Together, Always Together
Chapter 1: The Phantom, the Angel
I didn't really hate Christine, per say. She was my sister—I couldn't hate her, she was all I had left in this topsy-turvy world we called home. I guess I just kind of… hated all the attention she got. She got the Prima Donna in Hannibal. And what of me? The Prima Ballerina, big whoop, it was just a bunch of fancy footwork, anyone could do it if they were only willing to practice. After the show, everyone started coming up to me and telling me, "Oh, Christine! You were wonderful, spectacular, perfect, stupenda, magnifique!"
And that's another thing I dislike about Christine and I! I hated people always mistaking me for her, especially when we weren't even twins! I was not Christine Daaé! I was Wendy Daaé, and proud of it! Wendy, not Christine, Wendy! W-E-N-D-Y, WEN-DY!!
I ran to the room Christine and I shared, wanting to escape all that. Everyone was happy for Christine. Not for me, for Christine… as usual.
Madame Giry followed me. "Wendy, my dear," she said softly to me, touching my arm. "Please do not be mad at your sister… she cannot help what she is."
"It's not her I'm mad at, Madame." I opened the door to the room and walked in. Madame Giry followed me inside. "It's all her stupid fans out there! Have you heard them lately, especially those terrible fops who aim to woo her and get her in bed with them, even wanting her to do it tonight, the night of her public debut? I am serious—'Oh, Christine, you're brilliant!' 'Oh, Christine, you were fabulous!' 'Oh, Christine—'"
"Wendy Estelle Daaé!"
"Without lack of respect, you get my point, Madame. Anyway, don't ask me to go out there and forgive everyone, especially the managers. 'Cause I won't."
Madame Giry sighed, "I don't blame you…" and looked around my and Christine's dressing room. She picked up a red rose that was on our dresser, which had a white ribbon around it. "Ah, my dear," she told me, handing me the rose. She smiled. "He is quite pleased with your performance."
"Come again, Madame?"
"You know, the…" She lowered her voice. "The Phantom of the Opera."
"You know, I hardly believe in ghosts anymore, but if indeed he really is a ghost…" I twirled the rose's stem in my fingers, allowing a faint smile to cross my lips. "He sure is a very kind ghost."
"He left you a note, Wendy." Madame Giry handed me the paper with a smile. "Read it… it may make you feel better."
"Yeah." I waved as she walked out. "Bye, Madame G, good night."
I glanced at the note, reading its every letter.
My dearest Wendy—
You were dazzling, that is the only word for your performance. I have never seen someone move with such style and grace. Especially Carlotta (this part made me laugh, obviously this Phantom understood what I and most of the others thought of the "magnificence" that was La Carlotta). Please accept this rose as a token of admiration, child, as you are very skilled and I did not wish for it to go unnoticed, for you've walked in the shadows too long without recognition and tonight was your night, Wendy. And if you haven't noticed, this Opera is run by my standards; the fool managers would not have put you in that part had I not seen fit. You did a marvelous job, and I always know which one of you is which—Christine is Christine, and you are you, and nothing will change what I see.
Your friend and loyal servant always,
Monsieur Erik Destler, Phantom of the Opera
How sweet. The Phantom of the Opera was very nice, no matter what anyone thought. I suddenly remembered—the Phantom of the Opera, he was Christine's Angel of Music! I had heard Madame Giry tell me once. I had completely forgotten about that till now…
But what was I supposed to think, honestly? That he'd appear to me just because I was wallowing in self-pity? That he'd train my voice?
Get real. I could never be like Christine. It was true—I couldn't sing very well (though I did best Carlotta; but believe me that was no difficult feat), the only thing I could do was dance.
Suddenly, I heard a voice: a man's voice, singing.
Come to me
You need not be afraid
I'm your angel…"
Little Lotte? That was what Father called Christine! How did her Angel know, more importantly how did he know the story of Little Lotte that Father used to tell Christine and I before bed?
I sang back to him, knowing he would think my voice was terrible.
"Angel, I'm not who you think I am
It's not Little Lotte to whom you speak
It's just the tiny version of her
It's just… me."
