LA FILLE QUE PLEURE
SUMMARY:What if Raoul and Christine never got married for some reason? Read on, as Erik watches Christine from afar as something happens with Raoul… Done from Erik's P.O.V. (just because it's so much fun!)
RATING:As usual, I'm rating this PG to be safe… probably more of a G, though.
DISCLAIMER:They are not mine, it is not mine, this is.
AUTHOR'S NOTES:A poemfic! Based on the poem "La Figlia Che Piange", by T.S.Eliot, which I recently analysed for my 20th Century Poetry assignment. It's a beautiful poem and this idea just wouldn't go away when I was reading it. The title means "The Girl Who Is Crying" in Italian, which is exactly what the title of the fic means, but in French :) Cool, huh? I will also be writing another one of these for "Star Trek:Voyager" along the same lines (I just couldn't decide who to use…) if anyone is interested in finding that. This is not an alternative ending… I suppose it's just a little A/U thing, really, it doesn't fit anywhere in canon with the book/s or the show… (And my French is kinda dodgy… correct me on that last line if I'm wrong…)
OKAY, YOU GOT ME:I'm just throwing this in as a diversion while I finish part 4 of my 'saga'. *nips quickly out of the door while you're all distracted* Anyway, please read and review it anyway, and the nicer you are, the quicker you get Part 4 :)
La Fille Que Pleure
She stood there in all her glory, surrounded by the remains of the previous night's set pieces. Chaos always seemed to follow any closing night. I stood watching from Box Five, my presence unknown to her.
The set, for all its garish sins, was meant to resemble a summer garden, but now looked more like a ruin. All that was left was a set of artificial, wooden steps, painted like marble (quite effective from the balcony, if truth be told, but obviously fake up close), a backdrop hanging neglected from its frame, and a plaster of Paris urn, approximately four feet high, at the top of the steps.
Christine was leaning on this urn, waiting, and bored, her impatience showing on her face. The light reflecting from a fake, painted sun brought out reddish tints in her brown hair as she leant forwards, head in her hands, her elbows on the rim of the urn.
I watched her, silently, for several seconds. Then, her face seemed to light up, as a familiar figure approached from the wings brandishing a bouquet of flowers. Raoul. The Vicomte. The bane of my life. I would have left, but was somehow compelled to watch. The image of my protégée as she stood at the centre of a beautiful garden was too tempting to leave behind.
He handed her the flowers, which she took, smiling, and breathed in the scent. I listened carefully, ever-watchful of Christine's changing expression.
"I'm afraid I bring bad news."
She looked puzzled. "Oh?"
"Yes." His posture seemed to suggest he was nervous. His back was to me, so I was unable to see his face. "It pains me greatly to tell you this, but…" He stopped, and dropped his head. "My father informed me this morning, with no respect for my feelings on the matter, I might add, that he has found me a wife."
Christine was speechless. She held the bouquet closer to herself, hiding behind it so as not to betray her emotions.
"You are betrothed?"
"Yes. I assure you, I had no idea of this."
"But you must have suspected. Surely your brother was married in a similar manner?"
"Well, yes, but…"
"Then you had no right to presume your own freedom." She looked at the flowers with a new contempt, then fixed him with a stony glare. "Goodbye, Raoul."
With that, she threw the flowers at his feet and turned, quite calmly, to walk away. She made it obvious she wasn't coming back. I would have laughed at the Vicomte as he shifted in his place, watching her retreating back, but the only thing I could focus on, for some reason, was her hair, still reflecting that false sunlight.
Losing interest in Raoul utterly, my mind wandered. It should have been the other way around, I thought. It should have been him who walked away, determined and headstrong, and Christine who remained, caught in her moment of grief. It was a testimony to her strength that she left him there to wallow in guilt. Yes, she should have wept, and stood her ground, and forced him to leave. He should have left her, unable to remain in her presence. (And what man can stay around a woman who cries?)
And then it should have been me who was there to comfort her in her moment of need. Her tutor, her Angel, her friend, the man who loves her but who is too afraid to tell her so. All it would take would be a handshake or a smile to let her know she isn't alone.
But no. It was Raoul who stood there, dejected (though he had no reason to feel that way) and Christine who fled the scene. Soon, however, he did leave, walking slowly off the stage and through the wings, away from the auditorium. In my mind's eye, all I could see was the single image of Christine, leaning on the urn, so innocent and unknowing. I kept a tight hold of it. That mental picture was mine alone, not Raoul's, not even hers. At least now I had something to reflect on.
I couldn't stop myself thinking the inevitable, annoyingly. Much as I didn't enjoy the idea, she had been happy with him, and part of me was glad of that. Natural curiosity made me wonder what her life might have been like as a Vicomtesse.
A sudden crash broke my reverie. They were dismantling the last of the set pieces with a hammer. Perturbed, I went to the only place I could think of - the other side of Christine's mirror. If I could not comfort her in body, I could at least do so in mind.
As I suspected, she was crying alone, pride stopping her from doing so in front of Raoul. I wanted to reach out to her, hold her, but I knew I could not. I knew it would be impossible for her to accept my ministrations, especially now she knew who - and what - I was. Instead, I called her name as I had all those months ago at our first meeting. It echoed familiarly around the small room.
She looked up from her arms, face streaked with tears. Catching sight of herself in the mirror, she hastily dried her eyes and tried to look more presentable.
