That afternoon, when we were back at the dining hall enjoying a well-earned croque-monsieur and were talking about the summer, I suddenly felt a soft tap against my arm. Looking up, I found Anne looking at me with a troubled expression.
'Can we talk? Privately?' she asked me, in a low voice and with a significance behind her words that I did not understand.
I nodded, confused and was about to stand up when madame Giry suddenly marched into the hall. Occasionally accompanied by the pounding sound of her wooden cane making contact with the tiling, her footsteps made their way over to our table, where they came to a sudden halt.
'Mademoiselle Fournier, will you come with me, please?'
Unsure, I looked at the others, then up to meet her face. 'Yes, sure, madame.' Standing from the bench, I quickly swallowed down the last piece of toast and straightened out my skirt. One last apologizing look at Anne and we were off.
For the entirety of the way madame Giry didn't speak a word to me and I began to doubt whether it really had been her design to have me trailing behind her. Another possibility, one that I'd rather not think about, was that I was in so much trouble that she was still thinking about the most effective way to hit me with her cane. It was only when we reached madame's personal chambers that she spoke two simple words 'Please, sit.'
Still not sure of the meaning behind our meeting, I decided it would be best not to give her any more reason for scolding me and sat down swiftly in one of the armchairs. Folding my hands in my lap, I looked at her expectantly. 'You wished to speak with me, madame?'
'Yes.. I hope this won't make you feel uncomfortable, but I am worried about Meg..'
As she sat down in the other chair, I saw her as a real person – a real mother – for the very first time. Gone was the sternness of a seasoned ballet mistress, gone was the overly perfectionistic professional. Now sitting in front of me was a desperate, concerned mother.
'What causes your worries, if I may ask so?'
'She is acting strange lately. Being distracted at practice, slipping up on parts that should pose no problem for her, and when I talk to her she seems distant. The other day she even stood up in the middle of our conversation and left. I haven't the slightest idea what's gotten into her head these days, but as her mother, I am worried. And I thought you, as her friend, might be able to tell me more.'
I nodded understandingly and carefully weighed my next words, neither wanting to sound too bold nor too outspoken. 'Do you think it might have something to do with the eh.. events concerning mademoiselle Daeé?'
She looked at me curiously for a moment 'I don't know how you've learned about the… incidents that happened, for it happened quite some time before you came here, but to answer your question, no I don't. I am sure it must have been hard for her, losing her best friend, but it wasn't for long before she made new ones.'
'Madame, pardon me, but I think that you are not seeing the full extent to which the events might have affected her. Much more important than losing a friend, is losing one's trust in a mother. With all due respect, madame Giry, but I think that you made the wrong decision by deciding to keep her in the dark about.. well, about everything really. You knew what was going on, you knew what would happen and in Meg's eyes, you could have prevented it. But you didn't.'
The older lady looked at me with an empty complexion, then she simply nodded. 'Thank you, Angèlique. Although that wasn't the answer I was hoping for, it was the one I needed. I am sorry to have kept you from your lunch and your friends, you may return to them if you want.'
'Alright, madame. I hope you and Meg will work through this,' I said, then stood and made for the door. However, when my hand met the cool surface of the door knob, she called me back.
I watched as she opened a drawer in her desk and pulled out two white envelopes. 'These arrived for you this morning, here.'
Taking the letters from her, I quickly curtsied and left the room, one of the envelopes burning in my hand. I decided it would not do to go back to the dining hall, since most of the girls would probably be gone by now and if they were not, they would only want to know about my letters – one in particular. Therefore, I changed directions and made for Box Five.
pagebreak ~That evening, I made straight for the dormitories after dinner. Although I had been too occupied with my own thoughts to busy myself much with the others, I did notice that Meg was absent. Perhaps madame Giry had decided to try and mend their relationship before more damage could occur. I had held off the questions about my conversation with the ballet mistress, telling them only that she needed my help on a personal matter. After all, it really wasn't my business. They had left me alone after that, quickly picking up the signals that I wasn't in the mood for conversation. Anne had, once again, reminded me of the 'thing' she wanted to discuss with me, but I had persuaded her to speak about it with me in the morrow.
As I changed into my night gown, I thought about the first letter. It had been from my mother and truly hadn't contained any useful information. Just some tittle-tattle about the shop, about little Madeleine and some gossip about our neighbours. I had needed it though, for it was easy to forget about the entire world outside the Opera House when all one did was dance, eat and sleep.
The second letter, however, wasn't full of pleasantries. Although monsieur Rousseau was of course nothing but charming and friendly, there were certain subjects that had to be breached. One of them was my rejection, for instance. He had been full of understanding of and respect for my choice, but the words still echoed through my head. "I will take this pain and carry it as best as I can. For although my head has come to accept your decision, my heart still needs its time. Perhaps therefore it is for the best that I go abroad for business and then return to you as a friend, and solely a friend. Fear not that I think badly of you, my dear friend, for I still hold you in the highest regard and would be honoured if you would still accept me when I return. Forever yours sincerely, Christophe."
His words had been daggers to my own heart and I was sure he could not have said anything that would have wounded me more. His kindness felt like poison in my veins, making my entire body ache with self-contempt. I could have handled his scorn, his despise, even his anger, but this.. This courtesy made me feel like a worst person ever to exist. I did not deserve his friendship, let alone should he beg me for mine.
Rolling onto my back, I stared at the ceiling, then through the small window to the night sky. A soft melody reached my ears and before I knew it, all thoughts had vanished and I fell into a deep, blissful world of nothingness.