A/N: Hooray! Here is the new chapter, I told you all (On Facebook Fanpage) that I'd post the new chapter ASAP once I get it back from my beta. TADA! You are welcome, what a way to start the weekend! Please R&R, I can't wait to read all the reviews!

Chapter Sixty Nine

"I'm not ready! I'm not ready!" I murmured. I was looking at my reflection, I visibly paled. Standing from the vanity seat, I paced the floor of the Prima Donna's room. The performance wasn't for another 5 hours, but my stomach didn't care. It felt like wasps were flying wildly around inside. I tried to repeat what Erik had told me the night before in my head in an attempt to calm my nerves: 'You will be great, everyone will know the name: Josephine DeBeaux. You. Are. Ready.' It wasn't working, I felt as though I was going to be sick!

"Oh, bother!" I sat down and clutched my stomach.

'Knock, knock, knock!'

"Who's there?" I called, weakly.

"It's me, Josephine! May I come it?!" Olive called from behind the door.

"Yes, please do!"

Turning towards the door, Olive greeted me with a smile. She practically skipped across the room.

"Good afternoon! Are you as excited as I am? Opening night is finally here!" Olive exclaimed, throwing up her hands. "I say we celebrate by going out and eating lunch at the re- Josephine, what is the matter? You look so sad!"

I sighed hard, "I'm not, really, it's just that I am so nervous about tonight..."

"Since when do YOU get stage fright?"

"Since I'm the second lead in this production." I said flatly, staring at the wall before me.

Olive smiled, "Come now, Josephine. You will be great! You have nothing to fear; you were wonderful this morning at rehearsals."

Eying Pamina's gown, I tried to smile. I knew I was being silly, but I could not shake the nerves I was feeling. The managers even approached me this morning and expressed how excited and honored they were to have found a "gem" such as I. To which I raised an eye brow, since it was Erik who chose me to become the next Diva. My name was even mentioned in the paper; I found the paper folded and placed ever so neatly on the vanity table. Baby rosebuds were placed in a circle round my name on the paper. It read:

'Mademoiselle Josephine DeBeaux will be joining Madame Thomson (a Prima Donna from the States) for tonight's performance. The Populair is performing their first opera since the famous disaster! Who is Mademoiselle DeBeaux, and will she be able to fill La Carlotta's shoes?'

Standing, I ran my fingers down the length of Pamina's gown. Would I be able to meet everyone's expectations?

"Now, I'm not sure about you, Josephine, but I'm famished! Let's go!"

"I'm not sure I can ea-" Before I could finish my sentence, Olive took hold of my hand and pulled me towards the door.

"Come on!"

I was now seated at a table for two. Before me sat a plate of carrots, asparagus, and chicken. I tried not to grimace as my stomach sunk at the sight of the food. I was not one to turn down a meal, but under the circumstances I felt repulsed. I poked at the chicken and chopped the asparagus into little pieces with my fork as Olive chattered happily. As I sipped my tea, I felt the hot liquid slide all the way down my insides. My stomach was indeed empty. Perhaps I should at least try and eat something before I faint, I thought bitterly. As I nibbled on a piece of bread, I couldn't help but think of the reaction Veronique would have if she saw me faint on stage. I was positive it would be the best day of her life! After crossing both Marraine and the managers last week, her punishment was that she wasn't allowed to be anywhere near rehearsals, let alone watch opening night's performance. For that, she had been very bitter towards everyone. Even Margot, her partner in crime. Her cousin Jacqueline had been staying clear of her path as well. She no longer trailed behind them as she once used to; now, I see her studying her lines alone or chatting with the other ballet rats. It seems she'd found her own voice; no longer was Veronique controlling her.

Good riddance, I thought as I stabbed the chicken on my plate.

"I think it's dead, Josephine!" Olive giggled from the other side of the table. Picking up a piece of chicken with my fork, I shoved it into my mouth, which earned a snort from Olive.

"What were you thinking about just now?" Olive asked, sipping her tea.

"Veronique."

Olive made a face. "Oh..."

"You know, I feel sorry for her." I confessed, sitting a little straighter in my seat.

