© Copyright February 1997
Javert thought the boy had Jewelle's eyes, but otherwise he didn't resemble his mother. He did not remember Guy Leblanc well, it had been only a passing acquaintance, no more than his duty to know those on his patrol. And now, twenty-one years later, any image he had held of the man was gone. But he suspected Guy and Girard had resembled one another, because he could see it in Stephan.
The boy was a little shy and reserved like his mother. His hair was a sandy brown and his features were square and broad, indicating he would be a stout figure of a man when he filled out. He had not really spoken to Javert at all, so on their walk back to the cottage, he surprised Javert with a question. "What's it like to be an Inspector of Police, monsieur?"
Javert turned his head and looked down at him. "It is very hard work, Stephan. You must observe everything and forget nothing. And be able to draw conclusions from very little evidence."
Stephan nodded. "You were very good at it?"
Javert hesitated. "Yes, up to a point. Until I discovered that there are occasions when one must approach the Law from another standpoint. There are times, I suppose, when even the Law breaks down." He cast his eyes up, thinking of God. "And something greater intervenes."
The boy took this in silence, and Javert thought he had been unclear. "What I mean is that while the written Law stands, and we should all obey it, God can and does cause circumstances for which the Law has no set answer." He hesitated again, uncertain whether or not he should go on and explain about Valjean.
"Mother says you've quit the police because they think you're dead."
"Not precisely, no. They believe me dead at the moment, but I shall be returning to Paris to settle with them. And my days as Inspector are over. I could not go back."
Stephan nodded. "Because you died?"
"Yes. Because of the vision."
The boy was silent for a few moments. "May I ask you something else? My mother would probably not approve, but I really want to know."
"What is it?" Javert stopped and looked at him. They were within two minutes of the cottage now, and he did not want Jewelle to overhear any of this conversation because he was so uncertain.
"What is it like to drown?"
Javert stopped seeing the young man for a moment as he thought about the cold water. "I do not recommend it." Despite his former attitude about not hiding the harsh realities of existence, he could not bring himself to say anything more about it. It was too painful to remember the conflict that had driven him over the parapet, not because he felt the conflict now, but because he found his former attitude so tremendously limited that it shamed him. Yes, God had shown him another way, but to have been so inflexible, to not even be able to bear the existence of God. . . It was humiliating.
"Forgive my curiosity, monsieur," Stephan said. "I won't ask you again."
Javert turned and started walking back to the house. "Merci, Stephan. It is. . .it is very complicated."
Javert only nodded, forgetting his turmoil when he saw Jewelle on the porch.
The trip to Paris proved exhausting. Leblanc's carriage was comfortable enough, but the strain of going into the police station and seeing all the frightened young gendarmes who thought they were seeing a ghost had been difficult. Further, his interview with the Prefect had gone less than well when Javert admitted he had attempted to take his own life, but refused to divulge why. He was dismissed perfunctorily, allowed to collect his things, and sent on his way like any other citizen. It was a strange feeling to no longer have that power, but he didn't mind. Tired though he was, Javert felt lightened again. His final tether to the dark and lonely life was cut. It remained only for him to make a new life, and to take a different path. "Follow your heart, Javert," he thought he heard the angel Michael tell him as he nodded off in the carriage.
"How did it go, Javert?" Jewelle asked as he and Girard entered the cottage. "You look pale. Sit and I will fix you something."
"Merci." He obeyed, then smiled when she brought him a cup of tea. "You are most kind, Jewelle."
She smiled. "Did it go well?"
He sighed resignedly. "I was dismissed as though I were an unsuitable recruit." But the shame of that did not touch him as it might have. "I am now ready for a new life, Jewelle. I know nothing of tailoring, but I will help you however I can."
"Monsieur, you need do nothing," Girard said. "You presence with us is enough."
"I cannot understand why you are so kind to me." Javert looked from one to the other, his eyes coming to rest on Jewelle. "But it would be ungracious to refuse. However, I do want to earn my keep."
"You can do that, monsieur," Jewelle said. "You can protect my son, and teach him. He already wants to become a physician, perhaps there is something you could do."
"Anything. But I am not a very learned man."
"But you must have practical knowledge, Javert." She looked from him to Girard. "Girard spoils him so."
"But he is my nephew!" Girard defended himself. "It's my duty."
Jewelle just smiled at him. "And he adores you. But it has been hard for him without his father. A boy his age really needs a father—a strong authority figure."
Javert found this to be very awkward. He sipped the tea, not knowing what to say.
"Javert, Stephan is in awe of you"
"Madame, please, I would do anything for you, but I cannot take his father's place. He is too old, and he would never accept me." Javert felt his face burning with embarrassment.
"I ask only that you help me guide him," she said gently.
He nodded, unable to look at her. "I will do as you ask."
"Merci. I think you will not regret it." She reached over and squeezed his hand. "Now, I must prepare supper. Would you care to help me?"
"Of course." He got to his feet. The rest and tea had restored his strength, and the topic of conversation had been changed.
"I'll go help Stephan with the carriage," Girard said and left them alone.
Javert watched him walk out, then looked at the woman again. "I find myself thinking, Jewelle, that I am totally free of my previous life. It is strange to me to feel so free. And my gratitude to you is infinite."
She looked up at him. "Javert, you are only now feeling what I have felt for you all along. You were my savior, and for that, I will always be grateful. But as I get to know you, there is more than that. Perhaps I am being forward, but I must tell you that you have stolen a place in my heart. And I feel about you a way I have only felt for one otherGuy."
