Behind Closed Doors
The free week between the end of Romeo and Juliet and the start of The Magic Flute was, in a word, manic. Christine worked through every lunch break and even when she made it home, spent most evenings on the telephone trying to resolve issues for the opening night.
The only thing that remained unchanging were her lessons with Erik. She made no excuses, put up no argument to his insistence that she would perform. She sang obediently, like a caged bird, trained to perform. Erik was pleased and Raoul remained safe.
Christine, on the other hand, had never been less relaxed. Even her sleep was disturbed and more than once she had jerked awake, lying next to Raoul and watching him sleep.
Keep him safe.
It had become her mantra. Keep Raoul safe, that was all that mattered now.
Friday arrived and brought Phil with it. He arrived late on Thursday night, so Christine didn't see him until breakfast on Friday morning.
"I'm looking forward to seeing what you do with the production." He told her cheerfully as she poured him coffee. He paused, examining her face closely, "Are you alright, Christine? You look… tired."
Christine hesitated as Raoul's eyes darted to her face, noticing not for the first time, the dark circles beneath her eyes. She smiled in what she hoped was a reassuring manner.
"I'm fine. You know what it's like, trying to get a new show up and running. It would help if Carlotta wasn't having temper tantrums every five minutes."
"At least the Opera Ghost isn't harassing you as well." Phil joked, "Maybe he's retired."
"Well, the ballerinas are insisting that he's responsible for Carlotta's tantrums, so perhaps he has merely directed his attentions elsewhere." Raoul said teasingly as Christine scraped butter across a piece of toast.
She was saved coming up with an answer by her phone ringing again. She answered swiftly, wiping her mouth with a serviette.
"Mrs de Chagny, there is a slight issue with the programmes."
"Good morning to you too, Firmin. What's the problem?" Christine rose from the table, not wishing to disturb breakfast.
"They're maroon. I know that you specifically requested that they be burgundy in colour." Firmin's voice was distraught with tension and Christine pinched the bridge of her nose.
"It's too later to alter them now, we open tomorrow night. We'll have to keep them. Inform the printers of the error and see if you can at least get some kind of refund or discount off our next order."
"Yes, Mrs de Chagny."
She hung up and went back to the table. Raoul smiled at her.
"The programmes are the wrong shade of red, apparently, and Firmin expects me to perform a miracle."
"Is it that damned Opera Ghost up to tricks again?" Phil teased and Christine gave him a thin-lipped smile as she lifted her teacup. Raoul shook his head.
"Catch up, Phil, it's the Phantom of the Opera now."
"My apologies. If I see any ghostly apparitions tomorrow night, I'll be sure to apologise and ask him which he prefers."
Christine could only imagine Erik's reaction to Phil and winced, reaching for a piece of toast.
Rehearsals the day before an opening never seemed to go well. Every person in the opera house was tense and silly mistakes happened over and over. Mrs Giry snapped at the dancers, Mr Reyer hissed at the orchestra and Christine massaged her temples as Carlotta spat at her co-star.
Firmin appeared at her elbow, nervous and his moustache twitching. He tapped his fingers together.
"Mr Reyer wants to know if they can break for lunch soon… everyone is a little…" He waved generally in the direction of the stage, where Jammes and Sorelli were screeching at each other whilst Meg hung back.
"Tell him to have Carlotta sing her aria and then break for an hour." She said and he vanished to tell Reyer.
A warm hand touched Christine's elbow and she turned to see Raoul smiling.
"Thought I'd surprise you for a lunch date."
"Is Phil driving you crazy already?"
"Of course, what are brothers for? He's having a wander around, I think he's waiting for Sorelli to finish so that he can take her to lunch."
"We'll be just a few minutes." She assured him, leading him down the aisle.
The relief was palpable throughout the room as Carlotta took her place, lifting her chin to stare out across the room. Christine moved down the aisle as the orchestra began their part. The ballerinas moved silently around the edges of the stage, collecting their things as Carlotta began her song.
Again, Christine listened carefully and her heart sank. Still those notes that weren't quite perfect, not as sweet and crisp as they could have been.
Erik would be listening and he would not be pleased.
