If you liked this story I would just like to let you all know that I am planning several other stories as well. So this one will not be my last. Though a couple of them will be in other categories and not about the Phantom of the Opera. (Hope you are still interested!)
Thank you for all your support with Unseen Genius. I hope you all enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
It had been three years since war broke out, engulfing Europe in its entirety in a sea of blood and despair. In all of history no other conflict could match the spread of violence that even now plagued the continent. The superpowers of Europe joined together in two separate and terrible factions, both pitted mercilessly against the other. France, thought by the Germans to be on the brink of attacking, had been invaded without warning, laying the country to waste. Paris, once the city of light and love, had been silenced, becoming a grim and hollow shadow of what it once was. This was the largest war the world had ever seen, a world war, a war to end all others, and apparently there was no escaping its effects.
The Paris Opera House had closed its doors soon after the German army had marched upon the country. So far the city itself was safe from being caught up in direct fighting, but everyone knew it was only a matter of time before the battles came closer, and they were prepared. Paris operated as a city under siege, allowing no superfluous expenditures and focusing all its energy on the war effort. Holding an opera at such a time, when obtaining basic things like sugar and butter was nearly impossible, simply seemed wrong. And so the grand theater that Garnier had envisioned decades earlier fell silent.
No one had stepped foot inside the building for over two years now, but an exception was being made and the doors were thrown open to welcome a small crowd of people. In an effort to raise some much needed funds for the city, the managers of the opera had decided to hold an auction of the theater's memorabilia. Desperate for any form of entertainment, a steady, if small, trickle of people had streamed into the vacant building throughout the day.
As the auction sped along in the decrepit remains of what had once been the auditorium, a richly dressed gentleman in a wheelchair entered through a side door, his nurse's distinctive headdress fluttering slightly in the drafty hall. For a moment the action upon the stage stilled and all eyes turned to the newcomer with interest. Everyone recognized the aged Vicomte de Chagny, who was still a handsome man despite the wear of many years upon his face, for it was he alone out of all of Paris's grand society who had chosen to stay in the city despite the looming danger. It was rumored that the reason behind poor man's lingering presence was because he couldn't think of leaving the site of his dear late wife's grave. Theirs had been a grand love story that many still recounted to this very day.
"Welcome, Vicomte," the auctioneer stated enthusiastically, obviously glad to have attracted such a rich patron to the sale.
Nodding in acknowledgement, Raoul motioned to his nurse to place his chair near the stage. Sitting hunched as he was against the chair's back, the man was the image of tired sorrow. His light colored eyes moved about the darkened room with the blank expression of one remembering another time. No doubt he was seeing the velvet upon the dusty theater chairs as a brilliant scarlet and not the torn and dirty burgundy they were now, seeing the balconies free of cobwebs and pigeon nests and the chandelier hanging proudly over the room. With a sigh the old man turned his eyes to the stage and the auction continued on where it had left off.
Within a few minutes, a small bidding war between the vicomte and the former dance mistress Madame Giry, who was now well into her eighties, erupted over an oddly constructed music box. Delighted by the revenue the battle of wills was creating, the auctioneer smiled ear to ear through his jabbering. In the end Raoul's funds trumped Madame Giry's, and the old man was awarded the monkey-shaped music box. With a grim sort of satisfaction, the vicomte was wheeled out of the room, holding the box tightly against his chest. At the old man's departure the auction droned on.
Watching all of this unfold from the very back of the theater stood a small group of people. Oldest amongst them was striking middle-aged woman with generous dark hair and odd light colored eyes. She stood close to a quietly handsome man with sandy colored hair. Slightly behind them four others stood in the shadows, all blending into the dimness as if they had been born to do so. After several more moments of silence, the sandy haired man, the only one of the small group with such light coloring, turned to the woman at his side with a quizzical expression.
"Did you not say earlier that you were looking forward to seeing that music box again? Shouldn't we have bid upon it?" he asked quietly.
Tilting her head to lean affectionately against her husband's arm, Aria smiled. "Don't worry, Edward… I don't mind. I thought to buy it earlier. I have always wondered what happened to it. We never were able to find it after we had left this place. But I see now that perhaps I do not need it as much as some others."
Stepping forward then, a man with devastatingly good looks and flashing blue eyes crossed his arms over his chest, a scowl pulling at the corners of his mouth. "To hell with that old man. If you wanted it you should have gotten it. Really it belongs to us anyway, since it was Da who made the blasted thing."
"Come, come, Daniel. If Aria says that it should pass to the vicomte, then surely it should," a sweetly pretty woman with large expressive gray eyes said serenely. Laying her hand upon her brother's shoulder, Brigitte soothed his quick draw irritation with a gentle smile.
"Besides," Aria cut in as if her brother hadn't spoken up at all. "I wanted to come here for a different reason."
Stilling at her words, her four siblings, who looked so much like their father, all gave her their full attention. "Is it because this is where Da used to…er… live for so long. I should think it is rather sad to see it like this though…" Annabelle murmured, her eyes traveling upward to the dusty ceiling.
Following her sister's gaze the youngest of the group, a lovely woman with curly brown hair and fiercely intelligent blue eyes, finally spoke up. "Yes… this place does seem in a rather sad state of affairs. I do wish I could have seen it back when you lived here Aria. I love the story you tell about the room over the chandelier."
"I know you are dying to see that room, Abby. It really is an architectural marvel."
Clasping her hands excitedly before her Abigail got a dreamy look to her eyes that only the subject of a building project could put there. "Ah, perhaps sometime I can see it."
Pausing for a moment she shot Aria a concerned gaze. "Are you sad though? To be back after so much time?"
Shaking her head Aria smiled. "No, not really. I wanted to come to see just how much work it would take to restore this place."
"Because I think we should become the next patrons of the Opera Populaire. When the war ends… this city will need this place. I will not allow it to fall into ruin."
There was a pause, then identical calculating smiles lit all four faces behind her. "That plan does have a certain symmetry that I like," Daniel stated while he rubbed his chin in consideration, for a moment looking like the spitting image of another man who had stalked the Opera's halls many years ago. "It seems fitting that it should be us to restore the place. It draws the circle to a close, you might say."
Blinking between the siblings as if they were speaking another language, Edward shook his head. "What in the world are you talking about? What circle? And what does this have to do with Grandda Erik? Did he write an Opera for this place once? We should have brought him along if he has a connection here."
"No, he didn't want to come today. He and Mamma both have something else they have to do."
"What could they possibly be doing off on their own? And at their age?"
"They have a grave they wanted to visit," Daniel supplied after sharing a weighted glance with his four sisters. "Da wanted to return something to an…um… old friend. Something she left behind a long time ago."
Raising a hand to scratch his sandy head Edward gave a good natured, if confused, smile. "All right then…"
Smiling up at him, Aria took pity on his confusion. She and none of her siblings had ever shared the adventures of their father before, keeping the secret of the Phantom of the Opera closed off from even their husbands and wives. It had brought them all closer over the years, keeping the tale to themselves, but perhaps now was the time to share what had happened so many years ago. Perhaps now was the time to tell the story of how one simple dream and a fated meeting changed all their lives for the better.
"I will tell you later, all right?" There was a short pause. "It is a rather long story."
Hey all! I would just like to say that I have had the time of my life bringing this story to you. It really has been a fun journey and I am glad you guys stuck with me to the very end. One last thanks to all of you who ever reviewed for me! You guys really kept the inspiration flowing! A huge thanks to all of the talented people who ever did fan art for me! (Every single one of you is amazing!) And of course a huge thanks must go out to Terpsichore! She made my job easy because of her wonderful editing skills. So thanks again to you all!