Hello, Paige Turner here. I realized my first post (having been written quite a long time ago and not posted with any sort of idea what I was doing) could use a small amount of tweaking, and that maybe, just maybe if I changed it, more people would be tempted to read on to the rest of the story.
So, we'll see how that turns out.
Disclaimer: I own nothing except this version of the characters, which can't honestly be anything worth owning.
Oh, and if you're reading this for the first time – it gets better. I swear, it gets better the further into the story you read. Really. Check it out.
A loud crash of thunder woke Meg Giry as she lay fast asleep in her dressing room at the Opera Populaire, cocooned tightly in two worn and threadbare quilts. She had fallen asleep to the comforting sounds of a storm echoing through the enormous, magnificent building where she and her mother lived. Now, it seemed the storm was over, and an oppressive silence met Meg's straining ears as she raised herself on one elbow, staring out at the dark room. No – not silence – as she stilled, she could hear a steady, faint drip, drip of water echoing somewhere in the Opera. Still half-groggy with sleep, she slapped her hand instinctively down on the open box of matches on her nightstand, selected a match, and lay back against her pillow to strike it expertly overhead, on a piece of rough paper she had pasted to the headboard of her small bed. She held the small match in both hands, as one would hold a flower, and stared at the flame as her mind returned slowly to consciousness.
Leaning over, she lit a small oil lamp, a brass Persian item that she had found in her room one day. It had been sitting on her dressing table as if someone had been entering from a dark room and forgotten it, having no more use for it. Meg had immediately claimed it, and used it every night. It flared briefly as she lit it, and she turned her face from the momentary brightness. The dark did not frighten her, and she had explored the Opera House enough in her nearly eighteen years that she believed she could find her way around it in the darkness, but if she were going leak hunting, she thought she would do well to bring a light.
Holding her worn black blanket tightly around her thin shoulders with a hand clenched at her chest, she rose from her warm bed and lifted the small lamp from her bedside table. She also gathered up her washbasin, an ornate but faintly cracked porcelain bowl with a faded design of roses twined around the edge, with which she intended to temporarily solve the problem of the leak once she found it. Not bothering to put on slippers or a dressing gown, as no one else was likely to see her at this time of night, she crept out of her room, closing the door behind her with only the softest of clicks.
Meg was surprised when she had traveled the length of her dressing room's hallway, only one of many used for the chorus girls during performances, and the faint sound of falling water had not grown louder. That meant that the leak was somewhere else in the Opera House… but where could it be in this enormous building that it would echo so loudly that she would be able to hear it all the way from her room?
With a quiet "Ah!" of realization, Meg thought of the only place in the Opera likely to provide such excellent acoustics – the grand stage and auditorium itself. Sighing, as she would really prefer returning to her warm bed and the soft grip of sleep to a nighttime stroll of a "haunted," not to mention cold, opera house, she set off down the corridor in a path she had traveled hundreds of times before, which would bring her quickly backstage. Her bare feet made no sound on the ornate crimson carpet that ran the center of the hallway, and she seemed no more than a gliding shadow herself, wrapped in her black blanket. The only part of her that was easily visible in the darkness was her pale, long fingered hand, which shielded her lamp flame from the wind of her movement.
After only a few minutes of travel, Meg found herself behind the many layers of lowered curtains that hid the magnificent stage. Raising her lamp high, she took care to move slowly and silently, her keen blue eyes searching everywhere from the rafters to the stage floor for the elusive dripping. Briefly, she wondered if she would ever spot a single leak in such a forest of thick, softly swaying fabric. A few still-open trapdoors showed nothing but blackness, entrances into the first level of the Opera's extensive sub-levels.
Suddenly, the light from her small flame glinted off a falling drop, and yes, there it was. Meg walked to stand near the pool formed by the slow dripping, straining to see past the many catwalks and curtain ropes overhead. Understanding struck without visualization, however, as she realized that the leak must have been coming from one of the many small pipe chimneys that opened through the very top of the Opera, used for ventilation when a performance called for an exceptionally large amount of smoke. Someone, one of the stagehands no doubt, had left the flue open, though there was to be no telling how long it had sat that way; this was Paris's first real storm in several weeks. Meg would be sure to mention this carelessness to her mother – Madame Giry had the Opera's manager's ear.
Looking down at the spreading puddle beneath the leak, Meg sighed. No sense in having someone slip in the morning, or having the water run and ruin one of the still-lowered backdrops from that afternoon's rehearsal. Reluctantly, she removed her worn blanket and, in one billowing movement, spread it smoothly over the pool, setting her washbasin on top of it. The falling water now made a sharp plink each time a drop was caught by the porcelain bowl.
A sudden and suspicious breeze made Meg shiver, and she wrapped her arms around herself for warmth. Not knowing why, as her first thought was to return to the warmth of her dressing room, she pushed through three layers of curtains until she found herself at the edge of the stage, in front of the first, magnificently embroidered curtain. She stared around at the enormous auditorium, its velvet seats empty and silent, only a few spare candles in wall brackets dimly lighting the huge, cavernous room.
Meg had rarely seen the auditorium from such an angle. Despite her many years at the Opera, Meg remained a simple ballet dancer and chorus girl. Though a great lover of music, vocal and instrumental, she felt she possessed only a mediocre skill at both. Most of the instructors at the Opera had assumed that Meg would have no potential for greater roles than the chorus offered, as they believed she was there because of her mother's occupation, and not any talent of her own. None had bothered to teach her more than a simple chorus girl was expected to know, and her mother, though ballet mistress as well as a box attendant during performances, had resolved never to spend extra time with Meg, for fear of bringing the implications of favoritism down on both of them. Thus, Meg had always kept her secret loves and desires to herself, and never saw any reason to, as she felt she was bound to do, embarrass herself by attempting to voice a desire for a chance at more. She only felt comfortable singing when no one was around, which was discouragingly rarely in the busy Opera Populaire.
Which is why, as she stared hungrily at the empty room, thoughts and dreams of one day performing from where she now stood, front and center stage, entered unbidden into her mind. "That's all they'll ever be," she told her self quietly, "just dreams." Still, she found it hard to resist wondering what it would feel like to sing, here, as la Carlotta would tomorrow as she had for nearly every performance in Meg's recent memory. How would it feel, she wondered, to sing from the center stage of the magnificent Opera? What harm could it do? After all, there was no one around – everyone else was still warm and asleep in their beds.
Or so she thought.