Just like every other night before in the Opera, I could not fall asleep. I wished I could turn on the music box's soothing tune to rock me to sleep, but I was sure the other ballerinas would like me better if it would wake them up.
So, instead of sleeping, I stared at the ceiling and thought over my experiences of that day. The traveling fair, Philippe, the conversation I had overheard between madame Giry and the managers. All in all it had been a very odd day..
When Meg found me that afternoon, I had just retreated to the dormitory after an extremely.. interesting talk with the Opéra Populaire's chef cook, Pierre. I told her I still was not feeling well but, truth to be told, honestly I was just too occupied by my mind to fully pay attention to anything she was saying. Pierre had been working in the Garnier for over twenty years – that is, without counting the period in which the building was being rebuild – and could provide me with enough information to start my investigation. Background info on the former managers, the nature of the accidents caused by the Ghost and of course as much as he knew about the Phantom himself. Not that there was much to know about the latter.
His life and being seemed to be covered in the same impenetrable darkness as he moved around in. No one really knew anything about him. Not a name, an age, not even an image, only rumours. Oh yes, rumours were plentiful. There were only a few things they all agreed on, though.
First of which; the Phantom wore a mask. The exact reason was not entirely clear. The most common idea was that his face was the face of death and that it was too hideous to behold. Other whispers even speculated that he would not have a face at all (How absurd!) or that he simply wore the disguise to look more intimidating.
Anyway, there were two more things that were generally accepted as truth within the walls of the Opera Populaire. One of them was also about his appearance, or rather his lack of it. He seemed to be able to vanish into nothing, to move around the building without being seen or heard and he was even capable or making the walls speak for him. This all seemed highly unlikely to me, but I had not questioned Pierre about it when he told me. Nevertheless, there had to be a better explanation, no doubt.
The last, and perhaps most fascinating, thing was that Christine Daae's name seemed to be inextricably connected to the matter of the Ghost. This of course had already been told to me by Marie-Claire on my very first day, but at the time I had still believed it to be an old wives tale. Now, I really wasn't so sure anymore what to believe.
'Ah yes,' Pierre had said when I asked him about the girl. 'She was a lot like yourself, actually. Sweet girl, always eager to help anyone. I think she was a little older than you, perhaps nineteen or something like that.' He chuckled softly when he continued. 'I think I can speak for everyone if I say I was mightily surprised to find her being involved in a matter so dark and sinister as the Opera Ghost. But well, she left immediately after that evening with that viscount, de Chagny, so I presume he wasn't to her liking anyway.' When I asked him what exactly had happened on that particular night, he had simply shrugged his shoulders and looked at me inquisitively.
'If I may ask, mademoiselle, what exactly is the reason of your interest in the matter?' Now it had been my turn to shrug – since it would be highly undesirable to have someone know about my research.
'Curiosity,' I had told him. He seemed to be fairly relieved by my answer and I could not help but ask why.
'Because,' the man began and he turned away from his pan. His face was covered in lifetime worries and I could now clearly see how old he really was. 'Because, dear child, the Phantom is no good. Even though he is gone, it's only bad luck to go look for him.'
I had nodded. 'I was not planning on looking for him, monsieur, do not worry about that.'
I had not lied when I said I wasn't going to look for him. At least, not really. All I wanted to know was if he really had existed and, if so, if he was still there. My career at the Garnier was much more important and I would not let my little investigation get in the way of that. After all, this job was the only chance I had on a decent life. I was not rich, did not have the connections it took to marry well and to let everything depend on my looks was a little too risky to my taste. I mean, I was definitely not ill-looking, but was my appearance alone special enough to make me a tempting possibility to men?
pagebreak ~The next day, after practice, I quickly cut and ran towards the ballet studio when everyone was leaving the stage. Ever since my first day it had become my favourite place in the entire Opera and I found myself there at least once a day. I liked the quietness and the peace. Don't get me wrong. I don't mind being around people at all, but living together with four dozen other (very nosy and gay) girls was a little too crowded for one at times and I craved a bit of privacy once in a while.
