Disclaimer: I do not own the Phantom of the Opera etc. You can pretty much tell what I do and do not own.
From Angel's Eyes
To begin with, there wasn't much that you could say about Christine Danes. She was an ordinary girl, as ordinary as they came.
Only child, two parents, good student, responsible, reliable, friendly, cheerful.
And then came the day that had changed her life. She had been nineteen at the time. That day – March 18th, to be exact, but it hurt less to call it that day, it made it less real – turned what should have been another ordinary day in her ordinary life into a nightmare.
That was the day the car crashed.
She hadn't been with her parents. They had been driving home from a charity dinner. They weren't driving fast and the roads had been clear.
What they hadn't counted on was the drunk driver coming in the opposite direction. Both of her parents were killed on impact. The driver was taken to hospital but didn't make it through the night.
And Christine had had no idea. She was curled up on the sofa at home, watching television and wondering why her parents were so late when the phone rang. She had answered and heard a policewoman. Half an hour later, the police were on her doorstep and a woman – Christine couldn't remember what she looked like, it was too much of a blur – was telling her that there had been an accident.
After that, time had no meaning. The next few days, the funeral plans, visits from relatives, sympathy cards and flowers arriving, they all bled into each other. Time only came jolting back into a harsh reality at the funeral.
That was when the moment of pure clarity hit Christine. As she stared down at the two freshly covered graves, raindrops starting to fall lightly, the sky overhung with dark clouds, it struck her.
They were dead.
But still she couldn't cry. Not a tear was spilt. Her Aunt, Uncle and two cousins stayed with her for a few days and when the cousins were tucked up in bed, the family lawyer and her aunt and uncle sat down with her at the dining room table.
The lawyer, Michael Greeth, looked across at her.
"The will is simple enough. Everything belongs to you, Christine. You're nineteen, so you're legally responsible for yourself. Your parents stated that you could do what you wanted. You can stay in the house, or your aunt and uncle will take you in."
Christine shook her head.
"I… I can't move."
"Christine, I know you feel that way now but-" her Aunt Trisha began but Christine pressed on.
"I have roots here. Friends, university in a couple of months. I'm staying here."
Her aunt and uncle tried to persuade her to move, but she refused flatly. Eventually they settled for regular visits and telephone calls, as well as her presence on major holidays.
Once everyone had left, about a week later, Christine found herself alone in the large house. She walked the lonely rooms, and then went upstairs to her parents' bedroom. Her dog, Trister, was curled up on the bed, sleeping peacefully. Christine lay down beside him and wept for the first time since her parent's death.
Every day was harder than the last. Christine barely spoke and was often alone. Her best friend, Meg Grayson, was heartbroken by her friend's distress and often invited her to stay the night at her house. Sometimes Christine accepted, sometimes she didn't.
Death affects everyone in different ways. Christine's way of coping was to keep things the same as they were when her parents were alive. She didn't often go into their room, except to clean it occasionally. And after she had cleaned, everything went back to its rightful place, even down to leaving her mother's book on the bed by her pillow, the bookmark peeking out from the space where her mother had been reading before they had gone to dinner that day.
Wounds heal. It's a fact of nature. Things are bad for a while, but then they start to get better. It got easier to get up in the morning. Christine would often wake early to find Trister snuggled up under the blankets beside her. A routine was set. She would get up, shower, dress, eat breakfast whilst fixing her hair and take Trister for a run around the park. After that she would return home, study or go to class, depending on what day it was. Then, at lunchtime, she would either meet Meg for lunch or practise her music whilst chewing a sandwich. The afternoon would be filled with music, studying, classes and Trister usually got a second walk.
After dinner, which she either ate alone or with Meg and her mother, she would watch a little television, take Trister for another walk and lock the house up. Some reading, maybe a snack, and then bed.
The routine never altered. Until one day, two years later when she saw twenty-one, in her university music class, the teacher announced that they would be putting on a musical. Christine was only half listening until the teacher said cheerfully,
"The Phantom of the Opera! What do you think?"
They started to talk excitedly and Christine closed her notebook. The teacher held up a sheet.
"Sign up here, for the character you'll be auditioning for. Anyone who doesn't know what it's about, see me after class."
There was a rush as everyone ran at the sheet. Christine waited until the group had cleared and then made her way hesitantly to the sheet. Her teacher, Dr Carter, looked at her in surprise.
"You'd like to audition?"
"Yes. I know the musical well." Christine replied quietly. Dr Carter smiled.
"I didn't know you could sing. You've never sung in class before."
"I know… I'm a little… well, not really shy. I just find it easier if I'm not drawing attention to myself."
Dr Carter nodded sympathetically. Christine shook her head. She didn't want sympathy.
"I think I want to sing again."
"Certainly. Which part?"
"Christine." She said firmly. Dr Carter looked hesitant.
"Are you sure?"
"Yes. That's the only part I'd want to audition for." Christine said firmly. Dr Carter nodded and wrote her name down.
"I'll see you tomorrow, you can audition then."
"Thank you, Dr Carter."
Christine went outside and found Meg waiting for her.
"Hey. What's up?" Meg said cheerfully. Christine shook her head.
