On a perfect summer night, when the air was warm and breezy, the leaves rustling gently and a full moon providing all the light for the lovers, Marius and Cosette sat in the garden of the Rue Plumet. Shy and awkward, they remained close on the stone bench in silence as they stared out at the night, pretending to admire the stars while stealing secret glances at each other every few moments. Each highly aware of their close proximity, they took pleasure in the feeling of the other's warm body so close to theirs.
Marius, overcome with his affection and love for the image of perfection sitting next to him, was at a loss for words. How he wanted to say some romantic, sweeping thing to express his love! How he wished he could properly court Cosette with grand sonnets and confessions of love.
It seemed to him Cosette grew more lovely every passing moment. Her glossy chestnut curls cascading down her back over her lacy nightgown shone in the moonlight. Her eyes seemed to reflect the stars themselves when she looked at him, and her sweet smile beat Aphrodite's by tenfold.
But as time crept on, Marius grew well aware of the silence between the two of them. It was almost chilling. He watched the gentle curve of Cosette's sweet lips, her serene blue eyes looking to the sky.
"Cosette..." Marius began, his heart thundering wildly in his chest like a hundred wild stallions. He swallowed hard when she turned her delicate face towards him. Marius sought wildly for the words he'd felt so many times in poetry, in songs, in art. Yet all he could focus on was the stray eyelash resting on Cosette's rosy cheek.
A brave thought occurred to Marius as he remembered a romantic tactic Courfeyrac had demonstrated teasingly to him.
"Cosette...there is an eyelash—right there—" Cosette attempted to brush away the tiny hair unsuccessfully.
"Apparently if you blow on it and make a wish, it will come true," Marius said softly.
Tentatively, Marius lifted his hand to her face as Cosette stared at him, eyes wide and trusting.
Then Cosette let out a yelp as Marius' finger inevitably jabbed her eye. She reeled back, holding her face in pain. Marius flew into a panic.
"Oh, my darling Cosette!"
Tears welled up in Cosette's eyes as she tried to reassure him.
Suddenly the door to the house opened and the man whom Marius recognized as Monsieur Fauchelevent stepped out, his white hair brilliant in the moonlight.
Consequently Marius hid behind the nearest bush he could find, holding his breath as Monsieur Fauchelevent called out to his daughter.
"Cosette? Are you alright? I heard a cry."
Cosette cleared her throat and hurriedly wiped her face. "Yes, Papa. I was just reading aloud from my book, and—well, the hero died and I was distraught." She held up a thick volume she had carried from the house earlier. Monsieur Fauchelevent nodded warily and stepped back inside.
"Come back inside soon, Cosette. It is getting late."
Marius breathed a sigh of relief as he emerged from the bushes. Cosette's face looked like a guilty child's, having just lied so easily to her father.
Marius stood, running his hand through his hair distractedly as he saw Cosette's disappointment.
"Does the hero die?" Marius asked worriedly as he glanced at the book Cosette held in her hands, The Mysteries of Udolpho. He hadn't yet read that one.
Cosette shook her head with a tiny smile.
"I'll say good night now," he whispered to her apologetically. "But not to worry—I will make sure you get that wish."
Cosette met his eyes and smiled, a vague look of apprehension creeping into her face.
Marius next saw Cosette at the Luxembourg. Seated on a bench with Monsieur Fauchelevent, she clearly had no interest in the old man's conversation or the book in her hands. Though she murmured something or other to him every now and then, she appeared distracted. She kept sighing wistfully and looking around every few moments as though expecting someone. Expecting him, Marius realized proudly.
Cosette caught his eye and sat straighter in her seat, giving her father cause to cease talking.
Marius loitered a few paces away, pretending to observe the pigeons pecking away at some crumbs on the ground.
"Papa, would you mind if I walked to the Medici fountain?"
Monsieur Fauchelevent began to rise. "Of course not, ma Cosette."
"Alone?" Cosette ventured softly, her hand resting on her father's arm.
Monsieur Fauchelevent hesitated.
"It's right there, Papa, and we can still see each other," Cosette pressed him. "I think I'd like to speak to that girl in pink." She gestured vaguely in the general direction of the fountain, where several young ladies dressed in various shades of pink leaned over the barrier to see the flower petals floating on the water.
Reluctantly, Monsieur Fauchelevent nodded.
Marius met Cosette eagerly at the fountain, keeping a safe distance between them as they stared into the water. Young men and women tossed coins into the water with a tiny splash, laughing and chatting animatedly. Cosette grew curious.
"What are they doing?" She asked a woman holding a child in her arms.
