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A Flame That Never Dies

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“And when the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.”

                                             ­-Revelations 8:1

 

 

Tuesday, June 5th, 2018

Jersey City Medical Center

Jersey City, NJ

 

Doctor Jean Fauchelevant, in his grey hair and relaxed look, was sitting in the break room, reading a magazine, alongside his colleague, Dr. Kevin Combeferre, in his black hair and glasses. They had just completed a session about heart monitoring. 

 

For them, it would’ve been just another Tuesday, if they left the television off.

 

In the background of their day, the news reporter gave his daily update:

 

“Ever since the North Korean troops eradicated the workers’ strike last April, the United Nations unanimously agreed to condemn the North Korean action and began applying economic sanctions…”

 

“How’s Mr. Lamarque? What did he have for lunch?” Dr. Fauchelevant asked.

 

Dr. Combeferre looked over his notes. “The nurse gave him a turkey sandwich, and... a cup of chicken noodle.”

 

“…however, has not stopped their growing military presence along the South Korean border. UN intelligence sources report a massive buildup of infantry and armored divisions…”

 

“Hey, Jean.” Combeferre began. “Don’t you have a lunch date with your daughter?”

 

Fauchelevant looked at his watch. “Holy smokes! Almost forgot!” Then he got up and hustled out of the room. Combeferre chuckled to himself. He continued looking at his notes, tuning out the television set.

 

“…could seriously jeopardize the current round of strategic arms reduction talks…”

 

!

 

Outside of the hospital, Fauchelevant jogged out of the main entrance to find Cosette, with her wavy hair and reading glasses waiting outside.

 

“I guess I need to make an appointment for open heart surgery just to get an hour with you!” Cosette remarked, a little harshly.

 

“Sorry, I’m late.” Fauchelevant hugged his daughter. Cosette instantly regretted her tone. “Sorry…just a little on edge.” She said. As they were walking to her car, she immediately pointed at him “Please, do not say I sound like Mom!”

 

As they got into her car, Fauchelevant asked about Cosette’s mood. “What’s eating you, fruitcake? The Koreans?”

 

“Are you kidding? They’re the last thing on my mind right now!”

 

 

!

 

The two of them ended up going down to Pier 13 in Hoboken. Cosette got a slice of pizza from one food truck, while Fauchelevant got a milkshake from another. They met over by the sitting area on the artificial grass on the pier overlooking the New York Skyline.

 

When they got to the railing, Fauchelevant continued to be observant of his daughter’s jitteriness.

 

“You’ve got that twitchy in-between look on your face again.” He said. “In-between whether or not you have something to tell me.”

 

Cosette sighed, and took off her glasses. “Okay, Daddy. I’m moving to London. There. I said it.”

 

Fauchelevant was taken back by the sudden news. “Oh, I see. Why?”

 

Cosette expressed her frustration. “This is exactly why I was hesitant in telling you. I mean, I have to deal with your hurt feelings, and then Mom’s and…”

 

“Cosette…” Fauchelevant said. “All I meant was why London.”

 

Cosette exhales and leans on the railing. “Because it’s…it’s far away from here!”

 

She stops and looks at her Father’s hurt expression. She struggles with her words. “Oh God, that sounds awful. I didn’t mean for it to come out like a lousy chorus of “She’s leaving Home!” but honestly? It is time I left home, Daddy.”

 

Fauchelevant chuckled. “You haven’t been living at home for three years!”

 

Cosette raised her eyebrows at him. “An apartment thirteen minutes away is not exactly Independence, Missouri. Especially when I still bring my sheets home for Mom to wash every Saturday!”

 

Her father nodded, seeing where she was coming from.

 

“By any chance, London wouldn’t happen to have anything to do with Marius Pontmercy getting a scholarship at Oxford, would it?” he asked.

 

“No!” Cosette said quickly. She looked at her father’s prying eyes before caving in. “Okay, maybe a little! But we’re not really moving in together…not away. Besides, I got accepted by their museum school.”

 

Fauchelevant lit up. “You did? That’s great! Why didn’t you say so?”

 

“Because that’s not really the reason I’m going.” Cosette replied.

 

Fauchelevant’s heart sank a little. “So, it is Marius?”

