I don't understand.. That had been the only thought in my head for two hours now, and I still did not understand. Not even after two hours of thinking I'd figured it out. Meanwhile, ballet rats had come back from their days off and had filled the room with chatter, laughter and giggling. I'd pretended I was asleep, so I wouldn't have to talk to anyone.
I turned on my other side and let out a soft sigh. I still held the letter in my hand and the more time passed, the more I wished I'd never opened it. My head was hurting from all the pondering. My fingers cramped from being in the same firm hold for so long. "I wish you the best of luck in life, mademoiselle." What did he mean by that? Would I never see him again? I mentally scorned myself, of course it meant that. But why did that leave me feeling so low?
He had been nice to me, I realized. And though he had been reserved and perhaps even hostile and times, he was real. He was no member of society and the kindness he had showed me was not part of an act. He had scorned me the first time we met, so that he had been nice to me the second time only meant so much more because of that. Perhaps even more so, I felt connected to him in some way. My dreams, as strange as it might sound, bound him to me. I didn't know for what reason, or how, but it felt like a sign from some higher power. "I bid you farewell." And that was it. I had read the words over and over so many times that they were now printed in my memory, constantly dancing in front of my closed eyes. Had I done something wrong? I couldn't imagine, as I'd had the feeling that we'd both enjoyed the conversation the day before. Had I been wrong? I frowned. No, it was him who had brought up the book. Perhaps he had just been trying to be friendly? Another part of my brain argued. No, no that was unlikely. There was no reason for him to even consider being polite to me. And that made things only less understandable.
When I woke up, I was completely disorientated for a moment. When had I fallen asleep? Behind the high window, I could see the moon shining bright. I brushed some strands of hair from my face and suddenly became aware of something that had been softly touching my cheek for the entire time. Reaching up with my hand, I soon closed my fingers around a piece of paper and memories came rushing back. A sudden wave of nausea came up and I sprinted towards the bathroom, where I emptied my stomach above the toilet. Weakened, I sank to my knees and rested my head against the wall. My body started quivering, but I couldn't bring myself to do anything to stop it. Tears began to show in the corners of my eyes and a second wave made me bend over the toilet once more, throwing up the last remainders of my stomach content.
As I leaned back again, I felt worse than I'd felt in years. Salt drops spilled from my eyes and I prayed to God that I could go home. 'I need you, maman.'
Days passed by slowly in the Opera House for the next few weeks. Life was routine and I lived it as just that. I woke up, got dressed, went down to the dining hall, would try to eat and after failing at that, would spend the rest of the day dancing. As much as I wanted to go home and cry in my mother's lap – even though I had no idea what the real reason was – I pretended like nothing was wrong. I danced the way I had done before; with passion and precision. When Meg had asked me if something was wrong, I'd just told her I missed my family, something she understood. Soon the holidays would be here and then we'd have some time to visit family, she had told me.
In the meanwhile, my nightmares had returned at full force and there was nothing to keep me safe from the darkness anymore. I was drowning again. And this time, I had no one to save me.
A letter had arrived from home, but I couldn't find the will to answer it. All I could tell them were lies. Perhaps I'd write them later, when I'd gotten a hold of myself again.
I looked around me. The dining room was filled with ballerinas, all enjoying dinner and engaged with one another in conversation. I stared at the plate in front of me. There were some leaves of lettuce and a small potato and, as few as I knew it was, I already knew I wouldn't be able to finish even half of it.
'Would you please eat something?'
'I did,' I protested, but Meg wouldn't let it be.
'Those two leaves of lettuce,' she scoffed, 'Yes that will surely keep you going.'
'Oh I can see that. Angèlique, I hate to tell you this, but we really worry about you.'
'Why? Have you seen yourself lately? You barely eat, you barely sleep. What has gotten into you?'
'Nothing, I'm fine.' I looked her in the eyes. 'Really Meg, there is nothing to worry about.'
She gave me one last sceptical look but, knowing that she couldn't force anything out of me, let it rest. Fortunately. I don't think I could have explained it to her, even if I had wanted to. There was no explanation for my behaviour. Why had my nightmares returned? Why wasn't I able to keep any food down?
I swung my legs over the bench. 'I'm going to get some fresh air,' I said and dashed out of the room.
Instead of going straight to my destination, I had made a pit stop at the dormitories – which, fortunately, were still empty – and had taken the music box with me. Sneaking through the Opera House, I'd had the luck that I didn't encounter anyone and had made it up the winding stairs in less than fifteen minutes. Now, as I sat between the large sculptures that adorned the roof, I let out a deep sigh. The sculptures would have made me feel quite insignificant, meaningless even, if it weren't for the music box that balanced on my legs. As always, it was my life buoy and I clamped on to it for dear life. Soon, I got carried away on the sweet melodies that flooded from the small, wooden case. Softly humming along, I placed the music box next to me and pulled my knees up to my chest.
'L'histoire éternelle, touche de son aile, la Belle et la Bête,' I whispered softly, knowing the poem that belonged to the music by heart. I stared off in the distance, thinking about the times my mother would tell me the story. A young, beautiful, unique young woman who'd come to rescue her father from an enchanted castle and would give up her own freedom for it. She was forced to live there with a monster, a beast, who had been cursed by a witch to look as ugly as he was on the inside. But things were not as they seemed and he was not a beast, not at all in fact. They'd grow fond of each other and in the end, her love would save him from a life time of living like a monster.
It was a beautiful story, my favorite, in fact. But for some reason I felt something brewing inside of me, as if my unconsciousness was trying to tell me something, something important. However, I couldn't figure out what it was.
I played the tune again and leaned against the cold marble of the giant horse statue. With my eyes closed, I could see images from the storybook flash by. As a child, I'd often wondered what I would have done if it was me who was locked in a castle with a man like that. For some reason, I'd never seen ugliness when my mother told me the story and showed me the images. But if it were real, would I have been able to see past the appearance as well, no matter how frightening that would be? And if I would be able to look past the outside, would I be able to love a man, so cold and mean, but at the other hand sweet and loving? I was older now, but somehow I was not able to answer any of those questions.
'Tout comme les étoiles, s'éteignent en cachette. L'histoire eternelle, touché de son aile. La Belle et la Bête..' I sighed and opened my eyes again. The night sky was clear and bright stars filled the air. Beneath my feet, Paris was already vast asleep and most of the lights had gone out. It was time to go to bed. With difficulty, I pulled myself up and straightened out my dress. However, for the umpteenth time that day a wave of dizziness washed over me. This time, however, it didn't fade away and I collapsed to the floor, unconsciousness taking over before my head hit the ground.
The French parts are from the song "Tale as old as Time" from the Beauty and the Beast movie. This is the French version of the song and I must admit that, having translated the French song, the lyrics aren't quite the same as they are in English. However, I suppose the meaning behind the song is the same.