Disclaimer: I do not own the Phantom of the Opera. Of course. The song Cold, Cold Heart belongs to Norah Jones.
This is set in modern day England and is written in Christine's POV. Please be aware that this is my first POTO story, and I'm a little nervous. Feedback would be greatly appreciated!
IMPORTANT: This story is under revision. Basically I'm going through it chapter by chapter and correcting all the mistakes. Just so you know!
Cold, Cold Heart
I first saw the advertisement in the local paper. I remember it clearly. I was sitting with my best friend, Meg Giry, in the Corner Café. It was where we usually hung out after classes.
I had been searching for a job. Even in a town as small as ours, there were usually a few jobs going. And I really needed one. What with my college classes to pay for, on top of the fact that my mother had died the previous year. Dad had fallen apart afterwards. He barely spoke or even left his room. Depression, the doctor said. Occasionally I'd hear his violin playing mournfully but it usually stopped after a short while. The doctor insisted that he see a counselor. Those sessions, while they did help Dad, sucked up what was left of the money Dad had made through his concerts.
I told Dad I would find a job. He objected at first, but I insisted. We needed money urgently and he was too weak to refuse. So after my Literature class at college Meg and I retreated to the café, where she sat drinking coffee and I poured over the few options in the paper.
The advertisement was small and barely noticeable. It was printed in the bottom right of the page, in small font as if the advertiser didn't really want to draw attention to the information.
Wanted – Assistant for weekend work and some evenings. Duties include cooking, cleaning and some shopping. More information upon application.
"I could do this." I said, showing Meg the advertisement. She read it and then shook her head.
"You don't want to take that one, Christine."
"Why not? It's perfect. Weekend work, I'm free most evenings and I can do everything it wants."
"Look at the address."
I glanced back down at the paper and my heart sank. It was for the manor just outside of town. In a town as small as this, gossip was the only real entertainment. And the manor produced a lot of it. The owner was never seen in public, no one was really sure who he was or what he did for a living, or even when he started living in the manor.
But beggars can't be choosers and at that point I was definitely bordering on beggar.
"I'll go and see how things work out. Besides, with a place that big the pays got to be pretty good." I said, circling the advert with a pen. Meg smiled and two hands slipped over my eyes.
"Guess who?" a male voice said. I grinned.
"Good guess." He said, sliding into the seat next to me and kissing me. He looked down at the paper.
"Possibly. I'll go check it out."
"At the haunted manor!" Meg teased. Raoul looked incredulous.
"The Manor? That's where the job is?"
"Yeah. Don't give me that look," seeing his doubtful face, "I'm only going to apply. I might not even get it."
Raoul remained unconvinced. He frowned at me.
"Maybe I should come with you."
"Raoul, I'm a big girl. I can go to a job application by myself." I assured him. A kiss on the cheek, an innocent smile and he was won over. He put an arm around me as Meg said,
"You guys want to catch a movie tonight? There's this horror one, set in this creepy old mansion…"
"Meg!" I said, throwing a napkin at her. She laughed at me and even Raoul chortled.
"Anyway, I can't. Dad had an appointment and he always gets emotional after a session. Actually I should be getting home and making a start on dinner." I said, glancing at my watch. Raoul stood with me.
"I'll come too."
Raoul de Chagny is a great boyfriend. A little clingy at times, and he worries like there's no tomorrow but he's generally lovely. I'd been with him for a couple of years now. It was nice being in a relationship like that. There was something about Raoul that was safe and reliable, comforting and predictable.
Unfortunately I've always had a side of my nature that refused to be tamed. It was a mixture of the safety of that relationship and the restraint on my wild side that drove me to do the most irresponsible and ridiculous thing I had ever done. It had happened last year, before Mum had died. And the result of that act was waiting outside the café.
It truly was the most beautiful motorbike I had ever seen. Deep scarlet in colour, shiny and clean. I took care of that bike as if it were my own child, cleaning and servicing it regularly.
We said goodbye to Meg and I passed Raoul the spare helmet. He smiled as I slipped on a leather jacket.
"You look so incredible."
"Thanks. Wish I could say the same to you." I teased, mounting the bike. Raoul climbed on behind me and we drove off.
Dad wasn't home yet. I parked the bike in the garage and carefully wiped every speck of dirt from the gleaming surface. Raoul laughed at me.
"Do you love that bike more than me?"
"Don't feel bad. It was love at first sight. I never meant for it to happen." I assured him.
Raoul helped me make dinner. It was only pasta and sauce so it didn't take long and we settled down to watch TV. We were laughing at The Simpsons when the door opened. I went into the hall where Dad was taking off his coat.
"Dad? You OK?" I asked anxiously. He smiled tiredly.
"I'm fine. The session was… intense though. I'll be glad to get an early night."
"Dinner's just about ready, and then you can sleep."
"Thanks, Christine, you're an angel. Hello Raoul." Raoul shook hands with him.
"Mr Daae. How are you feeling?"
"Been better, frankly. But never mind that for now. Let's eat, I'm starving!" Dad said, a brave smile covering the tired look that had haunted his eyes for months.
He barely ate at dinner. He never did anymore. He ate some and then picked at it. He caught me giving him a look and smiled, swallowing some sauce. Raoul stayed for dinner, he often did. We kept the conversation deliberately light and told Dad about the advertisement.
"By the way, Dad, I'm going to an application tomorrow."
"Really? Where?" He asked, sprinkling grated cheese on his pasta.
"It's only an assistant job. Cooking, cleaning and so on. I'll get more details tomorrow."
"Where is it?"
"Just outside town. Do you want me to pick up your prescription while I'm out?"
"Thanks, that'd be good. More pasta, Raoul?"
Dad went straight upstairs after dinner. Raoul and I washed the dishes. I avoided his accusing look.
"Raoul, he has enough on his mind right now."
"So lying is the answer?"
"I wasn't lying! I just didn't tell him the whole truth." I said, admittedly somewhat feebly. Raoul gave me a look and I stopped.
"Fine. I should have told him. And I will. Just… not yet."
We fell silent. From upstairs came the faint strains of violin strings. That sound made me give up. I dropped the dish cloth and leant against the surface, burying my face in my hands. Raoul didn't say anything but put his arms around me. The tears broke through the fragile dam that had thus far held them back. For several minutes all I could do was cry. Eventually I looked up and burst out angrily,
"It's not fair!"
"I know, Christine."
"Why did she have to die? Why was she so damn selfish? Why did she do this to us? She told me she loved me but if she had she wouldn't have died. I hate her… I HATE HER!"
Raoul caught my flailing arms and held me to him as I wept hysterically into his shoulder.
It was an hour later when Raoul left. I said goodbye at the front door. He looked down at me concernedly.
"Are you sure you'll be OK?"
"I'll be fine. Don't worry. I'll see you tomorrow." I locked the door and turned off the lights. It was a routine now. I checked the heater was running, made sure the taps were off, locked the windows and then went upstairs. Dad was sleeping and had let his violin out on the side. I was surprised. He usually treated it with such care. I put it back in the case and then went to my own room. I changed quickly, brushed my hair and teeth and slipped into bed with plans of reading. But my tearful outburst had exhausted me more than I knew and I was asleep within minutes, the book slipping from my hand and falling onto the rug by my bed.