Jeanne wakes up from her doze. She had fallen asleep in the middle of darning a sock by the window. "What? Who is it?"
The door swings open cautiously. "'s just me. You all right?"
"Yes." She stands and tucks away the stocking, then gives him a slow, careful look. "How are you?"
Grantaire leans on the doorframe, regarding her quizzically. "All right."
Jeanne takes advantage of the light to look at him from a slightly different angle, then shakes her head. "Come in, shut the door. The draft will wake Robert."
Grantaire complies with a shrug, latching the door again after him.
"You look all right," she admits, somewhat reluctantly.
"Why wouldn't I?" he fires back.
She shakes her head again and turns away, fidgeting with her skirts. "Keeping the wrong company can be dangerous."
Grantaire quirks an eyebrow, leaning on the wall with arms folded. "Yes?"
"Suzette offered to watch the kids yesterday. She came in with two black eyes." Jeanne takes a deep breath. "Said her husband was in a temper. Her little girl was clinging to her apron all afternoon. That one's usually running around with Jacques the minute they see each other."
His face darkens. "Damn. She going to be all right?"
"This time. Same as last time. She shrugged it off. Said she loves him, said she needs him, took her little girl back home, same as last time. Said she forgives him because God knows what else she'd do." Jeanne looks intently at the wall away from her brother.
Grantaire says nothing, watching her expressionlessly.
Jeanne turns to face him. "Suzette forgives like they tell us God forgives, again and again, not asking reason or real retribution. And what does she get? Black eyes today. Last time it was a bruise on her arm. Time before that, something a little less. His temper's getting worse. She's getting hurt. And she still goes back."
He studies her intently for a moment, frowning. "What are you telling me, Jeannette?"
"She's going to forgive him every time until he loses his temper once and for all and kills her." Jeanne speaks in a level tone, her eyes on her brother's face. "She knows it. We know it. He knows it."
Grantaire meets her gaze, with the beginnings of confusion in his eyes. After a pause, quietly, "What d'you want me to do about it?"
"There's nothing to be done for her, François, but you could have the sense to learn from her mistakes."
He blinks, genuinely puzzled. "What are you talking about?"
Jeanne peers at him. "You used to forgive too readily. Have you forgotten how?"
Grantaire straightens. "What are you talking about, Jeanne, don't play this with me."
"You're the one playing. You know perfectly well what I'm talking about." Jeanne sighs, then pauses. When she begins again, it is in a more confident tone. "Look. Is he being good to you?"
Grantaire blinks again, as it dawns on him. "Oh, for God's sake, Jeannette."
"Is that a yes or a no?" She begins to look suspicious. "By God, I'm not afraid of him, François, I'll tell him off."
"You will not. Where are you getting this? What makes you think--"
"Stop. Just stop. Don't lie to me. You never used to lie to me."
"I'm not. Damn it." Grantaire braces one arm on the wall, regarding her indignantly. "What is this?"
"You didn't answer my question."
"What do you think, Jeanne? You think he'd raise a hand to me? You think I'd let him get away with it if he did?" There is something darker in his tone now, an edge of resentment or contempt.
"He has, and you have." She stands her ground. "Do you think I forget as easily as you wish I would?"
"He wouldn't." He doesn't have to, but there's no need to say that. "And it's none of your business, sister."
"He has." She stares at him. "None of my business? None of my damned business? You're my business. You're my brother, aren't you?"
"Damn straight. And I'll listen to you, like you listened to me for seven years, sister, when I gave you this same talk and with far better reason." Grantaire takes in a breath. "You don't know him."
Jeanne crosses her arms. "I know what you've said about him."
"What? What have I ever said that gives you the right, Jeanne?"
"The right to worry about you? François, for heaven's sake, you didn't have to open your mouth to give me that right. The right to ask questions? All those times you wouldn't exactly tell me why you were hurt and didn't have any bruises on your own hands, and dropped hints left, right, and center. I'm not stupid. I know you're crazy. I know damn well he's crazy. I have every right to worry about you."
Grantaire stares at her tiredly. "That was before."
"And now?" Jeanne spreads her hands. "Don't tell me it all gets better because of love or kisses. I've heard those lies."
"You don't know, Jeanne. You can't judge. You don't know him, and you don't know how it is."
"Tell me. Tell me the truth. Then I'll know."
Grantaire rakes a hand through his hair. "How many times do I have to say it? He hasn't hurt me, he doesn't, he wouldn't. He's a good man, Jeanne."
Jeanne watches him closely, then shakes her head. "I hope you're right."
Grantaire says nothing.
"François -- " she breaks off again. "Promise you won't end up like Suzette. Talk to me more often than you have been. Tell me things. I should -- I should meet him, again, more formally. I suppose."
A dour grin quirks then. "You should know me better than that." He shoves his hands in his pockets. "I'll come and see you. 'course I will."
"'And I promise I'll be careful.' 'And I'll bring him along, sometime.' And I don't know, but something."
Grantaire sighs. "And I'll be all right. Is that enough for you?"
Jeanne sighs, too. "I suppose I shall take what I can get." She half-smiles. "He's too good to come and visit, then, is he."
"Didn't suppose he'd be welcome." Defensive again.
"I just said so, didn't I? Hell, I've met nearly all of Clarisse's true loves. Shouldn't I meet yours?"
Grantaire glances away, then. "We'll see what happens."
"Don't let him hurt you." Jeanne puts her hand on her brother's shoulder.
"No," Grantaire says quietly. "I won't." He reaches up to take her hand.
Jeanne nods. "Neither will I."
... Previous ... Book Two ... Table of Contents ... Next ...