This story takes place 1 year and 10 months after the fire at the Opera Populaire.
Meg could feel the warmth of the gas lights on her face, and she could hear the melody of the orchestra music filling her soul. She was finally back, back on stage, back to her home. She could hardly contain her excitement. She spun and danced as though there was a full audience in the empty theatre with all eyes on her. The blissful feeling she had to be once again on the stage at the Opera Populaire, after almost two years of waiting was almost indescribable. She didn't care that no one was watching, or that no one was there except for the new managers and the stage hands. In her mind everything was as it once was. The opera was alive with all the sounds of a sold out show, and she was ready for them. She was ready to feel happiness and wholeness for the first time after months of mourning. She was ready to make her mother proud by becoming the best ballerina that Paris had ever seen.
Erik arose to faint the sound of hammering and clanking as he had for the past several months. Although it woke him, he found the noise appealing. After almost a year and a half of nothing but silence and the squeaking of rats, he was glad to hear the commotion of people in his Opera house once again. This was the first day of rehearsals to prepare for the reopening in five weeks.
It will all begin today, he thought to himself. Almost everything in the building had been restored to its prior state or better, everything that is, except for him.
There had been months and months of renovations since the infamous fire. Anything that could not be repaired had been replaced. The statues were magnificent and gold once again, the main entrance was breathtaking with new marble floors and an even grander stair case than before; the stage had been completely rebuilt, and Erik had approved of almost all of the improvements. Everything would be as it once was in the Opera's former glory. Almost everything, he thought.
The Opera would be missing one important aspect. No longer would it be haunted by the dark, mysterious Phantom, who used to frighten ballet rats, demand salary from the managers, and cause strange accidents to occur when he was displeased. The Opera Ghost was dead. At least that's what the Paris papers had announced a week after Don Juan Triumphant had ended so tragically. The Phantom had been killed in the fire, though his body was never found. After about a week of searching the crowds of angry men and police had given up on finding him.
What fools, he had thought. As if they could capture me in a maze of my own traps. Although they had not found him, several police had found some of his ensnaring creations and had broken some bones, which in his mind were the only redeeming aspects of the entire ordeal.
Eric decided then that he did not like being hunted in his own home. He never again wanted to see hoards of ignorant people with torches examining his belongings or gawking at his compositions. Besides, he was much better at being the hunter; he was not accustomed to being the prey. So he would not make his presence known in the new Opera Populaire. The theatre would no longer live in fear of his all seeing eyes. He would still enjoy the music and the performances as much as he could, but he would not longer try to influence the managers or the performers. It would be easy for him to roam about the building without anyone noticing him; he had been doing that for years. To the rest of the world he was dead, which was not very different from how he felt inside.
A dead ghost, he thought, that's what I am.
Eric wanted to survey the inside of the theatre before all the commotion started later in the morning. He was lurking about high above the stage in the rafters when his attention was drawn to the stage far below him. He was surprised to see a young girl all alone, dancing. He moved from his position to get a better view.
Who would be here this early? She must be some new twit warming up early for rehearsals. She's probably trying to make a good impression on the new pig headed managers, he scoffed.
As he got closer he realized that this dancer was not warming up. It appeared as if she was performing for someone, but there wasn't a soul around that he could see. Although she danced in silence, her movements were fluid and beautiful. She looked like a fairy, the way she simply seemed to float across the stage. It was as if her feet were not even touching the new wooden floors. He could almost hear the music that she seemed to hear in his own mind as he watched her, memorized.
Almost without thinking he moved down through the rafters effortlessly to get a closer look. Who was this new young talent? But as he stealthily crept closer, and saw the dancer clearly he realized that it was not a new talent, but someone who had also made the Opera Populaire a home. A face from the past, someone he had hardly even noticed for many years.
Little Meg, he thought. Had she always been such an accomplished dancer, so passionate in every movement? Had she always been this exquisite? Certainly not, he thought to himself. You couldn't have overlooked such skill in your Opera. You would have recognized her aptitude, despite other preoccupations, he thought.
He suddenly found his mind drifting back many years earlier when Meg was a little girl of only six or so trying her best to become a ballerina. She was a pretty little girl and she worked very hard to make her mother happy, which wasn't an easy task. Antoinette Giry had extremely high standards for her dancers and Meg received no special treatment as her child. If anything Antoinette was harder on Meg. He tried to remember more about her; she must be almost twenty by now. Where had the time gone?
"To her," he whispered quietly, answering his own question.
Every year after that he had been utterly consumed with the woman whose face and voice still haunted him every night in his dreams, Christine Daae. She had come to the Opera at only seven when her father had passed away. After hearing her sing to herself in the Opera chapel, Erik had been totally dedicated to making her believe he was her Angel of Music who had been sent by her father. Through this he could mold her sweet untrained voice into that of an accomplished opera diva. His every waking thought was about making her answer only to him, and obsessing about her the progression of her career.
