A Winged Defender in Ballet Slippers
“… So then, the fairy turned Belle’s two sisters into stone statues, condemning them to testify forever their younger sister’s happiness, until the day where they would accept to become good. But it never happened. And the prince and Belle lived happily ever after. The. End.” Meg finally chirped, as solemnly as she could, giving her favorite fairytale, Beauty and the Beast, the conclusion it deserved.
For a moment, the little eight-year-old blonde ballet rat looked straight in front of her, as a way of giving herself a bit more gravity to her story-teller status, before turning towards her brown-curly-haired friend, starring at her with wide eyes. And of course, like each time she would tell her a story, Christine starred at her with big, open, thankful eyes. Despite her young age, Meg knew how much and understood why Christine loved her fairy tales so much. It would always comfort her when she would wake up in the night crying, and it reminded her of how her deceased father would tell her dark stories of the North… but now, Meg was sharing with her stories of her own folklore: tales by Charles Perrault, Madame Leprince de Beaumont, Madame d’Aulnoy, the Comtesse de Ségur, and also, some stories all the way from German lands. Meg had received a collection of tales by Hoffmann, and since then, the story of The Nutcracker had refused to leave her. It was a beautiful book, with its mahogany cover with golden letters printed on it. Much more luxurious than the very few books her mother was able to afford for the avid reader who was little Meg Giry, but the ballet rat, of course, was too young to be aware of it.
“It was a nice story,” Christine said, in her soft voice. “I still prefer Cinderella.”
Meg shrugged. But, before she could add anything, the girls heard from the dormitory where they were Madame Giry, Meg’s mother and the ballet mistress, calling them for their practice.
Of course, little girls of their age didn’t have as much rehearsals as the corps de ballet. They only had half an hour per day. Mme Giry judged it was more than enough for their young age. But as they grew up, and hopefully, as their passion grew with them, their practice hours would become longer and longer, until they would officially enter the corps de ballet, to dream to become a soloist or even, a prima ballerina.
Gasping, Meg grabbed Christine by the hand and rushed through the long corridor, the practice studio being on the other side.
“Meg! Meg! Let go of me. You run too quickly.” Christine gasped.
“All right, all right, I’ll just go ahead. But hurry up! Maman doesn’t like it when we’re late.” Meg smiled one last time at her friend, and rushed towards the studio, where her mother, who had opened the door, was waiting for them to arrive.
But, as she was going to reach the entrance, she heard at first smothered cries, which quickly became very distinctive and… Italian.
La Carlotta had come out of her dressing room, and Christine, who had probably her head in the clouds as usual, hadn’t seen her coming and had literally bumped into her. The collapse had been so unexpected, so brutal, that the diva and the little girl had literally crashed on the ground.
And, before her mother could say anything, little Meg Giry had immediately rushed towards her friend, immediately helping her to get up, while the prima donna was caught up to recover all by herself. And, as soon as she did, before the two little girls could run away, La Carlotta, her face in fury as red as her hair, grabbed Christine by the wrist and shook her violently.
“You little ballet brat! Can’t you see where you’re going? Now my hair is ruined!” The last sentence was true. Carlotta looked like Medusa dressed in gaudy shades of blue. However, the diva was becoming too rough with the little girl, to the point tears of confusion started to form in her eyes. Mme Giry made her way towards the group, since everything had already gone too far to her taste.
“I’m sorry, Signora Giudi…”
“Sorry? SORRY? That’s all you have to say?”
Carlotta was even going to make a gesture to slap Christine. Mme Giry, thankfully, wasn’t too far anymore. But, before the ballet mistress had the chance to say or intervene in anything, a little blonde ballerina, boldly, slipped herself between the prima donna and the little Swedish girl.
“NO!” her bell-like voice rang, so unexpectedly everyone, even Carlotta and Mme Giry, fidgeted.
“I… I beg your pardon?” La Carlotta snapped, when she finally regained her spirits.
