The voice echoed through the dusty little basement like a gunshot. Howling like an angry wind, it reached the ears of a young girl, who shuddered violently as if it were a real draft.
She looked up, eyes wide. "-Yes, Mistress Thenardier?" Her soft voice quavered with fear.
The tall, imposing woman swept down the rickety stairs to stand in front of the girl. She towered over her like a bear would over a mouse, casting a long, dark shadow over the small girl.
In fact, the pair were just that: a bear and a mouse.
Madame Thenardier, with her coarse brown hair, always pulled up in a severe bun, and her muddy brown wool dress made her look every inch of the hairy mammal she was thought to be.
The girl, on the contrary, bore a resemblance to a pitiful grey fieldmouse.
Alice Crooke's world was grey.
From her sack-like dress to her argent eyes, she was colored with the same monochrome hue. She was always surrounded with bright, vivid colors, but down in the basement there was little room for light. And if there was, by any chance, light, Alice never had the time for such beauty.
"Don't, 'Mistress Thenardier' me, petit con!" the woman growled, "your skills are merde! Look at this loose button!"
She thrust a red silk dress towards Alice, and sure enough, there was a small black button hanging by a string.
"You sewed this yesterday, idiot!"
Alice hung her head shamefully, inwardly screaming. "I will fix it right now, madam."
"Oh no you won't!" Thenardier barked, "who knows what you'll break next? This dress is for Mrs. Ackle-Ackel-"
"You mean Mrs. Ackerman," she supplied, not caring whether Thenardier would appreciate the input.
"Don't presume to correct me, brat! I don't know what I was thinking when I went to that god-forsaken orphanage five years ago-"
Alice could feel her temper start to fray. Thenardier would always ramble on about how bad of a choice she was, but this time was the last straw. After five years of oppression, Alice wanted to act.
"-shouldn't have taken you out."
The girl turned her grey eyes on the woman. "I should've stayed," she spat, "wouldn't have had to deal with the likes of you."
Madame Thenardier's face turned a violent shade of red. A vein throbbed almost comically at her forehead. Her small, piggy eyes narrowed, glinting with anger.
Alice would've laughed if it wasn't directed at her.
"YOU-YOU LITTLE BITCH!" Thenardier screeched, "HOW DARE YOU TALK BACK? TWENTY PADDLINGS FOR YOU TO LEARN YOUR LESSON!"
With that, she grabbed Alice by the ear and dragged her across the basement, ignoring her feeble protests. Snatching up a thick wooden paddle, she flipped the girl over her knee and pulled up her dress.
The paddle came down painfully over Alice's backside. Tears streamed down her cheeks, but she did not give Thenardier the satisfaction to hear her cries.
Finally, it was over. Thenardier threw her off on the ground, and swept up the stairs, spamming the door behind her. Alice could hear the soft clicks of a key turning in its lock.
Anger mingled with pain, gradually rising until it was a roaring crescendo in her ears. She wanted revenge. She had wanted revenge for the last five years, but never had the chance or the bravery. And now, with fearless nerve flowing through her veins, she was ready to take on Thenardier herself.
However, the rational part of her brain told her it would be a fool's mission. Thenardier would overpower her in a heartbeat. No, brute force wouldn't serve. The mouse had to outwit the bear.
She slowly stood up, ignoring the stinging pain at her backside, and surveyed the basement critically.
Her first priority was escape. She needed to not only get away from the basement, but also from the house itself.
There was a small dusty saw lying in the corner of the room. She picked it up gingerly, puzzling over its use.
Her eyes flickered towards the locked door and a small smile appeared on her face. She would just cut the lock clean out of the door. She had nothing to lose, anyway.
She heard heavy footsteps pass, then pause. She had no time to hide the tool if the door were the open at the very moment. She shivered in fear; she would be in for much worse than a paddling if Thenardier found out.
"No dinner tonight for you, brat!" the voice behind the door barked. The footsteps resumed their course.
Alice let out a sigh of relief. Waiting until her mistress' footsteps faded away, she quickly sprang into action. She grabbed an old leather satchel and began stuffing it with the clothing she could find. Most were half-mended and old, but she didn't care. Clothes were clothes.
Listening carefully through the door, she heard Madame Thenardier leave for a dinner party at Mrs. Abbott's. As soon as she heard the front door slam shut, she got to work.
She jabbed the saw into the flimsy wood, imagining the blade piercing through layers and layers of wood. It quickly cleared the door. Alice tilted her tool, slightly, and continued sawing. The cut was surprisingly clean, and soon enough, she was halfway done. She continued her work, feeling her muscles ache and sweat run down her temples.
After what seemed like ages, the wood was finally cut off.
She yanked the door handle off, feeling the last of the wood fibers give way, and the door swung open. She couldn't believe her luck: she was free!
She quietly padded up the short flight of stairs until she reached the house. Spotting a silver pin, an idea struck her. She slipped the pin into her satchel, and began hunting for more valuables.
Thenardier was surprisingly wealthy. She had been left with a decent amount of riches when her husband died. However, what possessed her to move to a small town in England and become a seamstress, no one knew.
Alice ran up the stairs into Thenardier's room. And moving with haste, snatched up valuable after valuable. Sliding open drawers and opening boxes, she had found herself a collection of necklaces, rings and brooches, all made of precious stones and metals.
After she was sure she had taken everything she could find, she quickly restored the room in its original order and leapt down the stairs again. She dashed into the kitchen, stuffing whatever she could find that wouldn't spoil into her bag.
Thenardier would come home any time now.
Alice reached for the front door, only to find it locked. She glanced around, panicked, until she saw a half-opened window. She pushed it open, and slid out. She landed on the rocky dirty road in front of the house. Wincing, she stood up, looked around for any watching eyes, and ran the opposite direction of Mrs. Abbott's house.
There would be time to celebrate her freedom later. From now on, it was survival.
She ran all night, feeling the adrenaline finally fade when the first hints of light appeared in the horizon.
As the sky turned into a water-colour of pink and yellow, her clouded mind began to settle, and she finally realized what she had would come looking for her. She had stolen a staggering amount of jewellery, and it would mean prison if she was caught, or worse, the gallows.
She needed to disguise herself. Rifling through her satchel, she found a worn brown cap and a pair of rough grey breeches. She tucked her hair into the cap so it resembled a boy's and slipped on the trousers. They were a little small, but they would have to do until she found some better clothes.
Her dress presented itself as a problem as well. It was ankle-length, covering the pants and making her look distinctively girl-like. She slipped it off, and made a crude cut across it, so it resembled a shirt. She tucked it into her pants and gave herself a once-over. Not the best disguise, but it would have to serve.
She began to walk, not wanting to waste her energy, nibbling at a roll of bread from her provisions. She traveled until it was about noon until she stopped at a large wooden sign.
It was cracked and worn, it's color faded from the sun, but she could make out the letters.
'London' it said, '5 miles.'
A small candle lit up within her. She would find her fortune in the city. She could finally escape her life.
Alice Crooke was going to London.
This is my first fanfiction on this platform. My writing's not the best, but I'm practicing! Please leave your reviews, I would appreciate them so much!