She sighed. "I'm afraid I won't be a very good student today," she said, her voice hoarse.
"I know,"I replied. She approached the mirror. I often wonder if she realises when she does it. "I saw what happened."
She nodded, as if she already knew this. She placed a palm to the mirror's surface. With this as my cue, I released the turning mechanism and brought her through. The action nearly always caught her by surprise and she frowned slightly in annoyance.
"I wish you would warn me when you're going to do that. It's enough to give a person a heart attack."
She seemed vaguely puzzled. "You're determined for me to have a lesson today, aren't you?"
I smiled. "I think we can forego the lesson today, my dear."
"Oh. Then why-?"
"There's nothing to stop you joining me for tea," I said, cautiously. "If you will accept the invitation?"
"Yes. I think I will," she answered after a moment's consideration.
Several minutes later we were at my door and I gestured for her to enter first. She stood in the middle of the room, somewhat anxious. I indicated for her to sit. She obeyed, unquestioningly as usual.
I made the tea in a small silver pot and brought it through, placing it on the table in front of her. She watched as I poured the beverage, then placed the cup in her hands.
I nodded, and moved to the piano stool. She gave me a confused look.
"Christine, I told you. No lesson today. This just happens to be the only seat left in the room." That wasn't true, of course, and we both knew it. There was ample room on the sofa she was occupying, but out of politeness and sheer cowardice, I chose to sit on the opposite side of the room.
"Oh." There was a reasonably amicable, if awkward, silence, while she sipped her tea. She finished and placed the empty cup back on the tray. I made to get up and remove it like the good host, but she beat me to it. "It's all right. I'll take it." Within seconds, I heard what I had been anticipating. "Erik?"
"This is quite embarrassing… where do you keep everything?"
"In its proper place," I replied, and walked over to her to relieve her of the tray. She wandered slowly back into the other room and waited for me. Neither of us seemed capable of maintaining a conversation when it didn't revolve around singing techniques or arias.
Eventually, she said, quite logically: "This was most enjoyable… but I should really be going now. Could you take me back up, please?"
"Yes. Of course."
We made the perfunctory journey across the lake and through the labyrinth of corridors, and came out at the Rue Scribe. Christine had clearly been thinking, if the look on her face was any indication.
"A centime for your thoughts, my dear?"
"Oh… sorry. I was miles away." She smiled, laughing at herself. "I was just wondering… why he would lead me to believe he cared for me."
Of all the answers I wanted to give her, none of them were appropriate. Instead, I chose my words carefully. "Perhaps… perhaps only because he believed you cared for him?"
"Perhaps so." She sighed. "It doesn't matter now, anyway."
Just as I was going to bid her farewell, the thing I had been secretly both hoping for and dreading happened… she began to cry again. At first, all I could do was offer her a handkerchief (which, truth be told, I only kept about my person for just such an emergency), which she took gratefully. Her crying ceased, but her sniffing did not.
"Come now," I said, placing a cautious hand on her shoulder. "All these tears over a silly, spoiled boy? He is unworthy of your grief, Christine."
She nodded, but was unable to stop the fresh flow of tears. Before I knew what was happening or indeed had time to react, she had moved forwards and buried her face in my shoulder. My conflicting emotions demanded I should push her away and hold her closer in the same instance, and, damning myself all the while, I chose the latter.
And there, I held her, as she cried. The faint yellow glow from a distant streetlight, I noted, brought out the mysterious red hints in her hair, and the image I had chosen to keep as my own came unbidden to my mind. Christine with her arms full of flowers, in a summer garden… and just as I chose that moment, that one perfect second, in which to confess my devotion to her… she stiffened in my arms.
As quickly as she had moved towards me, she pulled away again, grief purged for the moment. In fact, she seemed quite flushed, embarrassed with her display of emotion and, probably, with her forwardness. We stared at each other for quite a time.
"I'm sorry," she said. "I don't know what came over me. You must think me awfully silly."
"Of course not. I'm glad I… could be of assistance."
Shaking herself out of her sadness, she remembered the reason we were at the gate in the first place. "I must be going. Thank you for the tea."
"It was my pleasure. And I expect that throat to be better for our next meeting."
"It will be. Au revoir." With those final words, she left. I said my own goodbye to the night air before making my way back to the house.
I felt as though something had begun anew that day, and perhaps it had. Jealousy no longer permeated my every other thought, and Christine seemed to visit me of her own accord rather than mine. But still, the same image remained: la fille que pleure, avec les fleures.
La Figlia Che Piange
O quam te memorem virgo…
Stand on the highest pavement of the stair -
Lean on a garden urn -
Weave, weave the sunlight in your hair -
Clasp your flowers to you with a pained surprise -
Fling them to the ground and turn
With a fugitive resentment in your eyes:
But weave, weave the sunlight in your hair.
So I would have had him leave,
So I would have had her stand and grieve,
So he would have left
As the soul leaves the body torn and bruised,
As the mind deserts the body it has used.
I should find
Some way incomparably light and deft,
Some way we both should understand,
Simple and faithless as a smile and shake of the hand.
She turned away, but with the autumn weather
Compelled my imagination many days,
Many days and many hours:
Her hair over her arms and her arms full of flowers.
And I wonder how they should have been together!
I should have lost a gesture and a pose.
Sometimes these cogitations still amaze
The troubled midnight and the noon's repose.