Mme Giry was going to usher Meg away. But too late. The little blonde ballerina was already too much on fire to be stopped.
“Christine said she was sorry. You will NOT shake her like that! You will NOT slap her! You will NOT touch her!” At each “NOT”, she would stomp on the floor as loudly as she could, in a way of being a bit more intimidating, but it was no use. Her ballet slippers, the tiniest side you were able to find, didn’t help at all. But it didn’t stop little Meg Giry.
“You were really wicked with Christine, and she didn’t mean to cause trouble!” At the epithet Meg gave her, Carlotta’s eyes widened. The little blonde retained a smile. It had worked. Well, she wasn’t quite sure what “wicked” exactly meant, but it was a term her mother would often use when she would give her little catechism lessons and that she would talk about sins. But it had worked.
“I hope the Phantom of the Opera bumps into you as well, and puts rats in your bed, and steals your things, and… and…” Meg stopped, who, thanks to the twitch of her lips and her eyes closed tightly, was obviously trying really hard to imagine in her very innocent mind ways for the Phantom to torture La Carlotta. But it was at that moment that Mme Giry finally got an occasion to cut this all off.
“That’s enough,” the ballet mistress snapped. “Christine, go in the studio. You’ve lingered long enough. Meg, apologize to Signora Giudicelli.”
Meg pouted and crossed her arms. Really, she had done nothing wrong!
“Meg, now.” In order to emphasize her command, Mme Giry tapped on the floor with her cane. It was only then that the little ballerina finally turned towards La Carlotta, ready to say “sorry” reluctantly, but, before she could mutter anything, a Voice, coming out of nowhere, whispered maliciously in their ears.
“I don’t see what little Marguerite Giry has done wrong.”
The three ladies looked everywhere around them, trying to find where the Voice came from. Carlotta trembled, remembering that many “slight disadvantages” had happened towards since a few weeks, now, and that the only explanation she was given to was the ever-so-mysterious O.G. Meg, curious as ever, was looking around, almost ready to run after the Voice if it wasn’t for her mother’s presence, and Mme Giry, of course, was retaining herself from rolling her eyes.
She knew, of course, who was behind all that mischief…
“Of course,” the Voice continued, its reptilian, deep tone becoming mocking, “toads aren’t able to walk straight. They’re meant to get jostled from time to time.”
Carlotta bit her lower lip, humiliated to her highest degree, not knowing what to do. She finally decided to storm in a huff, but not before saying:
“I hope your little brat will receive a good punishment for all this, little Madame Dancer!”
“If such a thing happens, you will suffer my wrath. And that also goes for you, Madame Giry,” the Voice snapped. Meg looked even more intently around the corridor, almost ready to run towards the littlest clue to find the Voice.
A whimpering Carlotta finally exited the corridor, while Meg, reluctantly forgetting the Voice’s mystery and lowering her head, certain to be grounded anytime soon, waited for her mother’s verdict to fall upon her.
But nothing happened.
Instead, Mme Giry took firmly her daughter’s head, and, without a word, they headed towards the ballet studio. No other word about the matter was said.
It was only in the evening that Meg, just before going to sleep, saw her mother coming close to her bed to tuck her up. The little girl was surprised. Maman didn’t do that, usually.
“Meg… I think you’re enough of a big girl to understand, right?”
Meg sat up on her bed and straightened, showing how grown up she was at the same time, and nodded wholeheartedly, ready to pay very close attention to what Maman was about to tell her that was grown-up.
“You know, you shouldn’t have spoken to Signora Giudicelli like you did. It was very impolite, and the next time it will happen, you will be punished. But… but you defended Christine, which was a good and noble action. Christine needs your help. You understand that, right?”
Meg nodded again, in the same manner.
“I want you to take good care of Christine, for now on. I can’t do that myself – I have a lot of work to do. You think you can do that?”
