Beyond The Barricades
"I am in pain, please; Éloise. I don't care how you do it but you must find me a doctor. Take one of the horses and ride to the village. Something is wrong with the baby." Éponine tried to reason with her.
"Have you looked outside?" Éloise motioned to one of the windows. "There's a snowstorm out there." She helped Éponine down to the library so that she could sit down in one of the large armchairs. Taking her back up the staircase to lie down was out of the question.
"Now you just sit there, try and relax and I'll light the fire."
Éponine was not giving up.
"Why did you push me down the stairs? This is not the child's fault!"
Éloise's polite decorum snapped.
"Because you slept with my husband and now you carry his child. How dare the two of you prance around here and lie to everyone. I know everything! He's planning to run away with you after the birth. He plans to parade you around as his wife. More lies. How dare you!"
For the first time, Éponine stopped to think about what they had done to this woman.
"Éloise...you're right. What we have done is wrong. Adrien and I never planned it to be like this, but you have to understand; we love each other. He only married you to try and do right by his parents. This has all been unfair on you and I'm sorry."
Éloise approached the chair with a red hot poker stick in hand.
"You are sorry? You're sorry? You have no idea what you've cost me you little whore. My entire life is ruined, and now it is your turn to lose something."
Éloise struck the poker down towards Éponine, but she was fast enough to grab it down near the handle. The two women struggled against one another for a few moments. Éloise had the upper hand but 'Ponine was determined. She maneuvered the handle upwards and thrust it to knock Éloise in the chin. It loosened her grip and sent her sprawling back. The hot end fell into the top of the chair; burning a large hole into the fabric. Éponine took the opportunity as adrenaline set in. She stumbled her way to the window, hastily unlatching it, pushing it open and throwing the weapon out into the snow. Éponine tried to make a break for the door, but being as pregnant as she was 'Ponine found she couldn't move very fast at all. Éloise lunged for her again but Éponine was determined to fight her off. She pushed her backwards; overtop of the armchair and into a bookcase. Not waiting to see the fallout, Éponine moved out into the hallway and frantically pushed the large doors shut. Looking around she saw a large candlestick resting on a hallway table. Grabbing it, she wedged it through both of the door handles, temporarily barring them from being pushed open again.
Knowing the doors wouldn't last long Éponine stumbled down the hallway as fast as her legs would carry her. Panicking, 'Ponine knew she had to keep enough distance between herself and Éloise. Just long enough for Church to end and people would be making their way back to the Estate. She found herself in the kitchen and decided to hide in the pantry.
Éponine tried to halt her breathing and focused on remaining calm. The pain was excruciating now and if she didn't know any better; Éponine suspected she may have gone into an early labour.
She tried to take deep calming breaths. The doctor had told her what to expect but the contractions were only small; the baby would still need some time. So many thoughts rushed through her head. It was too early; she was not expected to give birth until February, but her trip down the stairs meant the child had other ideas. Éponine wanted to scream but couldn't risk giving up her hiding place. Éponine could hear Éloise moving down the hallway now, calling to her. It was only a matter of time until she was discovered, and Éloise knew that Éponine could not get far.
Éponine now feared for her life, and for her baby; and so she did the only thing she could think of. Creeping out of the pantry, she moved over to the rear kitchen door. She slipped her feet into a pair of boots that were sitting on the floor, and thankfully were already laced form the previous owner. She pulled down the first coat she could reach from the coat-rack before pushing open the door to bitterly cold winds.
Éponine launched herself through the snow. It was not that deep thankfully, but almost everything hindered her movement. If she could just make it to the road, she might come across the carriages returning home. She had made it halfway before she heard Éloise calling out from behind her.
Éponine prayed for a miracle. "What are you thinking? Adrien will never care for you if you harm me or his child. You're only making this worse for yourself." Éponine knew there was no reasoning with her. Éloise had gone mad. She prayed to whoever was up there to help her before stepping out onto the frozen river that surrounded the Estate. She lay down on her side and attempted to crawl across the ice. She figured there was less chance of it cracking beneath her. Éponine was in clear view of the main bridge that led into the village, and at the moment she heard the sound of hooves from above.
Enjolras rode in a carriage with Marius and Cosette and when they crossed the bridge he could not believe his eyes. Éponine was lying in the middle of the river while Éloise was trying to reach her. He halted his driver and the three of them scrambled out of the coach and to the edge of the bridge. On closer inspection he could see Éloise was brandishing a kitchen knife.
