Viva la Vida

"Do I not matter?" I screamed, dust settling in my furious lungs. "You could have fought for me too, Enjolras! There is more to life than this damn revolution."
"People cannot love without the revolution!" He argued. "No, you're mistaken. Only you cannot love without revolution." I took a sharp breath. "Vive la France, my sweet angel. Viva la vida." My back became the attention of his stare, and I wished he wouldn't have to become the inevitable martyr he would become for Patria, and only Patria. It was his intention all along.

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3. Yellow: the colour of hunger.

 

 

I cracked. I sweared. I cried. Yellow was all around me; the blotches on the skin of the diseased, the off-white makeup smudged onto terrifying night creatures and the sun when it blared, creating cracks on my lips so painful I could hardly whimper in pain for the fear of letting air touch it’s surface for too long. But it was famine that was tearing me up; and with that came the lust for the yellow I couldn’t have. Loafs of freshly baked bread that was soft in its cream-colored middle, pastries yet to be placed in the oven, or drizzled honey. Instead, I was faced with starvation; and drops of rain when it fell.

I’d been in the state of near death for two weeks give or take a day or two. When someone feels so dazed by their own suffering, it’s easy to forget the exact time. I took each night as it came, and in my darkest moments prayed the day would never come. Paris wasn’t the home of dreams I’d foolishly promised myself it would be despite the strains of the sisters I’d left behind. Instead I was nestled on whatever doorstep didn’t notice, the alleyways dripping with people like me for one reason or another. Maybe runaways, maybe out of jobs, but all just as ravenous though far more willing to get the food, no questions asked. I was careful at first to avoid the night scene, and watched with peeping glances as the men poured to prowl on girls even younger than me dressed in hardly anything at all and faces heavy hiding the signs of what sex might have given them before. The men didn’t care; they wanted bodies and not necessarily beauties. It was easy to forget about me, hidden far enough from their lust filled eyes hiding my face and body in my coat gathering more than dust on its rough travelling.  I didn’t hide in vain – these girls no matter how tarted up still owned a loveliness I had never acquired – on looks alone, I doubted I’d ever find anyone. And including the depths of my darkened soul, the statistics were even slimmer.

Exhausted, I perched on the grey back steps of a bar I guessed from the merry songs of drunks bursting out of the thick walls. I had searched for more work without success; the more tired and unclean I became, the more they turned me away without giving me the benefit of a hopeless beg. Where was Nathalie? Tucked away in the hands of God as it were, oblivious to the fact her own sister was not on a bar’s, but death himself’s doorstep. I could hear his voice whisper in the wind as it blew across it’s face, the chill temptation it. “Come with me,” He seemed to say. “Leave this all behind…” But I tried to ignore it, and tried to press on. I was already damned. Why let death have me without having a chance to condemn myself truly? Nevertheless I was the one who had run away, and was aware of my consequences the minute I let the heaven’s gates shut behind me.

“Off, off, off!” I heard a shriek pound through the peeling door and jab me in my back. Spinning around I caught the glare of a women, her attempts to move me certainly working and sent me bundling for the cracks in the pavement. I hardly grimaced as I felt grubble enter the cut it soon spilt onto my cheek. “Away with your filth, we have no scraps. Do you hear me? Non!”

“Please madame, I don’t look to beg. I’m looking for a- a- job.” The final words were poisonous in my throat, the wispiness of a fractured voice evident as job came out with its own tears.

“We have no need for another set of hands.” She crossed her lean arms together with a tight-lip. "And even if we did," I could feel the venom forming on her lips. Women with comfortable homes always forgot it only took a day for their fortunes to turn sour. "Why would we want you? You silly little girl. Run home to whatever parents you abandoned. Shoot!"

Maybe it was desperation. Maybe it was the pining hunger of my stomach. Maybe it was the taunting nature of how she said it; but something inside me snapped and forced my spirit into one last plea. After all, what more could I do? She, standing five foot six with thick wrists and a long, horse-like face and frowning eyes, was my only hope.

"I can write!" I burst out, my throat burned at such a vibrant crackle of words. "And read. I can work, too."

"Any girl can work if she needs to. Tell me, have you sold yourself on the streets? Have you let these fiends take all you have to offer?" Her voice was steel, unquavering at even the most daring of questions.

"No, madame." I bit into my lip, my eyes falling to the dull ground.

"And why's that? You're obviously starving."

"I was raised by nuns, Madame. I haven't the knowledge or want to-"

"Nuns?" She laughed. "My, you are a curious child. I always wanted a daughter... She might have looked like you too. What's your name?"

"Thérèse."

"Thérèse... she might have been called that too." Suddenly there was a sadness to her, as though looking back to a memory she couldn't bear. We basked in a silence, before suddenly she broke;

"Can you honestly read? Don't lie."

"Yes, perfectly. Some Latin too." My voice raised in whatever was happening. Prosperity? Finally I could feel the warmth from inside spreading onto the surface of my skin. “Where are your family? You ought to return to them while you have a chance.”

“My parents are dead.” Never had I said it quite that briefly, like I was naming the name of a street and not a fact that had changed my life so utterly so. “My siblings are in care.”

“Don’t think you’ll get a wage to feed them? You’re wrong. No one has the money to provide here.”

“Oh no Madame, they have loving guardians.”

“And why not you?”

“I… I was to be forced into circumstances I couldn’t deal with. They wanted me to become one of them, you see, and I could not forsake God and join when I am not-“

“Enough, child. You’ve said enough.” She stopped my monologue, drumming her lip with her finger – clean fingernails were a good sign – before letting out a groan so large it nearly knocked me off my perch.

