The next day, at dance practice, I had a hard time concentrating. My mind was still trying to make sense of things and that, plus a lack of sleep, didn't do any good for my dancing. I messed up steps, turned in the wrong directions and forgot parts of the routine more than once, making me look like a total fool. Madame Giry, who normally didn't have a single remark on my dancing, now literally spent the entire dance practice giving me disapproving looks.
Fortunately, after two hours of hell, she called in a break.
Relieved, I dropped myself on the floor and closed my eyes. Today was truly horrible. Or rather, I was truly horrible. I couldn't remember that I'd ever messed up so much as I did now. I sighed. Perhaps the Phantom was right after all, and I really was nothing but a foolish young girl, with hopes and dreams that were far from reachable..
My eyes fluttered open and I looked straight in the eyes of the dance instructor. 'Madame Giry,' I said, rather dumbfounded. 'What is it that I can do for you?'
'To begin with you could start dancing like yourself again. What I've seen today is horrible!I will not deny that I believe that you have it in you to become a great dancer,' she continued on a lower voice 'But if you keep dancing like this, I am afraid I must give the part to someone else. All these girls here would love to dance it and though they are nowhere near as good as I know you can dance, if this is all you can pull off, then I must let someone else dance it. Do you understand my problem, mademoiselle?'
I nodded and tried to swallow the lump in my throat, as well as fighting back the tears in my eyes.
She sighed and her face softened. 'Don't get me wrong, Angèlique, I don't want to put you under pressure. But I need to have someone I can count on, the Opera needs someone we can count on.'
'I understand, madame. I will not let you down, I promise.'
'Let's hope not,' Madame Giry said and, after a strict but gentle nod, turned on her heel and took off to scold some girl for not paying attention during the lesson. It was weird, but even though she was very stern and didn't tolerate much, I liked madame Giry. She was a good instructor and a good person.
I sighed and pulled myself up again. Just standing on my two feet took me great effort, but I knew I couldn't go in the wrong anymore. Madame had made it quite clear; I either started dancing better again, or she'd find someone else to perform the prima ballerina part alongside Meg.
At that moment, as I started walking towards Meg and Marie-Claire, I felt a strange feeling and a shiver went down my spine. Looking around me, of course, I found nothing that could have caused it and I sighed. However, when I looked up, I could have sworn to see a movement in the shadows and all I knew was that it had been the Opera Ghost. He'd probably been listening in on the conversation with madame Giry and no doubt would be laughing tremendously by now because I was actually failing and proving myself to be the foolish young girl he had said me to be.
Well not anymore, I thought to myself grimly. If that was what he wanted to believe, fine, but I would not let him get me down anymore.
And so, when madame Giry announced that the practice would continue, I took a deep breath and gave my all. I blocked everything else from my mind, everything that could possibly distract me from dancing, and gave myself completely. For the first time in weeks, dancing was how it used to be again. I danced with my heart, with my soul and I felt more free than I'd done in a long time. And, perhaps even more important, I didn't make a single mistake.
Later that day, I couldn't help but feel good. I'd found it again. The love, the fire inside me that had made me dance in the first place. Because of the stress and the mystery in the Opera House, I'd lost it and all there had been left was a need to perform, to please. But today, I'd actually enjoyed dancing again and I realized this was what I'd needed. If I wanted to prove myself, I'd need to use this passion.
I looked up from the pages of Alice in Wonderland, suddenly realizing that I'd been staring at the same page for about half an hour. I still found it hard to focus on anything today, but fortunately I was now able to think more positively.
Suddenly, the door burst open and Adrienne came running in, a big smile plastered on her face. She held up a letter in her left hand and waved with it to me. 'Christophe sent me a letter!'
I smiled, seeing the childish happiness in her eyes as she seated herself next to me on my bed and quickly opened the envelope.
Her eyes scanned the content of the letter in a speed I had thought impossible and then looked at me with a mischievous grin. 'He invites me to have lunch with him this Saturday.' Her grin widened. 'And asked me to bring you along.'
