DISCLAIMER:I do not own Erik. I do, however, own Madeleine, Rosmary, all the teachers and the Headmistress.
AUTHOR'S NOTES:This was originally a piece of work for my A-level English coursework, for which the brief was "Write a story in the style of Helen Dunmore". Helen Dunmore being the writer we were studying at the time, and her style being that of not revealing the point of the story until the very end. I came up with this, in two days, completely off the top of my head. It's fermented long enough on my hard-drive, it's time to share it with the world. Phans will get this instantly… the hidden point, to tell you now, is that she's in love with a fictional character - three guesses who that is! Some of these names will be familiar, especially to anyone who's read "Phantom" (Kay). I apologise for the lack of Raoul bashing :) This isn't exactly POTPAFOP material. And it's not even shippy… it' s just… odd… and an example of how I can turn anything into a phic, even when I'm not trying.
ADDITIONAL:This is now the first in a series. There's a sequel and some companion pieces which I hope to compile to make a full story, comprising six parts in total. Don't hold your breath for those… Okay, I'll shut up now. Enjoy!
A Dark Secret Love
© T'eyla Minh 1998
Don't get me wrong, this is not a diary - I'd like to think of it as more of a running commentary of my life at the moment. I suppose I'd better introduce myself. My name is Madeleine Kidby, I am fifteen years old, and, as soon as my exams are over, I am buying a ticket and moving to Paris!
Wait a minute, you're thinking, what about some sort of finance for this little plan? How about doing some 'A'-Levels to get a good job? Well, strange though this may sound, I don't need any of those things; at least, I won't when I get there. I wish I were there right now.
Look out of the window - it's raining again. It never seems to do anything but rain in this part of the country, and it isn't even proper rain - it's that kind which just comes and goes in short, soggy bursts. Now, Parisian rain - that's PROPER rain. The cold droplets are running races down a green-coloured, rusty signpost at the end of a huge path, the whole scene enclosed by huge, menacing, wrought-iron gates. It reads: "The Stephanie Barton Boarding School for Young Ladies", a rather old-fashioned name for a school, really, but then it does use very traditional teaching methods. In fact, I'm surprised they don't employ the cane. I don't belong here, but my parents are determined that I will get a good education, regardless of my academic ability. My three brothers, on the other hand, have a private tutor at our large, Tudor home - my father's idea - so that they may carry on the proud Kidby tradition. I've been here so long, it seems, that I don't remember what that tradition is, let alone whether my father bothered to tell me in the first place! He's decided that my brother Michael, the eldest boy, will be his heir, even though I was the first child. I feel as though I don't exist sometimes...
As for my plan, I shan't need any money in Paris because there is someone waiting for me, and I've been waiting my whole life to see him, or so it seems. I write to him every day, telling him that I'll soon be there - "...just another few months... I am counting the days until I can jump on that ferry and leave England forever!"
I would willingly tell you who he is - I'd shout it to the world if I could - but he has sworn me to secrecy about his identity, and for good reason, but enough unexplained mysteries; I think I should tell you how I came to my decision...
It happened about three months ago, maybe less, when we started learning all about the French Revolution in History, a loathsome subject, in my opinion, but "necessary if you wish to make us proud of you", according to my parents. I have no idea why, and I don't to this day, but I was fascinated by the whole incident. My teacher suggested I read Victor Hugo's novel "Les Misérables", so I borrowed it from the library. I devoured the whole book, cover to cover in three evenings, surprising even myself, but my curiosity was not satisfied until the next lesson. Miss Bremworth, in one of her famed anecdotes, told us all about how she visited various famous sites involved in the Revolution; in getting carried away, she also mentioned the Paris Opéra. The very words stuck in my brain for the whole tedious lesson, floating around, and bombarding my subconscious with ideas and questions to be answered. That evening I returned to see Miss Bremworth, who willingly recommended yet another novel. Unfortunately, the otherwise reliable school library did not possess the book, and I knew that the local village would not be any help either. Luckily, I discovered how useful French teachers can be. Needless to say, French is my best subject, so Mme. Lescot willingly entrusted to me an old text on the construction of the Opéra. It was in this text that HE was first introduced to me as a person. That may sound a little odd, but I already knew of his existence; I had been listening to his haunting musical compositions for many years, but I had never thought it possible that we would become such amazingly close friends.
