"Serafimo, away with this pretense," Carlotta sang during rehearsals. "You cannot speak, but kiss me in my husband's absence." It was a few weeks before the opening of Il Muto and people have been anxious about the show, especially Madame Giry. As she watched rehearsals from the side of the stage, she didn't know how Erika would react to the managers' stubbornness. She was always an unpredictable character.
"No, no. Christopher, you exit stage right, not stage left," Reyer said with anger.
"I'm sorry, monsieur. I'll remember next time," he apologized.
"The rule of a performer is to be perfect the first time. There is no room for error. Let's start the scene over again." The cast on stage sighed and moaned in agony. This wasn't the first time he made a mistake. For a part that doesn't involve speaking, he was having a lot of trouble. The singing roles required a lot less movement than his current role. Despite his training as a dancer, he had trouble keeping in rhythm with the music and knowing exactly what he had to do, whether it was just a simple step or a facial expression.
"Ok, this scene is done. Next is the dancers' ballet and then we'll be done with rehearsals for today," Reyer said as he dismissed the actors off the stage.
"All right, girls. It's your time to shine. Mess up and we'll have our own private rehearsal. Don't disappoint me," Madame Giry warned. She saw her costumed girls rush on stage and quickly get into position. As the music played, Madame Giry looked up to the upper boxes and could not see Erika at all. Despite her being well hidden in the shadows, there was always some sign that she was up there, but today, there wasn't anything. Where could she have gone? She always enjoyed watching the rehearsals. Madame Giry thought long and hard and remembered today's date. "Oh, that's why."
Christopher tried heading to his dressing room, but was stopped when he heard a familiar male voice. "Christopher? Christopher Daaé?" He turned around and saw a face he hadn't seen in a very long time. He had blonde hair and green eyes, just like his sister. He was clean shaven, just like a gentleman should be. He dressed like a son of a Viscount should and his smile was white as ivory.
"Philippe? Is that you?" Christopher asked in amazement.
"Yes it is. It's been so long since we've last talked, my friend," he said as he shook hands with Christopher. "But I must tell you, it's Viscount Philippe de Chagny now. How have you been, Christopher?"
"I've been well. What about you?"
Philippe's face turned sullen at the sound of the question. "I've been better. Have you seen my sister, Rachel, by any chance?"
"I just saw her a few nights ago when she wanted to buy me some new clothes," he said, but he sensed something wrong. "Why, what's the matter?"
"Well, um, our father, he's . . .," he said hesitantly.
"Dead," Christopher finished. Philippe nodded. "How?"
"He died of a heart attack. It’s odd since he was the pinnacle of health, but his heart finally gave out. He was an old man, but I didn't think he would leave us so soon."
"Oh, I'm so sorry."
"It's fine, but now I have to deal with the hardest task of my life: telling Rachel. Ever since our mother's death, she tried to find distractions to numb the pain, so she started shopping and drinking. I just hope that the news won't hurt her as much as it did then."
"Well, I know where she lives. Maybe we can talk to her together," Christopher suggested.
"That would probably help. You were always close to her, probably more than she ever was with me. Hearing it from the both of us would probably hurt her less than it would if I told her by myself. When do you want to tell her?"
Christopher thought about it for a moment and then responded, "Tomorrow would probably be best since I have some important things I need to take care of today. We'll meet at her favorite bar tomorrow at noon. If things don't go well as we planned, at least she can have a drink."
Philippe sighed. "I told her she needed to stop drinking, but with news like the one I, I mean, we are going to tell her, she might need one. Thank you, Christopher. I'll see you then, that is, after you tell me her address."
"Oh sure; follow me in my dressing room," he said as he opened the door. The men entered and Christopher quickly grabbed a piece of paper, a quill pen, and some ink. He quickly wrote down her address and handed it to Philippe.
"She's pretty close to the Palais Garnier. I wouldn't be surprised if it was because of you. I mean, you two were close. Very close," he teased.
