Synopsis: Saint Petersburg, Russia, 1881. Katya, a young lady's maid in the Winter Palace who wants to be a soprano, falls in love with Boris Rurik, an aristocrat, and he with her. But who is this mysterious man said to live within the palace walls?
Christine Daae…Katerina "Katya" Donkova (Kat-er-ree-nah)
Raoul, Viscount de Chagny…Count Boris Rurik (pronounced "Ru-rik"; there really is (or was) a noble family with this name. They were the ruling family before the Romanovs).
Madame Giry…Ludmilla Gala (Gah-lah)
Meg Giry…Anya Gala (An-yah)
Carlotta Giudicelli…Petra Ivanova (Ee-vahn-oh-vah)
Ubaldo Piangi…Vasili Pavel (Vah-see-lee)
Author's Notes: People, places, and most things are completely fictional. Any similarities are unintentional, and, well, just a bit creepy! I also decided to keep Christine's (or is it Phantom's) ambition to be an opera singer. To me that's far more interesting than aspiring to be head maid or cook or something…no offence if you harbour these ambitions! ;)
It was one of the harshest winters the city had ever seen. Snow swirled about through alleyways and in between cracks in buildings in the city's poor district. A few rats huddled together for warmth near an immense neo-classical building--the Winter Palace. Inside the servants' quarters of the palace, Katya Donkova was cleaning clothes belonging to her mistress, Petra Ivanova, one of the Empress Maria's ladies-in-waiting. Katya put a chemise through the wringer and then hung it up to dry. She pushed a stray wisp of wavy brown hair, most of which had been pulled into a simple chignon and secured with about ten hairpins, behind her left ear to keep it out of her eyes. Katya was still young at seventeen and thus was able to do more than the head maid, Ludmilla Gala, could. Gala was like a mother to Katya, who had lost her mother in childbirth and her father ten years later to Scarlet Fever. Her father, Dimitri, had been a court music composer, and every one of the servants told her how much she looked like him. Dimitri had taught Katya music and singing, and harboured hopes of one day becoming a soprano and appear onstage at the local opera house. As a child Katya ws often called solovyeh or "nightingale". "But that day may never come," thought Katya, "if I am to be here cleaning my whole life." Then again, Katya had a secret which only Lumilla Gala knew about--she had been taking private singing lessons from a man she had never even met. And yet, his voice was so very comforting in the dark. This man, this shadow, had given her hope of a better life…and for Katya, without music there was no life. It was this simple principle that she and she alone shared with her voice teacher.
Katya was taken in by her mother's friend, who was none other than Ludmilla Gala. Gala's sixteen year-old daughter Anya, another lady's maid, was more of a younger sister to Katya than a best friend and fellow worker. Anya was tall nd slender with blue eyes and log blonde hair, also in a bun and secured with about ten hair pins. Katya put a pair of ivory-coloured cotton stockings through the wringer and hung the pair up to dry next to the chemise. Katya was only about five feet tall, with brown eyes and a pale complexion, and her small hands were surprisingly still soft despite all the hard work they had done for years.
Katya had special orders from Gala to do as much laundry and to make the clothes as clean as possible. "Rumour has it that there is to be a court ball tonight!" whispered Anya to Katya excitedly while both were working side by side in the laundry room. They were shushed and reprimanded by Gala and then the two got back to work. Katya knew that court balls were always lavish, elegant, and the most important event on any social calendar. She, too, was very excited, and this new emotion urged her to finish work early to try to catch a glimpse of the arriving guests later that evening from her secret hiding spot directly above the Empress Maria's throne.
Count Boris Rurik alighted from the carriage and pulled his cashmere scarf tighter around his throat to prevent the wind from sneaking in through his clothes and into his skin. Boris was happy to see the finale of the social season, as he did not really enjoy being one of the hundreds of nobles that littered the city. He wished he had been born at least a merchant or a humble musician twenty years ago, not as privileged as he was. True, it was better to be well fed than starving, but Boris could not help going back to his favourite building, the opera house. He loved the arts and particularly enjoyed watching the ballerinas dance and twirl on stage. A voice made Boris start from his reverie. "Ah ha! There you are!" Boris turned around and faced Zubin, one of his assistants. Boris had tried very hard to escape from Zubin and his brother Popov ever since they left his manor near Saint Isaac's Cathedral.
