Days passed by and as Saturday got closer and closer, I felt the lump in my throat grow bigger. I still hadn't really agreed on coming along, but I knew Adrienne just took it as a given that I would. Of course, I knew I had nothing to fear, as the little redhead would be there as well and it therefore probably wouldn't be awkward at all. Yet, that didn't make me any less nervous and frightened.
My fears and worries didn't make it easy for me to pay attention at the practices, but I tried my best anyway. I was still determined to do my very best and to show madame Giry – and perhaps even more; the Phantom – that I had what it took to be prima ballerina. I wouldn't let her down. It took me almost all of my energy to perform at my best, however, as I still barely slept and, when I actually did fall asleep, had awful nightmares. If only I could turn the music box on at night, I was sure I'd sleep a whole lot better..
'Alright, that's it for today's practice. I'll see you girls tonight at the performance. Please, be careful in the meanwhile and the one who slips and breaks her ankle can be sure of a very unpleasant recovery.'
I bent over, with my hands on my knees, and panted heavily. Pushing myself this far sure took its toll and I wasn't sure for how long I could keep this up.
'Mademoiselle Fournier, are you alright?'
Still panting, I looked up to the face of the elder woman and tried to smile. 'Yes, thank you. I'm just a bit tired.'
'I can see that,' she said, as she studied my face. 'I suggest you try to take some sleep before tonight, you look like you could collapse any second.'
I merely nodded, knowing it was no use telling her about my nightmares and disability to sleep. As fast as I could manage, I scrambled to my feet and, with a last polite nod towards the instructress, made for the dormitories. Of course I was not really planning on going to bed, because – like I already mentioned – it would be no use anyway. If I'd actually manage to fall asleep, my nightmares would only exhaust me more. No, trying to sleep would be pointless.
Therefore, when I reached my bed, I simply picked up Alice in Wonderlandfrom my nightstand and walked out of the room again. I would just go find myself a nice, quiet place to hide myself and read a bit– the dormitories were nowhere near that, with all those ballet rats running around.
Eventually, I decided to go to one of the private boxes, as they would also provide me with a soft, comfy chair to snuggle myself into. I would not be so stupid, though, as to return to box five once more. Instead, I made myself comfortable in the velvet chair of box one, which was at the other side of the auditorium, and curled myself up in the seat. After letting out a sigh of comfort, I pulled the navy blue ribbon from between the pages and started reading. Or rather, that had been the plan. That particular moment, however, a voice filled the box.
'Perhaps I was wrong..' It mused.
I startled, closed the book with a smack and turned around. No one, of course. 'Phantom?' I inquired, though I already knew the answer.
'Perhaps you are not the foolish girl I'd thought you to be.' He continued, choosing to ignore my question completely. 'I must admit, I was fairly surprised to see you dancing like that again. Seeing you dance at your audition, I, too, was impressed by your skills. But unlike madame Giry, I gave up when I saw your dancing become more and more average.' He paused for a moment and for a moment, I thought about running out of the box. 'I've been watching you the last few days, you see.. Yes, yes, it was I you heard after your conversation with madame,' he added the latter when seeing my eyes flicker with realization. 'Anyways, that's not the point. The point is, now I'm passed my fit of anger and irritation, I need to know something. How is it possible you know the song I wrote?'
I swallowed. 'I.. I don't know precisely, monsieur,' I answered silently, looking down at my hands. 'I have these dreams. I don't know how, or why, but I keep seeing the same thing over and over again. It's here, at the auditorium. She… Mademoiselle Daaé is on the stage and suddenly I am her and the music starts and you are there and we sing and..' I was at the edge of breaking down now, as I knew all too well what would happen next. And, if my dream truly was as real as I was now beginning to believe, he knew it too.
'So.. you are not connected to mademoiselle Daaé in any way?'
It was more of a statement than a question, but I shook my head in response nonetheless. 'No, monsieur, I am not.'
'I see,' he stated and at that moment, something inside of me changed. All fear I'd had disappeared, all anger for what he had done to Meg and Christine, to the entire Garnier Opera, was gone. What it was exactly, I did not know, but something in his voice had made me… feel for him. Pain and sadness were clearly audible in his voice and, just as I had in my conversation with Meg, a wave of guilt engulfed me.
I sighed and tried to regain my posture. 'Monsieur.. I'm sorry, I truly am. At that time, I did not know the impact my singing could have on anyone. But now, as the dream has continued to expanse itself, I know how much the occurring that happened during that song must haunt you and I'm sorry..'
'How far what, monsieur?'
I could easily hear how he gritted his teeth. 'How far does this dream of yours expanse?'
Confused, I furred my brows, until the meaning behind his question suddenly dawned on me. 'I did not see your face, if that is what you meant. I did hear you sing the song for me.. her, I mean. And what she did next, but before I could see anything, I woke up.'
'Well, in that case, I will gladly accept your apology, mademoiselle. I am afraid though, that I must go now, as I have matters of great importance to attend.'