Since that day, every spare moment I had I wrote to him. I had written two letters one week, and I can't imagine how much it was costing me in postage! Monday's letter read, in my near-perfect French and impeccable cursive handwriting:
"Dear Sir," (he would always make me call him 'Sir'.)
"I should like to meet you. I can't believe after two months, I've never seen you in the flesh. It will be visiting day soon, a day when we have a chance to see our 'doting families', as the teachers put it. I ask you, what kind of 'doting family' sends you away to boarding school for the best years of your life? So, instead of seeing my beastly siblings and disapproving parents, with their "You should be doing better"s and "Why aren't you more like your brothers", I should like you to visit me! I only have a mental image of you, since you won't describe yourself, and, as you know, I don't have the greatest imagination in the world! Please accept my invitation; I should LOVE to see you face to face! You know the address and I shall meet you in the lobby at nine-thirty A.M (an hour before everybody else's parents arrive), and be rest assured that nobody will know who you are.
and much love, Madeleine."
I sent it immediately the next morning, first class, and eagerly awaited his reply, confident that at last I would meet my good friend in person. Why shouldn't he agree to visit me here? God knows, I need somebody to talk to - all my friends have abandoned me since the letters started, and they won't even talk to me any more. After what seemed like decades, his reply arrived, on Wednesday evening:
I wilfully decline your invitation. It has made a vital addition to my collection, but you should know by now, unless you are incredibly forgetful, that I never accept them! My deepest apologies, my dear, but I cannot allow you to see me under such circumstances as you are suggesting, if not for the fact that I may cause a disturbance.
Again, my deepest apologies, and if I know you, you will cry yourself to sleep, but do not shed any tears for me. It is not healthy for a girl of your age to be upset over a man nearly forty years your senior - what must your friends think of you?! Besides, Madeleine, I'm really not worth it, even though you probably think otherwise.
Before I could read any further, I screwed up the letter and threw it into the bin by my bed. His name was the only thing I trusted in, the only thing which would not lie to me, and I could never associate it with the hurtful things in that letter. Despite all my best efforts, I did indeed cry myself to sleep that night. They were not tears of sadness, and it was not because he had refused to come - I suppose deep-down I knew he would decline- but rather that he was being sarcastic about it. What angered me most was that he supposed I had friends, when ever since I began writing I have made it clear that I have none. Of course, I didn't blame him for that - I've been brought up well enough not to, and it's really my own fault for starting it all. A word of advice to all of you before I continue- never neglect your friends to chase after some personal cause, because in the end you will have nothing left...
As it transpired, someone must have been worried about me, because the teachers were "hearing reports from several girls that you were crying all night as though you were the only person left in the world." I was feeling strangely argumentative that day, and denied all of the accusations, pretending that I had done no such thing. Luckily, the teachers believed me, which indicated that I was a much better liar than I ever imagined! After that night, nobody ever approached me unless they needed to, except for just one brave soul, who I might just call my saviour.
The dormitories of this school are all located on the top floor, along a wide, lengthy corridor, and are divided into form groups. The prefect system was abolished several years ago, when the appointed girls, drunk on their own sense of power, would lock pupils inside for hours, and then accuse them of not turning up at breakfast, or lessons. At the far end of the vast expanse of doors is the headmistress' office, the dreaded point of no return, which is avoided at all costs. 'Lights Out' is at nine-forty-five precisely, and if anyone is caught out of bed, no matter what the reason, they are put in detention for however long the Headmistress sees fit.
The dormitories themselves are incredibly dull. There are two large sash windows at the far end, each with tatty, faded, once-red curtains. The bunk-beds are slightly more interesting, in that the residents tend to hang their ties from them after lessons, but all have the same basic wooden structure, creaky springs and tatty, faded, once-red blankets. I thank the powers-that-be that nobody can see inside these dismal abodes of ours.
