Author's Note: Last chapter, mes amis! Forgive its length; once I started I couldn't stop. It's a bit more down to earth than the previous chapters, and more poignant, in my opinion. I hope you all enjoy. For those who are interested, I'm thinking of writing a phic about Meg's life after the "Phantom" story takes place; her growing up and becoming a baroness. If anyone is interested, let me know. I'm not sure yet if I will be writing it, but we'll see.
Thank you to everyone who stayed with me through this. Enjoy.
Meg: Coming Full Circle
The day that Jammes told the tale of her traumatic adventure, the corps de ballet found themselves less eager to go in search of the Ghost, and were even reticent about telling stories about him. None of them wanted to arouse his vengeful fury like Jammes had, and they decided, after Jammes told them of the Ghost's request for solitude, that they would find alternative ways to amuse them selves for the time being.
By the next week, though, the girls were beginning to get bored once again. They began to whisper stories at rehearsal and peek into dark corners again. Though Jammes warned them all of the magnitude of the Ghost's fury, the girls didn't listen to her. They continued to play their games and tell their stories, and wait for an appearance from the Opera Ghost.
They were most disappointed when the Ghost failed to make an appearance after a full month had passed.
"That seems strange indeed," they would say to each other. "He's never been this tardy before! He usually appears within a few weeks!" They continued to search for him in vain, hoping that their dark playmate would soon return and indulge them.
Their thoughts of silly games vanished, however, the night that the chandelier plummeted most unexpectedly into the orchestra seats during a performance of Faust.
It was a night that Meg would remember with utmost clarity for the rest of her life. The poor woman that had been hired to replace her mother as usher of Box Five had been killed under the weight of the grand chandelier, and Meg had watched it happen as she peeked out of the wings during Carlotta's fateful aria (which would also go down in history as the "Toad Event," at least in Meg's mind). She could not believe her own eyes as she watched as the chandelier crashed to the floor and the audience fled for their lives. It was all anyone could talk about for the next few weeks, even the ballet girls. Thoughts of the Ghost never even came to their minds.
Today, though, as Meg stretched her legs on the barre during class, she found herself thinking of him. It had been most strange that no one had seen any sign of him lately, and Meg was becoming very curious as to his whereabouts. Had he been present the night the chandelier had fallen? Had he been the one who had dropped it? After all, it certainly was an odd coincidence that the only woman to be killed during the accident was the one that the managers had hired to replace Meg's mother, the Ghost's faithful usher. Meg wondered if her assumptions were true, and decided that, as soon as possible, she would try to find out for sure.
Meg was distracted for many days after she resolved to find the Ghost and question him due to various different occurrences: the Bal Masque (the strange attendee dressed as the Red Death was yet another cause for gossip, which also took up some of her time), her time-consuming classes, and rehearsals for the next performance of Faust. Meg tried to keep her wits about her and focus on her work rather than the endless chatter that all of the other girls were constantly taking part in. The latest bit of news that circled throughout the dressing room like wildfire was that the little Daae girl and the Vicomte de Chagny were planning to elope. Meg refused to be sucked into the rats' spiteful conversations about the poor girl. She didn't care what Daae did on her own time, and if she wanted to shame herself by trying to marry someone so much higher on the social scale than she, so be it. It didn't concern her.
The only thing that concerned Meg now was finding the Ghost and speaking with him about the chandelier incident. Though it was now considered old news, Meg still wanted to ask the Ghost if it had been he who had dropped it. Though it shamed her to think so, she felt rather grateful for whatever force had caused the chandelier to crash to the floor. If it hadn't been for that catastrophe, her mother wouldn't have gotten her old job back, and the two of them would have ended up on the street. Though Meg tried to tell herself that it wasn't so, the real reason she wanted to find the Ghost was to thank him, if it had indeed been he who dropped it.
When she finally had a free moment, Meg walked determinedly to the Ghost's box. Regardless of who may have passed by and witnessed her snooping, Meg marched up to the door and pulled a pin from her hair to pick the lock. Once the latch clicked, Meg turned the knob, quickly looked around to make sure no one was watching, and entered the Box Five for the second time.
Meg was struck by how silent it was. There were no rehearsals today, and most of the employees of the Opera were at home, or sleeping in the back. Meg had never heard such silence in the house before. As she sank down into a chair, she wondered if the Ghost was sitting in his own chair again, listening to the same odd silence that she was. Ridiculously, Meg looked to her right as if expecting to see him sitting there beside her. She was not entirely surprised when she saw nothing but air.
Meg sighed and stretched, relaxing into the comfortable chair. Even if she didn't find the Ghost here, it was still a welcome comfort to sit down for a moment and rest her weary legs. Perhaps if she waited here long enough, the Ghost would come and find her. Deciding that that was the best she could manage in terms of finding him for the time being, Meg spread out onto the chair and closed her eyes.