"Mon Dieu, why?" Olive asked, bewildered.

"Because, in all honesty, she is talented. She just doesn't want to work for the glory she craves. She wants it handed to her on a silver platter like everything else she's been given. Therefore, I feel sorry for her. All she has to do is try and she doesn't want to."

"I agree, but guess what I heard about her this morning?" Olive asked, bringing her tea cup to her lips.

"What, did she go mad and bite someone?" I laughed, as I spread butter onto my bread. Olive covered her mouth with her napkin as tea almost leaked from her mouth from laughter.

"Josephine, you are going to make me choke!" Olive laughed, wiping her mouth.

Hiding behind my own napkin, I smiled and said my apologies, asking her to continue.

"Well, Jamice told me that he saw Veronique and Dmitry sneaking off into an empty room!"

I raised an eyebrow, "That doesn't surprise me. Before Dmitry it was that stage hand, remember?"

Olive grimaced, "Yes, I remember. He and Veronique dared you to go down into, Eri-I mean, HIS lair."

Yes, the stage hand and Veronique had been inseparable. He often helped her with terrorizing the ballet rats; he was the one who found the dead mouse that Veronique put into Olive's tutu. After that incident, Marraine convinced the managers to fire the boy. It seems she has found a replacement. But if it wasn't for their scandals, I wouldn't have met Erik...

"You don't suppose Veronique and Dmitry are...?" Olive asked, her eyes wide.

I blinked, "I wouldn't put it past them; Veronique isn't a virgin."

"She's not?!" Olive gasped.

"You're surprised?" I blinked.

Olive lowered her eyes, "Well, I just thought-"

"You obviously haven't heard her talking with Margot about what she's done behind closed doors."

"Goodness, no, Josephine. I would feel so uncomfortable..."

Silence fell upon us. No, Veronique wasn't shy when it came to talking about the Joys of the Flesh. I wasn't surprised she was sneaking off to be with Dmitry. What did surprise me was that for being a part of "High Society", Veronique spent her time with someone below her station. Then again, I was sure no one wanted her... Gentlemen aren't fond of women with foul mouths and horrid manners. My thoughts went back to that night when the stage hand, along with Veronique, dared me to go down below the opera house. How long it had been since that night... It will be two years very soon; where has the time gone?

"Just think, Olive, it has almost been two years since the night I was dared to go down below." I smiled, remembering that night as though it were yesterday.

"Two years?! Have we really been at the Populair for that long?"

"At the end of summer it will be two years... how things have changed." I whispered, more-so to myself.

When I first arrived at the Populair, I was a lost soul who used dancing as a way to escape from the sorrow and pain of my parents death. Who was happy just being a ballerina. If someone were to tell me the first day I walked through the double doors that I would find the love of my life and be a Prima Donna, I would have laughed in their face and skipped on my merry way! Indeed, how things have changed... How I have changed.

Once we were back at the opera house, Olive and I went our separate ways. I was in much more of a pleasant mood than I had been when I left this afternoon, being around Olive lifted my spirit. I almost for got all the stress I felt earlier; that was, until I saw Veronique.

"There you are, DeBeaux," Veronique called from the iron winding stairs.

Wonderful, I thought. What could she possibly want? "Here I am, Veronique, can I help you with something?"

Veronique rolled her eyes, "Monsieur Monte' was here earlier, he said he wished to speak with you."

"Edward was here?" I smiled. I hadn't seen or spoken to Edward in so long. I nearly forgotten about him!

"Did I stutter, DeBeaux? He asked me to tell you something, but I can't remember what he said for the life of me!" Veronique smiled mockingly. She crossed her arms and pursed her lips as she "tried" to remember.

I rolled my eyes, "Was it something important?"

"Well, what is important to you will mean nothing to me, so, no. It wasn't important at all." Veronique said in a sweet tone.

I glared; she was deliberately being spiteful. I was getting rather tired of her attitude, but rather than show my anger and frustration; I simply smiled in return. I know from experience that this manner of action gets Veronique more annoyed and flustered when I don't show my agitation.

