I felt positively exhausted and worn out when I arrived at practice the next day. Not having been able to sleep, I had spent the night pondering over Christine's words. At first I had been sure it was silly, that the Viscountess was completely wrong. But then, as often happens when you are overthinking a matter so important, yet so strange, images started to float into my mind. There was nothing really big; no feelings of burning desire or urges to kiss him. No, they were little things, memories that made me realize that I perhaps cared more for Erik that I had first thought I did.
That, however, still didn't prove anything, my mind had told me. I could care very much for him, yet see him only as a friend. There was no reason those two things couldn't perfectly well go together. My brain had been right about that, yet for some reason, I had not been able to drop the matter after that. And so, quite unwillingly, I had spent the entire night pondering over some silly woman's words.
'It's a turn to the left, not right,' Meg whispered in my ear as I was about to bump into the girl next to me.
Smiling sheepishly, I corrected myself just in time to avoid attracting madame Giry's wrath and perhaps another, even more scrutinizing gaze. I scolded myself mentally, knowing I would have to pay more attention to the routine and less to my agonizingly confusing thoughts.
'Right this time.' Meg was my hero for the day being.
I managed to slip in a quick 'thanks' before madame Giry caught up on our whispering. Focusing on the steps, I managed to finish the remainder of act four without mistakes, even earning myself a small smile from the ballet mistress.
As we sat down for a quick break, I laid down my head in my lap and sighed heavily.
'Well you don't look very good today,' Adrienne remarked cheerily.
Looking up from my lap, I saw the ballet mistress in front of me, once again a stern look upon her face. I gulped, ready for my imminent punishment. 'Yes, madame?'
'One of the maids just brought a letter for you, I assume you can hand the other to mademoiselle Martin?'
Nodding, I was happy to receive the letters instead of harsh words because of my inattention during practice. As the older woman retreated, I looked at the two envelopes. It did not cost me long to recognize the sloppy handwriting as my brother's, seeing that there were few people that wrote worse than him. What surprised me, however, was that the name and address on the second envelope, the one that was addressed to Anne, was written in the same hand. Knitting my eyebrows, I wondered whatever he could want to write her about. I mean, he did not even know her. Yet, as if my brain took that as a signal, a memory floated to the surface and I recalled the look Émile had given her when I had introduced them to each other. Could that be it? In all honesty, I hoped not. As much as I loved and respected my brother, I had never much liked his way with women. To put it quite frank; he liked their company, but only for a night. I did not wish that on Anne.
Heaving myself to my feet nonetheless, I went to locate the woman in question, who – as I soon found – was explaining some steps to one of the younger ballerinas. I cleared my throat. 'Eh.. Anne? Madame Giry gave me this, said it came with the mail today.' Awkwardly, I handed her the letter and turned on my heel.
'Are you alright?'
'Yes yes, I simply didn't sleep that well,' I said, waving her question away with my hand. 'Don't worry about me.' Luckily for me, she did not get a chance to respond, for at this moment madame Giry called us back to practice and I couldn't say there were many times I had been happier to go back to practice.
'I am absolutely sure she sleeps with him!'
'There are loads of other, decent ways of getting a promotion,' I brought in, shaking my head vigorously. We were currently on our way back to the dormitories, having just filled our stomachs to the point of bursting. Pièrre's cooking was just too good to stop at one portion.
'Oh Angèlique, please, we all know how much of a harlot she is. Wouldn't surprise me if she'd slept her way into the Opera in the first place.'
'Meg's right,' Adrienne piped up 'Just look at the way men stare at her!'
Throughout our bickering, Anne had stayed unusually quiet. Although not one for gossip, she usually knew what was going on in the Opera House and didn't shy away from giving her opinion about it. Knowing that she would not want to talk about it in front of everyone, however, I decided to say nothing about it.
'Well, still I refuse to believe that a woman would lower herself to such means, just to get herself higher up.'
Meg shook her head 'How naïve you are, my friend. Do you really know nothing of the Opera world? Half of the people here have slept their way in.'
'And the other have bought themselves in.'
I laughed 'So which of the two was it for you?'
'Well, my mother works here, I don't think you need to know any more,' Meg winked. 'That only leaves us the question how you two got in here.'
'Money!' Adrienne chimed happily.
'Nahh!' They both called out simultaneously, then burst out in laughter.
'So, Anne, what do you think?'
Looking up from her thoughts, she met our eyes with a confused look. 'I am sorry?'
'Well, did Angèlique sleep or buy her way in?'
'Oh eh..I don't know..'
'What are you being so starry-eyed about?' Adrienne snatched the letter from her hand. 'And what's with this letter you've been carrying around for the entire day.' Folding it open, her eyes scanned the text, then she burst out in giggles.
'What is it, Adrienne?' Meg asked, trying to get a glimpse of the letter's content.
'It seems someone got an admirer.'
At that last word, my blood ran cold and I couldn't keep my mouth from falling open. Staring incredulously at Anne, I did not know what to say. What could I say, really? "I cannot have you two become more acquainted, or else my brother will surely try to lay with you, then disappear into thin air when he's gotten bored." No, that would not do. I sighed, I suppose I would just have to write a letter to Émile myself, trying to talk him out of this. To think of it, I still had to read his letter to me.
Suddenly, I was shaken out of my thoughts by a hand that was waving in front of my face. 'Are you still there?'
'Yes, yes, I am sorry. I was just eh.. distracted.'
'So you do not mind the situation at all?' Adrienne asked me.
'That of your brother and Anne,' she said slowly, as if I had all of the sudden become mentally retarded.
'Of course not. Why would I, even?' The voice in my head piped up immediately, but I ignored its answer. I already knew exactly why I would mind. I would not voice any of these thoughts, however.
Erik's point of viewErik paced around his lair, feeling more high strung than he knew he should. Yet, although his mind knew most likely nothing was wrong, his heart and body would not allow him to find any rest.
They day before he'd barely caught a glimpse of Angèlique; shortly after breakfast, she'd said her goodbyes to her friends and had left to catch up with her brother, then when she came back a couple of hours later, she'd seemed out of spirits and had gone to the dormitories immediately. His concern was peaked and he was about to move from behind the hidden panel into the room when a couple of ballet rats came in, laughing and giggling as they went, and didn't leave the room until dinner. After dinner – and after he'd attempted to calm his nerves – he'd ventured to their library, figuring she would join him there, as was their custom these days. He'd waited several hours, trying to aimlessly distract himself with poetry, but she'd never showed.
What if something was wrong? What if she didn't want to see him anymore? Had he done something wrong? Had she simply grown tired of him? Had she perhaps finally realized he was not good for her? Erik sighed, pulling at his hair in utter desperation. The thoughts alone were enough to drive him mad, but it was the sickening feeling in the pit of his stomach that made him want to scream against the cold, stone walls. He had to see her, he decided. Even if it would only be to hear her confirm his fears, he needed to see her.
Grabbing his coat, he dashed into one of the corridors and made his way to the surface.