Children Shouldn't Live Like This – Chapter 13
Gavroche's little plan had been simple, but useful for the Les Amis, which the point of its conception and execution had not been informed of the children under its employment. Essentially, it involved stationing groups of Gavroche's friends at city hall in shifts to keep updated with information on General Lamarque's health status. At the point where the unfortunate but nearly inevitable news was announced, the information could be immediately relayed to Gavroche, who would inform the leaders of the Les Amis.
It would save valuable time on the part of the students, who could take action and make plans immediately instead of wasting time for the press to report the information. Although the possibility had not occurred to Gavroche himself, it was not completely improbable for parliament to keep Lamarque's death and the press under wraps in hopes of delaying the civil war that threatened the city's military force.
The plan was not supposed to come to fruition so quickly. Nobody wanted the plan to come to fruition so quickly. Unfortunately, the fates had dealt Paris an unfavorable hand from the moment their reigning king had been placed into a position of power. The final nail in the coffin was merely a reminder of the second coming that would inevitably come.
As Gavroche dashed his way through the streets, he held his hand to his mouth and choked back tears. It seemed silly to cry for something like this, to cry for a person whom he had never met in real life, let alone talked to. Gavroche was, however, completely aware of the stature that this man held amongst his fellow men. This man stood up for the rights of the working class, the underdogs of society, the same people that he met living on the streets; the homeless, the wretched, and the unlucky.
How many times have people died of illness and malnourishment of these streets? How many friends had he lost? How many people had, still, hung on to life with the faint hope that this man, the sole beacon of truth and light in French parliament, would one day save them all from their seemingly inevitable mortality?
And now the fates have snatched this man away.
His breathing now coming in pained, rapid gasps, a culmination of his frantic running and his grief, Gavroche willed himself to at least maintain some level of composure such that he could face his friends and deliver his news properly, to prove that he was some help to them, no matter how small. It was the least he could do for the cause. The students of Les Amis now seemed like the only people who could lead the poor in this time of pain and suffering.
The café now in his sights, Gavroche wiped off the tears running down his cheeks with his coat sleeves and quickened his pace. Courfeyrac, who immediately got to his feet upon noticing his young friend's red eyes and disconsolate demeanor, first spotted him. The other students didn't see him, instead continuing their loud chatter and clinking of glasses. As Gavroche reached the café and heaved at its steps, the man stepped in front to greet him, worried.
"Gavroche, are you alright? You look like you've seen a ghost! Did someone hurt you?"
Ignoring both questions, Gavroche merely looked up and spoke meekly.
"I have news."
Pushing past a bewildered Courfeyrac, Gavroche stepped into the café of rambunctious men, and shouted.
The men didn't hear him. Marius sat at the center of the café, seemingly awestruck at an unknown entity on the ceiling. Enjolras sat on his side, chastising him for some unknown reason. Grantaire was talking to a group of students, loudly clinking glasses with them and cheering for nothing at all.
How could they bear to celebrate at a time like this?
"Listen to me!"
Yet again the men failed to hear the boy's shout, instead entertaining themselves with their own devices. Mustering up all the torment in his heart, Gavroche bit his lip till it drew blood, before screaming at the Les Amis with as much vigor that he could gather from his tiny body.
Immediately the café fell silent, to the point where the sound of a bottle cap falling to the floor could have echoed for miles. As dozens of eyes turned to face the young street urchin, Enjolras rose to his feet, concerned.
Gavroche was usually far too polite to interrupt the words of the student whom he looked up to the most, but the situation at hand seemed far too severe for him to concern himself with formalities. Shakily, Gavroche delivered his message.
"General Lamarque is dead."
As the furniture fell from the heavens and shattered upon the stones that cobbled the streets, the Les Amis made hasty preparations for the threat that would fall upon them at any given time. Their own threat to the government, a live demonstration led by Enjolras and Marius that declared their urge to fight should Lamarque succumb to his illness, had apparently been taken very seriously. As a message from the army, delivered by a solitary soldier, reached Enjolras' hands, the leader of the Les Amis read it quickly before thrusting it into Marius' hands.