'My saviour' was Rosemary Jones, a fairly ordinary girl, and a loner, just like me. People tended to ignore her because her parents were not quite as well off as theirs, but, one evening, she plucked up the courage to talk to me. I was writing a reply to the offending letter at the time, from my bottom bunk by the window. I had the privilege of a table, while Rosemary, above me, had the charming view of dreary countryside and miles of sheep. All the beds had small, pathetic wall-lamps, and it was by the small glow of this that I was writing. Rosemary leaned over the side of her bunk, and looked at me upside-down, with her brunette plaits hanging from her head, giving her the appearance of a small devil, and spoke to me directly.
"Madeleine?" I chose to ignore her - the letter was my top priority. It had never occurred to me how headstrong she could be when she was curious, because she never seemed to me to be the confident type. "May I read it?" The outright question made me look up at her.
"I was wondering what, or who, keeps you up crying all night." I couldn't deny this - she was my bunk-mate and would have heard every noisy tear I emitted, despite muffling them with my pillow.
"It's really not your concern."
"It is!" She was rather indignant. "How can you say that?! You really believe you've got no friends in the world?" I must have nodded without realising, as she frowned at me. I folded the letter neatly and placed it and my pen under the pillow. This, Rosemary took as a hint and clambered down from her bunk as quietly as possible to sit at the end of my bed. "Tell me about him, Madeleine. Tell me all about this man you're so besotted with." After a pause, I said, with a defeated sigh:
"What do you want to know?"
"Everything!" She was so eager it was hard to resist telling her 'everything', but I continued carefully and slowly, watching my every word in case I slipped up along the way and fell into a deep pit of guilt.
"Well.... he's French. Parisian, actually, and he's a great scientist. He's inventing a new type of mirror, so he says."
"A NEW type?" She looked puzzled.
"Yes. It rearranges the onlooker's face to seem...." I stopped before I gave away too much to my new found friend. "...Different. It's arranged in a certain way - like those distorted ones you find at funfairs."
"Why would he want to do that? Is he an entertainer?"
"In a sense - he's a magician, an illusionist - you know, the type who make things disappear before your very eyes. That's his best skill. He's also an architect, a composer, a singer..."
"He sounds just as wonderful as I imagined. I often heard you talking about him, all the time, before they -" She indicated the surrounding beds. " - deserted you. I've always wondered just what he was like. Is he very clever?"
"He is. VERY clever, but you should never make him angry - he has such a huge temper. There have been many 'accidents' involving several people, who annoyed him to such an extreme that he..." I stopped again. "He's had to tidy his house a lot of times."
"Let me guess, he throws things around a lot!" I nodded. "A man I can relate to!", Laughed Rosemary, and we sniggered quietly at the similarity between these two odd characters I had chosen as friends, trying not to disturb the others. I was aware of several impatient sighs coming from the opposite corner, but I didn't worry too much, since they were not in the least bit interested in our conversation. As far as they were concerned we might as well have been talking about the latest radio programme. When we'd finished giggling, Rosemary asked me again: "So, can I read it?"
"No. Nothing personal, you understand, but it's in French, and you take German. Besides, it won't make much sense without any backgr-"
"Tell me why you were crying!" She was so abrupt and sincere that it frightened me, and I sat up sharply, hitting the back of my head on the lamp. Rubbing it, I gave in and told her about his last letter. It was difficult to prevent my imminent sobs, and, luckily, Rosemary saved me: "From what you've told me, he seems fairly well off." I nodded. "So it can't be a matter of money. So..." it was almost as though she was trying to work it out for herself: "...why won't he come?" I found his letter. I didn't read it out to her immediately, but took a deep breath of the stuffy, school-smelling air and said:
"Before I read this, you must promise never to tell anybody what you hear."
"But why, Mad-"
"I promise you, hand on heart, that I will not tell a single soul what that letter says."
I read the letter in as best as translation as I could - it is considerably easier to translate into French than it is into English! When I had finished, she looked a little surprised.
"It's very cryptic, isn't it?", she remarked. "And what a curious reason." I nodded again. She knew that there was a piece missing from the jigsaw, but she couldn't quite put her finger on what it was. Suddenly, it hit her. "What is his name?"
