Adèle Enjolras was a woman of high integrity and fine morals. However that didn't mean that she was above meddling in her son's affairs. On the afternoon she was expecting him to arrive she invited Mademoiselle Éloise Guiraud for tea.
The young lady was polite and eloquent. To many men she was very beautiful. Her golden hair was styled into tight curls that bounced as she walked. Her dresses were sewn from silk and embroidered with gold. Her cheekbones were perfectly shaped and her skin looked as though it was made of porcelain.
When Enjolras arrived he was greeted with foot servants to take his belongings to his room. He had arranged for his study to be relocated from Paris while the rest of the apartment furnishings were sold. He tried to slip under the radar but knew that he would not hear the end of it if he did not greet his mother. He knew she would be in the sun room at this hour of the afternoon and after knocking gently he gingerly pushed the door open. As expected his mother was sipping tea from her fine china in the company of a striking young lady. Adèle turned to look at the door and when she recognised her son she was on her feet in an instant. Sweeping across the room she made no hesitation at announcing her son's arrival.
"Adrien; darling, welcome home. I'm so happy to see you after all of this time." She encased her son in an awkward hug. Enjolras had no misunderstanding about the grand display of affection, it was all for the benefit of her guest.
"Hello Mother." He managed stiffly.
She pulled him by the arm over to the other side of the room to the table and chairs. "I'd like to introduce Mademoiselle Éloise Guiraud. This is my Adrien."
Éloise rose to her feet. "Bonjour Adrien. I'm delighted to meet you at last." She extended her hand.
Enjolras immediately stiffened at her forwardness. "Charmed, Mademoiselle." He tried with much effort to not have his tone come out with sarcasm. He reluctantly took her hand and kissed it.
"You simply must call me Éloise." She insisted. "I'm sure we will be seeing much of one another to move past the social pleasantries."
"Until then; Mademoiselle."
Éloise turned to Madame Adèle and laughed. "Oh my, he is quite the gentleman."
"Adrien was always mindful of his manners. You must join us for tea."
"Forgive me Mother, it was a very long journey and I wish to rest. Perhaps next time." He bowed his head and made to retreat but Adèle would have none of it.
"Come now, there will be plenty of time for that. Sit. Margueriette will bring you some tea." She motioned her hand to one of the maids. Adèle applied pressure on his arm and steered him into the seat.
Éloise smiled at him with her teeth bared. "Adrien I understand you will be working for my Father?"
"That remains to be seen. I am to meet with him in a few days to discuss employment opportunities.
"I will be sure to put in a kind word for you." She sipped her tea.
The maid set a fresh teacup down in front of Enjolras. "Thank you Margueriette."
The young maid blushed profusely. It was almost unheard of to be thanked by the masters of the household. "You are most welcome Monsieur." She bowed and retreated before she could be scolded by Adèle for speaking out of turn.
Enjolras then addressed Éloise. "That will not be necessary. I would prefer to gain your father's favour by my own merits."
She smirked in response. "On the contrary I would surmise that you will be needing all the help you can receive given your radical ideals about this country's social class."
Enjolras pursed his lips into a thin line. His future wife knew all about his dirty laundry.
"Éloise!" Adèle warned.
"Oh its quite alright Madame. I can sympathise with those less fortunate than myself."
Enjolras was irritated now. "I'm sure the sentiment is true, but forgive me for saying; until you have sold yourself on the street corner in order to buy food to last another day, I doubt how deep your sympathies run. Now if you'll both excuse me." His voice was laced with contempt and he rose from his chair; leaving the comfort of the sun room with his teacup untouched.
His meeting with Monsieur Guiraud later that week was also very interesting. Enjolras made it very clear that his political loyalty lies with the late General Lamarque even though most of the other members of Parliament favoured King Louis-Phillipe. Guiraud had known Lamarque personally, and so he was willing to give Enjolras a chance, warning him however that it may be difficult to sway his colleagues opinions. It was not until the end of their meeting that Éloise came up in discussion.
"My daughter was very taken with you when the two of you met earlier."
"I am surprised your daughter is not betrothed already; being such an eligible young lady."
"Éloise finds it hard to find a man that holds her interest. You should think of yourself as very privileged."
Enjolras cleared his throat. "What exactly are you expecting from me Monsieur?"
"I am old. I have worked hard throughout my life, who am I to leave this to when I am gone? If she were married at least the Estate will stay in my family, should she bear a son I would die in peace. I have not toiled for so long for my earnings to be squandered away through my brother's family."