Javert understood that she was telling him that she loved him, yet he couldn't quite believe it, or assimilate it. That part of him was responding in kind only confused him. His analytical brain had little experience letting his heart take over, even since the vision. But his heart was swelling with a passion he had never felt before. It was as if the love and acceptance he had felt from Michael were suddenly coming out of him, out of Javert. It was hard to know what to do. He just stared at her, his mouth falling a little slack.
Jewelle looked up into his eyes and stepped closer to him. He was a head taller than she, and without his cooperation, she could not just lean in and kiss him. Instead she put her arms around his neck and pulled him down.
Javert's instincts made him resist, but they only held control for a bare second. Then his knees seemed to buckle at the strange feeling of having her small arms around his neck, her slender form barely touching him. He stopped resisting, but he didn't move to touch her even as she took one hand from around him to guide his chin to her. The press of her lips, unbelievably soft and warm against his made his pounding heart flutter, and that stirring he had not acknowledged in many years was suddenly inflaming him.
She let him go, then gently stroked his cheek with her hand. "I'm sorry if I've unsettled you."
He couldn't speak. There was so much happening inside him that if he had tried only a garbled sound might have come out.
She touched his face again, wiping away the tears that had flowed from his eyes. "Oh, Javert, I am sorry. I do not wish to hurt you."
"No," he said hoarsely. "You have not." He abruptly turned away. "It is I. I have never. . . I have always denied myself. . ."
Jewelle moved in front of him. "The time for denial is over. It is time for new things, Javert. For love and kindness, gentleness, passion." She touched his face, trying to force him to look at her which he finally did. "You have beautiful eyes, did you know that? And they're so full of feeling."
This was all so new, so incredibly filling to his heart that Javert did not know what to do. "It's true, madame, that I am feeling much. Things I have never felt. I never knew anything could be a beautiful as you are."
"Sweet Javert," she said, smiling. "Perhaps we should continue this conversation after supper?"
He nodded, grateful to be off the hook for a while. He could try to sort himself out in the meanwhile. "Yes," he said hesitantly, "I was going to help you."
"I promise not to distract you any further for now." With a gentle squeeze on his hand, she turned away.
But Javert was not able to sort himself out. His mind would not leave the memory of her kiss and concentrating on anything seemed impossible. Several times during supper Girard had to touch his arm to get his attention. Javert excused himself early, and did not sit with them after the meal was over. Instead, he went for a walk, taking the trail down to the stream.
Oh, the turmoil he was in was not so painful as that which he had faced before jumping from the parapet, but it was equally confounding. How wonderful it felt to think that she loved him, and how confusing. I am like a school boy, Javert thought, letting these passions control my thinking. But isn't that what I should do? Haven't I always denied this part of myself? Why do I keep thinking I love her? Is it because the angel Michael showed me love? That feeling. . .
He gazed out through the star light to the softly running water of the stream. I do love her, he said to himself. I feel love. There is love inside me, placed there by God. His eyes traveled heavenward. "Is this what you want of me, O Lord?" he whispered. "Is this my destiny?"
Only the gentle night sounds answered, a frog peeping, an owl hooting somewhere, and in the distance the lowing of a cow. Tears ran down his face and he fell to his knees. "O Lord, help me! I don't want to fail You in this as I did in life! I don't want to throw away this second chance on frivolity if that is not what You intend."
But was loving Jewelle a frivolous thing? Could he apply the same standards he had used for so many years to this situation? He had been shown love, perhaps it was not frivolous. But loving a woman was not the same thing as loving God. Or was it? Should I give in? Javert thought, should I let these raging emotions overcome me?
He felt the damp grass soaking through the knees of his pants, and the coldness of it shook him, but he did not rise. "Michael, hear me, please! Tell me what I must do!"
The answer when it came was little more than a sigh on the wind, a momentary brightening of the stars. "Follow your heart, Javert," the breeze said to him.
It wasn't the words that convinced Javert, it was that feeling of being loved. It caressed him like the wind, blowing softly through him, and he lowered his face to his hands, sobbing with the power of it. "Thank you, Lord. Thank you, Michael," he said raggedly in between sobs. "It is a good thing," he murmured as the emotion tapered off. The confusion had passed, and it was with complete certainty that he rose to his feet and sighed. "Yes, Jewelle," he said quietly, "I love you."
He was not staggered by this, but it still amazed him. His heart was full, and he started back with the thought of telling her. But his nerve gave out by the time he reached the cottage. He saw that everyone had retired for the night and went to his room.
"Javert," Jewelle said from behind him as he went in. "Are you all right?"
He turned and looked down at her, her face a pale blur in the darkness. "Yes, I am, Jewelle. I am fine."
"I'm sorry," she said hurriedly. "I should not have"
"No, madame," he interrupted her. "You should have. It is only that I am very inexperienced in these matters. Your guidance will be welcome." He thought he could see her smile.
"It will be a joy to me, Javert." She found his hand and squeezed it. "Sleep well."
He returned the pressure for what he hoped was an appropriate length of time. "You, too, Jewelle."
She left him, and Javert went on into his room. His heart was pounding, and he knew without a doubt that in spite of his life of self-denial, he was still a man capable of baser acts. But the thought of soiling Jewelle was too unsettling for him to dwell on. At this point, he could not imagine sex to be anything more than some degrading thing men wanted to put women through. On the other hand, his mind conjured up, unbidden, images of him holding her and. . .
Javert forced himself to stop thinking about it. I love her, he told himself, I will not bring her down. But it just so happened that his body had other ideas.
* * *