Priestess Adularia: I'm so happy I can hardly breathe! Thank you all you wondrous readers! Thank you!

He's there, the Phantom of the Opera
Today, Christine goes in the mirror

Ah ah ah-ah-ah-ah ah aah
Ah ah-ah ah ah-ah-ah-aah!

And now, I write!
Now, I know someone is going to wonder why Raoul doesn't recognize Erik's voice.
First off, Raoul is naïve. He's told Phantoms don't exist, he believes Phantoms don't exist. Mme Giry or the Persian tells him they can take him to the Phantom, he follows them without stopping to imagine that they might be on his side (Mme Giry, at least, is, I'm not so sure about Nadir)
The Phantom, in my opinion, should be able to produce a long string of voices. Furthermore, what Raoul in the musical was Erik in a very bad mood.
Look at it this way:
The Phantom has a deep, loud, booming voice (both in 'insolent boy' and in 'flattering child')
Erik has a soft, gentle, sweet voice
Both voices are utterly beautiful, but Raoul will not make the connection between Christine's mighty 'angel' and his sorrowful friend Erik.
Well, not this chapter, anyway…

«§Ж§»

Midnight, has the moon lost her memory?
She is shining alone
Memory, all alone in the moonlight
And the wind begins to moan

All night, singing echoed through the house. The sounds were coupled with sobbing. Long, endless wails sounded in Raoul's ears.

His immediate thought was of Christine. Was she crying?

But no. These sounds seemed to come from the wind itself.

And it was a man's voice, singing.

Here I am, on my own
Nowhere to turn, nowhere to go to
Without a home, without a friend
Without a face to say hello to

He found himself sobbing, half-hysterical. Raoul stood up, paced, listened to the words. The anguish they spoke of tore him to the bone. There was no hope there, no salvation. His Christine would not have such misery.

And they were so, so beautiful. Soft, magnetic.

If I had heard this voice, Raoul thought. If I had heard this gentle whisper, singing to Christine, I could not have doubted that there was an angel of music.

It's so easy to leave me
All alone with my memory
But everyday I'm learning
I was just pretending

He wondered who it was. Perhaps some famous singer, who worked here?

No wonder Christine had gone from a gawky girl to a seraphic singer. Did everyone here have so enthralling a voice?

Raoul knew there was a new production coming out, Il Muto or whatever.

I'll have to see just how many angels this opera has.

If I die
The world will keep on spinning
A world full of happiness
That I have never known
And I will never know

«§Ж§»

Raoul woke up the next day to the sound of sobs. Harsh, wracking sobs which wrenched a body asunder.

This time, his thought were not of Christine.

Trying to get out of bed, Raoul instead found his legs tangled in sheets. He fell out of bed and landed on his bruised back with a yelp.

Lying there, breathing deeply, Raoul listened to the wails. They made the hair on the back of his neck stand up.

He stumbled to a rise, glancing out the window. It was late, he realized. Perhaps past noon.

The weeping hadn't ended. He found himself entranced. It was as if the keening was inside his mind, drawing him towards he who was so miserable.

Half-running, half-staggering, he made his way out the door, across the hall, down a flight of steps, and after that it was a blur. Eventually, he found himself in a dark passageway with the source of the wails: a man dressed in expensive black clothing, hunched over and weeping into his hands.

"Monsieur?"

The man didn't react. His head was turned away from Raoul. His shoulders trembled.

Tentatively, Raoul took a step closer. Another. He reached out and touched the man's quaking shoulder.

The man spun around with astonishing speed, rising with eerie grace. Raoul found himself on the ground again, staring at a face in a mask.

What he could see of the face was lovely: dark wavy hair, thick black eyebrow, creamy white skin, blazing glittering aurous gold eyes full of tears and shock and grief.

"What are you doing here?"

The voice was tear-broken, rough and despairing. But it was captivating. Enticing.

"I…I heard crying." He felt oddly subdued. What was it about this man that made him feel so…inconsequential? He tried to rise. "Were you crying?"

"No, my life is perfect," he sneered, then let out a choked sob and turned away.

Raoul managed to stand and tripped over his own feet. The man caught him, turning his head to look at Raoul. One of his tears fell on Raoul's cheek, and the man recoiled. Raoul managed to stand on his own this time, and was discomfited to find that he was shorter than the stranger.

"What's wrong?"

He blinked, though Raoul couldn't see it. The last and first person to speak to him with such concern was Mme Giry, who at the time was only a girl with kind eyes and a compassionate heart.

Now he turned, facing the Vicomte as an equal.

And began to sob.

"In love…so beautiful…so sweet…so…so…" he managed to get out between gasps. Shutting his eyes, he tried to stop the mad procession of tears running down his visible cheek and sliding under the mask. Raoul watched. Even his wails were enough to mesmerize. "Loves another…just like…just as innocent…just as lovely…"

His voice broke, and distress became rage. "I hate him!" The roar, oddly familiar, even broken by tears, made Raoul jump. "I hate…I hate everything about…him!"

All emotion seemed to drain away. His chin dropped to rest in the hollow of his neck. "Too…beautiful…"

"I understand."

