When the carriages were not in use they were stored in the stables ready to attach fresh horses. There was nobody around so she crept up to the first carriage. Pulling the handle up she opened the door and climbed inside. There was nothing that seemed out of the ordinary, she even climbed all over the interior looking for how the thief was transporting the stolen goods. She decided to try the next carriage and found exactly what she was looking for. Sewn into the back of the upholstery was a compartment ideal for concealing small items such as jewellery or silverware. She pulled it open and found a small stash already waiting to go, jewels, necklaces, earrings.
"What are you doing in here!?"
Éponine was so startled she jumped and almost hit her head. She turned to find Régis standing in the doorway of the carriage. He was the same stablehand who was so interested in her when she first arrived. "Régis! I..." Éponine had to think quickly. Staff who were found poking around in areas where they were not required was not taken too kindly. She didn't have time to think and so Éponine lay back down on the cushions and took a deep breath before managing in her most sultry voice "I was looking for you..."
A look of surprise crossed his face and then he grinned. "Is that right?"
"Get in here then." Éponine winked at him. Régis climbed into the carriage pulling the door shut behind him. He was on top of her within no time and she could smell the mingle of whisky and cologne all over him. There was another scent which she couldn't quite place but it was very peculiar. He began kissing her neck and pulling at her dress ties. Éponine had to think very quickly...she had no intention of actually sleeping with this poor excuse of a man. His hands were at the buckles on his pants and Éponine was desperate to delay him taking them off. Anything but that... She took his hands and placed them on her breasts and he began to untie her bodice. It was then he found the hairpin.
"Well well, what do we have here?"
Éponine stopped breathing.
"I wasn't told you were in on this?" Régis was involved in the thefts, she couldn't believe her luck.
In her surprise Éponine almost gave the game away, but she managed "Wern't you?"
"No, the boss didn't tell me."
"I came to see for myself...isn't there a bit much here?" Éponine was bluffing and tried to keep the act up.
"It's a bit more than we would usually heist but its being sent off tonight. I came to make sure it was ready."
"And the preparations have been made on the other side?"
"I have my guy waiting to collect in the village. It has to go tonight or it will miss the connection to Paris in the morning. It's all under control."
"Is it not risky sending them that far?"
"It is, but Thenardier's paying well. The gain outweighs the risk." He set his sights back on her bodice. "Now where were we?"
Éponine couldn't believe her father was caught up in this as well. She felt as though she might never get away from him. She started to squirm as Régis locked his mouth onto one breast. "Régis...as much fun as this is, if I am caught here..."
"Not to worry love, this won't take long." It was then she heard his pants drop and his hands began lifting her skirt. Éponine was panicking now and she dropped the act. "No...let go of me."
"Now now, nobody likes a tease." He grabbed one of her arms and pinned it to the wall of the carriage. Before he could take the other arm she grabbed the hairpin and with the sharp end she jammed it into his neck.
He cried out in pain. "You little bitch!" He punched her square across the face and her head lulled in reaction to the blow. He went to lay another hit into her so she raised her knee, driving it up into his crotch this time. He rolled off her in pain and Éponine took the opportunity to scramble from the carriage. Her hair was disheveled and her clothes were all out of sorts but she didn't care. Régis was quick to chase her but 'Ponine was too quick for him. She ran back to the house and around a few hedges trying to lose him. She sprinted for the first door she found not caring where it lead. Trying to catch her breath she found to her dismay that she had entered a side-door to the sunroom. Lady Georgette was drinking tea with Sophie in assistance. Even Monsieur Tristan was there and the husband and wife were clearly engaged in some private conversation. All three of them were staring at the girl in shock. The Lady-In-Waiting was the first to speak.
"What on earth do you think you are doing?"
Éponine dropped to the floor with her head bowed. "Forgive me Lady Georgette I was being chased."
Georgette immediately saw cause for concern. "Whatever do you mean? Who is chasing you?" She gasped when Éponine rose her head to speak. Her cheek was blue from the strike.