"Well, think nothing of it, Veronique. I'm sure I'll see dear Edward later tonight. Now, if you'll excuse me, I must go prepare for the performance. I'm sure you are as excited as I am! I'll see you tonight on stage, Veronique." I smiled broadly, letting my enthusiasm seep into her black soul. In spite of everything, I couldn't help but fight fire with fire. I turned and was about to take my leave, but I stopped midway. Still smiling, I turned towards Veronique and said, "Oh, wait, you aren't allowed to be there are you? Silly me..."

Shock, sorrow, and anger danced upon Veronique's face. I waited for her to say something, but she merely stood there throwing daggers at me with her eyes. Fists clinched, body rigid, and red in the face. I indeed hit a nerve and didn't feel sorry for doing so; who said I had to always be the nice one? I spent the next few hours singing with Mme. Thomson. We even sang Magic Flute's "The Wrath of Hell" once more before she was pulled away. She was led toward the back of the stage to get her make-up done. Depending on the role, the make up could take hours.

I too was pushed into a chair for hair and make up; thankfully, my hair and make up was low maintenance for my role as Pamina. The maids twisted and pinned the sides of my hair to the crown of my head, the rest of my hair remained loose down my back. They next applied black kohl liner onto my eyes to make them look bigger and added rouge to my cheeks. By the time my hair and make up was finished, it was almost time to perform!

"Oh, bother! I must change, are you quite finished with my make-up?" I asked, my voice held a hint of urgency.

"Almost done, Mademoiselle, DeBeaux! I just need to powder your face."

"Bu-oomph!" A large powder puff padded my mouth, nose and chin. I blew white powder off my nose, the excess powder floated around my face; causing me to cough and sneeze.

"Is this stuff really necessary?!" I squeaked, wiping my nose.

"I beg your pardon, mademoiselle, but you are almost done! Here, I'll just brush the rest of the powder off and voila!"

Leaning forwards I looked at my reflection and smiled, my make-up and hair was perfect!

"Thank you, everyone!"

"You are welcome. Now hurry miss or you'll be late!"

I shot out of my seat and ran towards my dressing room, dodging people here and there as I ran. As I got closer to the Prima Donna's room, I could hear the orchestra playing music which meant they will be starting soon. My heart was racing with anticipation, I felt giddy with excitement! Pushing open the door, I locked it behind me. My costume was simple and so I didn't need assistance with it. Rushing behind the changing screen, I removed my skirt and blouse; kicking them to the side. Looking up, I realized I had left Pamina's gown on the door of the armoire. Throwing my head back in frustration, I stomped my way from behind the changing screen only to stop in my tracks. The armoire door was bare, only a lone hanger hung on the door nob. I clinched my robe to my chest, that is odd, I thought. Opening the armoire, I expected to see my gown hanging, but it wasn't.

"Where is my costume?" I asked out loud. Perhaps one of the maids went to get it ironed, I considered. Going to the cord on the wall, I pulled it; which called one of the maids to the dressing room. A knock came from the door moments later, opening it Madeline greeted me with a smile.

"You called, Josephine?"

"Yes, Madeline, can you see if the tailor has my costume? He might be ironing it."

Madeline frowned, "That's not possible, Josephine, he ironed it this morning. I was the one to hang up your costume on the armoire."

My brows knitted together, "I seen it this afternoon, but it's not here." Taking a step back I gave Madeline the entire view of the dressing room.

"That's odd, I put it there." Madeline pointed towards the armoire. She then went on the search for my costume, checking all over the room. My costume was indeed gone!

"This isn't happening! I'm suppose to be on that stage in the next 20 minutes, Madeline!" I cried in frustration.

"Do not fret, I will go to the tailors and see if he has it. Do not worry, I will find it, Josephine." Madeline rushed out of the room in a hurry.

I sat down, I suddenly felt faint. I couldn't believe it, everything was going so well for me thus far!

"Josephine..."

I turned toward the mirror when I heard my name, Erik stepped through the mirror. Alas, my savior is here. Erik will know what to do.

"My costume, Erik, it's gone! I can't find it, it's not here! What do I do?!" I asked, before Erik could greet me.