He called to them. "What in the world is going on down there?"
Éponine looked up to see her friends before thanking the powers that be.
"She needs to pay for what she has done to me!" Éloise called out.
"Éloise...you're not well. Put the knife down and we can all talk about this like adults." Enjolras told her as he and Marius slid down the snow covered bank to the edge of the ice.
"You lied to me Adrien. All you've ever done is lie to me. All I've ever wanted is for you to care about me. But you never cared about me, only this little tramp here."
"Éloise, I'm sorry. I truly am. Just please; step off of the ice. We need to get you both off of the river."
"No! You don't get to tell me what to do!"
The next moment everything happened so fast. Éloise had crossed onto a thin patch of ice and it began to crack beneath her. In her fright she slipped and fell to her knees causing all of the ice beneath her to shatter. She screamed as she plunged into the icy water. Enjolras tried to crawl across to the hole to reach her but she had already slipped beneath the ice. There was nothing he could do. He then turned his attention towards Éponine who had almost passed out due to the cold and the extreme trauma she had been through.
He made his way over and sat behind her; pulling her to him.
"Éponine, I am so sorry."
"Enjolras? She was trying to kill me; I swear it."
"I know; but you're safe now. I need to get you off this ice and inside. You are freezing. Your lips are blue."
"No...fetch the doctor. Right away. I think I'm having a baby."
Enjolras was shocked for a moment before comprehending the situation.
"Marius, quickly; run and get the doctor immediately." His mind was racing. Éloise had drowned which made him a widower. He was no longer legally bound to his marriage. The truth would all come out tonight and with Éponine a single mother, he was certain his parents would do anything possible to have the child taken away from them. "And the priest. Hurry Marius." He added.
Enjolras and Cosette then worked together to move Éponine off of the frozen river.
"Enjolras, I'm so cold." She stammered. Her teeth were chattering.
A worried Enjolras looked over at Cosette. "We cannot move her further. The baby will need to be delivered right here."
"This is madness." Cosette shook her head.
"I know, but we don't have a choice. I will stay with her. I need you to run and fetch blankets, clean rags and hot water. Find Georgette; ask her to help you."
"I'll be as fast as I can."
By the time Marius & Cosette had returned with Georgette, Éponine was well into her labour. She was crying out and trying not to push. Enjolras had never felt more helpless before.
"Doctor, thank heavens. Can you help her, please."
"You must be mad. I cannot deliver a baby in these conditions." He felt for Éponine's temperature. "She's so cold. It will be a miracle if either of them survive this."
"You have to try. Please. This baby is coming whether we are ready for it or not." Adrien knew that much.
The Priest looked over at the pair. "Monsieur Enjolras. You sent for me."
"Father; there is no time to explain. There has been a terrible tragedy this evening and Éloise has drowned. I am widowed. I need you to legally marry me to this woman here; right now. Before the child is born; please."
"This is highly unorthodox."
"Please Father. I love this woman and this child is mine. Please help us. There are enough witnesses."
"Mademoiselle, you need to be able to speak your vows."
"Yes...whatever it takes." She gasped, in between screams.
The doctor interjected. "You will need to hurry. This child is not far away now."
The Priest could not believe what was happening. "Very well. We shall proceed then.
"We are gathered here to witness the joining of this man and this woman in holy matrimony. Monsieur Enjolras, I believe you know how this works."
"I Adrien, take Éponine, to be my wife, to love and to cherish, in sickness and in health, forsaking all others, until death parts us." He kissed the top of her head.
"Mademoiselle?" The priest prompted.
Éponine had to take deep calming breaths. Any moment now they were going to become parents. "I Éponine...take Adrien as my husband..." She cried out in pain. Éponine couldn't take any more. Enjolras soothed her, pulled the hair back from her face, let her grip onto his hand as tight as she wanted to.
"Shhh...please sweetheart, you are doing so well. The pain is almost over I promise you. I love you so much." He cuddled her, trying to keep her warm.
The priest had sympathy for the pair, there was no conceivable way for Éponine to complete her vows.
"Éponine, you promise to love and cherish Adrien, in sickness and in health, forsaking all others until death parts you?"
"I do..." She gasped with a smile.
