Shall I twist the knife a little, before I go on? You might like to know a few more things about me, about Valentine and Peter, about some of us who have or are soon to "age out" of the foster care system. Eighteen is the final buzzer in my state. They call it emancipation, like they're setting us free or something. But really, they're just letting us go, and depending on the height of the cliff we're hanging from at the time, it can be exhilarating or downright terrifying. Regardless, once eighteen happens, we have nothing left to do but walk our tightrope lives without a safety net.
It usually makes more sense to drop out of school and focus on survival. But I had a brother, and I knew I had to be there for him, to give him a path to follow. So, even after I turned eighteen and they dropped me off at the homeless shelter with a trash bag full of everything I owned, I stayed in school. I used all my free time to study. When I found out Peter was struggling in his math and science classes, I poured my energy into helping him. When I met Valentine, I used every resource I had to give him a decent life. All these things, if you can believe it, I did for Gene. I thought if my little brother could see what I was capable of accomplishing, he might fight for himself, too, instead of just giving up.
Now I think I probably should have done it all for Valentine.
We discovered each other, Valentine and I, because he used the eaves of my home for shelter one night. My home, which I am fast approaching with my hands shoved so deep in my pockets it's as if I were willing them to disappear, is a local church. That's right. I live with the Holy Father, the Blessed Virgin, and her angelic child. And they're the most dysfunctional family in the world. They don't even talk to each other, honestly. They never talk to me, that's for sure, though I sometimes think they talk to Valentine. It's the way he looks at them, like he's listening intently to something only he can hear. I'm not trying to make him sound crazy, but he seems to take a comfort in these iconic statues that I can only try to understand. I hate them. I feel like they're watching me, judging me without even telling me what their judgments are.
It's all nonsense, I know, and I never used to be a religious person. But living in a church this beautiful does something to you. You suddenly want to believe in its purpose, in the purpose of the people kind enough to let you stay. You want to fight for the sanctity of the only home you have.
It's night, but I can still see the tagging on the outer walls of my church. Certain groups want to own the place, so they mark it like dogs. It's close enough to the school to be a target, it has enough vegetation on its grounds to provide privacy for those who don't want to be seen, and it's usually pretty quiet. I love it here. Aside from the occasional miscreant, it's a paradise to me. I mean, who could ask for a better house? It has beautiful stained glass windows, priceless artwork on the walls, and all the amenities a person needs to be comfortable. As long as I make myself scarce every Sunday and Wednesday, I can stay. In fact, they want me to stay. I act as a sentinel, calling the police whenever there's a disturbance on the grounds. I keep the place clean, and they pay me for it. There are good people here, and I owe themValentine and I both do.
I pass by the grand entrance, the one for guests and worshipers, and follow the walls around toward the back. There's a small door for those of us who work behind the scenes. I shiver, turn my key, and enter. It's cold inside, but it always is and I usually like it that way. The chill keeps me awake while I study. Tonight, though, I wish it were warm. I wish I could wrap myself in the arms of the church and feel safe for once. I wish the Virgin Mary didn't stare at me with those stony eyes that keep asking for Valentine: "Where is he, Claude? You promised you'd look out for him. Why has he not come home?"
Though the sanctuary is dark, I find my way easily. I've only been living here a year or so, but already I feel like this is where I took my first steps, spoke my first words, spent every day of my life.
I stretch myself out on a pew without even bothering to change out of my suit. I want to see the little light in the organ loft flicker to lifethe one that means Valentine is going over his music, silently tapping the keys with his fingers, memorizing a piece. I want to know that he's okay, that his foster parents won't give him too much grief about having to bail him out.
Ah, who am I kidding? They're the only people in the world who ever manage to make him cry.
Quick Announcement: This will probably be the last section of Chemistry I'll actively submit to groups. I think, after three chapters, those who are reading are reading–well, that and I feel bad filling the group inboxes with all my chapters. If there's anyone who is reading through a group and would like to keep getting updates as they happen, please feel free to watch me! I watchers.
Anyway… Book Three was the most difficult section for me to research and write. In the original novel, the third book is an in-depth description of Notre-Dame and its view of Paris. It was something Victor Hugo cared deeply about. I wasn't sure what I should do with this chapter, but I was pretty sure an entire chapter dedicated to the description of a church wouldn't fly. Still there was something else Victor Hugo was famous for caring deeply about: social injustice.
When I first started rereading Notre-Dame de Paris for this project, I expected to rediscover some old themes, but I was surprised by one I hadn't noticed before: Hugo's story is peopled with orphans. Claude and Jehan lost their parents to the plague when they were both young. Esmeralda was stolen from her mother, and Quasimodo was abandoned by his. Pierre Gringoire had no one, though we never really learn why. Even Phoebus was practically raised by the military. The research I had to do to modernize and Americanize this theme gave me a little of Book Three's purpose.
So at the risk of being too political for my usual online persona, I'm going to be brief but honest about how I feel on this one social issue. Eighteen is too young.
I love your story! I downloaded the rest of it on Amazon, but unfortunately it won't let me write a review. I read this in a single sitting and simply could not get enough of it. I have never actually read the book you've based it off of unfortunately (although its on my list), although I do know the general story. I thought it was a very interesting take on an old story. Fantastic job! I can't wait to purchase and read Titan Magic!
My hope is that anyone can read Chemistry—even those who have never read Notre-Dame de Paris—and get a sense of Hugo's original. I'm so glad you've enjoyed it so far. I hope you enjoy Titan Magic, too, although it is a very different piece. If you do like it, keep an eye out for its sequel. I will be posting it soon.
There's a line I find odd,I've only been living here a year or so, and already I feel as though this is where I took my first steps, spoke my first words, lived my entire life. The "only" and the "and" don't really string together. It's either I've only been living here a year or so, BUT already I feel... or I've only been living here a year or so, and already I feel...
I can't believe Claude just walked home like this. He should at least go after Valentine, or Esmeralda, or do something, other than going home like nothing happened
Well-written as always! Getting even better with each new chapter. You taking on social injustice raises this story to a new level of awesome I'm on the edge of my seat---I'm worried for Valentine! And I really like your characterization of Claude; he seems like a really good-hearted dude.
Yeah, I'm a member of both The Writing Obsession and The Frollo Society and even though I'm already watching you, I don't mind at all to see your story in the group feeds. If the group admins are letting you submit the chapters, I think you should keep submitting them, so that those who haven't yet discovered your gem of a story might find it.
I imagine that a lot of people are subscribed to a number of groups and don't always have time to look through all the submissions...I know that I saw your story chapters pop up a few times before I finally decided to give it a read (and I'm so glad I did! I'm hooked! )
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`anmari has been spreading her infectious positivity throughout our community for over 6 years. Throughout this time Ana has been at the core of all things devious, passionately developing an eclectic gallery, helping organise devmeets, participating in chat events and also recently completed dedicating her time as a Community Volunteer. We are absolutely delighted to bestow the Deviousness Award for May 2013 to `anmari, congratulations! Read More