'Please wait,' I called out and, before even realizing what I was doing, stood up from the red chair.
'I.. well, it would only be fair if you'd show yourself to me, given the fact that you have been watching me since the very moment I arrived.' Again, I didn't realize the tiniest bit of what I was doing.
'What makes you think I care even the slightest thing about what is fair and what not?'
I sighed, knowing he was right. He was the Phantom of the Opera, for cry out loud. Surely he didn't get his reputation by helping out the stage hands and drinking tea with the orchestra.
Because of that, I started once more at the sound of his voice, as I had figured he would just have left me. 'Very well.'
I gazed around me, but was met with nothing but shadows around me. For a moment I thought he had simply lied and had left all the same, but that was when I saw the outlines of something in one of the corners of the box. It – or perhaps I should say he – was difficult to see, as the figure itself was black as well, but then he took a step forwards, into the light of the great chandelier. Like the last time I'd seen him, he was clothed fully in black, apart from a white shirt. Looking up to his face, I saw the same, white half mask covering one side of his face. 'Dear God.'
His eyes, who had until now been quite neutral, though lacking of any emotions, suddenly turned ice cold and his face pulled into a menacing sneer.
'Oh, no monsieur, please, that was not what I meant. It's just well, I'd never figured you'd be so.. tall.'
He looked down at me with a look of mixed disbelief and distrust.
'I'm not joking,' as to prove my statement, I took a few steps forward and came to a halt about a feet away from him. 'See, I look close to a midget standing next to someone of your height.' I had not lied, he really was a lot taller than I had imagined. However, the fact that his height made him a lot more intimidating as well, I decided to keep to myself.
I heard him sigh. '"Why is a raven like a writing desk?"'
I looked up in surprise. 'You've read the book?'
He smiled, but it was a tired kind of smile and for the first time I wondered how old he really was. 'I've had a lot of free time on my hands, child. It would be quite a miracle if you could find a book I have not read yet.'
I sighed and frowned a little. 'Well, truthfully, I don't really know what to make of this one. I don't understand it, it's all confusing and just crazy.'
'But then tell me, what is not in this world?'
I merely frowned upon that one, not knowing what to answer.
'Here, allow me,' he said as he picked up the book and gestured for me to come closer. As he flipped through the pages with leather gloved fingers, he looked at me and said, knowingly. 'Whether something is crazy or not, entirely depends on the way you choose to look at them.'
The Phantom's point of viewWhen he finally got back to his lair, it was already half past six in the evening. After having told her he really needed to get some important things done, she had jumped from the velvet chair, in complete distress because she still needed to eat and get ready for tonight's performance. As she had ran off towards the dining hall, he had made his way down slowly, because truthfully, there was nothing he had to do, no business to take care off.
Wearily, he tossed his cape over an armchair and sat himself on the organ bench. He was tired. Tired of the world. Tired of humanity all together. The only reason he still played his games, was because he needed the money to survive. And even about that he wasn't sure as to why he still bothered. What was the point of living if this was as good as it'd get?
The Phantom sighed as he looked down to the book he still held in his hands. The girl had left it in her hurry to get to dinner. He wasn't quite sure what to make of her. Even after all he'd seen in his life, this was completely new to him. It reminded him of the fortune teller, back when he was still with the gipsies' traveling fair. Only, did her dreams not predict the future, but tell about the past. He frowned. No, he didn't understood the least of it and that fact annoyed him greatly.
About the girl herself, he understood probably just as little. Though she'd looked so much like Christine – a pang of sadness hit him at the mere thought of her – at the Masquerade, she'd soon proven to be nothing like her. Not only in looks was she completely different, but the rest of her was as well. Her voice was nothing like that of his Angel. Granted, it was not an unpleasant voice to hear, even when singing, but it had a much smaller range than that of his beloved and clearly missed the potential to ever be used professionally. The greatest difference, however was definitely one in character. Where his Christine had been fragile, this girl had proven to be more resistant, as he had raged against her, criticized her and still she had not broken to pieces. Yes, when he'd razed her to the ground she'd completely broken down and had even cried – he had seen her do so as he studied her from behind a hidden panel in the wall. But she had not shattered to pieces, as his Angel would have done. She had even been quite nice to him and it had almost been pleasant to talk with her that afternoon.
He didn't understand it at all, but decided not to think about it anymore. He would return her book to her tonight and that would be the end of whatever bond they had. It would be useless to actually try and be her friend, anyways. Soon she would run from him as well, just like all the others did. Whether it was because of stories, or something he did, she eventually would run, too. Just like all the others had done before her. Just like his Angel.
As you may or may not have noticed, I didn't use the Phantom's name in this chapter, nor do I plan to use it in the near future. This is partly because I want to point out how important his name is (almost like some intimate secret you only tell the ones closest to you), but also because I want to emphasize just how much he is the the Phantom alter ego right now.