"Not much. I'm hungry, I think I'll head home. Want to come?"
They climbed into Christine's car. It was a pretty good car, but bought second-hand. Although her parents had left her quite a lot of money, Christine was careful not to squander it. She was better off than most University Students. She had a prepaid home, she had paid her fees in advance and was able to support herself. Christine was aware that more than a few students had dropped out because of money issues.
As they drove back to Christine's house, Meg talked happily and then said,
"And guess who I saw today?"
"Who?" Christine said, not in the least interested.
"Can't remember his name. The really cute guy. Richard something? The one who asked you out a couple of years ago."
"That's the one! Why did you turn him down anyway?" Meg asked curiously. Christine shook her head mutely.
"It was just after… after. I didn't want anyone hanging around, really. I could barely put up with the hour-on-hour phone calls from Aunt Trisha."
"Anyway, he asked after you."
"Oh?" Christine said disinterestedly.
"Yeah. I wonder if he'll call you."
"I don't know." Christine said, pulling into the driveway. She put the handbrake on and took off her seatbelt. As she opened the door, Trister came running at them, barking excitedly. Christine smiled rubbing his head.
"Hey Trister. Do you want to go out?"
Trister wasn't a particularly big dog, his head coming to just above Christine's knee. He was mostly white, with brown patches, large floppy ears and a long tail that just never seemed to stop wagging. Christine often joked that he was stupid, since he spent a lot of time running into things, but he seemed a lot cleverer than she gave him credit for. Especially when she discovered that he had found out how to open the refrigerator, meaning she'd had to put child locks on it,
She went to the back door and let him out into the fenced garden. He ran out at several birds, sending them flying, barking madly. Meg laughed and followed Christine to the kitchen.
"What do you want? I can do omelettes, if you want." Christine said. Meg nodded.
Christine set about preparing food and Meg poured them both cokes. Eventually Meg said,
"Want to talk about it?"
"About what?" Christine asked, putting the omelettes onto two plates.
"Whatever it is that's got you quieter than usual." She looked up and saw Meg watching her with a slight frown, chewing her lip. Christine smiled slightly.
"It's nothing. I… I'm just auditioning for a musical tomorrow. It's going to be practised over the summer, to be performed at the end of August."
"Really? That's great! What musical?"
"The Phantom of the Opera."
"Let me guess – you're going for Christine?"
"Hmm." Christine made the noise non-committal but Meg laughed.
"This is great! It's just what you need. It'll keep you busy and get you back into your music and everything!"
"I might not get it."
"'Course you will. You'll blow them away."
"I haven't sung in public for so long…"
"You'll be amazing. In fact, when we've finished lunch, you're going to go and practise whilst I take Trister for a walk." Meg said authoritatively.
Once Meg had gone with Trister, Christine pushed open the door to the music room. Both of her parents had been musicians, and the room was filled with records, CD's, sheet music, music books and a variety of instruments. And in the centre of it all was the piano.
Christine sat down at the beautiful instrument and ran her hands across the keys, listening and taking pleasure in the perfect sound that came from it. She started to warm up her voice. She practised singing everyday. Just because she didn't want other people to hear her, didn't mean that she wanted to become out of practise.
She began on Think of Me, singing clearly as she played, taking delight in the clarity of her voice, making sure to pronounce the words properly, just as her mother had taught her.
She didn't notice when Meg came back and stood in the doorway, grinning. Christine played the last part of the song and looked up. Meg applauded.
"No doubt. You're going to get it."
"Let's not be presumptuous." Christine added. Meg made a dismissive sound.
"Have a little faith. You'll be great."
The phone started to ring and Christine answered it as they went back to the kitchen where Trister was thirstily lapping water from his bowl.
"It's Trisha. How are you?"
"Hi Trisha. I'm fine, how's Uncle Jack?"
"He's well enough, and the girls are good too."
Formalities out of the way, Trisha asked,
"Have you considered the offer about the holiday?"
"Yes, but I think I'm going to have to say no. I'm auditioning for a part in a musical tomorrow, and if I get it I'll be busy with rehearsals."
"Really? Oh, that's wonderful, Christine! We'll come and see you."
"If I get the part."
"And if you don't, you can come on holiday with us anyway! It's really a win-win situation." Trisha said delightedly. Christine smiled slightly.
"I guess so."
Meg gestured that she was leaving and Christine nodded as Trisha asked about the house.
"Everything's fine. I don't use half of the rooms. It's easy to keep it all clean and organised."
"I really wish you'd get a smaller place. I don't like the idea of you being alone in a house that size." Trisha admitted. Christine tilted her head to trap the phone between her ear and shoulder as she started to move the dirty lunch dishes to the sink.
"It's fine, really. I couldn't bear to live anywhere else. Besides, it's close to university and there's plenty of room for me and Trister."
Trisha made a disapproving noise but said,
"If you think so. Oh, I've got to run, there's someone at the door. We'll organise a visit soon."
She ended the call and placed the phone on the cradle, washing the dishes and humming along to the radio. Trister watched her from his basket, where he was curled up. Christine smiled at him.
"We're OK. Aren't we, Trister? We're OK."
A/N: This is very much just setting up the scene. Not very interesting but bear with me!