I neatly folded the letter and slipped it into the envelope. Dipping my quill once more in the ink, I wrote the name and address on the front and sealed it. I sighed. When I had started writing, it had been three o'clock and now I could feel my stomach rumbling for dinner.
I wasn't completely satisfied with the result of those wasted hours, but on the other hand didn't know what I could do to make it better. There seemed to be no striking the golden mean in this case, no possible way in which I could walk the tightrope. I'd either tell monsieur Rousseau the truth and in doing so, possibly offend him and make him wish never to speak to me again, or I could be polite, but at the same time perhaps not make my affections – or rather lack thereof – towards him clear enough.
I'd post it tomorrow, I decided. Today had been strenuous and I was in need of some relaxation. Standing from the chair, I gathered my things and blew out the candle that had illuminated my struggles. With my letter, quill and ink under my arm, I quietly left the library.
After having dropped off my things in the dormitories, I made my way back to the dining hall, only to find the others already sitting at the tables. I provided myself with some potatoes, carrots and some chicken, before sitting down next to Adrienne, who appeared to be having some sort argument with Meg.
'All I am saying is that I just don't understand what kind of mother wouldn't..-'
'Adrienne, can we not talk about this, please?' Meg said, her voice strained as if she had to physically make an effort not to lash out against the young girl. 'My mother is my mother and no matter what she did, I love her.'
'I know that, but…-''Not now, sweetie, just let it go,' Anne interfered. Speaking about Meg's mother wasn't the best thing one could do. I mean, she was the best teacher a ballerina could hope for and I truly think she tried to be the best mother for Meg as well, but after… Well, after the fire, after all those things she kept hidden from Meg, I guess it's difficult not to feel some resentment towards the woman. Resentment I was sure her daughter felt as well. Let's just say that more things broke down along with the Opera House after the fire.
I started prodding my potatoes again, once in a while popping a piece of meat or a carrot in my mouth while listening as the subject changed from Meg to the latest fashion and I could finally let out the breath I didn't know I had been holding.
The Phantom's point of viewHe stared down into the hearth fire before him, occasionally poking the incinerating logs as if they were to blame for the tumult his mind was currently in. It had been foolish, idiotic really, to let the girl come so close. The moment she had called him her friend, he had already felt it; A strange sensation, a stirring within his chest. He had vowed never to let anyone in again, yet now he came to the conclusion he already had, unconsciously. Somehow she had found a way to sneak in unnoticed, to make him let his guard down, and had settled herself comfortably beneath his skin. The moment the word had passed her lips, it had dawned upon him. He was her friend. For all this time he had been treating her nicely, as a friend – he had even given her advice about her love life! – and yet he had been blind to it, until now.
He had lost track of the times he had stood from his armchair at the fire, opened the entrance to his secret passages and travelled up. Then, when he would almost reach the surface, the folly of his behaviour would dawn on him and he would return to the fireplace, only to repeat the actions again after an hour or so.
The great grandfather clock chimed the hour somewhere in the background. Ten o'clock. It had been one of the first things he had rebuild after the fire, something he still found quite ironic since time meant so little to him. The sound of the clock comforted him in some way though, as it was a conscious reminder of the fact that he was still alive – although he still wasn't sure whether that was a good or a bad thing.
He poked the fire one more time, then put the poker back in its holder and stood straight again. After having smoothed out his dressing coat, he opened the entrance to his private corridors once more and disappeared into the darkness. It didn't take him long to travel up to the surface; the Opera was mapped out in his mind and he could identify each corner, each turn easily. However, his mind had become swarmed with doubts once again and he was about to turn around when he heard it. He wasn't sure what it exactly was, but he was sure to find out. Changing directions quickly, he reached inside his robe and took a firm hold of his Punjab lasso. Whoever would have entered his secret corridors would have to pay for it with their lives.
Angélique's point of viewI sighed as I turned onto my other side once more. Sleep would not come to me that night. Thoughts about the letter, currently tucked safely underneath some books in my side table, kept invading my mind. Was it very wrong of me to not want to lose him, even when I rationally knew that I could never offer him what he wanted? I suppose it was. Monsieur Rousseau was a good man, who deserved much more than that. He might be my only chance of ever marrying that well, but he… Well, he would surely have lots of other options. All very beautiful girls, no doubt. And rich, too. I doubted he would have much trouble finding himself a girl that would be able to love him.
