A few notes:

This is actually from THE SUSAN KAY NOVEL, Phantom, for all that have read it. If you haven't, Madeleine is Erik's mother, and this takes place after Erik runs away from home. Maybe a one-shot, maybe more if ya'll like it. R/R!

I stood with considerable effort. The French braids that had been so beautiful three days ago now formed impossible blonde waves around a haggard, also once beautiful face. My eyes were dull, and my complexion was terrible. And I didn't care.

I wasn't going anywhere today. I never went anywhere. The only person that I would see today was Marie, and heaven knows she had seen me worse than this. I had never been the same. Not since that day.

He was gone. It was over. It had been over for almost two years now. It was like a dream, a nightmare. It seemed as though it had never happened. Something that surreal, that incredible … It had all been a dream.

And I had awoken, and the pain came again. As it always did.

I heard a knock at the door. I hurried very little putting on my dressing gown. Whoever it was could wait. I didn't bother to brush out my hair. Who did I have to impress? Etienne was gone, and Erik was gone, and Madeleine was all but gone.

I wandered down the stairs, pausing for a moment as I always did to look at the mask on the table in the foyer. It hadn't moved since he left, and I didn't dare touch it. It had gathered layers of dust since that Day, but maybe it was just another way I had of fooling myself into believing that it was all still okay.

Erik was still here. I knew that. I knew it like I had known that the shepherd boy was my child. I knew it in the way that I knew everything that I had ever known. My life was a long, resplendent nightmare. Nothing mattered, for I would awaken and it would all be new again.

The knock sounded again, now with more fervor. I sighed softly, brushing a finger through the layer of dust on the mask. The line it made looked almost like the track of a tear. I dared not touch it again.

I remembered once again the knock, hoping that whomever it was, presumably Marie, had not given up hope and left. I approached the door, reaching out slowly, wiping away a final tear before swinging the door open.

It was indeed Marie. Her dull red hair was pulled back behind her, and the creases in her light green dress were exact. I didn't show much emotion, but beckoned her inside.

Her look was not one of simpering pity; I daresay that she had given up on that ages ago. She looked somewhat strict in her demeanor, but this didn't daunt me in the least. It was a comfort almost. I was all but a child now. I didn't need a best friend, I needed a guiding hand. Marie was that to me, and came almost every day out of a human concern and a desperate loyalty.

We took a seat in the parlor, and she set down the basket that she had brought with her. I kept my hands in my lap and looked around innocently, somewhat avoiding her gaze.

"How are you Madeleine?" she asked politely, looking over at me.

"I'm fine," I replied rather staunchly.

"No you aren't," she corrected softly. "You haven't brushed your hair in days."

"Just three or so," I defended with little fervor. She sighed, and took an ivory handled brush out of the basket, which she had placed on the carpet.

"Come over here," she beckoned. I assumed a seat beside her on the chaise with childlike obedience an allowed her to undo the braids and carefully brush out my hair. I admitted to myself even now that I needed Marie desperately. If it were not for her, I would have faded into nothing already.

"So what have you been up to lately, Marie?" I mused in an absent manner.

"Going to mass, and working mostly," was her reply. "How about you?"

"Playing piano," I said softly, my answer hardly relevant to her question. True enough, it had just come to me as I sat there staring at the beautiful cherry grand piano. I hadn't been doing any playing of the piano lately, for all I knew the last person to touch the keys had been him.

"Madeleine," she started, pulling me reluctantly out of what would become another one of my visions.

Madeleine's visions. They were frequent now. I'd admit it to myself even. I wasn't that far gone. I just seemed to decide that the time in which I currently lived wasn't the one in which I wanted to. I stood amid protests from Marie and walked over to the piano.

I thumbed through the pieces of parchment that garnished the lovely piano, finally choosing one that was to my liking. I read through it briefly, and then sat down at the keys.

Slowly, I became absorbed as my fingers traveled across the dusty ivory keys. The melody resounded throughout the room. It rose and fell like human breath as it took shape. Out of the corner of my eye, I could barely see Marie pursing her lips. She didn't approve. But I was already too far into the reverie to care.

As I rose climactically to the measure in the middle of the song, I felt someone sit beside me on the bench. I slowly ceased to play, the melody fading. I looked up, resembling a child that knows that she has been caught doing something against her mother's wishes. Marie, however, just nodded and stood, beckoning me to follow. I understood and obeyed, assuming my aforesaid seat on the chaise. Marie smiled a rather sad piteous smile, but I was already too absorbed in a certain tapestry on the wall to notice.

The tapestry in question was one of my particular favorites. It had an almost medieval appeal, as it depicted knights, and a king, and queen. It occurred to me for the first time that the knights all seemed to cover their faces. I toyed with that idea for a while, my hands closing and unclosing on the hem of my skirt.

"We're through," Madeline finally announced, patting my rather dulled blonde hair once. She placed the brush back into the basket.

"Have you eaten yet this morning, Madeleine?" she asked again, with the cool formality that I supposed was meant to further the illusion that everything was as it once had been.

"No," I confessed rather airily, at last averting my gaze from the tapestry.

"Well, I brought some things with me for an early brunch. I'll get to work making that," she informed me, as she turned to walk to the kitchen.