Okay. First proper full length Phantom fic... hopefully one I won't get stuck on half-way through. Please be nice... but constructive criticism is welcome too. 'Mia Scura Amore' is (I think/hope) Italian for "My Dark Love". If any of my foreign language references need correcting, please tell me.
Disclaimer: I don't own the original characters or story. I'm just re-writing stuff for my own entertainment. And hopefully yours.
I sighed as I stared out of the window.
In my childhood I could remember being thrilled by the passing of clouds and the soft glowing of the sunset in the distance. The way everything would be coloured in soft shades of pink, orange and oyster-grey. How sometimes, when the clouds parted just a little, you could catch glimpses of the small towns and green fields miles and miles below. Such was the magic of the airplane, that it could instil such feelings of wonder in people's hearts.
No quite so for me, I thought. This entire journey was nothing but source of anger for me... a symbol of how my life was being controlled by others who never even paused to ask me what I might want. Not all the beauty of our surroundings, or the cultural excitement of our destination could erase this fact from my mind.
Turning away from the window, I caught my father's soft, kind gaze. It was nice to know that he was sympathetic of my feelings, but the fact that he had done little about it did not help.
"Buckle up... we're landing."
Glancing up, I saw this was the case, and that the little seatbelt light had been switched on over my head. Resigned, I obeyed it as I had been obeying many instructions these days. Out of a simple lack of any other choice.
Four months ago, my father had approached me with the subject of my immediate future, and that of our little family. He was a violinist... a good one too, if under-appreciated. In England, we had been fairly well off, with the kind contribution from my step-mother, Paula, but knew that my father had been eager to make better use of his talents than being stuck at the back of his section, never getting recognised. So initially, I had been over-joyed to hear that he had got a job in a prominent orchestra, where he could finally display his talents as they should be.
Unfortunately... the orchestra was in Rome.
"Rome!" I remembered saying, sounding a good deal younger than my seventeen years suggested. My initial euphoria at the news had started to waver already. "How are you supposed to work in Rome?"
I know, I know... most people would jump at the chance to live in a country like Italy. Cute guys... good food... culture... But for me, the list of reasons not to go piled up slowly and gradually, until it was teetering like a badly stacked pile of folders, wavering and reading to collapse into chaos at any moment. If what my father was saying was true... we would be moving away from the home I had known for the past six years since my mother's death, the friendships I had made... everything. And my school too. Apparently I would not be going to school in Italy, which, at least, was a relief, since my Italian was practically non-existent beyond saying 'hello' and 'goodbye'. Instead... I was going to be sent to (drum roll, please) boarding school.
I'd never been to boarding school, or anything remotely similar, in my life. It was alien territory for me, which was daunting enough. Not that I usually had trouble making friends, although I would never have classed myself as much of a social butterfly. Perhaps the most infuriating thing about changing schools was that it was in the middle of my final two years of high-school which, in England, is quite frankly, a pain in the arse. It was the most appalling piece of bad timing, since now I had to cope with the strains of fitting in and adapting on top of the wonderful exams that would come in the final year.
When I had attempted to explain this to my father, he had nodded, with a sympathetic smile on his face. He understood that it would be difficult, he told me... but I could hardly expect him to turn down such a great opportunity, could I?
Which was the reason I was on this flight, moving myself, my possessions and my life into the great unknown. How could I possibly hold my father back, after seeing him strive all these years for such an opportunity? Knowing how much it meant to him?
So there was little else I could do but surrender myself to this change and hope beyond hope that things would turn out alright. As much as I wanted my father to live out his dream, I didn't want him to forget that I had my own as well. If my grades fell as a result of this drastic change in our lives, then it might jeopardised my future. Like my father, I wanted to be a musician, although not a violinist. Singing was my passion... one that I put my heart and my soul into, and it was my deepest fear that I would not be able to pursue this passion of mine as a result ofour move to Rome. Of course, my father laughed away the suggestion, saying that he would not allow such a thing to happen, and I knew it. And of course, I did. But that didn't stop me worrying.
Still... I said my goodbyes to friends and home, leaving with promises that we would stay in contact and laughing comments about getting lucky with some hunky Italian.
As the plane touched down, I found myself going down a list of people to contact. It was funny but, when I thought about it, there were actually few people I could really imagine really staying in touch with. Not that our friendships had not been strong... they just did not work over long-distance. But I resolved to try at least. I would need what support I could get from my old friends in order to get through the next few weeks. First, there was the settling in to this new house in Rome which, according to my father, was charming, if slightly eccentric... located close to the 'action' of the city while still being in a reasonably quiet area, with plenty of neighbours. I'd just have to hope these neighbours had a better grasp of English than I had of Italian.
