A/N: Just like "Backroom Musings," this was originally my submission for a fanfiction collaboration on the Abaisse boards where each participant had to write a short fic detailing how and/or why your chosen Amis came to Paris, but I was proud enough of it that I felt like people on here might like it as well. As usual feedback is extremely welcome and highly encouraged. Thanks to those who take the time to read this!
An Unlucky Man and a Lucky Encounter
To his credit, he was a lot calmer about the entire circumstance than I would have expected. I mean, it's not particularly common to return home and find a young man sitting on your doorstep, a young man that you do not even recognize much less know the name of. It is even more awkward when that particular young man is bald as a newborn babe and nursing a rapidly forming bruise which he had just gained by hitting his head on the low frame of the front entrance of the lodging house. And then that young man decides to ask you what your name is and if you would mind too terribly if he came in for a few minutes to warm up and possibly borrow a cup of coffee. This is the current state of my life.
After several moments of increasingly awkward staring, I stuck my hand out, introducing myself as Henri L'aigle please-don't-ask-me-how-to-spell-that-
He didn't answer whilst taking his key from his pocket, and when he had nearly walked inside the flat without answering I felt the need to remind him that this was nearly as awkward for me as it was for him and that I'd at least appreciate the courtesy of an introduction despite the highly unconventional circumstances of our meeting. "Excuse me!" I said, clearing my throat to catch his attention. When he turned around I asked again what his name was.
"Christophe Joly." He replied, rubbing his nose with the tip of his cane. "Forgive me for asking, but I do not know you, so why exactly are sitting on my stoop?"
At this I colored again, suddenly embarrassed by my current prospects. "You see," I cleared my throat, "I've just arrived in Paris, and I don't have a place to stay, and no money to rent an apartment of my own. Seeing as I'm a fellow student, I figured that perhaps another student might be willing to take me in. A stupid idea I see now, so I suppose I'll be leaving-" I cut off, the stupidity of my assumption beginning to really set in. I had no possessions to gather except one bag, and turned to leave when Joly implored me not to go, as I would catch my death of cold and should at least take a cup of coffee since I was indeed a fellow student.
So grateful was I that when I turned the momentum flung my bag from my clasped fingers, dumping its contents on the cold and somewhat grimy floor. "I should probably mention that I have a natural propensity towards bad luck." It took several minutes to put everything back in my case, and as any seasoned traveler knows, nothing ever goes back in the same way the second time as they do the first, so now my bag would not close properly. Joly would think that my complexion was naturally bright red with all the blushing I had been doing.
Once through the door, he gestured to a small table with two simple chairs in the corner of the room. I sat, taking in the rest of the room. The flat was relatively small, consisting of two rooms, one a bedroom, and the other a general living area. In it there was two bookshelves, filled to the bursting point; a small sofa in the most garish shade of puce I had ever seen, a small stove, and an armchair in an equally ugly color.
The coffee took a short time to brew. It's aroma filled the room, and I breathed deeply, enjoying the warmth and hominess of the flat.
"If it's a little weak, it's because I can't take it strong. It's bad for my heart." Joly apologized, sitting in the adjacent seat.
"For your heart?" I asked, taking a sip of the proffered drink.
"My heart is weak. If the coffee is too strong it makes it beat too fast and I feel like I might suffocate." It was his turn to blush now.
It wasn't the response I had expected. I apologized for my insensitivity, and managed to knock my cup over in my agitation.
"It's alright. I don't mind explaining it so much anymore." He mopped up the coffee with an errant handkerchief. "What brings you to Paris?"
"My studies foremost." I fiddled with a thread on my shirt cuff.
"Forgive me, but you seem older than most students." Another thought seemed to occur. "Not-because-of-your-baldness." He said rapidly.
I laughed. "It's fine. Much like your heart, I've stopped being ashamed of it. My father died two years back and my mother several years before that. I was their only son, so I inherited the estate and the money. My plans of university were postponed until now."
"Is someone else taking care of the estate now?" He asked.
And there hit the embarrassing heart of the matter. "There was a bad speculation, and the estate was lost since I could no longer continue paying for it." I said, dropping my head in shame. "I suppose I should simply be grateful that my parents are not around to see my failure." There was no response, so I looked up and saw a great deal of sympathy exuding from Joly.
"You said you needed a place to stay in for the night?"
"Yes. I fear that my pocket cannot afford much at the moment. I promise that I will start searching for a place tomorrow." I smiled slightly.
"Then you may take my sofa for the night." He returned my smile with an even brighter grin.
I confess it took much of my strength to keep from embracing him right on the spot. We finished our coffee, and he set out a pillow and blanket for me. I did go out the next day to search for an apartment, but by the time I found one that was cheap enough for me to afford, Joly and I had grown so used to each other's company, that the parting would have been too sad. By the end of the week he presented me with a key of my own, and everything was quite nice until Joly asked that fateful question, "Have you met my friend Enjolras?"