Innocence Lost

Chapter 1

"If, at that period of her existence, Cosette had fallen in love with a man in the least unscrupulous or debauched, she would have been lost; for there are generous natures which yield themselves, and Cosette was one of them...Love has no middle course; it either ruins or it saves...Of all the things that God has made, the human heart is the one which sheds the most light, alas! and the most darkness." -- Victor Hugo, Les Miserables

Montparnasse moved along the narrow Rue Plumet eagerly. He had decide to reexamine the house that Eponine had deemed 'a biscuit'. Usually, she knew what she was talking about, but he had another sense about this. It was broad daylight, so he had to be careful how he went.

As he was walking by the gate, discreetly feeling the bars, he happened to glance in at the overgrown, tangled garden. One would assume, seeing this wild mess of nature, that the garden was unused. Wrong. A lovely young brunette was walking around in it.

"Well! Good day, Madamoiselle," he called in his impeccably imitated bourgeous manners. He tipped his stylish hat to her. She saw the beautiful face beneath it, and smiled.

"Good day, Monsieur," she replied shyly. No one had ever spoken to her while she walked in her garden before. And she had certainly never seen anyone so handsome. He had stopped in front of the gate. She moved toward it. Cosette blushed. "Do you - you can't mean me?"

"Why, certainly, I mean you. What a flower you are! There is the Rose, the Lily, the Hyacinth. All these pale next to the...what is this lovely flower called?"

"Cosette," she replied. She did not ask, but questioned him with her eyes.

"My name is Montparnasse." A plan began to hatch in his warped mind. "Will you be out later? I have business to attend to, and I will walk back by here, say, around eight?"

Cosette looked up into the air, as if searching. "I can't be out here then. Perhaps around nine, but that would be too late. I was nice to meet you M. Montparnasse, I will let you be on your way." She sighed in disappointment.

"Did I say eight? I meant nine. Nine it is. I will be right here, Mlle. Cosette." He tipped his hat again, and walked away.

At 8:55 precisely, Cosette stepped out into her garden. He was there almost immediately, as if he'd been watching. Skillfully, his hand moved to the exact bar which was loose, and moved it aside to step in.

"You're looking very well this evening, Mademoiselle," he murmured, catching up her gloved hand to kiss it. Cosette blushed and murmured a reply.

Montparnasse led her over to the stone steps which led from the house out to the garden. Underneath them was a little nook, perfect for sitting in.

"So, what does a pretty lady like yourself do with herself all day? You must go to all sorts of parties, right?"

Cosette looked down at the ground. "No, I don't actually. We don't really know anyone. We were in the convent for so long... Pappa was a gardener. And I was a student. But, my schooling was done, so we moved here. I just spend a lot of time in my garden. I sew. Sometimes, we take things to poor people, who have no food. And, there's Mass every week.

Montparnasse's brain began to hum. A convent school! My goodness, she'd be nearly like a nun! Well, he'd have to fix that.

"But, what about your mother?"

"Oh, she died when I was small. I don't remember her."

"I see. Where did you live, before the convent?"

Cosette laughed. "Would you believe, I don't remember? It was all such a haze.... Pappa doesn't talk about it much. Probably can't bear Maman's death."

Montparnasse chatted with her about little meaningless things; the things that grew in her garden, birds, and gossip from le Moniteur. He told her of a play he'd been to see lately, and what he'd thought of it. He made sure to flash her just enough smiles, to caress her hand just enough, that it wouldn't matter much what they talked of.

After a few hours, he told her that he really must be going. They walked to the gate together. Again, he leaned down to kiss her, but he stopped suddenly. He raised her gloved hand to his lips and brushed them so lightly she scarcely felt it.

"Good night, dearest Cosette," he murmured as he slipped out the gate. "Will I see you tomorrow night?"

"Oh yes!" she exclaimed. She watched him go untill he turned the corner and she could see no more, then she went inside to sleep.

Montparnasse hurried back to his flat. Perhaps Éponine would be there, and he could vent his frustration upon her.

Éponine was there, and also Azelma, cuddled up at her sister's side in his bed. "Ah, if you were a bit older, this could be fun. But, for now..." he lifted the sleeping girl, carried her out to the main room, and deposited her on the settee. "They should have left you in prison. You're a pain," he mumbled to the sleeping child.

He returned to his bedroom, shut the door, and woke Eponine by pouncing on her. He didn't notice that she kept her eyes shut, and never once said his name. It didn't matter much who was in her mind, as long as she was in his bed.

--Jeni Baron

Chapter 2