"Josephine, calm yourself, you are practically hyperventilating. Now, you said your costume is missing? You're sure?"

I made a face, "Do you see it anywhere?" I motioned with my hands.

"Point taken, where was the last time you seen it?" Erik asked, eying the room.

"Earlier today, before Olive and I went to lunch."

"Was it here when you came back?

"I'm not sure, I didn't return to my dressing room. Veronique stopped me and...Oh, no..." My voice faded from the realization.

"Josephine, are you all right?"

I didn't answer, when I stumbled backward trying to sit down; Erik was at my side in an instant.

"Damn it, Josephine what is wrong with you?!" Erik snapped, taking my hands into his.

Tears began to gather in my eyes, "I should have known better than to speak to Veronique like I did." I covered my face in shame and embarrassment.

"Veronique? What happened, Josephine? Will you please move your hands from your mouth, I can't understand you!" Erik growled, pushing my shoulders up.

"I didn't come back to the dressing room when Olive and I came back from lunch, Veronique stopped me and..." I covered my face again, she had to have done it.

"And?"

"She tried to upset me, pretending to not remember something to tell me. So I shot back at her, I rubbed in her face the fact that she wasn't able to attend tonight's opera. Erik, it's all my fault!" I wept into Erik's coat. I was so angry, I couldn't stop the tears from falling. Damn that girl, and damn me for letting her get to me!

"Hush, Josephine. I will find your costume, stop crying or you'll ruin your make up. You don't want to look like a raccoon, do you?"

I frowned, "I don't understand."

Erik chuckled to himself and pulled out a handkerchief and dabbed underneath my eyes. Showing the handkerchief to me, I saw black smudges on the white linen. I gasped and shot up from where I was seated and ran to the full length mirror and took in the sight that was before me. My tears has smeared my eyeliner! I did look like a raccoon!

"Oh, bother! Everything is going so wrong!" I cried again, this time a little harder. I bit my lip, I hated feeling like this. Vulnerable and emotional, perhaps my monthly cycle was in the works. I didn't like this one bit! I whipped at my face, getting all the black off from under my eyes. Before Erik could console me there was a knock at the door.

"That should be Madeline, maybe she's found my costume!" Rushing toward the door, I barely gave Erik enough time to close the mirror behind him before I opened the door.

"Madeline, please tell me you found it?" I huffed.

"I'm sorry, but, Josephine the tailor hasn't seen it neither has the other mai-"

"Josephine!" Miss Pots called from down the corridor, the stoutly older woman rushed over.

"Yes, Miss Pots?"

"Your costume, my dear I saw Veronique with it this afternoon!"

My mouth dropped, "I knew it! Where is she?"

"I'm sorry, my lady, but I haven't seen her since this afternoon. I thought it odd that she had it in her possession, but I didn't think twice to ask her about it. "

"Blast!" I hissed, "Miss Pots, please, tell Mme. Giry that my costume is missing and that Veronique took it. I am going to change and look for Veronique myself."

"Yes, ma'am!"

"Merci, Madeline will you help her?"

"Of course."

"Thank you both!"

Closing the door, Erik was already waiting for me inside.

"Did you hear? Veronique-"

"Is going to pay for what she did, this is entirely my fault Josephine."

"What do you m-"

"There is no time, come with me. I think I know where she is."

I followed Erik through the mirror, our journey was made in darkness. We turned this way and that way; I was astounded that Erik could navigate in the darkness. I could hear Erik counting his steps under his breath, I figured that was how he managed to walk in his labyrinth without a lantern. Still, it was very confusing to me. I wouldn't trust myself to memorize the grounds, I would lead myself straight to my death! Before long, we round a corner and I could see light. As we walked further towards the light, I saw that I was looking at another two-way mirror! How many of these things did Erik have in this opera house? As I searched inside the room, I saw Veronique pacing the floor.

"Where in the hell is he? I called for him an hour ago!" Veronique stomped her foot. Suddenly the door opened and in walked Dmitry, who was in full costume.

"Where have you been?!" Veronique snapped, meeting Dmitry midway.