I would not tell her, it was as simple as that. "I can't tell you, Rosemary. I just can't. All I WILL tell you is that I think he was named after the priest who christened him. According to him, I share his mother's name." After a pause, I said, realising something: "He hated his mother. You don't think...?"
"Oh, Madeleine, I'm sure he doesn't hate you as well. You worry too much, do you know that?"
"I suppose. I know it's not me he hates, but society, the people who made him what he is." I answered her obvious question. "An outcast. A dark angel on the very brink of insanity, or so it seems. I sometimes think I'm the only one who keeps him from going over the edge. He's the only one who stops me from falling, too. Falling into the emptiness of madness, where society never dares to venture." My companion looked scared, her brown eyes wide in horror, her skin suddenly pale, and this shocked me so much that I was quiet. Eventually, though, she spoke, repeating her original question with amazing steadiness and persuasion:
"Madeleine, what is his name?"
I wanted to tell her, sharing in a secret like all friends do. I could trust her, that much was certain - she wasn't the talkative type. The problem was, I would break his trust in me if I told her, and that I could not live with. Then it dawned on me - he would never even know.
"Well, it's -" Before I could continue, the door burst open, and the Headmistress stood in the doorway like a huge, black demon, silhouetted against the blinding light of the corridor.
"Girls! Get to sleep this instant or you shall have detention for a month!" Rosemary scrambled clumsily up the ladder and into bed, while I turned off my lamp. The door slammed and the Headmistress' thunderous steps were heard stamping down the corridor and into the cavernous oblivion of her office.
When I was sure that it was safe and that everyone was finally asleep, I turned my lamp on again and fished out the crumpled scrap of paper from under my pillow. Re-reading my reply, I realised I could not send it after my conversation with Rosemary - I had cursed and insulted him endlessly for deserting me so cruelly. I knew that it would end our correspondence forever, and I could not bear the thought of such a thing happening. I screwed up the offending note, found a fresh piece of paper and began anew, informing him of my decision to join him in Paris as soon as I could. I had realised that it would be better for me - I was failing practically all of my subjects except French. I would ask my parents for some money, as well as coming up with some pathetic excuse or other - parents are the most gullible creatures on this earth - and after succeeding in achieving my lowest grades possible, I would depart. It was all so simple. All I needed to do was buy a ticket. It just seemed perfect, if not a little too perfect for my paranoid liking. I went out at the weekend to obtain my precious ticket, which I carefully concealed under my mattress. Wait a moment, you may be thinking, didn't you say earlier that you would be buying a ticket? Well, you're right, I did, but this is the story of my first, failed attempt at finally meeting my dear friend...
On my sixteenth birthday, I took my last exam and, after the customary party, everyone began packing their possessions into numerous suitcases. I, on the other hand, with a little help from Rosemary, found the smallest case I could and crammed in the essentials. My ticket was dated for that day, and, despite Rosemary begging me to stay with her for the summer, I left fairly swiftly. Of course, I did not forget to say goodbye to her, and she was rather confused, and strangely proud, when I called her 'my saviour'. I checked the ticket; the ferry left Dover at six o'clock, and a short taxi journey would take me there - the school is located just a few miles from the port. So, armed only with my purse, containing a hundred pounds' worth of francs, my suitcase of clothes, and a packed lunch, I set off.
Once on board, sitting comfortably on the deck in the warm July sun, and watching the English Channel turn from murky grey to a slightly less murky blue as we neared France, I read the two letters which had arrived that morning. The first was from my mother:
"Dear Maddy," (how I loathed that nickname!)
"I hope your exams went all right - I'm sure you worked harder than your telephone call implied, and your father has promised to buy you that pony if you do well. You know we expect only the best from you! The tutor, Mr. Morcombe, is SO proud of your three brothers that he has taken them hunting, and that is why I'm so very glad to hear that your French tutor allowed you to travel to France with her to get some 'hands on' experience, but why must you go so soon? I haven't seen you since Easter! (What happened to all the visiting days - they seem to have been non-existent these past two terms! Revision, I expect.) Well, I hope you enjoy yourself, and, apparently your results will be sent home since you won't be able to receive them at school, so don't fret too much about it.
