A Mother Who Hated
"This is an outrage," Firmin yelled to Andre in their office. "This Phantom has pushed her limit!"
"Has she been leaving you notes too? There are so many of them that I'm afraid that my head will explode if I read another," Andre said in equal anger.
"Then you are going to hate this lengthy note sent to us. Let me read it to you!"
My dear managers,
I hear that you two are planning to show the opera Il Muto. I'm sure that you two will put on a good show, but I want to give you some suggestions that I think you should highly consider. First, I want Christopher Daaé to be cast in the lead role: the Count Don Attillio. He has proven that he is worthy of the role and I will work with him personally so you two won't be disappointed. Second, I want Piangi cast in a role that requires minimal singing. He does not have the highly-talented voice that Christopher has, so the less singing he does, the better. Third, I want to remind you two a couple of things. You haven't been good about keeping my Box 5 empty. Thrice, I have told the people to get out of my box. So much so that I have to arrive an hour early and lock the doors before anyone can come in. I hear banging and yelling, but it's my box. They have no right to claim it. Also, messieurs, you haven't paid my salary. It's only 1,000 francs. You pay more for that noise you call Piangi to sing. You do want to keep your shows running smoothly, correct messieurs? If these demands are kept, then I assure you that you will have a great show.
"This is an absurd! She does not run our theater! Can you believe that a woman is acting superior to us," Andre yelled.
Suddenly, the door opened and in came Piangi and Carlotta. "Who sent me the note?! Was it you two," Piangi asked in fury as he marched toward the managers.
"Piangi, what in the world has gotten into you," Andre asked as he and Firmin backed away from him.
"Is this not the note you sent? It looks like you two don't want me in your theater, you bastards!"
"It's all because of that Christopher Daaé! He stole the role that was rightfully his," Carlotta said in his defense with equal anger.
"Let me read that note. What is it that we meant to have wrote, er written," Firmin asked as he grabbed it out of Piangi's hand.
Your days at the Opera House are getting less and less by the second. Christopher Daaé is scheduled to take your place for the upcoming production and maybe all the shows after. He has a far superior voice than you and I suggest if you want to keep your job here, you are to sing in the chorus and learn how to sing. If you dare take the lead role, I see to it that a disaster beyond your imagination will occur.
"That is an insult to his talent! He sings like an angel, but this Phantom thinks he doesn't. She doesn't have an ear for real music," Carlotta said.
"Madame, I assure you that this Phantom doesn't run our theater. The part of the Count will belong to Piangi. Carlotta will be the Countess, but what will Christopher play?" Firmin asked.
"Well, if we want to upset her, we should cast him as the page boy, Serafimo," Andre said with a grin.
"Isn't that part usually played by a woman?" Piangi asked.
"Usually, yes, but how insulting would it be if we cast the Phantom's little puppet in a silent role that is normally played by a woman?" They all smirked at the idea.
Suddenly, the door opened and in came Madame Giry. "Good morning, messieurs. I received a note demanding that my girls are to dance better and the chorus is to work on their pitch. Was it you two or the Phantom?"
"Madame Giry, why would we send you notes about that? If we had a problem, we would tell it to you face to face," Firmin said.
"Then, it must have been the Phantom. She doesn't normally send notes unless there is a major mistake in a show-,"
"Are you telling us that she has done this before, but you still had to ask if we sent the note?" Andre said with annoyance.
"If you would let me finish, I was going to say that she sends notes only when there was a major mistake in a show, but there hasn't been one since the second show." She looked around and saw posters for the show Il Muto and countless notes on their desk. "I see she has sent notes to you two as well."
"Are you kidding? She hasn't shut up! Most of them are about Christopher Daaé," Firmin said with anger.
"She wants this show to be perfect for him," Madame Giry whispered to herself, but not as quietly as she thought.
"What? Do you know something that we don't?" Carlotta inquired.
"I was just wondering why she would send so many notes. What did she want, exactly?"
"She wants them to give my part to that inexperienced boy! I've spent years perfecting my art and he only sang one time and everyone loves him!" Piangi said with fury building, but Carlotta tried to calm him down.
"Is that all?"
"Besides her salary, Box 5, and Piangi, nothing else," Andre said.
"Wait! What did she say about me?!" Piangi said as he marched for the managers again.
"She only wanted you to sing a part with minimal singing, but we won't do it!" Andre said with fright.
"This Phantom bitch is getting on my last nerves! I'll kill her if I ever see her in person," Piangi said.
"Now, now, Piangi. We can't have blood spilled in the theater, but I do agree that she has to go," Carlotta said.
