Past the point of no return...
the final threshold...
The bridge is crossed so stand and watch it burn...
Beyond the point of no return...
The first thing I noticed were the hands...so elegant, so beautifully-shaped and expressive...as they clutched at Christine Daae with feverish anticipation.
The duet on stage was spiralling toward a violent climax with a passion I had never before witnessed in an opera. As her play lover reached out for her, the soprano's dress was pulled down, revealing a scandalous view of a shoulder. The delicate red rose fell from her curly dark tresses upon the stage. She seemed frightened, as if the cloaked figure truly did intend to seduce and ravage her right there on the spot!
The breathless thrill of a gasp gasp escaped from my lips before I could stop it.
"Madame, please..." The gentleman sitting beside me implored with a whisper.
"I am so sorry," I apologized quickly,summoning up all of the feminine wiles and flirtatious behavior which had been drummed into me practically from birth. The patron beside me forgave my rudeness quickly enough, smiling indulgently before returning his attention to the scene before us. Annoyed as I was with his interruption, I was again transfixed by the performance on the stage of the Opera Populaire at the Paris Opera House in a matter of seconds.
Not only was the acting of Don Juan Triumphant superb, but the strange music, combined with the beauty of the tenor's voice and the seductive lyrics of the song, seemed to sweep me away to another world. Naughty images crept into my head, so strong I felt I should faint. And I was not a woman accustomed to fainting.
I looked at the program in bemusement.
Signore Ubaldo Piangi...
Odd, I had never cared for that particular singer before, even though he was quite popular in the opera world as of late. And I recalled his voice to be much deeper. Besides, he was not nearly as dashing as the figure on stage. Well, actually, cloaked as the actor was, it was impossible to tell what he looked like physically. Yet there was something about the way that he carried himself that was so...masculine and dominating. If the man on stage was Piangi, he had quite surpassed himself with this performance.
But something was wrong.
The orchestra had stopped playing.
Miss Daae reached up, lowering the hood of the singer on stage. I strained to see more clearly. The man seemed to be wearing a sort of white porcelain mask, covering only half of his face. His hair was slicked neatly down, unfashionably so. And his complexion was so pale that he could have been a ghost.
I could not take my eyes off of him.
Eerily, the voice wafted into space, hypnotic, pleading and mournful, bringing tears to my eyes.
Say you'll share with me one love...
Lead me, save me from my solitude...
Say you want me with you, here beside you...
As talented as she was, the look of fear and pity on Christine Daae's face was utterly real. I realized this was no longer an opera but true life unfolding before my eyes.
Anywhere you go, let me go too. Christine, that's all I ask of...
Quick as a flash, Christine ripped the mask from his face, revealing a most horrible sight. The left side of the man's face was an inhuman mass of misshapen and wrinkled flesh frozen in a terrifying grimace. As grotesque as the vision was, the expression on the other side of his face was perhaps worse: a sickening mixture of fear, pain and rage.
Before the audience could recover from the shock, Christine Daae and the man vanished in a poof of red smoke. People screamed at the sound of gunfire. Chaos ensued as a ballerina lifted up the back scenic curtain, revealing a body hanging from a rope.
My questions were answered regarding the fate of Signor Piangi.
Quickly, the front curtain was let down, assumedly to hide all of the resulting panic backstage.
"He's here! The Phantom of the Opera!"
The cries resounded throughout the theater.
"Oh, this is too much!" I sighed. "Not this tiresome 'Phantom' business again..."
"You have an odd sense of humor, Mademoiselle." My neighbor replied coldly. "A man's death is not to be mocked at."
I turned to study the man sitting beside me. He was obviously a young dandy, immaculately dressed, reeking of wealth, perfectly groomed with his sandy locks of hair falling about him in curls. I despised his brand of over-privileged cockiness.
"Oh, what rot!" I laughed, derisively. "I'll wager Signore Piangi is just as alive as you or I."
He gaped at me as if I had lost my mind.