The Phantom/Angel laughed. I still couldn't see him… but that didn't matter, his voice was all that mattered, it was the most beautiful sound I'd ever heard. "And, whatever do you presume to be wrong with 'just you', Little Wendy?"
"You're my sister's Angel
She used to dream you'd appear
She sings and somehow she can sense you
But only I know you're here…"
"Talk to me, Little Wendy
Don't hide yourself in the shadows
Are you trying to take my job? (I heard him chuckle as he sang that)
Your true talent only I know…"
I stood up, sighing.
"Angel, I work hard everyday
No one notices me
Or the effort I give forth
To make every show perfect."
"Don't be so hard on yourself, child
You know deep in your heart
Nobody's perfect and you, dear
Are no exception to that rule…
"Sing for me softly
Don't listen to them
Haven't I trained your sister to be great?
What would you have to fear from me?"
I shook my head as I felt arms—his arms—wrap around me.
"Angel, no, please don't
I can't sing like my sister
All I can do are stupid tricks with my feet
I can never live up to Christine."
"And what's wrong with dancing?" The voice was by my ear now, speaking to me quietly and calmly, not singing. "I happen to like dancing very, very much."
"You love music and singing even more than that, Angel."
"Oh, details. You were wonderful, and that's all that matters, Wendy. You and your sister are both great—just in different ways."
I looked back to see the Angel. He was handsome—dark hair, blue-gray eyes, a white mask covering half his face. God, why would he want to hide the rest of his face? The left half was beautiful—such smooth, pale skin. I reached up and touched it, letting myself stroke it.
There was a look of pure bliss on his face when I did that. It quickly faded, however, when I stopped, letting my finger trail down his cheek and trickle off after tracing down his jaw. The Phantom's eyes studied my face when they opened. He caressed my cheek and kissed it gently. "You're even more beautiful in person than you were on the stage."
"Oh, Angel…" I just collapsed in his waiting arms. He was so warm, so gentle, so loving and kind… I adored that feeling above all else.
"Call me Erik," he whispered in my ear; I could almost feel hip lips on my ear, it felt so good, I shuddered just being in his touch… that, and he was sending shivers up and down my spine.
"Erik, then…" I put my arms around his neck. "You're so beautiful."
"If only you could say that while looking at the real me…" he sighed.
"The real you? Well, then, take off that mask, silly. I can't see the real you if you're wearing a mask, Erik."
"I should go now," he said suddenly, standing up and carefully prying me off him.
"But why so soon?" I almost whined. I know, I sounded like a prissy mama's girl. But I had really been enjoying his company, and I didn't want him to leave now!
"Mademoiselle Daaé, you must understand… if we are caught together, even just talking as we are now, I would fear the worst for you—we must spend short intervals of time with each other."
"You don't like me at all, do you?" I got up and stomped. "It's the same every time! People pretend to like me so they can get close to my sister, and then drop me like a hot potato! It's always been about Christine, it's all about Christine now, and it always will be about Christine!!"
"Believe me," Erik said to me, "I am not the kind of person who would do that. I would not make believe to befriend someone to get close to someone else. I really do like you and I hope I didn't ruin any chance of friendship by offending you."
"Aw… how can I stay mad at that face?"
"What face?" He looked confused, then horrified. "Did someone tell you what's under my mask? Was it Madame Giry? Or was it her little blonde ballet brat?"
"No! Of course not, I swear I don't know what's under the mask. You don't know… you make this cute little pouty face when you're sad."
"What?" I put my hands on my hips. "It is cute."
"Yes, well… brava, diva, and I hope to see you in the next production, m'amie." With a flick of his wrist, he made a rose appear in his hand. He gave it to me, first caressing my cheek with it.
"God, what the heck are you, a magician or something?"
"I suppose you could… call me something of the sort."
"Well… goodnight," I smiled, holding out my arms.
He just stared. He blinked. "What do you want, why're you holding your arms like that, Wendy?"
"Uh… girl hopin' for a hug here."
"You've never had a hug before?"
"Can't remember what it's like, if I have had one…"
"Aw, well, let me show you." I wrapped my arms around him tightly, rubbing his back with my hands, breathing deeply. For God's sake, I know it's weird to be smelling someone, but he just smelled so good… comforting, somehow.
