Eurydice was a daughter of Apollo. Éponine was the daughter of a wolf.
Such you had learnt, such you had learnt that night when you happened to be passing from Rue Plumet, hiding in a corner after noticing a robbery taking place.
It had been that girl who was following Marius everywhere, her frail, slender body woefully exposed to the cold and to the eyes of the horrible creatures surrounding her, the rags she’d worn tattered, torn and shredded. She had looked dirty, filthy, half her teeth were missing as her mouth had hanged half open in fear. Her thick dark hair surrounded her head like wild branches, making her cheeks look hollower and her eyes empty and dry like two holes in a skull. You hid there, almost not breathing so that you wouldn’t be heard and watched her try to send her father and the other criminals away from that house, in order to save the people in it. Her mouth had moved quickly, she didn’t speak the slang yet she rambled uncontrollably, the men were growing positively furious.
You heard her threatening to scream, to rouse everyone in the neighbourhood if they dared to make another step towards the small house. Your heart skipped a beat at the bravery of the girl, only to start racing at the sound of the words which had followed, as her father cursed her and threatened her.
She was the daughter of a wolf. She was unafraid, her hair dark and thick, her eyes small and empty, she was a true wolf herself, reasoning and threatening and gambling as if she were a man, a clever, unfortunate wolf that once used to be proud and beautiful, but had now starved and faded into the darkness of an unwelcoming forest.
You winced at the sound of her cough, sickly reflecting the situation around you, every torn man, every poor and tormented, a sick, decadent society slowly destroying its children.
And just then, at the eerie, horrible sound of her scream, resembling a hoarse mouse, Éponine became Eurydice. The sound resembled of the serene song of a wood nymph, natural, earthy and melodic, the music of a woman who overtook every man, the sound of a brave soul who cared and helped and loved. At that moment, hidden behind a wall, ashamed of your cowardice, your heart ached for her.
However you were no Orpheus. You were no Jean Prouvaire and she was no loving mistress. She was a street urchin who only had eyes for no other than Marius Pontmercy. You knew that. You knew love. You could see it at the way she stared at the oblivious young student with those empty, hollow eyes, you could hear it at the effort of her hoarse voice to avoid the slang, you could feel it in the manner she nervously moved her bony wrists and pointy chin. Éponine was in love, yet Marius wasn’t her Orpheus either.
You’ve always valued loved and venerated Man. His never ending abilities, His beautiful mind, His powerful soul and His genius body. You’ve always believed in His every achievement, in His Science, in His Art, His Philosophy and His History. In this wonderful world He has constructed.
Yet you’ve appreciated Woman even more. Her beauty, Her art, Her mind and Her heart. Women deserve equality because women fight for something more sacred than for what men fight: freedom. Man fights for a literal freedom. Woman silently seeks the eternal grace and glory of dreaming.
You’ve always despised every bloodbath, every human loss, every war held because of a monarch sucking the citizens’ blood. Yet the monarch isn’t Human’s sole enemy.
You were Athena; and the goddess of wisdom, courage, civilization and justice never truly was the mistress of the heart games.
You know love. You simply have not allowed it to prevail upon you before in such a way, in such an innocent, murderous way of selfishly needing to lay your eyes upon your nymph even at her final moment, no matter how garish and twisted and horrible that may be. You tried very hard not to allow such a thing to happen to you, to get distracted and try to hide every glance and every bite of your lip from Enjolras and your other friends, you guide them, you can’t afford your mind to be stolen by a woman, not in the middle of a revolution in which your role was crucial, not at the times when people suffered and begged for liberty.
Yet love is liberty. It is freedom and it is revolution. You’ve always venerated Human, but Human can only be one thing: love. Human is love and love is Human and you had never felt more human in your life, and for leading a revolution instead of a butchery the first and last thing you need to be is human.
So in that peculiar way you are no Athena anymore because you’re no God. You’re human, you’re Orpheus and Jean Prouvaire lent you his lyre for a moment because you deserve to embrace that precious sentiment for a minute, even though it hurts terribly to see her in love with another because love proves to be incredibly selfish for once again.
And then you’re lost in a haze of gunpowder and cannonballs and raindrops falling heavily on your head, your shoulders, your nose and your hair. Blood is everywhere but a mourning peace has come, silence has prevailed and darkness has covered the faces with its dark veil. And you see her, dressed in men’s clothes, tattering near the barricade, and the burgundy on her shirt must surely be the color which has drained from your face as your heart has definitely stopped at the sight, for Eurydice cannot go down, not yet, Hades can’t take her from Earth, no matter how dark Earth might have become.
