Christine Daa found herself lost in the many pathways of the Opera Garnier. She didn’t know how it had happened? Just that she simply now found herself in a maze of pathways. She took another turn, first it had been a room full of costumes, ancient costumes most likely going back years. Then a well decorated room full of objects even a harp. Now this old corridor once again. In truth she had been thinking of him. The pain in her heart is something she would admit to no one, least of all herself. What she desired most was his music, even the melody that came from his lips.
Even for a moment to share in his company, how she missed those moments of blissful ignorance she had had of his distorted face. It was because of these musings, that she found herself in the situation she was now. There was someone following her in the corridor. She had believed at first that she would simply turn the corner, and find herself in the familiar place of the opera performers. Now she considered hiding in an unknown room from the curiosity of the persistent stranger.
Christine gazed down the endless darkness of the hall. She didn’t like the way the man had loomed over her. She was in a part of the opera house she had never been before. Surely, she was safe in the opera house, but the man seemed to be following her.
These thoughts caused her to act on her impulse. She broke out into a run. It had been a wrong turn, she wanted to return back the way she came. The task was impossible because that was the direction the man pursued the young woman from. She carefully slowed her step, out of breath. She walked slowly, she certainly hadn’t been down this corridor before. Her steps came to a stop, it was very quiet. She breathed a sigh of relief, believing she had lost the man. The dark walls nearly seemed endless at this time of night. Her hands touched the barely visible wood as she rounded the corner. Footsteps broke the silence. The man came around the corner quickly. She turned as she barely registered the glimpse to run. She had seen the man who followed before. He had worked on the stage, she had noticed his constant stare.
Christine ran, she felt herself in true danger. He Quickened his pace as she ran. She did not know where to go, she stopped and turned into the passage leading to a door in front of a locked room. She stood behind the wall, hoping that he would simply pass in the shadows. She could hear his quickening steps. A pang of regret touched her thoughts at having caught his unwanted attention, in the passages of the corridors. She held her quickening breath and closed her eyes only wishing to remain hidden.
She suddenly felt a gentle firm hand on her arm, that pulled her seemingly into the wall. It had manifested from the shadows. Christine nearly cried out in spite of herself, as she recognized the familiar unexpected angel. She attempted to adjust her eyes to the dark. She knew full well whose company she was in now. The wall appeared to close behind her, the light disappearing completely, plunging them into complete darkness. She heard movement as he lighted the lamps.
Christine was quiet. They both were. He stared down at her for a long moment. The light from the flame danced against his mask, and his eyes glowed in the darkness.
She was afraid … very afraid. They had not been on very good terms as of late.
The shadowy encounter was a reminder to Christine that he hadn’t gained the reputation of a ghost for nothing.
“Trapdoor.” He whispered.
He had taken her from the threat as swiftly as a phantom. The comfort she nearly always felt in his company settled her nerves, as well as the relief to be away from the corridor. Christine looked down in sadness in the position they were both found in, no longer the moment of her angel of music tutoring her voice.
He extended his hand. She took it. He carefully led her down the dark corridors. She felt she could not help, but have curiosity of their location in the grand structure. He began to head the way down the hidden paths of the opera house.
They did not speak. The yellow light, reflected and danced off the stone walls, as they traveled so quietly. He did not say a word. Only their steps broke the silence. He would gently take her hand when they turned the corner. They were passages she had never seen before, a different place beneath the opera house. She only assumed that if he wished he could traverse these passages with no difficulty at all.
Soon she was in a passage she was well acquainted with, one he had brought her through more than once. She felt like thanking him, but the words did not pass her lips. She felt grateful, and relieved to be away from the passages above the cellars. The feeling of terror was gone. In spite of the contention and fear Christine had recently felt at the thought of her tutor, here on this familiar path she felt at ease.
They sat in the bathed golden light. He lighted the candles near the room they had once sung Amita. He played the Organ. His skilled hands filled the room with a melody, capable of easing the heart of even the most wicked. The soprano listened as the tune became the piece, she was familiar with. She did not mention the recent event, or even think of it. He spoke first.
“Would you like to join me in the accompaniment?”
She nodded and eagerly conceded to his request.
Protected from everything. Hidden from the outside world time had become forgotten. He played the Organ. They dined. He gave her a lesson. He even sang for her for one moment… as she finished a tune. It was as it was like before, everything else forgotten as they enjoyed the magic of each other’s company. He read aloud as he sat in front of his fireplace.
He read and she became enchanted by the sound of his voice. His company gave her more pleasure then she would ever dare tell him. Sitting in comfortable silence, she asked him a question. He answered it and once again he informed her how to bring her voice to harmony. The night wore on as Christine didn’t take note of the hour. She began to feel weary, but when he stood and began to depart to return her above. She felt panic … as if awakening from a dream. Her sorrow grew with the knowledge that this moment of her time with him would come to an end.