'He did what?' I asked, rather confused.
'Well, of course he didn't use that much words, the coward, but well.. I'll read it to you.' She cleared her throat. '"It was wonderful to see you again and I'd love to spend some more time together. Perhaps we could enjoy lunch together on, let's say, Saturday and afterwards go shopping? You can ask a friend to join you, as I'm sure I won't be any good if it comes to fashion. Perhaps you could ask Angèlique?"' She smiled. 'I knew he had taken a liking to you.'
'Yes! Why else would he suggest to invite you?'
'I don't know,' I admitted. 'I honestly don't know..'
pagebreak ~As I sat on the floor, I followed the lines in the parquetry, all the while trying not to think of any of the confusing thoughts in my head – therefore, of course, ending up thinking about all of them at once. I had always known how important marrying was for me. If I didn't find a man who could provide me with a house and food, I would end up an old maid or a prostitute, it was that simple. For now dancing would keep me safe, but when I'd grow older, I would be out on the streets once more. I couldn't return to my parents, as they already had a hard time looking out for just the two of them and Madeleine as it was. No, marrying was crucial if I wanted to live the rest of my life with even a bit of dignity. I knew that all too well. Therefore, it was quite incomprehensible why I was so withholding, now I knew there was a chance Christophe Rousseau fancied me. I mean, this was my chance. Adrienne's brother was a good man, with whom I could easily laugh and had pleasure spending time with. Not to mention he owned an estate and was of good birth. Yet, for some reason the idea of him courting me sounded strange, almost frightening. The time we had spend together in the auditorium was pleasant, but I'd never actually looked at him as a man I could marry, as a man at all really. We had had fun, but just as friends. I wondered, had I unjustly given him other ideas?
'Ah, I already thought I would be able to find you here.'
Startled, I looked over my shoulder, only to find Anne standing in the doorway.
'It's just me, no need to worry.' She walked up to me and lowered herself next to me on the floor. 'So, Adrienne told me she got a letter from her brother and said he showed some extra interest in you. Now that's an exciting twist, I dare say. When was it again the three of you will be going out for lunch?'
'Saturday,' I spoke in an almost inaudible voice. 'Though.. I haven't really agreed to come yet.'
'Why not? Don't you like monsieur Rousseau?'
I fiddled with my fingers. 'No I.. I don't know really. It's… difficult,' I said, sounding as confused as I felt on the inside. I sighed and looked down at my ankles.
'I'm sorry. I didn't come here to press you on matters you don't want to talk about.' Anne smiled and squeezed my hand reassuringly. 'So, did you receive any post from your family lately?'
'I well.. I did some time ago and I planned on writing back yesterday, but things got in the way and I still have to do so. It's just.. I don't want to lie to them, you know? I don't want to make them worried about me, but don't want to lie about how things are going either.' I sighed. 'I do love them and miss them terribly. My mom, dad, little Madeleine..' I trailed off, as I got lost in memories of home. So much in fact, that I completely forgot Anne was sitting beside me and therefore her voice made me startle once again.
'Madeleine, is that your sister?'
'Yes, she is. She's nine years old now, soon to be ten on December the 14th. I wish I could be there on her birthday..'
'Is she your only sibling?'
I shook my head. 'I've got a brother as well. Émile is his name. He's not at home though. He's a few years older than me and travels a lot. Last time I saw him he was preparing for his next trip to Russia.' I smiled, as I recalled how he had chased me around the house, when I'd commented on his way of packing. 'I guess he will be still there now. Anyway, what about you. Do you have any brothers or sisters?'
'I.. I was the first child of my parents and my mom died while giving birth to me. So no, it's just me and my dad.' She looked up at my face and smiled weakly.
'Oh.. I'm sorry.. I didn't..'
'It's alright, Angèlique, really.' She shrugged, something I'd never seen her do before. 'I've never known anything else than this, so you don't have to pity me for missing anything in my life. Just.. don't, alright?'