As I came closer, my expectations where confirmed. When I was only a few inches away from her I let out another sigh of relief, as I did not want to scare her by appearing out of nowhere.
She looked up, startled and swiftly wiped off her cheeks with the sleeve of her dress. I now noticed several reddened spots on her face, even in the little light I had they formed a painful contrast with the porcelain skin of the rest of her body . She had been crying, I realized. I wondered why. 'Meg, I.. we lost you,' I stumbled as I stood awkwardly beside her petite form.
She tilted her head up and sniffed once more, before she cracked 'I'm sorry, I did not know I had been gone for such a long time.'
I lowered myself upon the cold roof and fumbled with my thumbs. 'It's quite alright. We were just worried about you, that's all, wondering if you were alright.' I hesitated 'Are you alright?' Almost immediately afterwards I mentally scolded myself for asking her. Of course she was not. Why else would she be all alone up here, crying.
Meg shrugged 'I-I am not sure,' she said, her voice trembling from the many tears she was keeping back. She softly rocked her body back and forth, as if to comfort herself. An awkward silence followed in which we both gazed down to the city at our feet. It was a strange thing to imagine that in every single house down there, a family was living. Each with their own life, their own world and their own story. I wondered what they were doing now. Were they, too, watching the night fall slowly on the grand city of Paris? Were they perhaps tucking in their little children, telling them stories about courageous knights of ancient times and beautiful princesses in lavish dresses?
I tore my gaze away from the city and studied the face of the young girl beside me. It was strange how I actually knew so little about her. No origin, no past, not even an age. All I knew was her name and of course her mother, the ballet instructor. I figured she couldn't be much older than I was. Eighteen, nineteen, perhaps? Yet the worries that tainted her forehead made her seem so much older, so much wiser than the girl she normally was.
'Do you want to talk about it?' I offered, not sure what else to say to her.
She stayed silent for a moment, but then shook her head. 'No, it is alright.' Then she stood from the cold ground and looked at me, a weak smile plastered on her lips. 'Are you coming? I don't want you to catch a cold.'
I watched her for a second before I nodded and followed her towards the door. It was obvious the smile and the positive attitude were merely a façade – probably even one to keep me from worrying – but I decided not to press her any further about the matter. If she was ready to tell, I trusted her to do so herself. In the mean while I would simply try to be there for her and support her as much as I could.
When we finally entered the dining hall it was almost completely empty. Apparently it had taken me longer to find Meg than I had thought.
Suddenly the blonde beside me skidded to a halt and turned to face me. 'Do I look decent?'
I thoroughly inspected her face and, when I found that there were no indications anymore of the fact that she'd been crying, I nodded. When we walked towards the dining room, I had noticed how the broken, little girl I'd found slowly turned back into the strong ballerina I had become used to and I couldn't help but wonder how many times she had done this before.
'Meg, oh I was so worried!' Adrienne exclaimed as she caught eye of us and leaped up from the table. In a matter of seconds she had bridged the distance and threw herself around Meg. It was obvious her worries had not decreased in my absence.
'You silly, I'm quite alright, no need to worry about it.' Meg smiled comfortingly and stroked the little redhead over her head. It was hard to see that this, too, was only a counterfeit, even for me.
'Where were you, anyways? I looked everywhere!'
'I eh..' Meg started, but I interrupted her.
'It was quite coincidentally really,' I said, adding a fake laughter for the credibility. 'I just came back from auditorium when I bumped into her. At first I did not notice and I was at the point of moving along when I actually realized it was Meg. It was rather foolish of me.'
Anne nodded, though I was not exactly sure if she believed my fairly ill lying skills, and gestured towards the buffet. 'I have asked Pierre to set some food for you two aside, as I presumed you'd be hungry from all the practices earlier.'
I thanked her, as it was only now that I noticed how hungry I really was. Not that that was strange, as it had been since noon when I last ate something. My stomach grumbled as in conformation and I blushed heavily. Back home, my mother would surely have granted me a disapproving glance, as it was very uncivilised, not to mention terribly un-ladylike as well. 'If you will excuse me, I believe my stomach is no longer accepting its empty state and I think I agree with him.'
