Et Velle Et Perficere

Disclaimer: Don't own POTO…

Prologue: Average and Unremarkable

In an average and unremarkable bunk bed in the centre of an average and unremarkable dorm room, at the rear of an average and unremarkable children's home full of average and unremarkable children, laid a not-so-average and wholly remarkable young man. Enshrouded in shadows, he stared at the white, paint-chipped ceiling, blinking slowly. Of all the hell-holes he had lived in, he hated there the most – the little deceptively cheery old building with its cream coloured exterior walls and the bright-eyed and bubbly children who resided within did not portray, for a moment, the torment he had suffered at their hands.

It had been about four days since his last rejection – from the latest pair of foster parents who had never really wanted him anyway and should have never been allowed through the system in the first place. The man had been a petty thief and a drunkard and his long-suffering wife was now bitter and depraved – both of them had been after no more than the benefits they would receive from the government for taking on a foster-child. And yet, still he had not been good enough even for them. They had chucked him out after a mere fortnight when they finally realised to what great extent he was troubled.

He was not upset that they had not wanted him – he was disgusted to even be in the presence of normal, once-beautiful people who could have had anything if only they'd realised how lucky they were just to be average and totally unremarkable. He had been happy when they'd told him he was being sent back to the social workers. That is, until he'd gotten back to the home in all its austerity and, for the twelfth time that year, he had regretted every single misdemeanour he had ever committed in his life that had led him to end up there.

When he'd been left there for the first time as a small child by a widowed mother who could not cope with him, he had not been the sort of child that couples would want to adopt. The only people who wanted to foster the little sharp-tongued and quick-witted masked boy were the type of people to see him as a way of defrauding the benefits department. None of them had been able to handle him for very long and, over the years, he'd lost his childish hope of a happily-ever-after ending. Now, as a seventeen-year-old young man, he was even less likely to be adopted by well-meaning people, as they all wanted perfect, beautiful young children to dote upon.

One more year and he would be free. One more year and he could have the world, any way he wanted it. He could live wherever he wanted, as far away from all the dreadful people he had ever met as was possible, and there would be nothing they could do about it – no new foster parents they could thrust upon him, no new versions of Hell to litter his mind and his dreams with.

Perhaps, at last, the boy would be free.

Watching the first flickers of the dawn's light dance across the unremarkable paint-chipped ceiling, the young man sighed sorrowfully. As he lay on his back, clutching the sheets to his chest, a break in the morning clouds outside the curtainless window caused the clear light from the dawning sun to fall across his face and, had anyone been awake to watch, they would have seen the quiet figure shudder as his beautifully crafted white mask lit up and shone in the light. He moaned softly, bringing the covers further up to shield himself from the light, curling in upon himself with quiet grief.

Soon he would have to get up and face another average and unremarkable day in an average and wholly unremarkable world.

Perhaps, one day, if Erik were lucky, the remarkably unremarkable monotony would end, possibly even sooner than he had expected…

Elsewhere, in a very different dorm room, in a very different and totally extraordinary place, a very different and totally extraordinary young woman lay in bed. Enshrouded in shadows, she stared at the pristine white ceiling, blinking slowly.

It was just two weeks until the end of term and the beginning of the summer holidays. She would be able to go home again and she couldn't wait. The beautiful young girl was one of only seven full-time boarders at her school in a rural part Britain, who only went home during holidays – there were 107 part-time boarders who went home at weekends as well, and 510 day students who went home every evening.

She knew she was very lucky to attend St. MacNissi's College, or, Garron Tower, as it was known by its students, an exclusive private affair that people less-well-off than herself never had the chance, that is, wealth, to go to. Garron Tower, so-called because it was a castle and once stately home which resided at the top of Garron Point – a high cliff on the picturesque coast of Great Britain – started life in 1848 when Lady Frances Anne Vane, having inherited almost 10,000 acres of land between Glenarm and Garron Point fourteen years previous, erected a castle as her holiday home. It was later converted into a traditional Catholic boarding school and was, therefore, not like any of the modern-built architecturally grotesque monstrosities that passed as schools these days. Yes, she knew she was very lucky but she also knew that, much as she loved her school, she was desperately lonely there, being away from her parents for the best part of the year.

She loved her parents very much, and they, in turn, loved her with all their hearts. They were very caring people who were also foster parents, regularly taking on less advantaged children and those less likely to be adopted by others. They had nobody with them at the minute – the last child having recently gone back to his mother when she had gotten her situation sorted out. However, it was likely that, very soon, they would have another child to take care of. And, though she was very proud of them and even enjoyed helping out, she sometimes felt jealous that her parents were looking after someone else's children more often during the year than they were her.

Two more weeks and she would be able to see them again. Two more weeks and she would forget her loneliness and her jealousy for the following month until she would have to return to school again.

Perhaps, just perhaps, it would be enough.