“Yes, Maman, I promise I will,” Meg said as seriously as she could, despite her young age.
“Good,” Mme Giry concluded with a smile. “Now go to sleep. Good night, child,” she finally said, before tucking up again Meg and kiss her on the forehead. And, still smiling, it took no time for the little blond cherubim, who, that very day, had become an earthly guardian angel, to fall asleep.
As she entered her room, Mme Giry also believed she was going to fall asleep quickly… but as she started to unpin her hair, a very light gust of wind caressed her cheek. Startled, she turned around quickly, to immediately scold herself in her mind for her surprise. It was Erik, of course. She had trouble distinguishing him in the dark, but his white mask glowed enough to see that it was indeed him.
“Did you have to intervene in the matter with La Carlotta and Meg, today?” Mme Giry asked, annoyed.
“She really didn’t deserve to be punished,” Erik shrugged. “La Carlotta just got what she deserved. But your little one does have some strength in her, you know,” he chuckled. But the chuckle didn’t sound quite right to Antoinette Giry.
“Erik, remember what I’ve told you. Stay away from my daughter, and don’t harm her in any way.” The ballet mistress fiercely snapped, in a way the Phantom couldn’t help comparing her to a mother wolf. He lifted out a brow and smirked.
“Don’t worry, Antoinette. I frankly don’t see what I can have any sort of particular interest on her.”
Famous last words.
The two last weeks had been hectic. Since the New Year Masquerade Ball, the whole opera was in an uproar. The Phantom’s opera was to be performed: a piece of art that Ubaldo Piangi and Carlotta Giudicelli qualified of “an utter insult” among other not-so-complimentary epithets. Meg found it rather… intriguing. It was nothing like she had ever heard before… was that how the work of a genius sounded like? Maybe. Her ears weren’t experts enough in music to be able to tell.
But Don Juan Triumphant wasn’t the priority in Meg’s head, despite the fact that the Phantom did think of her, and that he had given her the breech role of Alonse, Don Juan’s rival for Aminta’s heart. It was quite a promotion, knowing that her experience in singing opera was only very small roles in an ensemble.
During the Masquerade, the Phantom had showed himself, under the shocking mask of the Red Death, a choice that made the Poe lover that was Meg literally melt. But the discovery she had made that night – that not only O.G. was obsessed with her best friend to the point he would kill for her, but also madly in love with her – occupied her mind all the time.
Meg knew that the Phantom’s love was doomed, and that Christine’s heart belonged to another man. And she didn’t dare to imagine the consequences of all this madness.
Raoul and she had made an agreement to watch over Christine, not letting the Phantom any occasion to make contact with her again. The soprano was thankful of it. It had taken six months with Raoul for Christine to gain color again after the Il Muto disaster, and Meg had been happy to see the couple being a perfect example of love birds as much as it was possible during the Masquerade. But now, Christine was nothing more than a miserable shadow, once again. She had, however, become a little more present with time, Raoul and Meg always being around her, ready to hold her hand at any time.
It had to stop. It had to. The petite dancer couldn't stand seeing her friend slowly destroyed.
Meg had found a passageway through the mirror, on the night of Christine’s triumph in Hannibal. She was convinced it was a way to go to the Phantom’s hiding place, but, on the night she had discovered it, her mother had managed to catch her, drag her out and forbid her of going back. Meg, of course, was too stubborn to simply obey her mother. When she had finally managed to get out of her mother’s sharp gaze, she had rushed back to the prima donna’s dressing room, but, when she had tried to open the mirror again, it was somehow blocked.
Probably the Phantom was made aware that some trespasser would probably use that passage.
Probably her mother had warned him. Meg knew that her mother acted as an intermediary between the Phantom and the managers. She wasn’t quite sure why, but the reason why wasn’t her priority right now. Christine was more important. But that her mother, so stoic, strict and balanced, would be the accomplice of a blackmailer, who distracted the ballet rats by his pranks on La Carlotta or La Sorelli indeed, but still a blackmailer, who even came to the point of becoming a cold-blooded murderer, was beyond Meg’s understanding.
