Disclaimer – I don't own phantom.
A/N – Hiya, sorry it's been a while. My laptop died and I had backed up everything except this chapter (because I'm a derp) and I had to rewrite most of it. So yes hopefully will be back on some sort of writing schedule depending on work.
Every Sunday, Christine and her father would wake up at six and walk from their tiny flat on the Rue de Londres to the Madeline where Christine sang regularly with the choir. They would then spend the day together provided there were no rehearsals to attend, taking walks in the park if the weather was nice and even venturing out to the Ile de la Grande Jatte on occasion. Then every Sunday evening like clockwork they would join Madame Valerius, the widow of their former patron, for a quiet supper at her house. Christine was always grateful for these Sundays. Two years earlier her father had fallen gravely ill which had left them anxious and determined to never take life or each other for granted. Raoul would always tease her, perhaps with a tinge of annoyance, that she and her father were joined at the hip. Christine would always laugh and argue that she could say the same for Raoul and that horrible brother of his.
"A little bird, and by that I mean that flustered chaffinch known as Reyer, told me that the new director was arriving today." Mme Valerius said lightly sipping her claret. They sat at the dining room table to a roast goose and vegetables, the elderly woman at the head in her wheelchair with her nurse by her side always hovering and silent.
"Yes, we actually had lunch with Herr Spielmann earlier today." Gustaav said.
"You mean to say that he voluntarily dined with the two of you in public?" the old woman laughed "Perhaps you're talking about another Erik Spielmann."
"He mentioned you and your late husband, Madame." Gustaav added "He spoke very fondly of you."
A small white lie to flatter her, the new director hadn't mentioned her at all, and Christine should have known as she had hung on his every word. His face might have been half ruined but his speaking voice might well have been one of the most beautiful things she had ever heard. The timbre seemed so very rich it was almost hypnotic. She wondered if he sang at all. Perhaps she could speak to him after his lecture and ask all those questions that had been raging in her mind but had been struck dumb with her infernal shyness.
"Yes, Claude brought him home once when we were living in Vienna. He struck me as a strange one, but was such a sweet boy once he came out of his shell. Yes, I think the Opera will be in safe hands." She turned to Christine "And what did you think of him my dear?"
Christine almost jumped as she was pulled from her thoughts and blushed. "Well we didn't really talk but he seemed very…capable."
"Didn't talk? The man invited you to his lectures, he might as well have asked you to audition right there in the restaurant." Her father interrupted.
"Papa!" Christine scolded. He was always jumping to those sorts of conclusions.
"Listen to your father; he may well be right this time. I've never heard of Herr Spielmann inviting anyone to anything in his life. He could become an invaluable mentor, my dear." Mme Valerius agreed. "Do you think you will accept this invitation?"
"Of course, it'll be useful for my composition studies." The girl replied "And he'll surely recognise me, I'll be the only one in a dress."
"Darling, very few women have achieved your level of academic success. And I know you have to work twice as hard for half the recognition. But you possess something quite extraordinary, your father sees it, I can see it, my husband saw it and made all of this possible. I have a feeling the new director will see it too." The old woman stated with a fierce certainty, halting the conversation briefly with its magnitude. "And how is that sweetheart of yours, still sailing the high seas?"
"He is well, although it's been a while since I've heard anything. But then I suppose the postal system in Hanoi isn't up to scratch." She joked, but was secretly worried; the situation Hanoi was becoming a regular fixture in the papers and she knew that soon it would be far graver than the exotic adventure her friend had dreamed of. She worried that his letters, that had once arrived every week with a militant regularity had become sporadic and brief. She may have been beginning to tire of his advances when he had left all those months ago, but Christine was still fond of him, he was her oldest friend after all and she could not bear the thought of him being hurt or even killed on the other side of the world.
"I'm sure things will settle down there soon." Mme Valerius reassured, her eyesight might have been failing but she had a razor sharp mind and was able to pick up on her every emotional waver. "He'll be back before you know it."
From the desk of Dr Johann Spielmann
My dear boy
You have only just left this morning but by the time you read this letter you will already be in Paris. I know I've already told you how proud I am but I cannot help repeating myself. Do not let yourself become intimidated by those around you. Look to our history and to your own achievements and realise that the 'outcasts' of this world can create wondrous things in the face of adversity. Remember to not overwork yourself and to make sure you eat. I know you think I'm an old fool for nagging but old habits die hard.
Allow me to offer one more piece of fatherly advice. As you're well aware, you were born in France and raised as a foundling not far from the city that will be your new home. I would caution you to not go looking for traces of your past; you may not like what you find. I know that I cannot stop you, that this is partly why you accepted your new position in the first place. I can only wish you luck and pray that you find what you are searching for.
Write to me often to let me know you are well…
Your loving father.
Erik folded the letter and placed it back in his envelope his father had hidden in his luggage before he had left Vienna. The warning of the note and its quiet but sad resignation touched his heart in a way that nothing else could. Somehow his adopted father had a way of knowing what troubled him without even discussing it. Sometimes the greying doctor knew even before he did himself.