She must have dropped off for a moment, because she suddenly woke with a start when she heard the sound of something heavy rotating, followed by a sharp intake of breath. Opening her eyes, Meg spun in the chair only to be met with the sight of a tall, thin man in a mask standing before her, staring at her with what could only be described as incredulous shock. She had found the Ghost at last-- or rather, he had found her.
He stood by the pillar to her left, his tall form looming over her as she sat staring up at him with wide eyes. She noticed the way he seemed to shrink from her gaze, his shoulders slightly hunched as if expecting her to lash out at him with her small hands. They stared at one another for a very long moment, before Meg broke the oppressive silence with a courteous, "Bonjour, monsieur." She rose out of her chair to offer him a curtsey.
"Bonjour, mademoiselle," he answered in kind, giving her a stiff bow. Meg noticed the tightness in his voice, the weakness that he seemed to be attempting to hide. She wondered if he was ill.
"I've been meaning to ask you something, monsieur," she told him cordially. "It's why I've come, you see. I wouldn't have intruded if I hadn't had a good reason, so I hope you'll hear me out."
For a moment he seemed to weigh his options, as if he were contemplating whether or not she was worthy of his time. Whatever he had been thinking, though, he finally ended up nodding curtly and walking past her to his chair, signaling her to ask her question.
Meg stood by her chair and twisted her hands. Now that the moment had arrived, she felt that perhaps her question was impertinent and rude, and thought that maybe she shouldn't ask it. However, when the Ghost glared at her with his burning, impatient eyes, Meg launched into her inquiry.
"You see, monsieur, I was simply wondering if you had anything to do with the chandelier. If you did, I merely wanted to thank you."
The Ghost looked at her for a moment, his eyes registering shock. "I may have," he told her evasively. "But tell me, child, why ever would you want to thank a murderer?"
Meg had the grace to blush. She knew that she was a wicked child, she just couldn't help but feel grateful. "I'm simply thankful because it got my mama her position back. If it weren't for you, we would be penniless. Was it really you that did it?" She urged him to answer the question.
The Ghost sighed wearily. Meg noticed that he seemed to collapse into himself. "Because I know I can trust you, and because I owe so much to your mother, I will answer you truthfully." Meg held her breath. The Ghost speared her with his eyes. "Yes, little Giry. It was I."
Meg released her breath and smiled shyly at him. "Thank you, monsieur. That was all I wanted to know. I'll leave you in peace now. Good day."
But before she could turn to leave, the Ghost held out his hand to halt her steps. "Wait, please, mademoiselle."
Meg turned to face him and sat down when he bid her to. She studied his form: the way he seemed to be slowly dying as she watched, the way he shook with every breath he took, and the way his hands seemed to shake with some kind of inner anxiety. Anxiety or bitter rage, Meg reasoned. She wondered again if there was something wrong with him.
"Little Giry," he said now, reaching out to her as if he meant to touch her but drawing back at the last minute. "I came here today to leave something for your mother. She has been so good to me for so long, and I wanted to give her a small token of my appreciation." The Ghost turned from her and took a small package out of a hidden pocket in his coat. "Just a little something that I know she is fond of, and of course her usual pay, with some extra. However, since you're here now, I might as well give them to you to give to her. That would make things easier, in some ways." He handed Meg the box, careful not to touch her hand as he did so. "Tell her that I am eternally grateful for all that she has done for me, and that I shall never forget her kindness."
It seemed to Meg that the Ghost died a little bit after he had handed her the box. Meg's hands began to shake as she held it carefully, as if it were a fragile piece of glass. It was, in fact, a box of the tart candy that her mother so loved, with an envelope tucked under the ribbon. Meg stared at it as if it were a treasure, its significance not escaping her, but she did not fully comprehend why she found it so significant. Perhaps it was the reverent way the Ghost had given it to her, or the words he had just spoken that struck some kind of deep chord within her. She looked back up at him with a somber expression on her face.
"I shall give it to her, monsieur. And I shall tell her what you said, as well." Meg stood to leave once more, but the Ghost called her back again.
"Please, mademoiselle, wait for just one more moment." Meg sat down once again, looking hard at the Ghost's face. "I wanted to give you something as well."
This time, the Ghost produced a fragile necklace from his pocket, upon which hung a small, delicate locket. Meg watched as he handled it reverently, twining the chain through his thin, trembling fingers.
"I wanted you to have this, little Giry, as a token of the small joy that you have brought me. Though you and your little friends are as irritating as one can imagine at times, you have filled my days with a childlike innocence that I cannot remember ever possessing. For that, I must thank you." He held the locket out to her, and she took it in her small white hand. The gold chain twinkled in the dim light, and all Meg could do was stare at its simple beauty.
