Tales of the Wretched – Fantine Chapter 3 : A way out
28 November 2017
Michel enters his car, puts on the radio and clasps his hands together to stop them from trembling. The countenance he had kept earlier when meeting Fantine and Patrick falls apart as he is flooded by memories and deeply hidden desires. After all those years of searching for her, he has finally found her and perhaps, just perhaps, he can make things happen between them. He remembers that she used to feel some sort of pity for him and would always protect him but back then already he had fallen in love with her. She was his hero and the love of his life. He remembers the day she had put on her jasmine perfume for the first time and how he had loved its smell. He had loved it to the extent that he got into a broil with the Ugly trio just so that she would come rescue him and he could smell that scent again while she interposed herself between him and the Ugly trio.
Slowly Michel extracts a photograph from a brown bag he retrieved from the glove box. It is a class photograph and in it Fantine and he are sitting side by side among several other classmates. He looks at the photograph lovingly caressing the contours of Fantine’s face. What would she think of him if she knew how madly he was in love with her and how desperately he had wanted her to be his. All those years looking for her had not reduced on bit of his longing for her. She pervaded his every sense and was the motivating factor of all those days at the gym when he sought to get a body that she would admire. He wanted her to be proud of him, to love him, to find him worthy of her and to finally become his.
Michel puts the photograph back in the glove box and eases himself out of the car again. He walks rapidly towards the shawarma place where Fantine is still finishing her shawarma plate. If she is surprised when she sees him come back she does not let it show on her face as she welcomes him back.
- Hello Michel. Did you forget something
- You. I mean, no, I could never forget you. What I mean is I have come back for you
- What do you mean?
- I want to make you a proposal. I want you to be mine
- I don’t do the paid mistress part. It is not my cup of tea as I earn more doing what I do.
- I don’t mean that. I mean a real proposal. I want you to be my wife
Fantine draws a sharp breath in but says nothing. In the earlier years she used to fantasize that some man would come rescue her; someone who would make her such a proposal and she would be able to live in a small house with children and a man to make a home for but it had never happened. As the years had gone by, she had got used to doing what she did and ultimately come to terms with it.
- I don’t think that I can accept that Michel, she says softly
- Why not?
- I used to have that dream once but now I am used to what I do. Besides, who would pay me and arrange for the money to be sent back home if I stop working
- I would. I will give you all the money to match your earnings and even try to surpass it. I am well paid you know, as a commissioner
- You have no idea how much I make. How could you match it
- I am not only offering you money. I am offering you a way out. Don’t you feel tired sometimes and wish you could do something else?
Fantine bites her lip. Yes, she does feel sometimes terribly tired and wishes that she were doing something else but that thought is soon forgotten as she focuses on the outcome for her mother.
- You are right but I know I can count on myself while I don’t know if I can count on you
- I will not betray you. I will never leave you
- If you knew how many men come here that are married, you would understand why I find it difficult to believe you. I am sure they too told their wives at some point that they would never leave them.
- I have some savings. If you don’t believe me I can give you all my savings in advance so you are assured that you would never lack money
Fantine bites her lip again. In all the years she had dreamed of someone coming and rescuing her she had imagined a grandiose declaration and firework everywhere. This seems so calm and measured that it somehow feels unreal. Yet she can feel her heart warm up to the idea and Michel is a handsome man though graying. She holds her hand out to him and whispers that she might just take his way out even though she does not know where it will lead the both of them. Michel cries tears of joy and holds her against his heart. He does not care what the men working under him will think or say. All that matters is that Fantine will be his at last.
Phaedrus – Jade