"Demands for us to abandon our cause and surrender immediately."
"We ignore this, of course."
"It goes without saying."
Crushing the letter in his hands, Marius tossed the paper aside and hurried away to direct the many men with regards to the formation of the barricade. As the men worked, Enjolras recalled something that had bothered him since the afternoon and strode off in the direction of the café, where he was sure that a certain disobedient gamin was resting.
Opening the doors to the now closed café, Enjolras strode in purposefully and spotted Grantaire chugging down yet another mug of beer, still indifferent to all the activity occurring outside. Sitting next to him was Gavroche, with a conflicted expression on his face, as though he had done something good yet terrible at the same time. His cheeks were still stained with tears. His eyes meeting's Enjolras' own, Gavroche gulped as he waited for Enjolras to speak, anticipating the worst.
Keeping his head down, Gavroche prayed that Enjolras would at least be somewhat merciful despite his disobedience. Grantaire, noticing Gavroche's sullenness, placed a hand on his shoulder as he continued to sip his drink.
"Gavroche, if you feel you've done something right, show everyone that. Keep your head high and show yourself a little respect. Take whatever comes like a man."
Hearing Grantaire's words, Gavroche sucked in his stomach and slowly raised his head to face Enjolras yet again, ignoring the pounding in his ears as the student stared back sternly at him.
"You disobeyed me, Gavroche."
"Did I not make myself clear weeks ago? Didn't I say that you must not involve yourself in what we do?"
"Did you forget what I had said?"
Now gazing directly at Enjolras with a defiant spark in his eyes, Gavroche spoke with more resolution than ever.
"I did it because I wanted to."
Enjolras took in Gavroche's response quietly. After a long-drawn half a minute, the student sank into a nearby seat, before looking up Gavroche, who was now filled with trepidation, with a small smile.
"You did a good job, Gavroche."
Not expecting praise for his deed, Gavroche took a moment to stammer back an answer.
"How did you know when the news would emerge from city hall?"
"I didn't." Fiddling with his jacket between his fingers, Gavroche sucked on his lip, which had stopped bleeding just minutes ago. "I had some of my friends stay there to listen out for news. We were going to take turns..."
"That's good thinking right there, Gavroche."
Running a hand through his hair, Enjolras pursed his lips for a moment, in deep musing. Making up his mind, he slowly reached into his jacket pocket and extracted a small gun, to which Grantaire raised an eyebrow and Gavroche flinched at, sinking deeper into his seat. In disbelief that Enjolras was going to shoot him for ignoring his instruction, he pulled his legs closer to himself and trembled, his eyes not leaving the gun in Enjolras' hand. Watching Gavroche's reaction to the appearance of the weapon, Enjolras couldn't help but grin. As he deposited the gun onto the table, Gavroche stopped short and looked at Enjolras, obviously confused.
"This is for you. Use it to protect yourself in case someone confronts you, but don't take part in the battle actively, do you understand me? I don't want you to get hurt."
In disbelief at the fact that Enjolras was willing to trust him with a weapon, Gavroche nodded meekly and picked up it by its barrel.
"I need to go and rally the men. You can help with the setting up of the barricades if you wish, but after you're done with that I want you in a safe place. Ask Grantaire or Courfeyrac to show you how to use the gun properly without hurting yourself, okay?"
The moment Gavroche nodded, Enjolras was out of the café, gone as quickly as he had come.
Grantaire let out a low, surprised whistle. Taking the gun from Gavroche's hands and examining it, he then thrust it back at the boy, who still looked stupefied as though he had just imagined the previous event. Tapping Gavroche teasingly on the head with the muzzle of the gun and inciting a light wince and a pout, Grantaire picked up his mug and stepped to the counter to refill it himself, leaving a very perplexed Gavroche sitting at the table by himself.
Spotting his sister sitting in a darkened corner about the barricades, Gavroche slowly trod up to her and bent down, placing a hand on his sister's shoulder and shaking her.
