A man ready to make a speech gets caught up in talks of love.
Chapter 3: Stirring the Blood in Their Veins
Eponine...She was still running through the revolutionary's mind hours later, but he knew he had to focus on their important cause. His country, his friends, and his family were at stake. And it didn't help that Marius was almost completely useless in his lovesick daze. He couldn't stop babbling about blonde hair and a breathtaking smile. Many of the men were jokingly rolling their eyes and laughing about it, yet Enjolras remained silent for fear of being hypocritical to himself. Raking a hand through his curly hair, he sighed loudly and stared hard at the papers on the table, willing an answer to show itself to him.
"Enj, the way to save France is not going to magically appear on that paper in the next few seconds." He turned with a small smile as one of his closer friends and medical student, Joly, stood next to him with an amused grin. Joly always seemed to read his mind, especially when he was troubled. And he was one of the only people who was allowed to call Enjolras by his rare nickname.
"I know. Anything is worth a try once," he replied good-naturedly, accepting the cup of water his friend offered him. He didn't drink alcohol often, as he preferred to remain sober so he could concentrate on his work, and Joly knew that from spending many nights studying for classes with him and their other friends.
"I can agree with you on that." Joly took a sip of his brandy and laughed before they fell into companionable silence. Enjolras finally forced himself to study the plans and the map of where each group of revolutionaries would be stationed in the city.
"Now, the barricades need to be placed at areas where we can build them high and use many people to protect them. No narrow streets," he instructed the other students. Everyone heard his serious, businesslike tone and quieted down, gathering around to listen to him. He had a way of captivating an entire crowd just by speaking one word.
"Luc said he will lead the barricade nearest to his home. They have a decent amount of ammo and guns," Combeferre informed their leader as he pointed to a specific spot on the map. Enjolras nodded at him and glanced around at every face standing at the table.
"Men, the time for our revolution is so close that I can feel the air changing..." he began a mini-speech, but he stopped when he saw his friend and fellow student Grantaire drinking his third glass of wine and laughing about something to himself. With a frustrated scowl, Enjolras moved over to him, took the wine from his hand, and set it on the table, staring at him. Grantaire's smile faded quickly.
"We cannot lose focus. Stop drinking. Listen to what I am saying," Enjolras scolded before turning away to keep talking about the barricades. However, his attention was diverted shortly afterwards by more laughter. He had to restrain himself from tossing his cup at his friends before he looked back at them. They were all looking at Marius, whose face proved that he was not paying any attention to anything Enjolras had said. His mind was obviously still on that girl from the square, as he was smiling wide and staring off into space. Grantaire and Prouvaire were laughing and teasing him, and he laughed along with them. Joly exchanged an 'Are you kidding me?!' look with Enjolras, who simply shook his head.
"She was there, right in front of me, and then the Thenardiers were being questioned by the police...and then she was gone when the crowd cleared..." Marius spoke as though it was all a part of his favorite dream. Enjolras heard the name Thenardier, and his head snapped up sharply. That last name still left a bitter taste in his mouth because of the innkeepers and their gang. He felt horrible for Eponine being born into such a wicked family.
"Love? Is it true? Marius, in love? I never thought I'd see that happen," Grantaire smiled appreciatively as he drank more of his wine and poured some for his friends.
"But we are talking of Marius," Courfeyrac interjected. "I'd be more shocked if Enjolras was the one in love! That seems more impossible!" He clapped a hand on his leader's shoulder with a playful grin, laughing and moving back over to where the wine was. There were a few laughs and words of agreement, much to Enjolras' chagrin. They were teasing and meant no harm, yet the words still affected him. Once again, his "marble statue" persona was taking over who he wished he could really be. He tried his best to hide his wince and tightened his jaw instead, refusing to allow thoughts of Eponine to return to his mind for the moment. He had to lead these men, and in order to do that, his head had to be clear and dedicated.
"Why do you have to be so serious, Enjolras?" Grantaire continued. "The revolution can wait for one night. Drink, laugh, have fun!"
"I must be serious, Monsieur Grantaire, because you refuse to be," Enjoras answered him, looking directly into his face and raising a brow. All of the men stopped joking with him and looked at their feet, ashamed. "This revolution is not so that we can drink and have a good time with the women in town. We are fighting for our rights, for our freedom. We are fighting to survive! Our world is full of tyrants, beggars, false criminals, and revolutionaries like us who need to change all of those things. We must fight to change France!" His men were shouting their agreements and throwing up their fists, and he smiled at them proudly.
"Vive la France! Vive la France!" Everyone was yelling as they all took a swig of whatever they were drinking and resumed staring at their maps.
"Enjolras, you were not there," Marius walked over to him. "She was beautiful. The moment I saw her, I felt like I could not breathe. My world suddenly had meaning. Have you ever felt like that?" As soon as he said that, Marius could have sworn he saw Enjolras' stoic expression soften slightly.
"Have I ever felt love at first glance? No," Enjolras stated in a firm tone.
"But what about..." Marius began to argue.
"You're not a child anymore, Marius. We are in the middle of planning what could possibly turn into a war, and you need to grow up." Marius' shoulders dropped in wounded disappointment as Enjolras answered him coolly and turned away. He waited until Marius had left him alone to close his eyes and exhale deeply. He immediately felt guilty for what he had told his best friend, especially since the first thing that had come into his mind after Marius had spoken was her. Eponine. It had not been true love at first sight, though.