Well, good luck,
and, I suppose, bon voyage!!!
Much love, Mother."
Expressionless, I folded the letter and placed it in my bag. It was so typically Mother - unaffectionate, uncontinuous and almost disapproving in some ways. The 'Much love' meant nothing to me, I had seen it so many times. Well, I thought, enough of this so called 'home-life', let's see what the other one has to say. I fumbled through my shirt and jeans pockets. Six battered tissues, three Polo mints (one shattered beyond recognition), four mysterious receipts and a lot of fluff materialised before I found the letter. I couldn't help wondering what the other passengers must have thought! Looking at the handwriting, I smiled and opened it, already knowing who it was from:
"My dearest Madeleine,
I hope you weren't too upset about me not meeting you, because I can't bear the thought of making you cry. If there is one thing which disturbs me it is making a woman cry; I shed so many tears myself, you see, and I always feel so... monstrous when I upset people. Anyway, I'd been carrying my guilt around with me absolutely everywhere for days until I received your letter. If I'm going to be truthful to you, I didn't want to open it - it seemed to carry bad 'vibes' (I believe you taught me that phrase, my dear!) - but I DID open it and was pleasantly surprised!! I've been wanting to meet you for some time, too, and I'm so very glad you decided to visit. Perhaps when you see me, you'll know why I could not meet you at your school.
Transport has been arranged for you at Calais. I would bring you to Paris myself, but I cannot leave here until it is dark. Of course, I would not trust any old stranger to bring you to me (at a special rendez-vous in Paris), and I know the man well. I look forward to seeing you.
'Angel'! He had never called himself that before! He had also never put 'with love', and I could see by the frantic scribbles on the otherwise neat page, that he had crossed out at least three other options before deciding on it. His hand had been shaking as he wrote those last four words. At first I laughed at his sudden school-boy naïveté, but very slowly it dawned on me. My mouth dropped open as I had an amazing thought: was he in love with me? He couldn't be. The age difference made the thought insurmountable. I must have imagined it, so I checked - there it was, the alien phrase: "...with love...". I reeled back in shock, although I am not sure why I did so, looking back on it. By the look of the letter, he was obviously in good temper, which made me glad I had not sent the other reply. Perhaps he had somehow got the wrong message; I always signed off my letters with "much love", since I had originally only ever written to my parents in the early years, and it seemed normal to me. Oh God, what if he was...
My train of thought crashed rather abruptly into an imaginary locomotive travelling in the opposite direction as the sound of foghorns was heard, and the ferry docked in Calais at long last.
I stepped off the boat and basked in the fresh, warm, French air, and looked around for anybody who might be considered trustworthy by my 'angel', but nobody fitted the bill. Eventually, all the cabs departed, and I was left on a bench waiting for someone to take me to Paris. At around nine o'clock, I paid an extortionate amount of money for a seat on a coach, already more than slightly annoyed by somebody's incompetence. I couldn't blame my one true friend for this, not after the letter, so I presumed that he had been overly generous and his 'chauffeur' had run off.
In Paris, working out where we would rendez-vous was a difficult task. I supposed he would want to meet somewhere dark and secluded, but, since I was supposed to have met him several hours ago, I decided to go straight to the Opéra, where he would surely be. I presumed he would have grown impatient and gone home in a rage, hopefully calming down along the way.
It was a long, tedious hike there, but I made it, and I stood at the threshold, bedraggled and exhausted, and bathed in the sheer enormity of it. It was a creation of genius and of love, that was for certain, and I considered it to be another wonder of the world.
