The next week flew by in a bit of a haze. My days were mainly filled with dancing and rehearsing, the latter having gone from awful to worse since Clémence had been replaced by the older, possibly even more egocentric prima donna. La Carlotta truly was, in many ways, the embodiment of everything I despised in the world. She was arrogant, selfish, uncaring about the feelings of others and cruel. Since mademoiselle Dampierre had been so too, this really wasn't too much of a change. But whereas the former diva actually had been able to sing, Carlotta seemed to disappoint even in that area. Oh she could sing alright, but she was often too much occupied by her own supposed beauty and superiority to actually stay in cue with the music. Apart from that, she sang far too loud and articulated the words so poorly that one could hardly tell it was French – or any sort of language, really. So all in all, I didn't particularly like her. I hadn't had the misfortune to run into her personally, so I didn't really know much about her apart from what I saw and heard, but I guess I knew enough to say I'd rather see her go as come. But I suppose everyone did. That is, apart from messieurs Laroche and Bertrand, the managers, of course, who still seemed to be following her around like young puppies, obeying to her every wish.
Apart from dancing, I also spent large parts of my days reading. Although I couldn't find the time to sneak off every day, I tried to visit my library as much as possible. Not only did I greatly enjoy spending my time reading in one of the comfortable chairs by the hearth, I also felt a strange pull to visit, one which I really couldn't quite name for myself. I tried not to think of it too much, as it would only deter me from enjoying the little time I could spend in solitude. It was strange to think of it that way, since the Opera Ghost was always there, as well. I suppose one couldn't call him company, as we rarely talked much and only spoke about literature and music. But it was nice, I guess. They were silences I could bear, for they were not pregnant with expectations or the norms of society to have a conversation about some nonsensical subject.
The only thing that bugged me though, was that I could never really read him. There were times, of course, when he would speak animated about his music or about some book he'd read, and at those times it would be clear to me that he needed this just as much as I did. But there were also times he'd just sit there and stare in the fire and I wouldn't really know what to do. He'd seem lonely and lost and I would wonder what was on his mind, but I never dared to ask. Vice versa, he never asked me something personal either, even at times when I was feeling miserable. So therefore there were times we would both stare into the fire, each of us fighting our own demons in silence, but neither speaking up to reach out to one another. But I suppose it was fine and we shared some kind of understanding, where neither would intrude on one another's personal life, but where we would keep each other company nonetheless.
There was this one time, though, where he asked me about the music box again. And so I told him the entire story. About how I used to have nightmares every night. And about how the music box would somehow soothe my unconsciousness and offer me some peaceful sleep. And then he asked me about the lyrics again, so I wrote them down for him the other night. The next few nights, I could swear I heard faint music fill the Opera House and a familiar melody would find its way into my dreams. At a time, I even thought I could hear a voice accompany the piano chords, but I never found out whether it had been just a dream or not. Of course, when I asked him about it the other day, he denied the entire thing and even went so far as to question my sanity.
pagebreak ~When I woke up that day I let out a yawn and stretched my legs against the footboard. Today was a Sunday and I had planned to do absolutely nothing. I was reading a magnificent book and hoped to find out how it'd end today. Besides that I looked forward to seeing the Phantom today, for I had heard the music again last night. He would just have to admit it, I thought and smiled. I snuggled underneath my blankets for a few minutes and then decided it would be time to break my fast, as my stomach was growling loudly even at the idea of food.
Looking around me, I found the dormitories completely void of people – something which tended to happen a lot on Sundays, since I was the only one ever to debus. Then again, I didn't have family to visit, so there wasn't really any reason for me to get out of bed in time.
I shook my head, trying to shake off the sleepiness and stood to gather some clothes for the day. At first, I picked a simplistic, pastel pink dress and some flats, but then decided to change it for a newer, prettier one. Why I did so, I didn't know exactly. Perhaps I just wanted to look a bit decent for my new friend, since he always looked immaculately neat in his evening attire. I smiled at a memory of a night when I asked him if he ever wore anything else but the suit. He had looked at me strangely and shaken his head, but had never really answered the question.
I was halfway through my morning routine of dressing and doing my hair when Marie-Claire burst into the room and ran up to me. 'Aren't you ready yet?'
I put down the brush I was using up until then to untangle my hair mass and looked at her curiously. 'What exactly is it I should be ready for?'
'Why, don't you have an important appointment today of some kind? At least, that's what Adrienne was making such a fuss about and why she practically forced me to abandon my meal to go and fetch you.'
Suddenly it hit me like lightning. It was the seventh of January. I mentally scolded myself for having forgotten about it completely, even when I had been reluctant the entire week. With all my might I tried to keep a straight face, for not only didn't I specifically not want to go to the lunch date, I now also had to refrain from doing the things I had originally planned to do today.
'You're not really looking forward to it, are you?'
I sighed 'No, not at all..'
She patted my back awkwardly, clearly not in her element. 'Well, I am sure you will survive.'
'Well thank you, that really makes me feel better,' I smiled and shook my head at her poor, but nevertheless sweet, attempt to make me feel better. I hugged her and sighed when looking in the mirror one last time. I suppose she was right, I would live through somehow.
And so I quickly rushed through the rest of my morning routine, standing in the lobby at precisely eleven o'clock.By this time, my heart was beating so loudly its echoes seemed to bounce off the walls of the lobby and I felt lightheaded to the point I was afraid of fainting. I couldn't remember ever having been more nervous, not even when I had first arrived at the Opera Garnier. Then again, I had never been alone with a man before – at least, not when I hadn't been terribly drunk. And apart from my meetings with the Phantom, but somehow those didn't seem to count either. The fact that this very man had been, in fact, the same one I had been with when being drunk didn't make things look brighter either.
At this particular point in my reflections, where I had almost scared myself so much I was about to run back to the dormitories and hide under my blankets, the front doors opened.
When monsieur Rousseau noticed me standing in the corner, he smiled and waved. 'Ah splendid, you're already here! I hope I didn't keep you waiting too long, but the carriage drove past the most charming flower boutique and I simply had to stop to buy you these.' He explained and presented me with what must have been the largest, most beautiful bouquet I had ever seen. There were all kinds of flowers and I immediately recognized my favourites; red roses and white lilies.
'Oh monsieur.. I.. you shouldn't have..' I stammered as I took in the variety of bright colours.
'I should and I have! And now, mademoiselle Angèlique, how many times must I ask you to call me by my first name?'
I smiled. 'Just as many times as I shall insist to call you by your last, I am afraid, monsieur.'
He laughed and with that, he offered me his arm – which I took half-heartedly – and we left the Opera House.