"I think I like hugs," I heard him say almost silently… it was funny, he sounded serious and sarcastic at the same time.
I giggled. "Well, you better be going now, Erik. Wouldn't want to keep you from your business, eh?"
"Well… good-bye, Wendy, I hope our paths cross again."
As with a twirl of his black cape (which might I add was rather sexy), he had vanished… without a trace of his presence but the rose in my hand.
I lie down to sleep soundly, but found I couldn't escape the handsome, charming Phantom of the Opera, Music Angel—not even in my dreams.
I dreamt of us, him playing the organ and me singing. He hit a wrong note, and we laughed because he was a musical genius. I joked to him, if he was such a genius, why did he hit a sour note?
Then I dreamt of him, rowing me across a vast, glassy lake in a black gondola. We were just singing to each other. Singing without words, really, just idle singing, like we would idly chat, but we sang instead.
And the odd thing was—my voice sounded better than Christine's in my dreams! It wasn't my raspy medium-pitched voice that couldn't hit the high notes! It was as high as Carlotta's, but hit the notes so much better than her (as I stated was easy, but still) and it sounded a million times better than my sister's!
And my last dream—it was Erik and I again. He was in his regular outfit, holding a lasso, and I was in a wedding dress, complete with diamond necklace, pearl earrings, and gossamer-thin veil over my dark hair. We were in the Opera chapel, but he was looking angry and there was no one but us there… was this supposed to be his twisted idea of a wedding? I held a bouquet of lilies, which were slightly wilting, while I was holding up the skirt of my dress with both hands. "I told you," he growled the comment directed to me, "to stay away from that fool, I told you he is no good… and what do you do? You break your promise to me and try to marry him?" He threw the lasso down. "Do you have any idea at all how that makes me feel?! That you'd choose that fop over me?!" I could hear anger in his voice, but tears were running down his face quickly.
"He forced me, Erik!" I cried, tears streaming down my face. "He threatened me with your life! What was I supposed to do, refuse to marry him and let him kill you?!" I stomped my foot, which sported a white high heel. "And you crash the wedding! He's going to kill you no matter what, Erik, you know!!"
Another man came in. This was obviously the man we were talking about, because Erik narrowed his eyes and issued a deep growl, which I didn't like at all coming from him. The man just smirked. He held up a sword. "Miss me, Opera Ghost, Wendy?"
He threw the sword. I ran, but I couldn't stop it. It pierced Erik's shoulder, and he fell to the ground, shouting. I knelt beside him. Blood stained my white dress, but I didn't care in the least.
I heard the other man's laughter. "You think this is funny?!" I yelled at him. "What kind of a twisted, perverted sadist are you?!"
"Come, my bride," he said to me. "Your real wedding awaits. Leave this monster."
He took me under the arms and dragged me out. "No!" I shrieked, kicking and screaming, refusing to go, keeping my feet on the ground, and eventually this broke one of the heels off my shoes. "Let me go—I love Erik, not you! You are the true monster! He does not deserve to be lonely, and you deserve to burn in the fires!!" I was busy struggling, and my hand let go of my bouquet, and it landed right beside Erik… his blood dripping onto the flowers, painting them red.
That's what woke me up: the sight of Erik dead. I couldn't believe this. These dreams… they seemed so real. Were they premonitions? If so, why did my voice sound so amazing? Why had Erik hit that sour note? And even more… who was that man who'd taken me away from Erik, and why the bloody heavens had I been in a wedding gown? That was what scared me most… I was the same age as I was now in my dream, and I was hardly read to think about marriage, let alone be wed!
I looked around. Christine was nowhere in sight. No surprise, she'd probably been with the Vitcomte after the show; I bet you my Sunday dress and tap shoes that she liked him… God, it was Raoul de Chagny, for crying out loud; we'd known him when we were little and they always wanted me out of the room when they were both there so they could make goo-goo eyes at each other.
Then I saw on my vanity: a fresh rose and a new note, written again in red ink… from the Phantom of the Opera, my friend, my Angel, my protector… but, if he was just all that… why did I feel this growing need to be beside him?
