Children of the Barricade

Les Misérables is a story of death as much as it is of revolution. This is for the children of the barricade, the schoolboys and street urchins, the rich and the poor, the prisoner and the inspector. This is for the dead; we will remember. The italicised bits in speech marks are song lyrics from the musical.

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1. Éponine

“Did you see them, going off to fight? Children of the barricade who didn’t last the night?”

Éponine was the first to fall. The first casualty of their barricade.

She died the way she had lived - for Marius.

He was the reason she was there in the first place; he was the reason she did many things.

And finally, finally, she was in his arms. Like she belonged there, like she always had. His tears mixed with hers as they slumped together on the dirty Paris street. Marius cradled her to his chest, one hand stroking her hair, the other clasping hers as they pressed on the wound in her chest. Red stained their fingers, red that Marius could never quite wash off, the memory of her death stained into his mind.

In that moment, it didn’t matter that he wasn’t hers. It didn’t matter that the words in the letter she handed him were words of love from another woman. He was here, that’s all she needed to know. When it mattered, he was the one by her side.

Éponine had been forced to grow up too quickly; as a Thénardier she had been involved in the crimes and cons of her family for as long as she could remember and that came with more than its fair share of dangers. But since their move to Paris and the collapse of her parents’ inn, her life had gotten considerably worse.

She remembered her childhood like it was a dream. Little Éponine, not rich, but well enough off to be happy. Little Éponine, so at contrast with the urchin Cosette.

How the tables had turned.

Cosette had everything Éponine wanted; a father who loved and cared for her, lovely clothes, a nice house, a future – and most importantly, Marius.

But none of that mattered.

Only the here and now mattered.

The smell of gunpowder and damp wood clung to everything. The smoke from the fatal gunshot had barely cleared; the air muggy and heavy with anticipation.

Other members of Les Amis de l’ABC stood beside them, grieving the loss as if she had been their own blood. Enjolras, one had holding the flag as red as if it had been painted with Éponine’s blood, stood at his post on the barricade, eyes filled with unshed tears. He knew that although she was the first, she would be no means be the last. Much more blood would water the Paris streets before this was over.

It was hard to leave Marius behind. He was the only person she really cared about, and the only person who reciprocated out of love. Her parents only cared about whether she was of use to them; dead, she was useless and that was all that mattered.

But Marius…Marius she loved. She had fallen for him the first time they had spoken. Love is a dangerous game for one like her, with nothing to offer, nothing to give. He was worlds apart from her; a rich, young boy, only playing this game, the game that she lived every day. And yet she still loved him. She couldn’t not. He loved her, yes, but not the way she loved him.

But at the end, it didn’t matter.

Éponine died there, at the barricade. Her blank eyes filled with tears as they stared at the night sky. Marius let himself sob as he closed those eyes that had looked upon him with such admiration and love.

Paris glistened under thousands of rain drops that night.

The night the barricade fell.

“And rain will make the flowers…”

 

Grow.

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