We are around halfway there when Clara begins telling the story of her life on the streets. I try to block it out and focus on riding ahead. Focusing on the wind tangling in my curls I ride on, my eyes searching, constantly searching for danger. It takes us a good hour before we finally get into the city.
Once we get in the boarders, I slow, the girls following suite. Clara has a little trouble with her horse until Marie helps to stable her.
The sky skies are dark from smoke; the women carry bundles of cloth with babes inside close to their chests as they hurry through the cobbled streets. Men search the streets, guns poised in their hands, ready to shoot shady characters. In the far distance, I see solders charge around the city, hunting the resistance fighters.
Behind me, I hear Annett mutter her curses as the military men make their way towards us. "Keep calm," I hear Marie say, whether she's talking to herself or to us all, I don't know and I don't want to know.
"Bonjour!" I call down to the military men from the horse. The layers of dirt and soot encase my army uniform; I brush most of it off, hoping that they will recognise the design even if it is dirty.
The youngest looking one, motions with his hand for me to dismount. I comply, hopping neatly down. When Annett almost follows, I stop her with a glare.
"Names," The eldest asks gruffly.
I frown, hoping the shock is playing brightly on my face.
"Names, who are you?" he repeats, nodding to a few solders further on.
"I am Emmanuel Chevalier, returning to my parents' home in the centre. These three are my sisters."
The man looks at them with interest. I cough, bringing his scrutinising gaze back to me.
"Their names," he asks in a bored undertone.
"Marie, Ann and Clara." I search in my breast pocket for the passes Guillaume had given me just before departing.
"How old are they?" the youngest - around seven-and-twenty - asks with a smirk.
"Why?" I boldly ask.
The oldest snaps, "Because he asked. Now, how old are they?"
I quickly make the numbers up in my head. I speak loudly, so the girls can hear, "Ten, thirty and five-and-thirty."
The men look up at my calm face, shocked.
"They can't be that old!" The youngest exclaims, looking at the girls down his nose in disgust.
"Well. They are. You'd be surprised what products you can buy nowadays." I try to hide my smile at how fickle these men are; they found the girls attractive until I said 'how old they were.'
They have no shame.
The men let us pass; I stay on foot, pulling the horse to our next destination. The Marie and Annett dismount gracefully, whereas Clara practically jumps away from the horse. She comes up to me and punches me on the arm.
"Ten? I'm ten?!" she screeches. As she does this, the other two seem to remember too. "Thirty!" "Five-and-thirty!"
"Hey! Hey! Stop! Merci! Merci!"