"Régis from the stables. He's involved in the string of thefts."
Sophie began to look more and more uncomfortable. She had a good eye though and spied a glinting in Éponine's hands. Éponine hadn't even realised she was still clutching the hairpin, which was now encrusted with blood.
"What are you doing with Lady Georgette's pin girl? Régis would never gain access to her Lady's chamber. You on the other hand..." Sophie was too quick to point the finger, and things began coming together in Éponine's mind.
"What about yourself Sophie? I'm surprised you recognised it so quickly."
"How dare you!" She lunged at Éponine in anger but was intercepted by Tristan.
He stepped in between the two maids and addressed Éponine. "Tell us what you know miss."
She could smell Sophie's perfume quite clearly now, the same scent that had been left dancing on Régis' neck. Her mind also thought back over to her first meeting with Sophie. Éponine had been lost coming in from the stables and she asked for direction. Sophie had no reason at all to be in that part of the manor unless she too had been down near the carriages. Had this been going on all this time? The amusing part was that Éponine would not have even remembered the strange meeting had Sophie not been so rude to her.
Éponine voiced her suspicions that Sophie and Régis were thieving together and sending the goods to Paris. She left out the part about her father being the buyer, even though she despised him she did not have it in her to betray him. Georgette looked worried. "These are serious allegations Éponine, I hope for your sake that you are not mistaken."
Tristan and Georgette searched Sophie's belongings and found further evidence to support Éponine's theory, including more francs than she could have possible earned over the last few months. Sophie and Régis were detained immediately and sent to prison while Éponine received a promotion. While she was sad to leave the company of Fleur and Esmé, her promotion to Georgette's Lady-In-Waiting secured her a wage increase and her own room. It wasn't long until she became close friends with Georgette, it was inevitable when they were spending over half of the day together.
Éponine yearned to tell Georgette about her relationship with her Cousin, if only to ask advice, but knew that deep down it would cause more harm than good. The months passed and correspondence from Enjolras had stopped completely. She had almost saved enough money to charter a carriage to Strasbourg to confront him. The journey would take eight days and realistically she could not justify asking for leave for sixteen days and then another day or two to actually speak with him. As fate would intervene she wouldn't need to.
One afternoon she was rearranging the decorative belongings in her Lady's room while Georgette sat reading.
"Oh Éponine, I received a letter in the post this morning. Tristan and I have been invited to a wedding. You will accompany me of course."
Éponine picked up a vase off of the bookcase to move it. "Oh that's wonderful. Who do you know that is getting married?"
"It's Cousin Adrien. I haven't seen..." Georgette was going to say that she hadn't seen him for such a long time but was interrupted by the sound of the vase smashing on the wood floor. She turned to see Éponine's hands were shaking.
"Oh I'm terribly sorry Madame, I'll clean this up right away." Éponine tried to hide her shock by dropping to the floor to pick up the pieces. "You can take the Vase out of my wages."
Georgette knelt down on the floor and took Éponine's hands in hers.
"It was an accident, don't be silly. Don't try to pick up the pieces you will cut your hands." She pulled 'Ponine up off the floor. "Is everything all right; you look as though you've seen a ghost?"
"Everything's fine. It just slipped is all. I'm so sorry."
Georgette was not convinced and thought her reaction odd, but decided not to question it further. Éponine was clearly uncomfortable.
"It is a long journey to Strasbourg. Eight days and the wedding is in little over two weeks so we will need to leave at the end of this week."
"Of course Madame. I will see to it that everything is prepared."
That night Éponine cried herself to sleep. She had no idea what was going on and she still couldn't believe that Enjolras would do this to her, without even a word.
The eight day journey was also not enjoyable, the worst part was being with Tristan and Georgette every hour of the day. Éponine had to put on an act and pretend that everything was fine. She stayed very quiet which roused Georgette's suspicions even more.