The ballerina slowly got out of her thoughts, and turned sleepily towards Christine’s bed, grinning at the idea she had fallen asleep with all her clothes still on. And immediately woke up entirely, when she saw that there was no one in the white sheets. Panicked, she got up, and rushed towards the vicomte de Chagny, who, in the last two weeks, had guarded the dormitory’s door.
Poor Raoul was asleep. Meg could see the dark circles under his eyes, after the few blank nights he had forced himself to spend in order to protect Christine. But there was no time to lose.
“Monsieur! Monsieur! Wake up! Christine is gone!”
At the simple mention of Christine, the vicomte got up like a scared cat, all claws out. And, without further ado, he rushed throughout the Opera house, not knowing where to go, followed closely by Meg. During their run, the vicomte stopped and looked at a window in the staircase, the dancer rushing towards it as well, and they saw Christine for a very short instant, but just long enough to see that she had just left in a carriage. Raoul ran towards the stables, with the ballerina still strutting after him.
As soon as the pair entered the stables, a coachman, rubbing the back of his head, came to meet them, limping like if he had just awoken.
“Where did Christine go?” Raoul and Meg both asked in a chorus.
“She asked to go to the cemetery where her father is buried. God knows who took her there. I got hit on the back of my head while I was preparing the carriage.”
Desperately, Raoul and Meg looked at each other, not daring to imagine what was happening to Christine at this very moment.
“I’ll go after her. I just hope she really is at the cemetery,” Raoul said. “Mademoiselle Giry…”
“I’ll go with you,” Meg replied, looking defiantly at the vicomte as a way of saying she wouldn’t change her mind. He hesitated for a moment, wondering if he should just order her to stay there and that it was too dangerous… but he finally decided to rush her towards a white horse standing in a corner of the stables, jump on it, and hastily helping her up. At this moment, Meg looked so much like her mother that Raoul felt that it would be practically suicide for him to not accomplish her wishes.
The trip to the cemetery had passed so quickly it was like in a dream. Finally, as they arrived, Raoul made the horse enter its enclosure and headed towards the Daaé crypt.
Christine was there; slowly climbing the stairs leading to her father’s grave, so slowly she seemed in a trance-like state. The gates of the crypt had opened, and a soft radiance was lighting the inside. And, despite the adrenaline, Raoul and Meg could hear not only Christine’s pure, angelic voice singing, but also another voice, the deep, rich voice, so beautiful it would have made angels weep.
But neither Raoul or Meg were entranced by it.
“Christine! Wait!” Raoul shouted, as he got off the horse, leaving Meg to leap down on the ground by herself, which she did without too much difficulty.
Christine suddenly fidgeted, like if she had woken up, and turned to Raoul, startled.
“Christine, whatever you believe,” the vicomte started, even drawing out his sword and protectively standing in front of his fiancée, “This man, this – thing! He’s not your father!”
As soon as he was done speaking, a dark silhouette, jumping from the Daaé crypt’s roof, made itself seen. Christine and Meg both cried in shock, as the Phantom drew out his own sword and immediately jumped on the Vicomte, slamming more than fencing.
Quickly, Meg hurried towards Christine, hugging her tightly as a way to protect her, while the brunette nearly gripped her, her body cold, shaking so much the ballerina was almost afraid for her friend. On the corner of her eye, she tried to follow the battle between the Phantom and the vicomte, worried of its outcome, as they dueled around the cemetery, even hitting gravestones while giving their blows.
But, when the Phantom finally managed to touch the vicomte at his right arm, and the sword fell from Raoul’s hand, Meg’s cry, as she saw the scene, pulled from Christine such an anguished moan that little Giry simply couldn’t just stand there anymore and just watch the Phantom kill Raoul, leaving both of them, and more especially, Christine, to his mercy.