 

Cosette rubbed her forehead in frustration. “No! I just want to get away from here, before everything changes! We’re all changing, Daddy. Don’t you see it? I mean, you’re always flying to some medical conference, Alain’s football team is always going out of state. Mom’s been crying in the bathroom a lot…I don’t know. Growing up is…just growing apart. You suppose it’s just a natural phenomenon?”

 

Fauchelevant shrugged his shoulders before asking. “Have you talked to your Mother?”

 

Cosette smiled “I figured I’d start with you and work my way up!”

 

Fauchelevant chuckled. “Oh, I’m easy, huh?”

 

Cosette relaxed her shoulders. “Easier!”

 

The two laughed, before throwing away their trash in the cans and walking back up the pier. “It’s not easy, you know.”

 

“What isn’t?” Cosette asked, before putting on her glasses.

 

“Saying goodbye.”

 

Cosette nodded, linking her arm with her Father’s. “So, what’s going on in the Koreas?”

 

“Basically, I think South Korea wants to change its’ name, breaking off ties with the North once and for all. But that’s something Kim Jon-Un won’t stand for.”

 

Cosette sighed. “What’s that have to do with us?”

 

“United Nations, sweetie.” He answered, before changing the subject. “What’s this about Mom crying in the bathroom by the way?”

 

“Eh, just sometimes, I hear her. Not an angry or frustrated crying, but…I guess, kind of lonely. You’ve never heard her do that?” Cosette asked.

 

Fauchelevant shrugged his shoulders. Cosette chuckled. “You know what they say about cardiologists? They know everything about the heart, except the heart!”

 

They arrived at the parking garage and returned to their car.

 

“You’re not angry I told you?” Cosette asked.

 

Fauchelevant shook his head and rubbed Cosette’s back. “I’m glad you did. We’ve never had a talk like this.”

 

Cosette smiled, before turning her key in the ignition. The car started, and the radio came on.

 

“The North Korean Ambassador told me the maneuvers were just usual training exercises. I told him that explanation was unacceptable…”

 

Cosette groaned before changing the channel on her radio.

 

“…the Dictator’s response:”

 

“Provocative? You call us provocative, when you Americans have sixty nuclear weapons poised in our direction?”

 

Cosette shut her radio off. “I think I’ll drive with the windows open today.”

 

 

!

 

Classified Military Site

Bayonne, NJ

 

Cpl. Bossuet de Maux was sitting in a chopper as it was buzzing over Bayonne, NJ. Next to him was his superior, Lt. Cooper Javert, reading a newspaper and shaking his head.

 

They were both stationed in the Industrial part of the Tri-state area. A new site was developed several months ago, and they were tasked with overseeing the maintenance of its materials.

 

“Hey Boss!” Bossuet said into his headset. Javert looked up. “Did you hear anything about an alert?”

 

Javert shrugged his shoulders. “Who knows? Why? You got plans?”

 

Bossuet made a so-so gesture with his hands. “I had my thirty days saved up. Was hoping to head on down to Florida with Musichetta and the baby.”

 

“Oh.” Javert said. “Well, I’d try to put off those plans for another week or two, if I were you.”

 

“Is that an order?” Bossuet asked. Javert shook his head before pointing to his newspaper. “Just the vibe I’m getting.”

 

 

!

 

 

The Courfeyrac Farm

Sparta, NJ

 

Jimmy Courfeyrac and Jehan Prouvaire were fixing up the tractor trailer outside the barn.

 

“Alright, that should do it!” Courfeyrac said, closing the lid on the hood, and giving it a good pat down.

 

“Not bad!” Prouvaire exclaimed.

 

They grabbed their equipment and headed towards the house.

 

On the porch was Gavroche Thenardier, painting the railing a fresh coat of white. Inside the kitchen was his older sister, Azelma, rinsing out the potatoes.

 

“Where’s Eponine?” Prouvaire asked.

 

“Probably out with ‘Parnasse again.” Gavroche answered.

 

“She’s still seeing him?” Courfeyrac asked.

 

Azelma called out from the kitchen window next to the front door. “I’m telling you, she’s hooked on him. Interventions are pointless.”

