Disclaimer: I don't own any of them, and after this they probably would flee if I made an offer for them . . .
This is one of those plotbunnies that hopped into my head and refused to leave even after being threatened with extreme physical torture, so eventually I just gave in and wrote the thing . . . for this, in advance, I apologize.
"All right," said M. Firmin, looking around the assembled company. "What are we here to talk about, then?"
Carlotta smiled proudly. She had asked both managers, Piangi, Christine and Raoul to come to her chambers for a private meeting – and she was going to stun them senseless and knock that Daaé girl out of the limelight once and for all. "I want," she said regally, "to apologize to Chreestine."
The shock that followed was rather greater than it would have been if Madame Giry had suddenly run through the room naked singing "We All Live in a Yellow Submarine."
"EEndeed," continued Carlotta, satisfied with the effect of her words, "I realize zat I 'af been very selfish indeed. Zere are plenty of operas which 'af two lead female roles. We can of course present one of zose to my adoring fans, and zey will be perfectly 'appy, and zat stupid man, zis 'Opera Ghost', 'e will be 'appy as well, and everybody will be 'appy ever after, no?"
"Wait," said Firmin, in the tones of one trying to work out a difficult math problem. "Are you saying – that you want to – to share the lead?"
"Not to be in the total and ultimate spotlight all the time?" said André.
Piangi frowned. "Darling, you are sure zat you are feeling all right?"
"I am fine, in ze best of health, and moreover in ze best of spirits," said Carlotta, practically glowing. "Is it not a wonderful idea I am 'aving?"
"All right," said Firmin, rather dubiously, "what operas would you be suggesting then?"
And that was when things started to go wrong.
Carlotta had frowned. She hadn't thought of any beforehand – after all, it was the gesture that counted – but surely this couldn't be so hard . . . "Les Misérables, per'aps," she suggested. "I could play Eponine, and Chreestine Cosette . . ."
André frowned. "But Signora, surely your voice is more suited to the role of Cosette?"
"Ah, yes, but everyone 'ates Cosette – my public would never stand for eet," said Carlotta breezily.
"Um," said Firmin, with an anxious look at Raoul, who had turned bright red, "perhaps another opera would be more suitable, then."
Carlotta shrugged. "If you insist. Well, zen, 'ow about zis thing I 'af just seen ze film of – ze Ring Cycle, I think eet is called – Wagner 'as written it – I could play ze role of ze Eowyn girl, and Chreestine could be ze ozzer blonde girl, what is 'er name, Legolas?"
Firmin and André exchanged looks.
"First of all," said André, "I think you're thinking of the Lord of the Rings, which isn't an opera, so therefore can't be sung . . ."
"And second of all," said Firmin, "Legolas isn't a female role."
Carlotta stared at him. "No," she said. "Zis I am not believing. With all zis long blonde hair? 'E is a man? No, you are fooling with me – next you will be telling me zat zis child Draco, with ze 'Arry Potter, she is also a boy!"
"Well, actually –" said Firmin, rather awkwardly.
"If zat is ze case," said Carlotta, with an air of triumph, "zen how can it be, all zis I am reading on ze computer, ze stories with ze Draco and ze 'Arry and –" She stopped, comprehension creeping over her features. "Oh," she said, in quite a different tone. "Zat does explain zat, zen –"
"I'd advise you, Signora," said André, with a companionable pat on the shoulder, "to stay away from those fanfiction sites. They can be frightening." He glanced at Firmin, and the two exchanged a private shudder.
"All right," said Carlotta, fast losing patience. "Then I am sure, given some time, we can work something out between us, me and Chrees, can we not?"
"Chris?" said Christine, looking puzzled.
"CHRIS?" shouted Raoul.
"Oh, dear," said Firmin.
Raoul jumped on his chair, sputtering at the mouth. "I," he snapped, "have had it up to her with you and your insults, Signora. Trying to steal the plum roles away from my Christine is bad enough, but now this – this insult? This unwarranted familiarity? I'll have you know that Miss Daa is my fia-"
"Secret!" hissed Christine, tugging fruitlessly at Raoul's arm.
"Fia-fia-fiasco," continued Raoul, with barely a pause, "and I will not tolerate –"
"My grasp of your language is not ze best," said Piangi, puzzled, "but does not that word mean disaster?"
"Right," said Raoul. "Um. I meant that this meeting is a fiasco, and I declare it over!" He pounded his hand down firmly on the table. "Adjourned! And Signora, I think you should go to your room and think about what you've done!"
"What I 'af done?" Carlotta's chest swelled in indignation; a button on her impressive bodice threatened to burst, drawing Piangi's fascinated gaze. "All I have 'af done is attempt to be magnanimous! Generous! And I am eensulted for my kindness! I do not 'af to take this sort of abuse!" She rose to her feet, eyes flashing –
And Christine fell over backwards out of her chair, and all eyes were on her. Even Piangi turned his head in her direction.
"My darling!" cried Raoul, springing from his seat.
"I'm all right," came Christine's faint voice from the floor. "It's just – I thought I saw – I was reminded of that time with the Angel – oh, it's nothing really, you don't need to worry about me –" Her voice delicately trailed off.
"The Angel!" cried one of the managers, and the entire group crowded solicitously around her. No one noticed a deflated Carlotta trailed dejectedly out the door and back to her dressing room.
