Author's Note: First of all, for those who know how I usually post, do NOT get excited. This is NOT going to be updated daily, or weekly. It MIGHT squeak by at monthly, but more than likely it'll be only when the mood strikes me. Additionally, for those who know my normal POTO stuff (typically VERY angsty, with a recent wild run of very funny) this is a completely different type of stuff. I haven't even decided how I feel about it yet. It's sort of a combination between a modern retelling and a phantom-inspired non-retelling modern story. And also I'm not yet sure how committed I am to it, so just bear with me, okay? I also wanted to announce that I just posted something a little goofy over at my fictionpress account and I'd love to have some comments on it. It's more out-of-character stuff from me (I'm in a weird mood lately) but I'd love some comments. Fictionpress works just like here, so if you're not a member over there but are willing to review, I think you can review anonymously just like one can here. FFN won't let me put a link here, but if you go to Fiction Press DOT COM my name is the same as it is here, and I have three things posted there. The one I JUST posted is the one with "police" in the title. If you want to take a look at the others too, though, I'd be incredibly appreciative of that as well. Thanks!

Disclaimer: I don't own Leroux or Webber or their versions of The Phantom of the Opera, but I don't see any reason why my characters can't read and watch them, respectively, and discuss them, so I'm not sure this disclaimer is necessary.


I didn't even know The Phantom of the Opera was a book when I met that guy. I only knew the musical. And, I mean, who doesn't know that musical? And who has ever heard of that book?

Turns out I would have found out eventually that it was a book, though, because even though we only have to take two years of a language to graduate, my dad really wanted me to take four. "You can't learn enough of a language in two years," he'd tell me. I don't know how he thought he knew. After all, he hadn't taken even one. Whatever. So Madame Welsh would have made me translate the "abridged for language learners" version of Leroux's creepy book senior year anyway (and the actual version of The Little Prince junior year) even if none of the rest of this had happened, but I suppose had I fumbled through the watered-down French version, literally translating word for word, I probably would have hated it. And of course, I wouldn't have this story of my own to write now. So I guess... No... I'm not going to say it's better this way because in a lot of ways, it's worse.

Yeah, my name really is Christine, but that's not my fault. Talk to my mom if you have a problem with it. And I can tell you right off that she didn't name me after Christine Daae. She hadn't even heard of her. I mean, the musical came out in 1986, so I guess it's possible, but my mom's not into musicals. And she certainly didn't read the book. Not that one, anyway. She read a different one. It was by Stephen King. Yeah. She named me after a car. I learned that sophomore year when Mrs. Surmacz made us read these excerpts from a book called House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros. The narrator's name is Esperanza, which means "hope" but she thinks it means "too many letters" because her English speaking friends can't pronounce it. So Mrs. Surmacz (whom Axl calls Hitler, because she's so strict) got this great idea that we should all imitate Cisneros's style and write about our own names. Oh joy. We all got to go home and ask our parents why they named us this or that. I'm sure it annoyed most parents. Then again, maybe not. Most kids didn't do the assignment. I did. I'm a goody-two-shoes that way. (Yeah. I know. Hardly anyone uses that expression anymore. But I do. Because my grandma uses it. And no, mum and dad didn't die, and grandma's name is not Valerius. Don't be ridiculous.) Anyway, I did the assignment and found out my mother named me after some young guy's demon car that gets jealous and kills people. Imagine what that did for my self esteem.

But let's get to the part about Erik. That's what you really want to hear, isn't it? No, his name isn't really Erik, but it's high school. We all call Scott "Axl," and that's not his name, either. And before you get the wrong idea, it's not because Scott looks anything like that 80's metal band guy my brother used to listen to. It's Axl because it sounds like the beginning of accident, and Axl has a lot of those. Freshman year he was the most accident prone guy around. I don't remember when and how exactly we made the leap from him "an accident waiting to happen" to just calling him Axl, but we did and I'm told I started it. And the name just stuck. So yeah.) They have their nicknames for me, too. It's something you get used to.

So I guess it sort of started junior year when Mr. Akers got the great idea to do Phantom as our spring musical. Really, we should have all seen it coming. We did Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat my freshman year and Cats my sophomore year. Old Akers was on a six year Andrew Lloyd Webber bender, and we were only three years into it. Of course, seniors always get preference for the lead parts, so I shouldn't have stood a chance in hell, to be honest, but several years prior to that Akers pulled some weird stuff and had the two leads for Peter Pan--Peter and Wendy--both learn both parts and take turns performing them. No kidding. It worked out so well that the following year two other girls both played the lead in Hello Dolly on alternating weekends. Come to think of it, he might have gotten the idea from Webber's Phantom in the first place. Did you know that they always have two Christines? Not just one and her understudy, but two. Well, it worked out so amazingly well at the high school level that Akers decided to cast every musical that way from that point on, and he did. Does wonders for everyonhe's self esteem, too, because twice as many people get big parts. Yeah. They're big on self esteem around here.

