Title: Real ¼?

Author: Princess Joyce

Rating: T (Not sure if it warrants a T, but thought I'd be safe)

Summary: A different kind of Modern Day POTO. There is a slight mix of both movie and musical lore. Please keep in mind that this is just a story. I am not nor do I know anyone who is like this Christine. I simply wrote her the way my muse instructed. If you enjoy this, please let me know. If not… well, I know it's different and a bit far-fetched, so you don't have to point that out to me. 

Real

They say that when you fall in love, when you meet 'the one', you just know. And if you don't know, then you're not in love. A pretty concept that I had clung to for all of my childhood but had had to let go of as I reached adulthood.

My name is Christine and for the first sixteen years of my life, I was a princess awaiting my prince. From the day I was born my mother and father told me stories. And I believed each and every one of them. Life was wonderful, spending hours with mother spinning new tales, and changing the endings to old ones.

Father died when I was still very young, and it seemed that my mother fell even deeper into her fantasies. I happily went along with her. Then one day she met a lawyer named Charles, and everything changed. She decided that spending time in fantasyland was something she would let me do on my own from then on, and married the lawyer.

My mother still encouraged me to dream and play pretend, but I could tell that my stepfather disapproved. They had one really loud argument about it, and did not speak to each other for a week. Then out of the blue, he apologized to me. He explained that he had not had a very good childhood himself, but that was no reason he for him to tamper with mine.

"Stay a kid as long as you can, Princess," He'd said, ruffling my hair.

That night, he read me a bedtime story for the first time. Mom watched at the door with happy tears in her eyes. I think that was the first time it occurred to me that Charles was my father now and that I loved him.

Things got good again, and then I had to go to school. My head was always in the clouds. In my early school years I preferred to have make believe conversations with fairies and goblins than to involve myself in the inane chatter of my peers. I was quiet in school. Most people believed I was either shy or a snob, but they were wrong. I was not shy, and I did not believe myself to be better than anyone else. I just didn't care. Oh, maybe I am a snob. Was it so wrong to spend recess by myself staying clean and daydreaming about castles and dragons?

As I got older and the fantasies in my mind started to fade, I latched onto books. What a marvelous idea! It's like a fantasy you do not have to do any work to create. I read like a maniac, so most people assumed I was super smart. This was not the case. I barely made it through junior high with a 'C' average.

Matriculating into high school was intimidating at first. It seemed there was so much work to do that reading and day dreaming became luxuries I had to save for after-school hours. There were so many students, it was hard getting used to not recognizing the faces around me.

My mother died my sophomore year. The woman who had nurtured my dreams and fantasies with bedtime stories and lullabies left me forever. I no longer had a protector from the world, and it was a wicked shock to realize just how immature I really was.

"It's time you grew up, Christine. Join in the world around you," my stepfather's stern voice reduced me to a sobbing mess the night after the funeral.

He gathered me in his arms, stroking my long dark curls and whispering softly.

"I know it's not as wonderful as your fantasies Princess, but if you try you might find it's really not so bad," he murmured, soothingly.

"I don't know how."

My cousin Meg is a year younger than me, but is much more knowledgeable about the ways of the world than I am. My father had Meg and her mother, my Aunt Anita, move in with us. Aunt Anita was recently divorced, and struggling to get by, so the new living arrangements would benefit us all.

If my mother had still been alive, I would have politely ignored Meg, hiding in one of the many secluded spots I knew of in our big old house. But my mother was not alive, and I knew that my survival in the scary world that contained no goblins or wizards depended on what I could learn from her.

At first Meg did not seem very interested in me, especially when she saw my fairy princess bedroom.

"It's not right for a sixteen year old to play dress-up!" she had said, sneering at my favorite blue princess gown.

"I know Meg. I'm so behind. It feels like my body grew up without me and I need help catching up," I pleaded with her.

She gave me an incredulous look, so I decided to change tactics.

"I want to be like you! Your clothes are always perfect, and your hair is so pretty. You have so many friends because everybody loves you. I know I'll never be exactly like you, but couldn't you teach me how to make my life a little better," I begged, forcing a few tears from my eyes.

Inside I was retching at my groveling. In truth, I liked the way I looked, and I hated being around a lot of people. However, I knew that if I was going to 'make it' in the world, these were things I needed to change.

Sufficiently flattered, Meg began to look at me like I was a challenge instead of a freak.

"Fine, I'll help you. But you have to swear to do everything I say, and not to question me," she demanded.

I agreed, feeling a piece of my heart break away as I realized it was really going to happen.

And so began my voluntary slavery to the evil witch-queen, Meg.

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My mother had conveniently died the week before Spring Break, so Meg had a whole week to change my image before we had to go back to school.

First she cut my hair. I almost screamed at the sound of the blades severing the silky locks from my head. But I endured it, just as Rapunzel had endured her enslaver shearing off her hair.

When it was over, and Meg convinced me to open my eyes I was startled to see that it was not as bad as I had thought it would be. My hair had grown past my waist, as I had never had it cut before. Now, it barely brushed my shoulders. It made me look older, and that was what I needed. What I wanted didn't matter anymore.

