Tales of the Wretched: Fantine – Chapter 3 : A way out

Tales of the Wretched – Fantine Chapter 3 : A way out

28 November 2017

Christian Schloe--surreal-art-digital-art
Courtesy Christian Schloe

 

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

Tales of the Wretched : Fantine – Chapter 2 : Meeting Michel

Tales of the Wretched : Fantine – Chapter 2 : Meeting Michel

27 October 2017

catrin welz stein redbubble com
Courtesy Catrin Welz Stein on redbubble.com

 

Patrick suddenly squeezed her hand startling her out of her thoughts regarding the new comissioner.

  • There he is, he says. What is he doing here.
  • Where, she says. I don’t see any man
  • Don’t turn your head now as he is several feet away behind you. You can look later
  • What is he wearing ?
  • Brown pants with a beige shirt. I guess he is off duty today.

Slowly Fantine turns when Patrick signals she can and sees the back of a man who is graying and whose clothes seem starched. While she is appraising him, she realises that he is doing the same. She had forgotten that there was a large mirror on the wall of the shawarma dine-in and now she sees that he clearly is watching her watching him. She feels a bit embarrassed at being caught peering and becomes even more unsettled when she sees him stand up and walk their way. Fantine hopes that he will just pass by them but he stops at their table.

  • Hello Fantine, I am Michel, do you remember me ? says the commissioner
  • You two know each other, questions Patrick
  • I am sorry, I don’t know who you are, says Fantine
  • I am Michel, your previous neighbours’ son whom you used to help with studies. You used to also give me some of your lunch when the ugly trio beat me and took mine and you used to defend me when they picked on me in your presence. I could remember your face anywhere.
  • Michel ! she gasped. He looked anything but skinny now. In fact he was looking pretty fit and handsome while he had been such a sickly boy back then. She remembered rescuing him countless times back at school in Caissargues near Nîmes from an ugly trio that had called themselves infernitrio and used to terrorise most of the pupils at school.
  • Yes, it is me, Michel, my dear Fantine. How glad I am to see you. I asked your mother countless times where you had gone and she only recently gave me the address you wrote from
  • You will not…
  • No, I won’t. I understood from the address that you might be… although I hoped..
  • You hoped I was indeed a seamstress. What do you know about the life we lead ? We earn our bread like you earn yours. It is a job like any other job. Why should you hope me to be a seamstress where I would earn less than one third of the money working my fingers and eyes off three times as fast as I work the other parts of my body in this profession.
  • Fantine, I did not mean to be demeaning. It was just a surprise. You were so bright at school. I thought you would have done something else
  • Well I am what I am. I am not doing anything else
  • Please, Fantine, do not think that I think the less of you. I have always kept you in mind as a dear dear one and it will stay like that forever
  • I am sorry I got annoyed. I just…
  • It is okay. I can imagine how you feel…

Patrick had followed their verbal exchange with a strange mixture of curiosity, perplexity and cunning. When they had finished and Michel bade them goodbye after the heated exchanges had cooled down, he pointed towards Fantine and smiled knowingly

  • I know exactly what the commissioner can be given now and it won’t cost you a thing
  • What do you mean ?
  • It’s you
  • What do you mean me ?
  • It’s your safety. He will not ask us why we are touring the Rue des Pâquis more often and neglecting other areas because he will be happy you are being preserved. We will just say that there tends to be more fighting in this area and that is it.

Fantine bites her nails absent-mindedly like she always does when nervous and wonders whether this is possible. Surely enough Michel was very grateful towards her for having protected him all those years at school but they had lost touch for over 13 years to the extent that she had not even recognised him. Yet it did seem possible as he had recognised her despite the long period of time they had not been in contact with one another. She looked back at Patrick and swung towards him the gift he had refused earlier and he beamed.

Fantine sized Patrick up and wondered whether she should shift protection from him to Michel but was sure that none of the team who had been getting gifts would be too happy with the change. Besides, she did not expect that Michel would be the type to authorise illicit concentration of outings of the police force in one area to the detriment of another area. Patrick stood up, the gift safely tucked into his breast pocket and the other packet of gifts jutting out of his coat pocket. He smiled at her and she could see again that same cunning run through his eyes. She sensed that he had guessed what had gone through her mind earlier but he chose not to say anything. He kissed her with a peck on the cheek and bid her goodbye. Slowly Michel extracted himself from the shadow where he had been hiding watching both Fantine and Patrick and started walking towards his car…

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