I spent the last of my money on acquiring a hotel room, where I freshened up and had a good meal. I slept through most of the next day, and did not get up until at least four o'clock. I returned to the Opéra that evening in my best clothes so as not to look out of place. I took my small case with me, adamant that I would not be leaving in a hurry. Unfortunately, it rained - properly, of course! - so I turned up soaked to the skin and considerably less neat than when I left. I looked incredibly out of place! The company was in mid-performance, and, avoiding the guards and ushers, I proceeded to a dark corridor of the building, which I presumed led to the dressing rooms, and attempted to figure out where to go next. Then, I heard his voice in my head. It drew me down the hallway as if I were a puppet, it was almost like a gravitational pull. It was a wonderful sound, that voice, it was warm and friendly, and I knew in that instant that I would follow it anywhere. I considered the letter that had so shocked me, and I realised that for the last three months I had been keeping a secret from my friends and from myself. His voice drew it out of me - I was in love with himI was in love with him, and he was in love with me. How had I not realised after all that time? Well, I knew now and it was the present that mattered - the past was unchangeable, and the future was unpredictable, but what was happening right now was the most amazing revelation in my life. Not many people my age have experienced real true love, and I was one of a lucky few.
Eventually, I realised I had stopped walking and was at his front door. Taking a deep breath, I knocked and opened it, a habit from what little memory of school life I had left. I entered. The darkness closed its arms around me and, as my eyes closed, I fell into his warm and loving embrace....
Apparently, they found me several days later, shivering in the cold and singing an aria from "Faust" over and over. The last thing I remember, though, is being brought here in an ambulance, diagnosed with slight pneumonia, and raving that he hadn't come back, even though he gave me his solemn promise that he wouldn't leave me. He did leave me. He deserted me all alone in that place, and for that I shall never forgive him. Except that I probably will, in the end. I always do. I remember very little about my 'ordeal', except for a few details. Our meeting was one of them, and the three days we spent together in Paris - the three most wonderful days in my whole life. I remember having been inside his home for twenty minutes before I saw him - I could only hear him at first - but from the moment I first saw his face my life changed. For three days.
My parents were relieved to see I was alive, but that was before my father saw my results. I was exiled from the house and sent back to school, and I have been ordered to retake every exam...except French. So, at present, I am sitting in my room, staring out of the window. The Headmistress has locked me in my room so I can't disturb the other girls during their studies, not that I would, of course. I should love to see Rosemary again, though, but she has been sent away to another school by her family. I believe their words were, directly to my face when I asked them why: "We are sending away our daughter because we sincerely believe that you are a bad influence on her. We don't need her gallivanting off to foreign countries like you did. Your parents must have no control over you as you are obviously a rebellious girl. We don't want our little Rosemary having anything more to do with you." That's the gist of it, I think. Damn all parents! It's all very well controlling your children, but allowing them absolutely no freedom is diabolical, demonic and downright bad parenting, in my opinion.
I'm even starting to sound like him now.
Opposite me, at a small table, sits Miss Bremworth and Mme. Lescot, attempting to teach me history. Since my ordeal I will only speak in French, and, therefore, Mme. Lescot is required to help the poor souls who try to tutor me. I will be seventeen in ten months and I am still doing my G.C.S.Es, and it seems so ridiculous to me. All I am allowed to do in here is study, since all fictional books have been removed from my grasp as though I were a small child.
They didn't even bother to dust around before I 'moved in', so the atmosphere makes me sneeze and cough much more than the pneumonia ever did. When I asked for a duster and polish they looked at me as though I was mad. After all - why should a well brought-up English girl want to do dusting for herself, when a maid can do it for her. I'll tell you why - the maid is too scared to come up here, because she says that every time she does, apparently, I try to escape. They're treating me like a criminal. It's so damn infuriating.
This lesson is indescribably and intolerably boring. I can hear Miss Bremworth: "Madeleine? Madeleine Kidby, are you listening?" I nod. I am listening, but not to Miss Bremworth. Not any more. I specialise in irony nowadays - I caught that off him, too. What others might call bad habits, I suppose, but I'd say they were doing me more good than the habits I was taught as a child. Irony is useful. Etiquette, as far as I can tell, is not. I can hear the Voice in my head: "It will all be all right, my dear. Just ignore them all. I'm here." The Voice is strangely hypnotic. "You can hear me can't you, Madeleine? You trust me, don't you?" There is a pause. "You love me..." As the sounds around me fade into murmurs, I close myself off from the world and hide away in the dark abyss of my mind, with my dark, secret love - my insane and beautiful angel...