Watching the first flickers of the dawn's light dance across the pristine white ceiling, the young woman groaned regretfully. It was morning already and she'd spent half the night thinking. She had known she would regret it at the time but still she had stayed awake. She thanked goodness it was a Sunday so she would not have to get up for a few hours until it was time to go to Mass at midday. As the clear morning light began to fall across her face, she groaned more loudly, bringing the covers over her head to try to get as much sleep as she could.

Perhaps, one day, if Christine were lucky, the loneliness would ebb, possibly even sooner than she had expected…

Elsewhere, later that day, in an equally very different room, in an equally very different but still entirely amazing place, an equally very different but still entirely amazing middle-aged man stood, holding a telephone receiver to his left ear. Swathed in beautiful filtered morning light, he stared out of the bay window in the second floor sitting room of his country house, blinking slowly.

It had been about a week since the foster-child he and his wife had most recently been taking care of had been reintroduced to life with his mother, now that she had herself sorted out. Apparently, the child was doing very well and social services were very pleased with the work they had done. The system, of course, had its faults but there were times, such as these, that made it all worthwhile. The handsome, curly-haired man nodded approvingly as the woman on the other end of the line spoke to him of the boy and his mother's progress.

Unlike the majority of foster-carers, the curly-haired man and his wife did not receive benefits from the government for taking care of foster children – in truth, they did not need them as they were quite well-off themselves. They took on foster children for the sheer enjoyment of helping them and, the curly-haired man believed, the children could sense that – they knew that he was not being paid to care for them, that he did, in fact, want to care for them anyway. He believed that all children were good enough – that no child was ever beyond help.

The vibrant-looking curly-haired man and his wife, a beautiful woman just a few years his junior, were, themselves, blessed with a child they loved with all their hearts. They had a perfect sixteen-year-old daughter, to whom they had given everything – the best education, the best love in world, and the best of themselves. She boarded at the very best "public," that is, private, school which met their requirements and they knew that she loved it there. Garron Tower was not your run-of-the-mill high school – it was a traditional British Grammar School renowned for its high grades and the success and, often, fame in their fields, of its past-pupils. And Christine was not your run-of-the-mill sixteen-year-old girl – for one thing, she was in the year above her age-group at school and she had been made a prefect a year early. They both knew that Christine was more than they could ever have hoped for and they also knew that other people's children were not always so lucky to have been given her chances in life. Therefore, and not-half due to their great love for children, they had become foster-parents.

Standing off to one side listening to her husband's side of the conversation was a dark-haired, straight-haired beauty, gently thumbing through a broadsheet. She could not imagine being happier than she had been since she'd met him all those years ago, had Christine and taken up foster care with him. He made everything seem like an adventure – he was so bubbly and energetic, like a child himself – that made the world so fun. Not that he couldn't be serious and grown-up when he needed to be – it was what made him such a good father; that ability to be both friend and parent as required.

Two more weeks and she would have her daughter home with her again and everything would be perfect. Two more weeks to wait and they would have one whole month together as a family before she would have to go back to school again.

Perhaps, even, they would have another foster-child to take care of soon enough.

Lifting her head to watch her husband and to try to listen to the faint voice of the woman he was talking to, she watched the clear light dance across the entirely amazing room in which they were. She plopped down in the navy leather armchair by the fireplace and sighed contentedly. Smiling softly, she curled herself up in the chair to listen.

"We're impressed," the social worker said, "nobody else managed to get through to him like you and your wife did."

"Why, thank you," the curly-haired man replied, "of course, I think that you ought to give him some credit too, though. We didn't do all the work – it would have been for nothing if he had not wanted the help."

"Still, you succeeded where others failed. In fact, we have another boy we thought you might be able to help. Erik's older than most of the children you've fostered but we think you're up to the challenge. If you want, I can arrange a meeting for today and if everything's as it should be you'll be able to take him home afterwards."

The curly-haired man laughed softly into the telephone. "Well, you certainly can't be accused of doddling, can you? But, of course, that would be fine. Does two o'clock suit?"

"Two's fine. It'll be at the Stratford. See you then," she replied.

"Yes, will do," he said before hanging up and turning to his wife.

"So?" she questioned.

"We'd better make up another bedroom, sweetheart. We'll have company tonight," he said as he picked his wife up out of the chair and twirled her around by the waist, both of them laughing happily as they so often did.

"Oh, Michael, so soon?" she laughed again.

"Yes, darling, isn't it wonderful? And Christine will be back with us again soon, too. Speaking of whom, we should phone and tell her – she'd want to know. She should be back in her room now, shouldn't she?"

Happily, the curly-haired man leaned forward and embraced his wife. Soon, after they'd talked to their daughter, he would leave for the meeting with their new foster-child and if things went well they would be able to show him life in their very different but also entirely amazing world.

Perhaps, one day, this Erik, if Michael and Sarah Daaé were lucky, would find his own world would become equally very different but still entirely amazing, possibly even sooner than they could have hoped for, and probably for a reason they had not quite anticipated…

© Copyright of CrawfordsBiscuits, September 2005