"What are you suggesting?" Christopher asked curiously.
"Nothing! All I'm saying is that you two were really good friends. Maybe you two still are, or is there something more," Philippe said before quickly leaving the room. Christopher didn't bother chasing him. He knew Philippe was always a jokester, even to the point it got annoying. That's what he liked most about him when they were kids, but he was also a great older brother to Rachel. Even when times were tough, he was always there for her. It wasn't until their mother's death that they decided to go their separate ways, or at least that's what Rachel told him. He would work for his father's railroad business in Switzerland while Rachel traveled all over Europe.
After a while of reminiscing, he remembered why he came to his dressing room in the first place. "Oh, right. Erika," he said to himself. He slid the mirror and quickly closed it, making sure there wasn't any sign of its magic. He walked down the hallway of torches and finally to the lake where a boat would be waiting for him, but he noticed something odd: there was a note pinned on the boat. He picked it up and read it.
Our lesson is canceled for today. There are some important things that I need to take care of that require my full attention. I'll see you tomorrow.
"Is she feeling all right," Christopher said to himself. Ignoring the note, he got in the boat and started rowing toward her home. When he arrived, he looked around and said, "Erika, I'm ready for my lesson." However, there was no response. He walked to every room in her lair and saw she was nowhere to be seen, not even her bedroom. At first, he was nervous going in there, fearing she might be changing or something that she didn't want him to see, but he still went inside. When he saw she wasn't there, he got worried. Where could she have gone?
He sat on her bed to figure out where she had gone and saw a little calendar on her nightstand, but today's date was circled with red ink. In little writing, it said, "Visit father." Isn't her father dead? That's what she told him some weeks ago. What could she have meant? Then he thought about it and said under his breath, "The cemetery. She's at the cemetery."
He rode his carriage to the cemetery that was a little far from the Palais Garnier, but he thought it was worth a shot to find his angelic teacher. She never said where her father was buried, but he thought that she wouldn't want to leave his grave, especially since he was the only person who cared for her when her mother abused her. After a while of searching, he saw some people that came to give homage to their dead loved ones, but he couldn't find Erika. Eventually, he walked up to his own father's tomb and decided to pay his own homage. The stone tomb stood out amongst the statues and headstones nearby; it had a giant stone cross on it and carved into it was the name "Daaé". He opened the gate and entered the tomb to get close to his father's coffin. "It's been a while, but I know you're proud of me. Despite my recent role, I got the lead role in our last show. I thought of you the whole time and . . . my Angel of Music. Thank you for sending her, but I need your help finding her. Please, father." He noticed a single red rose with a black ribbon lying close to the coffin and stared in confusion. "I didn't put that there." He first assumed it was Rachel or maybe even Philippe, but he saw a note card tied to the ribbon. He read it and knew exactly who put the rose there. "Thank you for sending me your Angel of Music."
Suddenly, he heard a violin playing outside the tomb, walked out with haste, and quickly ran to where the sound was coming from. He walked behind the tomb and saw a tall figure wearing a black hood playing a violin. The figure moved to the side and Christopher could read the name on the headstone: Giovanni Destler. The figure stopped playing the violin and crouched down toward the headstone. "You were the only person who loved me," a feminine voice said, "Even when the world shunned me for my face, you defended me until the bitter end. I can never repay you for that." It then got up and started to play the violin again, but after a few measures, it started to sing.
Say you will love me
forever and ever
Say you will love me through all my endeavors
My heart will only beat for you and it will never cease
For you are the only one who sees the human being in me
"Erika?" Christopher cooed. She quickly turned around and he could see her clearly. She wore a black dress that was puffier than what she would normally wear along with long black gloves that covered her forearm. She wore a white mask, but he could see streaks on it where her tears rolled off. Her eyes were puffy red and her makeup on the visible side of her face was wearing off due to the tears.