As the Opera Ghost was paying attention to his prey, and only his prey, silently boasting in his triumph, Meg managed to rush as quickly as she could, so silently even he didn’t hear her come, her ballet training coming in quite handy on this day. Without further ado, she grabbed the vicomte’s sword, and it was only when she pointed it towards the Phantom, even daring to touch him by the tip of it, that he finally seemed to realize her presence.
For a moment, he stared at her, his face undecipherable. Finally, with an utterly humorless chuckle, with one swift gesture with his sword, he made Meg drop her own.
“It’s fortunate your mother made me promise never to hurt you, Marguerite Giry.”
He was about to call her “little Meg”. He knew how much she hated that nickname. But somehow, now, when she had just stood in front of him, holding the vicomte’s sword, with a fierce look that was defying him, the Phantom of the Opera, once known and feared as the Angel of Doom in Persia, “little Meg” was not at all a good nickname for this cherub-like, but ferocious archangel.
But, while he was distracted by Meg, Raoul had managed to pull out a gun, now pointed towards the Phantom.
“No! Raoul!” Christine cried. “Not like this…”
The Phantom slowly turned towards the soprano, somehow hopeful… but what he saw in her face was fear, pity, and even… something close to hatred. Christine was an angel, unable to hate anyone… but still, the look on her face reminded Erik too much of such a sentiment.
For a moment, he wished that the vicomte would just kill him straight there. He didn’t want Christine’s pity and fear where he wanted compassion and respect. He didn’t want mercy from Chagny. He didn’t know which one was more bearable.
His gun still pointed towards the Opera Ghost, Raoul slowly got up, retreated towards Christine, while the young soprano quickly rushed towards him, meeting the comfort of his free arm and burying her face in his chest. It didn’t take too long for the vicomte to realize that they were three of them, now, and that the white horse certainly wouldn’t be able to carry them all, and so, he left the horse to the Phantom, determined to respect Christine’s vow and to spare him, and ushered the two young girls towards the carriage his fiancée had used to get to the cemetery.
Christine followed Raoul, without a peek behind, as she sobbed softly in his arms.
Meg, however, couldn’t help but have long glances behind.
All she could see was a black silhouette staring intently at them.
She shivered, though the Phantom had said nothing. She could just feel that he had declared war upon them all.
The whole Opera house was in an uproar. Meg Giry could hear all the people roaring their hatred towards the monster that had just brought the chandelier down and kidnapped Christine Daaé. She knew her mother had leaded Raoul towards the quickest way to the Phantom’s lair. Meg couldn't let the mob follow the vicomte, though Mme Giry had explicitly ordered her to stay in the upper levels of the Opera Populaire where it was safer. She knew the Phantom, Christine and Raoul needed some time. They had to sort this out. And this moment just showed that it was going to be now or never.
And, if they ever needed backup, she was going to lead the mob in the longer way – the same passageway she had discovered in the prima donna’s dressing-room, on the night of Christine’s triumph in Hannibal. Of course, she couldn’t open the mirror anymore. But the mob shattered it, revealing the passageway in which she led them.
She was paddling in the lake now, thankful that she had trousers and not some dress which would get heavy thanks to the water and make her uncomfortable her in her movements. She had run so quickly she remarked now that the mob was still far away. She gulped. She was all alone, in the lair of a cold-blooded murderer.
But Christine and Raoul were more important.
She ran around, surprised of seeing no one, not even the shadow of a Ghost, to finally find on a little table a white half-mask she recognized too well. She picked it softly in her hands, remembering how Christine, in the middle of Don Juan Triumphant, had ripped off the Phantom’s only protection, revealing the horror of his face to the entire public. Meg had seen it. It was gruesome. But now, she wasn’t sure if she had cried because of the horror or because of Christine’s gesture, still having trouble believing she had done it.
