Two months later, Don Juan triumphed on the stage of the Opera Populaire, with Signor Ubaldo Piangi as the ancient seducer, and the new star of the opera house, Adèle Chevalier, as the innocent and seduced Aminta. Opinions were divided. Some said that the music was too rough and far too modern to belong to the traditional world of opera. Others claimed that the newest opera marked a new beginning. The latter prevailed. Only a few knew who the true composer was. They were those who attended the New Year's masquerade now so long ago. Many had forgotten, but some never did, never would.
During the performance, Raoul sat in the box opposite to the notorious box five, searching for two silhouettes, two shadows, one bright, the other for ever veiled in darkness. He knew she would be there, for she promised to see the opera. Raoul did not see her, or him, but he knew, felt, that they were somewhere near, watching, sighing with love for the Phantom's music and each other. This knowledge did not cause Raoul pain anymore. His love for Christine had changed. He had changed. He had a different future to look forward to, he was certain. As the performance ended and more than half of the audience stood up to give the performers a standing ovation, applauding excitedly, Raoul slipped from his box. His parents, the count and countess de Chagny, did not notice his departure. They were still under the spell of the powerful and soulful music. Raoul smiled to himself. After all, he had to admit one thing. Although he would never accept Christine's husband, his former competitor and enemy, he was reasonable enough to accept the fact that his music had a shattering effect on people, one way or the other. His music contained life. So be it.
As he was walking through the grand foyer, smoothing the lapels of his waistcoat and adjusting his neatly arranged cravat, an usher stopped him.
''Monsieur le vicomte, forgive me the intrusion,'' the man spoke, ''but a lady left a letter for you.''
Raoul frowned. ''A lady?''
In answer, the usher handed Raoul the letter. Raoul opened it and read the short contents.
Dear friend, this evening's performance was perfection incarnate. I thank you for staging the opera. Although reluctantly, my husband appreciates your kindness as well. Live well, my friend. Soon, you shall receive my greetings from Sweden. Yours truly, forever your friend, Christine.
P.S. Upon witnessing the success of Don Juan Triumphant, we would like to purchase the rights to the work, for the opera to come into the hands of Erik Broussard, a composer and musician. The Phantom of the Opera is gone and he will not object, I am sure. Soon, a letter for this purpose shall be sent to you. Until we meet again…
Raoul folded the letter with speed and put it in his vest pocket.
''How did the lady look? I do not ask after her physical appearance, but after her emotions. Can you tell me, man?'' Raoul asked the usher. ''And please, speak fast, I am in a hurry!''
Confused, the usher spoke, ''Er, well, monsieur, I am not really sure…But, I suppose she looked happy. Er, that is, I can vouch that she looked very happy. What is the word….Ah, radiant…''
''Thank you!'' Raoul answered and ran towards the entrance gate, out of the opera house, onto the square that stretched before the magnificent building. There, he saw a carriage, a team of four beautiful blacks waiting to proceed with the journey they had started. A woman, a cloak concealing her frame, was about to enter the carriage. Suddenly, she stopped and looked over her shoulder. Her face lit up with a smile and she waved.
Raoul waved back and exclaimed, ''It shall be done, madam, for my old friend!''
She nodded, obviously pleased, and disappeared inside the carriage. A whip cracked and the horses moved. Raoul watched until the carriage, with Christine inside its walls, disappeared from his sight. He knew he would not see Christine for a long time. However, he was content to see her happy. The look in her eyes calmed him. Although he knew who her husband was, he was at peace with this notion. He did not have to worry about Christine. Not anymore.
A year later, Raoul would hear of the great success of one Erik Broussard and his wife, the seraphic voice of the North, in Sweden. But not yet. He knew not the future yet.
On the following day, Raoul was exercising his horse in the Bois de Vincennes, his most beloved place in the world. He was observing the floating boats on Lake Daumesnil. In some of them were young lovers, unchaperoned, sharing secrets and kisses with each other. He sighed with longing, feeling the void in his heart, the void that had not been filled yet. He dismounted and tethered his horse to a tree. He sat down in the grass, closed his eyes and tried not to think or feel at all. His goal was to reach inner peace that only love could give. When he opened his eyes, he thought he was dreaming, for before him stood the woman that had begun to appear in his dreams of late. Her image in his dreams was unexpected and he could not explain it. Her presence before his eyes was beyond his comprehension of everything.
He jumped to his feet. ''Rosemonde,'' he breathed.
She had a small notebook placed around her neck, a pencil attached to it. She smiled her enchanting smile and handed him a small piece of paper.
Good day, monsieur le vicomte. I am visiting Paris with my parents. They are not with me today, so you might join me for a walk?
Raoul's eyes glimmered. She was the answer. He felt she was; he believed she was. Without hesitation, he offered her his hand. With that gesture, he offered her himself. Finally, he found his destiny, and Rosemonde found hers.
As for the Phantom and his Christine, I can only tell you that they were never seen again in France. They enjoyed their lives in the North. She sang, he composed, until the end of their days. Not much more is known, for apart from her appearing on stage to perform, they were rarely seen in public. However, I am able to tell you one thing. They were happy.
A BIG THANK YOU TO ALL WHO REVIEWED, REGULARLY AND NOT SO REGULARLY (in alphabetical order):
Rose of Silent Winter
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