"pierce through, like light"
Genre: Drama, Family
Time Frame: Seven years post PoTO
Characters: Christine, Gustave (R/C and E/C friendly - though slightly biased towards the latter)
Summary: She returns to Paris once, with her husband and son, for the opening of the 1889 World Fair.
Notes: This is the fifth of five short vignettes I'm uploading today, all of which were just written in Paris. Trust me, if you want food for the muse, that is where to go! I wrote this on the Champs de Mars. And, while it was supposed to be based in Kay's verse - the timelines, and the child, and what not, it can now fit in ALW's world as well. As strange as that is. And yes, my borrowing the child's name for a thousand words or so is the only endorsement I will give it, most likely. But, here is not the place to voice my opinions about that - both good and bad.
Disclaimer: Nothing is mine, but for the words.
"pierce through, like light"
She returns to Paris with her husband and son once, for the opening of the 1889 World Fair.
At first, the trip was to have been a treat for her son – Gustave was amazed with anything that stretched and fascinated the mind, and the collection of thinkers and their displays at the Fair was a veritable wonderland for the boy. Viscomtess Christine de Chagny found the sight of Paris again – every boulevard and curve of the river as dear to her as her memories, beating in time to the currents of her mind in a secret sort of whisper, all her own – bearable if she looked at them through her child's eyes. It was beautiful to hear French spoken fluently again, even as those around her were amused by her English accent – her last eight years in London having dampened the more precise timbers of her speech.
On the sixth of May, she and her family were amongst the vast and curious crowds who gathered to see Gustave Eiffel's tower opened to the public for the first.
Everyone in the crowd had worn wide eyes as they gazed upon the structure that seemed to touch the very heavens themselves. Some tongues wagged with distaste, while others with wonder. She herself found herself caught between two poles as she let her eyes trace the iron lattice and the strong and curving lines that held the fascination of those gathered at the Fair.
At her side, her son was silent for a full minute as his eyes drank in the spectacle. And she was silent as well as she looked up.
And let herself remember . . .
Far beneath the surface of the ground, when their time was not dedicated to music, it had steered the route of the other arts. Her Maestro could take the role of any artist – with brush or music or architect's blueprints. His sketches for buildings had fascinated her – even when he talked about man's capability to build formations that reached to the very sky. He had little iron figures cast about made from wire and twined with a frenzied but sure hand – it was the same flare of genius that would gust over him like a tide, leaving him composing in the small hours of the morning, and ink staining his shirtsleeves from where they had ran over the notes that were still wet upon the page.
"Do you care for it, Christine?" he had often asked her as she gazed upon a contraption that was too modern or . . . odd, for her to truly appreciate.
"There is a beauty to be found in the different," he would say to her silent appraisal, ". . . such a beauty . . . In the end, all it takes is the proper beholder. You'll see – in time, mankind moves and changes and the ugly becomes the beautiful as perceptions alter with the seasons."
He often touched his mask when he spoke of such things, even though she doubted he recognized the gesture. And although he was speaking of the arts, she looked away, unable to answer the unconscious sorrow in his eyes.
How she wished that he didn't look at her with his heart in his eyes.
She couldn't . . . she didn't . . .
Shaking her head, she picked up one such trinket that he had built – a tall structure that was all graceful folds of iron and bronze. Gentle organic patterns decorated the hard stems, tempering the harshness of the structure's beauty. She ran a finger over the metal, feeling his eyes follow her caress almost greedily. The metal warmed under her hand, almost singing in a way that stone and mortar would never be able to.
It was lovely.
He saw the moment when her eyes changed . . . she was always an open book before him.
"Then you see it," he whispered. He said no more on the subject, and when the next day, the little iron figurine sat in her dressing room with his customary rose and letter, she touched it once, almost fondly, before letting it stay.
She was interrupted from her mist like memories – hardly called forth, and flimsily wished away by the pain they left in their wake - by a small hand tugging on her own.
"Mother, have you ever seen such a thing?" her son, all seven years old, and as curious as any child she had ever met (a time or two she had returned home to a maid informing her that her son had completely torn apart a music box to see how it worked – or, her personal favorite – was halfway inside of the grand piano to 'discover where the music came from') was all awe and wide eyes as he turned his gaze greedily on the metal monument before him.
Her first instinct was to say no – the iron lady was all curves and lines, and yet it was different from the old world sort of belle e'poque finery that she herself preferred. It was modern, and different; and yet . . . graceful. Something that time would give the potential to be truly stunning.
It bore a kindredness to the small scrap of metal that stayed on her dressing room table until the day she abandoned it – a child unable to appreciate what her memories now held dear.
And, if only for that . . .
"Yes, I do find if beautiful," she told the boy.
Gustave's eyes were tracing the frames and supports, as if trying to figure out how such a massive twist of iron could so delicately adorn the skyline. Some days, she worried for the genius that she saw blooming there, and on other days – like now – she let the memory of it sooth her.
"It's one of the most amazing things I have ever seen," the little boy breathed.
Twilight was starting to fall, and the collected crowds murmured in fascination as Eiffel's monument started to light with a thousand glittering stars, it seemed. In the Seine just beyond, the lights were reflected tenfold.
She felt a tingle up and down her spine that spoke to her of other things . . . forgotten things. Her son was not the only one who would have found the sight incredible.
And yet, those things were forgotten for a reason. She forced herself to remember that as she turned to her husband – walking a few steps behind them, and looking at the both of them as if trying to figure out how they formed their opinions. Raoul had that look in his eyes – a look that came as often as it went; a curiosity that solving would mean observing parts of their truths and lies that would unravel the whole of them. She smiled gently, wanting to see her dear friend and husband smile as well. "So, what do you think of it?" she tried to draw him into their world.
Raoul's eyes flicked up to the tower, and inside of them was the same absent sort of appreciation he held when she sang – an awareness of beauty, if not a true appreciation of it. "It is very modern," he gave finally. A truce in his labeling of the Tower.
He did not care for it, she knew. And his opinion was of the majority who found the Tower an 'eyesore' on the skyline of fair Paris. There was even a petition going to have it torn down, she knew – and Charles Garnier was one of the ones who had signed it. She wondered what her Maestro would have thought of their Opera House's architect – whom, according to Erik's tales, he had worked closely with - dismissing such a unique piece of art.
The thought made her smile, and Raoul took her hand at the grin to lightly kiss the top of her hand. "I find that it pales in comparison to other forms of beauty," he said with his eyes meaningful on hers.
She took the compliment with a small blush and fond smile as she always did, even as her son made a face at the display of affection. If she waited for a rush of something different, her years had tempered the yearning somewhat.
Her eyes flickered up the Tower as the sun dipped deeper, the darkness only succeeding in turning Eiffel's work from something fascinatingly pretty to majestic and without compare. In the shadows she saw the beauty in the piece that her son even found in the light.
"There is a beauty to be found in the different," she whispered softly, "all it takes is the proper beholder."