It fell to the women to remove the dead. They cleaned the blood off the street with rags, laid the bodies out side-by-side, and every five minutes dispatched a messenger to bear news to another family. Often the messenger, usually a young girl, did not return. Gradually they worked their way to the wine shop.
"Come observe this scene," said the eldest of them to the rest.
One dead man was nailed by bullets to the wall, arms spread and head bowed. Another lay by his feet, his hand in a pool of blood and a bullet-hole in his chest.
Yet both were smiling and this was what touched them. As they approached the man on the wall, one woman remarked that he looked like an angel. His name was Enjolras, someone supplied. The scene had an ethereal quality; an artist could have painted it and lingered for years on each detail: the hands, the smiles, the light.
They did not know the other's name. They brought over the rags and the water.
"How came there to be happiness, at such an unhappy end?" said the old woman, as they prepared to move the bodies.
"That one is mine," came a voice from the door.
A child, no more than twelve, stepped into the room. Her hair was black, her thin face pale, but her eyes were her most noticeable feature. They were a vivid green, but surrounded now by dark pools of red. Her cheeks were wet, and both tears and blood had congealed on her sleeve.
"He is my older brother," she said. "The man on the ground before you. The one above him in death is the one he placed above him in life."
"Will you help us move them?" the old woman asked gently.
"I almost haven't the heart to," said the girl, lost in reverie. "He would like nothing better than to hear, 'see where this one fell! He must have loved the other dearly.'"
"That being said, neither are statues, and they must be moved."
The girl lingered in the doorway for a second, before she swallowed and went to her brother. His eyes were open and she closed them, gently.
"Perhaps he was not beautiful in life," she said sadly, "but in death-"
"Rarely have I seen such a smile," said another of the women.
"Rarely have I," said the sister.
They laid the bodies out side by side in the corner, soon to be moved again. A corpse is a problematic thing: the women were respectful, but they were desensitized also.
"I am sorry," said the old woman to the young girl. "Truly."
"I shall still see and hear him when I sleep," said the sister. Her grief was not lessened, but her tears were drying. "I shall see this other too, I think."
The other women were silent, until finally the old one spoke again. "Girl, have you a mother?"
"Yes," the girl said. She kissed her brother's forehead. "She knows already, but she must be told." Then she looked at Enjolras.
"I would thank you," she said. "I heard much of you. You were my brother's saviour." She kissed him too. Then she was gone for mere minutes- when she returned her eyes were still wet, but she had a clean shirt.
"My mother is coming, and his," she said quietly. "Both hearts are broken. But they were glad of the detail I could tell them."
She took great care when cleaning the blood from round the bodies: she laid their hands so they were touching once more.