"Piangi, we are going to cast you as the Count! We won't take orders from a Phantom who might not even exist," Firmin said.
"Really?" Piangi said with unexpected glee.
"Yes and Christopher will play the page boy and -," Andre said before he was interrupted.
"Monsieur, why would you do that? You know the Phantom wants Christopher to be a star. It's obvious! Ever since he has been singing the lead in Hannibal, she has been very quiet. The last thing you want to do is upset her."
"Well, she has been giving us ridiculous demands and we are not going to follow them. You can argue all you want, but we've made up our minds. Christopher will play the page boy and Piangi will play the Count," Andre said.
"She's not going to be happy about this. Not one bit."
"What?!" Erika said as she threw some papers on the floor in a fit of anger.
"It's true. I just talked to the managers about the casting. They said they didn't want you to run their theater and they decided to disobey your orders," Madame Giry said. After meeting with the managers, she immediately came to the underground lair to tell Erika the troubling news.
"I . . . I can't believe it. They have received more profit because of Christopher than they would have with Piangi and all I ask of them is to cast Christopher in the lead role. How dare they do this to me?!"
"I've never seen you so worked up about anyone. You never put this much effort into any performer, except Christopher. Why?"
Erika looked at her and said, "I don't know. Maybe I just wanted a friend, but all I know is that I want to see him succeed. He deserves it."
"Is that all? You want the show to be perfect just for him, don't you?”
“I guess, but why does that matter?”
”I’ve only seen this devotion when someone loves someone dearly,” Madame Giry said as she got closer to Erika, who was looking at her with confused eyes. “Do you . . . love him?"
Her eyes widened by the question, but she turned away to debate her answer. "How do you know if you're in love?"
"Well, does he make you smile every time you see him?"
"Yes. Even thinking about him can make me smile."
"Does your heart flutter whenever he's around?"
"Is he all you can think about?"
"I can't get him out of my mind."
"Then, mon chéri, you are in love," Madame Giry said as she hugged her. "I knew there was something more than you were letting on."
"This feeling I feel is love? W-What do I do now? I've never felt this before," Erika asked nervously.
"Well, you can tell Christopher how you feel and hopefully, he'll feel the same for you."
"No! He won't feel the same. I'm too hideous for him to love."
"Are you sure? He talks about you all the time whenever he and I chat. In fact, he calls you the most beautiful angel he has ever seen."
"He . . . He does?"
"Yes. I'll be surprised if he doesn't have any feelings for you. Maybe you can confess during your next lesson with him."
"I . . . I'll try, but I'm not sure I can do it. I'm scared."
"You just have to be strong and not let fear take over you. I'm sure you'll be fine," Madame Giry said as she gave her a quick kiss on the forehead. "Unfortunately, I have to leave. If I stay here any longer, those girls will fool around and lose focus. I'll see you when I can."
"All right. I'll see you then. Would you like me to give you a boat ride back to the dressing room?"
"No, I've gotten used to riding the boat by myself. Just remember what I told you and I'll see you soon," she said as she got into a boat and rowed away from her lair. Erika watched as she rowed away until she was out of her sight. After a while, she walked around aimlessly, dumbfounded by what she was told. She was in love with Christopher! She knew there was more to them than just a teacher-student relationship, but she thought it was just friendship. Love was only something she read about in stories. It made people do the craziest things, like go on a perilous journey or do something life-threatening for the other. At the same time, it was something beautiful. Two souls become one and nothing can separate them, not even death. Love is so strong that it can overcome any obstacle. No matter how much you try to fight it, it will always prevail. Now, she had this amazing feeling, but she didn't know what to do with it.
"Angel, I'm here for my lesson," a voice said in the distance. She quickly looked toward the entrance and saw Christopher row his way into her lair.
"Y-Y-Your lesson is canceled for today," she said nervously as she escaped to her room, totally dismissing what Madame Giry said to her not too long ago.
"What do you mean it's canceled? Are you telling me I came all the way here for nothing?"
"Your lesson is canceled. I'm . . . not feeling well," she lied as she closed the white curtain to her room.
"Well, if you're not feeling well, I can stay with you until you get better," he said through the curtain, hoping she would come out.
"No, no. You should go back upstairs. I'm pretty sure rehearsals are starting for the next show."
"Well, that's why I'm here. Have you heard the casting list? I'm the page boy, which is odd since it usually played by a woman. Right now, they are just going through all the singing parts, so I don't need to be there since I have a silent role," he said as he paused himself. "Are you physically sick or are you just upset with the casting?"
"Both," she said as she opened the curtains. He saw that she was wearing a robe that Carlotta would wear after shows. "But, if you're not going to leave, I guess you can stay. There's some food in the kitchen if you're hungry."
