The next weeks passed by in a bit of a haze. I finally was allowed to dance and so my days had started getting more excited and fun again. Meg also seemed to be doing better and better. Although she was still a bit quiet and sequestered, she looked less pained and zoned-out than she had done before.
Things were actually almost getting back to how they used to be. I danced, I ate, I laughed and I slept. The only difference there was, was in my dreams. They were still filled with the strange, but mesmerizing music that I had started hearing the day after I had asked – I refused to think of it as begging – the Opera Ghost to be my friend. I hadn't heard of him ever since, though, something that bothered me greatly. The doubts I had had before had intensified so much, that they swarmed through my head for the entire length of the day.
It was on a Sunday, when I was about to go with Adrienne, Anne, Veronique and Marie-Claire into town (the first in such a long time!), when the letter arrived. Marie and I came back to the dormitory after breakfast to fetch our cloaks, when my eye caught the look of it. At first I thought it was just a letter from my parents, perhaps to tell me how my sister's birthday had been, or to tell me my father had caught a cold. But that was when I noticed the only script was my name. In red ink. I swallowed.
'What's that, Angèlique?' Marie-Claire appeared beside me, but I quickly hid the letter behind my back.
'Oh it's nothing, just a letter from my parents. But I suddenly remembered that I have to do something.. A letter. I have to write a letter to them.. Because my sister. You see, her birthday was yesterday and I completely forgot about it. So I have to write her now, otherwise she'll be very disappointed.' In reality, I had added my birthday wishes in my last letter to them, but it was all I could come up with for the moment.
'I'm sure she wouldn't mind if you'll write her tonight. Come on, you haven't been out for so long, it would be good for you to get a bit of fresh air.'
'No, really, it's best if I write her right away. Perhaps I'll join you at noon in "Al rive de Seine", alright?'
'Hmmm, very well. I guess, we'll see you later then.' And with that she turned and left the room.
As soon as I was sure she wouldn't be coming back, I swiftly broke the red skull seal at the back and pulled the letter from the envelop.
The letter itself also only contained a short message. "Meet me at box five."It didn't say who sent it, but that wasn't necessary. I already knew. However, I couldn't tell whether I was feeling relief or happiness at the receiving of a letter from him. Perhaps a bit of both, I mused. I shook my head, I shouldn't tarry. For all I knew he had already been waiting for me for a long time. As fast as I could, I adjusted my dresses and rushed to the mirror to brush my hair and put it in a braid, before I hurried down the corridors towards box five.
Before the door I came to a halt. For the second time I smoothed out my skirts and then softly knocked on the door. A few, long moments I waited, but when no response was given, I turned the door knob and was about to go in when a voice called me back.
I turned on my heel and tried to look nonchalant. 'Yes, madame Giry?'
'Shouldn't you be going to town like the rest of the girls? I'd think you would want to get out of this Opera House after so many weeks of resting.'
'I did, but I forgot something..'
'In one of the boxes?'
'I.. well… I couldn't find it in the dormitories, so I thought that maybe the younger girls had hidden it somewhere.'
'Hmmm, well I can assure you that none of the girls ever comes here. In fact, nobody does. Since the big fire and what happened, everyone avoids this box. Anyway, what did you say it was you had forgotten?'
'My eh.. I forgot my… book. I borrowed Alice in Wonderlandfrom the library here and completely forgot I had promised to bring it back today.'
'I see.. Now, I'm sure you will not find it here, but perhaps you will find it in the dining hall. The younger girls always forget their stuff in there. Come, let me walk with you, I was on my way to Pierre anyway.' She placed her hand on my back and, without giving me even a second to protest, pulled me along with her.
pagebreak ~When I finally managed to get rid of her, I almost literally ran back to the boxes and threw the door open. Empty. Of course. It was foolish of me to think he would actually wait that long for me. I sighed and leaned my head against the door post. 'Fool,' I muttered to myself 'If you had just…' But I didn't finish the sentence. Instead, I slumped down into the red chair and rested my head in my hands. If I had just what? I couldn't have just told her she would need to hurry up, because I was going to meet the Phantom of the Opera.
'So you decided to show up after all?'
I looked up, but was met with nothing but the same empty box as when I came in. I sighed, both relieved he hadn't gone away as on my guard because of the hostile tone of voice he'd used. 'Yes, I well.. I was here earlier, but then madame Giry showed up and…-'
'You told Giry?!'
'No, no, monsieur! I mean, she just showed up and I obviously couldn't just tell her I was here to meet you, so I went along with her to the dining area.'
'Very well then. So what did you have in mind for these little assemblies? Sitting down with a nice cup of tea perhaps? Discussing the weather?' He smirked.
'You know, you don't have to be so gruff to me all the time. I have not once offended you or been unkind.' I stuck my chin in the air, trying to look resolute, but on the inside I already regretted my words.
'If I remember correctly, it was you who wanted my company, not the other way around. This is who I am and it is not to your liking, I suggest you'll take your leave. It's not like I don't have anything better to do, child.'
'I am not a child!' I replied curtly, suddenly upset with him because he always spoke to me in this derogatory way.
'And I don't think you realize I could snap your neck any minute, without thinking twice about it.' A voice snarled in my ear and suddenly I felt fingers wrap themselves around my neck, lift me up and push me against the wall. 'Do you understand.'
'I understand,' I managed to utter.
All of the sudden, voice beneath us in the auditorium caught our attention and he let go of me, causing me to fall to the floor. I muttered a soft curse under my breath, but then quickly scrambled to my feet and went to stand beside him at the ledge.
On the stage had now gathered a small group of people. Two of them were the managers – of which I had recently learned their names were Laroche and Bertrand – and the third man was monsieur Lambert, the conductor. The fourth person, a woman, however, I did not know who she was. She had a light skin and a very bright color of hair.
'It can't be…' The phantom whispered, but before I could ask him what he meant, one of the managers spoke.
'As you can see, mademoiselle, the Opera has been fully restored to her former glory. But all we need now is a star to shine in our pieces. And since we've heard so much of your greatness, your superiority, we knew only you would do.'
The woman stuck her chin in the air proudly and said with a thick accent 'Yes, well, that may be so, but I have sworn that I would never sing in another of this house's operas after what happened!' The way she spoke, it sounded like every word existed of at least two more syllables than it actually did.
'We fully understand, mademoiselle, but we beg of you, consider our offer. The public needs you.'
'And we need you too,' the other manager added.
'I must go, directly. There are matters that need to be taken care of, before anything is agreed upon.' With that, the Phantom turned on his heel and made way to God knows where to.
'Hold on! I don't understand. What's going on? Who is she?'
'La Carlotta is back.'
I am sorry, I couldn't help myself but put in that little reference to the song in the 2004 movie.