The Way It's Supposed To Be
By Kryss LaBryn
A/N: I own nothing. Leroux owns everything. Strictly book-based. Don't sue!
This is not the same Raoul as in Through A Mirror, Darkly; that Raoul at least got a happy ending, even if he didn't get the girl. Please, if I move you at all, send a review...
Life was good. He had finished his training at the naval academy, had traveled the world, and was now on a six-month shore leave in Paris. His first assignment was to sail to the Arctic Circle to discover the fate of the D'Artoi's expedition; he would return a hero.
His brother had taken him to see Faust at the Opera. "You'll find La Carlotta's Marguerite most amusing," the Comte smiled; "She is rather too splendidly material!"
However, to their disappointment, La Carlotta was ill that night; as the manager explained to the audience prior to the performance, the role of Marguerite would be played by an unknown: Christine Daaé.
"Why, I once knew a girl by that name!" remarked the Vicomte. "Wouldn't it be funny if it's her?"
To his surprise, it was her indeed: the pretty young Swede he had not seen in almost a decade. She had had a wonderful voice as a child, but tonight, she was nothing less than divine. In the first act, he would have called her voice ethereal; by the time she sang Marguerite's invocation to the angels at the end he would have quite willingly have sworn that her summons had been entirely successful, and that real angels were even at that moment fanning her voice heaven-ward with their wings. Many in the audience were brushing away tears.
"She never sang like that before," he said, half to his brother, half to himself; "I must see her!"
He pushed his way quite rudely through the throng outside her door, and managed to slip inside on the coattails of the theatre doctor. She had fainted at the curtain call, and had still not revived. She therefore both received the ministrations of the doctor, and awoke, in his arms.
"Monsieur..?" she said weakly, passing a hand over her eyes, "Forgive me, but do I know you?"
"You do indeed, Madame," he said, pressing a fervent kiss to her hand; "I am the little boy who went into the sea to rescue your scarf!"
"What? Raoul?" she cried, astonished and delighted, and threw her arms about his neck. "It's been so long! I'm so glad to see you! How have you been? You must tell me everything!"
The doctor chuckled and repacked his bag; with a private smile he ushered the maid ahead of himself out the door. The young couple scarcely noticed.
"I'm in the Navy now," he told her proudly; "I'm just in Paris on shore leave. But however did you come to be at the Opera?"
"Oh, that's a long story--" she laughed.
"Then, please, allow me to treat you to dinner while you tell it!"
"I would be delighted!" she replied happily. "Just give me a minute to change…"
"But of course!" He bowed over her hand again and left, waiting in the hall outside until she joined him a few minutes later, much to the jealousy of her other admirers. Holding tight to his arm, she followed him out to his carriage…
Raoul turned fretfully in his sleep, palsied fingers clutching painfully at the bedclothes as a hated name echoed in his head. Erik…
She had disappeared. She had disappeared, but he had been told, had seen her riding in a carriage in the dead of night in the Bois, accompanied by another whose face he could not make out in the shadows. He had shouted, they had left… but soon after he had received a missive from her.
He went to the masked ball…
"Christine, what is this farce?" he asked her miserably in the privacy of a box.
"Dearest, it is a tragedy!" she replied, taking off her mask.
He could not help gasping at the sight of her. Rather than the fresh young face which he knew and loved, there appeared before his eyes now the face of one dying of consumption, or some other wasting disease: her face was waxen, her cheeks sunken, her eyes ringed in black and red with weeping. "Dear God!" he exclaimed. "Dear God! Christine, who has done this to you?"
"Oh, Raoul--" and she threw herself sobbing into his arms.
"There, there," he murmured comforting nothings, patting her back and soothing her sobs. "Now then," he carefully dried her tears, "Who has done this?"
"My tutor," she sniffed. "Oh, Raoul, it's horrible!"
"Tell me," he said tenderly; "Tell me what has happened. Let me help you!" She hesitated, and he added, "You know I would do anything at all for you. Let me help!"
"I don't know if you can… I don't know if anyone can help me now…"
"At least tell me," he pressed. "It will at least make you feel better, and you never know, I may be able to help at that! I am in the military, you know!"
She sighed. "All right. But not here--" and she donned her mask again. "He may hear us, here! Come with me," and she took his hand and led him out.
Up they went, up, up, up through flies and trap doors and attics, up to the roof. She sat under the great bronze statue of Apollo, and drew him down beside her. He put his arms around her. She was trembling.
"He won't hear us here; he never comes up here!" she said. "God, to see his face in daylight—It would be too horrible!" She shuddered.
"Christine," he murmured against her hair, "Tell me!"
She took a deep breath. "Oh, Raoul," and she closed her eyes, twisting to bury her face in his chest. "He is so horrible! I know one ought to be sorry for those who must be shut away in the dark all the time, but I can't feel sorry for him! He frightens me too much!"
"What has he done to frighten you so?"
"Done? Why, nothing!"
"Then, dearest," he asked, confused, "Why does he frighten you so?"
"Because I've seen him!" she replied, and told him a story, of an Angel trapped in Hell…
"Come away with me!" he cried when she had finished. "Come away with me! We will leave this place, and you will never again have to see those terrible eyes fill with tears, or listen to his sobs! Come away with me!"
"I can't—It would be too cruel!"
"Crueler than what he has done to you? Christine, please!"
She seemed to relent, but then said, "After tomorrow's performance."
"But why not now? My carriage is waiting downstairs; come away with me tonight!"
"No, no… It would be too cruel, to leave him without letting him hear me, one last time!"
He paused for a moment, filled with misgivings, then said, "I have an idea. Come with me now, and--" he held a brief finger to her lips to forestall her protests. "And tomorrow, we will stop at a store I know. There's a man in town who sells phonographs, who can also record wax cylinders. We can go there, and you can record as many songs as you like! And we will send them over, with a phonograph, and he will be able to listen to you as often as he likes. And you will never have to see him again!"
"Oh, Raoul," she breathed, her eyes shining in the setting sun, "Could it be possible? Could I really be free..?"
"You could," he said, and kissed her.
They clung together for a long moment, then suddenly she laughed. "All right, Raoul!" she said; "All right!" And she climbed to her feet and pulled him up and he followed her back down to the entrance and he summone dhis carriage an d they left in a great clatter of hoove sand wheels over the cobblest ones and drove back to hish ome and then away to a trainand back to Sweden and… and…
And he awoke again, cold again, alone again… Stiff with cold he prodded the pillow, shoved it around so that his face would not be resting in the wet spot where his tears had soaked it again.
If only he could understand… it would be so much easier if only he could understand!
Why had she chosen him? Why had she chosen him instead of Raoul?
Why could he not forget her? After all these years…
Her name, her name which he never spoke aloud to anyone anymore on his lips, he once again slipped back into sleep. In the night, in his dreams, he was young again, he was handsome again, he was the hero again…
"Why, I once knew a girl by that name!" remarked the Vicomte. "Wouldn't it be funny if it's her?" His brother smiled at him, and raised his glass as the curtains parted…