"Thank you, but why are you in your robe right now? Are you going to bed soon?"
"Maybe. With these dark catacombs, you can't really tell what time it is. Besides, I'm exhausted from trying to deal with those idiot managers."
"Then, I'll stay until you go to sleep. What would you like to eat," Christopher asked as he headed for the kitchen.
"I just ate, but we can have some sherry, if you want."
"That sounds fine," he said while trying to find a bottle and two glasses. After a few minutes, he carried the bottle and glasses to the sofa that she was sitting at. He opened the bottle and poured some sherry into the glasses. "So, if I'm going to play the page boy, do we even need lessons anymore?"
"Of course! I'm trying desperately to get you the lead role, so that means we will practice it in case you have it last minute."
"Well then, I've got a lot of work ahead of me to impress you, my angel," he said before taking a sip of the sherry. "It's sweet."
"Yes. I don't normally drink, but I've always liked wine and sherry."
"Well, I'm glad you're not a heavy drinker. After spending some time with Rachel, I can tell she might like alcohol a little too much. I mean, who else mixes their drinks?"
She chuckled. "Sounds like Rachel has changed a lot since you two last met."
"Yes she has. I mean, other than her body, she has changed a lot. When we were kids, we were almost like the same person. She liked the same stuff I did, like catching frogs by creeks or climbing trees. Sure, she had money then, but it didn't consume her. She was friends with me after all," he said with a smile, but it slowly disappeared, "I wonder what happened. I mean, I do care for her a lot, but she's different now."
"Well, you two have been separated for this long and you've both matured. I bet you're different in her eyes as well."
"Maybe. She told me that I was the closest friend she ever had. Most of her other friends now only want her for the money. Even as a kid, I didn't think much of her wealth. I just saw her as a normal person like everyone else."
"That's what I like about you, Christopher. You don't see class or looks, but care about what's on the inside: personality. I just wish more people were like you," Erika said as she took a sip of sherry to calm her nerves.
"I guess I do. Maybe that's why we were a couple just before I left," Christopher said with a smile.
"You . . . You two were a couple?" Erika asked with a subtle shaky voice.
"Yes, but it wasn't anything serious. We would just kiss and go on little dates. Now that she's back, I wonder if she still feels the same emotions. The only clue I got out of her was that she kissed me, but I don't know if it was real or not since she was-,"
"She . . . kissed you?" Erika said as she took a large gulp of sherry.
"She was drunk. People do and say things they don't mean when they're drunk. Even if she does feel the same way about me, I don't think I feel the same for her. I've grown out of those emotions after my father died."
"Well, what would you do if she confessed her feelings for you now?"
"I don't know, my Angel," he said as he took a sip of sherry. "It's funny. I call you ‘my Angel’, but I don't even know your name."
"Erika. What a beautiful name."
"Thank you. It's the first time anyone has said that to me. My own mother wouldn't call me by my name," she said with a sad smile.
"Why? A mother loves calling their children's name out of love and devotion."
"Well, my mother didn't have any of that for me. She was . . . disappointed when she saw my face for the first time. Actually, she was appalled. She wanted to abandon me in a farm, hoping the animals would either take care of me or eat me, but my father convinced her that I was a gift from the heavens."
"But you are! You have such amazing talents!"
"To my mother, all that mattered was beauty and nothing else. Women were born to be an accessory to men. They didn't have a mind to speak or anything that men could envy. If they had talent, that woman was a freak of nature and should be shunned."
"That's not true. There's more to a woman than her looks. You are the epitome of that!"
She smiled. "Thank you for saying that. It means a lot more than you think. Even as a child, I knew that, but I believe it's only because I was so hideous. My mother was married to a very rich man who gave her everything she wanted only because she was beautiful. They seemed like a tolerable couple until I was born. My mother couldn't stand to know she gave birth to such a . . . monster," she said as tears started to form in her eyes.
"Erika, you're not a monster and don't let anyone tell you that," Christopher said as he held her hand.
"Thank you, but you're too many years too late. I've been called that all my life, even now. That's what my mother called me. Not darling or child. It was monster or devil. I could have been fooled into believing those were flattering names, but I heard my mother's friends call their children nice names and I knew those names she called me were hurtful. However, things got worse when my father hung himself when I was about ten. When we discovered his body, she said I was the reason for his death, but when I read the suicide note years later, I learned it was her selfishness that drove him to do it. She kept calling me killer and death-ringer to add insult to injury."
"I can't understand how a mother could be so cruel to her child, even to the point of blaming them for a suicide," he said in disbelief.