"Merci beaucoup, monsieur," she said breathlessly, and looked up at him to find him looking right back at her. She was surprised to see what she thought to be tears forming in his deep-set eyes. She was even more surprised to find that she herself suddenly felt like weeping.
"De rien, mademoiselle. Take good care of it."
"I shall." Meg fumbled with the clasp before putting it around her neck and letting it hang next to her crucifix. "I'll never take it off."
"Very good," the Ghost said, and though Meg could not tell, she thought he might have smiled sadly at her.
Meg sat there with him for a long time after that, toying with the chain of the necklace and the ribbon on the box for her mama. She found that she was reluctant to leave, though she could not explain why. She wished that she could stay here forever with the Ghost, sitting in companionable silence for the rest of her life. She knew, however, that she could not, and when at last the Ghost sighed and began to stir stiffly from his place next to her, Meg knew that it was time to leave.
They rose simultaneously, the silence between them still permeable but beginning to dissipate.
"I must be going," Meg said regretfully. "Mama will be wondering where I've gotten to."
"Yes," the Ghost sighed, "I must be going as well. There are some things that still need arranging, things that must still be done...."
Meg wondered what he could be talking about, but didn't ask him. Instead, she gave a brief curtsey and smiled up at the Ghost. "It's been nice talking with you again, monsieur." Meg knew that they hadn't really done much talking, but she still enjoyed his odd company. "I hope we might be able to do it again sometime."
The Ghost looked away from her, his eyes downcast and forlorn. He pulled an envelope from his pocket and handed it to her, before meeting her eyes again sadly.
"I'm afraid we won't."
Meg looked at him in shock, feeling cold due to the dullness of his voice. The Ghost walked past her and opened the door, holding it so that she could exit.
Slowly, Meg walked past him and out the door, where she turned back to look at him once more.
"Au revoir, then, monsieur."
And he shut the door, leaving Meg alone in the deserted corridor.
Back at home, Meg handed her mother the Ghost's gift and gave her the Ghost's thanks. She then went to her room and closed the door, before sitting in a chair by the window so that she could read the letter that the Ghost had given her. She opened the envelope and unfolded the paper inside, her heart beating for some reason she could not explain.
As she began to read, she fingered the locket around her neck pensively.
"Dearest little Meg,
You will understand well enough when the time comes. But for now, accept these as my parting words to you. More than you know, you hold a special place in this aging monster's heart. Remember the Opera Ghost as he was: vengeful, demanding, and terrifying. But remember more than anything his gift to you, and how dear your dancing and laughter was to him.
By the time she had finished, Meg had begun to weep silently.
The days following Christine Daae's second disappearance were all a blur to Meg. She didn't trouble herself with wondering about where the girl had gone after the stage blacked out during Faust that night, or where she had been rumored to have run off to. All Meg knew was that the girl was no longer in the Opera, and that the Comte de Chagny was dead, and that his brother was also missing. Meg tried to ignore the rumor that the rats were weaving stating that the Vicomte had killed his brother and run off with Christine, dismissing it as stupid and far-fetched. Her thoughts weren't on the sordid affairs of some silly chorus girl and her liaisons. Her thoughts weren't really on much of anything, lately.
It was three weeks after Daae had disappeared that Meg found it. She had been sitting in the dressing room in a corner, reading the newspaper and trying not to listen to the gossip flitting back and forth between the over-excited girls.
"Did you hear that they've run off to London?"
"London! That's hardly romantic at all! I heard they ran off to India!"
"You goose, that's absurd! Why would they go through all that trouble of killing his brother just to run out of the country?"
"They didn't kill his brother, the Opera Ghost did!"
"Must you relate everything back to the Opera Ghost?"
And on, and on, and on it went. Meg was just starting to develop a splitting headache when she happened to turn the page to the obituaries.
That was when she saw it.
To any other person in Paris, it would seem insignificant. It would actually seem quite cruel, really, to give someone such a small oration. But to Meg, it seemed to scream off the page at her:
"Erik is dead."
She stared at the three words for a long time, as if by staring at them she could make them disappear. But she couldn't, and they continued to mock her with their plainness, the loneliness that they seemed to convey in their simple structure. As quietly and as calmly as she could, Meg folded the paper and left the dressing room.
She walked down the halls as if in a trance until she reached Box Five. She was most surprised to find the door unlocked, and even more surprised when she pushed the door open to find cleaning supplies sitting by the Ghost's chair. She heard footsteps behind her and turned to see Michelle, one of the cleaning ladies, come trotting up to the door.
"Afternoon, Meg!" Michelle greeted her happily.
"Bonjour, Michelle," Meg answered less enthusiastically. "What are you doing here?"
"The obvious, obviously, Meg." Michelle laughed and gestured to her rags and broom. Meg attempted a small smile.