When I arrived I stopped to catch my breath and leaned against the mirror covered wall. I had made it a habit to run all the way – to avoid the chance of being followed – but clearly my stamina was still too little if I ran all the way. I sank down against the wall and closed my eyes for a minute, listening to my heartbeat.
Unconsciously, I had started humming a tune, but I could not quite place it. It seemed familiar and yet, it was like something I had never heard before. Not at all like the stilted music from the Opera.
I looked in the mirror to my own reflection and couldn't help but laugh. I was going mad. Only a few more days and I surely would get bats in the belfry. Still smiling, I got up from the floor and strode towards the door. Though, in the middle of the room I stopped dead in my tracks and closed my eyes again. I tried to pick up the tune once more, but it seemed to have been erased from my mind. Strange, I thought and I shook my head as I made way to the door.
Though I had come to the ballet studio to find some peace of mind, I found myself leaving the room in maybe an even more tensed way than I had entered. Maybe it was because of the ghastly tune – because that was what it had been, despite the utter beauty of it. I couldn't remember it's melody, but I could easily recall the perfect gloominess of the music. And yet, it was probably one of the most enchanting tunes I had ever heard.
I made my way towards the dining hall, as I knew everyone would have probably gone there to chat a little and exchange the latest gossip and fashions of Paris. Despite the blunt sting of being an outsider, I actually could not bring myself to feel bad about missing out of any of this; I was not one for rumours and did not enjoy talking behind someone's back. Because that was what it mostly was about; someone heard something and immediately drew a rash conclusion, which would lead to many misunderstandings and misplaced hostility or shame among the crew. Anyways, I walked up to Anne, who I spotted first in the large room, and took place beside her on the bench.
'Angèlique,' she blurted out 'where were you? You always scoot off after practice to God-knows-where and I was so worried that something had happened.'
I felt my cheeks redden. 'I'm sorry, Anne. I needed some time alone,' I confessed to her. 'Sometimes being around all these people just really gets too much for me and I find myself in need for some space.'
She nodded understandingly, then leaned in and whispered in my ear. 'I just suggest that you do not hide in one of the boxes, they already found out that hiding spot.' She smiled and I knew she was talking about the other ballerinas.
I then, too, smiled and was relieved to know that she did not judge me for my detached attitude towards the group. Luckily, she did not seem to think it was out of vain – which it absolutely was not – and left the subject go. 'Did I miss anything?'
Anne chuckled lightly 'Does anything ever happen here?'
It had been a rhetorical question, but I shook my head nonetheless, chuckling as well. She had not lied when she'd told me the first day that nothing ever happened in the Opera House. Perhaps that was the reason I was so determined to investigate the case of the Opera Ghost, I mused. Or maybe it was because I felt a strange sort of sympathy for him. After all, no matter how monstrous his actions had been, he had done it all out of love. And she had rejected him and left him for another man. Though I understood her decision for leaving, I could not help but feel sorry for the poor man, the Phantom, who was left alone and heartbroken.
At that moment Adrienne came running up to us with a sort of bewildered expression on her face. As she saw I was with Anne she let a sigh of relief escape from her lips, but her face still looked troubled.
'What is wrong?' I inquired, as I had never seen the little redhead so bothered.
'It's Meg..' She hesitated for a moment. 'I can't find her anywhere! After practice she left with her mother, who had to tell her something, and I haven't seen her ever since.'
'Practice has only been over for about an hour or two, I'm sure she is fine..' I tried to soothe her, but she shook her head fiercely and I saw she was close to breaking down. It was only now that I noticed how young she actually was, she couldn't be older than fourteen.
'This is not like her at all.' She swallowed hard and looked up at Anne and me with fear-filled eyes. 'What if.. What if he has gotten to her?'
'Oh, my dear little friend, don't think such silly thoughts.' Anne pulled the little girl into a tight, motherly embrace and tried to calm her by softly cradling her. 'I'm sure Meg is alright. She is an intelligent young woman, she can take care of herself.'
I gave the little girl an comforting smile, but I could not keep my own thoughts from running. Could it be? No, surely Meg had just retreated back to the dormitory after the conversation. Or perhaps she was out with her mother for dinner. Yes, that had to be it. She would probably come back in a few hours, talking about some man who was trying to seduce her.