"Forgive my saying so; but you have a few years left in you Monsieur."
"You never know what tomorrow will bring; and these things do take time. Need I not explain the respect you would receive; being the son-in-law of a man of my standing hmm?"
Enjolras knew he was going to struggle in this new world. it was clear from the start that it was no longer about the skills or knowledge one might posess; but only about whom was friends with whom. His parent's continuous matchmaking with Éloise was doing nothing to better his temperament either. He missed Éponine terribly and could not shake the guilt he felt about lying to her.
It had been a month since he had moved to Strasbourg and after no effort on Enjolras' part Adèle decided to intervene. She invited Éloise to stay at the Estate for as long as she wished; which in both of their opinions was actually for as long as it took. Éloise had her sights set on Adrien, and she was not accustomed to being declined of what she wanted.
Enjolras was alone in his room late at night writing a letter to Éponine. He was concerned that if their correspondence ever fell into another's hands their feelings for one another would be discovered. He signed his name as Julien; his middle name. He was interrupted by a knock at his door and with a sigh he hid his letter from sight and managed "Come in."
Éloise entered his room wearing a satin nightgown and a robe over top. Her robe was tied at the waist but sat open at the chest to reveal the top of her breasts. Her thin nightgown hugged each curve leaving little to the imagination. Adrien tried to ignore her state of near-undress.
"Mademoiselle Guiraud; what can I do for you at this hour?"
"Adrien; I was lonely and uninspired. And you know that out of everybody in this house I find you the most intriguing."
"It is late. I was about to retire..."
"Adrien I know that you are fully aware of the expectations placed upon us by our families. We will have to talk about this eventually."
"Just because something is expected of me does not translate into my obedience."
Éloise crossed the room to his chair. "I have had opportunities to marry many men over the years; but they either wanted me for my beauty or for my money. But you...you don't seem to care about either." She leant down to whisper in his ear. "What do you care about Adrien?" She was in awe of this man. He was unlike any other she had known; and she wanted him.
He changed the subject. "You are not upset at being ordered to marry me simply because you cannot find anyone for yourself?"
"I could do much worse." She moved around to the front of his chair and sat on his lap.
Enjolras inhaled sharply. "If you are trying to seduce me; I suggest you cease your actions, for it will not win any favours from me."
Éloise was not so easily deterred and she captured his lips with her own. Her lips were soft, and they teased him down to the very core. She kissed him for more than a few moments, her eyes were closed and she was enjoying herself while Enjolras stayed stiff with his eyes open; refusing to participate. She finally released his lips slowly sucking all the way off of his bottom lip until they were no longer touching. When she was done with her tantalizingly slow display Enjolras simply said for her to "get out."
Reluctantly she headed for the door but not before reminding Adrien how much she enjoyed a challenge.
Christophe Enjolras was a hard and ruthless man, but not without feeling. He took his son aside one evening after dinner for a walk around the grounds.
"Adrien, when you agreed to come here I was under the illusion that you understood your obligation. Why has there been no word of an engagement? Mademoiselle Éloise is a fine match."
Enjolras stiffened. "Mademoiselle Éloise is expectant, self-worshipping and spoilt. I have no desire to bed her, let alone bring a child into this world under false-pretenses. She is not the kind of woman I want to dedicate the rest of my life to."
"Son, your mother and I were somewhat steered together and we didn't start off with the best of relationships either. I did not think that we would grow to care for one another and now I wouldn't have my life any other way."
"Hmmm." He mumbled in response.
"You and I are more alike than you might think, Adrien."
"You and I are nothing alike." He steeled his voice for what he was to say next. "I would never sell my son's soul out from beneath him."
"After everything I have done for you...put a roof over your head in Paris; paid for you to complete University, all so you could throw it away atop a barricade for a hopeless cause?" Christophe turned to walk away but not before issuing a parting blow. "You are an embarrassment to this family Adrien; you will fix this."
Determined as ever to go against his parent's wishes Enjolras continued his work in the Parliament office, but he was struggling there aswell. Nobody would take him seriously. He was the upstart young radical fresh from University who was single-handedly responsible for the July "massacre" as they had labelled it. His Revolution had not been the way to invoke change and so they were certainly not going to listen to his beliefs about trying to improve life for the lower social classes.
He had been in Strasbourg now for almost six months. His controlled demeanour snapped one afternoon when one of his colleagues asked how it was that every other student that day had been slaughtered, except for Enjolras.
