Bittersweet Chapter 25: A day in the life of an Opera house Patron

Hey everyone, sorry for the long wait. I've got a lot of new inspiration for this story though, because I've finally seen the POTO musical in London. I loved it!

Celia's PoV

I took a much needed break from work after returning from Valere's grave. Of course, this means that the following morning is swamped with the tasks I hadn't done last night. I look forward to watching Charlotte Dubois rehearse her title role of Carmen in the afternoon, before having a meeting with Reyer to discuss the upcoming Opera's which would be the aforementioned Carmen and the still nameless Opera Erik is working on and is due this april. I know Reyer is wondering who our mysterious new composer is because he always praises Erik's work but fortunately he doesn't press the question too much. If he's got a hunch about who's really behind the opera that's currently running a sold out show night after night, he doesn't show it. Perhaps because he's one of the surprisingly few who can recognize musical brilliance that's far more original than most of the classic, if not slightly outdated pieces. As for Andre and Firmin: as long the seats are filled, they don't really seem to care. Fools.

First things first, I think by myself as a I grab two mugs of coffee and grab my coat to give myself more heat as I walk down to the dimly lit passageway to Erik's lair. The first assignment for today is the one I always dread the most: choosing which employees I have to fire. I'm glad Erik helps me with this, because I always feel terrible guilty when I have to tell employees they have to leave, even though I know they have to go for a valid reason and after multiple warnings.

Erik's PoV

I stare into the flames of the lit fire place, pondering about the everything Celia told me yesterday. The story of Valere certainly explains a lot about Celia's behavior towards me. After all, even though Valere wasn't deformed from birth, the similarities between his life and mine are quite clear. I also realize now why Celia claimed that as much as Christine may love me, she never had the strength to truly be with me. Even I can see Christine doesn't have the strength to stand beside me everyday like Victoria did until Valere's funeral.

After hearing all this, it makes me wonder how Celia would react if she saw my face. Not that I was planning to show her of course, but still….Her vow would certainly be put to the test.

"Erik, it's me! I've brought coffee." My thoughts are disturbed by a smiling Celia, holding two cups in her hand. After thanking her, I raise an eyebrow.

"You really are addicted to the drink, aren't you?"

She shrugs. "What can I say, I'm not a morning person, I prefer the evening. It's more mysterious. Plus, lots of my favorite songs, both from others as well as my own compositions, sound better at night. "

"I agree with you there."

"I'm not surprised, most of your music somehow sounds even better when it's dark. It's really music of the night."

I choke in my coffee when she says that and after patting me on the back, she looks at me in confusion.

"Did I say something odd?"

"No, Celia." I pause.

"I wrote a song called 'Music of the night' once…"

"Somehow I'm not surprised."

Then, her smiles changes into a look of sympathy.

"You wrote it for her, didn't you. To woo her."

I nod.

"I'm sorry Erik, I didn't mean to stir memories."

"It's alright, you didn't know."

"Anyway, I could use your advice on opera staff matters."

"You're wondering whether to fire Claude Malhome, the painter who provides decent scenery backdrops but is legendary for his foul temper, aggression and his tendency to assault the ballet rats or Henry Faibles, who once was a good painter and a kind man but who has become completely unreliable due to his addiction to alcohol? They have been warned, a less kindred heart would already have fired them but tell me Celia, who are you willing to give one last chance?"

She doesn't ask me how I know, she just simply sighs.

"I'm tempted to give Faibles one last chance. He is a gentle man and has shown his artistic talents quite well through the years he has been employed here and unlike Malhome, he's got a familie he has to provide for."

"You know he spends all the money he earns on liquor. And you have to decide what is in the best interest of the opera, not whom you pity the most. And technically, Malhome currently provides better pieces., even though Faibles' work shows more feeling in the few times he isn't inhebrated."

"I know, if only he would stop drinking…. But I guess it's time for a decision. "

Celia's PoV

When I go to bed at midnight, I feel sad and worried. Next to the fact that I absolutely hate having to fire people, I also have an inexplicable sense of threat, like I feel something bad is going to happen.

Hours later, I'm still awake and sensing that I will not rest much this night and decide to walk to the kitchen and make myself some hot chocolate.

I grab my bathrobe and walk through the deserted corridors, feeling somehow safer knowing that Erik and monsieur Khan are still awake and keeping an eye on the opera house and its people.

The clock chimes, it's four o'clock.

That moment, two strong arms grab me from behind and cover my mouth before I have a chance to scream.