For the first time in what seemed like an eternity, I slept through the entire night, without dreaming about macabre creatures and nightmarish scenes. I did not know what had caused this intermission of my normal sleeping pattern, but I sure was happy when I woke up the next morning, feeling less tired than I'd felt in quite some time.
When I opened my eyes, I noticed the other girls were still sleeping. It gave the dormitory an almost peaceful appearance, something that was impossible if the ballet rats were awake and chattering away about nothing in particular. I smiled to myself. Though I had complained to myself more than once about their excessive noise and mindless conversations, I'd become quite attached to every single one of the girls and now viewed them as my family. Although sometimes undesired, but still a family I'd come to care about deeply.
I sighed and turned over, as I was starting to lose all feeling in my left arm. Looking out of the window, I noticed the sun was only just rising and was only inches above the horizon. It really must be still very early then. However, closing my eyes again, I soon came to realize that it would be impossible for me to go back to sleep. I kept switching positions for ten minutes or so, but eventually gave up and sat up. Rubbing the sleep from my eyes, it took me quite a while before my gaze fell upon the objects that lay on my nightstand. Several memories came rushing back and I furrowed my eyebrows as I reached for the flower. As I picked it up carefully, I noticed there were no thorns on the stem and I twirled it around in my fingers, mesmerized by the beautiful flower. Meg had told me once that the Phantom of the Opera used to send Christine roses, red roses with a black ribbon tied to the stem. Could this one have been send by the same man? Although there was no ribbon, a part of me had no doubt that it was. After all, who else could have found the book and have known it was mine? Apart from him, only Adrienne knew and there was no way that she could have been in one of the boxes last night.
Suddenly, another realization dawned on me and I nearly crushed the rose in shock. Today was the lunch date with Adrienne and her brother. How could I have forgotten? I shook my head as I laid the rose back on my nightstand and sighed. Today would undoubtedly be quite eventful.
pagebreak ~By the time madame Giry called practice to an end, I was literally shaking with nervousness and anxiety. Apparently it was clearly visible, as Anne came to me as soon as madame Giry finished talking.
'Are you alright?'
I simply nodded, not trusting my voice enough to actually try to say something.
She looked me up and down. 'Is this all because of the lunch date with Adrienne and monsieur Rousseau?' As she said that, her lips turned into a sympathetic smile and she pulled me into an embrace. Obviously my face had given her the answer before I could even open my mouth. 'It will be alright, I'm sure. He wouldn't have asked you to come, if he hadn't enjoyed your company on the masquerade. Just be yourself and everything will be just fine.'
Again, I just nodded and tried to keep the tears in my eyes from falling. Somehow, Anne always knew how to make me feel better, even in moments like this, when I seemed to be on the verge of losing it. 'Thank you,' I whispered softly. Then, as I took a deep breath and regained my posture, I let go of my dear friend and smiled. 'I'd better go to the dormitories and change into something more.. appropriate.'
Anne nodded and smiled 'Alright, I'll see you later then.'
'Yes.. so long.' With that, I turned on my heel and made my way back to the dormitory. As most girls went straight from practice to the dining hall for lunch, I found the dorm completely deserted. I couldn't help but feel relieved, as I didn't feel like pretending to be my serene and peaceful self at that moment.
When I came to a stop before my closet, another wave of anxiety came over me. I didn't have anything to wear. I mean, naturally, I had enough dresses that I could wear, but none of them were really proper for a lunch date with people as wealthy as Adrienne and her brother. Of course, in the safety of the Opera House, it was perfectly fine to walk around in simple dresses, as even the girls of higher descent didn't bother dressing up properly.
I pinched the bridge of my nose and, after another deep sigh, starting pushing through the various dresses. However, all too soon I came to the conclusion that I, indeed, had nothing to wear. I lowered myself on the floor and rested my head in my hands. 'Now what?' As soon as the words had left my mouth, I heard the door open.
'Angèlique? Angèlique, are you here?'
'Yes, over here!' I called back, and pulled myself up again. 'Is something wrong?'
Meg shook her head, smiling. 'No, I just figured you'd need some help.'
I blushed at that and gazed at the floor embarrassedly. 'I suppose you could say so, yes.'
'Well, let's see what we've got to work with.' Enthusiastically, she flipped through the dresses, only to end up with a look of dissatisfaction on her face. 'Is this everything?''Yes, I..-'
'Come with me,' she said and grabbed my arm. Before I could even protest, Meg started dragging me over to her bed and commanded me to sit down, while she opened her closet.
'Oh no, Meg, I couldn't possibly…-' I started, as I realized what she was doing, but she interrupted me.
'I don't want to hear it.'
'But I can't just..-'
'Save yourself the effort.'
