A/N: An update. Finally. And it sucks (:

Enjoy...maybe. It's fairly unclimatic, this chapter. But I suppose that the unclimatic-ness is needed in order to contrast against the (hopefully soon-forthcoming) climaticness.

And none of that made sense...

Anyhow, I hope you like it, review if you wish, etc. etc.

(:


Chapter 3

The hallway was empty, except for her – perhaps that was why she could hear her footsteps so loudly, no matter how soft she tried to make the impact.

"Miss Daaé?"

Turning, somewhat surprised, Christine smiled politely at the Middle-Eastern man who had winked at her before.

"Hello, Mr…" To her embarrassment, she couldn't remember his name. And he had remembered hers! The man seemed to notice the discomfort in her expression, but his inquiry as to whether she was alright or not merely made her feel worse.

"Sorry, sir," she asked, mortification evident in her flushed features, "but-"

Comprehension dawned on his face; he laughed, and her blush grew the more red, till she realised that he was not laughing at her. "It's alright, Miss Daaé," he reassured her, still laughing. "You don't need to look as if I will kill you for not remembering my name."

And indeed, as she considered the expression on her face, she realised with some amusement how ridiculous she must have looked. A tentative smile touched her face at the thought, and he smiled back at her.

"Nadir Khan is the name, Miss Daaé." He bowed exaggeratedly, and she almost laughed – the old-fashioned courtesy was strangely out of place in this extravagant, modernised hallway.

He straightened, and started walking beside her.

"What are you doing here, Miss Daaé, wandering around these corridors all alone?"

"I didn't want to have to wait for an hour in that room with those" though she wanted to retract her emphasis on 'those', she continued "people. "And please call me Christine, Mr Khan," she added – "Miss Daaé makes me feel so old."

His teeth flashed in a smile. "I will call you Christine, if you call me Nadir – Mr Khan makes me realise how old I actually am, especially when called so by such a beautiful young woman."

The flush rose again – could she not prevent herself from blushing all the time? – and she nodded hesitantly.

At first, she felt uncomfortable in Mr Khan – no, Nadir's – presence. Certainly, she had never expected that she would be strolling with one of the managers of the Opera House in such a casual fashion! After a few moments of tenseness, however, she managed to calm herself down. Looking around as they walked through the vast maze of corridors, she marvelled at the beautiful, expensive-looking paintings which hung on the wall. They must cost a fortune – and that's not even counting the frames. The huge, elaborate gold-coated frames looked even more costly than the paintings themselves…

"So how did you find the audition, Christine?"

Along with surprise at the suddenly-broken silence, her nervousness returned, drying up her throat. How did she find the audition? How was she meant to know?

"Um…" she stammered, "I think I did alright – but I'm not sure. Some of the other girls were really good."

"Your audition piece was quite an interesting choice," he commented. Christine examined his expression, trying to see if there was any sarcasm or mockery intended – but he seemed perfectly sincere.

"What do you mean," she asked slowly, "by 'interesting'?"

Nadir's lips curved in an almost-smile, as if he were remembering something.

"A bi-language, modern, main-stream pop song for an opera audition," he said. The way he said the words gave the impression that he was quoting someone. "Interesting, wouldn't you think?"

She frowned. "You know, my father said the same thing."

"Really?" Nadir asked, sounding surprised. "Does your father sing as well?"

"No!" The idea of her father singing was enough to make her laugh – in fact, she did laugh. So did Nadir – a corner of her mind noted that he had a very pleasant laugh.

"Does the act of envisaging your father singing amuse you that much?"

"It's hard to explain," Christine said, "he just…oh," she exhaled, "he's the sort of person you have to meet for anything about them to make sense."

Nadir smiled, but there was, surprisingly, no humour in it.

"I know someone like that…" For a moment, a shadow seemed to cross Nadir's face – but it was gone in an instant, and when he met Christine's eyes again, the grin he gave her was as sincere as it had been before.

"So why did you choose the song?"

She shrugged. "I like it." Now that she thought about it, she'd had no logical justification for it. But...

"It's a nice song," she repeated, and she felt, rather than saw, his smile.

"If you insist," Nadir said gently.

As she considered the man beside her, it seemed hardly possible to Christine that he could be a manager; his open, friendly aura made him seem incapable of holding any sort of bureaucratic – and she told him so, with a frankness that surprised him almost as much as it did her.

"Co-manager, Miss – ah, my mistake, Christine," he corrected himself. "Though it works more on a "Nadir, you do the work and I'll take the credit for it" basis. But why is it so surprising for me to be a manager?"

