'Are you sure of this?'
I nodded in confirmation.
'I just can't believe it, no more Clémence.. What would that mean for life at the Opera House?' Anne mused and stared of in the distance. It was Monday evening and I had finally found the time to tell my friends about the conversation I had overheard. The three of them were now all gathered around my bed side – as I was still not allowed to leave my bed, unless necessary. Judging from the look on their faces, they shared my feelings of happiness and curiosity. What could the Phantom have done to scare her off so immensely?
'Something good, that's for sure!' The little redhead chimed and a smile spread across her lips. 'It surely can't get any worse than Clémence. Perhaps they'll find a woman that is bearable. Perhaps we can even become friends!'
I thought about that. It would surely be a relief to be rid of the insufferable diva – I couldn't even say a kind word about her if I tried. Although I always tried to see the good in others, this woman was simply detestable! 'Well, I sure hope for the managers that they'll find someone soon, they can't postpone the performances forever.'
'They cannot, indeed. I wonder when they'll tell us about her resignation.' Anne said thoughtfully.
Meg had been fairly silent for the entire duration of the conversation, ever since I brought up the subject of the prima donna. Perhaps it was because I mentioned the Opera Ghost. It obviously still was a painful subject to her. 'I just can't imagine why maman wouldn't have told me..'
'I'm sure she was just busy with preparing us for the show and didn't want to upset you, dear. If she thought it would've been of any relevance, she would have told you.' Anne tried to calm her.
Meg shook her head, but didn't say anything.
'Well, I think it's best if you will get some dinner now, I've kept you from it long enough and I don't want you to miss it,' I said laughing nervously, trying to break the sudden tense atmosphere.
pagebreak ~That night I dreamt about nothing but melodies, lullabies and whispered words of sweetness, just like I had done the last few days. However, something had changed. There was a certain tension in the dream that I could not name. It was audible in the music, in the feelings it stirred within me. I woke up with a start and sat up in bed, heavily panting. I opened my eyes just in time to see a movement in the corner of my eye. For a moment, I thought it was just my imagination playing tricks on me, but then I was sure that I'd seen something.
With my curiosity sparked, I threw off the covers and swiftly maneuvered my way to the door. I thought I saw something at the end of the corridor and decided to follow it.For several hallways, I pursued any small flickering, any sound until I stood silent. There was nothing anymore. Whatever it was that I had seen, it was now gone. I sighed and shivered. I hadn't noticed how cold my feet were until that very moment. Perhaps I should have put something on my feet, I mused, as it was becoming colder and colder outside. 'Damn it,' I whispered, as I shifted from one foot onto the other, watching them slowly becoming purple in the pool of moonlight I stood in.
'I don't believe those are words a young lady of proper breading should know the meaning of, mademoiselle.'
I startled. 'Monsieur, you surprised me. I didn't expect to meet anyone here.'
'And yet you are here, in the middle of the night?'
'I thought I'd heard something, but it must have been my mind playing games with me,' I admitted, rather ashamed.
'Tell me, why are you up in the at this hour?'
'I don't know, monsieur. I suppose I just… well, never mind that.'
'What was that, mademoiselle?'
'Nothing.' I sighed. 'Nothing that could be said without making me doubt my own sanity.' What was I really doing out here? I wondered. Then another question arose in the back of my mind. 'But what are you doing here, if I may be so bold to ask?'
'I'm the Phantom of the Opera, mademoiselle, I run this theatre. Contrary of what those managers make it look like, I actually have things to do.'
A memory popped up in the back of my mind and I frowned in confusion. 'The rose I found this morning, you dropped it there, didn't you?' I waited for a moment, but when there came no answer, I continued my musings. 'Yes, it was you, I know it was. I saw you. Yesterday evening, I thought I had been dreaming, but I couldn't be, because I found the rose still on my nightstand the next morning…'
'I merely came to check if you got back to your bed.'
'Then you must have overheard the conversation between mademoiselle Dampierre and the managers as well,' I concluded, talking to no direction in particular. It would surely be a lot more easier if I knew where he was.
'Yes, it seemed our leading lady had some trouble with a certain man..'
I tried to keep off the smile that was creeping its way up my lips. 'So it seemed.'