"I can't either. My only refuge was music. I knew I had a talent when I found my father's violin. He was gifted, you see, and when he died, she put it in a glass case for display."
"You're father was a violinist too?"
"Yes and maybe that's the reason why I have such a deep connection with you. Just like you, I've heard stories about the Angel of Music from my father and he told me one day I can meet my Angel of Music. I'm starting to think he was right."
"I met you," she said with a smile.
"Me? I'm no angel. You're far more talented than I am," he said with a laugh, flattered by what she said.
She chuckled. "But you are the gifted singer. I am only a mere teacher. You are the star!"
"All thanks to you! I wouldn't be here without you," he said before pausing. After a moment of silence, he asked, "So, did you run away from your mother?"
She took another gulp of sherry and sighed. "When I was . . . of age, she tried selling me off to any man that would take me, even the ones that were old or already married. She treated me like an object, saying I can cook and clean without any charge and I could be great in the bedroom, but they all declined when they saw my face. Even when she said I could hide my face behind a mask, they still refused. Then, there was a traveling circus and it was the first time I was allowed to go outside my home since I was born. However, as I was enjoying the festivities and colors of the circus, my mother was selling me to the ringleader, saying I would make a great attraction. They agreed when they saw my face and that was the last time I saw my mother."
"Oh my god. I'm so sorry," he said as he gave her a hug. It was sudden and she was caught off-guard, but she accepted it and cried on his shoulder. "Don't worry. I'm here. Nothing will harm you."
With a weak voice, she said, "Thank you. You have been so kind to me and I'm very grateful."
"You're welcome," he said as he cupped her cheek with his hand, or as much of it as he could without touching the mask, "You are a very kind and talented woman. Don't let anyone make you think differently. Even with your deformity, you are a beautiful woman that I have come to admire."
"You really mean it?" she asked him, almost about to cry again.
"Yes! In fact, I bet your deformity isn't that bad. Let me see," he said as he began to remove her mask.
"No!" Erika yelled, but it was too late. He removed her mask and got a good look at her face, but his eyes widened with fright. There were crevices within her coarse face. The color was more yellow than the rest of her skin. She barely formed a nose and what was there seemed to be just a lump of flesh. Finally, her beautiful blue eye was surrounded by what looked like peeling skin. Erika pushed him off of her and he fell to the floor. She quickly covered her face with her hands and said with anger, "How could you?! I never wanted you to see my face! Is it as bad as you imagined or even worse? Damn you."
"I-I'm sorry. I just . . . I just-," he tried to say, but the words couldn't come out. She advanced toward him, like a killer would to their helpless victim, and he quickly crawled away.
"I already have to hide from the world! Do I have to hide myself from you too?"
"No, I . . . wanted to see you; not behind a mask or in the shadows. I wanted to see the full you."
Erika stopped in her tracks. No one has ever wanted to purposely see her face, not even Madame Giry. "Are you stupid? Why would you want to see the face of a Devil's child?"
"A Devil's child? No, you're not. You are my Angel of Music! You are . . . beautiful."
"Ha! You think I'm foolish? I'm not beautiful at all. You can't lie to me!"
"Remember what you told me? I look at what's on the inside. It's not what's on the outside that makes you beautiful. You're beautiful on the inside."
She looked at him confused. "All right, what about me that is so beautiful if it isn't my looks."
"I'll admit it, when I first saw you, I admired how you looked, but when you revealed yourself to me, I got to know you more. Despite how the world treated you, you are filled with kindness and compassion. You put your heart and soul into the very thing you love: music. You have to hide in the shadows, but you've opened yourself to me and I couldn't ask for a better teacher."
She looked at him with shock, touched by what he said. "You . . . You mean that?"
"Of course I do. Erika, I care about you a lot," he said as he handed her the mask. She took it from him and quickly put it on.
After a lengthy sigh, she said. "Well, I'm tired, so I should be going to bed. Besides, those two fools who run my theater will be missing you, that is, I hope they do. Good night, Christopher."
"But it's only two in the afternoon."
"Good night, Christopher," she repeated, hoping he would get the message, as she walked to her room and closed the curtain. He reluctantly complied with her wishes and got into the boat. Through the curtain, she could hear him row away until she couldn't hear him anymore. "Dammit! Why is my heart beating so fast?" Erika asked herself. She walked to her homemade wooden bed with a thin mattress and fell on top of it. She stared at the ceiling and said, "Why did he have to say such nice things to me? He makes loving him so much easier and hiding it more difficult. If circumstances were different, I'd . . . I'd tell him how I feel before that Viscountess does."