"Then in the presence of those gathered here beneath the eyes of our Lord God, I pronounce you Husband and Wife."
"Thank you Father. You know not what you have done for us." Adrien looked at him in gratitude.
The church bells sounded in the village, signalling the beginning of a new day. It was midnight; December 25th.
"Éponine, you need to push now; as hard as you can." The doctor told her.
Within minutes a very small baby girl was born, on Christmas morning, out in the snow. Éponine collapsed, leaning against her new husband, and after the child was washed and wrapped, it was placed into her arms.
The baby had a healthy set of lungs on her, and despite all odds the doctor's examination could find nothing wrong with her.
Éponine cried tears of joy whilst looking at her daughter. "Enjolras, she's so beautiful."
Their happiness was short-lived. Éponine was still freezing, and the trauma of childbirth had not been kind to her body.
"Doctor, she's still so cold." Enjolras was concerned. His new Wife began to drift in and out of consciousness. Cosette rushed forward to take the tiny infant while Enjolras and Marius lifted Éponine up to carry her inside.
On their arrival back to the Estate they frantically drew a hot bath in an attempt to warm Éponine up. All of the household had been given the day off to spend with their families; so there were few people to help them.
Cosette tried desperately to soothe the crying infant, but she was certain the baby was hungry. Georgette burst into the room declaring that she had found a nurse to feed the child so long as Éponine could not. The baby was whisked away to be fed and cared for in another room so that the focus could be on her mother. Éponine's body was completely shutting down. It was vital that her core temperature be raised.
After bathing her, Éponine was dressed in the warmest clothes they could find, placed into Enjolras' bed and the fireplace was lit. Damp cloths with warm water were applied to her forehead, and extra blankets wrapped around her feet. Enjolras refused to leave her side; until his parents were knocking at the door, demanding to know what was going on. Cosette placed a hand on Enjolras' shoulder saying gently "I will stay with her."
Marius and Enjolras went to stand in the hallway, determined to keep Adèle and Christophe at bay.
Enjolras was determined to have the first word on the matter.
"I understand there is a lot of confusion right now, but I will confess that I have not been entirely truthful."
"Son?" Christophe prompted before the younger Enjolras continued.
"Congratulations. You have a grand-daughter, and a new daughter-in-law."
"Adrien...this is not possible. What of your wife?" Adèle was in shock.
"You may want to send for the Police Inspector. There has been an accident. Éloise was out on the river. The ice broke and she became trapped beneath it. There was naught that anybody could do. It was only right that the child come into the world with two legal parents. If you need any further proof the baby is mine, you only need to go and look at her. There is little question." Enjolras turned to re-enter his room before pausing. "One last thing. Éponine and I will be returning to Paris as soon as they are both well enough for the journey. I suggest that if either of you wish to be a part of our child's life you make peace with any personal objections you may have before then."
Christophe extended a hand to his son which Enjolras took wearily.
"Congratulations. I am proud of you, my boy."
Adrien looked across at his mother who was failing to mask the look of utter contempt and disappointment on her face. Adèle threw her hands in the air before retreating back down the hall.
On daybreak the Doctor came to check on Éponine. He reported that her temperature was much more agreeable and that she should be out of danger.
When she finally woke her room was empty; apart from Enjolras who was lying behind her protectively. She nudged him and smiled as he fought off the notion of being awake. Enjolras had had barely any sleep at all but when he realised his wife was awake he sat up immediately.
"I'm in your bed?" She was very tired.
"And you are also my wife, at long last."
"The baby?" Éponine was afraid to ask. She didn't remember much at all.
Enjolras smiled. "Is perfectly healthy. She has a head of blonde hair, my nose and my chin. But she has your eyes, and no doubt your temperament. She entered our world fighting, just as brave as her mother."
"Can I see her?"
"Of course. I will go and relieve the nurse." He moved out from behind Éponine returning a few minutes later carrying their daughter. He gently handed her into her mother's waiting arms before resuming his position sitting behind her.
"I am so sorry for leaving you alone in the house with that mad woman. If I had known..."
"How could you have known?" She replied softly. "What happened with Éloise was not your fault. She loved you more than anything, and in the end, it drove her mad."
"It is over now. Look how beautiful our daughter is. She looks so much like you, there would have been no doubt."
"She needs a name."
