I must have dozed off, I thought, as I opened my eyes and blinked against the bright sunlight. I couldn't remember falling asleep the night before. I had been in bed for five days now and I was finally starting to recover. Although I was still not allowed to leave my bed, I could sit up now without any help and the day before I had even managed to read half a chapter of Alice in Wonderland.
Spending my days in bed was boring me quite a lot, but luckily there always seemed to be someone willing to accompany me in the long hours of boredom. Even Pierre, the cook, had visited to bring me some of his famous pumpkin soup. ("If this won't get you on your feet again, I don't know what will.") However, in the long hours of rest and peace, I found myself still pondering over certain things that refused to leave my mind. The Phantom, for one, seemed to be a large part of it. Had it been a dream? One time, when I woke in the middle of the night, I had seen something disappear in the shadows. I had been sure it was a man. But in the morning, with the sun illuminating every dark corner and chasing all the shadows away, it was hard to believe that it really had been.
In the meanwhile, my dreams had begun to follow a certain routine. There would be a lake, illuminated by a thousand candles in golden chandeliers. And there was a boat, no, more like a gondola, that would take me across the still water. All around me was darkness and yet, it was a soothing, warming dark. Music seemed to envelop me and a mesmerizing, angelic voice would fill me with an unknown, but at the same time strangely familiar delight.
I shook my head. Here I was, musing about my dreams once more. As if it would do any good. A sudden shiver reminded me of the blanket that I had thrown off somewhere around midnight and I quickly wrapped it around my still very fragile form. I had never been a girl with much curves, and though I was slowly gaining back my old figure again, I was still more bone than flesh.
'Good day!' A gay voice sounded from the doorway.
'Oh, hello Anne!' I said, happy to have some distraction from my ponderings for a few moments.
'How are you feeling today, dear?'
'I'm well, slowly starting to feel better, actually. Shouldn't you be at ballet class?'
'It's Sunday, dear, all the girls have gone home today. I was actually going to go to town for presents with Adrienne, Meg, Marie-Claire and Veronique, but I decided to stop by you first, in case you needed anything.'
I shook my head. 'No, thank you, I'm fine.'
'Alright, well, make sure you keep yourself warm, it's getting quite chill outside and we wouldn't want you to catch a cold, now.' As a real mother, she tucked me in and gave me a kiss on the top of my head. 'Get well soon!'
After Anne had left, I let my eyes rest for a bit. I really envied the girls that could go home right now, even the ones that could just wander about freely, instead of being chained to their beds for five days. I missed mother. I could vividly remember how she would always bring me her home made soup if I was ill. She would sit on my bed, softly humming the song from the music box. No matter how troubled or ill I'd be, her voice would always calm me down. And papa, when he'd come home at the end of the day, would always come straight to my room, to ask how I was doing. He'd sit by me the entire evening, telling me stories of mystery and magic, of foreigncountries and cultures. And if I'd finally fall asleep, he'd call me his little princess, press a kiss on my forehead and tiptoe out of the room.
I sighed, I wondered when I'd see them again. Hopefully soon, but I didn't count on it. My father couldn't simply close the shop to come over, especially not at this time of the year. In the winter, there were always loads of orders of refined, rich women who needed warm cloaks and beautiful dresses for Christmas. I recalled the numerous hours he'd spend in the evenings at home, trying to get all of his orders finished in time.
Shaking my head, I sat up in bed. Pulling the blanket closer around me again, I decided it might be good for me to take a short walk through the opera. Sitting still all day long made me restless and I longed to stretch my legs, even if it was just for a while. There'd probably not be anyone in the Opera, so this was the perfect opportunity to get out of bed. I wouldn't even have to care about my appearance, as the only ones I was likely to encounter were the spiders in their cobwebs.
pagebreak ~As I shambled through the corridors, every once in a while taking a moment to regain my breath, I came to the conclusion I was right; everyone was out today. Either home to their families, or out buying Christmas presents with friends, but in any case; all the inhabitants of the Opera Populaire seemed to be gone. All but one.
For some reason I just couldn't get him out of my head. My savior – if those happenings really did occur – who dwelled in shadows and in my mind. The mystery surrounding him, made him even more captivating.
I nearly collapsed, but managed to get hold of the wall just in time before I crashed to the floor. Perhaps the walk had taken a higher toll of me than I had thought. Touching my forehead, I felt a unhealthy, burning heat emerge from it. I'd figured the fever would have lessened by now, but apparently I'd been wrong.
Looking around me, I spotted a door ajar and decided to go inside, hoping there would be a couch or something of the sort to rest for a bit. I stumbled towards the room and, to my utter relief, found it to be a storage room for stage clothing. There were dozens of racks, filled to the brim with dresses, suits, helmets and ribbons of all shades and colors and somewhere in the middle, a small beige sofa was placed, as a place for the seamstress to work. That would do, I decided and as darkness slowly began clouding my view, made my way to the couch.
'No! I will not let you bribe me again with those pretty words and flattery. I simply refuse!'
'Please mademoiselle, if you'd just follow us to the office we could..-'
'No, I don't want to hear any of it!I've had enough. Attacks, threats, violation of my privacy! For too long I've taken this, but no more. You call yourself managers, I'd rather say you are just his puppets, dancing to his every demand. It's time for you to find yourself a new leading lady, because I will be singing in this Opera no more!'
'Mademoiselle, there must be something we can do?'
'There is not!'
'And what about some financial arrangements?'
'Until you stop this this… this psychopath, I will not set another foot in this theatre, no matter how much money you offer me!'
'But mademoiselle!' The two men, who I now was fairly certain of were the two managers, continued to beg the prima donna for quite some time, but eventually their voices died out as well and I was once again left alone in silence.
Memories came flooding back to me and I recalled again how I'd crashed down on the sofa. I wondered what the time would be and hoped with all my heart that the other ballerinas would not have returned from their day off yet. The girls would probably be worried sick if they found my bed empty.
When I made my way through the corridors, I noticed it was already getting dark outside. I'd better hurry up, if I wanted to be back in the dormitories before the others. Still, I could only move on a slow pace, as my health and the burning fever exhausted me greatly. I truly hoped that I would recover soon.
Upon finally arriving at the dormitory, I came to the relieving conclusion that it was still completely empty. Or was it? I blinked at a movement in the corner of my eye, but found nothing of interest on a closer perspective. Probably just figments of my imagination, I thought and got back in bed. Or maybe I was still half sleeping and my dreams somehow blended with reality. I yawned and l laid my head down on the cushion. That would explain why the Phantom of the Opera was standing beside my bed, placing a rose on my nightstand and after that completely vanishing into nothing. Yes, that would definitely explain a lot.