 

Prouvaire and Courfeyrac both exhaled a collective sigh before going inside.

 

The four of them began gathering the food around on the table. About a few minutes later, Eponine burst into the front door, her hair a mess, and clothes disheveled.

 

“Sorry I’m late.” She breathed heavily.

 

The room fell silent. Courfeyrac exhaled. “Look, ‘Ponine. We know that you’re still seeing Montparnasse…”

 

“What? Who told you…?” Eponine began.

 

“Let him finish, Ep.” Prouvaire said.

 

“As I was saying, Eponine. We know you’re still seeing Montparnasse. And you know what? It’s fine with us.”

 

“It is?” Prouvaire asked.

 

“Yes. When we agreed to take the three of you in from your parents, we agreed to look after you. Ep, we don’t have the right to tell you not to see him. If you wanna keep seeing him, go for it. But don’t ever, take it to the point where you’ll hurt your siblings by putting him before them. Understand?” Courfeyrac said, with a firm tone.

 

Eponine slowly nodded, before going to the sink to wash her hands.

 

 

!

 

The Kendrick Farm

Montague, NJ

 

Bahorel Kendrick went to the water-hose and turned it on to wash his face after the long day’s work.

 

Once he was done, he wiped his feet, took his boots off and walked inside. His girlfriend, Ellie was ironing some clothes, to the tune of the television.

 

“…in theory, yes, it is possible. But our latest surveys indicate that the American people will not really want to sacrifice Detroit for Pyongyang.”

 

“But the region of the entire country could fit inside Texas two or three times over. All it could take were two missiles.”

 

“I know, but the real question remains: if the entire country is wiped out with only one rocket, exactly which state would be our ‘eye for an eye’ as the saying goes?”

 

“How are the kids?” Bahorel asked as he kissed Ellie on the cheek.

 

“Mom said they’re doing great. They ended up making cookies today.”

 

“That’s good.” Bahorel said. “Are they staying overnight?”

 

Ellie nodded. “They’ll be back tomorrow in time for lunch.”

 

Bahorel smiled, and hugged Ellie from behind. “Does that mean we can skip dinner and go straight to dessert?” he asked.

 

Ellie giggled. “Where do you get the energy?” She asked, as she turned off the iron and playfully ran with Bahorel upstairs.

 

 

 

!

 

 

A Diner

Englewood Cliffs, NJ

 

Cosette, and her mother, Fantine were sitting in a booth inside the diner, in awkward silence. Behind them, a more animated discussion was taking place.

 

“We’re not kids anymore. This isn’t some kind of an educational show they’d play on PBS or something.” The man said.

 

“Mother, can you please say something?” Cosette asked, taking off her glasses.

 

“I’m trying…this is quite a shock to me. Do you have any idea when?” Fantine said, rubbing her chest.

 

“In three weeks.” Cosette answered.

 

“I’m not saying they’ll actually do it! I’m just saying it’s part of a strategic deterrence!” The second man answered.

 

“If it’s all just empty threats, why has it been on my Facebook Trending for the past three days?” The first man asked.

 

“Have you told your father already?” Fantine asked.

 

“We kinda had lunch today.” Cosette said.

 

Fantine nodded. “And was he wise, funny, and supportive and all?” She asked, before wiping her watery eyes.

 

Cosette chuckled. “He didn’t get emotional in public if that’s what you mean.” Fantine giggled amidst getting a Kleenex out of her purse. “Come on, Mom! You’ll survive!” She rubbed her mother’s hands.

 

“I suppose you’re right!” Fantine smiled. “It’s just…you’re growing up so fast! And with Alain going into his senior year…”

 

Cosette smiled.

 

“…any kind of a plan for ‘evacuating’ major cities is completely pointless! I mean, first of all, how can we know two or three days in advance, the probability of a nuclear attack?! And secondly, how can you move three million people from a major city, like New York, to God knows where? There’s not a cornerstone of this country that the Koreans won’t consider!”

 

 

 

The Fauchelevant House

Englewood Cliffs, NJ

 

“…three tank Divisions were poised along the South Korean border. The Premier had issued a statement to Fox News that the United States had the cart before the horse, since the coordinated movement of Pershing-2 tactical missile launchers that provoked…”

 

Jean shut his engine off after pulling into the driveway.