Boris beckoned for them to follow, and as the three made their way into the ballroom, Boris though he saw a slip of a skirt belonging to someone below his "station", most likely a cook or a maid. But the owner of the skirt was out of sight before Boris had time to dwell on the subject.
Later on in the evening, Empress Maria surveyed the vast room: nearly everyone was a couple, waltzing in turns about the room. Above her Imperial Highness, Katya, too, surveyed the room through the railing, her hands gripping the twisted iron stakes that ran up and down the length of the balcony. She gave a sort of romantic sigh and watched the couples dance together. Katya noticed a handsome young man surrounded by beautiful young debutantes. The young man looked up her way and seem totally uninterested in the girls near by. He had kind blue eyes and was dressed in the finest evening attire. He smiled. Katya smiled back both shyly and nervously. She had no idea why he was smiling at her, a mere lady's maid. Their gaze was broken by Petra Ivanova, looking splendid in a green ball gown, and her husband Vasili Pavel greeting the count. "Boris, how lovely to see you!" gushed Petra as she held out her hand obviously wanting Boris to kiss it politely. Boris was distracted, though, for his eyes were now looking back up at Katya. Petra made a rather loud and impolite "harrumph" to get his attention. Boris kissed Petra's hand and Katya ran away quickly, a bit scared and crushed, and possibly amused with the young count, for she blushed. Boris saw Katya run and politely excused himself.
Finally, Boris caught up with her. He gently laid a hand on her shoulder as she pretended to be dusting an ornate gold frame that held an oil painting of Tsar Paul I. Frightened, she whipped around to find herself face to face with the same young man who had seemed so very interested in her and gave a gasp. If someone caught them like this, then Katya would surely be fired and the young nobleman would surly be publicly disgraced. "Wait," said Boris. "Please wait. I saw you just now and I…I…". He struggled to find the right words. "Think you look familiar," he finally decided, trying to study her face but that proved difficult because she would not return his stare. "Sir, I'm an orphan. How can you possibly know me?". Katya looked up and saw that he was still staring at her. "Are you Katerina Donkova? The only daughter of Demitri Donkova?" "Yes," Katya reluctantly replied a few seconds later. "I knew your father's work. I am a great admirer of his. You look very much like him," he said brightly. "My name is Boris--" "Your grace! Get away from that common labourer!" spat a voice from behind them. Petra Ivanova had arrived and loomed over them. Your grace--this meant to Katya that not only was this man of a higher social standing but he should not even be acknowledging her existence. "You, child. Go. Now," demanded Petra savagely. Katya gave a curtsy, let her eyes reach the ground as she did so, and did not dare waste time on leaving nor would she even think of glancing backward at the nobleman. But when she did five seconds later they were gone, leaving Katya quite alone farther down the corridor, and she was left to think only of Boris.
Katya had retired to her room early that night. She looked at the clock as it chimed ten past eleven in the evening. She still had her chemise, corset, stockings, and garters on underneath her dressing gown for she was completely lost in thought. "What has happened to me tonight?…But he knew my father. He knew my father and admired his work. He knew him…" Katya thought, lost in images of her father in her mind's eye. She saw his face and he smiled at her. All thoughts of her deceased father left her as she heard guests leaving, and wanted to see Boris once more before bed. Just as her hand reached the doorknob, a flash of bright light caused her to turn around and face the room. A candle which had most definitely not been lighted suddenly was. It cast a soft and subdued--and one might have even said seductive--glow about the room and highlighted Katya's long, wavy brown hair that was now free of hairpins and hung gracefully about her shoulders. Katya stared at the candle for a few moments and turned to leave, wanting to push away the strange happening. But just as she pivoted, the same phenomenon occurred yet again with a second candle. "Who's there?" she whispered into the silence. At these words the candles had glowed a bit brighter. "Is anyone there?" Katya still whispered. The candles glowed brighter. "Answer me!". The candles glowed so bright that for a moment Katya thought she saw a figure at the foot of her bed. The figure of a man. The figure of a man with his entire upper face encased in a metal mask. The candles flickered and Katya saw that the eyes in the mask were bright blue and staring at her. She was about to scream when--
"Katya! Why have you come here so very early?" Katya turned around to face Anya, but not before noticing that the candles had gone out and left two small trails of smoke above their wicks. "I was just…" She struggled to find the right words just as Boris had done earlier. "Getting ready for bed," Katya said. God knew it was scandalous for even two young women--no matter if they did share a bed chamber--to be seen in their underclothing. "Ah…I will leave you to, then," Anya said as she averted her eyes and left, closing the door behind her. Katya went to try the door handle again, but when she got to the doorknob the candles had miraculously sprung to life again. And there was the man with the mask again, and he stood at the foot of her bed as he did before. Katya fainted dead away.