"I waz getting ready for show, moya sladkaya." Dmitry smiled, "Why, what iz problem?"

Erik growled beside me, "She is far from 'sweet'."

"What was that?" I whispered.

"He called her 'sweet heart'."

"Oh..." I whispered, I forgot that Erik could speak Russian.

"I called for you almost an hour ago! You know I don't like to be left waiting." Veronique crossed her arms.

"Moya sladkaya,-"

"Speak French! I don't understand Russian!" Veronique snapped.

Dmitry's shoulders sag ever so slightly, "I waz getting make up and costume on. Zhat iz why I am late, but I am here now." Dmitry said, softly reaching for her. Veronique swatted his hands away and stomped towards a darken corner. She returned with my costume in hand, I gasped, pressing my hands onto the glass. My breath fogged the mirror, my costume was so close to me and yet so very far from my grasp!

Gentle hands pulled me away from the glass, "Patience my love."

"Here," Veronique tossed my costume to Dmitry. "Get rid of this for me, please."

"What iz zhis?"

"It's a costume, what does it look like?" Veronique said flatly.

"Iz-iz thiz Mizz Josephine'z costume?"

Veronique didn't answer.

"So it iz true."

"Iz what true?" Veronique asked, mimicking Dmitry's accent.

"I heard one of zhe maids saying zhat you took somezhing, but I didn't hear what. Why would you take her costume, my love? You will ruin everyzhing."

"Exactly! I want to ruin everything! It's her fault I'm not allowed to be in the production! It's her fault!" Veronique screeched.

My mouth dropped open, that was a lie!

"What she done to you?"

"She stole from me, she stole EVERYTHING from me! I'm suppose to be the Prima Donna, not her! That lying, thieving, daughter of a bitch! That- that whore! If I could get away with it; I'd push her down the grand foyer stairs!"

I covered my mouth in shock when she mentioned my mother, how dare she speak in such a way about the dead? I felt Erik stiffen behind me and the grip he had on my shoulders tighten.

"Dmitry, where are you going? Get back here!"

"Nyet!" Dmitry snapped, walking towards the door.

"I don't understand what you-"

"I said, 'No'. I am returning Mizz Josephine'z costume back. You know, I heard a lot of bad zhings being said about you; I didn't want to believe it because I was taught zhat zhere is good in everyone. But not you, your heart is black. Good bye, Veronique."

"Fine! I don't need you! You were lousy anyway! I faked everything, you Russian brute!"

The door slammed and Veronique was left alone in a dimly lit room.

"Stay here, what ever happens next I want you to remain silent. Do you understand me?" Erik growled in my ear.

"What are you-"

"Do you understand?!" He hissed, turning me around to face him.

The light that dimly shone through the mirror bounced off the white mask, the black hole where his eye was suppose to be stared at me. The Phantom of the Opera was facing me and was demanding that I remain silent. I nodded, unable to find my voice. Erik opened the mirror and silently pushed it closed, only it didn't lock behind him. I watched as Erik melted into the shadows like a true ghost, the candelabra's flame that was lit suddenly went out. Veronique paid little mind to it. She then pulled out a small flask from the folds of her dress and took a swig of what ever was inside.

"...Veronique..." whispered a voice from within the room.

She ceased drinking her flask when she heard her name, "Who's there?"

"...Veronique..."

Veronique jumped and turned toward the direction of the voice. "Is this some sort of joke? Who's there? I demand to know! Who's there?" She called, one more time. Veronique was facing the mirror, she didn't see the shadow sneak behind her and lean in to whisper in her ear.

"It's Death..." Erik whispered.

Veronique gave a blood wrenching scream as a noose went tight around her throat.

"Didn't anyone tell you to keep your hand at the level of your eye?!" Erik growled, yanking the rope.

I covered my mouth to keep from making any type of noise. Veronique's gurgled cries were silenced by Erik's punjab lasso as he pulled it. "My God, Erik, what are you doing?" I whispered.

"The more you fight, the tighter it becomes," Erik hissed in Veronique's ear. "I've been watching you, Miss Bonnet and you've been a very, very naughty girl. I do not like people trying to sabotage my opera let alone destroy the depute of the up come Diva!"

