It's days, weeks even, before Eponine remembers the boy. What was his name? Mon – Mon… she tries hard to think, but it won't come, so she shrugs it off. Doesn't matter anyway. It's only a name. And in Paris, caught in the hustle and bustle of the city, it's the least thing she has to remember.
They'd found themselves a room. Not the first night, of course. They really had had nowhere to go. Thenardier had led the family on and on through a winding warren of streets until she was so dizzy and so overwhelmed that she could no longer register where they were. Indeed, when they did eventually stop, she was so tired that Thenardier had had to lift her into the cart and she was asleep before she had even been dumped on the wooden platform.
After that night, though, things had got a little better. He'd gone off in the morning, Thenardier, leaving Madame and the children stood on the banks of the Seine with their few chairs and bits and pieces. They looked funny, Eponine realized, all stood with their furniture and in their heaps of pretty clothes and unbrushed hair, but she didn't care. It was just nice to be able to sit and rest her blistered feet. It was nice to hear her brother and sister laughing again.
He'd come back after a while, her Pa, smiling for a change, and for a minute, Eponine was reminded of the jovial man who had run the inn in Montfermiel. Both he and Mama had taken the furniture: he heaving the table on his back, bent double beneath it's weight, and she the chairs all stacked high. The children had carried the other bits. She had her satchel was stuffed with the bits of food they still had, a stale-ish loaf and some bits of meat and cheese, a little metal cauldron in which was a picture of M'sieur Bonaparte, and, awkwardly tucked beneath one arm and held on the other end by Azelma, the old sign from their inn.
Thenardier had been excited at first: he boasted about the deal he'd made, how much he'd sold their horse for, and the cart, and Eponine had felt a pang. She hadn't said goodbye to Festina and now she was gone. Well, it was too late. She said nothing and concentrated on dragging the sign instead.
It had been turning dark before they finally stopped outside a tall, grey building. Eponine had looked up, and then quickly away. The brickwork was chipped, the steps to the door worn and hollow, and several windows were smashed. Were they really to live here? Surely not. She started to say as much, but a fierce look from her mother and a bark of, "Shut your face, 'Ponine," from her father, and she said nothing.
She said nothing when Thenardier triumphantly opened the battered wooden door of their new home, didn't squeak as she looked dismally at the mouldy, cracked, white-washed walls, or the rough, stained floorboards or the dirty window. She said nothing when Azelma asked where the other rooms were, or when her sister began to squeal as Maman trod heavily on her foot to shut her up. She said nothing when the table was unloaded, and the chairs unstacked and the cauldron placed neatly in the empty fireplace. And she said nothing when she curled up in the corner by the door, using her dresses as a mattress and tried to sleep through her parents' fight.
The next days were lost to Eponine: Mama had set her errands to do – finding wells or pumps and filling buckets and cleaning windows and scrubbing walls. She was in a fierce temper these days, her Mama, and Eponine had grown wary. It had been funny to watch Cosette being hit by those big, hard hands, but it was entirely different to be on the receiving end.
She and Azelma together had scrubbed the entire room until their hands were cracked and sore from the water, and even then, it wasn't enough.
"What's that?" The ogress had barked, pointing at smudges that Azelma had missed. It was the first time that Eponine had taken a smack for her sister that day, and she had hit Azelma as hard as she could after. The little ones had to learn, after all.
But at last, the ogress was satisfied, and told the girls the next day to scram, that she wanted the place to herself without noisy kids.
So, alone, the three ventured into the streets.
"Can we go to the park, 'Ponine?" Azelma had whined.
"Yeah, yeah, the park! The park!" Gavroche joined in.
Eponine didn't know where there was a park, but having no better plan, she chose a direction and started walking.
As luck would have it, there was a garden not far from where their lodging was – a little green space nestled in between the winding cobbled streets. As soon as it was spotted, the younger children ran, Azelma half dragging Gavroche in her happiness to play again. Eponine followed at a more sedate pace. In her arms, cradled almost as if she was a real baby, was Alphonsine the doll, and as she walked, Eponine cooed and sang bits of muttered songs at it, playing mother and child.
Settled on the grass, she wasn't aware of the sharp, blue eyes watching her, until a vaguely familiar voice shouted her name.
She looked round quickly, and to her dismay, she noticed the boy, still dressed in the funny cravat and waistcoat, watching her from the narrow passageway opposite the park. She could feel her cheeks beginning to burn as he made his way over to her.
"Nice doll," he comments, bright teeth gleaming as he grins at her.
"It isn't mine," she mutters, but he laughs at her, and mimics her coos at it.
"Give it up, Eponine. You're a big baby, playing with dolly. And fancy, I were gonna offer you my personal tour of the city 'cause I thought you were a bit of fun, but you aint, are you? You're a kid. You're a baby. " He teased.
"I am not a baby," Eponine clenched her fists. "I want to come, M –"
She blushed again, realizing that she still couldn't remember his name.
"Montparnasse," That smile was back, and Eponine couldn't help smiling too.
"Montparnasse," she repeated, almost shyly. But then she glanced at her siblings, who were still playing on the grass. "What about them?" She jerked her thumb.
"Leave 'em," Montparnasse grinned and took Eponine's hand. "Come on!"
She nodded, and with a quick glance at Azelma and Gavroche, let him lead her off. She barely even registered dropping Alphonsine, and definitely didn't hear her porcelain head shattering on the cobbles.