She picked the mask up. She couldn’t just leave it to the mob.
Meg looked around what had been the Phantom’s kingdom, as she recognized some old props from productions long-forgotten by others and some other things she didn’t remember seeing, but with exotic, foreign shapes which intrigued her. Deep down, she knew she couldn’t just leave it all to the crowd of witch-hunters’ rage.
She knew what she had to do, as she saw the shadows of the first people who had finally arrived.
Meg rushed to them, visibly panicking.
“Oh! I saw the Phantom go that way! Thank God he didn’t see me!” she cried, pointing towards a passageway. “Quick! Maybe he has Mademoiselle Daaé with him!”
Thankfully, there were a few policemen with the mob, and they ushered everyone towards the tunnel Meg had pointed, forbidding them from going towards the Phantom’s lair, as they claimed it would be eventually useful pieces of evidence for an eventual investigation.
Meg pretended to follow them as a way of shoving away suspicion, and finally, when she was sure no one would see her (no one usually remarked her, anyway), she rushed back to the lair, looking for traces of someone, hoping she wouldn’t fall on the corpse of… somebody. She shivered, hoping this wouldn’t be the case whoever it might be.
A gust of wind reached her legs. She twirled, remarking the shattered mirrors and a chandelier just beside them, as if someone had broken them in a fit of rage. She had a sad smile. She could assume, now, that probably Christine and Raoul had managed to leave, and that the Phantom had shattered the mirrors in his despair. At least, that was what she hoped.
And so, without further ado, she went towards the gust, and smiled as she saw that a mirror was hidden by a curtain… well, that a passageway was hidden by a curtain.
“Found you,” Meg chirped out loud.
She traveled through the tunnel, as she heard the faint sound of sobs getting louder and louder as she advanced. She stopped, when she finally saw a silhouette in front of her, startled. She had never seen a man cry like that, like a little child. And especially not a man she had seen magnificent, carrying himself like a king in the New Year Masquerade Ball, nor the menacing figure who had intruded in the middle of his own opera. No. It was a whole other person, now.
He was caught so deeply in his own desolation that was only when Meg finally dared to call him out loud that he seemed to remark her presence. “Monsieur?”
He jumped like a cat that had been kicked unexpectedly, hiding his unmasked face from her. “What do you want?” he hissed. “Did you bring the mob after me? I know your mother brought the vicomte down here. You just came to finish up the job.”
Meg sighed, on one side relieved by the knowledge that certainly, Raoul and Christine had managed to escape. But on the other side… she didn’t know what feeling had just got the hold of her, obliging her to give him a helping hand despite everything he had done to the girl who was like her sister, despite the fact that there was no link by blood between the two of them.
“No,” she said softly. “I…” She stopped awkwardly, not knowing where to start. It was only then that she remembered the mask she was still holding in her right hand. “I wanted to give you this.”
The Phantom was so surprised he turned his face towards her, revealing all the horror at the same time. Meg squinted only in the inside, but still then, she shoved it all away, ashamed of herself. Instead, with almost a smile, she handed the mask, which he took slowly and put on, with only a little nod. But Meg knew it was a way to show that he was thankful.
“Come,” she said after, handing her hand towards him. He looked at her, puzzled, with an air Meg found a bit disdainful. She blushed. Even she didn’t quite exactly know why she was doing this.
“Because,” she shrugged. “I’m not leaving you here.”
He lifted up a brow, and stared at her for a second. Then, to Meg’s great surprise, he seized her hand, and followed her out of the tunnel like an obedient child.
He was surprised of her soft, yet firm grasp. He remembered (with displeasure) how Christine had held his hand the first time he had brought her in the undergrounds. She was barely holding him, letting herself guide like some obedient puppy. Meg, however, was different. She was trailing him along. And her face, which he had remembered seeing rather still childlike, was replaced by something fierce. Her blonde hair, and most especially, the grey color of her eyes reminded him of how Alfred de Vigny had described the angel Éloa in his poems. But this was no little cherubim, nor was it some distressed damsel-like angel like the one Vigny had portrayed. No. It was an archangel.
