It was a nice, sunny Sunday afternoon. Although it was still quite chill outside, I took great pleasure in feeling the sunbeams tingle against my face, almost like a soft touch. Winter was slowly drawing to an early end, as it was only halfway through February, but I myself hadn't wanted it any different. I adored the beautiful sights winter presented us with, with the snow covered landscapes and the snow crystals falling from the sky. But apart from that, no, I would not miss the winter at all.
Around me, the park was beginning to breathe in life again. Birds returned, squirrels woke up from their hibernation and people started coming out of their houses again. Life slowly returned to Paris.
'How I enjoy just being able to breathe in the fresh outdoor air.'
I nodded in agreement and looked at him as he closed his amber eyes and took a deep breathe. He indeed looked very much in place here and I could hardly imagine him behind a desk going through dusty papers. He truly was a man of the world in both heart and soul.
As we moved on, I let my mind wander about the last half year. I had never dared to hope that I would even make it into the Ballet Corpse, but yet here I was. I had made friends, even had become a part of a new family. It was really crazy how much one's life could change in just the course of six months.
Suddenly I realised we had come to a halt again and, looking up, I found we were back at the Opera. I was slightly confused, as it was only a little bit past three. Normally we wouldn't return until at least five. 'Is something wrong, monsieur?'
He looked at me with a conflicted face, down at his shoes and then at me once more. 'I am leaving for business. Thursday morning. I am not sure when I will return. But, I wanted to ask you something. I don't know how to say this, but you have no idea of the pleasure it brings me to spend these afternoons with you. Our talks, our laughs. It made me realise I miss something in my life. Someone to come home to. Someone to talk with over dinner. Someone to sit at the fire with, sharing tea and talking about our day. Therefore I wanted to ask you, Angèlique, when I return, would you allow me to court you?'
I stood completely silent for a few, long seconds. He looked at me expectantly, every second ticking by making it harder and harder to find the will to say something at all. I felt horrible when I saw his face fall, but couldn't bring myself to reach out. 'I am sorry,' I whispered and turned on my heels. Without saying another word I fled through the double doors, leaving monsieur Rousseau standing by himself, a look of hurt and confusion written on his face.
pagebreak ~I don't know for how long I had been sitting there when he found me. At first I thought it was just my imagination making up the sound of footsteps, but then I heard him sigh and felt a warm cloth cover my shoulders. It was a warmth I gladly welcomed, as my feet were already starting to get numb from the cold wind.
He sat down beside me and I pulled the cloak closer to my body, savouring the ardour it gave me as I gazed out on Paris. I waited for him to say something, anything, but after a few minutes realized he wasn't going to. I appreciated that.
I thought back on the day, coming to the conclusion once again that I had been terribly rude and improper. Yet, somehow I still couldn't think of something I could have said or done instead, because frankly, I did not know what to think about the whole courting thing. No, that was not it; I knew exactly what I thought about it. And that was the problem.. Yes, I thought very highly of monsieur Rousseau and yes, I think any woman would be lucky to marry a man such as him. He was agreeable, charming, a real gentleman in every aspect of the word. Not to mention he was handsome, rich.. And yet, I couldn't accept him.
Perhaps such a fine option would never present itself to me again, a more rational part of my brain argued once again. I was in no position to be picky, after all, so perhaps it would be better to accept a man I could not love over a man I could not tolerate. Or worse; no man at all. I sighed. 'Phantom, I made a horrible mess out of things today,' I confessed, more to myself than to the man who was seated next to me.
'Yes, I know..'
'You do? What.. How?' I turned to him, my brows knitted together in confusion.
He looked at the ground and shifted his hands a couple of times, after stuffing them in the pockets of his vest. 'Well, you were standing by the Opera after all..'
'You were spying on me?!'
'No! But I just happened to pick up on your conversation when I was making my rounds..' He said, his voice dying down towards the end of the sentence.
'So you were!'
'Absolutely not, what a preposterous idea!'
I couldn't contain my laughter anymore and shook my head. 'Oh, my dear friend, please do not think I mean to ridicule you. I merely think its endearing that you look out for me.'
The Phantom's point of viewHe looked at her curiously as she laughed. Had she really just called him her friend? Just like that, just like he was.. normal. The words still rang in his ears, yet he doubted. Perhaps his mind played tricks on him.
Before he could ask, however, the smile disappeared off of her face and in place came the frown again. 'Should I do it?' She looked at him expectantly, as if he would know the answer to such a question. He, who had only known misery and heartache in love, who had not known the meaning of the word until he took his protégé under his wing. He wanted to scoff, but after looking at her desperate face, decided not to.
Instead, he sighed. 'I really do not know the answer to that question, mademoiselle, only you do. I would say it's very simple a matter: if you love him, you marry the man, if you don't, you won't.'
She shifted in his cloak and looked down on the city again. 'That's the thing, monsieur. I don't. But if I don't accept him, who else would have me? I'd rather have a man that is nice to me, that I can live in one house with, but not love, than one I cannot stand at all. I have no fortune, no money at all. Honestly, who else would take me?'
'A man who loves you?'
She threw her hands up to the sky and then shook her head. 'But what if I would not love him? Monsieur Rousseau is as good a man as any other, even better. Yet, I cannot bring myself to like him any more than one would like a friend.'
He smirked at her outburst, knowing himself full well the horror that love could be. 'Dear girl, why don't you just send him a letter and explain to him that you feel only for him like a friend would. I don't think he could take any offense by that, do you?'
She seemed to contemplate that idea for a moment, then nodded. 'I think I shall, thank you.'
He mentally laughed at himself, seeing the irony of it all. Since when did the Phantom of the Opera meddle in the business of teenage girls? Since when did he help them with their love lives when it was a teenage girl who had destroyed his? An answer unasked for presented itself to him and he clenched his teeth and stood straight. 'I must go.' With that, he turned and escaped the roof.
Angélique's point of viewI stared at his retreating form, wondering if I could have said something wrong. When no credible answer came to mind, I decided to just put it off as one of those things he sometimes does. He was, after all, the Phantom of the Opera. Doesn't that mean he sometimes has to do strange disappearances and grand entrees? I smiled at the mental image of him. He liked to think of himself so much as the Phantom, of a fright, a ghost. But when he'd just allow himself to be at ease, to be himself, he had the potential to be so much more.
I sighed and, shaking my head, scrambled to my feet. It was getting late and I'd better get back before the others got worried. I straightened the hem of my dress and it was then that I realized I still had the heavy black cloak wrapped around my shoulders. I looked around, but knew the Phantom would be long gone. I would have to return it to him later, I decided, and until then would cherish its warmth as much as I could.