I moved quietly after my father and step-mother, taking a half-hearted interest in our surroundings and the people we moved through customs with. We collected our luggage and made our way through to the Arrivals lounge, where we had the new experience of seeing our family name on a board, being held up by a dark-haired man, with a tidy black moustache and a casual dark-grey suit. Beside him was a taller man, with a clean-shaven face, brown hair, and a much smarter, navy suit. He greeted us with a warm smile.
"Buonasera, Signor Day."
My father came forward, and the two shook hands firmly.
"You must be Mr. Versi," my father said.
"Indeed, signor. Please excuse my poor English..."
"Oh, of course... er..." Here, my father gestured towards me, Paula, and little Joseph, who was being cradled in the arms of yours truly and kept trying to eat my long brown curls. Under the man's scrutinizing gaze, I shifted my six-month-old half-brother in my arms, as if he might provide some kind of shield. "This is my family... my wife, Paula... daughter, Christine... and the little one there is Joseph."
We shook hands in turn, me with some difficulty, what with Joseph in my arms. Once the introductions were finished, we were led out of the airport towards a hired car, into which our luggage, and finally we ourselves, were piled.
On the journey the house, my father and Mr Versi discussed the orchestra for which they both now worked. I tuned out a little, choosing instead to take in the landscape as it passed us by. In the light of dusk, the city looked grey and dull... almost dead. Few people seemed to be out and about, and those that were had a run-down appearance that led me to believe they must be homeless. I could only hope that the city looked much better in day light, or by night.
When we reached the house, I had to go along with the description my father had given me. It was indeed eccentric, both inside and out. Built of white stone, it stood side by side with other, vaguely similar houses, all detached from each other, surrounded by short garden walls at the front and tall hedges at the sides. There were two stories, but once inside I saw that the two floor provided more than sufficient space. There was also, apparently, a basement, the door to which was under the stairs.
As we stepped out of the car, another Italian man, middle-aged with a tired, worried-looking face and black hair flecked with silver, approached us. He was introduced as the representative of the house's owner, and told us (as translated by Mr Versi) that he was delighted that the house would finally have a family moving in. I gave him a courteous nod and smile, but couldn't help noticing, as we followed him inside, the slightly nervous, jumpy attitude of the man. It was disconcerting, but since it was none of my business I tried to ignore the uneasy feeling he inspired inside me.
The true value of the house was probably lost with the clutter of boxes that filled the wooden-panelled corridor. This corridor/hallway, led right down to what appeared to be a kitchen at the back and, one the right and left side respectively, a dining room and lounge. The stairs, also wooden, although there were covered with a soft-looking red carpet, were right there in front of you as soon as you walked in the door. I wanted to rush up them instantly and find out where my room was, no so much out of excitement but out of a desperate desire to start settling myself in before I cracked up. Unfortunately, the worried-looking man had taken it upon himself to give us a tour of the house, and I was obliged to follow him, listening half-heartedly as he talked about how the house had been designed, along with the others along this street, by an eccentric architect, who also oversaw the actual building. We were shown the, admittedly beautiful, stone fireplace... the tasteful layout of the kitchen... and the general style of the house that, I came to realise slowly, was actually very pleasant. More than pleasant really. Everything had been done in white, waiting for us to pick our colours, and I could already imagine the walls being coloured with dark paints... like deep-red, or perhaps a fir-tree green. It would go well with the dark wood and contrast nicely with the white of the framework around some of the doors.
"Can I go and find my room?" I finally asked, when we had been standing in the kitchen talking for fifteen minutes.
"Sure," said my father. Gratefully, I handed Joseph over to Paula and with a smile at everyone, turned and left them. I took the steps two at a time, a habit with stairs that I found impossible to break, and looked down the corridor. Unlike the one below, this corridor was carpeted in the same deep-red material as the stairs. I imagined it would extend into the rooms as well.
After trying a few doors and finding only an airing cupboard and a room that, I assumed, would be the nursery, I found my room, recognising the pine bed that I slept in. Like every other room, mine was painted white, and filled with boxes, all marked with things like "CHRISTINE'S CLOTHES", or "CHRISTINE'S PICTURES". Only a few pieces of furniture apart from the bed had been brought in... my sleek black desk and chair, pine wardrobe, and little vanity unit. But already I could see what I wanted to do with everything. Not wasting a minute, I tore off the masking tape on the box supposedly filled with my pictures, and opened it up.
Sighing and dragging my fingers through my hair in frustration, I looked down at the dozens of newspaper-wrapped frames. Settling in was obviously going to take a little longer than I thought.