Author's Note: This chapter is dedicated to Sandi, who beta-ed the first three chapters of the story for me. May you feel better soon.
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Disclaimer: I do not own the Phantom of the Opera ore any of the original characters, as much as I wish I did.
When I was ten years old my father died. The loss crushed my soul beyond any hope of repair.
My father and I had been the closest of friends. Ever since my mother died, an event that I remembered though somewhat vaguely, it had been just my father and me. As a musician he didn't always have a steady paycheck, but we made ends meet, though we definitely had a tight budget. Sometimes he and I would go out to the street corners to make money. He would play his violin, and I would sing. We'd always make a fair sum, enough to buy dinner at least. But never enough to live off of for more than a few weeks at a time. It didn't seem to matter.
When my father was still well, he used to tell me stories. Stories he learned while we still lived in Sweden, I was too young when we moved to remember living there, except for a few hazy memories. Usually they told of the adventures of Little Lotte, and the Angel of Music. One day he told me, after a particularly bad coughing fit, that when he was in heaven, he would send the Angel of Music to me. I responded with the innocence that had not been taken from me yet. "I hope I get visited before then, because what's the use of being taught by an angel while you're in heaven?" I never thought to think I would ever be without him. Three weeks after this conversation, he was diagnosed with lung cancer.
Our heath insurance was laughably bad. He wasn't able to get the treatments that would keep him alive. For two years he wasted away before my very eyes. I tried to earn money in whatever way I could, mowing lawns, singing on street corners, anything that would pay for the next meal. Then, five months before my eleventh birthday, Charles Daae died.
I wasn't given time to mourn. Social Services sent me into a foster home a mere three days after my father's death. The funeral was paid for by his life support, but it didn't give me much as an inheritance. After all of our debt was paid off, there was a grand total of thirty-two dollars and sixty-seven cents.
I was tossed from foster family to foster family for nearly eight years. No one wanted to adopt a girl who was above the age of four, even if she could sing like an angel.
There was one family in particular that I remembered. I only stayed with the Sumptner family for six months, but I remember the six months vividly. Not because the Sumptners were particularly kind, but because of their neighbors, the Chagneys. Robert Chagney was my age, fourteen at the time, and the most handsome boy I had ever met. He always had a kind word for me, and I was soon infatuated with him. We went out for four months, a remarkable amount of time for the age. He was the only one ever to extract the full story of my father's life out of me. In a strange way, he reminded me of my father. Always laughing and he even played the violin for a couple months. He was incredibly bad at playing the instrument, but I knew it was an effort to please me, and I was touched. Robert gave it up after only two months, but it's the thought that counts, right? But then the Mr. Sumpter lost his job, and I could no longer stay with the family. The move left me bitter, but I moved on, as I had learned to do over the years.
My eighteenth birthday was a day I had been dreading. Social Services washed their hands of me, as I was now an adult. The family I was staying with allowed me to stay until I graduated from high school, but two months after I graduated I was out.
Despite all of the difficulties in my life, I remained true to the standards I knew my father would have wanted me to keep. I had a few boyfriends, though they were few and far between, but they never got anything more than my kisses. I didn't drink until I was eighteen, though it had been legal for two years. Even then I drank moderate amounts. I had been asked by multiple families why this was so. I usually mumbled something about how it was what my father would have wanted. While this was what my father would have wanted, it wasn't my primary reason. I had more self respect than to ruin myself. And when I turned sixteen I gained another reason.
The long awaited Angel of Music came to me. His voice came when I took my daily walk to the nearby park. I stayed in the same house for the two years until I turned eighteen, so it became a tradition of sorts to walk to the park to watch the sun set every day. The angel of music became one of my reasons for living.
After moving out of the house that was the closest thing to a home I had, I got a job at a "restaurant," though it was truly a bar, named "Café Populaire". I did a plethora of things, from being a waitress, to bartending on Wednesday nights. We attracted all sorts of interesting people. Inaddition to the usual bar scum, a famous artist or two was known to stop in for the occasional drink.
Carlotta Guidicelli was our usual performer, though, when she had one of her fits, we had someone else. She had been singing for the Cafe for a little over five years. I secretly dreamed of having her job; of listening to the crowd cheer me, and most of all, of pleasing my Angel.