He raised his head, incredulous, somewhat scandalized. "You understand, Vicomte?" he repeated. "You?"

Raoul blinked. "You know who I am?"

The man snorted, an action that might have been more contemptuous were he not in tears. "Everyone knows you. You're the Vicomte de Chagny. You're beautiful and happy and your life is just perfect."

"The woman I love loves another."

His brow lifted, and Raoul's heart did a strange thing that could only be described as flipping over.

"What…" he breathed, forgetting Christine for a moment. "What's your name?"

Again with the brow and the damn flip. His lip twitched. "And why would you want to know that, Vicomte?"

"My name is Raoul," he replied, stoutly, like a little boy trying to act like a tough man. "What is yours?"

He frowned. Raoul wondered why so simple a question would upset him.

"It's Erik," he replied at last, then turned to leave.

"Wait!" Raoul cried. Erik spun around. What's the matter with you? Raoul wondered. Why had he done that?

"What is it?"

He had the sudden, overwhelming urge to pour his troubles into Erik's ears. But he didn't even know where he lived. "Do you…where…how?"

He was a man. Men were not supposed to feel this way. Raoul swallowed, hard. "Nothing."

«§Ж§»

"Ah, Vicomte!" greeted Firmin. There had been spots of color in his cheeks since Christine's performance, which after all had been just a few days before.

"How are you feeling?" asked Andre. He seemed slightly less exuberant than Firmin. He had always been the worrywart of the pair.

How am I feeling? Raoul wondered bitterly. He felt as if he was going to throw up at any given moment. He felt as if his bones had been replaced with ice. He felt as if his whole body had been crushed by a falling chandelier. He felt as if someone had ripped out his heart, stomped on it, then shoved it back without sewing up the wound.

"I'm feeling very well, Monsieur, thank you."

They both smiled, very polite. "This way, Monsieur," said Andre. Speeding up, he hissed in Firmin's ear, "did we really have to bring him along?"

They had come for the very simple reason that they had sold Box Five. An inspector's report stated as follows:

I was obliged to call in a municipal guard twice, this evening, to clear Box Five on the grand tier, once at the beginning and once in the middle of the second act. The occupants, who arrived as the curtain rose on the second act, created a regular scandal by their laughter and their ridiculous observations. There were cries of "Hush!" all around them and the whole house was beginning to protest when the box-keeper came to fetch me. I entered the box and said what I thought necessary. The people did not seem to me to be in their right mind; and they made stupid remarks. I said that, if the noise was repeated, I should be compelled to clear the box. The moment I left, I heard the laughing again, with fresh protests from the house. I returned with a municipal guard, who turned them out. They protested, still laughing, saying they would not go unless they had their money back. At last, they became quiet and I allowed them to enter the box again. The laughter at once recommenced; and, this time, I had them turned out definitely

It was Firmin who suggested they simply check Box Five themselves. They had planned to go early that morning, but there had been two notes from the Phantom to deal with. The first complimented the gala, but the second requested the Ghost's salary be paid.

As for Raoul, Madame Giry had told him he was wanted. Neither Firmin nor Andre had told her that he was, but they certainly couldn't be so rude as to tell him.

«§Ж§»

"Angel of music, I'm so sorry
How was I to know?
Angel, he still means nothing to me
I do not love this boy"

The 'Angel' clenched his teeth. He didn't believe her. How could he? The boy was perfect. Those lips, those eyes. Perfect.

Unlike him.

Can he sing?

If he could sing, all was lost.

"Angel of music, guide and guardian
I beg you, don't leave me!
Angel, stay with me, here beside me
Sing with me, strange angel"

Strange!

Yes, he was strange, and always would be. He touched his porcelain mask, wondering what Christine would think if she saw her guide and guardian.

The boy, again. Why could he not stop thinking of the boy?

Why had he not killed him?

"Angel, you played your music for me
Just as you said you would
Angel, you said you would forgive me
Angel, sing, I beg you"

He had played for the boy, as well. And Christine had been glad. Christine had chosen him.

She left him to my mercy; she left him to die in the snow.

And he hadn't killed him.

Worse, he had wrapped her in his cloak and given him his gloves, just to keep him warm.

«§Ж§»

The lights went off. All of them at once.

It was dark. Raoul hated the dark.

A few rays of light fell through some opening or another. But it was a wan, sinister light which made everything seem odd. The chandelier, which was off, looked horribly dangerous. There seemed to be shadows everywhere, following them.

Raoul found himself constantly reaching under his hair to rub the back of his neck, feeling as if he was being watched. The statues—he knew Pandora, Delilah, and Psyche—seemed to be sneering at him. Mocking him.

"And here we are!"

Raoul blinked. It was just a box. Yes, it was a grand tier box, which gave the finest view imaginable, but there was nothing to distinguish it from all the other Grand Tier boxes.

Except a single rose, lying on the seat.

Raoul picked it up and winced. The thorns cut his fingers and made him bleed. He dropped it, and realized there was a ribbon tied around it.

His ribbon.

He licked the viscous fluid, the dark red of the deceptively soft petals. It left an unpleasant coppery tang on his tongue. Another man would have spit it out.