Chapter One: This Is How It All Begins.
"Why must I keep her, Agatha?"
"Because you can provide a life for her, Firmin! Joseph and I are but only being wedded, we have not money for a child!" Hissed my aunt Agatha, she and her brother (my uncle) Firmin were arguing in whispers on what my fate would be. I stood, hiding, behind the wall before the kitchen, eavesdropping.
"Agatha, things are very busy and I-"
"You don't think planning a wedding isn't busy? The nerve of you, Firmin! Take the damned child, for god sakes, Firmin! You don't even have to interact with her, the Paris Opera House is grand, I hear, seventeen floors! Just...please, Firmin, do it for her; give her a life." My Aunt Agatha hissed, fading into weary silence.
"Fine, I'll take her to Paris with me, but, you owe me, Agatha. You owe me greatly." Uncle Firmin growled, Agatha thanked him and I silently walked before the wooden casket lying in the middle of the room, I crossed my legs and tapped the box. They hadn't even cared to make her an actual casket, it was just a box made out of plywood, nailed together hurriedly. Her funeral funds couldn't pay for a better box, I had no money and Firmin was a greedy, greedy man.
I tapped the box and smiled, I knew how she was killed, t,hey tried to tell me it was of disease, but I saw a fleeting glance of her body that day, she was murdered. My mum was murdered. Firmin and Agatha walked out of the kitchen into the small living room, our entire house was small, it was only three rooms.
We didn't need much since father left when I was born.
Firmin sighed "pack your things, Persephone, you're coming with me" uncle Firmin said, I gave a weak smile.
"I already packed, monsieur" I said weakly, standing and walking into my mum and my bedroom and bringing out a small, brown leather bag. Uncle Firmin told me to always address him as 'monsieur' even though I'm English. I knew very little French since I lived in Whitechapel at the time, which isn't the best place to live, but it's all my mum and I had. Uncle Firmin nodded and turned.
"Let us leave, then, Paris is quite a ways away and we must get to the heart of it, come" Uncle Firmin said, opening the door, I nodded to my aunt Agatha who waved a goodbye. "God, it stinks, how did you and your mother live in such filth?" Firmin asked covering his nose with a white, laced handkerchief.
"You get used to things, smells, ways of life. This doesn't bother me anymore" I said, looking up to him, he scoffed and quickly opened the door for me to the carriage, jumping inside after me.
-* We spent our two hours together silent, Firmin didn't know anything about me and I didn't care to know about him, he didn't want me around, it was a burden to him to have me around. I was a bastard child and I disgraced him, he didn't care two pounds about me. I stared out of the window the majority of the ride, watching England turn to ocean, then our carriage stopped at the docks, a large ship named the 'Victoria' awaited our arrival. "Try not to look so...wonderstruck" Firmin growled as I stared up at the ship, I nodded and walked beside him, attempting to look normal. We boarded the ship and instantly Firmin struck up a chat with some wealthy dignitaries visiting from Spain.
I sighed and sat far away from him, in a white, wooden chair near the water. People yelled in what seemed to be a different language and the boat lurched, then started chugging away from England.
Ten minutes into the boat ride I had played two games of chess with myself and lost both times. I wasn't very good at chess. I sighed in boredom and stood, walking over to the side, peeking over and watching the blue water bubble and foam from the boat's propeller. I wasn't interested in boats or mechanics, I just liked the water and the way it sparkled. I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned to see a man in a white outfit, his hair was silver and his eyes were the equivalent of melting sapphires.
He was tall and saluted me; he then started speaking very fast French and I felt my eyes bulge, the man laughed and smiled amiably. "English, huh?" He asked, I nodded, he interlocked his fingers behind his back "my name is Captain Edmund, you can call me Eddy, madam. I noticed you were quite enthralled with the ocean, you can see it all from the wheel...care to come?" He asked, I smiled and looked to Firmin, he was still quite into his conversation.
"I would love to, sir" I answered, Edmund held out his arm to me and I hesitantly took it up, no one had been this unexpectedly nice to me besides my mum. We walked up two flights of stairs and Edmund told me of some of the animals that live in the ocean, he described a man eating fish with razor sharp teeth, I gasped and he laughed.
"Just don't swim out too far and it won't get you" he concluded as we made it to the helm. There was a tall, stocky boy running the wheel. Edmund saluted him and then turned me to the windows, I dropped his arm and my jaw hung open, we were surrounded by a vast, turquoise blanket of shimmering diamonds! The diamonds were broken and a grey fish jumped out of the water, when it hit the water again, it's tall slapped the diamonds, making them shoot everywhere; I craved to hold a diamond like that. Edmund laughed as he walked beside me "he waved to you."