"What are you doing here," she asked in a startled and shaky voice. "Shouldn't you be rehearsals? It's only one in the afternoon."
"I got worried. You canceled our lesson and I had to know why."
"But . . . how did you know where to find me? I didn't leave any clues because I didn't want to be found."
"Well, I went to your home to look for you. I went in your bedroom and-,"
"You went into a lady's bedroom without permission?" Erika said with feigned anger. How could she be angry at a time like this?
"I'm sorry. I saw on your calendar that you were going to visit your father and naturally, I thought you would be here."
"But, how did you know look here? I didn't tell you where he was buried or where I grew up."
"I wouldn't want to be separated from my father's grave. Why would you, especially after everything you told me?" With tears creeping into her eyes, she looked down at the ground for a while. Christopher came up to her and put his arm around her. She was surprised at first, but accepted the gesture. "You don't have to do this alone," he whispered in her ear. She wiped away any tears on her face and took a deep breath.
She then crouched back down and said, "Father, this is Christopher Daaé. He's going to be the new star in the Palais Garnier and thanks to you, I can help him."
"Thank you, Mr. Destler," Christopher said as he crouched down. She looked at him and felt touched. "Thank you for giving me the opportunity to meet my Angel of Music. I wish I could have met you to tell you that in person."
"Thank you, father, for sending my very own Angel of Music. I love you," Erika said with tears running down her face as she hugged the headstone. When she was done, she got up, but Christopher grabbed her hand before she could full stand up. "What now?"
"You have a very lovely voice. How come you never wanted to show me?"
"It's not that great compared to yours," Erika said, wiping away tears yet again.
"What are you talking about? It's very beautiful. It's even more beautiful than Carlotta's voice!"
"Anyone’s voice is better than Carlotta’s,” she said with a chuckle.
“True, but your voice is angelic! It’s the loveliest voice I have ever heard!”
“It . . . It is," she said with hope, but her tone changed, "Or are you just trying to flatter me?"
"No, I truly mean it. It's so beautiful; I want to hear it again. Can you sing for me again?"
"Not now. I've had a long day."
"What about our next lesson? After all, the lead role has a lot of duets. It would be nice for you to sing Carlotta's part while I sing Piangi's."
"You mean your part if those idiot managers would heed my advice," she corrected him.
"Sure, but I want to hear you again."
She was reluctant, but she said, "Fine, but it better help you. The moment you get distracted, I'll stop."
"I promise," he said with a smile. She smiled back at him and took one more glance at the headstone.
"I think I should be heading back before I worry Madame Giry," she said as she picked up her violin from the ground and got up. "Goodbye father." They started walking and soon, they passed by Christopher's father's tomb and she paused herself. She looked at the tomb and noticed he was right next to her.
"I saw the rose you left for my father."
"How do you know it was from me?"
"Only you call me your Angel of Music." Erika blushed. She forgot she wrote that on the note card, but she didn't think he would come today to see the fresh rose.
"So, you visited him today?"
"Yes. I was touched that you did too."
"I might as well. I always noticed the tomb, but never realized who was there until I met you."
"Thank you," he said as he gave her a hug. Her heart was beating faster and faster the longer he hugged her. She fought the urge to push him back and kiss him, but it was so hard for her to handle. When he finally let go, she only stared at him. "So, how did you get here? Did you walk all the way here?"
"Y-yes, I did," she stuttered.
"Your feet must be tired from all that walking,"
"I’ll be fine. I've done this every year ever since I came to the Palais Garnier. I can handle it."
"No, I won't allow you. You can ride with me in my carriage," he suggested.
Her eyes widened. "I . . . I don't want to be seen by anyone and your carriage isn't a closed one. Anyone could see us," she said before stopping herself. She meant to say 'me', but she accidentally said 'us'. She blushed at the thought.
"It's fine. You're in a hood, so not a lot of people can see you. Besides, I want to make sure you're not tired for our next lesson," he lied. In reality, he just didn't want to see her walk all alone back to the Palais Garnier. What if someone tried to something bad to her while she was walking?