Raoul's fingers laced through hers and Christine turned her head to offer him a smile. In the split second that she looked away, something happened. There was a thud, a gasp, a scream and when Christine's eyes made it back to the stage, Carlotta was lying on the stage. One of the screens had fallen, the countryside painted on to it swaying back and forth. There were shouts and both Christine and Raoul ran to the stage as Carlotta screeched, on her hands and knees. Raoul knelt to help lift the signer as Christine stared up at the flies, trying to figure out how the screen had fallen.
"Is anyone up there?" She shouted but Tim, the supervisor, appeared at her side, pale.
"There's no one up there, the stagehands have already gone for lunch. I swear, Mrs de Chagny, there's no one up there."
There was. Someone had released the screen. The screens were secured and had to be manually released and braked by hand.
Christine knew exactly who had done it. The blood drained from her face and she turned quickly to Carlotta, who was still shrieking.
"I could have died!" She screamed, shaking off Raoul's comforting arm. Christine moved forward.
"Carlotta, please. Can somebody bring her a seat?"
Carlotta sneered at the manager.
"You think I'm going to stay here? It has been made abundantly clear, Mrs de Chagny, that I am not welcome here! I will not stand for this abuse any longer! I am leaving and until you can guarantee my personal safety, I shall not return!"
Without further ado, Carlotta swept from the stage, leaving a stunned company behind her.
Christine understood now, understood Erik's plan. With no star, no lead singer, the opera would not be able to open. All Christine could do now would be to threaten Carlotta with legal action for breaking her contract and that would take time, time they didn't have. The Magic Flute was due to open in a little over twenty-four hours. Delaying the opening would cost a fortune and not an option.
"Mrs de Chagny, what can we do?" Mr Reyer's voice was choked. Christine swallowed hard in the deathly silence as the ballerinas and chorus stood around, all as shocked as she was.
"I'll… I'll talk to her. I can convince her to come back, I can-"
"And if she refuses?" Mrs Giry's voice broke the silence and all eyes turned to her.
Another piece of the puzzle clicked into place as Christine met Mrs Giry's eye. The shadow of their mutual acquaintance hung between them.
Christine opened her mouth to stop the words that Mrs Giry was about to speak.
"You could sing the part, Mrs de Chagny."
She was too late.
All of those eyes turned to Christine instead and out of the corner of her eye, she saw Raoul's face light up.
"There's an idea-"
"Raoul, no." Christine whispered.
"You're a wonderful singer, you've been practising again."
Oh no, oh God, please, no-
"I can't!" She cried and Mrs Giry's hand caught her elbow. The older woman stared at her and Christine recognised her own fear in her eyes.
Fear for another.
What was Erik holding over Mrs Giry's head?
"Mrs de Chagny, we don't have a choice." She said softly and no one listening could have recognised the depth of truth in her words. Christine stared back and they were still, sorrowful figures among the bustle of the crowd.
Mr Reyer cleared his throat delicately.
"Mrs de Chagny… if perhaps we could hear you…?"
Christine looked around, desperate for someone to call a halt to this madness, to see how ridiculous the situation was and her eyes landed on Raoul. He was smiling, delighted for her, handsome and kind and sweet and in danger.
Because Erik was watching.
Erik was here.
Erik was waiting.
Christine stepped forward and everyone melted away. Her eyes focused on Reyer as he began to conduct the orchestra. The song began, the music seeping into her skin, coating her like fog and honey, and she hated how her heart began to race and joy filled her heart as she began to sing.
For those watching, Christine de Chagny was transformed as she began to sing. Her official suit fell away, replaced with softness and beauty that can only be achieved through the expression of art. She became Pamina, mourning her lover and they were in awe of her.
High above, in the beams of the Opera House, a shadow gave a sigh of satisfaction and delight as His diamond shone.
As the song faded away, Christine's mind was already whirring.
Erik had demanded that she sing and so she would. She would sing the opening night and do everything in her power to get Carlotta back for further performances.
She would have kept her end of the bargain and Raoul would be safe.
As the chorus gathered around her, delighting in her triumph, Christine's eyes sought out Raoul. He smiled back and she knew that she would do anything to keep him blissfully unaware of the danger that he was in.
A/N: I swear, I WILL finish this story!