A/N: Well, I've been hanging around this fandom for a few months now, and in a fit of study-avoidance, I decided to quickly spit this one out- a short examination of a possible future for Christine. I dont suppose you could categorise this as either E/C or R/C- it focuses mainly on Christine herself. But maybe if you squint really hard, it's E/C.
Anyway, you guys know the drill, I own nothing etc etc, Read and Review!
P.S: You'll have to excuse some of the typos, as is apparently screwing up the chapter upload.
Her bones creaked now. An uncomfortable twinge in her lower back plagued her when she walked, and she no longer felt slim, rather, frail- even scrawny. Years lay between her stage days and the present, and in those years lines had etched themselves at the corners of her eyes, spreading in a fine feathering across the once firm skin of her cheeks, signs of wisdom supposedly gained…
She had alway presumed that as one got older that wisdom must some how seep in through the pores, like some infinite immeasurable faculty, unknowingly gained but available to its possessor all the same. Delusions of all knowing matronly figureheads had been entertained and assisted her through the lingering self-doubt of motherhood. The somewhat innocent image of her mothering a healthy brood and running the household with a deft hand persisted obstinately, seeming to mock her as the years progressed, never actually coming to fruition.
No, that was wrong; to say they had never come to fruition would be unfair. No, indeed, she had married, she had mothered, and she had run her household as any other might. But somewhere in the recesses of her mind she had always envisaged all of it to be very different, so very different. Surely, by the time one reached an age such as hers, one should feel different, stronger, made of sterner stuff, than they had in childhood. She felt deprived, as though the fabled wisdom of old age should have begun to set in, but simply refused to.
The warmth of her breath left small huffs of condensation against the glass of the window pane, small patches of frosting that grew and shrunk with a certain regularity. The weather had turned decidedly chill and Christine could feel the cool air cascading from the glass. The cold against her front and the warmth from the fire at her back. A sure concoction for the influenza.
Outside appearances belied the autumnal temperatures. How typically Parisian, she thought. The crisp air was in conflict with the sunshine and the light breeze, catching those who ventured out of doors unaware. She imagined the city dwellers, walking uneven footpaths briskly and pulling on their coats hurriedly. The corseted and laced women would be draping themselves with the fashionable, but entirely impractical shrugs that seemed to be so popular this season. One even hung in her own closet- lace trimmed and sewn from a becoming burgundy silk. The men would go by with coat tails stirred by the deceptive breeze. Perhaps Raoul was one of them- stepping from his carriage and hurriedly making his way into the building of his solicitor's offices.
Raoul's business trip to the city was a fortnightly ritual and Christine was allowed the entire manor to herself for several hours. Well, as much as she was ever going to find herself alone, at any rate. The domestics did not count.
It was in these three or four hours alone, every other week, that Christine found herself most… displaced. None of the staff demonstrated any particular warmth towards her- at first she had believed it to be because of her failings as their mistress, but she soon realised it was probably more likely a result of the reserve she displayed. The house was empty. Emptier than usual. Her daughter had left her side years ago, marrying at nineteen. Christine had rebelled at the thought of her daughter marrying at such a young age, but Raoul had, as always, indulged the vivacious nineteen year old and given his blessing.
The sharp crack of a spitting log at the hearth brought Christine abruptly from her reverie.
Now that her train of thought had been interrupted, she was made acutely aware of the ache spreading in her joints, brought on from standing near a cold window for too long. Making for a nearby divan, she averted her eyes from the black mass that hulked surreptitiously in the corner, seeming to glare balefully in her direction.
The lacquer of the piano should have had a patent shine, but instead sat matte black with a fine dust covering. She knew from previous subtle inquiry that it was of the highest calibre. German make and design, a baby grand, with elaborate rosewood inlay, contrasting grain lines that twist in organic motifs, all hidden beneath the closed keyboard cover. Despite her most valiant attempts, the pianoforte eventually succeeded in drawing her attention. A Pandora's box with ivory keys.