"Well, if you insist," she reluctantly said as they walked to the carriage. When they finally arrived, they could see that the coachman was sleeping, waiting for him to return. Christopher loudly cleared his throat to get his attention and the round man finally woke up.
"Sorry, sir; I was just tired from all that waiting. You've been gone longer than usual," the man said with a cockney accent. She saw Erika and asked, "Who is this fine lady?"
"She's a dear friend of mine. Now, we would like to go back to the Palais Garnier," Christopher said as he opened the door for her. She entered and could see the coachman ogling her.
"She's a fine looking lady, if I don't say so myself," he said quietly, but not so quiet that they couldn't hear him. She scowled at his comment and he quickly turned around to grab the reins. He slapped them and the carriage started moving.
"It's fine, Erika. Paul is good at what he does, but he can be a . . . ," Christopher said as he tried to find the right word.
"He reminds me of Joseph Buquet," Erika said, "A lecherous man who loves woman, but not in the way he should."
"I guess you're right, but I assure you, he's not as forceful as Buquet. He doesn't try to lift up skirts or spy on girls while they change in their dressing rooms."
"Oh, I hate how he treats women. To him, they're just sexual conquests and nothing else. Somebody needs to put him in his place."
"I agree with you, but there's nothing we can do. Madame Giry told him many times to stop harassing her girls, but he keeps doing it. Some even fall for his schemes."
"I'm just glad you are not like that. You're the complete opposite form that. You care about women on their personalities, not just looks. You don't try to use them," she said as she her head against his shoulder. "You couldn't imagine the pain." Christopher didn't know what she meant, but didn't want to agitate her anymore by asking her. He just let her head rest on his shoulder.
The next day, Christopher waited at a table for Philippe and Rachel to arrive at the bar. It was five minutes past noon and he was getting anxious. Those two always arrived late to appointments, but he was still worried. Did Philippe already tell Rachel the news? Did she not want to meet him? Did he not find her yesterday? All these questions filled his head, but they finally ceased when he heard the two of them talk outside.
"What is so important that I had to come here? Did you finally get married? How many kids are you going to have?" Rachel joked as she entered the bar.
"No, nothing like that," Philippe said, relieved when he saw Christopher there. "Ah, Christopher, I'm glad you can join us. Mind if we sit with you?"
"Christopher, what are you doing here? Ok, now I'm getting excited! What's the news?" Rachel asked with excitement, but it quickly diminished when she saw the looks on the two men's faces.
"Rachel, you might want to sit down for this," Philippe said with a regretful tone. She took a seat and he finally said, "Our father . . . he, um, he had a heart attack,"
"Oh my goodness, is he all right?"
"No, he's . . . dead," Philippe said as gently as he could.
"Dead? What do you mean dead? A heart attack can't kill anyone?" Rachel said in denial.
"Yes it can, Rachel, and you know it," Christopher said. "I'm so sorry, Rachel. He was a good man. He was like my second father when we were kids. I'm sad to hear him pass.”
"No . . . no, he can't be dead! I just got a letter from him a week ago. He has to be fine!"
"Rachel, he died a week ago. He sent that letter just before he passed. I'm so sorry," Philippe said as he hugged his sister.
"No, he can't be! He's . . . he's-," she said as tears started pouring down her face like waterfalls.
"I'll get you something to drink," Philippe said as he left her side. Once he was gone, Rachel quickly hugged Christopher with a mighty force, scaring him at first.
"He's dead. I can't believe it. At least in his letter, he said he was proud of my decision to leave the business and make a life for myself. He said he loved me," she said with a shaky voice.
"It's going to be all right, Rachel. You'll learn to move on and remember the good times you had with him," Christopher said to cheer her up.
"Like you and your father," she said. He turned away from her and she continued, "I shouldn't have mentioned him at a time like this. I mean, he was a good man too, but I bet you're still recovering from his loss."
