The next morning saw me rising long before my normal waking hours on a Sunday. I had put on my best dress and had tried to make myself look as presentable as possible. Sitting down with the others for breakfast, I soon came to the conclusion that I couldn't swallow one bite, and so I gave up quickly.
As I sat in the carriage, my hand palms were sweaty and I couldn't help but doubt if I had made the right decision in coming. I nervously fidgeted with the hem of my dress, trying to smoothen it as much as possible. My stomach was doing constant turns and I was glad I had not eaten breakfast, or I would surely have heaved it all up. Through the window, I could see the scenery change from a closely packed, busy city to the peaceful country side and I knew we were approaching our destination. This was a good prospect for my agitated stomach, but a bit less for me.
When we came to a halt – at last or all too soon – the driver opened the door for me and helped me out. Taking a deep breath, I walked up to the front door and knocked.
It was soon answered by an elderly woman in a black dress who smiled heartily at me. 'Good day, mademoiselle. Is there anything I can help you with?'
'Y-Yes.. T-the Viscountess has invited me for tea,' I told her, nervously.
'Ah mademoiselle Fournier, is it not? Please come in, madame's in the drawing room.'
Walking in, I marveled at the size of the lobby alone. When I had thought Christophe's house was large, I could now say it could easily be called 'humble' compared to the house of monsieur and madame de Chagny. As the housekeeper took me through several rooms, I got more chance to admire the pomp and circumstance. Every room was decorated in an elegant, but simple matter and there was always enough light pouring in through the large windows to give it a friendly atmosphere.
It was then that we stopped in front of a door and the elder lady knocked softly.
A voice sounded from inside and the door was opened.
'Mademoiselle Fournier, madame.'
Taking (another) deep breath, I stepped past her and entered the room. It was once again modestly decorated, with on one side a fire place and two sofas and on the other a piano. From what I had seen of the rest of the house, it was quite a small room, but it looked comfortable enough. In the middle of one of the sofas, with a cup of tea in her hand, sat the Viscountess. 'I am delighted you have come. Please, sit.'
Nodding, I took place across from her and folded my hands in my lap.
'Would you like some tea, mademoiselle Fournier?'
'That would be lovely, Viscountess de Chagny.'
She smiled 'It's just Christine.'
'It's just Angèlique.'
After this, she asked a young maid to get some tea and we waited in silence for her return. Neither of us seemed to be at ease, though I must admit the Viscountess did a better job than me at hiding it. Sipping from her tea, she stared in the fire for a few moments, but was then brought back from her thoughts by the maid's return.
The young girl poured me some tea and then excused herself, closing the door behind her as she went. Another long, uncomfortable silence fell over us and I awkwardly sipped from my tea. It was then, at last, that the Viscountess broke the silence.
'I am sure you know why I asked you to come.'
'I am afraid I do not, madame,' I answered, feigning innocence. I decided it might be best trying to avoid the subject all together.
She sighed softly. 'When I was at the Opera, it became immediately clear to me that there was something… different about you. And when you ran off after the noise, I was sure; you know the Phantom.'
'Excuse me, but I…-'
'Don't try to deny it, Angèlique, I know it to be true.' She smiled sadly 'You reminded me a bit of myself when I was living at the Opera. The faraway looks, the daydreaming. Well, let us say he picks his victims well.'
'I am not his victim.' I put down my cup – a bit too hard – and stared at her pointedly. 'Erik would never hurt me.'
The young woman seemed surprised at this 'Erik?'
Biting my lip, it took me all my energy to stay polite and not to snap at her. 'Yes, Erik, that's his name. But I think it's only normal that I know that, considering he's my friend.'
Looking down into her tea, she sighed again. 'I already feared it would be so.. Do you not know what happened to me when he took me under his wing.. when he was my friend?'
'I do, madame, and I am awfully sorry for what happened. But do not tell me you were his friend, when you were only moments ago surprised to hear he has a name at all, let alone that it is Erik. Besides, things are different now, he is different now.'
'But don't you see the dang…-'
'Madame, if this is all you had to say to me, then I will take my leave. I will not sit here and try and stay polite with you when all you do is insult my friends, my choices and my judgment.' Standing up, I made for the door.
'Angèlique, please, I only mean to help you. I..-'
Whirling around, I glared at her. 'You do not. You simply cannot stand the idea that Erik can be a better man and that you did not see it when you had the chance. You are unhappy in your life and therefore will not let him be happy in his.' I paused and continued, in a softer voice. 'I know that he's a good man, Christine, and all I want is for him to find the happiness that he has been denied for so long. If I can even add a little bit to that happiness, I have nothing else to wish for.'
She stared at me for a long time, then her lips curled up in a sad smile. 'You really love him, don't you?'
Flabbergasted, I looked at her as if she'd grown two heads. 'I do not know what you are talking about, madame, but I..-'
'I cannot believe that I did not see it before, but it's so clear now.' She stood and walked up to me. 'I hope you are right, Angèlique, and that he has changed. And I hope that you will be able to bring him the happiness that I could not..' She stayed silent for a moment. 'I still dream of him sometimes, still hear him in my head and at those moments, you are right, I doubt whether I have made the right choice. But when I wake up and I see my loving husband, I know I could have never been happy with the Ph… with Erik. But he deserves someone that can make him happy and I truly hope that you will. I am sorry for the course of events, they were far from how I planned them to go. But know that if you ever need help, of whatever nature, you have a friend in me.'
And with those words I left the de Chagny mansion, both relieved as confused, but most of all wondering if there had been truth to her words.