Next we went shopping for more 'stylish' clothes. Meg rejected every item I picked out, and soon banished me to the dressing room where I was only allowed to try on what she choose. Aunt Anita and Meg would discuss each outfit critically, not listening to any of my opinions. Finally, I gave up. Although I did try to protest the pants. I had never worn pants. My mother never made me. I preferred dresses and skirts, clothes that were feminine. I mean, have you ever seen a fairy princess in pants?

My arguments seemed to fall on deaf ears, but my Aunt Anita winked at me as she added a pair of pink denim pants with purple fairies stitched on them to the stack of clothes they'd chosen for me. Meg wrinkled her nose, but chose to remain silent at a stern look from her mother.

Experimenting with make-up was more fun than I had ever thought it would be. Even Meg seemed to be enjoying herself as she showed me how to apply each cosmetic. And of course jewelry was fun too.

All day long I played the obedient cousin and allowed Meg to do as she pleased with my image all the while wearing a bland smile on my face. At night, I cried. I grieved for my mother, as was natural, but I also grieved for my childish fantasy world I was being forced to leave behind.

It was my decision to box up all my books and haul them to the attic. Meg helped, and then decided we should re-do my room as well.

Three days later my room had been transformed into a nightmare. It was so modern! Gone were the pinks and purples and gauzy draping material across a canopied daybed. I now had a queen-sized bed that was very low to the ground. The color scheme of the room was bright blue and green. I even had a lava lamp.

I thanked Meg and Aunt Anita for helping me, much to the approval of my stepfather. However, once I was alone in the modern atrocity. I cried.

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"You're still missing one thing," Meg told me slyly over breakfast one morning.

"What's that?" I asked between bites of corn flakes.

"A boyfriend."

I choked and Meg had to pound on my back.

"Are you okay?" she asked handing me a glass of water.

I nodded and sipped at the water trying to get my coughing under control.

It was odd seeing her look at me with concern. I guess she'd started to get attached to me these past few days.

"Good. Where was I? Oh yeah. Now you need a boyfriend," she declared.

I cringed and gave she me a sharp look.

"You are sixteen, Christine! It's time you had a boyfriend. I just turned fifteen and I've already had three," she bragged.

She set me up with a boy from school named Richard. He was in my year, but I'd never seen him before. This wasn't too unusual as the school was so large. Plus, he was in all advanced classes.

Richard was a very good-looking boy, who had just broken up with another girl. Apparently she had been very controlling and he preferred to be in charge. That was fine with me as most of the time I had no idea what I wanted. It was nice to have the decision taken out of my hands.

For our first date he took me to the movies. It was nice, and I enjoyed myself. After the movie, we went to a restaurant and talked a lot. He listened as I told him about my mother, and hugged me when I teared up while explaining about her death.

His arms were strong, and I felt safe wrapped in them. He seemed to enjoy it to. Neither one of us wanted to pull away. Then suddenly, he was kissing me.

I was disappointed. Not that it was a bad kiss. No, it was very nice. It made my stomach flip-flop in a good way, and I really liked it. But it was my first kiss, and deep down I was expecting fireworks. I wanted to see the magic that was first love.

When the kiss ended, I looked at him with tears in my eyes.

Of all the things I had let go of since my mother died, this was the hardest. Mom was wrong about so much. But I had hoped that she would have been right about this at least.

I kissed him again to distract him from the disappointment in my eyes. Again, it was nice. And I decided that that would have to be good enough for me.

I'm sorry Mom.

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I discovered acting my junior year of high school. Richard's best friend Joey was really into drama and one day as school was letting out he asked me to help him rehearse a scene for an upcoming audition.

Our school was putting on Romeo and Juliet, and Joey was determined to be Romeo. Mom and I used to act out fairy tales when I was little, and I felt a pang at the memory as we began.

The auditorium was nearly empty, and the few people that were there were not paying attention to us. Except for Richard who kept glaring at us and looking pointedly at his watch.

For the first time in a year, I let myself go. I sank into the fantasy of being Juliet Capulet and found myself absorbed by the part. It was almost like seeing an old friend I had not heard from in years.

After the scene Richard and few other people who had gathered in the no longer empty auditorium clapped and whistled. I blushed, but took a deep bow feeling elated.

"That was incredible, Chrissy!" Richard said kissing my cheek as he, Joey and I made our way out of the room.

"He's right. You have real talent Christine. You should audition," Joey said, seriously.

I smiled but shook my head.

"I don't really know anything about acting. I'd like to learn a little more before auditioning for a play."

"Well, I don't think you need it, but there will be another production in the spring. Maybe you can try out for that one," he suggested.

"I'll think about it," I promised feeling giddy.

It is kind of funny when you think about it. The only time I truly felt like myself was when I was acting, pretending to be someone else.

I looked down at the books in my arms and stopped walking.

"I must have left my Geometry book in the Auditorium. I'll catch up with you later," I said giving Richard a peck on the check and smiling at Joey.

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The Auditorium was dark now and I shivered as I made my way up the aisle to where I had placed my books while I was rehearsing with Joey.