"I met Dimitri Donkova's daughter today…and what a daughter he has!" thought Boris as he lay in bed that very same evening. "It is a shame he did not see what a beautiful young woman she has grown into," he thought, reliving the night's events and soaking up her image. Boris sighed contentedly, remembering her shy, nervous smile. He now wished he really were a cook, or a servant, or held some kind of a job that would enable him to get closer to her. His cousin, Luka, had not only defied but terrified his mother and father by running away with a milkmaid originally from Estonia. Boris had never seen his cousin again, but was not as unhappy for him as his family was. Boris was a dreamer and thought anyone should be able to be happy, regardless of social class or affiliation. He wanted to see her again. He had to see her again. He was completely infatuated with her. And with her image etched into his mind, Boris fell asleep.
Deeply asleep, Katya was being watched secretly by someone else completely infatuated with her. She laid on a deep red velvet and mahogany fainting couch, her long hair fell over her shoulders and spilled over her corset.
Her eyes were still closed. Katya stirred and opened an eye. She saw she was in a room lit by two candelabras on either side of her. There was only the fainting couch she still rested on, and no windows. Just a single door who's handle began to turn. Katya sat bolt upright, and winced as the pointed end in her corset jabbed her in the lower abdomen. Her eyes widened with fear and excitement. It was him. The strange man in the mask. Katya opened her mouth, then closed it again because she found she could not speak. This made the man in the mask smile. "I live in these walls," he gestured to the ceiling. "I am anywhere and everywhere you are. I am responsible for your gift…your voice,". Katya's eyes widened even further. "You…you are my teacher, then," Katya said, staring at him, completely disbelieving that this was truly real. The masked man held out his hand. Katya never broke eye contact with him as she allowed the man to pull her up off the fainting couch and out of the room.
Outside, was the most bizarre room Katya had ever entered: it was more like a grave than a room, for the walls were made of dark stone. Water trickled down the stone walls and there was a Persian rug on the floor. Katya was met with more candles, a desk on which several papers--music compositions and charcoal drawings of herself, Katya was alarmed to see--and a magnificent grand piano, whose black veneer shone white in the places touched by the candle light. Katya gasped. "Good, I see you are ready to begin," said the stranger as he sat down on the piano bench. "Begin," he commanded. Inexplicably, Katya began to sing the last piece she had sung, an aria sung by Tisbe from Cesar Cui's opera Angelo. The masked man played along with the piano--his music and her voice melded as one. As she finished, he praised her. "Xorosho, very good. One day you will be the star of the Marinski, I know it," he said excitedly.
Katya averted her eyes and blushed as she looked at the Persian rug on the floor. "Thank you, teacher," whispered Katya. "My name is Akim," he told her. Katya looked up and returned his gaze. "You are Katya. You are the one I write for," Akim said. Katya walked toward him slowly. "Why?" she asked. "You are the music," he said. Katya wanted to laugh, but Akim was incredibly intense. It was as though she were under his spell. Katya reached out a hand, and looked at Akim in the eyes. Now his eyes widened with fear. Katya gave a surprised yelp of pain as her left wrist was bent backwards. "The lesson is over," Akim said forcefully. Angered beyond sanity, obviously not expecting things to have gone so horribly, terribly wrong, he grabbed Katya by the other arm and dragged her up a fight of stone stairs near the room she was in that she had not noticed when she left the room only thirty minutes before. Akim shoved her out the door. Katya turned around. There was no door, only a seemingly innocent crack in the wall, which formed a seam from the plastered ceiling to the hardwood floor. Akim, her masked man, was gone.