When they arrived at the Enjolras Estate Éponine was stunned. It was huge, the grounds themselves stretched on forever. Tristan hopped down from the carriage first before offering a hand to Georgette. Enjolras and his parents were standing waiting to greet their guests. He hadn't seen her so she kept her head down and tried to hide by rummaging around inside the carriage, pretending to look for Georgette's luggage. However Georgette would have none of it. She knew something was amiss with Éponine and wanted to get to the bottom of it.
Georgette crossed to her cousin and embraced him in a hug. "Adrien, its so wonderful to see you after so long. Congratulations on your engagement."
"Thank you Georgette. I trust you and Tristan are well?"
"Of course. I have brought my newly appointed lady-in-waiting to accompany me during our stay, I believe you two have already met." Georgette hurried back to the carriage and just about pulled Éponine from it. "Come and say hello to Adrien." She was almost giggling with excitement.
"No...Madame...I really must protest, there is so much to arrange..." Éponine tried to make up anything to avoid this confrontation and her cheeks burned red when Georgette almost thrust her in front of her 'previous employer'.
Enjolras was stunned. This was the last thing he expected to happen. He turned to look at his cousin who was staring at the pair of them intently, expecting them to interact.
He cleared his throat. "Éponine. What a pleasant surprise."
All she wanted to do was look at the pavement, however then she remembered how upset she was at him and was determined to let him know about it. Éponine looked up at his face which was fixed into one void of any emotion.
"It's nice to see you again Monsieur." Her lip was pulled into such a thin line to stop it from quivering. If she broke now she was afraid the tears would not stop.
"You look well Mademoiselle. I trust my cousin is not working you too hard."
"I am very lucky to be in my position. Thank you for giving me a good reference." Éponine smiled at Georgette and then back to Enjolras. "Congratulations on your engagement. Now if you'll excuse me I must take Madame's things to her room." She bowed her head to be polite and then hurried back to the carriage to help collect the luggage.
Tristan had been watching the encounter also and whispered in his wife's ear "What do you suppose that was about?"
Georgette simply shrugged her shoulders.
Enjolras stared at Éponine as she disappeared into the manor. He wanted desperately to speak with her in private, explain, or at least try to explain the position he had been forced into. However every time he caught a glimpse of her she was working and in the company of his cousin.
Dinnertime at the Roux Estate was very different, Georgette often invited Éponine to eat with herself and her husband rather than making her eat with the other household staff. However as they were not at home Éponine was required to stand in the back of the dining room against the wall in case Georgette needed anything. She stood alongside the Enjolras' household servants and observed the dinner table with much interest. She had identified Enjolras' parents Adèle and Christophe and very quickly. It didn't take her long to work out why Enjolras had left home so young. Enjolras himself kept stealing glances her way and when he attempted to meet her eye she looked away. During dessert a butler approached Éponine and spoke in her ear. "Monsieur Adrien has asked for this parcel to be taken to Madame Georgette's room." It was a small box containing perfumes and bathing oils, things that were not easy to bring when you are travelling. Éponine thanked the butler but was more interested when as he removed his hands from the parcel he slipped a piece of paper into hers.
Éponine slipped out quietly to take the parcel to their room and as soon as she was alone she unfolded it eagerly.
Meet me tonight, I must speak with you.
Come to the kitchens after dark and slip out the back door.
It was not signed and clearly written in haste. She was unsure about how she felt. On one hand she was furious with him. On the other she would not be able to deal with her heartbreak when she had no idea why any of it was happening. She took the parcel to Georgette's room. Tristan and Georgette's room was lavish, there was an adjoining bathroom and Éponine's room was on the other side. When she slipped back into the dining hall Enjolras' eyes were on hers. He was searching to see if she had read his note and she couldn't hide a small smile that crossed her features. He took that as acceptance and he grinned. She took her place back against the wall and sighed.