"Well, look about you, Monsieur. Has the Opera Populaire ever been more popular? Every seat has been filled. This fabled ghost is making them quite a profit. Now there is scarcely any performance to attend without some little incident going on..."
"You consider the falling of a chandelier a little incident?" he asked in disbelief."No, I assure you, Mademoiselle. I was there and that was no stunt! The ghost is real and very dangerous. Didn't you see all of the gendarmes lining about the corners of the theater, ready to shoot to kill?"
"Probably a lot of extras from the opera," I sniffed, standing up from my seat. "At any rate, there will be no more opera tonight. It is a shame if that was the Opera Ghost. He was the only interesting thing on stage tonight!"
"That cretin with his obscene music?"
"I beg your pardon!" I argued, sincerely taking offense. "I found that composition brilliant, Monsieur, whatever the reason for its existence! So many people don't know good music when they hear it. If it isn't among the popular styles of the day, everyone dismisses it. That's why real masterpieces are so few!"
"I'll bow to your superior judgment on the matter, Mademoiselle," he bowed with a patronizing tone. "In any event, it is not safe here. Please allow me to escort you to the exit."
Oh, bother! I bit my lower lip, doing my best to conceal the sulky pout at my lips. Lord save me from men who were always trying to be chivalrous.
Unfortunately, upon observation, there was nothing much to be done. The majority of the well-to-do were hurrying up and down the aisles. Top hats were askew. Gloves and programmes were forgotten and strewn about on the red velvet seats and carpeting. The entire opera scene seemed to have run amuck at the sight of the legendary Opera Ghost.
So I finally acquiesced, taking his arm and allowing him to lead me out through the front entrance amidst the panic.
Yet at the exit of the theater, I hesitated. It was as if something were holding me back. Something larger than myself. Fate, perhaps? Again, I heard the sound of that beautiful voice in my mind, calling to me, beckoning to me, pleading for me...
I shook my head, dismissing my flight of fancy. Obviously, the excitement of the evening had overly affected my rampant imagination.
"Let me get a carriage for you," the young man offered.
I couldn't explain it, but I suddenly had no desire to escape from the theater.
"Really...Monsieur...I appreciate your concern but I am quite capable of getting home by myself. I don't live very far away."
He looked like a disappointed little boy whose candy had been taken away. It was cruel of me to deprive him so of his show of gallantry.
"Thank you for saving me, Monsieur...?"
"Christian. Monsieur Christian Deveraux, at your service."
He bowed gracefully.
"Monsieur Deveraux, you are quite the hero to save me," I smiled. "And I am very indebted to you. I cannot thank you enough."
He seemed pleased with himself, giving me a smile that was rather pleasant if you preferred his sort. If I hadn't had previous life experience to draw from, he was the sort of person that I could have fallen for. Nevertheless, I would be thankful for him to leave my presence.
Gingerly, I entered the coach.
"Thank you again, Monsieur."
"I would be remiss if I didn't save beautiful women from monsters..." he beamed as he kissed my hand, looking up with me with crystal clear blue eyes. Aflame with hope for more kisses to come, I supposed.
I laughed flirtatiously and sent him on his way.
As I watched the lad's retreat, I sighed with relief. Alone at last.
"Where to, Miss?" the coachman asked.
"Just around the block and back here."
"You heard me, my good man. Just around the block. And posthaste!" Before he had a chance to argue with me, I reasoned with him. "I'll pay you more than it's worth; and then you can get a more profitable fare."
The coachman shook his head with disbelief and followed orders, obviously thinking I was a candidate for Bedlam.
Now, I sighed with eager anticipation, I would investigate more into the matter of this so-called Opera Ghost. This strange phantom who could compose such beautiful music blessed with a voice that made angels weep. That weird presence that inspired pity and terror in me all at once...
For I had realized why fate was calling me to his side...
He was the one! My muse!
He was the source of inspiration I needed to fulfill my own dream...to write my own opera!