I switched positions again, this was hopeless. I could lie awake until the sun would start its trek into the sky once more, but what good would that do? I sat up, rubbed my eyes and slipped my feet in some flats. Tiptoeing to my wardrobe, I quietly pushed some of my dresses aside to reveal a velvet black robe. I had stuffed it into the back of my wardrobe the other day, too afraid to neatly hang it with my dresses, in case someone would notice and ask questions about it. I wasn't too sure about how short the Phantom was of money, but I might as well return it now. I didn't have anything else to do anyway.
Making sure I would not disturb anyone in their sleep, I zigzagged through the beds and pulled the door silently shut behind me. I let out the breathe I had been holding and flattened out my night gown. It was only then I realized I was still wearing it and I already reached out for the door knob when I stopped myself. Going back in, changing and then making my way out again would make far too much noise and chances that someone would wake up and catch me would be fairly large. Besides, I would only return the robe, then would be on my way to bed again. I doubt the Phantom would even notice what I was wearing, even if it were day and I would be wearing nothing but my undergarments.
I laughed silently at that thought, knowing it full well to be true. The Phantom was well.. I guess one could say he was a secluded man. He was too busy with his books and his music to notice anything else going on in the world. I liked that though, because it made him different, it made him real. His speeches weren't just mindless chatter, but every word he emitted seemed to be carefully weighed and measured.
By the time I had found my way to the ballet studio, I had wrapped the borrowed robe around my shoulders. Although spring was starting to set in, the nights were still cold and the numerous corridors of the Opera House poorly heated. After checking the room for any life, I slipped through the crack and let the door fall into its lock behind me. Now, all I had to do was find the hidden switch that would open the mirror. It should be simple, as I had been on this spot many times before and had seen the Phantom turn the switch every time. However, I had never actually paid attention to the exact position of the thing, as I had never before had seen the use of knowing it. I knew the Phantom would bring me to the private library anytime I wanted.
I felt around on the cool, smooth surface of the first mirror, but nothing seemed to be out of the ordinary. To reach the top of the mirror I had to stand on my toes and even then the tips of my fingers barely grazed the top of it. In this way – and at a deadly slow rate – I felt my way around several mirrors, until finally my fingers met with something else than smooth glass. It didn't feel like more than just a small nail sticking out, but I decided I didn't have much to lose. Fifteen minutes of touching mirrors hadn't given me anything better to work with, after all.
Suddenly, I felt the mirror beneath my fingers spur into motion and before I knew it, it had completely vanished behind one of the others. If I had not known the trick by now, I too would still believe that it was some sort of magic. In reality however, the switch would force the mirror to change positions due to some mechanical device. The Phantom had once tried to explain his brilliant invention to me, but as a person who had never had any education in physics, I'd already lost him at the beginning of the story. I'd let him continue however, as I could easily see how proud he was of it.
Glancing behind me once more, I took a deep breath and stepped into the corridor. As soon as I took another step forward, my left foot hit something small and all of the sudden I found myself in complete darkness. Spinning around, I blindly reached out my arms, but my fingertips met with the cool surface of the mirror. I must have hit the switch to close it, I realized. It took my eyes several minutes to adjust to the darkness and even then, I could barely make out my hands if I held them in front of my face.
'Shit,' I cursed under my breathe and searched for the other wall, so I wouldn't run face first into it. A candle would have been nice, I thought bitterly. Or any clue as to which way to go, for that matter. I sighed, I really should have thought this entire plan through.
On good luck, I turned left and, slowly and carefully, made my way down the corridor. It was more difficult than it had seemed when the Phantom had guided me; there were several unexpected height differences in the floor and sometimes parts of the floor would go missing altogether. I managed reasonably well though, as I made it without much more than some scrapes and a bit of dirt cloaking the hem of my gown.
It was then, however, that a strange sensation crept up at me and I stopped dead in my tracks. I looked around, but was of course met with nothing but darkness. I waited several more seconds, but when nothing happened, I turned around and continued the road.
'What do you think you are doing, for God's sake?!'
I stepped back in fear. And that's when my feet were met with nothing but air.