Disclaimer: All characters are property of Gaston Leroux and all places are factual.
By The Lights of Paris
It was all Jammes' fault. Meg was quite certain of that, for she would never have dreamed of coming to such an intensely peculiar place! She wished that she were still curled up in her warm bed in the dormitory, not sneaking through the streets of Montmartre to find what Jammes had described as 'a little excitement!'.
"Jammes, let's go back. We shouldn't be here, if someone found us…" Meg began to chew on a tip of her black hair. Jammes peered back at her, cheeks flushed scarlet with nerves and the thrill of it all.
"You behave as though we've never drunk before, Meg."
"Not out of the opera house, we haven't! We'll get into trouble." Meg highly doubted that sneaking off to the inns and bars of Montmartre compared to smuggling a couple of bottles of wine into the dormitories.
"Christine promised to say that we were walking around the square if anyone asked. Come on, Meg, I want to see!"
She pulled Meg's hand and they fell towards the strange buildings, the red arms of the windmill spinning in the fierce wind. For a moment they stood, awed by the sights that surrounded them; the groups of men talking loudly about matters that seemed impossible, an artist sat drawing the gaggle of women who stood in outrageous clothing and passing bottles of spirits between them. Jammes moved toward the door of large building was a picture of a black cat on the door. Meg darted after her, desperate not to get lost amongst the throngs.
The room was hot and smelt of tobacco smoke and spirits. The lights had been covered with coloured glass to douse the walls in unnatural shades of red and orange. The inhabitants of the bar were all talking and laughing; someone had started singing a ditty with incredibly rude lyrics. Meg stood with Jammes, who was looking as uncomfortable as she herself was. But determination won through and Jammes made her way to the bar, returning moments later with oddly coloured drinks. Meg eyed it suspiciously but Jammes stubbornly sipped at hers, turning away to splutter at the strong taste.
Nearby a small group of men were loudly discussing a piece of literature that Meg was not familiar with. One of the men, a red-faced fellow with thick blonde hair caught her looking and chortled. She hurriedly turned away, swallowing the drink and pulling a face.
"Jammes, can we go now? We've had a drink."
"I want to go to the other places!"
"Oh, why do you have to be so stubborn? We're already going to be in trouble if we go back stinking of smoke and alcohol! Think what Sorelli would do if she caught us!"
"She isn't going to catch us! Honestly Meg, you're more scared of Sorelli than you are of the Opera Ghost!"
"I don't believe in the Ghost," Meg lied through her teeth, setting her glass down firmly, "I just don't want to be punished for something that you've made me do!"
"Go back then." Jammes said haughtily, tossing her hair over her shoulder and snatching up Meg's abandoned glass.
Meg glared, knowing as well as Jammes that she wouldn't go. Jammes watched her closely and then smiled sweetly, swallowing the last of the drink.
"Come on! Let's go to the building with the red windmill."
"Oh, you two little things don't want to be going in there." Said a voice behind them. Both girls turned with a start to see a thin man, with sallow skin and friendly eyes.
"What is it?" Jammes asked, a little impertinently. The strong alcohol had clearly started to rid her of her inhibitions. The man laughed lightly.
"It is a house of entertainment, of dancing and of drink. In short, young ladies, it is not the sort of place that two girls like you want to be seen in. Not if you hold your reputations in high esteem."
Meg understood and went a little pink at the insinuations. Jammes was unperturbed.
"I think you're a very insolent man to interrupt and then presume upon on our reputations."
"Jammes!" Meg said, appalled at her friends behaviour. The man laughed again and inclined his head to them.
"Perhaps you are right, my young friend. Next time I shall refrain from sparing you the absolute humiliation that would occur, were you to step into the Moulin Rouge. May I ask from where you originate?"
"Jammes, we should go." Meg said, pulling her friend's arm. For some reason, she didn't want this man to know that they were from the Opera House. Luckily Jammes took note of her distress and sighed, "It's of no matter to you. Come on, Meg." As though it had been Meg who was keeping her waiting, rather than pulling her towards the door. The man bowed again and turned to the bar, laughing to himself.
The clean air was refreshing after the oppressively hot atmosphere of the bar. Meg glanced back at the door, making a note never to enter Le Chat Noir again as long as she lived. Jammes was making her way to another bar, a considerably quieter one. Meg considered protesting yet again, but the obvious futility stopped her. Instead she followed Jammes, feeling more and more like an obedient dog. Jammes stopped and looked back at her reluctant companion.
"What is wrong with you? Why are you always worrying about what might happen?" She said irritably. Meg folded her arms, furious.
"Me? What's wrong with me? Jammes, I'm sick of this! I want to go home. What on earth possessed you to do this?"