"What're you doing here, Eponine? I thought you didn't want to be part of this."
Eponine turned her head around to face her brother, which caused Gavroche to gasp at her bloodshot eyes and puffed cheeks, an expression that seemed very foreign on his usually tenacious sister. Before Gavroche could speak, Eponine interjected with words of her own, every syllable uttered dripping wet with tragedy.
"I couldn't stand…not knowing what happens here. All my friends…"
Gavroche sat next to her and smiled.
"They're my friends too, Eponine."
"I know they are. I…wait, what about you? I told you not to get involved!"
Wincing at his sister's fiery tone, Gavroche tried his best not to shrink back at her severe gaze.
"I've got to be here too, Eponine. Like I said, they're all my friends. And I really believe in what they're doing, they're fighting for us, Eponine!"
Already resigned to the fact that her brother was adamant about being part of the revolution, Eponine could only sigh.
"Just…keep yourself out of trouble."
"I'll try." Gavroche dragged his shoes on the cobbled ground. "What's wrong, Eponine? Why are you crying?"
With a melancholic smile, Eponine looked away from her brother.
"It's a stupid reason, you don't need to know."
"Tell me, Eponine! I promise I won't laugh!"
Realizing that there wasn't anyone else she could go to for a listening ear in the first place, Eponine's lip started to tremble yet again as she recalled she had done just an hour ago. Gavroche placed his arms around her, forcibly stretching himself a little thanks to his small size, and engulfed her in a hug.
"Just tell me, Eponine."
As a tear rolled down her pale cheek against her struggle to force it back in, Eponine lost all inhibitions as she poured out her heart to her little brother, who sat next to her taking in all that she said.
"Marius saw a girl that he fell in love with instantly…she used to live with us a long time ago, but she was sent away by maman and papa when you were just an infant, so you don't remember anything. He then convinced me to show him the way to her house, and now they've met. She loves him too. He doesn't know, Gavroche! He doesn't care, even after so long! Why, Gavroche, why?!"
Dissolving into sobs, Eponine turned and rested her head against Gavroche's shoulder. Seeing his sister this distraught was making Gavroche emotional himself, however he forced himself to maintain composure to remain strong for his sister's sake.
For ten minutes the two siblings stayed in the rain, allowing it to drench them to their cores.
Once Eponine's sobbing had died down, Gavroche felt anger stirring in his heart. He had known about Eponine's crush on Marius for so long already, how was it possible that Marius had never noticed it by himself? Why did his sister have to suffer for his inattentiveness?
"Monsieur Marius…" Gavroche's gaze darkened as he started to rise from the ground. "I'll go talk to him, he cannot treat you like this!"
"No!" Eponine grasped onto her brother's coat sleeve and held on tight. "Don't do that, he's in love with the girl. As long as he's happy, I'm happy."
"But Eponine," Gavroche sat back down. "You're not happy! You're hurting!"
"Somebody has to make a sacrifice for another's happiness."
Eponine smiled melancholically as she wiped away her tears.
"I'm just glad that I get to do it for Marius."
The siblings embraced yet again. As Gavroche prayed for Eponine's happiness, his sister prayed for Marius'.
The rain continued to fall.
Author's Note – I'm hoping all of you can see what I meant when I said that the plot would be organized in little snippets, but I'm still trying my best to keep a proper timeline of sorts. I've decided to cut out, ignore or brush past so incidents that seemed important in the musical, but were difficult for me to place Gavroche in the spotlight (practically the entire point of me writing this story). As you can see, I've removed Lamarque's funeral procession and pushed up the construction of the barricades, replacing the "threat" from the students to the government with Enjolras' and Marius' first declaration to the people (in the musical/movie this occurs during the song "Look Down"). The sibling scene that I've placed in this chapter comes right after Eponine's "On My Own". I'm trying my best to stick to a linear timeline, at least.
The plot and tone, of course, gets significantly more heavy and depressing from this point onwards. There'll be a little bit of drama (or a lot of drama) next chapter, so be prepared for that.