My brows furrowed "who?" I asked, Edmund pointed to where the fish disappeared.
"The dolphin, he waved to you, dolphins only come over to these cold waters if someone very important is on the boat...I would put my money on you" he said, smiling over to me, tears stung my eyes, that was the sweetest thing someone had ever said to me.
"Thank you, sir" I said softly, regaining my composure "I doubt it's for me, though, I'm no one, sir, no one in particular. It's probably for my uncle Firmin, he owns an Opera House" I said, watching a thin sliver of gold arise on the turquoise diamonds, that was my first glimpse at France. Edmund smiled.
"My dear, we were all put on this earth for a reason, and I think that you're someone, you're going to grow into someone great, madam, wait and see. You will, besides, your uncle owns an Opera House, you could give singing a chance" Edmund said, lighting a cigarette, I smiled, mum did say I had a beautiful voice. I glanced over to Edmund.
"Thank you, sir" I said softly, and for the rest of the ride we watched the turquoise diamonds shimmer and shine whilst the sun smiled down upon the earth. Firmin was waiting for me on the dock when we ported.
"And where were you?" Firmin hissed "I was looking for you everywhere"
"I was with the captain, we looked at the ocean, monsieur" I explained, Firmin sighed in frustration and grasped my wrist, yanking me away from the dock and calling a cab.
Firmin obviously wasn't too happy with me.
He shoved me into the cab and slammed the door shut, ordering the driver to take us to the Paris Opera House, he turned to me and grasped my arm. "When we arrive, don't you dare mention that I am your uncle. We are completely unrelated and you only call me 'monsieur' or 'monsieur Firmin', got it? Oh, and don't you even think about opening that mouth of yours to sing" he growled, sighing afterward and turning, mumbling into the glass "we don't want another incident"
-* Paris was huge! Gothic buildings rose high above my head, angels prayed over me, shoppers danced around the carriage, and people laughed. We passed a park and I saw people on picnic, drinking champagne and having bon-bons! Women walked their bichon frise's on golden leaches with ruby studded collars! I held my breath in astonishment as such glamorous things...
I didn't belong here.
I was from the 'bad' side of London.
I really didn't belong in the middle of Paris.
Firmin sighed "you are going to be a servant, Persephone, you will help the stable staff, the kitchen staff, and when you're not busy you will help the servants who serve the singers, you will receive a servant's pay and you may do with that what you will. I will give you a room, but it is a spare room, you must make do, got it?" Hissed Firmin, I nodded loyally.
"Yes, monsieur Firmin" I said softly, turning away from the window for but a moment.
"Only talk to the singers if you are spoken to, do not start conversation with them, do not disagree with them, do whatever they want, do you understand me, Persephone?"
"Good" Firmin said, sighing in satisfaction and rubbing his face before putting on white, satin gloves and glancing over to my dress. It was brown and was patched a few times, mum and I had not the money to buy a new one. "You'll receive an outfit when we arrive, you will not be seen working at the Paris Opera House in that"
"Yes, monsieur Firmin" I answered, I felt like a machine, answering the same way every time 'yes, monsieur' or 'yes, monsieur Firmin'.
My mouth unhinged when we arrived at the Paris Opera House, it was magnificent! To even say the very least! Golden angels looked over the Paris Opera House and hundreds of windows looked out to the Paris scene! Firmin grasped my arm when the carriage stopped at the front of the Paris Opera House and he 'gently' pulled me inside. I didn't get time to soak it all in because I was yanked to his office he shared with Monsieur Moncharmin, the other owner of the Paris Opera House.
He called another servant girl into his office named Abelia, he wore short, dark brown hair that contrasted from her pale skin and emerald eyes. She was the complete opposite of me, I carried long, blonde hair and dull, blue eyes that appeared grey at times. My skin was almost completely white (mostly from malnourishment). We locked eyes for but a moment and she smiled to me, I smiled back, she was the first stranger I had ever smiled to! "Abelia, this is Persephone, she is new here, I want you to get her dressed properly and show her around, oh, she is a servant, same as you, dear."
Firmin said, my, he treated her better than he treated his own niece. Abelia nodded, and he thanked her, she smiled again to me and helped me out of his office. We walked in silence for a few moments, I wasn't sure of what to say. "So, do you speak French?" She asked, I shook my head and another pause ensued "are you a mute?" she asked, I smiled.
"No" I answered, Abelia's voice was a deeper pitch than regular women's voices normally are, but, that was okay with me.
"Where are you from?" She asked, leading me down a darkish hallway.
"England" I answered, she slapped her forehead and laughed.
"I should've known from the accent. We don't get many English here, at the Paris Opera House, I mean. So, why are you here?" Abelia asked, glancing at my outfit. I was quiet for a moment, searching for the right words.
