier stood proudly watching his daughter admire her gift, another small girl stood unnoticed – or perhaps purposefully ignored? – in the far corner of the room. Dressed in rags and growing thin, she was an impoverished figure in comparison. She'd been quietly sweeping when Monsieur Thénardier had arrived home, and now watched in mournful silence as he spoiled the other girl. How she longed to have such lovely toys and clothes. How she longed to feel loved and wanted like her…
"What are you staring at, Cosette?" the young girl riding the rocking horse sneered, glaring at her and bringing her presence to her father's attention.
As Monsieur Thénardier's eyes narrowed to slits, his hands clenched into fists as he removed the leather strap from his waist, Cosette clumsily dropped the broom and braced herself for her punishment, shrinking into the far corner. It was over in seconds, but the lashes stung for hours and left marks that remained for weeks.
"Go and fetch some water from the well!" he bellowed, shooing her away.
"Yes, Cosette. You haven't been since yesterday!" piped up Éponine.
Unfortunately for Cosette the girl was not, as she had initially hoped upon her arrival at the inn, playmate material. She merely followed the example her parents' gave and had not hesitated in joining in with their mistreatment of her often mercilessly landing Cosette in trouble. Despite her young eight years, the girl secretly envied the brat. Upon arriving at the inn with her mother, who was desperately seeking someone to care for her daughter whilst she worked, with the promise of sending money each month to support Cosette, the Thénardiers had been the only ones to benefit. The hard earned money that Fantine sent them for her was selfishly used to provide them with luxury. Whilst the family got the fresh fruit and bread, Cosette was left with the soggy crusts and moulding apples. She learnt to silently withstand the abuse and sullenly adapted to her role as servant. Better to be grateful for the shelter and measly food she received, rather than being another beggar living rough on the streets. Ordered to sweep, clean and cook whilst Éponine was allowed to play with her dolls and go out to the merchants with Madame, Cosette only had the nights to look forward to. Before she fell asleep, Cosette would pray that her mother would return and whisk her away from this miserable existence that was her life. And she would escape, for those precious hours, into a world of happiness where she could be free and loved.
Two girls; sharing age, needs, dreams and desires. But both leading two very different lives. Lives that would one day unexpectedly alter their perceptions.
And their fates.