Jammes scowled at her and stalked away down an alley. Meg glared after her and turned back down the street, going the way they had come. But after turning down several streets, she felt fear and panic rising in her throat as she half ran down unfamiliar streets. The strange lights shone through the shutters, casting split shadows across her path and soon she fell against a wall, close to tears. Her feet ached and in her pair, it seemed to her as though there were creatures approaching through the dark to snatch at her. Holding back a sob, she spun around a corner, only to run into a tall, thin man dressed all in black. Meg let out a shriek and fell away but he held up a hand.
"Do not be so childish. You shall not be harmed." He was wearing a strange hat, a fedora that was placed low upon his brow to hide his face. Meg stammered an apology but he tilted his head at her.
"Are you looking for the other young lady?"
"She is up that path, at the top of the hill. Find her and hurry home, little empress. Your mother will worry." The man said, his voice hypnotically sweet. Meg swallowed hard and scuttled up the path. She glanced over her shoulder briefly but the strange man had gone. His peculiarly chosen words had already gone from her mind as she climbed the roughly walked path up the grassy hill, determined to find Jammes and drag her back to the opera house if she had to.
Suddenly it was as if all the sound in the world had drained away. Meg paused and looked back down the hill at the crowd of buildings she had just come from. How strange! From here the peculiar and frightening atmosphere of Montmartre was almost… beautiful. Meg continued to climb the path, wondering if she should call out for her friend. But there was no need, for a little way off sat the young ballerina, hunched up with her knees beneath her chin as she frowned down at the pretty lights and ant-like figures. Meg watched her for a moment before sitting down on the damp grass.
"What is wrong, Jammes?" She asked softly, hoping for an explanation as to her strange behaviour.
Jammes sniffled loudly and bowed her head so that her hair fell across her face. Meg didn't speak, waiting for Jammes to compose herself. After several silent moments, Jammes mumbled something. Meg leant closer to hear.
"It's Sorelli. And her horrid ballet slippers."
"What do you mean?" Meg said, confused. Jammes let out an angry snort.
"I was supposed to take them back to her room! And I completely forget because Cecily was boasting about how one of the stage boys had taken her to Montmartre and I was so busy laughing with her that somebody moved them when I wasn't looking. So of course, I had to go to Sorelli and tell her I had lost her slippers and she… she was so unkind. Then Cecily told me that if I had a boy to take me to Montmartre, I wouldn't be so childish as to get upset when Sorelli told me off..."
Jammes pulled a handful of grass from the mound she was sitting on and began to throw them into the breeze, one by one. Meg watched her, trying to think of something to say.
"But Jammes, you know what Cecily is like. She only said it to get under your skin."
"No one would believe me over her. Everyone just adores darling Cecily…" Jammes scowled and Meg grinned, knowing how true that was.
"She only said it to you, because you know what vache désagréable she is." They both laughed quietly and Jammes shook her head.
"I just wanted to be able to tell everyone that I had been to Montmartre and than I'd been into the bars, or the Moulin Rouge."
"So you'd have the same reputation as her?"
"So they wouldn't think I'm a child!" She threw the last few blades away angrily. Meg frowned at her.
"Jammes, you shouldn't care what they all think. They're all silly girls. I should know, I've heard the managers calling us that all the time. I think you're ridiculous to do something like this. Let's just go back home and sleep, preferably without getting caught by Sorelli or anyone else! Then you can boast to your heart's content about being in Montmartre and meeting a famous poet, or singer or anything you want to say!"
Jammes pulled a face.
"Can't we just stay here for a while longer? I'd rather just sit here with you for a while than go back and be with the others…"
"Fine." Meg leant back against a tree, a feeling of growing pride in her chest and as she considered herself as being quite adult about the situation.
"Why did you come looking for me?" Jammes asked suddenly. Meg shrugged.
"You're my friend. I couldn't leave you alone in a place like this. I was worried about you." Jammes put her head against Meg's shoulder, smiling and watching the shining stars reflected in the brighter lights of the town. Meg sighed, as though desperately exasperated at her behaviour of the evening but secretly smiling that they had made up.
The moon had reached its peak within the hour and in the milky light, Jammes saw couples further down the slope, distant giggles and whispers as they chattered and kissed. Looking up at Meg, Jammes saw that her friend had fallen asleep. She didn't want to wake her. There were no rehearsals in the morning and it would surely be far more interesting if Cecily saw them coming back at some scandalous hour tomorrow morning than tonight… Jammes smiled to herself and without realising she was doing, laced her fingers through Meg's as she put her head back on her shoulder to sleep.
A/N: My challenge was to write a Jammes/Meg story, set in Montmartre and involving a pair of ballet slippers. This story was written for the lovely Ava, who I hope will forgive me any glaring historical inaccuracies and the lateness regarding the deadline!