When dark fell she made sure Georgette and Tristan were happy in their room before excusing herself. She went back to her own room and changed her clothes from her maid's outfit into something more flattering. A casual day dress. She ran her fingers through her hair to loosen it from the knot she normally wore it in until it fell around her shoulders. She made her way to the kitchens and was relieved there was no-one around. She found the back door and inhaled as the cool night breeze hit her. The night was warm though and the weather was lovely. Enjolras was waiting for her.
"You came." He sounded relieved.
Éponine had not expected what came next. The anger boiled to the surface and she slapped him as hard as she could across the cheek. Enjolras put his hand over his cheek to cool the burn but he was not angry. "I deserved that. Come, we can't be seen together at this hour." He took her hand and led her away from the house. Neither of them spoke until they reached their destination. They had wandered far from the house until they ended up under some trees. He had decided they had walked far enough and turned to speak but she beat him to it immediately launching into a tirade.
"How dare you do this to me? When were you going to tell me? Were you even going to tell me? I haven't heard a word from you in months! You said you loved me...that was all a lie? If you didn't want to marry me Enjolras then all you had to do was say so!" Her emotions flared from angry to on the verge of tears.
"Are you finished?" He tried not to laugh at her. This was his Éponine. Wild and raw, not afraid to say what was on her mind. He still loved her.
Éponine nodded in defeat.
" 'Ponine I am so sorry, I hope you can forgive me."
"I don't understand..."
"I don't have a choice in this. My father made an agreement behind my back that I would marry a wealthy man's daughter in return for financial security on my parent's estate. Not to mention this man is now my employer. When I marry Éloise I'm almost guaranteed a promotion. I will be one of the most influential men in the political party. I can do so much for this country 'Ponine. It's the means to an end."
"You'll understand why I don't share your views...there are always choices. You're going to marry someone just because your father said you had to?"
"It's not that cut and dry. My family are having money troubles. They are going to lose the Estate."
"You don't even like your parents!"
"It is my duty. They have given me much over the years, allowed me to move to Paris. They're the reason I met you."
"Stop it! You can't make me understand. You've broken my heart...do you love this other woman?"
"I love you Éponine. That hasn't changed." He kissed her. The kiss was supposed to make the pain go away. It was supposed to reassure her that he loved her, and that he was hurting just as much as she was. One of his hands was buried in her hair while the other was bruising her neck, moving down to the neckline of her dress. Before his hand could venture much further she grasped it and broke her lips away from his. She felt betrayed, and she felt dirty knowing he wasn't hers anymore.
She was crying now. "You cannot kiss me like that. I will not be the other woman...I will not be your mistress."
"I do not care for her. Éloise is repugnant. She is spoilt and rude and reeks of entitlement. This is all for a title on a piece of paper. I will not be emotionally invested in this marriage at all."
"That does not mean you can have us both. Where is she anyway, she was not at dinner."
"She is back at her father's manor having final arrangements made to her dress."
"There is still time to walk away Adrien."
He raised an eyebrow at her. "The wedding is tomorrow."
"Come away with me right now. Just the two of us. We can go back to Paris! We can go anywhere we want we'll just get in the carriage and go. Nobody will find us. We can live the way we want to."
"Sweet Éponine, you're so innocent." He was running a hand through the hair that framed her face, brushing it behind her ear. "This is about so much more than my personal happiness. I owe it to all of my friends I lost on the barricade that day to change the laws of this country. You knew from the day you met me; the importance of my work."
"And just damn the consequences? It doesn't matter who you hurt along the way?" She was angry again.
"I never intended to hurt you." Enjolras was frustrated now that he could not make her see sense.
Éponine turned her tone as cold as she could. "I never intended to fall in love with you. We have spent almost a year apart and now...I just don't like who you are anymore."She turned and began running back to the house, anything to put as much distance between them as possible.. She refused to even look back at him lest her emotions betray her; she wouldn't let Enjolras see her cry over him.