Had it been wrong to ask? I asked myself. Without a doubt! It was wrong in every possible meaning of the word. And yet.. There was something about him I wasn't quite ready to be parted from. A strange recognition I could not place. I shook my head and looked at the ballerinas that swirled, leaped, floated and glided across the stage. Because I refused to stay in bed another day, madame Giry had teeth grindingly accepted my proposal to come to practice, if only I'd remain seated the entire time and would solely practice the new routine in my head. I had, also teeth grindingly, agreed to this.
Adrienne had told me her brother, Christophe, had inquired after my health multiple times last week, but wasn't allowed to visit me. Apparently, madame Giry had forbid him, due to some obvious health objections on my part. I didn't really know whether to feel sad or rejoiced about that fact. Because yes, I thought very high of monsieur Rousseau and looked upon him as one of the most amiable of men I had had the pleasure of meeting. However, he was still nothing more than Adrienne's brother and, perhaps, an acquaintance. It was very nice of him to come all the way to the Opera house, just for me, but it also left me feeling slightly uncomfortable and awkward.
Absent-mindedly, I saw how one of the ballerinas lost her balance during a spin and landed with a loud thud on the wooden floor. However, before she'd had even time to rub her hand over the sensitive spot on her buttocks, she was softly, but sternly stricken by the dance instructor's cane and she quickly scrambled to her feet. Because of her stern, conserved manner of teaching, madame Giry wasn't liked among all of the ballet rats. Especially the younger ones, who were used to being allowed to do everything they wanted at home, had a difficult time adjusting to the ballet teacher and sometimes even held fear for the proud woman and her cane. I myself, couldn't help but feel strong admiration towards her. Not only was she the only powerful woman in the opera staff, but she had also singlehandedly raised Meg and at the same time provided a comfortable living for the two of them.
pagebreak ~I spent the rest of the day in this manner. Sitting, musing and from time to time getting so lost in my thoughts, that I didn't even notice when someone asked me something. In the evening I wrote, for the first time in what had seemed ages, a letter to my parents, apologizing for not having written for so long and dutifully promising I would write again very soon. At the end, I discretely added the wish for them to come and attend a performance, although I already knew they wouldn't.
My parents loved me and my siblings more than anything in the world, they did, but they were village people. They enjoyed living in the countryside, where society was small and everyone knew everyone. They were born among farmers, tailors, bakers and butchers and had no desire of ever leaving that place. The city of Paris was simply too big for them and they wouldn't be able to manage themselves out here. Without a doubt they would be lost within several hours and would feel uncomfortable between all those high placed people. No, in the end it would be better for both them and me if they'd stay at home, no matter how much I missed them.
I put down my quill and, after having reread it, placed the letter in an envelope with the address and names on it. I'd have to ask one of the girls to bring it for me to the post office tomorrow, as I was sure madame Giry still wouldn't want me to go outside.
It was at that moment that Adrienne came running into the dining hall, where I was seated at one of the wooden tables, waving with a piece of paper in her hand. It was only when she came closer that I could identify it as a letter.
'I just received a letter that I think might interest you,' she said, winking at me.
'Alright.. Who's it from?'
'Oh how naïve you are, my dear Angèlique. It's from my brother of course! Now, if you'll be silent for a moment I will read the particular section to you, for the rest is generally small talk. I do believe his only motive for writing was to inquire after you. Alas, let me read it to you before my thoughts run away with me.' She cleared her throat. '..with Isabelle. Please give my best to your friend Angèlique, I do hope it is nothing serious she suffers from. Although it must be, since I wasn't allowed to pay her a visit when I was in town a few days ago. In any case, please tell her that I hope she'll be in good health next time we meet and that I hope this illness will not deter her from coming along with Christmas…' She looked up from the letter, gazing at me with a smug smile. 'So what have you to say on that?'
'Your brother is very attentive. Please thank him for his kindness when you send a reply.'
'Is that all?' She cried out, throwing her hands in the air in a manner of disbelief and indignation.
I blushed. 'Well, what else do you want me to say?'
She had to think about that for a moment. 'Why, I don't know. I just assumed you would say a little more than well.. this.'
Then I'm terribly sorry, dear Adrienne, but actually,' I stretched myself at that moment 'it's quite late and it has been a long day for me. So if you don't mind, I will retreat to my bed now. Good night, dear.' With that, I rose from the wooden bench and brushed passed her. Of course, it took her only seconds to run up to me and walk with me back to the dorms - exactly as I had expected her to. We chatted about nothing in particular – or rather; it was Adrienne who was doing the chatting, I was mostly just listening and occasionally nodding.
When we arrived at the dormitories, I immediately made my way to my bed and covered myself with the heavy, warm blankets and sighed in a happy manner. I let my eyes wander to the room as I made myself comfortable between the sheets.
