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She was standing there, wedding dress pristine but face smudged with dirt and tears, brown curls matted and thick, beautiful voice cracked and broken. She was screaming at him.

Always screaming at him, again and again. He sighed, staring at his love, noticing how in the dim light and in her pain her features had become blurred until they barely even looked like her. What was it about nearly killing her young man that always drove her into such frenzy? He was just trying to prove a point.

No one ever understood.

She was still screaming at him, voice rising in pitch, hysterical, angry that he wasn't even listening to her when she was so broken. He tried to pay attention. What was she saying?

"Let him go, please, listen to me I'll stay, I'll stay if you let him go…"

He almost rolled his eyes. Oh, just that. Always that revolting display of self sacrifice. Perhaps she wasn't even worth listening to at all.

Why did he even put himself through this?

Oh right. He loved her. And he did love her, so much that she inhabited his mind like a poison, slowly driving him mad. So much that he had decided, in a moment of music and morphine and pure decisiveness, that instead of doing anything for her he would instead do anything to have her.

So maybe he should step in now, before she has a complete mental breakdown. He couldn't stop another sigh. If this was so important to him why was it such a chore? All he really wanted was for her to be quiet and let him think.

He tried to be calm and reasonable.

"Please my dear, do stop screaming. It is not helping the situation and I am afraid to say that I am getting quite…irritable."

She stared at him, open mouthed but thankfully silent. Then she asked, in a voice soft and wavering that he barely recognized, "Why are you doing this to me?"

Oh for God's sake would he have to explain this again? How hard was it to understand? He felt his irritation rising as heat up his neck.

Stay calm, he told himself. You are in control here.

"Oh Christine, do I really need to…"

He stopped in mid sentence as something heavy and brown and familiar fell at his feet. She was screaming again.

"But I'm not Christine, I don't even know who that is, my name is Marie, my name is Marie!"

He bowed his head in understanding as he bent to retrieve the brown wig from the floor. Of course. Now it all made sense.

Quietly and deliberately he made his way among the broken pieces of his home, decimated in a frenzy of anger, and carefully adjusted the wig onto the smoothly smiling face of the eternal Christine mannequin. He traced her face with one long finger.

Now she was perfect. He had made her with his own hands and she was perfect.

He could make anything if he really wanted to. It didn't have to come out right on the first try. Why, he went through hundred of dress and mannequin designs to come out with the right one.

One just had to accept the failures in life and try again, he mused. But this was getting so tiresome.

He walked back to the now silent girl with unhurried steps, reaching smoothly into his suit as he walked.

"Oh my dear," he sighed as he calmly fixed the length of catgut around her neck, "that is such a pity."


"Oh Dear God, Firmin, don't tell me that he needs another one already."

Firmin buried his face in his hands, his shoulders sagging, his face etched with deep lines. "I can't do this, Andre, not again."

"Well, you're already going to hell," Andre said jokingly, but it lingered in the air like the truth. "What does he want this time?"

"What do you think?" Firmin gestured wearily to the crumpled note and the bundled brown package next to it. "Everything is planned; we just need to…set it in motion." He was silent for a moment. "This can't go on forever. Sooner or later we will pay for our hand in this. How many has it been, Andre? How many in just the past year?"

"Does it matter?" Andre said bracingly, and Firmin glanced up at him, anger and surprise deepening the lines on his face. "We're alive, we have our Opera and it is thriving. This has gone beyond petty blackmail, Firmin, and I for one don't want to die."

Firmin was silent. Andre pressed him.

"Do you want to die?"

Firmin shook his head. "I am a coward," he whispered. Andre glanced at the note, scrawled in its child's handwriting, and shook his head.

"We both are, my friend. But maybe this time…" he trailed off, then sighed. "Perhaps. Well, let's send for her."

She was small and slight, with mouse brown hair and a pointed face with eyes that seemed too big and too wide. She entered the room shyly, cautiously, her wide eyes unblinking.

"Monsieurs?" she asked, confused. Andre glanced at the name on the paper.

"Ah, yes, Mademoiselle Trouvre, you are new to us, yes? In the chorus I believe?"

She squeaked out an affirmation.

"Yes, well, you have been noticed as someone with talent, and we are… promoting you, in a way. You will now have a private dressing room and we will discuss the possibility of awarding you a larger role in the production. Do you understand?"

Her face flushed with pleasure, as they all did, and she nodded, a timid smile suddenly gripping her face. "Yes Monsieurs, but I don't understand…"

"Don't ask questions. You do want this, don't you?" Firmin asked sharply.

She nodded, breathless. "Oh yes!"

"Then here is your information and your new dressing room key," he handed her a few papers and a thin skeleton key. "And…other necessary items," he handed her the package, which she accepted unthinkingly. Her posture suddenly seemed straighter, her face more determined, and Firmin could see the hope in her eyes, the uplifting of her slightly pointed chin, the flush to her cheeks. She was pretty, in that thin, childlike way, and Firmin wondered painfully and idly how long she would last in this game.

"Thank you Monsieurs, I'll work very hard…thank you!"

"That is all," Andre said wearily, his eyes closed, not wanting to see her joy.

She nodded and rushed out, amazed at her good luck, at this sudden opportunity that could change her life forever. Her feet beat a quick rhythm down the hall, her slim fingers gripping the package as she pondered her fortune and her future, not noticing the single brown curl that had escaped from the package and dangled beneath it lifelessly.