"Oh God have mercy on me. You better be telling the truth or I'll fling out worse than what you came in. Come on," Though her words were welcoming, the throbbing temples she failed to calm as she stroked them didn't, as well as the haste tug of my clothes leading me in. The effect was immediate; my pupils expanding as the feel of a room was alien to me. How nice it was to be shielded from the trials of the weather, the room roaring with candlelight and midnight hazes blurred by every pint shoved down thirsty throats. Men croaked as the woman passed through, and she giggled and punched their shoulders lightly with a smile I’d yet to see as we made it to the cellar. It was much colder, but calmer too. The bellows of the drunks were only echoes patting against the wall and the barrels were illuminated in the poorly lit room.

“We’ll find you a bed here tonight. And don’t look so pleased; you might be gone by morning. Don’t think you’re the exception; if you can’t do all you say we won’t hesitate to send you out. You’ll work hard and your pay will be leftovers and rent for the room. Understood? Pay may be negotiated at a much later date, if you make it. Come.” She pulled me again, her copper hair shining in the moonlight pouring through the room courtesy of the box window.

“You can’t serve looking like that.” She groaned, more friendly than before. Her actions and expressions contradicted much in the way her looks did. There was the soft, flowing locks and chocolate eyes, but a sharp jawline and lithe, strong figure. I followed sheepishly through her home, reaching a mouldy room with a basin and little else. Slowly, she filled it and left me with dry clothes not saying a single word. “Be ready in a few minutes, you’ll be working first thing tomorrow so get your sleep. Quickly now, I haven’t got all day.” She stood up to leave, her odd kindness causing my head to sting. My dirty bones ached for the chance to baptize itself in a new life.

"Madame?" She turned to face me. "What is your name?" I asked as tenderly as my ragged throat would let me.

"Aurore, but you'll call me Madame." Aurore almost smiled - almost - and all at once I was alone.

My skin glowed in the gleam of fresh water, no matter how cold it was against my chill frame. I was so peaceful, I almost dozed off right there and then; but reminding myself of the comforting prospect of a make-do bed, managed to keep myself from falling completely. The blood of my new cut dashed across my cheek began to congeal itself, burning only slightly as I nursed it in the cool water.

Suddenly, a man's voice arose;

"Aurore darling, you wouldn't believe-" I didn't have enough time to stop him. There stood a man twice my age and looking right at me, eyes wide in surprise and possibly the fact a stranger was stark naked in his basin. I hoped it was his basin. "Please Monsieur, I can explain!" I quickly covered my chest frantically before the words tumbled from my mouth. "That doesn't sound like ma chérie," He tutted, scratching his eyebrow frantically without the distaste I expected from him. "Get dressed, little one." I waited without moving for him to go.

"No, just now. I want to see you." I gulped. Who was this man? There was something in his eyes, the starving I'd been accustomed to. His hair was dirty blonde; his eyes a piercing blue and his skin almost olive, stretching over a body of muscle and hard labour. But the only color I could see was plain yellow, and being blinded by a single hue was all I had to go through with the enormous task of letting him see me. Every virtue in my body chose to fight me, nerves included.

No man had ever seen me before; and I'd half assumed during my early years that no man ever would. Of course, I hoped for a man to marry as any girl would with kind eyes and loving arms, the kind fairytales giggled about and hearts skipped three beats for. Paris was the land of the free, in limbs in speech, but never had I planned to act upon it even in the wilderness of my escapade. Not really. I found deep within myself a part of me that wanted to show him, the part that had been driven mad by the church and its restrictions. Was that part who I was? Or that I'd become? It was a monster, beautiful in the fiercest sense though dangerous to no end. It would destroy me, I was sure of that.

Maladroitly, I stumbled out of the grey bucket trying to hide my tremble. Pretend he's not there... I thought to myself. My eyes refused to meet his that seemed to be burning holes in my skin. I’d never thought much of my body; it was much too small in height, and my thighs and hips were dotted with one or two secret freckles and bruises. I did my best to hide my nakedness as I dried myself, but his unyielding scrutiny gave me no option than to be completely and wholly bare. And with that; totally vulnerable. Finally I pulled the cotton nightgown over me - he'd stolen my appreciation for such soft fabrics in terror - and walked away sluggishly.

"What is your name, child?" He seemed to get a thrill of calling me that. At sixteen years old, I didn't see myself as a child until now. A lame little child, ready to take the instructions of anyone with wrinkles or a beard. I answered him quietly. "Goodnight, Thérèse." I shivered as I walked past and his hand grimy with a day’s work stroked the lines beside my cut softly, with the touch of a father I’d lost. Speechless, it took everything in my anatomy not to sprint.

I hurled downwards to the cellar where I found a nest of blankets prepared especially for me by the hands of who’s husband I could only assumed had watched my bare frame lit only by candles. Now it was the moonlight guided me to my new bed, untainted, waiting for an owner. But I was sure I'd get no sleep tonight. Could I tell her? Should I? I craved the home I’d only just acquired and telling her would surely spoil it. Secrets and adultery; already Paris was pulling a sinner from my organs and painting them red.

His eyes had carved scars in me, I was sure of it. Who gave him the right to ask that of me and more importantly, why hadn't I refused him? Was I another whore on the streets, where a body was a payment? He may have not  I swallowed my thoughts, wondering what was the ultimate price a girl like me was willing to pay for a cold, almost bed.

I spent my first night of the rest of my life in tears, dreaming of a Paris that would never come and a love that would never prevail and having nightmares of those dull yellow irises, sickening me to the stomach that would never be empty as long as I was willing to oblige.

A/N - Hey everyone! The story just took a slightly darker, though important plot twist I hope you'll enjoy! And I am happy to say Enjolras is well on his way to his first appearance - thank god - so any comments as always is appreciated  thanks :)

 

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