'I think it is time for you to go back to bed now, mademoiselle, as performances cannot be postponed forever and you need to be in full health again, would you wish to be prima ballerina once more.'
I thought I heard a double meaning in his words, but decided to let it be. After all, he was the Opera Ghost, if it was he who kept off the performances, he must have had some other goal for it than simply helping me. 'That might be a good idea, indeed.'
'Until we meet again then.'
'So, that means we will?'
'What was that, mademoiselle?'
I felt my cheeks become warm. 'That we'll meet again.'
'If you wish so.'
'I do, monsieur. Very much, indeed.'
'Why?' He suddenly growled in my left ear. 'Why would you want to meet? To rip off my mask? To finally be able to play out your dreams in real life?'
I swirled around, looking straight in two glowing yellow orbs, that seemed to burn with the fires of hell itself. Swallowing, it took me all the power I possessed not to run. 'No, monsieur. I swear.. I.. Believe me, that was never my intention. I just…' I fidgeted with my hands 'somehow, discussing that book with you back in box one was one of the most pleasant conversations I've had ever since I arrived at the Opera. The most pleasant, in fact..'
'So you wish discuss literature with me, the Opera Ghost?'
'Or poetry, music, I do not care. All I know is that I want your company, if that is not too much to ask.'
'You want.. my company? You earnestly want to spend your time, which you could share with your friends, with that suitor, what's his name again, or with anyone at all, with me?'
Yes..' I said, suddenly doubting myself. Was I saying such an odd thing? 'If you don't want to, or are too busy that's alright. I mean, I would completely understand and it would be no offend. But if you are able and willing, then yes, I'd very much like to have your company.'
The Phantom's point of viewHe could hardly believe it. No, never mind that. He simply couldn't. This young woman, this girl, could it really be that she was asking for his company? No one had ever done so before. No one. Even when she knew him solely as her Angel of Music, she didn't. And yet, here this girl was, standing in her white nightgown, on her bare feet, shivering from the cold, asking for it.
Was she lying? She must be, one of the voices argued. She looked perfectly sincere, though. All women do, the voice said again, so did your Angel and where did that bring you? Do you want to let that happen again? She will simply use you and eventually, when she doesn't need you anymore, she'll expose you to the world, show them the freak you really are.
Suddenly, he became aware of his surroundings again. There she was, still waiting for his answer. Her face seemed to drop more and more with each passing second in which he didn't answer. Could it be she really wanted to be in his company?
'I'm so sorry. I shouldn't even have asked, it was foolish and stupid and just forget I even mentioned it,' she babbled, while her cheeks changed from the orange red they had already turned in the course of our conversation to a deep, crimson red.
'No mademoiselle, I would be obliged to be in your company. But please, let me now accompany you back to the dormitories, before you become even more ill.'
She nodded and even thankfully accepted his coat when he offered it to her. And so, he in is formal evening attire and her in the white nightgown with the black coat over her shoulders, they made their way back to the dorms. Only now the Phantom noticed how small she indeed was, compared to himself. He remembered how she had pointed that out, that day in box one, and how he had almost reached for his Punjab when she had looked at him the way she'd done.
He coughed. 'Well, mademoiselle, I think it's time we part ways. I wish you a good night.'
'I wish you the same, monsieur.' She turned but then suddenly stood still again. 'Do you still play music, monsieur?'
'Not much anymore, I am afraid. Mostly at night, when I have nothing else to occupy myself with. Why do you ask?'
A spark of realization lit up her grey eyes for a moment, but then she simply smiled. 'Oh, I just wondered. Well, good night, then.' And with that, she slipped through the door and out of his sight.
For a moment, he pondered whether he would sneak into one of the secret passageways, that would lead into the walls of the dormitories, to see if she had been genuine, but for some reason he didn't.
He wanted to believe she was genuine. He needed some form of human contact so badly, that he felt like he would die if he deprived himself of it any longer. He knew it was stupid to even try to believe it could be different this time, but he simply couldn't live his life anymore like this, without going completely mad. All would be well if he'd just keep her at a safe distance, he tried to convince himself. Perhaps, perhaps then his life would finally change for the better.