She had to think about how to word her response properly, so as not to offend him.

"It's…" she began hesitantly, "sort of…strange. I don't know – I've always imagined people involved in running opera to be…well…"

"European?" He suggested, and Christine flushed.

"Well…yes," she said softly. "But that's not to say that I'm racist or anything!" she added swiftly. Her panic was not at all subdued by his comforting smile.

"It's alright," Nadir reassured her. "When I first started working here, I had many – too many – patrons asking me if I was not half-blooded, or whether my skin was not the result of a recessive gene finally coming out after centuries of repression." She gasped at his clinical words.

"But that – that's horrible!"

Nadir shrugged dismissively. "It's better than when I first came to America from Iran – the number of people asking me how many relatives I had seen die, and whether I knew, had seen, or was a terrorist…"

That was unexpected.

"And what did you tell them?"

"That I was actually leader of a secret terrorist organisation, and I had migrated to America to destroy this blasphemous, sacrilegious nation."

"Oh my," she murmured. "How did you explain the opera?"

"That I was completing afore-mentioned task by infiltrating through devious means the world of classical music; the aim being to warp the music industry and...Well, something like that, anyway."

His tone was deadly serious; but his eyes gave him away, liquid pools of humour; she found herself smiling with him, faintly.

Suddenly his eyes lit up, and he turned to Christine; the swiftness of his movement shocked her – enough that she somehow managed to trip over her own feet.

"I'm sorry," he said laughingly, as he offered her a hand – embarrassed, she took it, and he pulled her to her feet.

"I just remembered something I wanted to ask you," Nadir explained. "Are you French?"

"Pardon?" Christine was confused for a moment, till she remembered her audition piece. "Oh..." she exhaled. "That. Um, I was born in America - but my father was always insistent that knowing more than one language was really important."

"Really?"

"Yeah..."

"What do you speak?"

Christine frowned. "Mainly European languages, though I've always wanted to learn Arabic."

"Are you serious, or merely saying that to, as is commonly termed, 'suck up'?"

"I never suck up," Christine said indignantly (and falsely), "and have you ever seen The Mummy? Or Prince of Egypt?"

"That's Ancient Egyptian – or a rough approximation in any case – for the former, and Hebrew for the latter-"

"There you are, Nadir!"

They turned at the interruption, to see the man that Christine instantly recognised as being the other manager – figurehead, Christine thought automatically.

"I've been looking for you everywhere!" the short, portly man exclaimed in a shrill tone, wheezing slightly from exertion. His face was flushed an unhealthy shade of red-purple, almost as if he was angry. Christine took an instant dislike to the manager – which intensified when he glanced at her and looked away again, almost dismissively, as though she were nothing worth any sort of consideration.

Looking beside her at Nadir, she was comforted by the slight frown on his face; it was evident that he had also seen the look his co-manager – Mr Richards, if she recalled correctly – had cast her way.

"André," Nadir said calmly, his deep voice a sharp contrast to his colleague's high-pitched whine, "If I may introduce Miss Christine Daaé?"

Christine could feel the forcedness in her smile as Mr Richards graced her with a cursory glance.

"Charmed," he said perfunctorily. As soon as he looked away, she rolled her eyes.

"Nadir," the manager continued, still in the whiny tone, "the meeting has already begun! Where have you been?!"

The Iranian's tone was slightly sharp when he replied. "Much as it may sadden you to know, André, you don't need to know where I am all hours of the day." Without waiting for a reply, Nadir turned to Christine.

"It's been a pleasure, Christine," he said warmly, smiling down at her. She smiled back, shyly.

"The same for me."

He held out his hand; she looked uncomprehendingly at it for a moment, before realising his intention. Blushing, she took it. But rather than shaking her hand, as she'd expected, he adjusted the position of their hands so his was holding hers – and then he lifted it to his mouth, lips brushing softly across her skin.

Releasing her hand gently, Nadir once again flashed his teeth at her in a warm smile.

"Till later, Christine."

As he walked away with the still-red-faced André, Christine stared, still completely astonished, after him. It was only after a few minutes that she turned and began walking, still dazed, back to the room where the other auditioned girls were waiting.


Reading that chapter makes me really appreciate every other chapter I've ever written.

It was...

(:

No comment.

If you somehow managed to garner some semblance of enjoyment/amusement etc. for yourself from that rather interesting example of writing, tell me! Or don't. Your call.

I will update again...sometime before I go to France...in 2 months...

Arcèlia