The chair I had set them on was empty. Bewildered, I looked around for a moment squinting in the dark, when I tripped over something and fell. I braced myself to hit the hard floor, but instead I ended up in a soft, warm lap.

Arms that were much stronger than Richard's helped me right myself, and I heard a deep masculine chuckle.

"I'm sorry. I didn't see you there. In fact, I still can't see you there," I said to the shadowy figure as it stood up to it's full height.

"It's alright. Most people don't see me. They don't bother," he responded, cryptically.

"That's probably because you're in the dark. Most people can't see in the dark you know?" I pointed out, intrigued.

He laughed out loud then, and I smiled liking the way his voice seemed to caress me.

The whole meeting was so surreal. Any normal girl would have quickly left, not wanting to remain in a dark auditorium with a mysterious man. But I was not normal. In fact, spending an entire year pretending to be normal had been boring and I felt my heart quicken at the thought of an adventure.

"And yet here you are, stumbling in the dark," he countered, and though I knew it was too dark for him to see anything I got the impression that his gaze was traveling up and down my body.

"I left my Geometry book," I said, lamely.

He laughed again.

"No you didn't."

"What? Of course I did." Okay, this was getting weird.

"No, I took it from your stack of books while you where acting," he said, stringing out the last word.

"Why would you do that?" I asked, dumbfounded.

"I wanted to meet you. It was either take one of your books, or your purse. I didn't want you to think that I was a thief."

I felt him put a hand on my shoulder and the other on my opposite side. At first I stiffened, wondering if it had been a foolish idea to stay and speak to this guy. But he was only moving me over to one of the seats. I sat down and heard him sit in the seat next to me. Part of me wished that someone would turn on the lights, but another part relished the thrill of being in the dark with a mysterious stranger.

"Why would you want to meet me? I'm no one special," I asked, truly confused.

He sighed.

"I'm sorry that you think that. The truth is, I've sort of been watching you since you came to school here," he admitted sheepishly.

I should have been frightened upon learning that I had a stalker, but I wasn't. I sensed no hostility or ill-will from him at all. I trusted my senses.

"At first you were so happy. Though, you didn't seem to have any friends. You looked content by yourself, always reading, or just staring off into space. Or singing…" he trailed off and I knew he was smiling.

"Singing?" I asked, blushing, as I knew exactly what he was talking about.

"Yes, singing. That is what drew me to you in the first place. I was hiding in the library when I saw you for the first time. You settled into the back corner. And once you looked around to be sure no one was watching, you started singing. You have such a lovely voice; I couldn't help but return everyday to hear you sing. It was like my own private concert."

I couldn't say anything. I was torn between embarrassment and pleasure at his praise.

Suddenly, his hand was on my cheek.

"And then you stopped. You stopped singing, stopped reading, and stopped smiling…"he trailed off and moved his hands to my hair.

It had grown a lot since Meg had cut it the year before, but I hadn't let her do it again.

"And you cut off your beautiful hair. It was so long. It made you look classic. Like a princess in a fairytale."

That's what I'd always thought!

"What happened?" he asked, his voice filled with concern.

His hand moved away from me and I sighed at the loss.

"My mother died. She always… well she was the only one who accepted me as I was. But I knew that if I was going to 'make it' I needed to change. So I did." I confessed.

"I'm sorry to hear about your mother. But what do you mean by 'make it'?"

I blinked, surprised by the question.

"Well, I enjoyed being by myself a lot, but I didn't want to be alone completely. I'm not sure if I'm saying that right…" I tried to think of better words.

"You like to be alone, but not lonely." He stated.

I nodded.

A comfortable silence passed between us.

"Why did you just want to meet me now? You must have been watching me for more than two years," I wondered aloud.

"I heard what you said about not wanting to audition for a play yet. I want to teach you what you need to know to feel more comfortable. This spring the school is putting on 'Phantom of the Opera'. I think you would make a perfect Christine Daae. Your name is already on the script," he said.

"The lead? You want me to audition for the lead?" I asked in disbelief.

"Yes."

"But, auditions are in January! That only gives us few months," I pointed out.

"Plenty of time. You are a natural."

I do not know if it was his unwavering confidence or the fact that everything seemed so surreal in the darkness, but suddenly I felt like I could do this. In fact, I really wanted to.

He allowed me to think things over in silence for a few minutes.

"Who are you?" I asked finally.

"My name is Erik. I'm a senior, but I am only here for half a day. I take classes at a community college in the mornings."

"Erik? Like in the musical? Wait, are you going to audition for the Phantom?"

He laughed again.

"Erik and Christine. It is perfect, don't you think?"

I smiled despite myself.

"Like something out of a book," I said.

"Chrissy? Are you in here?" Richard called from the door.

"I'm here," I called, and suddenly the lights came on.

I blinked to clear my blurred vision and turned to Erik, only to find the seat next to me empty.

"What is taking so long?"

I held up my geometry book.

"I had trouble finding it," I said, not wanting to share my little adventure with him.

He laughed and shook his head at me.

"Next time try turning on the light. That way, you won't have to look so hard."

End Chapter 1