Adrienne giggled 'Better get some food from the kitchen then, I rather not have you starting to eat away at my body.'
I returned the smile and turned on my heel. As I started towards the kitchen, I heard the laughter of the young girls fill the hall and I could not help but wonder how much of this Meg was faking. Perhaps I was just overreacting and the reason Meg had been up on the roof wasn't something to fuss about, but something in the pit of my stomach made me believe otherwise – and it surely wasn't the hunger.
When I arrived at the kitchen I almost bumped into Pierre who was humming a cheerful tune while mopping the floor. He didn't seem to notice my presence and so I delicately cleared my throat. I waited a few moments, then repeated the action, a bit louder this time though.
At long last, after two more attempts to catch his attention, the older man looked up and he smiled genuinely when he recognized me. 'Ah mademoiselle Fournier, I was already starting to wonder if you had forgotten about your dinner.'
I politely returned the smile. 'Why no sir, I would not want to miss one of your delicious meals for the world. I truly cannot believe that they serve better food in any of the many fancy restaurants here in Paris.'
He chuckled. 'Well you sure know how to coax an old cook's feelings. If you are just as charming towards the men your age I'm sure you will be married and settled with a count or royal in no time. Or has some particular man already claimed your heart, if I may be so bold to ask.' He winked playfully.
'No, not at all sir. My mind is too occupied by the ballet currently to think of anything beside the dances.'
'Ah yes, I am sure madame Giry knows how to keep you young girls busy. She can play the act of old hag quite well, but it really is only because she cares for her little ballerinas. She does not want any of you to get in trouble. Speaking of which, I hope you did not do anything rash after the things I told you about the Phantom.'
'No, monsieur. It was mere curiosity, nothing more than that. I do not wish to let myself in with things as malignant and darksome, you should not worry about that.'
He nodded, then quickly gestured towards the furnace on which two large pots were standing. 'I almost forgot, your food is over there. You'd better get it now it is still a bit warm.'
'Thanks,' I said and started filling two plates with the spaghetti and sauce from the pots. When both plates were full of piled high spaghetti and a lot of the red, Bolognese sauce, I thanked Pierre once more time and then carried the food back to the others. 'Dinner time!'
As Meg and I ate our meal we were fairly quiet. Only Adrienne, who seemed to have gotten back to her old self again after she saw Meg was alright, kept on chattering away, though I doubt anyone was really paying attention to it. My mind was still with the Meg I'd found on the roof and by the look on her face, I knew Meg had not forgotten about it either, despite the attempts she did to appear happy.
Suddenly Anne rose from her seat and rubbed her forehead 'I'm sorry, if you will excuse me I will be going to bed. Today's tension has really gotten to me and to be honest, I can hardly keep myself from falling asleep.'
I nodded understandingly and wished her a quick good night between two bites of the delicious spaghetti. It was only when I continued eating, and saw my half-empty plate, that I noticed that Meg had barely touched her food. She'd been simply pushing the pasta around her plate, playing with the sauce and the strings more than bringing it to her lips. But before I could even open my mouth to comment about it, a cry of pure mortal fear filled the opera house.
I looked at the others with wide eyes. Meg's face had turned deadly pale and Adrienne was trembling from top to toe. It had been a woman. 'Anne,' I breathed and jumped from my seat on the bench. We should've never let her wander the Opera House by herself at this hour. Who knows what might have happened?
When I turned around I saw only Adrienne behind me. Her face was filled with a fear I had not seen before, but her eyes looked firm. Meg was still sitting on the bench, her face now completely like that of a dead body, as her eyes motionlessly stared into the distance. 'We'll be right back,' I told her – though I doubted she heard a single word I said – and we raced through the door. The sound had come from the left, I recalled, and so we ran as fast as we could, straight towards the auditorium.
'What could have happened?' Adrienne asked me, her breathing coming in thrusts as she struggled to keep up with me. After all, my legs were almost one and a half time the size of hers.
'I don't know, but I doubt it is something good.'