"Tossing sous to make a wish," the woman said, shrugging. "A foolish tradition, if you ask me. Imagine the fortune that must be lying at the bottom of that fountain."
Cosette nodded absently, her eyes shining as she snuck a suggestive glance to Marius.
"Perhaps we may succeed with that wish now, Monsieur?"
Marius nodded vigorously, fumbling in his pockets for a coin or two. Here was his chance to make up for that disaster in the garden—if only he could find some money.
A button, half a crust of bread, a stub of a pencil, and several franc pieces. With an inward sigh he handed a franc piece to Cosette, whose eyes grew concerned.
"Are you sure, Marius? I don't think—"
"Ah, not to worry, Cosette, now you'll have twenty wishes." He smiled at her and began to put the rest of the week's money away in his pocket.
As Cosette clutched the coin in her fingers, eyes shut tightly as she concentrated on her wish, Marius felt a tug on the pocket of his trousers. He turned, just in time to see a small gamin boy racing away triumphantly with the last of his money.
"Oy!" Marius cried out. "Thief!" The people milling about the fountain gave him curious glances, shaking their heads and chuckling at Marius' misfortune.
Cosette opened her eyes upon hearing Marius. With gentle laughter in her eyes, she returned the franc to Marius, shaking her head as he tried to resist.
"I know you can't afford it," she whispered to him, her eyes full of understanding. "I'll replace it for you tonight."
Marius shook his head, mortified by his second failure as Cosette walked back to Monsieur Fauchelevent.
He needed one last chance. The third time would do it, he was sure.
Once again in the garden, Cosette slipped Marius a small velvet bag that jingled with the coins inside.
"Cosette, really, you don't need to. It would be dishonorable for me to take this. I can just start work again, though I'm not entirely sure—"
"Oh, but then you'd be so busy again!" Cosette said. "Just this once—I like seeing you here." She thrust the bag into his hands and jumped away, refusing to take it back.
Marius sighed, his face growing hot as he tucked the bag into his pocket. Why didn't they ever depict the awkwardness of courtship in plays and novels? Was there something wrong with him? Certainly even the handsome penniless heroes of Cosette's favorite stories never were so robbed of their dignity. Marius buries his face in his hands, cringing inwardly at all of his embarrassments. What a fool he was! What must Cosette think of him?
He felt Cosette run a gentle hand through his hair and he looked up. She held in her hands a dandelion, the white tufty seeds stirring gently in the breeze.
Cosette smiled at him, handing the plant to him.
Marius couldn't help but look at the weed with distaste. "It's a weed, darling Cosette. It prevents the other flowers from growing."
Cosette shook her head. "When I was very small, I remember...my mother said you can make a wish on it when you blow all the white seeds away. You should make a wish now."
Marius twirled the stem between his fingers, staring at the ground. He managed a weak smile at Cosette as he held the dandelion up to his face. I wish I could show Cosette how much I love her. He drew a deep breath, preparing to do something right and succeed at this tiny task.
With his sharp intake of breath the cottony seeds flew in the wrong direction into Marius' mouth. They clogged his throat as he coughed violently till his throat was raw. The cotton tufts tickled the back of his mouth unbearably, and as Cosette slapped him hard on his back they flew out in globs of saliva.
As he recovered, Cosette put an arm around Marius' and whispered to him, "Perhaps we shouldn't rely on feeble traditions such as wish-making. Who needs a wish when you have true love?"
The sincerity in her eyes was irresistible to Marius, who still let out a cough every so often intermittently. He tossed the ridiculous weed back on the grass and decided despondently that he would retire to a monastery. No one needed to be charming to women when they were locked in a cell to pray to God. Marius felt he had certain choice things he would like to say to God, should he meet him in the near future.
"I'm sorry, Cosette," Marius said as he brushed off his jacket from the seeds still remaining.
Cosette looked at him in confusion. "But why? What have you to be sorry for? I'm the one who gave you that ridiculous thing."
"I suppose I'm rather a disaster when it comes to being charming," Marius said. "I couldn't even give you a wish."
Cosette laughed. "Silly. What do I need a wish for? I have everything I need."
Marius allowed himself to smile and take Cosette's offered hand.
"Perhaps you should learn when to see things as a weed, or a flower," Cosette mused. "Take things as they come, but make the best of it."
"Oh? And what is the best of this humiliating situation?"
"We have each other, don't we?" Cosette teased.
Marius smiled, relieved. "I am lucky to love someone with as much wisdom as beauty," he told her. Cosette grinned.
"I think you may have an eyelash stuck to your cheek, Monsieur."