"I had no where else to go" I answered, a few more moments of silence engulfed us.
"You don't talk much, do you?" She asked, I smiled and chuckled.
"I'm more of a listener and observer. Talking isn't my strong suit" I answered, thankfully we arrived at a small room which Abelia opened. No one was inside. There were hundreds of outfits on three racks, all the same outfit. A blue dress with white cloth before the blue color, acting as an apron of some sort.
"You can come down here whenever you are in need of a new dress and get one, but, as a starter, you are only allowed seven dresses" Abelia explained.
"There's so many" I whispered, touching the fabric of one, it wasn't especially soft, but it wasn't unpleasing. It was softer than the dress I had on at the moment.
"Most of the staff quit after the chandelier incident, now there's only around thirty of us walking around here" Abelia explained, my brows furrowed.
"Chandelier incident? What chandelier incident?" I asked quickly, Abelia smiled for a moment and then her smile faded.
"It's nothing, nothing at all. The chandelier is fine now, nothing to worry about. Come, let us pick out your outfit" she said, hurriedly pushing off the topic.
"No, Abelia-" I attempted to say.
"Nothing, it's fine, nothing's wrong!" Abelia cried, shocking me. "Please" she whispered "please, just forget about it...please" she added, I nodded and walked over to her, trying on numerous outfits.
-* My first order was to move into my room, which was in the third cellar. The Paris Opera House is seventeen floors high, also with five cellars underground. The first three are used for storage and the last two no one goes in, no one will tell me why. Firmin gave me my room key and a lantern for every day use, he said it was quite dark down there. I sighed and picked up my leather bag and the lantern and headed down into the cellars.
The first and second cellars weren't very bad, scenes and props from operas past were strewn about, I even stopped to look at a few, Firmin didn't care about me, I could spend a little time. The third cellar, however, was a contrast from the first two. Only a few props and scenes lay about and it was quite dark down there, no one really came down to the third cellar so no one ever lit any candles.
I could barely see two feet before me!
I walked along the wall and searched the doors for numbers, I was looking for number 666, oh, how fitting. I was sure Firmin did that on purpose. Finally, I found the door with the golden numbers 666 on the outside. The door knob was rusty and I cut my hand in a few places as I turned the knob, I sighed and gripped the doorknob again, slicing my hand open. I cried out and almost dropped the lantern, but, the door opened.
I hurried inside and almost fell down a few stairs, I held the lantern at eye level and found a kitchen where a few candles sat, unburnt. Using the lantern's flame I gave life to a few other candles, and hurried to the sink, placing my hand under a stream of ice cold water. I winced and cried as the red liquid ran over my hand and down the drain, I opened a cabinet below the sink and found a few dusty towels. Smiling, I shook one of them out and put it under the water, wetting it and applying it to my aching hand. Of course, this was only a temporary solution.
I walked around the rooms, carrying the lantern with me. I found that my rooms consisted of a WC, a kitchen, a living area, and a small bedroom. This room was around the size of the house in Whitechapel. I dropped my leather bag on a small, dusty cot that groaned under the small bag's weight. As I stood in the bedroom; I heard a clatter in the kitchen, my heart froze; who would be down here, in the third cellar?
Maybe this was their room...maybe Firmin was going to have someone kill me...maybe...maybe. So many theories bubbled in my head, each more horrible than the last, I gathered what courage I could and peeked around the corner, into the darkened kitchen to see nothing.
I saw no one.
I walked fully out of my bedroom and eased towards the kitchen "i-is anyone h-here?" I asked quietly, my voice breaking in fear. I stepped into the kitchen to see all but one candle was blown out, and the candle that still breathed was next to a roll of white gauze. Shakingly, I picked up the gauze, someone was in here. Someone was with me, but, I had not the time to think, I heard footsteps fast approaching my door; I turned to the door to see Firmin fuming with a lantern before him.
"What in the hell are you doing?" Firmin growled, grasping my injured arm, I winced and Firmin paused, glancing down to my hand. "You foolish girl, what did you do this time?" Firmin hissed.
"I...t-the d-d-door was l-locked so, I-I tried to get in and-"
"You cut your hand, ugh" Firmin said, sighing in frustration "just leave the door open, its not like anyone's going to steal anything for Christ sakes" Firmin said, I glanced down to my hands and nodded.
"Yes, monsieur Firmin"
"Good, now, I was going to send you to the kitchens, but, seeing as your clumsiness as kicked in already, you are to clean the second cellar along with Abelia; don't you girls talk the entire time, actually clean, do you hear me?" Firmin growled, I smiled.
"Thank you, uncl-I mean, monsieur" I said quickly, Firmin handed me a broom and followed me out, together we walked to the second cellar in absolute silence.