Anyway, he did that for Dolly and Peter Pan and Fiddler on the Roof, and then he went nuts on Andrew Lloyd Webber stuff, so he did it with that stuff, too. Until we got to Phantom. But if there are always two Christines in a Webber production, that meant we had to have four. If I haven't said yet that Akers was a crazy man I should have because it's true. But I wouldn't complain about that, since it worked out for me. It's always nice to have a little less competition, I suppose. Equal opportunity for boys meant we had two Phantoms (you might have noticed he doesn't even have a name in the musical) and two Raouls. There aren't four senior sopranos with any kind of vocal talent to pull off all that crazy stuff in the abduction scene. As a matter of fact, it was tough finding four Christines with both the junior and senior classes to pick from. And I've been taking vocal lessons since I was what, eight? So yeah. I got it.

So I suppose that's where it started, but it could have started and ended there. But it didn't. Because of that guy in my civics class.

So I guess it really started in civics when that guy saw my score and told me it was his favorite book. First off, he poked me in the back really hard with his pencil, I think. I turned around fast because I figured it was one of my friends being deliberately annoying. I whirled around and it was this guy I have never talked to in my entire life. I stared at him for a moment and I could not think of a single thing to say. To tell the truth, I was sort of freaked out because he was one of those people that nobody talks to and with good reason. He weighed about twice what a guy his height should so his eyes were sort of squinted shut above by his enormous cheeks, but what I noticed right off was that his skin was not all one even color. As I stared at him a moment longer, I realized there were scaly patches and I hoped whatever he had wasn't contagious.

"That's my favorite book," he said.

"Huh?" I was rendered absolutely inarticulate, which is unusual. I usually talk a lot, and I take a lot of advanced placement classes, so I'm not the type for grunting monosyllabic nonsense at people during class. But my mind simply wouldn't work. Did he say 'book?'

"That" he said, pointing. "It's my favorite book." He smiled, or at least, he tried to. His immense jowels wouldn't allow his mouth the extra space.

"Uh... It's not a book, it's a musical." I think I said. Then, for emphasis I added, "Duh." I don't think of myself as a rude person ordinarily, but it was so obviously not a book sitting there on my desk, and he was so obviously that guy who no one talks to. And this was Civics! And Mr. Crovak gives really difficult tests. So I wanted to silence him as quickly as possible.

I think.

Come to think of it, if I'd really wanted to silence him, I could've said "Mmmm," and turned away. Or pretended not to hear. Or just rolled my eyes. Come to think of it, I can't even believe he spoke to me at all. He never talks to anyone but the teachers. I guess I wasn't really trying to do anything specific. I guess ultimately he caught me off guard and I didn't know what to say. So I said the first thing that popped into my head, which was, admittedly, pretty mean.

But anyway, he said, "No, it was a book first. And the book was better. Duh."

I was surprised he answered back in the same sarcastic tone I had. I guess I'm no better than the rest of my rotten school in that regard because I was really surprised that someone like him had the nerve to talk to someone like me that way. That sounds awful, but you'd have to have seen him. Anyway, I guess my emotions must have shown on my face because right away he said "Sorry," and dropped his head a bit so his hair hung over his squinty eyes.

I couldn't help it. I softened. I shrugged and started to say something like it was all right.

"But it really is a book," he said.

"No. It isn't." (Why was I having this conversation?)

"Do you want to bet?"

"What?"

"I said 'do you want to bet?'"

"What? I mean no. Of course not. What would we bet?"

"I don't know." Looking back, I think his smile said he most certainly did know. "Bragging rights? Being right?" That grin suggested he was banking on far more. "I'll be the one who can say 'I told you so.'"

"Whatever."

"It was written in 1909. Or at least, the first part of it was published that year. It wasn't published all at once. The author is Gaston Leroux. He's French. Obviously. You probably could figure that out since you take French. Anyway--"

I interrupted him. "How did you know I take French?" I didn't mean to say it quite so rudely, but that's how it came out, and once words are out, well, you can't very well suck them back in.

He blinked at me a couple of times and shifted his bulk awkwardly in his seat. "I'm in your class," he mumbled.

I turned around after that, not because I felt stupid or ashamed but because I felt Mr. Crovak's eyes on me. Whoops. I glanced around the room. A couple of people besides Mr. Crovak were looking at me as well. I rolled my eyes at Savannah and pretended to be annoyed. She snorted. Behind me that kid's desk groaned under his immense weight. Crovak went on with his lecture.


Shameless Begging: Like always, I'm always unsure of something new when I start posting it. Please leave a comment or two so I know whether to go on or not. Thanks!