You rush at her side. Nobody notices, they’re drinking their sorrows away. Your fingers reach for that bony wrist, searching for a pulse which is already extremely faint. It seems like it’s giving its beats to you, lending you some time, for your own heart is racing frantically, ready to explode from your chest. You desperately try to think of what to do. Medicine is in hands of men, yet it is still so woefully hidden in the darkness, laughing at their faces. Medicine is a beautiful, kind yet secretive mistress. There is no way for such a wound to heal so you allow the wound to separate the pain and give an equal amount to your own body and soul. Every inch hurts desperately as you watch her perish in your own arms.
Her own chest is a huge dark stain against greasy fabric and her dark, wet eyes are staring at you without looking, already delirious with the blood loss and the fever. Her voice is faint, nothing but a breath, the swan song of a nymph who’s stepped on a viper. “Monsieur Marius,” she calls, and you know it’s your last chance to feel her breath warm against your skin, to sense the heat coming through her clothes, to soothe her pain and fight her torment. You’ve never lied before, not that way, yet for once you feel the glory and the horror of such a lie filling your veins.
You hold her while your heart breaks in a million pieces again and again, with every agonized breath of hers, with every cough and every spasmodic movement of her back, with every heavy raindrop which rhythmically mourns for her soul while falling on your faces. You hold her and whisper words of love, Monsieur Marius is here, Monsieur Marius cares, wants, pities you, you are already missed yet you are still alive, Hades is sparing you for another heartbeat or two and you know it’s your final chance to become Orpheus, only for now, thus you are gifted the lyre to sing your song for the first and the last time. “If I could heal your wounds with words of love… you wouldn’t feel any pain.”
She doesn’t feel any pain, she tells you so and you find logic in such words, for all the pain is transmitted to your own body, to the blood staining your cravat, your shirt and your blue waistcoat as you hold her in your arms and Eurydice is getting ready to flee so she smiles and half-shuts her eyes, her soul released to the air with every exhale.
“I will keep you safe, I will keep you strong…” how you wish you were a God so that you could give her wings and bring her to Olympus… How you wish your words could become true while you feel her body shaking in your arms... and how alive it is, how full of breath and warmth, how can they take her away from you?
"Rain will make the flowers grow", you would beg her to be silenced; you know that speaking shall only steal more and more from her breaths of life, yet you allow her for she needs to speak, she needs to confess, she will never rest until she tells you that she betrayed you, she brought you to that barricade to die because she couldn’t bear Cosette having you instead of her and you need to say you love her, you need to tell her it has always her yet you can’t, because she’s saying no word to you, everything belongs to Marius and you are a horrible thief who steals her breaths and words and smiles.
But knowing or not whether you are Marius, she chooses to leave abandon heartbeat of hers in your own embrace, she leans, covering you in blood and listens to your song, having now confessed what she thinks is a sin but you find love, the most selfish and pure of the kind, and society, the most evil and cruel of its results, portrayed in the once beautiful face of your tormented nymph.
And then you see him and he sees you, your eyes meet and you forget how to breathe. You are a thief, a horrible thief and you don’t deserve to be there anymore. He rushes towards you, bloody, weary and pale as a sheet, realizing who was the creature dressed in men's clothes who saved him from certain death.
You walk away. You don’t belong there, you never did. Athena was never meant to be loved by Eurydice.
You watch them from the barricade as he holds her and whispers the things you’d want to keep whispering to her, yet it is completely alright because she’s smiling, delirious, eyes half closed, lips half open, her face wet and her hair soaked in the rain which can hardly hurt her now.
And finally you see him pressing his lips on her forehead and your heart explodes together with Eurydice’s light and the final breath after her chest falls, for she has drifted into darkness, she has gone down and you cannot find her again.
You carry her in your arms while Marius silently weeps, everyone else watching at you, in mourning for the first victim of the barricade. You fight here in her name, that’s what you say while feeling the weight of her limp body in your arms, the rain soaking both of you to the bone, her motionless head which has fallen back in a rather abnormal angle, her unmoving legs and her silenced breast. And as you carry her to the tavern you feel your heart skipping a beat, for Orpheus has gotten her up for a second, she has returned from the dead and is near him at last.