 

When he opened the front door into his house, he saw Fantine sitting on the living room couch, reading a magazine. The tv was on.

 

Jean hung up his jacket as the family cat approached, and rubbed itself around his ankles.

 

“Somebody’s happy to see you.” Fantine smiled.

 

Jean nodded. He put down his briefcase, sat down next to his wife and wrapped his arm around her shoulder. “Where’s Alain?”

 

“He’s got football practice tomorrow morning, so he’s staying over at Jackson’s tonight.”

 

“Jeez…” Jean sighed. “Does he ever spend time around here?”

 

Fantine silently scoffed. “Who does?”

 

Jean looked at her teasingly. “Well, I’m here.”

 

Fantine smiled. “That’s true. Wait, don’t you have a hematology class tonight?” She asked.

 

“Kevin’s taking over for me. I’m taking over tomorrow afternoon.”

 

Fantine nodded in response. They sat staring at the tv for a good few minutes before she looked up at Jean’s face. “You have that far-off look again…I can only assume you spoke with Cosette?”

 

Jean sighed. “Yeah, she told me about the London scholarship.”

 

Fantine leaned against Jean’s chest. “She told me you took it well.”

 

“Kind of proud of myself to be honest.” Jean said. “And it’s good. You know. To see her so excited about the move.”

 

Fantine looked up at her husband. “Is that what matters? How excited she is?” She then scoffed. “She’d follow that Marius kid to the ends of the Earth. She never would’ve even applied to London if—”

 

Jean’s attention turned to the tv graphics displaying Breaking News.

 

“Wait a minute honey…” he said before raising the volume.

 

“No, please!” Fantine begged. “I’ve been listening to this whole—”

 

“…all entry points to South Korea have been blockaded. To emphasize, there have been reports of South Korean civilians being rounded up and sent to internment camps inside its Northern territory. To repeat, North Korea has in fact sealed off all access to its Southern border, and has put all South Korean civilians within its territory, in detention centers. We will follow up with more details as they come in.”

 

Jean turned off the tv. The two of them sat there in silence.

 

“I can’t believe this is happening.” Fantine said softly.

 

Jean looked at her softly. “You wanna order pizza?” he offered.

 

Fantine shook her head, then wrapped her arms around Jean tighter. “No…let’s just go to bed.”

 

 

!

 

The two of them tucked themselves into their bed. Fantine grabbed the remote and turned on the television in front of them.

 

“Maybe there’s something on another channel.” Jean suggested.

 

Fantine checked her phone for text messages from Cosette. “It’s only been half an hour. How bad…”

 

“Everything’s happening so fast, though honey. I’d be surprised if they’re still working on a statement from the White House…or the State Department.” Jean said.

 

“Whatever it is, it’ll wind up on Twitter tomorrow.” Fantine joked.

 

“Hashtag ‘I will break the blockade by force if I have to!’” Jean laughed.

 

Fantine’s smile slowly faded, as Jean slowly continued. “Both sides have nuclear tactical weapons. Both say they won’t use theirs first. But who’s going to back down? That’s the question.”

 

Fantine shrugged her shoulders. “All I know is, the last time I was this terrified on the inside, was when I was three years old. 1962. I remember my Mom telling me all about it when I grew older. Kennedy told Khrushchev to turn his boats around.”

 

“Full retaliatory response. JFK didn’t even blink an eye. I was five at the time. When the speech was done, I looked outside through the window. I’ve been waiting for those bombs to go off.” Jean said.

 

“Well, it didn’t happen then.” Fantine replied. She then looked at her husband, smiled and said, “As scary as this is, it won’t happen now.”

 

Jean nodded. “Yeah. People are crazy, but not that crazy.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Courfeyrac Farm

 

“They’re getting testy whenever you’re brought up.” Eponine whispered, as she was making out with Montparnasse in the barn outside the house.

 

“So? That makes the sneaking around that much hotter!” Montparnasse stated.

 

“Shh! They’re right over there!” Eponine giggled. Montparnasse responded by kissing her neck. Reluctantly, she pulled away. “Look, this has to be the last time. And I mean it! They’ve done so much for me and my siblings. I can’t keep doing this forever.”

