Meg started at the sound of my voice and swirled around rapidly. 'Oh dear God, it's just you. You frightened me.'
'Forgive me, that was not my intention.. I just came here to tell you that I… I'm sorry. I learned some things today about Christine Daaé and well… it all makes sense now. And I feel terrible for hurting you.' I bit my upper lip and waited impatiently for her response.
When Meg looked up at my face again I saw that, much to my surprise, she was crying. 'I wanted to tell you, Angèlique. I really did,' she sobbed and hid her face in her hands. 'I just couldn't talk about it, not after hearing you sing and.. and seeing you at the masquerade. I'm such an awful friend. I'm so sorry.. Can you forgive me?'
'Forgive you?' I asked, startled. 'My dear friend, there is nothing to forgive you for.' I stepped closer to her and took the sobbing girl in my arms. I wasn't really good with these sort of things, but I remembered how Anne had once stroked my back and I tried to copy her actions, in hope that it would somehow calm Meg a bit.
She shook her head. 'No, I should have told you. You deserve the truth.' The blonde girl took a deep breath a for a few seconds it was eerily quiet on the roof. 'When Christine came to the Opera House at seven, my mother took her under her care and raised her as her own, as Christine had no one else in the world anymore.' Meg's voice broke and she closed her eyes, while the tears kept falling relentlessly.
'You don't have to…' I began, but she cut me off.
'I do.' She took another deep breath in an attempt to calm herself, then she continued. 'I, too, took a liking in the girl and soon we became the closest two people could possibly get. We were not just friends, we were sisters and I shared everything with her. She.. she used to go to the chapel every night to light a candle for her father. That's where the trouble started. I only found this out later, but apparently she met there every night with the Phantom, or rather his voice, who she thought to be the Angel of Music, or even the ghost or her father himself.' Meg's voice had gone grave as she told me this and I could easily imagine how she'd relive those dark pages from the past. 'He… tutored her and after a while simply became obsessed with her. He blackmailed the late managers, threatened the former lady soprano, la Carlotta, and eventually got his way. His opera, Don Juan Triumphant, was performed with Christine as the leading lady. It was unlike any other opera we'd ever done before. It was as exciting as it was frightening and it was well.. The rest of the story you've already heard from Adrienne on your first day and I doubt you have forgotten. Although, something you don't know, is the following. When the Phantom took the leading male's place and sang with Christine it was… well, obscene, actually. The song they sang was the same song you were singing when I found you in the auditorium that afternoon.'
My mouth literally fell open. 'Oh dear Lord, Meg, I am so sorry!'
'No, it's fine, really. It's just.. I still wonder where you've learned it, as all the sheet music perished in the fire.'
I thought for a moment, hoping to find a proper answer. 'I don't know how it's possible I know both the music and the lyrics. I mean, I didn't even know about the whole affair around the Phantom of the Opera before I came here.'
Meg sighed. 'I'm really sorry, Angèlique. Leaving you in the dark about this was wrong of me and I hope that I'll be able to make it up to you one day.'
'You already have, my dear friend, just by being my friend.' For the second time that night, I hugged her and this time I actually felt good.
pagebreak ~A few hours later, I was still wide awake and staring at the ceiling, the soft breathing of the other ballerinas a comforting background music to my thoughts.
It was rather strange, that even after all the redeeming conversations of that day and the unburdening of my heart, I still wasn't able to find some rest. Perhaps it had just been too much information to progress. After all, today's experiences had given me a lot to think about. Just thinking back to that morning gave me the feeling that I was looking back at least days ago.
I let out a sigh, recalling just how gloomy the day had seemed this morning. After all that criticism, I hadn't had much hope left for a good day. But somehow good things had found their way to me and had made today even one of the best days of the last week. No more lying, I told myself happily. I'd finally laid all my cards on the table and had made up with Meg. Things were almost starting to get.. normal again, almost good.I was staring down on the stage once more, watching the dancers and singers perform with great dedication. I didn't recognize the piece, but for some reason nothing that happened surprised me. As I listened, I tried to numb out all the other sounds that emerged from the empty seats beneath me. It was then, that the entire auditorium went quiet and a girl entered the stage. Even from my place up here, I could see she was quite beautiful. She was frail and slender and looked more like a doll of Chinese porcelain than an actual woman of flesh and blood. Music started again and the young girl prepared herself to sing.
All of the sudden, I had been transported to another place, another person even perhaps. It didn't seem at all strange, though. I was now actually on the stage myself, facing hundreds of people that were all waiting eagerly for the next song. At that moment, the music set in again and I took a breath. All nervousness had eased and had made room for a comforting, almost relieving knowingness that it would almost be over. Then, suddenly, the most wonderful, most perfect voice filled the auditorium and for a moment I stood frozen. My mind tried to fight against it, but I knew my soul would obey.
Hands stroked up my arms, over my shoulders and down the sides of my torso, leaving my skin burning everywhere it was touched. I felt my head spin by the new sensations that filled my body and had a difficult time to begin my own couplet at the right moment. How could something feel so wrong and yet so right at the same time?
"We've passed the point of no return.."
As our last note died out, another, more soft and gentle song set in and goose bumps covered the skin of my arms, when the first words were whispered in my ear. I had been prepared for a lot – screaming, cursing, fighting – but not this. I couldn't.. not like this. With tears streaming down my cheeks, I leaned against his broad upper body and closed my eyes, wishing I could close my ears as well. Words echoed through my mind and I knew I had no choice. As well as I could, I tried to numb out his pleading, his love declaration , knowing that if I'd listen, I'd instantly fall for it, again. This man, this monster, though how bad I knew he was, my heart would always call out for him and answer his calling.
Suddenly, the world around me became blurry and another, less melodic voice pierced through the singing. 'Angèlique, Angèlique, please, open your eyes.' I felt something cold being pressed against my forehead and again the voice asked, more like pleaded me to wake up.
With a lot of effort, I pried my eyes open and stared in the rather concerned face of Anne. She was sitting on the edge of my bed and held a wet washcloth in her hand. I noticed she was still in her night gown and, looking around me, I saw that all the other ballerinas were still asleep as well.
'Dear, it's alright, everything's alright now. It was just a dream. Dry your tears, it wasn't real.'
It was only now that I noticed that my cheeks were wet and that my pillow was soaked. I pushed myself up and pulled my knees to my chin, folding my arms around my legs in an attempt to stop the terrible quivering.
'If you are calmed down a bit, I'll get you some water and then you can try to get back to sleep again, alright?'
'Thank you, you really are too sweet for me.' I whispered and smiled weakly.
'Oh dear, you are all shaking. Come here,' she said and wrapped me in her arms, pulling me closely against her chest. 'I'm going to get you something to drink now, it'll help calm your breathing. Do you think you'll be able to stay alone for a minute?'
I nodded and gave her another smile.
Though I probably didn't look very convincing, Anne let go of me and, after a final worried glance, made for the door. I watched as she tiptoed around the beds of the sleeping ballerinas and eventually went out of the dormitories.
When the door closed, darkness once more enveloped me and I couldn't help but let another stream of tears rush down my cheeks. Though how comforting and sweet Anne had been for me, she didn't understand. It was real. And more important, I had come to a terrible discovery. It was him. The Phantom. He was the man in my dreams.