'Can I talk to you, Angèlique?'
Looking up from my bed – and Émile's letter that I'd been just about to open – I noticed how uncomfortable and… nervous she looked. Her fingers were playing with the fabric of her skirt, her posture was strained and her face twisted in distraught. I had never seen her looking like this before. In fact, she was normally the one putting all of us at ease; calm and collected, full of good advice and comforting words.
'Yes, of course,' I gestured for her to sit down.
'Privately, I mean..'
Frowning, I nodded and followed her out of the dormitories, putting the letter in my pocket to read later.
For most of the trip, she did not make any contact at all, apart from looking at me with anticipation once in a while. Soon, we were making our way up a winding staircase and after opening a door, into the fresh, Parisian air. The last traces of winter were finally disappearing and even the wind blew now without the sharp icy cold that I'd gotten so used to over the last few months.
Then, Anne turned to face me. 'I know I might be a little rash by telling you this, but I want to know your thoughts first.. before I act on anything. You see.. I..' the brunette looked down at her hands, that now lay intertwined in her lap 'I think I fell in love with your brother.' Her head turned a brilliant red. 'I know you don't like the idea, I saw the look on your face.. No, don't try to deny it, Angèlique.'
'No it's not like th…-'
'I know that you don't like it. But I just need to know if you can still treat me as a friend if I choose to pursue this, nonetheless. I am serious about this, my friend.´
I sighed 'I know you are, Anne.. but he's not. I am sorry, but I know my brother. He can be charming, flattering, but I also know him to be an Epicurean, someone who seeks out pleasure but avoids attachments. It's not that I don't wish you happiness, it's just that I don't wish you that..'
The brunette smiled 'He actually told me all of that himself. But I think you should read the letter he sent me for yourself.' Reaching into a pocket, she pulled out the envelope and handed it to me. 'He said he sent you a letter as well. Didn't he mention any of this?'
'Actually.. I really haven't had time to read it yet,' I said sheepishly, then opened the letter and scanned it over. I have to admit that before this one, I had never read any love letter – let alone one my brother had sent – but I had to say it sounded sincere enough. My brother, of course, was far too enthusiastic in stating his affections, making it all sound like a very sappy romantic novel. But, from what I had gathered so far, Anne didn't mind. In fact, she only swoon even more when I read his closing remarks out loud. '"Without you, today's feelings are but the dead, discarded remnants of my feelings yesterday.* With all my love, Émile Fournier."'
She smiled 'Now, come on, read your letter!'
Clearing my throat, I took out my own letter and was about to read out loud when my eye fell on the first sentence. As it was processing in my mind, I bit my lip and started to dread the rest of the letter. Apparently no pleasantries for me.
From the corner of my eye, I could see Anne's expectant gaze, but I pretended not to be aware of it. 'Dear sister,' Émile began his letter to me 'I had judged you to be a bit smarter than what situation you've gotten yourself into. I want you to know that I am in no way on terms with this, nor do I accept it, and I hope you realize that maman and papa will not be when they find out either. However – and know that I only say this because, despite your lack of judgment, I love you – I will remain silent about this to them. But when something happens, don't think I will hesitate for even a second to make this 'Ghost' wish he was never born.' Letting out a sigh, I glanced at my brunette friend, who luckily was unaware of the unpleasant content of my letter. Currently, she was staring into the dark abyss below our feet, a faraway look on her face.
Catching sight of the next sentence of my letter, I smiled. 'Émile says, and I quote, "On another note, my dear sister, I want to ask for your advice. Yesterday at the Opera House, I saw the most beautiful woman that has ever graced the world with her existence. She looked like an absolute angel, with her brown, cascading locks of pure silk and her perfectly shaped face. In that moment, my heart stopped beating, I forgot how to breathe and learned to live all at once and I instantly knew she's the one, my beloved sister. As I sit here, all I can think about is her angelic voice, her beautiful eyes. All I can think about when I lay in bed at night is what it would feel like to hold her in my arms and to be able to fall asleep at the sound of her breathing. I love her, Angèlique. As strange as this may sound coming from me, I know it's true. I love her and I can't stand the idea of doing something wrong and losing her even before I ever had the chance to have her. And this is why I need you to tell me how to court her. Properly. Write me as soon as possible. Your dear brother, Émile."' I laughed, while putting the letter back in the envelope. 'I don't think you have to be afraid of him not returning your feelings.' On a more serious tone, I continued. 'But I sincerely hope he's as serious as you are and if so, I wish you two every bit of happiness in the world.'
'Thank you, my friend, this really means a lot to me. So, how was the catching up yesterday? Must have been nice to see him after such a long time.'
I bit my lip, racking my brain to come up with something even remotely credible. Then I sighed. 'We didn't.. Last Friday I received a letter from the Viscountess de Chagny, inviting me for tea. In her letter, she explicitly asked me not to tell anyone.'
'What did she want to talk about?'
'The Phantom. Apparently, she thought I was a victim and when I told her I was his friend she was somehow convinced even more of her own theory.'
Anne frowned 'So will she tell the police of his whereabouts?'
'I don't think so. In the end I think it got through to her that I was in this voluntarily, as a friend. Then she even offered her help if I would ever need it.' I laughed 'But the craziest thing happened when I was about to take my leave, Anne. Truthfully, I was about to declare the woman mad when she said this, but she suggested that I love him.'
Anne stayed silent for a moment, which surprised me, for I had expected her to laugh with me. 'Is that really such a strange suggestion? I mean, you care for him, don't you?'
'Yes, well, but he's my friend! Besides, he would never see something in a girl like me anyway. What could a simple girl like me have to offer to such a man?'
'Acceptance, perhaps?' She offered.
I shook my head. 'I am no Christine Daaé, Anne. I do not have the voice of an angel, I am not fragile and innocent. I am just me.'
'Well, maybe that's all he..-'
I would never find out how that sentence would end, for at that moment, a soft sound was heard from behind one of the statues. We strained our ears and at first, I thought it had merely been our imagination. But then, we heard it again; a shallow breathing, coming in short puffs as if the source had difficulty getting oxygen ito its lungs. Standing up softly, we inched closer to the statue, all the while trying our best not to make any sound as we went. And then we saw it; a halo of blond hair, encircling a small, pretty face. Meg.
The blonde jumped up when she saw us, her face blinking with tears in the moonlight. 'You both lied to me. I can't believe this. First maman, then you two. So much for friendship!'
And after that, before we could even get to say anything for explanation, she ran. I was about to run after her, when a hand on my shoulder stopped me.
'Just leave her for now. There's nothing either of us could say that would make it better.'
Nodding dazedly, I stared at the place where the blonde had disappeared, hoping that she would come around soon.
* This sentence is taken from the French version of the movie The Fabulous Destiny of Amélie Poulain. I saw the movie a couple of days ago and thought this line was very very romantic.