 

Montparnasse groaned. “Fine. I’ll meet you by my bike.”

 

The two of them kissed before Eponine rushed off towards the house.

 

!

 

Gavroche was inside his bedroom doing his homework. Prouvaire and Courfeyrac were on the couch watching Modern Family. Eponine tip-toed past them and up the stairs.

 

She went into her room and began searching through her drawers. She didn’t even notice Azelma standing behind her.

 

“Looking for this?” Azelma said, holding out a plastic foil.

 

“Azelma!” Eponine hissed. “What the hell?!”

 

“Eponine! You know better! You promised!” Azelma insisted.

 

“Look, I know! Okay? I know I did! And I talked to him tonight.”

 

“Then why do you need this?” Azelma motioned to the item in her hand.

 

Eponine stood silent. Azelma sighed and threw it in her direction. “I don’t even care anymore.” She said.

 

Eponine picked up the item. “Well if you’re keen to know, I told him that this would be the last time.”

 

Azelma called out “Whatever.” Before closing her door.

 

!

 

Courfeyrac and Prouvaire were too enraptured by the television to hear the commotion upstairs.

 

“We interrupt this program to bring you a special report. North Korea tonight had tightened its stranglehold within its borders by halting all air traffic in and out of all known commercial airports.”

 

“Well, there goes my summer plans!” Courfeyrac joked. Prouvaire did not laugh.

 

“Condemned by the United Nations as a violation of international law, warning its Supreme Leader Kim Jong-Un that failure to release the South Korean civilians currently detained within North Korean borders by noon tomorrow Eastern Standard Time, would be regarded as an act of war.”

 

Prouvaire grabbed a couch pillow and hugged it tight. Courfeyrac’s smile diminished as he leaned forward. Behind them, Eponine slipped out the back door and into the darkness.

 

“After an emergency meeting with his Cabinet and Congressional leaders of both parties, President Trump tonight declared all United States Military Personnel to be deployed on worldwide stage-two alert.”

 

 

The de Maux House

Secaucus, NJ

 

Bossuet laid out his uniform clothes on the bed.

 

His wife, Musichetta de Maux entered the room in her bathrobe, saw the clothes on the bed, exhaled and leaned against the wall.

 

She looked up at her husband with sad, scared eyes. “You promised nothing like this would ever happen.”

 

Bossuet sighed in frustration. He said very calmly “Baby, it’s just one of these alerts. Running around, checking things twice instead of once. That’s all it means.”

 

Musichetta wrapped her arms around herself. “Yeah but what will I tell Mom? She got the house all ready. A room for Lenny, and…”

 

“Then why don’t you go down?” Bossuet asked as he continued to go through his closet. When he turned around to face her skeptical look, he continued. “No, I mean it babe. Why don’t you just take Lenny, go ahead to your mother’s, and I’ll join you as soon as this thing’s over. Okay?”

 

Musichetta threw her hands up in the air. “That’s just great!”

 

Bossuet exhales. He is clearly not looking forward to this anymore than she is. She looks in his direction, and sees the hurt in his face. “Oh, baby. I’m sorry.” She said.

 

Bossuet stopped packing and looked at her. “I know, I’m not making this any easier on you. You know I love you.” She wrapped her hands around Bossuet’s neck.

 

“I know, baby. I love you too.” He said. The two pecked each other on the lips, before he continued packing. “Just three more months, and I’ll be out of the service!”

 

Musichetta looks at the rest of the clothes. “Jesus, you’re taking everything you have?!”

 

Bossuet dropped his clothes hanger and banged his fist on the closet wall. “For fuck’s sake, Musichetta!” He said firmly. “It’s an alert! It’s all just by the book, I don’t know what else to tell you!” He said, his voice cracking.

 

Musichetta ran into her husband’s arms. “I’m scared, baby.”

 

Bossuet held on tight to her. “I know.”

 

The two of them kissed, more tenderly this time, and held each other tight for a few minutes.

 

 

!

 

Three hours later, Bossuet is leaning his head against the window of the chopper, as it soars over the tri-state area.