And even, on this night, Meg didn’t quite feel like a girl anymore.
She was a woman, now.
They got out of the tunnel, and quickly, Erik closed every entrance of his lair so no intruder would be daring enough to come back and invade his home. It was only while doing so that he remembered Meg’s presence.
“Oh…” he muttered. “I suppose you want to go back to your mother, don’t you?”
Meg bit her lips, uneasy. She couldn’t, in all consciousness, go back and just leave him there. She had a feeling that if she did so, she would see him again.
“I’ll stay here. You might just need help.”
His first reflex in such a case would be to lift up his chin haughtily and snap at the ballerina that he didn’t need any help. But tonight, he simply didn’t have the energy for it. His despair was too grand. All he wanted was to simply give way to it. And damn that ballerina, he would just hide his tears from her, like he had done his entire life.
But another part of it longed to be comforted. He needed to cry on someone’s shoulder, shamelessly, knowing that that shoulder would never fail him as long as he needed it. It was strange to say, but somehow, he knew that Meg could offer him that. Though, of course, he was far too proud to dare to ask it from her.
Without further ceremony, he headed towards the only bed there was in his lair, determined not to let Meg take any sort of control and collapsed on it, hoping to forget about everything that had happened at least for a while in his sleep. Though, like most nights, he was more certain of finding nightmares. The ballerina, meanwhile, after wandering around the lair and realizing Erik had quite ungentlemanly taken the only bed, pouted and pestered a bit, before grabbing a few curtains and some cushions she found in a corner, arranging herself a nice little nest at least for the night.
She slept well… until she woke up, unsure of the time, but still awoken, by the faint sound of sobs. And she knew immediately from who they came from.
Her heart melted when she saw him all curled up in his bed, shaking and sobbing spasmodically like a little child who had the worst nightmare of his life… which was probably the case here. Immediately, her instincts took over, shoving away all sort of embarrassment she would have normally showed.
“There, there,” she whispered gently, as she climbed on the bed and even dared to hug Erik in her arms. “It will be fine.”
She half-expected the Phantom to shove her away while growling he didn’t need help. But instead, he clung to her like if his life was upon her shoulders, and cried shamelessly on her shoulder. Meg was startled by it. Certainly, a grown man behaving like a distressed child was quite a new experience for her! Or maybe not that much. She remembered those nights where Christine herself had nightmares and that she would comfort her, then tell her a story to make her go to sleep.
And so she did the same thing. She hugged the Phantom gently, patting his back, whispering: “Shhhh…” from time to time. Finally, after what seemed like hours for Meg, he calmed down, his breathing more regular. Finally fully realizing the awkwardness of her situation, as she was standing in a bed with a man, the sort of thing that would probably give Maman a heart attack, she slowly tried to drift away while getting the Phantom to go back to sleep, hoping that this time, it would be more mentally repairing.
But convulsively, he had grabbed her arm.
“No! Stay here!” he had cried, before seeing her eyes wide in what seemed like shock to him. His ears heated, and he was sure, much to his dismay, that he was probably beet-red now. Certainly, she was disgusted of him. Certainly, she was…
“All right. But you need some rest, hmm?”
Completely taken aback, the infamous Phantom let himself tucked back in, as Meg leaned just beside him, as she tried her best to hide her trembling.
Because goodness, sleeping beside a man who was still basically a stranger, though she was aware of his presence for years, was still not quite an entirely proper thing!
But for this night, Meg decided to put her modesty behind. Well, at least, the parts of it that seemed too much in the situation. And so, to prove to him that she was there, she even dared putting her hand around his waist, even leaning his head to her shoulder in a protective way.
Erik closed his eyes.
Meg was surprised to see him smile peacefully.