When I had said things couldn't get more complicated, I turned out to be awfully wrong. Not only did they get more complicated, they also got a bit uncomfortable.
As I was untying my pointe shoes a small, young woman came rushing into the dressing room, her face flushed and her chest heaving. 'Mademoiselle Fournier, there is a young man for you in the lobby. He.-' She breathed in deeply 'He asked me to go and get you at once, mademoiselle.'
Bewildered, and a tad bit curious I must confess, I slipped on some flats and followed the woman – who I now recognized as belonging to the cleaning staff – to the entrance. I really couldn't fathom who would visit me on a Saturday, and so unexpected, too. The only male visitor – and with that the only visitor in general – I ever received was Christophe, but he hadn't dared to stop by ever since his proposal. Also, he would never just show up unannounced. Apart from him I did not hold any social relations and that situation made me feel both comfortable as perhaps a bit pathetic. 'Did he mention his name? This visiting monsieur I mean.'
She shook her head 'No mademoiselle. Just said he needed to see you. He was very direct in his manner of speaking, almost blunt, but not unkind I suppose.'
I pondered her answer, immediately coming to the conclusion that the possibility of it being Christophe was now completely ruled out. But who else did that leave?
We soon arrived at the top of the large stairs in the lobby, giving me a good view of whoever was waiting for me. He stood with his back turned to me, his hair was tied together and hung to his shoulders in a wavy mass of brown locks. His clothes, although clean and neat, suggested he was not from the highest upbringing and perhaps not even from the neighborhood. Despite that, there was something familiar about the way he carried himself, about the way his hands were folded behind his back and even the way he'd positioned his feet. Recognition spread across my face I ran down the stairs without a second thought. 'Émile!'
As he turned, a huge grin spread from ear to ear and he tightly locked me in his arms. 'I missed you so much, my dearest sister!'
'As did I you! How good it is to see you again. But how come you are not in Russia?'
My brother smiled sheepishly and scratched the back of his head, as was his custom whenever he was about to admit to something. 'Well I sort of got kicked out of the house…'
I shook my head disapprovingly, not even wanting to know whatever it was my brother had done this time. 'So, are you going to stay in Paris for some time?'
'Actually, I am only passing through. I was ho…-'
'There you are! One day we won't be able to find you anymore when you run off like that, you know? And for a suitor, too, shame on you!' Adrienne cried out and joined us at the bottom of the stairs, Anne and Meg soon following.
'Oh no, you don't understand. This is not.. he's not.. This is my brother.'
'Oh….' The redhead said, laughing sheepishly.
'Everyone, this is my brother, Émile. Émile, these are Adrienne, Meg and Anne.'
'Pleasure,' my brother, ever so charming, smiled and kissed each girl's hand.
I had to keep myself from slapping him and instead plastered a small smile on my face. 'Yes, my dear brother has just returned from a trip to Russia, but I am afraid he won't be able to stay long, right?'
Émile, who up until this point had been staring at Anne, nodded. 'That's right. That's why I wanted to ask you to go and have lunch with me, say, tomorrow afternoon?'
'Why don't we go now? It's such a fine day, would be a shame to be locked inside, wouldn't it?'
'You are quite right, sister. However, I fear that I have some matters to attend to that must be dealt with today. Besides, I left that bellhop with my baggage and I don't trust him one bit.' He laughed.
Biting my lip, I knew there was no other way than to agree with his request – at least in front of the others. 'Very well. Let me at least walk you out, then.'
'Alright!' He then turned to my friends 'It was nice meeting you, ladies.'
I hooked my arm with his and walked – almost dragged – him through the double doors. Outside, we were met with bright sunlight and the sounds of a lively, bustling city. Before he could take another step down the stairs, however, I turned to him. 'Émile, wait.' I fiddled with the hem of my dress. 'I am otherwise occupied tomorrow, however, if anyone asks then I was with you that day, alright? I know this is a lot to ask and a strange request, indeed, but it's important to me.'
His face, first cheerful, turned serious. 'Is something wrong, sis?'
'No, it's just.. just don't tell anyone, okay?'
My brother, of course, wouldn't leave it at this. 'Are you in danger? Is someone threatening you?'
'I promise you it's nothing of the sort, don't you worry. It's just a very long story..'
'And I want to hear it anyway.'
I sighed and suddenly felt goose bumps cover my arms. Looking up, there was the large Opera building looming over us, casting a large shadow over us. 'I can't tell you now, not here. But I will write you a letter this afternoon, explaining everything.'
He looked at me skeptically, then nodded. 'Very well, but don't you dare leaving out even the smallest detail.' He then proceeded to tell me the name of his hotel and left shortly after. Oh heavens, what was I to do..
Finishing up, I folded the letter and neatly put in in the envelope. All the while my head was spinning with questions and concerns. Émile was the first to know everything and that thought alone was enough to scare the living daylight out of me. I had debated whether or not to simply lie, but I knew my brother not to be so easily deceived. If he would see through it, I knew he would not stop before he had gotten to the bottom of it and I feared that sniffing around the Opera House would only lead him to biased conclusions. On the other hand, I feared that by telling him the truth, I could be parted from my career, my friends and Erik forever. If the contents of my letter would not be to his liking, I was sure he would not hesitate to tell my parents, thinking he was doing the right thing. Even my urging for him not to tell anyone wouldn't stop him if that were the case.
I sighed, there was no other option. I could only hope that my brother would see the matter as I saw it and would become an ally rather than an opponent.
Writing down the name of the hotel, my brother's name and the address down on the envelope, I shoved it in a pocket of my dress and made my way to the post office, all the while praying to God this would end well.