Author's note May 2014: Hello everyone! I've been away for too long. No amount of explanation on my part really matters except that I left everyone, including Erik and Christine, hanging, and for that I am sorry.
I am in the process of fine tuning my story and will be reposting every chapter from the very beginning as I get them back from my beta. The fine tuning will allow me to immerse myself back into the lives of Erik and cast. With some luck, new chapters will follow! There will be no major plot changes so don't feel you must re-read every chapter.
I want to take a moment to thank my beta. You are helping me make my story so much better! I have never worked with a beta and am sure glad I started! Now I know why other authors gush about their betas. I will spare all of you the gushing and get on with the story. Without further ado I give you Raging Fires 2.0! hahaha
I was very young when my mother died. So young that death had no meaning that I understood. I remember seeing her face and wondering at the perfect stillness of her beautiful features.
There was no wonder in me as I stood at the foot of my father's bed. "Papa?" I queried timidly, knowing deep down I would get no answer. I could see no breath rise and fall in his thin chest, though the familiar gentle slackness of his mouth taunted me, as if he were only still peacefully asleep and able to wake. Tears welled in my eyes as my heart broke into thousands of pieces, never to be mended, and I crumpled to the floor in anguish.
I surveyed my surroundings halfheartedly. The room in the dormitory of the Opera Populaire was sufficiently outfitted. I had no reason for the distaste at the sight of the small bed and mirrored powder table, except that they were not the ones I'd grown up with. I put my bag on the ground, knowing I was lucky to be taken in. The ballet mistress, Madame Giry, had looked me over appraisingly and asked if I had experience dancing. In Sweden, I'd attended classes as a young girl before my mother died and Papa took to staying home, so I nodded politely. I think she took pity on me, because without further ado, she whisked me into the back hallways, pointing out this and that before depositing me at my door and leaving me with a curt, "Practice begins at 9 sharp!"
I unpacked my meager supply of clothing and stowed it in the closet where I also placed my father's violin. There had been no point in taking his clothes with me but I could never leave his violin. I lovingly traced the worn cracked leather of the case and then shut the door so I would not be reminded of my greatest pain. I surveyed the room again. This was my new home as a dancer of the corps de ballet. Two weeks ago I would have laughed airily at the thought, but tonight no laughter bubbled from my throat. I didn't think it was possible for me to laugh anymore. Tears snaked down my face, and I kicked off my shoes so I could crawl under the blanket fully clothed and weep for the life that was taken from me, for the future that loomed dark and foreboding, and for my dead Papa, lying in a cold grave somewhere outside of Paris.
I climbed the stairs at breakneck speed. I had to get outside and away from my small, restrictive room, from the dark, musty halls, and from all the curious questions. I couldn't breathe properly, my heart was tripping. I had to escape this nightmare. I spilled into the night, breathing the cold air like it would save my life. The roof of the opera house was extravagant and silent, a fitting mausoleum for my tormented mind. My wounds were still so fresh that having anyone ask how I was made me burst into tears. Everyone was polite and modestly friendly, but no one was Papa, my only friend and protector in a very large world, a world I knew nothing about. My entire world, until a week ago, centered on my lovable, laughing father and now he was gone. Tears slid coldly down my cheeks and I shivered as loneliness blanketed me in depression. "You were once my one companion," I warbled to the night sky. "You were all that mattered. You were once a friend and father..." I dissolved into tears, crumpling to the stone, and cried until I had no tears or energy left.
I felt numb, but it was somehow a soothing numbness. He cannot return to you, I berated myself. God does not grant such things. You cannot join him. I felt the need to remind myself of this as I rose to make my way back down. I dragged myself to the large, rounded pillar that held the door and spiraling staircase back to the opera house below. I never glanced up from my feet as I approached the pillar and bumped directly into a cloaked man.
He had to be a man because there was no softness to his body as my nose bounced off his sternum. "Oh, pardon me?" I said politely enough and then looked up into a woven white mask. Startled, I gasped and backed away from his perfectly still frame. For a moment I thought he wasn't real, and then fear snared me. "I h-have n-no money or jewelry," my voice trembled in the cold air, fear tangible in every syllable. His voice whispered just loud enough for me to hear. "I am not planning to rob you, Mademoiselle."
I felt my mouth drop open as his voice reached my ears. The magnificent purr was laced with annoyance, but the unreal beauty of the sound could not be hidden. I stared dumbly at this apparition before me, for what else could he be, dressed in the finest of clothing with the unreal voice of an angel, no matter that he wore a robber's mask upon his face. His words lingered in my ears, as if they had the power to tremble there, long after he had unleashed them. My fear evaporated and I blinked rapidly to dissipate the odd dream. The apparition moved in a graceful glance around us both as if to see if we were alone. Part of my mind struggled to surface, telling me to run away from this strange encounter, but I was raptly waiting for him to speak again. He did not disappoint me.
"Best if you just forget ever having run into me, child." His black, black cloak swirled around him and the fluttering fabric snapped close to my face. I jumped back but my hands reached forward.
"Wait!" I cried, suddenly sure that he was an apparition sent from God but I had been judged unworthy of the attention. Had my tear-filled nights finally reached the Lord's ears? I knew I should ask about Papa, but a different question pressed for attention. "Why do you cover the face God gave you?"
The question startled the angel and he looked at me with light, piercing eyes, eyes that could see into the depths of my soul. He responded in that exquisite timbre, "Because I am very ugly," and was gone.
I rubbed my hands over my tear-stained face, tired and unsure if I had just hallucinated and had a conversation with myself. A voice like that could not be real! It purled in my ears like it had substance. It was unlike anything I had ever heard. Surely voices like that only existed beyond the gates of Heaven. But, the mask was very odd. Why would an angel hide his face? Why would God make an ugly angel?
He also had managed to disappear into thin air, but I felt skeptical as I advanced slowly to where he'd been standing. There was no door on this side of the large pillar. I began to tremble as I reached out and touched the stone. It was cold and rough beneath my fingers and felt solid to me. I shuddered and made my way to the staircase, thinking of one more piece of evidence that suggested a holy encounter.
He called me child.
Ever since I could remember, Papa had called me Child. Even once I had grown I was always Child to him, as if he could not bear me growing up and no longer being his child. Hearing that pet name come from the angel's lips had resonated within me. Was Papa trying to contact me from Heaven? Should I stay and wait for the angel to return?
I stood on the dark roof staring into the night sky, searching for winged companions. I prayed desperately to the stars for another chance, as I clutched my arms tighter and tighter around me to stem the constant shiver passing through me. Perhaps I had finally tipped into madness from my grief? Did I imagine the encounter with the masked man? Was I talking to myself up here? And why was I still standing in the cold?
My body and soul were both so starved that I sought miracles, while freezing myself to the brink of insanity in this wintry wind. I shook my head sadly at my desperate state of mind, and made my way back to my lonely room.