"Eet is not fair," she muttered to herself, angrily pulling off the tiny, fashionable slippers she had crammed her feet into and throwing them forcefully, one by one, at the dressmaker's dummy a few feet away. She had once been a model for dressmaker's dummies, for heaven's sakes – in her home village, they had all been built precisely to her measurements. Fifteen years ago, of course, and perhaps she didn't quite meet that standard anymore . . . but still, she was the greatest soprano of her age, and to be insulted by a little overdressed pipsqueak – to be ignored in favor of a little stick of an ingénue – to be reduced to an inner monologue as opposed to a well-publicized rant at dozens of adoring sycophants – well, it simply was not to be born. And it was all because of this 'Angel' person, this melodramatic cave-dwelling Christine-obsessed 'Angel of Music', who was stealing all of the limelight and giving it to a no-talent little nothing. "Angel of Muzak!" Carlotta cried, throwing herself on the bedspread. The springs creaked in protest. "Angel of Muzak, why do you not come to me?"
Everyone knows that it's best to be careful what you wish for – especially when one lives in a haunted opera house.
"Hello!" said a cheerful voice from the rafters.
Carlotta froze, then, slowly, pushed herself upright. "'Ello?" she said cautiously.
Carlotta's eyes flew open so fast that all of her bright green mascara fluttered off in little flakes. "Ze Angel!" she breathed. "Chreestine's Angel! You 'af come to me!"
"Um," said the voice. "Well. Not quite Christine's angel, really. That's Erik – the Angel of Music. I, on the other hand, am Eric, the Angel of Muzak, at your service. Um. Ta-dah!" And, on that rather limp note, an unrecognizable tune started clinking into the empty air.
Carlotta's hands flew to her ears. "What is zat?" she demanded, her face contorted in a horrifying grimace. "Zat is not muzak! Zat is torture!"
"Actually, it is Muzak," said the mysterious angel, sounding rather smug. "It's a new thing. They play it in all the state-of-the-art elevators. Which reminds me – you're not in any need of an elevator, are you?"
"For what could I possibly need an elevator? I am perfectly capable of climbing ze stairs," snarled Carlotta, ever sensitive to anything that could be construed as a personal gibe.
"I double as an elevator salesman," the angel explained matter-of-factly. "Angel of Muzak isn't exactly a full-time job, as it were. You'd be amazed how little I get summoned." He sounded petulant.
"Not so very amazed as all zat," muttered Carlotta.
"And Erik never lets me do anything," continued Eric, oblivious. "I mean, there are a few online stories where I appear –"
"I 'af never 'eard of ze Angel of Muzak appearing on ze computer," snapped Carlotta.
Eric looked surprised – a difficult task for an apparently disembodied voice. "Haven't you? I show up quite a lot. Erik takes all the best gigs – I haven't sold a single elevator in the past three months – but take a look, and you'll see a whole slew of Eric stories too."
"I 'ad always considered zis simply bad research," said Carlotta.
"Oh, no," said the Angel of Muzak earnestly. "Erik's terribly busy, what with terrorizing the Opera House and all. He simply hasn't time to do everything the authors want him to, and he really was dreadfully in need of an assistant – he was almost pleased when I came. That's very unusual, you know."
"For people to be pleased to see you?" sneered Carlotta. "Yes, I can eemagine."
Eric sounded hurt. "No! For Erik to be pleased to see anyone, is what I meant. But I was rather down on my luck occupationally, and I heard through the family grapevine that Erik had a position abailable, and so I figured he could hardly say no to his own cousin. And so here I am. How can I help you?" A very mangled 'Let Me Entertain You' started to play.
"I do not think," said Carlotta carefully, controlling with an effort her revulsion, "zat you can."
"You don't want singing lessons?" asked Eric, surprised. "A once-in-a-lifetime chance to tour the Phantom's lair? A boat trip on the lake or a romantic Other Woman romance?"
"'Ow can I be an Other Woman," said Carlotta acerbically, "eef you 'af not even a first woman?"
"I'm subbing for Erik, and he's got Christine. So by extension, I've got Christine," explained Eric cheerfully. "Pretty little thing, isn't she? I'd always heard that Swedish girls were good-looking." 'Let Me Entertain You' stopped, but before Carlotta could enjoy the blessed silence, a few tinkly notes sounded, heralding the beginning of a butchered Swedish air.
Carlotta's fists clenched tightly. Under her breath, she counted to ten in Italian. And in French. And in Latin. When she had got to Sumalian, she decided she was calm enough to speak. "I think," she hissed, "zat you had better go. Right now."
"Now!" shouted Carlotta furiously, all her counting wasted. "I do not want to 'ear about Chreestine! And I most certainly do not want to 'ear your Muzak! Leave my presence, you 'orrible leetle man, and I do not ever want to 'ear of you or your 'orrible leetle cousin ever again, do you understand!"
"Well," said the Angel of Muzak, offended, "didn't mean to bother you, I'm sure, you only asked for the bloody Angel of Muzak, after all . . ." Slowly, his grumbling started to fade into the distance.
Carlotta put her head down into her pillow and thanked the gods for the gift of silence.
From that point on, any mention of an Angel of Music would bring about a terrible reaction in Carlotta – and who, after all, could blame her, when her ear, untrained to the nuances of any language save Italian, still couldn't tell the difference between music and Muzak?