Sometimes the stares are worse than the memories. The stares of the childless mothers, the sisters, the wives and fathers and brothers and friends and supporters. Most other times though, it's the sleepless nights, the dark rings under his eyes that are plain to see in his reflection, the nightmares of the boys' faces. He recalled the child most often in his waking nightmares. The sound of his groan as his song was cut short by the bullet. It wasn't his shot, but he could feel the gun in his own in his own hands, the man who shot under his orders. The feel of the trigger against his index finger was still burned into his skin, to his nerves and bone. He's never forget the way the young boy fought, and finally fell and the yell of the boys' who came to retrieve the body, and what he told them.
Sometimes it was their screams, as they begged their neighbors to open up their homes and their hearts as he and his men climbed over splintered furniture and tattered banners. He followed them, knowing deep down, that if his life had been only just a certain way, he would have died alongside any one of them. He remembered their faces, terrified, in pain, as he gave the orders to attack. Their eyes, as one by one, their faith and friends fell, all because they were fighting on the opposite side of the barricade.
At night, he can hear the whimpers coming from upstairs. They've blocked the routes, but it only buys them a moment or two. He hears the groan of the floorboards under their feet, and their final drop as his company fires shots into the ceiling. His hands ache with the splinters he received climbing to make sure the job was done. He tosses and turns, sleep nothing but a distant memory as the golden haired boy and the black haired drunk grasp each others hands, and a red flag is raised in a final act of glory, and his unheard pleas for forgiveness, drowned out by the sound of execution.
It's the unheard pleas that keep him from putting the gun that took those boys' lives to his own temple. He tried to tell them. He tried so hard to warn them, begging them to listen to reason, because he knew. He knew that if the tables were turned, he would have been on the other side of that barricade, fighting with those schoolboys. Not a soldier, not even quite a man yet, but yielding a weapon, and fighting against the country's finest. He saw their bravery, and in an instant of the Guard's glory, he felt nothing but guilt.
He turns to drink, but even that does not drown out the sounds of revolution that threaten to shake him to his core. He resigns, and that helps a little. It almost feels good when he tells their stories, igniting a spark, here and there of national pride. He can sleep again finally, after he shoots the first bullet of his own revolution, a common man, an angry man.
And when he finally dies he can hear the singing before his final breath, and he dies with a soft smile on his face. Because he knows that he'll be welcomed as a brother of the barricade.
Vive le France!