"I-"

"SILENCE! Do not try and lie to me, girl, you can not lie to Death himself. If you try anything again like what you did tonight, I will come for you and that is a promise! Look at your face in the mirror," Erik commanded, pushing Veronique into what little light shone from the window.

Erik had removed his mask before making himself known, now only the distorted twisted flesh could be seen while the rest of his face was hidden behind her head. Veronique again let her screams wail when she saw Erik's distorted face; she kicked and struggled, but to no avail. Her cries only fell upon deaf ears, if anything Erik fed off of her terror. Erik's sinister smile seemed to look right at me, my body went cold. The true Phantom of the Opera was before me, not my Erik...

"I said, look at your face! Open your eyes!" Erik roared. Veronique obliged, looking at her reflection. "Try and destroy Josephine like that again, and I will kill you. I promise you! It is you who is the daughter of a bitch! Your mother was right to leave you as a child, if she were here now I'm sure she'd die of disappointment. You seem surprised, I know all-see all! For I am DEATH! "

I gasped, covering my mouth.

Erik then reached around and covered both Veronique's nose and mouth, suffocating her. She kick and thrashed, one hand pulled at the noose around her neck while the other hand scratched and pulled at Erik's shoulder. Her thrashing slowly began to stop, when I realized that Erik had stopped trying to scare Veronique and was enforcing bodily harm, I forced myself to move from the rooted spot I was stuck in. I rushed toward the mirror, pushing it open.

"Erik, stop!" I cried, but I was too late. Veronique lay limp in Erik's arms. I covered my mouth to keep from my own screams. "Erik, what have you done?" I squeaked.

Erik didn't answer me right away, with one arm he removed the noose from around Veroniques neck. Then with a loud 'thump' he then let her fall to the floor in a heap of arms and legs.

"I didn't kill her," was all he said as he approached me. "Come, we must return to the dressing room." He said coldly.

And with that Erik took my hand and led me back to the Prima Donna's room. Once I was inside I saw my costume hanging before the changing screen, only I could not move. I could only see Veronique's body fighting against Erik's restraints.

"Josephine, you must hurry. You are suppose to be onstage in two minutes." Erik said in a matter-of-fact tone, as he looked at his pocket watch. He looked as though nothing was out of sorts, if anything Erik had a calmness to him. His mask was in place and he was now fixing his cravat in the mirror. When he saw that I wasn't moving he turned; only when he did this I could see the noose coiled inside his jacket. I swallowed hard, did he always keep it with him?

"Did you not hear me, child? Hurry!" Erik barked as he rushed me behind the changing screen.

I was visibly shaking, I clumsily unbuttoned the buttons to the costume and pulled it over my head.

"Josephine, there is no need to worry about what just happened. Do you understand?"

I couldn't find my voice so with a, 'Mmhmm' I finished dressing. When there was a knock at the door I practically jumped out of my skin.

"Miss DeBeaux! Your cue is in 20 seconds!"

"I-I'll be right out!" I called weakly.

Stepping from behind the changing screen, Erik took one look at the distraught woman before him and pulled me into his arms; where he held me tight against his chest.

"Oh, my dear Josephine, look at me. Look at me, please my love," Erik pleaded softly.

Biting my lip I looked up to see gentle eyes staring back at me. Was it just moments ago those haunting murderous eye bore into my soul? Gone with the nonchalant appearance, Erik now looked upon me in a melancholy manner.

"Forgive me, that was a side of me that I never intended for you to see-"

"You frightened me, Erik..."

"I know, please you must forgive me?"

"I-"

"Miss DeBeaux! Are you ready? You are on!"

I gasped, "Mon Dieu!"

"You can do this, I'll be with you every step of the way."

Looking up, I swallowed hard.

"Go, Josephine, you are ready."

A/N: Wow, Veronique is really going over the edge isn't she? And Erik, I wouldn't want to get on his bad side! O.O Your thoughts? Please click that review button and tell your favorite authoress what you think! Please LIKE my phanpage, WillowStories on Facebook! Sharing is caring!