"I have had a name picked for a long time...Esmerelda, Esmé for short. Esmé Fleur"
"Another E...it's perfect. I am sure your friends back at my cousins' Estate will be eager to meet this little one, especially as she is now their namesake."
"They were very good friends to me, they kept me sane whilst we were apart. How did your parents take the news?"
"Father seemed happy, Mother...found things difficult to comprehend. That you bore me a daughter rather than a son only adds fuel to fire. Our family line ends with me; and yet, I wouldn't have it any other way."
It was early February when the new family packed up their lives. First returning to Strasbourg with Georgette and Tristan to stay with them whilst they arranged to buy a new home in Paris. Marius had become one of the top legal representatives in the city, and Enjolras was hired as his assistant. He was no lawyer, but his understanding of the parliamentary system of the country proved to be useful.
Life was good. Cosette had discovered that she was with child and Éponine and baby Esmé were happy to finally be back in Paris. No sooner than six months after their arrival however, Marius' suspicions of unrest in the city quickly came to light. Enjolras began attending meetings, much to Éponine's disapproval, but he promised it was only to try and deter the movement. He of all people knew how a Revolution was to end. It was a cool August day when emotions during a protest got out of hand, and a fight broke out between a revolutionary and a city guard. Gunfire was heard, and that is when the barricades rose. "Viva La France" could be heard throughout the streets and the Pontmercy and Enjolras families were hastily preparing to flee the city, however Adrien was nowhere to be found. Éponine was beside herself with worry, and when they couldn't wait any longer, Éponine handed Esmé to her godparents. She told Marius and Cosette to go ahead without her and that her and Adrien would meet them in the next village outside of Paris before they travelled on.
"Éponine, this is not a good idea." Marius tried to reason with her.
"You know I cannot leave without him. Take Cosette and Esmé to safety please. I promise we will be fine. We will meet you."
Éponine made her way through the back alleys of Paris, being careful to stay out of sight. It didn't take her long to reach the barricades, night was falling and gunfire could be heard in the distance.
"Madame...you cannot be here. Women and those of us who have fathered children...should not be here." She was challenged entry by a young man, no older than twenty.
"And what of your fearless leader?" She could see her husband's head of golden curls, a worn red blazer across his shoulders, standing fearlessly at the top of the broken furniture. "Did he neglect to mention he has a wife and daughter at home?" 'Ponine pushed through before calling to him. "Enjolras!"
He turned at the sound of his name, the voice that called it unmistakable. He scrambled down the barricade his hands flying to grip her shoulders.
" 'Ponine, you foolish woman. What are you doing here?"
"I could ask the same of you! You promised me Adrien. You promised our daughter that you would not do this."
"These boys need me, Paris needs..."
"I need you. Esmé needs her father. Don't you dare do this to us. Please. Adrien, I need you to come home with me."
Enjolras looked into his wife's eyes and was undone. "Alright. I am sorry. I love you, I never should have left."
"I love you too." Tears pricked at her eyes as he kissed her.
Enjolras retreated from the barricade, and they walked hand in hand back through the dark alleys.
"You there, halt!" They had stumbled upon a guardsman, holding a rifle. He was young, and nervous, not wanting to be part of this fight.
Enjolras motioned for Éponine to stand behind him.
"It's alright boy. We are unarmed. I am just escorting my wife home. Please, put the gun down before you hurt yourself." Enjolras tried to reassure him. He could feel Éponine behind him, gripping his hand.
He took a gentle step forward. "Lower the..."
In fright, the young soldier pulled the trigger.
The bullet tore through Enjolras' abdomen, continuing its trajectory to lodge itself just below Éponine's chest. They fell to the ground and the soldier ran back into the shadows.
Enjolras coughed and turned to look for Éponine. She was lying within arms reach, her breath was ragged and her eyes were wet. He reached for her, taking her hand and he felt her grip it. With his other hand, he used his last ounce of strength to move it to her cheek, trying to comfort her for those last moments, and he swore he saw her lips fall into a smile. Only after her cheek felt cold to his touch did he close his eyes and let the last breath leave his body.When the sun rose beyond the barricades that morning, Marius searched for his friends. Sadness rocked through him as he stumbled across the two bodies in the alley. The only peace to be had, knowing the two lovers had found each other before the end. Knowing now that after everything they had been through, they would finally spend an eternity together.
Did you enjoy my story? Please let me know what you think by leaving a review! Thanks, Kelly BerryWrite a Review