You lay her down and lean forward. Your lips gently press upon the wet forehead, your hand brushing the soaked wild hair from her face, your burning tears meddle with the rain. And at that faintest, most innocent touch of resurrection, you can feel her returning forever, Eurydice fades into darkness and you sit there, motionless, captivated by the shadows still walking behind you. It’s the last touch upon that tormented skin and you soon take your fingertips away. She is not your lyre to hold. You are not even her Orpheus. Your rights are over.
You are ready to give your blood so that the torn and tormented can stop suffering. You are ready to give your blood for humankind to be released from this nightmare, and you are willing to do anything for little children not to be hungry anymore, for women to be equal to men, for men not to be sick and untreated.
Until the last moment you give your strength, your breaths for those in need. You are helping a wounded soldier and you see the bayonet, you’re ready and you aren’t for you are Orpheus but you also are Athena and Athena is immortal, have you learnt how to die? You turn your eyes in the sky, searching for her star. Maybe she’s there. Maybe she can protect you even though she never even saw you there. Maybe she can hold you against her bloodied blouse. There are no more stars left in the sky, as the sun has risen, yet you’d know every single place, you’d knew where to find Andromeda, Ursa minor and major, Perseus and Sirius even though you can’t see them, not now. The stars have abandoned you but you don’t blame them. Maybe you envy them a little, you would try your best not to watch such a butchery as well, young men with families, parents, children, lovers, soldiers and revolutionaries being slaughtered for the sake of a monarch.
The stars embrace you for you have recently become Orpheus and you feel the bayonet again and again. You can now give your blood.
The sky goes dark, and you think you’re seeing the stars, and all you can do while expiring is to think of the woman who fought.
When you open your eyes the light around you blinds you. You realize that nothing hurts, nothing is bleeding or broken. You can move your head just fine and see properly in front of you. You manage to sit up. You seem to be in the Musain, yet it’s clean and bright, the chairs and barrels in place and no one else seems to be there.
You wonder what has happened at the barricade and how you’ve ended up lying on the wooden floor of the café. You wonder what has happened to you.
You look around. You are alone. Are you dead?
Someone is climbing the stairs. You hold your breath, wishing you would have your gun here. Everything is so silent, yet you can hear the steps and all you are able do is stand there and wait.
And then you see her. And she’s beautiful. Dark, thick and shiny hair embracing her olive skin, men’s clothes being brand new and whole, clean around her graceful yet skinny body. Eyes dark, deep and warm and those lips finally wet, pale, forming a smile you had never seen before.
She stands at a proper distance. She doesn’t want to startle you.
You remember your manners. You walk forward and she gives you her hand. Oh how different she looks, how quiet and gentle, what a lady and what a fighter she’s always been!
Your bring that hand on your lips, it’s raw and callused between your fingers. “Welcome, Monsieur,” she says and her voice is still hoarse yet more gentle than you’ve ever heard it.
“I’m very pleased to meet you again,” you can only mutter, wondering where Marius is, hoping he’ll be alive, because Marius belongs there, with Cosette, with the living, with the breathing, and for another silent moment you dare to believe that you belong here with her.
She takes a seat by a table, looking around probably for a bottle of wine. Her dark eyes finally rest on your own, and now that her face is clean and her hair out of the way you can fully appreciate the warmth and the spark in her usually dead, faded glance. “Where am I? Where are the others?” you hear yourself croaking.
“They will find you soon,” she replies, “but I wanted to see you first before they realized you were here.”
Your heart starts racing in you chest, but is it possible? Can you have a beating heart when you’re dead.
“It has been you all along, hasn’t it?” she asks, and you feel that heart clenching because you can’t tell her, you can’t tell her that Marius wasn’t there from the beginning, that you did such a terrible thing as faking another man’s voice.
“I’m terribly sorry,” you whisper.
But her eyes are bright and welcoming and she mutters a “thank you Monsieur,” and a “will you have me by your side?” for now she sees, and now you know it. And you think you’ve forgotten how to breathe and the café Musain is such a wonderful place, and all you can say is “If you permit me.”
Her lips feel heavenly against your own, as she breathes all the life of the dead in your suffering body and soul. You don’t dare to believe, even though you were the one to always believe in everything. You don’t dare to believe for you can’t be so blessed with her acceptance.
And she breaks the kiss and your fingers entangle. “I permit you, Monsieur. Forever,” she breathes.
Eurydice has returned from down below. For once, Orpheus feels permitted to follow her instead of being followed.
Then I saw their trembling features warp and, gradually,
Their foreheads turn pale and dissolve in front of me,
And everyone, like a stream that flows into a sea,
Became completely lost in a dark immensity.
Victor Hugo, The Slope of Reverie