When he told me to open my eyes, I could hardly believe what I was seeing. The room I was in was large and light, although there wasn't a single window, and there was a large, homily looking fire going on in the fireplace in one of the four walls. Bits of dark wooden furniture were scattered across the chamber and on the parquetry was covered with a red carpet. However, this all was not what had overwhelmed me.
Covering every inch of the four walls – apart from the five feet that were occupied by the hearth – were book cases. Shelve upon shelve, books were dominating my vision. There must have been over a hundred books filling just two bookcases alone and the thought of so many books at one place alone dazzled me.
I stared in awe, gaping at the sight that was around me. It looked as if it were a scene from a dream, more leaning towards fantasy than actual reality, and I pinched myself discretely.
'Do you like it?'
'It's breathtaking, monsieur..' I stepped forward, slowly releasing his hold on my arm, and wandered through the room, stopping occasionally at a bookcase to admire the books it held. I let my fingers wander the spines of countless of books. At a certain moment, my gaze fell on a familiar title and I pulled the book from its place and opened it on an arbitrary page. My lips curled up in a slight smile. '"Why is a raven like a writing-desk?"'
'"I haven't the slightest idea,"' the Phantom finished for me with a sigh.
I placed the book back on the shelve and turned to him, noting he still hadn't moved from his place at the.. wall. I frowned, blinked my eyes and checked again, but there still was no sign of a door. Shaking my head, and feeling somewhat as if it had not been Alice, but myself, who fell down the rabbit hole, I inquired 'Have you read all the books in this room?'
He nodded and took a step forward, gazing in the fireplace. 'Every single one of them and many more than once. And since I got the impression you enjoyed reading, I wanted to share them with you. So here is your own personal library.. Merry Christmas, mademoiselle. '
My eyes went wide and I had to keep my mouth from doing the same as I stood in complete, but pleasant, shock. 'This all… is for me?'
The Phantom nodded once more and gestured for me to sit down. 'I wanted to give you something in return for your present and so I decided to move my books to this room and decorated it to look somewhat like a library, only.. well, it is for you alone. There are no doors to this room, no windows for nosey young brats to peer through, solely the company of books for those moments when you need solitude the most.'
I smiled gratefully, amazed at the striking insight he just proved to have in my life. 'Monsieur, I truly know not what to say, for your gift is truly too great for me to accept. This all, it is just too much.'
The one visible eyebrow on his face curled up and he seemed somewhat in distress. 'Do you not like it? Is it not good enough a gift? Or is it perhaps because I gave it to you?' He stood from his chair and started pacing through the room.
'No, monsieur, please..' I tried, but he didn't listen anymore. It was almost as if his mind had completely left the room and had gone off wandering back to other times. More unpleasant times. Unsure of what to do I, too, stood from my seat and cautiously went over to him. I'd had him striking out to me before, and I wanted to prevent that from happening again at all cost. 'Phantom? Monsieur?' Watchful for his reaction the entire time, I reached out for him and softly grabbed his wrist.
His head snapped my way and for a moment I was afraid to be struck in the face, but the blow never came.
I breathed out a breath I didn't know I had held and pulled him slowly back to the chairs. 'Come, sit. I promise I absolutely adore your gift and the fact that it was you who gave it to me does not make it any less valuable, if possible even more. It is just that never before has someone given me such a beautiful present..'
'But you will not accept it?'
I smiled and said, hoping to make us both feel a bit better, 'I might if I can share it with someone else.' But again he misunderstood me.
'You want one of the other ballerinas here?' He scoffed. 'I reckon they hardly know what a book is, let alone what to do with it.'
I shook my head 'No, I meant someone else. Someone who shares my passion for reading, who can appreciate silence as much as I do.'
'I doubt you will find someone like that in this Opera House. They are all so full of themselves, too busy with admiring their reflection in the mirror to even take a look at…'
'I meant you, monsieur.'
Realization – and something what seemed awfully much like disbelief – dawned on his face. 'You want to share it with me?'
'Of course! Your knowledge of literature truly is admirable. Besides, I cannot deny I greatly enjoy your company, as long as you do not let your insecurities get the better of you.' I added the last part teasingly, but immediately regretted it. Studying his face carefully, I waited for an outburst of rage, but that, too, never came.
'Well, I shall try. But only on one condition.'
'Which might be?' I inquired curiously.
'That you will tell me all I want to know about the music box you gave me.'
I considered his request, then nodded. 'Fair enough, what do you want to know about it?'
He seemed to think for a moment. 'First of all; who is the maker?'
'My brother is.'
'So it was specially made for you?'
'It is. He made it for me when I was little.'
'And the tune it plays?'
'It's from a story my mother used to tell me. A fairytale, I suppose you could call it.'
'What kind of story?'
I smiled 'I don't think you would enjoy it very much, for it is hardly comparable to the literature you entertain yourself with. Very well,' I said, seeing his determination had not wavered. 'It is about a young woman, whose father is captured by a beast, but she goes and saves him by trading her life for his. Eventually the beast and the girl learn to get along, become friends and eventually fall in love. In the end true love's kiss breaks the curse and the beast turns back into a prince.'
The Phantom scoffed again. 'Not much of a good storyline indeed, but I suppose that's why it's called a fairytale.'
Quite unladylike, I shrugged my shoulders. 'As a kid, it used to make nighttime a little less frightening for me.'
He nodded. 'And the song, are there any lyrics to it?'
At that moment, a large grandfather's clock chimed and let us know that it was already six o'clock and I jumped from my chair. 'Goodness, is it already that late. I suppose time has really flown by today. I fear I must go, or the others will be wondering where I am. Perhaps we can talk some other time and then I will tell you the lyrics, if you like.'
The Phantom – it suddenly occurred to me how awful it was to constantly have to refer to him as such – stood along with me and took my arm. 'Let me take you to the dining hall, for there is little chance you'll find the way yourself.' And with that, a door magically appeared and we stepped back into the dark corridors we came from, leaving the secret library behind us.
pagebreak ~Later that night, when I was in my bed, I was still smiling. I felt like a little kid, being excited because of a secret place I had, that nobody else knew off. But deep inside I knew that wasn't the only reason for my happiness. Today had been an important day, I would learn later, for it would mark the beginning of a new friendship.
I tried keeping the Phantom as in character as possible, so I hope I didn't screw up too much, but I really just needed them to bond. Or really just to get along for even the tiniest bit, really, otherwise this story would never get going.