No one ever played the instrument, despite its regular dusting and tuning. Her daughter had never displayed any express interest in the arts, and Christine had never felt comfortable with musical expression since the disastrous end of her stage career. Raoul had never commented on its presence, or lack thereof, in their home, and the question was never raised. It had been so long since music of any kind was heard in the de Changy household, that Christine realised with an odd sort of surprise that she had forgotten how to hear it even in her head.
She attempted to summon a simple C major chord to mind and found to her intense frustration that it could not be heard. C had always been her pet note- more natural, and clearer than the others. Wryly, she wondered what she would sound like should she attempt to sing again. Not only would she have no sense of pitch, but undoubtedly her vocal chords would have also changed with age. A niggling thought reminded her that vocal chords do not tend to mature like a good wine, when left to their own devices.
The piano looked quite bereft and lonely in its corner.
Unnecessarily, she glanced cautiously around, and being greeted by no more than a vacant room, slowly made her way to the instrument. She could hear no steps in the long corridor beyond the closed door of the room and she dared to gently lift the keyboard cover.
At first she was reluctant to seat herself at the piano stool, but her back was quick to remedy such notions. Had there been an observer in the room, they might have curiously noted that she sat almost hesitantly to one side of the chair, with room enough beside her for another. Christine's mind, however, was too filled with anticipation at the thought of playing to contemplate the vacant space beside her.
The fingers of her right hand ghosted over the keys, and she became suddenly acutely aware of the stiffness in her hands. Another mark left by old age.
Furtively, she touched her index finger to the middle C key.
There was nothing.
Pressing a little harder this time, she marvelled at the resonance. It really was a very fine instrument.
Before moving on, to the next note, feeling more than a little paranoid, she stopped to listen for approaching sounds. The cold silence of the near empty manor greeted her, settling her irrational fears of discovery.
This time she ventured beyond C, instead climbing up the scale to a G, one note at a time, each coming excruciatingly slowly.
The piano was indeed in tune, and the movement in the keys still smooth.
Adding a note at a time, her fingers walked up and down the simple C scale, followed by an arpeggio, and then F and G too.
Somewhere in the tones between the arpeggios, she began to hum softly in the back of her throat. She found her voice resistant, and no longer smooth, but still serviceable. Occasionally, low notes needed to be eased into, but otherwise nothing felt amiss.
As her right hand moved up and down the keys, her left seemed to raise itself of its own volition, her fingers coming to rest against base of her throat, where she delighted in the warm vibration felt through the skin. However, this arrangement did not last long, as she itched to hear the full round chords that required both the right and left hands to be on the keyboard. Her nails, too long for piano playing, tapped softly against the key surfaces, the only sound beyond the notes and her humming.
The chords eventually fell into patterns, the tentative notes of an improvising amateur. No real pieces came to mind, so she was content to fumble her way through, toying with the notes and humming softly.
The sound of carriage wheels in the drive way abruptly brought her mind back to reality. Raoul had returned. She threw the keyboard cover down hurriedly, barely missing her own fingers. The sound echoed uncomfortably- painfully audible. Had her sexagenarian's body allowed it, she might have stood up so rapidly her stool would have toppled, but as it was, she moved away from the instrument as quickly as her back would permit. Glancing across the black lacquer, she stopped to blow gently on the cover, attempting to make the fingerprints in the dust less noticeable.
By the time Raoul's greying head could be seen below, climbing the steps to the house, she had resumed her place by the window. Again, small frosted patches of condensation grew and shrank against the glass, this time coming in the more irregular pattern of one out of breath.
She had one or two minutes to clear her mind of her recent activities, before Raoul would seek her out. One or two minutes to keep the cover on the well of memories that had tempted to overthrow her. Seeming to be tired, her eyes half-heartedly focused on some semi-distant object on the manor grounds and her contemplation of domestic wisdom was resumed.