Mmkay, so I decided to revise my chapters so I can become familiar with my story once again. You know, just changing a few things and correcting some problems...this way I can continue without being too rusty. The chapters will apparently be slightly off for a while, because decided to welcome me back by deleting my first chapter instead of just replacing it. Woohoo! Bear with me.

Chapter One: Shattered Dreams

Dreams are the key to the freedom of the mind. Days go by, bringing struggles, strife, and pain, but in the night dreams swoop down on silent wings to bear the soul away from the prison of life…for a time. For, like all things sweet and sacred, there always comes an end to paradise and a return to the confines of harsh reality.

In the Chagny estate, the end of dreams was a common occurrence. Morning after morning dawned on the rich mansion, waking the inhabitants to a new day. And every new day Christine Daae's delicate dreams were shattered into thousands of tiny fragments by the realization of her position.

It had been precisely six months, two weeks, and five days since her greatest dream had ended. Torn from the life she knew of singing and dancing at the Paris Opera House, she was thrust into the nightmare of being forced to choose between her childhood love and a captivating fallen angel. Her momentary indecision and rash conclusion had ultimately led to the end of her thoughts of freedom and happiness.

Raoul, her childhood sweetheart, had whisked her away from the dark and chilling depths of the Opera's cellars just before an angry mob of concerned and justifiably irate citizens had poured into the Phantom's secret lair. Christine had suddenly found herself in the bright and open air of the world above ground. Her fears had anxieties had melted away like shadows in the sunlight and she allowed herself to slip into a state of blissful, and ignorant, happiness. Here, in the Chagny estate, she could forget about her confusion and painful emotions….or so she once was able to.

"Christine, did you hear what I just said?" Raoul's voice cut through Christine's waking dreams in a slightly exasperated tone.

Christine shook herself from her thoughts with a visible start. "I-I'm sorry…what did you say?"

"I asked if you slept well last night," he said patiently, although his attention to his morning breakfast before him betrayed his true indifference to the idle chatter he was trying to pursue. Raoul didn't even attempt to meet her eyes, instead concentrating on the eggs and bacon on his plate.

"Yes, thank you," Christine responded automatically and tersely.

She was more than used to the routine: Raoul, who was often called away on business and social matters, always made a point to eat meals with Christine, his fiancée. As if reading from a script and performing in a mundane play, Raoul and Christine exchanged pleasantries and small smiles throughout the meal, only to separate soon after and go about their respective business.

Christine pushed the eggs around her plate with her delicate fork, deep in thought. Her business these days consisted entirely of playing the part of an upper class woman, a role sorely lacking in the grand excitement and rush of euphoria she was accustomed to as a singer in the Opera. In a cruel twist of fate, her station now was the exact opposite of what she once was – once a performer, privy to the mysteries and wonders of the arts, now an observer, painfully disconnected from all she had known. She now was cast in the role as the impending Vicomtess de Chagny, which required her to attend starched social events and otherwise limited her to entertaining herself at home. Raoul, her fiancé, was more than happy to oblige in outlining what was expected of Christine.

"Christine," he had said, unable to hide the condescending undertone to the smile on his handsome face, "Now that you are my fiancée, it's best that you learn how you are expected to act. And this begins with no more of this silly singing at the opera. You no longer need to work for a living. It's unseemly for a woman of your station, my love." That is apparently how dreams shatter: with a smile.

While still standing in the wreckage of her dreams, Christine was informed that proper behavior for a woman of her soon-to-be status included shopping, chatting over tea with friends, and pursuing titillating hobbies such as cross-stitch or embroidery. Somehow that concept did not appeal to Christine, who longed for the way her heart raced when she entered the stage, the way all eyes traveled from the chorus and ballerinas to rest on her when she prepared to perform one of her soul-stirring solos. Vividly she remembered the cheers and applause of the crowds, the standing ovations, the towering bouquets of flowers from admirers of her voice that miraculously appeared in her room following her performances. And certain singular roses, perfect and stunning in their simple beauty, tied with sleek black ribbons….

Her fiancée had been certain to quickly inform her of the rules of his household regarding the sender of those curious roses. Upon directing the unpacking of her belongings and generally settling into her new rooms, Christine had been caught singing snatches of a song that her mysterious musical instructor had taught her.

"My love, let's not hear anymore of that," Raoul had interrupted swiftly, his clenched jaw muffling the words and giving them a slight edge. "I've taken you away from that heinous monster and the nightmare he plunged you into, so don't be bothered with him any longer." He smiled tightly, but lovingly.

