The next week went by in a bit of a haze. We practiced for an upcoming performance, shopped for Marie-Claire's wedding and apart from that, not much happened.
Both Meg and her mother seemed to be in a considerably better mood – although of course that did not stop the ballet mistress from hitting you with her cane if she felt you weren't doing your absolute best.
I also came to the conclusion that having an Opera Ghost as your friend definitely has its advantages, as I – or rather la Carlotta – found out when the Prima Donna almost knocked me off my feet when she felt she wasn't given enough attention. She was about to scorn me for bumping into her (even when it really was her bumping into me) when suddenly one of the sandbags holding the décors came down, missing her by only an inch. The Prima Donna had screamed in terror, of course, especially when the décor piece which the sandbag had been holding up until now, dropped three feet as well. Nobody got hurt, though, and I was glad the Phantom had left it at that.
I had wanted to sneak out that night to thank him, but after seeing Anne's ever watchful eyes I refrained from pursuing that plan. Although she had kept her word of not telling on me, I could feel her eyes on me with every move I made. They seemed to dare me to cross the line. But I didn't. I waited the first few days patiently until her gaze softened and on Thursday I finally visited the hidden library again. Of course with the Phantom's help, for I had certainly learned my lesson about wandering around in the dark after the almost-accident.
'You're doing it again, you know?'
I looked up, confused. 'Doing what, exactly?'
'Staring, dreaming, drifting off to your own world,' Meg stated, matter-of-factly, then smiled. 'Or weren't you?' We were sat at one of the dining tables, Meg and I being the only ones who were already there. It was early in the morning and for once, I wasn't the one who'd overslept. Yesterday evening I caught the little redhead bragging to the older girls about how mature she was and how she didn't need her sleep. Well, I guess she was paying the price for that now.
'I was, I am sorry. I guess I have been doing it a lot lately, haven't I?'
'A bit, yes. But it's quite alright. I had a friend once, she was a lot like you in that respect. Always dreaming, always the same far-away look in her eyes.' She smiled sadly, then shook her head as if trying to shake off the creeping sadness. 'Speaking of her, maman has asked her to come and visit one day soon. I do miss her and I am sure you will like her as well, but I don't know.. I am just not so sure if bringing her back to this Opera is a good thing. You know, after all that has happened.'
I nodded, but dared not to say anything. Did Meg know the Phantom was still here?
'Anyway, I really do want to see her again. It has been too long and she once was like a sister to me. Really, Angélique, I am sure you will find her just as pleasant as I do!'
Yet again, I just smiled. I, too, wasn't too sure what to think of it. Luckily, I didn't have to give her a real answer, for at that moment the other girls arrived and the topic swiftly shifted to simpler matters.
pagebreak ~I had to tell him. Even during practice, this was the only thought occupying my mind. If mademoiselle Daaé – or madame Chagny, as was now the correct title, I believe – was really coming to the Opera Garnier, I had to tell him, had to at least prepare him. God knows how he would respond to her return. My only hope was that he would not lose his sanity – again. However, knowing the personality of my friend, I knew even those hopes might be out of reach.
It was because of this that I decided to slip away after dinner and quickly make my way to the ballet studio, where I knew he would meet. I still had not figured out how he did it, but somehow he always knew when I was waiting for him. At dinner, we had discussed the matter of the former Prima Donna and her imminent visit to the Opera and I had shared a look with Anne that had told me all that I needed to know: she, too, thought it best if I would inform the Ghost before the young woman would actually arrive. She had even caused a small commotion to make it easier for me to leave unnoticed.
Suddenly, one of the mirrors spur into motion and soon a secret passage came into view. I swiftly stepped into the hallway and before I knew it the mirror moved into its original place, submerging the entire passage in darkness.
'Mademoiselle,' I heard a velvet voice greet me from somewhere to my left.
'Good evening Phantom.' I reached out into the darkness, soon making contact with the fabric of his coat and holding on to it. 'How are you doing?'
He stayed silent for a moment as we traversed the many passages. 'I am fine, thank you.' We soon reached the hidden library. I knew there were many dozens, if not hundreds, of other hidden passages throughout the Opera House apart from the one we always took to get to the library. I wondered, though, where else they could take us and if I would ever find out. 'Will I ever get to see where you live?' I wondered out loud, only realizing what I had said when it was too late to take it back.
He turned at me 'Why do you ask?' His face remained fairly neutral and one could easily mistake his question for being an invitation. However, in all this time I had spent with the Phantom, I had learned to know better than that. Although his face seemed calm, his eyes were cold as stone.
Therefore, I chose my next words carefully. 'It's just.. You know so much of me, when I really don't know anything about you, my friend. We talk about my life so frequently that I am sure it must be getting boring for you..'
'It's not, I assure you.'
Looking at the ground, I gathered my courage and in a soft whisper added: 'I do not even know your name…'
A silence dawned upon the room and for a long time, neither of us spoke. Judging from his face, he wasn't angry with me – which was a good thing. However, he seemed in some kind of inner conflict and I decided it best to give him some space. So I silently made my way to the fire and sat myself in one of the chairs.
I had not heard him coming, nor had I expected him to speak at all, but suddenly he was right beside me. 'It's Erik. My name is Erik.'
A smile formed at my lips, but I kept silent for a moment, not wanting to startle him with my sudden joy and enthusiasm. Realizing now that the inner conflict must have been about whether or not he would tell me his name, made it clear to me just how important this moment was. This man, who was only a Ghost to the world, had a name, a name to prove that he was just as real as I was, just as much a human as any other. 'Erik..' I repeated, trying out the sound of it myself. It was a pleasant name and I liked the way it felt on my tongue. 'Is it alright for me to call you by it?'
The Phantom – Erik – nodded slowly and gazed into the fire.
I wondered if anyone had ever called him by his name, if anyone had ever taken the time to see past the Phantom alter-ego and see him for who he truly was. Had she seen past it? 'Did… Christine know?'
'She did not.'
'Because she never asked.' His face had become emotionless yet again and my heart ached for him. I had gotten the answer to my question; she had not. She, too, had seen him as nothing but a Phantom. Even when he'd professed his love to her, she had not seen him as enough of a man to even ask for his name.
I swallowed, knowing that there was no way I would now be able to bring up mademoiselle Daaé's visit now.