Before he voiced his intentions, Christine asked him to play a piece on his violin. He was reluctant at first then conceded. She did not recognize it, but it was no doubt the most beautiful piece she had ever heard. When he finished, he placed his violin in its case and placed it above his books. He extended his hand, and she placed her frail one in his. He led her out of his home across the lake. They were on the shore.
“That man, what did he want?” He asked.
“I do not know.”
“Did you speak with him?”
“No. He chased me.”
“He pursued you! I did not know that he would. He should not have chased you.”
Christine could not tell if he was angry or sad.
“You must be more careful Christine with these corridors, a fiend will have no scruples to take these dark passages.”
“Yes Eric.” She replied quietly.
She felt as a chastised child. His voice sounded gentle and kind like that of the angel she once believed him to be. He took her back to the unknown room, he had rescued her to. “No one should harm such a pure angel, such as you. You should not be harmed but protected.”
Her eyes darted around the mysterious cavern she had never seen before. It was a perfectly sized room, with walls of stone.
“It is a room in the center of the opera. I come here at times.”
“Raul assured me….” Christine caught the words from escaping.
“What did the fervent hearted boy have to say?”
She spoke quickly, assuring him that their passing chattery was polite pleasantries. It was for Raul’s benefit, she denied their recent attachment. She feared Eric would come to harm him.
Christine felt a bitter taste in her mouth at the question. She looked away.
“No. Not in that way. He is only dear to me as a friend.”
“He is smitten by your attentions.”
“I will keep my promise to you Eric. I cherish your ring and our tie is unbroken.”
“Do you intend to play us both?”
Christine’s breath constricted. The walls around her were as cold and trapped as her heart. Her eyelids fluttered rapidly.
“I should not have questioned you.” He said.
Christine did not know what words would escape her mouth, words of kindness as well as words of fear. It was difficult as she barred the tears from her eyes. They fell on the dark lifeless stones of the floor.
He watched her in the darkness. All that was left was pain and sadness. Her palms were cold and felt as empty as her soul.
“Christine forgive me. Your Eric never meant to torment you.”
Her heart felt more pain than she could articulate or voice aloud, and least of all to him. There was a deep silence that Christine believed may have lasted an eternity.
“I free you. You hold no obligation or bargain to me henceforth.”
He took her by the arm to lead her through a passageway. Christine felt her eyes well up with tears. Was this goodbye? Would she never see Eric again? An irrational terror overtook her, not of Eric but of the fear of never hearing his voice again. Panic replaced the sadness of her heart. He was leading her away. Leading her away from his world.
He led her into the main hall of the rooms for the ballerinas. It was right where Christine knew, her dressing room was but a step. She looked back towards the trapdoor. He was behind her perfectly still, His eyes watching through the mask. The door would close.
“Will I not see you again?” She asked.
He was in pain, he was concealing his pain from her. Christine needed to know what he would do, if he was ever going to see her again.
His gloved hand lifted her chin.
“Tell me the truth. Do you want to see me again?” He looked into her eyes.
“Yes. I want to.”
“Then you shall.”
He turned and disappeared. The door closed and the wall looked once again as it was.
Christine walked towards her dressing room, then drifted towards Meg’s room. It was very quiet, but she wished to think. There was movement down one of the halls. The dancers were out of bed.
Christine heard wailing and crying. She walked quickly towards the staircase.
“He fell from the rafters.” Sorelli informed her.
She covered her mouth with her hand. It was the man who had chased Christine down the corridor.
Sorelli spoke rapidly. “Apparently he had been doing some work high above tonight and …. Lost his balance no doubt.”
Christine watched with shock as they carried him away with a white sheet covering him.
“He was shouting something about the Phantom up there.” One of the dancers shouted.
“Like a raving madman.” Sorelli snapped.
They lowered him away, past the stairs.
Christine turned away from the scene. Her thoughts consumed by the idea he had chased her but hours before, then he had climbed the rafters and had seen Eric.
“It was the Phantom of the opera. He’s done it.” Christine passed the rants of the inhabitants of the opera house. She knew the impossibility of that. Eric had been with her. She averted her eyes from their faces. In spite of his sins, which Christine was well aware of, she believed Eric had been with her the entire time.
Christine knew Eric had rescued her. It was most likely the reason he had shouted the Phantom’s name. She shook her head. Believing him most likely a mad man. Eric had spared her the man’s attack. She returned to her dressing room late that night.
She looked at her mirror.
“Angel.” She whispered.
He was not there. He promised not to invade her privacy. She felt disappointment that he did not come to her dressing room anymore. The lights were turned down before she laid in bed. Christine drifted off into sleep. As she drifted into sleep, she heard the most beautiful music…. behind a wall in the distance.
As Christine closed her eyes, she smiled and fell asleep into the happiness of dreams where she could be with her angel. It was a dream they both shared.
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© 2019 Deborah Minter