"But Raoul, it was only a song that the Ang--" she had idly begun to explain, her mind upon directing the servants still, only to be cut short.

"THERE IS NO ANGEL OF MUSIC!" Raoul de Chagny's sudden and violent outburst had thundered through the relative silence of the room. The servants had stopped in their tracks as if suddenly frozen in stone, some still clutching dresses or boxes, but all staring wide-eyed at their master. Christine had been the cause of the only movement in the room; she had begun to tremble, chestnut colored eyes large with terror. Raoul had closed his blue eyes, taking a few deep breaths through flaring nostrils to compose himself.

"Let's hear no more of this again, Little Lotte," he had said with finality and a comforting smile.

Her ivory cheeks flushing with embarrassment and anger at the mere memory of the confrontation, Christine reached over and unfolded a newspaper lying on the table, attempting to hide her thought-provoked show of emotion from her unsuspecting fiancé.

She had been, in an unspoken taboo, forbidden to sing, forbidden to speak of her misguided angel…slowly Christine had realized in accepting Raoul's offer for marriage she had in essence been forbidden to be free. Although the first few months of her new life with Raoul had been filled with blissful happiness and laughter, they did not remain so. Over time, Raoul had apparently assured himself Christine was, in fact, not on the verge of being stolen by some specter or persuaded against her will to leave him. This epiphany had led to the end of the illusion. He no longer was forced to vie for the attention of his beautiful fiancée, so he began to treat her as he now viewed her: one of his permanent possessions. And what a lovely trophy she made. With the battle fought and his prize secured, Christine had come to understand that Raoul had only to wait until the day of their wedding to completely regard her as another of the fancy furnishings of his estate. She was no longer the damsel in distress, needing a knight in shining armor, and without that element of heroics, Raoul seemed to have lost his fervent interest in her. And yet, even with this knowledge, she stayed.

She loved him; Christine knew that ever since they spent their early years together and it was confirmed by the pounding of her heart when she had been reunited with him at the Opera House. But over the months since her flight from the Opera she had discovered a crucial difference between loving someone and being in love with someone. Christine, young as she was, was still only learning the ways of the heart, and had discovered too late that her relationship with her childhood friend held no enchantment for her.

Eyes roaming the pages of the paper while not actually reading anything in particular, Christine blushed a deeper shade of crimson when she thought of who did indeed captivate her heart – with the allure of music. Mentally checking herself, Christine quickly pushed him from her thoughts. Music held no part in her life anymore, and neither did he. Why should she torment herself with thoughts of someone she could only see in her dreams? Besides, she had caused him more than enough anguish with her foolish and offensive rejection of his professed love.

Mechanically Christine took a forkful of the eggs she had been unconsciously mangling, chewing them without tasting while her eyes scanned the print of the paper. She smiled casually as a memory resurfaced, triggered by her perusing of the newspaper. Raoul had gone so far as to suggest once that books of poetry and romance would be better suited for a lady of her status, but Christine had put her foot down and insisted upon retaining at least this one connection to the outside world. The newspaper was her last feeble link to the world she had known – the world she was no longer allowed to freely traverse – and Christine was loath to relinquish it at the request of her fiancé, even if sometimes she only used it as a shield to hide her emotions at the table.

"And so I told him the mere thought of that was preposterous, and to even suggest that to his superiors would be the end of his career..." Raoul droned on between bites as he ate, clearly trying to fill the silence with words, mundane as they were. God, how she wished he would grasp how awkward this idle banter was and give up. She would at least settle for no babbling.

Her chocolate eyes returned to the newsprint. Sputtering and choking, Christine suddenly dropped the paper. Her silver fork clattered to the table noisily and she overturned her plate in her haste to bring her hand to her throat. Silence reigned, broken only by Christine's intermittent coughs and gasps for breath.

"Christine?" Raoul asked with a raised eyebrow from his place across the table, quite stunned by her spontaneous coughing fit. And yet he was not bothered enough to rise to help her, she noticed in a detached manner. Clearly he believed her choking spell would teach her to more properly chew her food. "Are you alright?" The clatter of the dish, the coughing, and the inquiry from Raoul had summoned a young servant girl who industriously began to clean up the mess. Her master paid no attention to her, which was only a little less than the detached concern he held for his afflicted fiancée.

Christine only nodded in reply, brushing her brunette curls away from her face with slender fingers; her coughing was under control, although she still gasped for breath and her eyes watered painfully. But she was not alright. Her wandering eyes had just skimmed over the obituaries of the L'Epoque. Three simple words had succeeded in filling her lungs and almost stopping her heart: "Erik is dead."