The Blood Of Angry Women

Chapter 6

Enjolras sipped at a glass of wine, trying desperately to keep her hand steady. Despite all her willpower being channeled into this activity, she still sloshed some of the rosy liquid onto her hand. She muttered a curse under her breath and dabbed at it with her napkin.

Joly dropped into the seat opposite her. "Good heavens, what happened to you?" he exclaimed, studying her face.

She waved a hand dismissively. "This? It's nothing. You should see the other fellow."

Lesgles, never very far from Joly's side, sunk into a chair beside him. "Enjolras, in a fistfight? I can't believe that! Now, honestly, what was it?"

"Oh, it's a rather silly story, actually. I wasn't paying attention to where I was going, and I was nearly run down by a carriage. Grantaire, in saving me from this, pushed me into a wall." She frowned. "I don't mean to sound critical of him, really. He did the best he could, I think. It all happened so quickly! I'm surprised he didn't get himself killed. I should look more carefully. Some drivers just go too fast."

Joly chuckled. "You're just learning this lesson, after how many years in Paris? Anyway, I'm glad you're alright. We'd be lost without you. All of us," he said with a broad sweep of his hand, including all of France in his statement.

Enjolras nodded solemnly. "I hope I can live up to that, my friend." She once again lifted her wine glass with her trembling hand and sipped. Joly, usually preoccupied with his own health, suddenly noticed her pallor. "I'm surprised that your doctor didnt make you stay in bed longer."

A guilty expression crossed her face. "Oh, you're rebelling as usual. Well, in my experience, doctors are hardly tyrannical, and usually worth listening to," said Lesgles quietly.

"Now stop it, both of you! I'm just fine. Shall we get on with the--" The door opened, with much rattling of the knob, and Grantaire entered the room and marched to her table.

"Convalescing with my favorite medicine, I see. Let's hope that some of that color finds its way into your cheeks." He nudged Lesgles' chair aside and pulled up one next to Enjolras, flinging his hat on the table. "Mind if I sit here?"

"Certainly, make yourself comfortable. Pull up a chair, relax," she replied acidly.

Joly and Lesgles, sensing an embarrassing display of fireworks, hastily excused themselves. It was sometimes amusing to watch their leader berate someone, but not when they weren't sure who to side with.

Grantaire picked up Enjolras' nearly untouched bottle and poured himself a generous glassful. "Poor Combeferre's going to be so worried when he gets back to your room with dinner. Never would have suspected you of dishonesty. Healing faster than ordinary men, now, I always thought--"

Her eyes lit up with anger. "You read my note?"

"Well, yes, I did. I was quite worried about you when I discovered your bed unoccupied. I just wanted to make certain that you hadn't finally sprouted wings and flown back to the heavens. Blech! Lousy wine. Ah well. They sell more that way, because one is obliged to drink it faster." As if to prove his point, he drained his glass and poured another.

Enjolras opened her mouth to speak again, but he cut her off. "Don't worry, I left it there for your most esteemed second in command to find upon his return. Though, I suspect that he'll be a great deal more upset with you than I am. He's worried about you, and the fate of the country. Me, I'm just worried about you. The country can go to hell for all I care. Now, it seems that that nice white-haired gentleman we met last evening -- you can tell a good doctor by his white hair, can you not? Comes from all those years of patients like you -- well, it seems that he thought you should still be in bed. Something about that oversized brain of yours receiving quite a rattling in that thick skull of yours--"

Enjolras clenched her jaw, forcing herself to remain calm, and not to shout at him as she was tempted to. "Luckily, not everyone thinks like you. You know, for someone who supposedly has my interests in mind, you do an awful lot of tearing at the interest most dear to my heart."

Grantaire leaned forward and raised his dark, bloodshot eyes to her bright blue ones. "I care about you. Not about your Republic," he replied softly, in a tone that brought a sudden flush to her cheeks.

Annoyed by this gentleness on his part, she stared disdainfully at him. "I only exist for my Republic. Go drink in your corner, amuse the boys with your absurdities, and leave me be. I have work to do." She began plucking papers from the canvas bag at her side and spreading them out on the table. They were maps of various Parisian districts, and some pages of figures in her neat hand. The figures were disguised as homework pages for arithmetic classes, but they were actually numbers of members of various organizations that might ally with them. The maps were a bit more risky. Though the key spots were marked with such innocuous statements as "great red wine" and "terrible chicken," they were really marking cafés where their allies met, or places where informers were known to lurk.

Grantaire remained seated beside her. She decided that as long as he kept his foolish comments to himself, she would not fight about it. This unspoken peace lasted all of fifteen seconds.

"Ah, you really should mark Mother Saguet's on there. Great broiled chicken." He picked up her pen and dipped it, preparing to mark the spot of the bistro on the appropriate map.

"No!" she cried. "Leave it alone. I'm not interested in chicken." She grabbed the pen out of his hand, splashing ink onto her cuff. "Damn!" she muttered, pressing her other hand to her temple, her head spinning with the sudden rise in her blood pressure. She closed her eyes, hoping to ward off this dizziness and the accompanying headache.

"Oh, what's a little ink on your blouse, in the grand scheme of things? I'll be sure and tell them not to bury you in that one. After all, Apollo must glisten and shine when h- sh- he rides across the heavens, and how could you shine in ink-spotted linen? On second thought, you'd better go home and change it right now, not a moment to lose! Just look at those pale cheeks-- Any moment now will come the carriage to take you back to the sky where you belong. Interesting to note, is it not, that it was indeed a carriage that began the work of putting you back there? Now, all it needed was a bit of foolhardiness to finish the job. If it's glory you're after, I don't think dying of stupidity counts as sacrificing yourself for your cause."

"Go away, you're a bother. Combeferre's just arrived and I have some private matters to discuss. Please, Grantaire, don't make a scene-- Hello again, Combeferre," she said, tapping the chair next to her. "Courfeyrac should be here any moment, and then we can really get something done."

Combeferre remained standing, glaring down at her. "That was a clever trick, I admit. Now come on, you really must get home immediately. Enjolras, this isn't something to fool with. You're a sensible man, please listen to me. You'll make yourself sicker, wind up in bed longer. Just rest now, for a few days."

Enjolras stared at his face as he spoke, trying to focus on that, barely able to hear him over the humming sound in her head. Her vision was wavering, as if she were gazing into a pool. She absently picked up her wine glass and drained it, hoping for a bit of steadiness from that, or at least, to be able to appear steady. It did help for a moment.

"Bah!" she replied with a wave of her hand. "Look; here's Courfeyrac now. Ten minutes more won't kill me. I'll say my piece from here and be brief. Friends! Listen to me!" A hush fell over the room and everyone took their seats as her carefully moderated voice spoke.

--Jeni Baron

Chapter 7