As the years passed Christine grew into a young woman, with the face of an angel, and his thoughts for her changed as well. No longer was he only interested in her voice and the effect it could have on his ability to compose music that was pure genius. Her career was second to the burning love and adoration that he had developed for her. Her face, every feature was seared into his memory. He was possessed to the point of madness with not only her flawless voice, but her hair, her beauty, her skin, and what she did every single moment of every day. He was always somewhere near, always watching.
He knew he had seen Marguerite Giry over those years. She had been Christine's close friend and confidant. Christine had talked to her about him, her angle of music, many times while he listened hidden by darkness. But he had never really paid her any attention. In fact he remembered seeing her as just one more person he had to compete with for Christine's attention. Why had he been so ignorant? Was he that blind to everything else around him? Although, he already new the answer to that question.
If I had only done things a little differently she would still be here with me, she would still be mine, he thought.
Erik had gone over in his mind innumerable times where the mistakes in his plan had been made. There is no doubt there were many. To begin with making Christine believe that he was some sort or angel or spirit sent by her father was not really conducive to earning her trust as a man that loved her. But his biggest mistake of all was Raoul. Just the thought of his name made Erik overcome with rage. He should have killed the arrogant brat the first night he came to her dressing room. Yes, he could have killed her precious Vicomte de Chagny and made it look like an unfortunate accident. At the very least he should have dragged her down to his lair before they had chance to fall in love.
But Christine was not who he thought she was, and she didn't care for him as he had led himself to believe. After years of teaching her, protecting her and loving only her, she had mercilessly betrayed and humiliated him. She had unmasked him in front of hundreds of onlookers so her lover could capture and kill him … him, her Angel of Music. Then she had abandoned him after giving him only one glimmering moment of ecstasy in her kiss, a moment that he would cling to for eternity. He had watched her ride away with her darling Vicomte. He was nothing but a hideous monster to her, despite years of trying to become something more. The memory sickened him even now.
In his attempt to kidnap her and escape; he had destroyed his only other love, his Opera house. For many months after the destruction, Eric had contemplated suicide. He thought of it night and day, how he could end all his suffering so easily with just one stroke of a knife. He found the thoughts strangely comforting. Physical pain did not frighten him. It was no comparison to the heart wrenching agony that he was living with.
But he hadn't taken his own life, and he could never understand why. Maybe he was merely a coward, or perhaps he still had some tiny pathetic hope that his purpose in this world was not purely to suffer in secluded misery for the duration of his life. After realizing he was not going to slit his own wrists and be found lying lifeless in a pool of his own blood, he had turned his thoughts to getting word of Christine.
Perhaps the Vicomte had died in some terrible accident in which he had endured extraordinary pain for many hours before he died. That would be lovely, he had thought.
But once more fate was his intolerable enemy that once again laughed in his distorted, hideous face. Christine and Raoul had married shortly after she had escaped from him. They moved to Switzerland where her father was born, to move on and raise a family. Erik new he would never see her again. She had tried to get as far away from him as possible, and she would not return. The thought of the two of them smiling and blissful with their ten perfect children made him ill. He would never reach the point of being happy for her while he continued his miserable isolated existence, pining for her day and night.
The sound of clapping below him startled him out of his thoughtful state.
"Bravo, Mademoiselle, Bravo!"
Apparently Eric had not been the only one to notice Meg's silent performance.
"That was beautiful! The crowds will simply adore you! You're dancing is truly a sight to behold! Even without music! They'll be lining up for tickets just to get a glimpse at you! We'll sell out every night!" said Monsieur Francois one of the new managers.
How sincere, Erik thought. He knew when Francois saw Meg he really saw his fortune growing rapidly. Although, after watching Meg glide across the stage, Erik thought that he may actually agree with him.
"Monsieur Francois, I… I had no idea you were… I mean I thought I was alone." Meg's delicate features were lost in a wave of crimson that had washed over her face.
"Nonsense my dear, you will be our star! Our Prima Ballerina, Marguerite Giry! I promise you young lady, if I have anything to say about it, you will be the talk of Paris. Just wait till I speak to Monsieur Jacques!" he said as he walked off the stage back to his office.
Meg could not hide the smile that was covering her flushed face. Prima Ballerina, she thought. Her mother would be so thrilled. Well, at least thrilled for her. Her mother had not really been the type of woman who showed her feelings, at least not since her father had left them. But, Meg knew her mother would see her; she could feel her presence with her always, and she would not let her down. She couldn't.
But what if Monsieur Francois was wrong about her? What if the other girls who had made the dance corps were far better? She simply could not let that happen, she had to be the best. She vowed to dance with every ounce of body and soul at the auditions later that day.