She Is the Very Model

He went to the museum every day to see the painting. In those heady days it seemed that, now the people of Paris knew once again that they could rise up and be victorious, some invisible spirit of patriotism had grasped them by the throat. They regarded their citizen-king with suspicion now. What better symbol for their power than that painting, a constant reminder to Louis-Philippe of who had put him on the throne?

But then things went wrong. The king no longer answered to the people. The painting was taken down, and now Enjolras would see flashes of it—of her—as he walked down the street. In the streetwalkers who accosted him at night, in the tired-faced girls who worked themselves to the bone by day, in the ragged girl who waited outside the café for Pontmercy some nights and sent him simpering, gap-toothed smiles whenever he emerged. He could picture each of them urging the masses on with her bloodstained flag.

He might have fallen in love with that painting a bit. He dreamed, one night, that Liberty kissed him and bit his tongue until it bled. He saw her everywhere.

One night the gamine was waiting outside the Musain as usual. "Was Marius here tonight?" she whispered, tugging at his sleeve.

"Not tonight." He was about to go on his way when he caught a glimpse of her face, illuminated by a streetlamp, and this time the recognition he saw was more than a flash. "You look... familiar, mademoiselle."

"Been out here six weeks in a row."

"Not that." It was a silly thought, but he asked anyway. "You look like a lady I saw in a painting. Have you ever modeled?"

"Yeah," she said with a trace of pride, "just once. Some painter grabbed me off the street one day, said he'd pay me to sit for him. No idea why he wanted to paint me, but money's money. Hell, my little brother came along too. Got to play with a pair of pistols and that was good enough for him. I hear they even put the painting up in some museum somewhere."

"Perhaps he wanted a woman of the people."

"Maybe so. Could've found a prettier one, couldn't he?"

"You look just like you do in the painting, mademoiselle. And in the painting you're beautiful."


[a/n: if you didn't catch it, this, of course, is the painting referred to.]