"I've learned to move on. Yes, he was my life, but he promised me he would send an Angel of Music and he has."
"Right, right, your Angel of Music who is perfectly real and not a figment or your imagination," she said rudely. He gave her a scowl and she turned away with embarrassment, "I'm so sorry, Christopher. I didn't mean for it to come out like that; I'm just not thinking straight, but I'm glad you're here to tell me this. It's nice to hear comforting words from a person who has gone through the same pain. Thank you."
"Here's a bottle of gin to calm your nerves," Philippe said as he came back with a glass and a small bottle of gin. He poured her a glass and she drank it quickly.
"Thank you, Philippe. You always knew how to cheer me up," Rachel said with a smile. After she drank the whole bottle, they decided it was time for her to come home. Luckily, she drank herself to sleep and they carried her into the carriage.
"She must have been emotionally tired if only a small bottle of gin got her to sleep," Philippe said as he set her gently on a seat. "Take us to the Palais Garnier. I'm sure Monsieur Daaé would like to return there before he gets in any trouble."
"Yes, that would be great. Thank you," he said to Philippe. They both entered the carriage and it started moving.
After a while, Philippe looked at Christopher and asked in a curious tone, "Do you love my sister?"
"What? What gave you that idea," he said nervously.
"She talks about you a lot and since you two have been seen around Paris a lot, people have been gossiping about you two becoming a couple. I'll ask you again, do you love my sister?"
"Sure, but not in the way people have suggested. Why do you want to know?"
"I saw you at the cemetery with another woman. Judging by how close she was to you, I would have assumed you two were lovers. She even had her head resting on your shoulder. Who is that woman, if you don't mind me asking?"
"She's my teacher. She was visiting her father's grave and I decided to accompany her home."
Philippe looked at him with shock. "She's your teacher? She's awfully young to be teaching anyone."
"She's amazingly talented. She's the one that inspired me to take the lead role for Hannibal."
"Huh, I see. So, she asked you to come with her to the cemetery to visit her dead father? That seems a little odd for a teacher."
"No, I just happened to be visiting my father as well. I saw her crying and had to comfort her."
"Well, I just hope that if you do try to get closer to my sister, you will try to avoid that teacher of yours. She's a very jealous woman and if you two get serious, she wouldn't be happy if she saw you with her."
"I understand," Christopher said, but he couldn't understand why Philippe said that despite he just said that he wasn't technically in love with Rachel. Did he want them to be together? True, he did say that they looked like the cutest couple when they were kids, but that was years ago. They all have matured. "So, is there a special lady in your life," he asked curiously.
"Why, out of all people, would you like to know?"
"Rachel brought it up and I thought a man like you would have gotten married by now."
He quickly looked at Rachel, relieved that she was still asleep, and said, "Yes, I'm married. My wife is a beautiful Spanish girl named Sierra, but she's infertile. She always blamed herself for having this 'curse' on her and her family hates her because she can't give them children, but I'll still love her the same."
"Why keep that secret from Rachel?"
"She says she always wanted to be an aunt, but she can't be if my wife can't procreate. She would be devastated."
"Can't you just say you haven't been lucky?"
"We've been married for seven years. She would be suspicious."
"Oh, well, you have to tell her some time. She's going to find out one way or another."
"I will when we adopt our first kid. We've been looking at orphanages recently and hope we will find the perfect child soon."
"Well, good luck to you."
"Thank you, but I hope you never have an infertile wife, whoever she may be. It's the best gift in the world for a woman to look at her child and say, 'that's mine and I will always love you'."
"Even if she is, I'll love her the same way I would love any other woman. We'll just adopt a child and love him or her no different."
He chuckled. "You have a kind heart, Christopher. Let's just hope you can get my sister, I mean, any woman to see that," Philippe said, cursing under his breath. Christopher smiled with pride.