Of course he refused to dignify the question by giving it an answer; until it was suggested that perhaps he was a coward? That he abandoned the barricade in fear. That he abandoned his cause, the very thing he believed in, and left his friends to die. Another man then reminded everyone that in times of war soldiers who deserted the battlefield were disgraced. Enjolras was asked how he lives with himself?
Adrien then stood up and announced that they are all welcome to think whatever they may like about events that they are completely unaware of, but they may want to consider holding their tongues once he is officially welcomed into the house of Guiraud as one day soon they may all be answering to him. Unbeknownst to Enjolras Monsieur Guiraud was standing in the door and had listened to the whole argument. Instead of berating him for being presumptuous about a promotion the older man was overjoyed at the prospect of a wedding.
"Does this mean I can expect a happy announcement; my boy?"
Enjolras turned in shock but quickly composed himself. "Yes Monsieur, I have decided to take your daughter's hand, if she will still have me." He had done it now.
The delight in Guiraud's eyes was evident and he knew that there was no going back. Enjolras asked for discretion as he had not yet told his parents of the happy news. He excused himself from work early to rush back to the Estate to propose to Éloise before she heard about it from somebody else.
He found his future bride in the sun room with his mother drinking their usual cup of tea. It was apparent that news travels quickly and Adèle was the first to speak.
"Adrien, there is news about town...we have heard rumours and I am frightfully upset to think that you would neglect to mention such a thing to you own Mother..."
"...Forgive me Mother; but I must borrow Mademoiselle Guiraud for a few moments quite urgently."
Éloise was perched in her chair grinning from ear-to-ear. It was evident that she had already heard about her own engagement.
"Of course." She replied, rising from her seat and glided over to him.
Enjolras took her for a walk outside until they found somewhere to talk in private. A bridge overlooking a stream of bubbling water was about as romantic as he could manage.
"Marry me." It was a statement, not a question; with not a trace of joy behind the words.
Éloise smirked. "Is that the best you can do?"
"Please marry me." His second attempt was little improved from the first with impatience now driving the words from his lips.
Éloise tapped her foot. "You will ask me properly, down on one knee, and would it hurt you to address me as you do it? No wonder you are not married."
Sighing Enjolras bent to one knee and tried again. "Madmosielle, will you..."
"Éloise." He was cut off. "My name is Éloise."
"Just Éloise." She was thoroughly enjoying this. "If we are to be wed you will need to get used to calling me by my name. It is was two people do when they wish to show affection."
It was at that moment that he thought of his Éponine. She was the only woman he could bear calling him Adrien. He shook the memory from his mind, cleared his throat and tried again.
"Éloise, would you do me the honour of becoming my wife?" He had mustered up as much integrity as he could.
Giggling she stammered out "No."
"...I don't understand..."
"I like you Adrien...I like you more than any other man that has asked for my hand. But I need to believe that you care for me, at least until it's true."
"What do you want from me?"
"Kiss me. Show me how badly you want this."
Enjolras knew he would need to convince Éloise. It was too late to back out of this now and so he composed himself, closed his eyes, and he pictured her...with her auburn hair cascading down her shoulders, her crooked smile and those vulnerable brown eyes. The kiss was perfect, long and deep, hard and soft all at the same time.
When they broke apart Éloise's blue eyes pierced his own and with a wicked smile she asked "Do you kiss Éponine like that?"
Enjolras appeared as though he had been slapped across the face. "Excuse me?"
"Who is she...this Éponine? Is she the reason you don't like me Adrien?"
"I am not doing this." He wasn't even going to try and deny it.
"I found the letters. You love this woman...this is why you cannot stand the thought of marrying me."
"You went through my belongings?" He sighed. He was angry, but anger would not help the situation. "At least you can seek solace in the fact that it is nothing to do with you personally." He was lying again, but hoped it might gain him some sympathy.
"Tell me why I should marry a man who is in love with another?" She crossed her arms.
"Because what I once had with her is over."
"You have had quite the ongoing correspondence with her. Promising a life together, a small cottage by the ocean, far away from here. You give her false hope?"
"It was a fantasy. I have come to realise that it cannot be. We come from two very different worlds, and I must focus on my own. It is over; Éloise. If you accept my proposal my life will be here with you. I promise."The words felt like poison as they left his mouth, but Enjolras was out of choices. If he wanted to keep his career he would do what must be done; even if that meant selling his soul...and his heart.