'Ahh, there it is.' As she said that, she pulled out a long, light green dress from her closet. Though it was quite simple in design, by the fabrics alone I could tell it wasn't just a cheap, unelaborate gown. The cleavage was cut quite deep, but not more than was modest. 'Come on, try it on.' She insisted, when I didn't take it from her.
Knowing it was no use declining – and at the other hand being aware of the fact that I didn't have any other considerable options – I hesitantly took the dress from her and went into the bathroom to change. After I'd changed into the green dress, I went back to Meg and asked her embarrassedly if she could lace me up. Meg of course, being the sweet girl I'd known her to be from the very start, only smiled and tightened the strings of the corset a bit and tied them softly.
'All done,' she said and turned me around. 'Now we just need to fix your hair and you would be able to have tea with the king himself.' She giggled and pulled me back to the bathroom. After having brushed my hair, she pulled my hair back into a bun and deliberately let some of the locks hang loose. Looking at my reflection in the mirror, I almost felt.. beautiful. Although I normally was just plain looking, especially standing next to girls like Meg, or Anne or Adrienne, dressed up I could almost pass for.. something more.
'Oh how they grow up so fast. It seems only yesterday I saw you running around in your diaper and now my little girl is going out,' Meg said, laughing as she squeezed my cheeks in a fake motherly manner.
'I'm only seventeen yet,' I objected, laughing as well.
'Indeed.. old hag!' Meg gave me a playful shove and then continued, trying to be serious. 'We'd better go downstairs now, I'm sure monsieur Rousseau will be here any minute.'
Suddenly, a wave of anxiety rushed over me again and I was afraid I'd faint right then and there, but fortunately I could get a hold on the sink before I collapsed on the floor. Because of all the fun I'd had with Meg, I'd completely forgotten about the reason I was dressing up in the first place.
'Are you alright?'
'Yes, just.. nervous.' I said, trying to calm my nerves a bit while I smoothed out the hem of my dress. 'Alright, let's go.'
As Meg grabbed my arm once more, I took a deep breath and tried to look as confident and elegant as I could.
Approaching the main hall, I could almost dance to the rhythm of my wildly beating heart. It was really ridiculous, as I had nothing to fear. Monsieur Rousseau was a kind and pleasant gentleman, whose company I'd enjoyed greatly at the Masquerade. However, this logic did nothing to calm me or even reach my brains at all.
At last, when we reached the lobby, I saw both brother as sister already standing in the middle of the large room. Adrienne was dressed in one of her many beautiful gowns. This one was a very, very light shade of blue and had a ribbon on both of the shoulders, the same colour as the one in her hair. Her brother, too, was dressed perfectly to current fashion. But although his clothes looked styled exquisitely, he did not look like a fop at all. No, somehow the fashionable clothing he wore still looked nonchalant and unstudied, where it would have made anyone else look like a dandy. His hair had the same perfect, but at the same time completely nonchalant, look to it. Yes, monsieur Rousseau was indeed a beautiful man.
'Ah there you are, Christophe and I have been waiting for ages already. What took you so long?'
'Oh be silent you, we haven't even left the Opera and you already managed to make her feel embarrassed!' Her brother said, rather disapprovingly. 'I'm so sorry for you two girls, I can only imagine what horror it must be to live with her on a daily basis.'
I heard a soft giggle and, in all my nervousness, couldn't contain myself either. It really was quite amusing to see the two siblings bicker like this. It reminded me of home and my own brother.
'Thank you very much,' Adrienne murmured, fake offended. 'Well let us go now, before my brother has the chance to hurt my delicate feelings even more.'
I nodded and bid Meg farewell, then I took monsieur Rousseau's hand who – after saying Meg good bye as well – led me towards the great doors. When we descended the stairs from the Garnier, several people gazed at us and I could imagine them thinking he was lucky man, walking with two young ladies on his arm. He helped Adrienne and me in a luxurious looking carriage that had been standing in front of the Opera House and after we'd seated ourselves on the velvet cushions, the conversation continued on the same rate.
'So when will you propose?'
'When will I what?'
'You know, ask her to marry you.'
'Grandmother! No, you idiot, Angèlique of course!'
'Adrienne, stop it, you're making this incredibly uncomfortable for her, and for me as well.'
'Well, it's only fair that she knows what she's up to, isn't it?'
'I'm not planning on proposing! Don't get me wrong, Angèlique, you are a very attracting young woman, but I do not plan on marrying someone without even knowing what she is like. '
I just watched the whole conversation as a game of tennis, not sure about what I was supposed to feel or do. Adrienne decided how she was going to play the ball and her brother, the poor, poor man, could only try his best to hit the ball back as best as he could and answer in a manner that was both proper and polite. 'You didn't offend me at all,' I said quickly, not knowing what else to say. It might be better to keep myself outside of their – or rather Adrienne's – attack with words.