'I went over to madame Giry's room, to check if Meg was there, but she told me that Meg had already left her for a long time.' Adrienne whispered, as if she had read my mind.
I glanced curtly at Anne, who gave me a short nod and I stood up from the bench. 'I'll be right back.' As fast as I could without running I made for the door once again, hearing Anne soothing her little friend with calming words. I wondered if she herself did actually believe Meg to be alright.
Once on the hallway, I stopped. Where was I going to look for her? I guessed she would not be in the dormitories, as I was quite sure that would be the first place Adrienne went looking for her. Since I still refused to believe she was taken hostage by the Phantom, I decided that she simply sought out the seclusion for some peace of mind – something I for one could perfectly well understand. I instantly felt a pang of guilt, perhaps she did not want someone to go look for her. Maybe all she wanted was to be left alone for a little while. But, as I thought of little Adrienne being terribly upset about the disappearance of Meg, I shook my head. Quickly I set off towards the auditorium, hoping to find the ballerina there.
Unfortunately though, when I arrived at the enormous hall, I found it to be completely empty. Same went for the private boxes, the backstage area, the library and the dormitory. I ran my hands through my hair. For all I knew she was already in the dining hall. Yet, my feelings had gotten the better of me and I felt the desperate need to find her. I decided to check out the costume storage room and then go back to Adrienne and Anne, as I did not know where else to look anymore. I turned on my heels and began my journey through the Opera House. Again. But, as I did not watch where I was going, after only a few corridors, I bumped into someone. We both stumbled back and I rubbed my head. I quickly mumbled an apologize and it was only now that I saw who it was I bumped into. Though the corridor was badly illuminated, I immediately recognized the tall girl who shyly gazed at her feet.
'Oh hello, Veronique.'
She smiled timidly and started walking again, when an idea popped into my head.
'Ehmm.. Do you perhaps know where I could find Meg? I have been looking for her, you see, but I cannot find her anywhere.'
Veronique bit her lip, as if she was considering telling me the truth or not. Then, after a minute or so, she spoke. 'Did you look up on the roof?' I suddenly realized this was the first time I had hear her speak in the whole week I had been here. Her voice was exactly how I had imagined it to be like; soft, quite high and inaudible for anyone who was not really paying attention.
'The roof?' I repeated.
She nodded. 'It used to be our secret hiding place, where we could escape the younger girls and get some privacy. We haven't been on there for a while though, because Madame Giry caught us once and scolded us for going up there. But perhaps you'll find her there,' she shrugged her shoulders.
'Thank you,' I said and watched her walk down the hall, disappearing into the darkness. After she was gone, I pursued my road through the Opera House, but this time my destination was the roof. I did not know exactly how to get there, but I figured I just had to get as high as possible and eventually I would find a door somewhere. As fast as I could I made my way through the labyrinth of hallways and soon found myself on the upper floor of the Garnier. Through one of the windows I saw the sun had already gone down and now the only light left came from the few torches on the walls. It was a good thing I could see fairly well in the dark.
After what seemed to be an eternity I finally found a door which, when I opened it, let me to another flight of stairs. I rushed across the stairs, just to find myself facing another door. 'This better be the door to the roof,' I muttered as I pulled down the heck.
As I opened the door, a gust of cold wind blew right through the fabric of the thin dress I was wearing and sent shudders down my spine. I quickly closed the door behind me and it was only then that I noticed my surroundings. My mouth dropped. The roof was immense – just like the rest of the opera – and the view was stunning. Even from the place where I was standing I could gaze over the whole of Paris and I could only imagine how beautiful the outlook must have been if you were to stand on the very edge of the roof. I shook my head to regain my senses, I was here to look for Meg, not to admire the view.
It was at that same moment I noticed a dark shape, hunched over at the ledge of the roof, making it almost impossible to make out in the night. If I hadn't come here with the presumption of finding Meg, I probably would not have been able to distinguish her shape against the dark of the roof. I let out a sigh of relief and hasted towards her.
Merry Easter everyone!