Curses of The Siren
Darci, a modish operatic mademoiselle of twenty-three, halted in her tracks, losing balance just a little as her tiny Parisian boots slipped on the wet paving stones. She grabbed hold of her friend's arm for support.
"Dear, I almost dropped my umbrella!"
"Hush! Keep your voice down. Did you see that shadow?"
"Look, there," Darci continued in a whisper, pointing to the corner not two meters before where they had stopped. "Where the columns start to arc around the bend of the Opera towards Scribe Street."
"It was probably just a worker going in the back way..."
"No! It was a dark shadow...And when I stopped, it ducked behind that wall there."
"Are you sure?"
"It moved so quickly..."
"Shadows do that." Natalie finished brushing the raindrops from her summer fur and moved to continue walking. She was in too much of a hurry to get home for any more of the Opera's adventures today.
Darci gripped the girl's arm more firmly, holding her where they stood. "But I'm telling you! It couldn't have been a shadow. The clouds are so thick today; where's the sun?"
"Darci, please...The rain is getting harder...We're lucky they let us leave now as it is. If we stall any longer, we're sure to be caught in this storm. Come on now...My hems are getting wet!"
Darci was firm. "How could it have been a shadow?"
Natalie hesitated. "What are you saying?..."
"It was a ghost!"
Darci gasped and stepped back between the shelter of the columns. "Natalie!"
"Oh please!" Natalie laughed and followed Darci, if only to escape the rain.
Darci pulled off a glove and wiped the mist from her face. "It wasn't just a shadow...It was shaped like a person."
Natalie shook the drops from the umbrella. "Was his head on fire?"
"I mean like a woman."
Natalie shrugged and straightened her own gloves. "Meg Giry said her Mama said the Ghost has a lady."
With sudden realization, Darci gasped and drew back even further. "Christine Daaé!"
"What a silly little songbird you are! Come back here. Of all things! Christine Daaé, my goodness! Only the old voodoo hags actually believe the Ghost took her."
"Stop pulling on me! You'll tear my lace!"
"Everyone knows she eloped with the Count de Chagny's brother."
"No she did not! The Count is dead and his brother set sail with the Royal Navy." Darci recovered her sleeve and also managed to seize Natalie's umbrella.
"He did not—Give it back!"
"Not until you listen."
"Please...Be a good girl. And he did not! They ran off together!"
"Who told you that?"
Darci kept the umbrella behind her. Natalie would listen to her whether she liked it or not. "If you ever bothered to stop listening to gossip and fairy tales and pay attention to the real news, you would know he sailed away with the Navy months ago."
"Months! He was here the night the chandelier fell!"
"Perhaps not months...But he surely did not run off with little Daaé!"
"Then whom did she run off with?"
"No...And you accuse me of fairy tales! Let's go; I heard thunder!"
Darci ignored her, convinced now of what she had seen. "It is true! She is still here. She haunts the Opera alongside the Ghost now."
"She eloped." Natalie sighed.
"No. I'll tell you what. You know I don't like spreading rumors...But Mama's downstairs maid saw her just the other day."
Now Natalie was intrigued. "Saw who? Daaé?"
"In the cemetery."
"No, really? You are playing with me!"
"Not at all! Beulah did see Christine Daaé herself in the cemetery, alone, wearing a black dress and a winter cloak. She said her skin was so pale, it was a shade of blue..."
"Blue..." Natalie all but breathed the word.
"Not completely...She is like the Ghost now..."
A crack of thunder exploded around them.
Natalie grabbed her umbrella from Darci, who willingly surrendered it. "The sky is getting darker...And your ghost stories are playing with my nerves. We had better go..."
Darci clutched her once more. "But the shadow?"
"What business is it of yours to bother shadows? If it is her ghost, let it be! We don't want any trouble of our own!"
Both girls locked eyes and then looked to the corner where the shadow had disappeared...Staring into the dark for a long moment as the rain beat the stones just beyond their shelter. Slowly, Natalie opened her umbrella and then wound her arm tightly around her companion's. The girls clung together in silence for just one more moment, and then, with mutual acknowledgement returned to the sidewalk and started toward the glorified corner.
As they stepped off the curb, the wind propelling down the street whipped their skirts up to their thighs and blew the umbrella from the girl's grasp. As both turned back toward the corner to reach for it, they each saw, at the same moment, a bone white face framed in the black of shadow.