Suddenly, I noticed something I hadn't seen when I came in. Meg's bed was empty. I frowned, but remained in bed. Perhaps she'd just gone to the bathroom. However, for some reason I didn't really believe that and, when I had waited for over ten minutes and she still was nowhere to be seen, I kicked of my blankets and quietly tiptoed to the door. When I passed Adrienne's bed, I noticed the little redhead was already vast asleep.
I had noticed Meg becoming quieter and quieter in the last few weeks and I didn't like it in the least. Something big was bothering her, that much was clear. All I hoped was that I would be able to help her, if only a little.
Once again on my bare feet, I roamed through the empty corridors. I thought of the possibility of her being on the roof, as I had found her there before. I could only pray I would not find her in a similar state, although all reason in me told me not to hope too much.
When I finally reached the door I found it, not very surprisingly, open and quickly made my way up the stairs to the other door. The hinges were obviously suffering from the cold weather, as this one didn't open as easy as the other. As a gust of freezing wind blew against my bare ankles, I suddenly recalled it was already winter. It had been quite some time since I'd last been outside and I noticed now that the first snow was starting to fall and forming a thin layer on the roof. The great statues, too, began to look like snow figures in the dark night.
Because of the snow, I almost didn't notice her. In fact, if it hadn't been for the sound of a soft weeping that was carried by the wind to where I stood, I probably wouldn't have at all. However, I did, and so I made my way across the roof towards the huddled figure. She had covered her body with a blanket and watched me as I approached her.
'You shouldn't be out of bed,' she simply stated, as I stopped at her side.
'Well, neither should you, I believe.'
She simply shrugged her shoulders, but then looked off in the distance again.
'Meg, why are you here?'
'I could ask you the same question,' she countered, but didn't look at me.
'I'm here because I was worried. I'm here because a friend of mine is feeling awful and I don't want to stand by and do nothing about it.' I swallowed and softened my tone. 'Meg, please, tell me what's bothering you..'
'Nothing did not bring you to the roof when it's snowing.' I sighed, and continued softly. 'Come, let us go in. You'll catch a cold out here,' I didn't like the way she sat there on the edge, her legs dangling into nothingness and her gaze fixed on something I could not see.
'Angèlique.. parents are supposed to love and care for you aren't they?'
'And aren't they supposed to do what's best for their children? To be honest to them and never, ever lie to them?'
'What are you trying to say, Meg?'
'She knew.' It had barely been a whisper, something that might as well have been the wind, if I didn't know any better, but somehow it made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. I was about to ask her what she meant, when she spoke again, softly, broken. 'She knew all this time and did nothing.'
'She knew!' She screamed out, her voice echoing over the rooftops while the tears streamed down her face. For a moment, her visage held an angry, powerful expression, but then it faded back into the empty, emotionless mask it had been the past time.
Uneasy and unsure of what to do, I lowered myself beside her and pulled her into my arms. While stroking her back I tried soothing her with soft words. After a while, the crying faded and changed into a silent sobbing, in which only once in a time a few words could be made out.
'She knew..' Meg whispered, while her tears soaked my night gown. 'She lied to me… She knew.' It was heartbreaking to see my dear friend, whom I had seen from day one as one of the strongest women I knew, broken down like this and in every aspect a little girl again. Her blonde hair was ruffled and her face puffy, but still there was a hidden power lingering between the surface, which assured me that she'd be alright in time.
'Dear, do you want to tell me?'
'Maman, she knew everything. She knew he existed, that he was after her. She…' She paused for a moment and tried to calm herself before she'd burst out in hysterical crying once more. 'She knew all this and did nothing.' It was obvious what she was talking about, but I couldn't believe it. It couldn't be. Madame Giry couldn't have known about his obsession of the young ballerina and have done nothing. She practically raised the girl!
'How can you be sure of this? I mean, you know how few rumors here are actually tr…-' I tried, but she snorted.
'Christine told me herself. Apparently, Raoul had found out the day she was abducted. I can't believe I was so stupid, that I..-' She broke down in tears again and I pulled her closer.
'No, Meg, you weren't stupid. It's only natural that you believed her. Don't blame this on yourself, dear.'
'I don't blame myself, I blame her. The terrible fate that has befallen Christine, that has befallen the Opera and all of its visitors and inhabitants, it could have been prevented. If not for her stupidity, the entire catastrophe would have never happened.'
'Now now, dear, don't be too hard on your mother. I know it's difficult to see, but I'm sure she had her reasons for doing so.'
'She could have at least told me!'
'She could have,' I argued 'But perhaps she was only trying to protect you..'
'I do not need to be protected!'
'That's just the way mothers are, dear. No matter if you need to be protected or not, they'll try anyway. Come on, it's time for you to go to bed and sleep. Tomorrow all will be better.' And with that, I pulled her up and, with my arms still wrapped around her, we left the roof. Although I had tried to console Meg with comforting words, that did not mean that my own curiosity wasn't sparked by this new information. And more so, I was determined to find out how much of it was actually true.