The old man was right, what would he possibly achieve by chasing old ghosts? But at the same time he could not rest without answers, what had lead him to be found in a gypsy camp in the Austrian countryside? Had it been his face that had led to his abandonment or something else? Why torture himself with that question when he already knew the answer?
For a moment he wondered whether coming here was such a good idea. But then he thought of the Daae girl and no longer regretted his decision.
"No stop thinking like that, Erik." His rational mind cut in to his train of thought. "She's far too young. And besides, why would a girl like that ever want anything to do with a troll like you?"
He glanced at the disfigured side of his face in the small oval of his shaving mirror and grimaced. No the girl was only interested in talking to him in an academic context and possibly a professional one if Reyer had told her his decision to audition for new company members in the new season. Therefore he would have to ignore any feelings of infatuation that were already brewing in his chest and speak to her only as a teacher would to his student. And so with heavy disappointment, Erik told himself not to dream about Christine Daae.
The next day Erik rose just before dawn, the nightmares that plagued him regularly combined with his anxiety and the ominous message from his father had left him unable to go back to sleep. Today was the day that he would formerly be introduced to the opera company and he had a feeling they wouldn't be as polite as Monsieur Daae. He had no appetite for the breakfast Frau Oppenheimer provided even though the old woman meant well.
Normally he would go for a run to calm his nerves but the shop was in a busy area and he did not wish to be gawked at that morning. He missed the remoteness of his childhood home, his adopted grandmother's gentle smile which would forever remain lodged in his memory even though she had long since passed away, the birds he used to mimic as a young boy, the crystal lake where he had learned to swim and row.
Instead he hired a carriage to take him to the Opera Populaire and did his best to concentrate on nicer things than his impending humiliation. In that moment Christine Daae crossed his troubled thoughts and he allowed himself a small and tentative fantasy. He would run into her at the conservatoire and she would smile at him again. Only this time she would not be so shy and impeded by that pushy father of hers and they would be able to talk about her progress with her dissertation or what a nightmare taking over from Reyer was going to be. Then maybe she would let him escort her home, agree to see him again.
'Get your head out of the clouds Erik; you have a better chance of flying to the moon than meeting with a girl like that.' He sighed, he would be thirty five in a few months and he had never been alone with a woman. And professionally he had made more women cry than he would like to admit, and men too come to think of it. He had a reputation in Vienna as something of an ogre. It seemed fitting somehow given his mottled complexion.
He arrived at the opera house with a few minutes to spare and ventured into the building slipping on the cool and impassive mask of professionalism, donning an air of confidence, flimsy as it was. He may be an ugly and frightening ogre but he knew how to run things and he was a damn good music director, one of the best for someone his age. With a face like his he had to be the best.
The day felt like one horror after another. Monsieur Reyer greeted him with his usual good natured nervousness and had publicly introduced him to the entire company once they had arrived. Ballerinas had gawked, stage hands had whispered and the resident diva had looked at him and had theatrically fainted. If that had been the only misfortune that had befallen him that day he would have been able to brush himself off and soldier on. He had simply sat in and observed while Monsieur Reyer worked out the finer details of Anna Bolena. The dress rehearsal was looming and the cast was severely under prepared, and while Ubaldo Piangi had been charismatic as King Henry, La Carlotta's Boleyn made him cringe and the less he thought about the madness scene the better.
"I heard you had a run in with the screeching flamingo." Daae the violinist joked lightly when the rehearsal had finally ended.
"Is that what you call her?"
"It's just a little nickname the boys in the orchestra gave her." The older man chuckled "She didn't really faint you know, she just can't stand to not be the centre of attention. But don't worry, I've heard a rumour that when the managers announce Reyer's retirement they'll also be announcing hers" his voice lowered to a conspiratorial whisper "whether she agrees to or not."
"I wouldn't believe everything you hear monsieur, Monsieur Reyer hasn't mentioned it." Erik replied.
"If she were willing to take on roles that suited her age a little better, there wouldn't be a problem. But like I said, the woman is a complete exhibitionist. She'll accept nothing less than the lead and Reyer for all his other talents is terrible with confrontations."
"How long have you been working here, Monsieur Daae?"
"Oh it must be at least ten years now. Did you know that they end every season here with a gala performance of Faust. I cannot tell you how much I despite that thing, I swear we could probably all play it in our sleep if we had to. Ah, now here's a sight for sore eyes." Daae grinned as a slender woman in a dark half mourning gown approached them. "Herr Spielmann allow me to introduce Madame Giry, our resident choreographer and ballet mistress. You'll be seeing a lot of her and Monsieur Moreau I shouldn't wonder."
Madame Giry was a statuesque woman who appeared to be close to Erik's age although it was hard to tell with her matronly clothing and severe hairstyle. She looked up at him with a greeting on her tongue and her hand half raised for him to take until her gaze rested on his deformity and her warm smile disappeared entirely only to be replaced by ashen white pallor and fear and was that recognition he saw in her eyes? The cane that she walked with dropped to the floor with a deafening clatter.
"Oh forgive me madam, let me get that for you." Erik muttered, feeling mortified at the woman's reaction. As he reached for the fallen he heard her whisper a name he had spent his whole life trying to forget as Madame Giry snatched the cane from his hands and hurried into the shadows backstage. "L'Enfant du Diable"