I read the note:
My dearest Wendy,
I am terribly sorry I had to depart so swiftly last night. Understand that I did not wish to hurt your feelings if I did. I hope the rose and my gifts make up for it.
Your friend and loyal servant,
Erik Destler, Opera Ghost
The rose and his gifts? What gifts? Suddenly, a flash of light caught my eye on the vanity.
I saw a beautiful necklace. It had an elegant silver chain, and attached was a tiny little crystal rose. Beside it was a silver charm bracelet with three charms on it so far: a little gold half-mask like Erik's, a tiny silver music note, and a little pair of ballet slippers carved out of what was called rose gold; apparently, he knew my obsessions—him, music, and dancing.
Under the jewelry was another note, from Erik no doubt.
My dear Wendy,
Please accept these gifts as an apology for two things. I didn't mean to offend you last night if I did, and I'm sorry for leaving so soon. I truly hope we can be friends.
Your friend and servant,
Erik Destler, O.G.
P.S. Hope to see you at the New Year's Masquerade—dance with me?
Oh, God. The masquerade? That was in three months! Non, non, non, non, that would never do! I couldn't wait that long without speaking to him!
So, I did the only sensible thing I could have done—I sat down and wrote Erik a note.
My dearest Erik,
Of course I accept your gifts. You are very sweet, and I love them. You did offend me a little, but don't take it personally… my first instinct when someone says they have to leave at an early time is to believe they are just after Christine and to yell, and I haven't done that to just you; it is just that every time someone tries to be my friend (save for Mme Giry and Meg of course) I find out later that they just want to be friends with Christine, not me, and it's happened every time. I just hope I didn't offend you by yelling like that and accusing you of such a thing—I did not wish to hurt your feelings if I did… accept this as my apology. I really would like to be friends.
Love, your fond amie,
-Wendy Estelle Daaé
P.S. Why that long? Won't I see you again before it? I can't wait that long, Erik!!... alright, I'm over my little priss episode, and I'll wait… not patiently, but I'll wait, and yes, I will dance with you there… if you can find me, that is, I always blend in.
After I had written the letter, I took off my ruby ring, that I'd gotten from my and Christine's father, and slipped it inside the envelope, then sealed it.
I knew Madame Giry and Erik must be friends, since she knew who'd sent the rose. So, I took my message to her and asked her to give it to Erik. She happily obliged my request.
But after lunch she gave me a note from Erik. My ring was inside. Why hadn't Erik wanted it?
When I read the note, I understood why he didn't want to take it.
My dearest Wendy,
Don't be offended that I didn't accept your gift, my dear friend. You see, Christine told Meg who told her mother who told me about that ring. I know it was your father's. I know that you and Christine loved him very much, and that besides your memories the ring is the only thing you have left of him. I can't take that away from you. Another reason I didn't take it… is because I am not good with people and I've never been offered a gift before. I want to become a little closer to you before I start accepting things from you. I know you accept them from me, but I feel that's rather different. Please don't be mad at me. I care for you very much and I don't want to hurt your feelings… I just don't feel very comfortable accepting anything from you until I know you a little better, Wendy.
Erik Destler, O.G.
P.S. I'm glad you liked them, and thank you for agreeing to dance with me… you'll know me when you see me, trust me, Wendy… in a word, no one will be able to take their eyes off me.
Apparently, when Erik wanted to say something, he did so with a long little monologue… so heartfelt and sweet.
I wondered what he meant by that last bit, but it didn't really matter… actually, it was alright he hadn't taken the ring. I wanted him to have it, but if he didn't want it for those reasons, that was fine. Now the only thing I was worried about was the masquerade—I would be nervous enough, this being my first really formal masquerade, but dancing with Erik, too?
How would I ever manage my crazy life?
I wrote a quick reply and delivered it to Madame Giry so she could give it to Erik.
It's alright that you didn't want it. It doesn't really matter anyway. I did want you to have it, because it's the most precious thing I own, and you mean a lot to me, but if you don't wish to take it, I respect that for those reasons, because I have absolutely nothing but the utmost respect for you.
Love, your amie,
P.S. Sorry this was so short, didn't want to waste your time… and alright, I'll keep on the lookout for you at the party.
After that I spend the rest of the day just rehearsing.