A whole summer eight years ago was what had captivated him. He spent an entire summer getting to know the young Thenardier girl before her parents had practically ripped her away from him, and he had never seen her again until today. That was probably why he had ordered himself to forget about her. It was too difficult to think about the loss he had felt when he was threatened to stay away from her, so it had been his best defense mechanism when he was younger. And now she had returned to his life, right before he was about to help start a revolution against his country's ruler. Sometimes, he truly disliked coincidences.
Eponine made her way through the winding streets back to the cafe, where she knew Marius would be waiting for an answer about his new beloved, Cosette. The things she did for the people she cared about, no matter how much it hurt her. It took her a few hours to find the answers Marius was looking for, and part of that was Eponine's hesitation at giving him the way to find Cosette. How could he fall in love with another woman without meeting her first? Eponine had always been there, ever since they were children together. She had seen him at his best and his worst, known his family and friends, knew every detail about him. Perhaps she was being selfish, but she couldn't help but feel that it was unfair. On the other hand, it might be her fault that she had placed herself in the friend spot to begin with.
So here she was, the sun already set in the sky as she turned the last corner to her destination, the moonlight on the street lighting the way for her. Before she reached the door, she stopped and looked up into the open second story window and saw Marius and Enjolras arguing over something. With a furrowed brow, she watched them for a moment and wondered what could the best friends have disagreed on. The young brunette moved into the cafe slowly, still unsure of whether or not she really wanted to go through with telling the love of her life where to find his new love. The cafe owner, Madame Hucheloup, nodded a greeting to her with a soft smile as she walked in and looked around at the revolutionaries studying maps and preparing weapons.
She walked to the stairs and took a deep breath before starting up one stair at a time. The sounds of the men planning, cleaning guns, and speaking of fighting in the cafe were all around her, but she tried her best to block it out. At the middle of the stairs, she froze when she heard Enjolras scolding Marius for loving Cosette. Looking at the curly-haired man of her past, she tried her best not to smile. At least she wasn't the only one who disapproved of Marius' decision. Marius looked away and Enjolras' own expression fell to one of heavy thoughts and slight guilt. Tilting her head to the side, she gazed at him for a long moment until a voice cut through the silent air.
"'Ponine!" Her head snapped to the other side quickly when Marius yelled for her, her attention redirected to the real reason why she came there. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Enjolras' eyes look up quickly to stare at her. Shaking her head to clear any excess thoughts, she moved automatically up the rest of the stairs towards her best friend, as if she was being controlled by someone else. Marius met her at the top of the stairs, his expression hopeful as his eyes searched her face for any sign of good or bad news. "Did you find her? My Cosette?" Marius asked her hurriedly. She glanced over at Enjolras, whose eyes never left her face, and he shook his head once as if to say, "Please don't tell him anything." Grimacing, she closed her eyes for a second before reopening them to stare at Marius.
"Yes. I know where she lives," she replied without thinking further on it. She could've sworn she heard Enjolras groan in frustration, but she kept her focus on Marius, who smiled wide.
"All right. Let me get my coat. And then we will go. I must see her tonight." And with that, he disappeared to go grab his things, and she exhaled, disappointed in herself. Not even a moment later, she felt a hand at her elbow, tugging her away from the crowd into a corner before she could protest.
"Why would you give him hope?" Enjolras inquired with a half-intense glare at her as he held on to her elbow. She stared at him with a tightened jaw, as if she was holding back tears.
"Why would you give him none? He's your best friend. Doesn't he deserve to be happy?" she responded.
"Eponine," he spoke her name for the first time in eight years, and she was taken aback. He remembered her. She stepped back, her gaze wide and disbelieving. He swallowed hard, watching her reaction to her name being spoken. "I need him to focus on the revolution. This is more important than any feelings he may have for someone. Especially a woman he does not know. Love makes men weak," he continued, clearing his throat and straightening his body up. She raised a brow at him and wrenched her arm from his light grasp.
"I know the revolution is important. You've made that quite clear, Enjolras. But that is why we all need happiness. And love. Love does not weaken the revolution. It fuels it." Enjolras stared at her, confused. What did she mean by that? "Why do you think you make a difference in this fight against France? Because you love your people...your friends, your family, your cause...it's love that gives you the strength to fight for them." He was floored by her response. This young woman was quite intelligent, when she was given the chance to be. Her family probably squelched any chance of her making a difference in society with that bright mind.
"Eponine..." Enjolras repeated her name in a whisper when she was done, causing her to look at her hands and fidget with her dress nervously. "And what do you love enough to fight for?" That question surprised her, and she stared back up into his face, her brown eyes softening at him. His own face relaxed visibly in response to hers, and she could've sworn he was about to smile. After a brief pause, she opened her mouth to reply, but Marius rushed up at that instant.
"'Ponine...we must find Cosette, please..." he begged, a lovestruck glaze over his entire face.
"Yes. Of course. Good night, Enjolras..." she finished the conversation with one more look, this time apologetic, before turning away and leading Marius down the stairs as quickly as possible. She needed to get away from this man. Why did he have to ask that question? It was unsettling to her, mostly because she didn't think of Marius right away. Before, she would've said his name in a heartbeat. So why, all of a sudden, was she so unsure? She must've just been too anxious to form a proper response to Enjolras. He was quite an intense fellow, so perhaps she was just nervous around him and her thoughts became a jumbled mess.
"Good night...Eponine," Enjolras said quietly after her, watching her until the last possible second when she disappeared down the stairs. In just one conversation with her, his perspective on his life and the way he handled the revolution was challenged and brought many questions into his mind. If all of what she said was true, then perhaps he wasn't the marble statue he and others believed himself to be. Love was there inside of him. He just had to dig deep enough to find it and use it.