"Oui," she agreed. "But what I mean is, why are you cleaning in here? No one ever comes into the Ghost's box at this time of day, as far as I know..." Meg trailed off, hoping that she didn't give herself away with her knowledge of the cleaning ladies' schedules. It wouldn't do for Michelle to know that Meg had snuck into the box more than once.
"Well, the box has been sold for tonight! The managers sent me to clean it up proper for tonight's occupants. Isn't that wonderful, Meg?"
Meg felt cold. They had sold the Ghost's box.... How? Why?
Meg realized that Michelle was looking at her oddly, and remembered that she had asked her a question. "Oh, yes," she said hastily, "It's wonderful."
"I say, it was certainly odd the way they told me about it. They says to me, 'Go clean up Box Five straight away! We're finally going to be able to sell it on opening night!' I wondered out loud how they could possibly sell the Ghost's box, and they says to me, 'Not that it's any of your damn business'-- I wager they don't care for me much none-- 'But we received a letter from the Ghost not three days ago claiming that he's retiring his claim on it!' Oh, they seemed pleased as could be, I'll tell you that, Meg."
Meg didn't know what to say, but she had heard all she needed to. Her silent question had been answered, and she felt suddenly colder than she had before.
Giving some vague response to Michelle as well as a parting "Au revoir," Meg turned from the cleaning woman and walked around the corner. There she stopped and sat upon the carpet, staring blankly ahead of herself and waiting for Michelle to finish up with her work. Once she heard the woman come out and close the door without locking it, Meg stood and waited for a few moments before walking back around the corner towards the box before silently letting herself in.
The chorus was rehearsing down on the stage. Meg sank to the floor to avoid being seen and leaned against the Ghost's old chair, which smelled of fresh polish. She knew all she needed to know now, and suddenly the Ghost's letter made more sense: You will understand well enough when the time comes. Yes, she understood. His parting gift, his parting words, his strange appearance the last day she had spoken with him; they all should have been enough to tell her that he was nearing the end of his life. Perhaps in some ways, they had told her. Surely she knew on some level that he wasn't well. Perhaps she just didn't want to believe it. Perhaps she just wanted to go on pretending that he really was a ghost, something incapable of dying. His letter should have canceled out that possibility, though, when he signed it with an actual name.
The thought of it brought fresh tears to her eyes, and Meg began to weep uncontrollably. She hadn't known him very well, so why did she feel such a strong attachment to the man? Of course he had helped her in many ways, not just financially. He had gotten the managers to notice her and make her the leader of a row; he had played games with her and helped her become popular with the other rats; he had complimented her when she felt inferior; and now he had given her a very precious gift. Were all of these reasons enough for one to feel so attached to someone that they should mourn their death? Meg thought so, so that was just what she did for what felt like hours on end.
When at last her tears had somewhat subsided, Meg pulled her locket out and began to toy with it. The act gave her some comfort, and she realized suddenly that she had never opened it. Feeling like a fool, she slipped the small clasp open and took it off her neck so as to be able to look at the picture with the proper side up.
Prizing the small thing open with her fingernail, she held her breath as she opened the gold locket like a tiny book.
Inside of it were two pictures; one was of a woman with golden hair and a stern but beautiful face, and the other was of a dark-haired man with kind eyes and a hard mouth. Meg wondered for a moment who the pair could be, before a thought struck her: They were his parents.
Though she did not know if she were correct in her assumption, Meg felt certain that they had to be Erik's mother and father. Why else would he have their pictures in little on something that was worn so closely to his heart? The thought that he had given something so precious to her, of all people, made her eyes fill with tears once more. She closed the locket and clutched it to her breast as her eyes overflowed for what felt like the hundredth time that day.
Rising up, Meg sat herself carefully in Erik's old chair, taking care not to be seen by the actors below. She put the necklace back on and felt it hang delicately next to her heart, the cold metal of the chain a welcome reminder of its comforting presence. Meg looked about herself with resigned sorrow, knowing that Erik would never occupy this box again. The thought was painful, but Meg did not allow herself to start crying again.
She sat there for at least an hour, absorbing the last remnants of her fabled Ghost's presence. When at last she felt that if she stayed any longer she would not leave at all, Meg rose from her place ruefully and made her way slowly toward the door. Soon enough she would have to start warming up for tonight's performance, and the new occupants of the box would be coming in to sit down.
At the door, her hand on the knob, Meg turned back for one final look at the box that had belonged to her strange friend and benefactor. She smiled sadly at his chair and wiped her eyes clear of the new tears that had begun to spring up. This would be the last time she would sneak into this box now, for soon it would be nothing more than a cesspool for painful memories. Meg turned her hand on the knob and began to exit. Standing in the doorway, her heart pounding in her chest, Meg whispered her own last words to her Ghost:
"Adieu, mon ami."
And she shut the door on her childhood games.
Author's Note: The End. Like it? Hate it? Tell me. :)